25 years ago, before the Internet was even invented, pornography was produced in print form and video. Digital porn was just starting to makes its inroads in the living rooms and computers of America.
That meant there was still a lot of what many people call smut being produced in relatively archaic forms. If you wanted porn, you had to buy it at a newsstand or rent or buy it at a video store or by mail order.
Some of that material inevitably got tossed out the car window by the side of the road. It was a regular thing to do for some porn users. Whatever sequence of thoughts and actions led them to look through a magazine, shall we say, and then toss it out the window on some rural highway, was quite common.
The county highway trucks must have picked up quite a collection of porn in those days.
Once in a while you’d be out running or riding and you’d venture upon a magazine or a video or a CD and be faced with the choice of whether to stop and pick it up or not. Perhaps the most virtuous among us would not be so tempted. But it was an interesting experiment in many ways, a cross section of human tastes, to see what you might find. In all that running and riding along the roads over the years I found all sorts of litmus tests of human tastes. Raunchy mags. Gay literature. Straight sex books. You can learn a lot about people by the porn they throw away.
Once in a while, you’d find quite a repository of porn by the road. Our college cross country team was once in the middle of a 10-miler on a rural road when someone glanced over the edge of the metal suspension bridge we were crossing and noticed a huge pile of magazines lying on the edge of the riverbed. Laughing and snorting, the entire team piled down the embankment on the other side of the river and snatched up several magazines apiