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Book Review

Review and comments

The jacket of Pornography: The Other Side states:  




In the continuing debate over pornography, two arguments stand out:  that it is evil and should be censored, or that it is evil but censorship is a greater evil.  F. M. Christensen presents the other side of this debate in what will surely be one of the most controversial books on the subject.

Pornography: The Other Side convincingly argues that anti-pornography campaigns are themselves morally evil.  The author defends this startling claim with a scientific persuasiveness.  He successfully opens the pornography debate to include the whole picture, allowing the reader to grasp another side to this ongoing debate with concise, practical arguments.  Students and scholars of all the social sciences, as well as the informed reader, will find Pornography: The Other Side a source of enlightening ideas.

Christensen concludes that pornography itself is not the fundamental issue for those who oppose it.  Vehement opposition to pornography, according to this book, is a symptom of tragically mistaken beliefs about sex.  "What this book is really about," writes the author, "is sex—and all the evil effects on the lives of all of us that irrational attitudes toward that subject continue to have."

About the Author

F. M. Christensen is Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, Canada.  He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Science from Indiana University and has done extensive study in the behavioral sciences.

F. M. Christensen is Professor Emeritus in the department of philosophy of the U of A, retired.

Pornography: The Other Side by F. M. Christensen (Praeger Publishers, 1990, ISBN: 0-275-93537-X, 188 pages)

Book Review

The first impression gained from reading Pornography: The Other Side is that it reflects much of what Dr. Judith Reisman (in Kinsey: Crimes & Consequences) calls "The Kinsey Model."  It seems logical that the author of Pornography: The Other Side should advocate that view of human sexuality in his book.  He obtained his Ph.D. from Indiana University.  The Indiana University sponsored Kinsey's "research" and was at least until very recently an ardent supporter of the Kinsey program of sex education and moral values. 1

Pornography: The Other Side discusses human sexuality and promotes the need to liberate it from the evils of traditional morality, marital traditions, religious superstitions and many more of the traditional concepts that, so we are being told, brought untold suffering to many individuals who were and still are punished and shamed for exercising their sexuality according to more liberal principles.  For instance, the book promotes society's acceptance of nudity and public sexual acts. In addition, it states that the promotion of pornography could possibly result in fewer rapes, by mentioning that some [unnamed] clinicians and social scientists reported the fact that a certain percentage of persons who commit coercive and brutal sex crimes had a background of sexually repressive upbringing.  It isn't mentioned what that percentage is, nor is it mentioned what other attributes may be more dominant in turning anyone into a sex offender [p. 148].  That omission is curious, as it is also well known that social researchers have found that 80% of sex offenders convicted and serving time in prison for rape with aggravated assault were themselves as children sexually abused solely by females.  It makes one wonder whether anyone looked into the causes of that.  Were the abusers of these children in turn motivated by pornography or by the lack of it?  They certainly were not hampered by conventional superstition and tradition.  They most certainly had no shame, nor were they motivated by "nonrational sources of belief."

Does child porn harm children? — Opponents of pornography and especially child pornography argue that pornography is harmful, especially harmful to children, unlike the author of Pornography: The Other Side, who argues that such claims are hysterical sensationalizations and aim at violating freedom of speech.  Is it now?  You be the judge.

No doubt, there is some truth in some of what is stated in the book, just as there is some truth, in a similarly distorted way, in "Deconstructing the Essential Father," (A paper by Silverstein and Auerbach, published in the June 1999 issue of "American Psychologist" and also presented at the 7th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women, Tromsø, Norway, 20-26 June 1999, at a workshop "Gendering Men: Women's Worlds 1999" sponsored by IASOM, the International Association for the Study of Men, a gay-affirmative organization.  A copy of the paper was posted by the author of Pornography: The Other Side to the EPOC NEWS list).

Pornography: The Other Side promotes liberalist sexuality.  It is a manifestation of liberalist activism.  None of the positive contributions of traditional morals in bringing about and improving civilization, especially the occidental version, are being given any credit in it.  The book doesn't say anything good at all about traditional moral values.  It tries to tear them down or at least turn them up-side down.

The merits of Pornography: The Other Side can be summed up in a nutshell.  The liberal principles proposed in it are what prevented the Bonobos 2 from developing a civilization.  It may be their addiction to sex that keeps them stunted and still swinging in the trees, still fornicating their hearts out in every imaginable way (behaviour that has not been observed in Bonobos in the wild), totally and blissfully oblivious to their looming extinction.  However, even the Bonobo's sexuality has one redeeming quality.  Sadomasochism, fetishism and other similarly abnormal sexual behaviours are not an issue with them, unlike what is being advocated in Pornography: The Other Side (although there is a report - see preceding link - of a captive female Bonobo female biting off the penis of a captive male Bonobo).

  1. Kinsey met his untimely end as a result of health complications that arose from self-inflicted injuries sustained in his sado-masochistic practices of masturbation (Kinsey: Crimes & Consequences, p. 277).  Many of Kinsey's co-workers went on to become the pioneers and leaders in the sexual revolution that has much of the world in its grip until today.

  2. A small variety of chimpanzees whose liberated and copious sexual habits (when in captivity) are the envy of the proponents of liberated sexual mores.

Pornography: The Other Side by F. M. Christensen (Praeger Publishers, 1990, ISBN: 0-275-93537-X)

More Comments

In Chapter 2 "Sex and Values" of the book, the author argues "that we need to have a way to distinguish true moral standards from false ones, rather than being at the mercy of nonrational sources of belief," and that there is "such a way, a simple set of basic ethical principles," and that, although "often buried under superstition and tradition, ...these fundamental moral concepts appear to be universally recognized to one degree or another," further, that "[i]n recent centuries, with the rise of self-critical thought, they have finally become the dominant force in our moral reasoning." [p. 21]

It becomes soon clear that it is conservative and religious traditions that the author refers to as "superstition and tradition," and that what he calls the universally recognized moral concepts that have become the dominant force in our moral reasoning are the concepts of modern liberalism.  He states that the value of things must be determined by personal needs, according to what makes for suffering or happiness in the life of any individual. [p. 21]  According to a chapter end note pertaining to that thought, an "organism" that doesn't have the capability of experiencing pleasure or suffering can't distinguish between good and bad.  In my mind, that leaves the question, if such an organism has the capability of distinguishing between what is lawful and what is not, whether, based on the presence or absence of its ability to determine what laws apply to its conduct, it can be judged guilty of breaking the law.  That is ultimately what determines culpability or legality of anyone's actions.  Whether pleasure is derived from an individual's action or not, the acceptability within the constraints of the law and his ability to differentiate between good and bad according to the constraints of the law will determine whether he'll be held guilty or not guilty of breaking the law.  Even within that there is still the proviso that ignorance of the law does not protect from punishment.

The author proposes that, ultimately, basic instincts control the actions of everyone [p. 22] and thereby determine the presence or absence of culpability if anyone else should be harmed by such actions.  That reasoning then permits the author to state that sexual desires are perfectly permissible, as much as any other basic needs (which is of course true), but also to ignore the basic purpose of regulating human sexuality, namely that the purpose of it is a major component of what fundamentally constitutes civilization and separates civilized humans from savages.

Although it is argued in the book that "[i]rrational attitudes toward sexuality have caused, and continue to cause, vast amounts of human sorrow," [p. 23] it is incomprehensible why the book doesn't address the fact that, as long as they are the principles by which we are guided, these "irrational attitudes" also provide vastly greater amounts of bliss to most of the far greater majority of people that abide by them.  Both, sorrow and happiness, are the consequence of the existence of civilization.  Certainly, and the author doesn't fail to point this out, there have been isolated excessive practices that ostensibly tried to control and even suppress human sexuality with austere as well as painful measures (e. g.: male and female circumcision), but is it any less excessive to call for the total abolition of virtually all moral traditions pertaining to human sexuality?  Would that not make excess the norm?

With that would come the devaluation of families and their equalization with every imaginable living arrangement of what is commonly referred to as alternative lifestyles.  The absence of any rules causes chaos.  With respect to human sexuality in society, that would be the end of civilization — at least the end of the civilization that we became accustomed to.

Consider the statement "...pornography exploits the people it portrays, or sex itself, no differently than a television program such as The Waltons exploits families or family life." [p. 34]  In a liberalist society (if such a thing can possibly be made to function) it would follow that the use of children for kiddy porn would be perfectly acceptable, because the children used for that would not be exploited any more than the child actors are in The Waltons.  What such an argument ignores is that any sexual action that minors are made to engage in by anyone else constitutes statutory rape according to current law.  These laws would have to be abolished in a liberalist society to make the sexual exploitation of children a permissible part of everyday life.  It would seem to reflect at least a mercenary attitude to make sexual exploitation for purposes of producing pornography acceptable.  However, the author appears to suggest that nothing is wrong with that, if for example for the alleviation of poverty an income can be derived from it as from any other enterprise. [p. 37]

It is appropriate to consider at this point an opinion that opposes that held by the author.  Presently the issue of freedom of speech is being decided in the case of Robin Sharpe, a 66-year old man who claims the right to possess kiddy porn.  The case is presently being heard in the Supreme Court of Canada.  Many advocates of freedom of speech have come forth and lent Robin Sharpe their support.  Would they have done that if they would have known the nature of Mr. Sharpe's "diaries" and "sketches"?

The frequent and almost constant repetition of the argument that what makes you feel good is good for you, in various forms, is somewhat tedious.  Nevertheless, it seems odd that a book that is, as the author claims, "designed to reply to all the standard objections to pornography, to claims that are seen and heard frequently in the media and conversation," [preface] doesn't appear to deal at all with pornographic literature and it's implications within the reasoning by the author.  Except for a passing comment pertaining to the fact that the popularity of romance novels with women equals that of the interest that men have in pictorial pornography, the essay presented in the book appears to deal almost exclusively only with pornography that is of interest to men, and only with pornography that is pictorial.

That is an unfortunate omission, as it concerns a very large sector of the publishing industry that is almost exclusively devoted to women.  That sector of the publishing industry deals largely with pornographic themes, such as violent rapes, bondage and sado-masochism.  On account of this omission and the main theme of the book it seems that a more appropriate title for the book would have been "Pornography for Males: Another Side,"  with the subtitle "Another Side" reflecting the fact that "The Other Side" isn't the only one that should be addressed in an objective discussion of the issue.  "The Other Side" is simply only a single opinion presenting just one of more than the three sides the book addresses.

The bibliography in the book contains a reference to two papers by F. M. Christensen "1986 'Sexual Callousness Re-Examined.'  Journal of Communication, 36:1, Winter, pp. 174-184, ---. 1990.  'Cultural and Ideological Bias in Pornography Research.'  Forthcoming in Philosophy of the Social Sciences."

Comments on the Internet

Pornography: The Other Side by F. M. Christensen (Praeger Publishers, 1990, ISBN: 0-275-93537-X) doesn't appear to be a very popular book.  Upon obtaining an inter-library loan of the book through the Peace Library System in Alberta from the Grande Prairie Library, I found that I was only the second person to do so since the book was acquired in 1991.

A search of the Internet to determine to what extent Pornography: The Other Side appeals to the public returned a total of 17 URLs that contain references to Pornography: The Other Side by F. M. Christensen.  Some of these were duplications, leaving a total of about 10 sites at which Pornography: The Other Side is mentioned.  The following are some of the URLs that were returned:

  • Crime and Media Syllabus: Graduate Class


  • Ten Works of Non-Fiction That Changed My Life


Adam Jones says there:

"Ferrel M. Christensen, Pornography: The Other Side (Praeger, 1990). In which a consummately liberal professor of philosophy at the University of Alberta, with no personal interest in porn, chose to counter the prevailing fascist critique of the 1980s, and emerged with a crystalline 200-page essay, rigorously informed and written, which never attracted an iota of the attention paid to Andrea Dworkin or Catharine MacKinnon. Read it before or after either of them, but read it."

Adam Jones' comment that Ferrel Christensen is someone "with no personal interest in porn" is in conflict with observations by some former students who attended Ferrel Christensen's lectures.  I received comments that they were puzzled by what they called "his obsession with pornography and the issue of sex discrimination in relation to that," namely that men are not depicted to an equal extent as women are.    



A debate handbook

The handbook was apparently prepared by the Southern Baptist Church.  In the handbook, amongst others, F.M. Christensen's propositions presented in Pornography: The Other Side are used as the argument opposing traditional moral values. —WHS]

  • Ten Fallacies Of Internet Censorship

Jeffrey Shallit

4. "Computer pornography is illegal and harms women; therefore, it must be removed."

First, there is a common confusion between "pornography" (defined to be erotic depictions intended to provoke a sexual response) and "obscenity" or "child pornography". "Pornography", per se, is protected speech and is not generally illegal. The Canadian Supreme Court, in its February 1992 Butler decision, held the obscenity provision of the Canadian Criminal Code to be constitutional. In the decision, very specific tests were provided for determining whether or not material is obscene and hence contrary to the law. (Briefly, illegal material must combine both violence and explicit sex.) In the waning days of the Mulroney government, the Canadian Parliament passed a "child pornography" law that criminalizes many kinds of depictions of sex with minors or those *depicted* to be minors. This law has yet to be tested in the Supreme Court, and many believe it will not survive challenge.

The historical record shows clearly that laws against pornography have been used to stifle unpopular opinions and dissent; see, for example, [7]. Ironically, by denying access to "pornographic" newsgroups, organizations may be removing an effective route for combating pornography by those who feel it needs combating. Retaining the groups allows anti-pornography activists to post in response to pornographic stories, expressing their position and explaining their displeasure.

Despite what some might have you believe, there is no consensus about whether pornography can be demonstrated to be harmful to women. The following books [8][9] present a more skeptical view of the alleged harmful effects of pornography. Even Catharine MacKinnon, one of the leaders of the modern anti-pornography movement, advocates the decriminalization of pornography (she would prefer treating it as a civil matter).

I would say that, rather than to imply that she approves of pornography, it is far more likely that she favours pornography to be treated as a civil matter because it is easier to get a conviction in civil law than in criminal law.  Different rules of evidence apply.  In civil law, a guilty verdict is reached on the preponderance of the evidence, whereas in criminal law guilt must be established beyond any reasonable doubt.  Given the lack of precise definitions of what constitutes pornography, it is easy to understand Catharine MacKinnon's preference.  After all she is full well aware of the implications.  She is a law professor.

Even if it were conclusively demonstrated that pornography had ill effects on society, that alone would not necessarily be enough to ban it. For example, the collection of essays [10] by prominent Canadian feminists take the view that pornography may be bad, but censorship is worse. Even the Dworkin-MacKinnon model pornography ordinance suggests that pornography in university libraries, even on open shelves, should be exempt from censorship.

There is no direct reference in this to any specific opinion gleaned from "Pornography: The Other Side" but it is listed in the references.  However, what is shown above represents fairly some of what is stated in "Pornography: The Other Side." --WHS

  • Feminists for Fornication


These Pro-Sex Feminists believe that pornography can offer women a way to explore and affirm their sexualities, provide information on sexual techniques, promote sexual autonomy, and encourage female sexual pleasure. Pornography may be a means for women to "safely" experience sexual alternatives, break cultural stereotypes, and empower themselves through the assertion of sexual subjectivity.

We like men. We like sex with men. We love men. We love cock. We like looking sexy and we are not ashamed to do so—and we're feminists.

Pornography: The Other Side is included in their

TOP TEN LIST -- Here are the best books about the intersection of constitutional law, erotica effects research, feminism, sex, and religion.

It is stated there that "The heated debate of pornography has not only split and weakened feminism but has suppressed women's sexuality," and the question is asked: "Does Pornography Really = Violence?"  Then it is said:

Radical right-wing feminists accuse pornography of leading directly to violence against women. Pornography is particularly viewed as violence against women who consume it, and thereby reinforce their own oppression. But, where is the evidence? There is none:

  1. No causal relationship between pornography and violence has been proven.
  2. There exists no agreement among experts as to whether there is a relationship between images and behavior.
  3. Even the pro-censorship Meese Commission Report admitted that much of the data connecting pornography to violence was unreliable.
  4. Professor Murray Straus, whose correlational studies were used by the Meese Commission to "justify" that exposure to pornography leads to sexual assaults, wrote the commission, "I do not believe that (my) research demonstrates that pornography causes rape."

The context of that last statement wasn't given.  It is therefore difficult to ascertain that it was correct to insert the term "my."  Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to insert the term "any."  It would be hard to understand why Murray Strauss would advocate that he holds "beliefs" about the accuracy of his own research.


Are these really the issues?  Pornography is sexual exploitation and/or it causes violence?

It seems that the current trend in the discussion on pornography, to claim or disprove that pornography causes violence, is a red herring.  What matters here is not so much pornography itself but the clash between modern liberalism and classic liberal traditions (also called conservatism or, by its opponents, neo-conservatism).

Modern liberalism attempts to devalue traditional morals and to destroy the concept of the traditional family, and conservatism attempts to uphold traditional moral values and respect for families as the necessary foundation for civilization.  It must be recognized that until recently, when modern liberalism began to assert that it had the right to determine what is politically correct, conservatism was quite acceptable and even gave its adherents a sign of respectability, whereas it seems that modern liberalism, although it is quite a powerful political force now, never quite lost its reputation of inherent lack of respectability.

Modern liberalists hold that individual rights, no matter how diverse, should reign supreme, that personal gratification is an inherent right, and that the State must be made the guardian and provider of entitlements within those rights.  As the traditional family and religions are the building blocks of a conservative society, modern liberalists endeavour to abolish both.

Conservatives hold that everyone is largely obligated to become the servant of society so that we may all evolve within a society that gradually improves and is thereby enabled to better the quality of life for all, that rights are not inherent but are more like privileges which need to be earned, and that the individual thrives best when protected by family, community and the State -- in that order.  Conservatives are proponents of objective and universal standards of morality and therefore promote traditional families and religions.

The issue is whether pornography demeans and weakens the regulation of human sexuality.   Jews, Judeo-Christians, Muslims and members of other traditional religious denominations have within their focus the regulation of human sexuality to assist in the strengthening of traditional family values.  Thereby families will thrive and assist civilization to function smoothly.  That will of course require certain obligations by individuals, to some extent a degree of sex role assignment (women as nurturers and men more likely as providers and protectors) as well as a life-time of commitment to one's family and thereby to chastity.  Conservatives consider anything that threatens that, such as pornography, to be undesirable.

Anybody who argues that pornography may cause violence is barking up the wrong tree, and so is anyone who argues that pornography enhances sexuality and that that is a good thing.  The question is whether pornography will do anything to enhance the smooth functioning of civilization, and whether it will thereby increase the well-being of everyone.  How will heightened sexuality benefit all of mankind?  What evidence is there that the increasing promotion of sexuality and sexual freedoms during the last three decades has done anything but harm to society?

It is no accident that people who propose that pornography is harmless and even beneficial to the individual by increasing his enjoyment of sexuality also argue that religion is bad or perhaps no more than a manifestation of superstitions.  Little, if any, of modern liberalist ideology is compatible with traditional religions.

We should ask ourselves some serious questions.  The most important of these is why it should be that modern liberalism is a better ideology than the succession of those that made civilization come into existence and made it a steadily increasing success over thousands of years until modern liberalism made its appearance along with the student revolts of the sixties.

Aside from the harm that the liberalization of sexual morals has brought, and aside from the possibility that modern liberalism may actually have brought more than only ostensible advantages to very few individuals, what evidence is there that there is anything good at all for the average citizen that can result from modern liberalism?  Up to now, the most concrete and best measurable result of modern liberalism has been rapidly increasing taxation, required to fund a multitude of novel entitlements and "rights."  In connection with that we see a rapid escalation of the abrogation of the human rights and freedoms available to individuals.

Should we not take a very critical look at the direction into which society is traveling?  Are we on the path to salvation or on the road to chaos?  The answer to that appears to be obvious.  In the face of the looming fiasco of our fiscal systems reaching in short order the point of exhaustion and collapse, society is beginning to unravel.  Perhaps the liberalist dream of the ultimate bliss of total sexual freedom will materialize when we are forced to go back to swinging in the trees.  The price that we'll pay for that is the loss of many, if not all, of the benefits that civilization brought us.

Salvation is not very likely to come about.  It is far more likely that the advances of liberalism progress unchecked to ultimate chaos.  Humanity will then have gone full circle.  Greek mythology has it that all gods descended directly or indirectly from Chaos.  However, there is a third alternative that is far more frightening than the second, although it will only be a stage on the road to ultimate chaos.  That is that a totalitarian society will be brought into existence under the guise of the globalism promoted by the UN.

The successful implementation of modern liberalism requires tyranny by minorities (political control through lobbying by special interest groups and their biased support by the State).  The prerequisite for that is that democracy (called by modern liberalists "the tyranny by the majority") will be deposed.  Nowhere else in the world than under the auspices of the UN is that agenda of social destruction being promoted so actively.  Right there are the roots of a budding totalitarian regime.  Not one representative at the UN has been elected through a democratic process.  On the whole, the majority of them are representatives of politically-correct, liberalist minorities in the various UN member nations.

Historical precedents of experiments involving liberalism in various nations resulted all without fail in totalitarian regimes.  Interestingly, all of these experiments involved to varying extents the devaluation of the traditional concept of the family.  The prime example of this is the evolution of the left-wing Darwinian evolutionary socialism of the Nazis that Kevin E. Abrams and Scott Lively described in their book The Pink Swastika — Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.

Unfortunately, just as with the Nazis, in spite of the best intentions of the people who initiated the necessary social reforms that ultimately resulted in bringing to life these totalitarian regimes, virtually all of the latter were then followed by very severe, even catastrophic, social and economic collapse.  It follows then that because pornography endangers the concept of the traditional family, that its promotion and the acceptance of a tolerant attitude toward it is little more than one of many stepping stones to a hell of our own making.

Walter H. Schneider,  Bruderheim, 1999 07 31

Note: Arthur C. Clarke, engineer, science fiction author, and inventor of the telecommunications satellite (1945), produced in 1960 a frightening prediction of a future in which the proliferation of television made possible through satellite technology and the deliberate abrogation of traditional moral standards may well bring about the downfall of western society.  Has that prediction come true?
Check I Remember Babylon, by Arthur C. Clarke

Just in case you should have any lingering doubts about the merits of pornography, especially about child porn, and if you haven yet read Lorne Gunter's article relating to the nature of Mr. Sharpe's "diaries" and "sketches," take a look at what Lorne Gunter wrote in Child porn must remain taboo.

Additional reading:

Posted 1999 08 01
2000 02 02 (to insert references to Lorne Gunter's article Child porn must remain taboo.)
2000 03 11 (to correct a few typos and spelling errors)
2001 02 09 (format changes)
2001 04 02 (sentence restructured)
2002 08 06 (added link to A question about pornography)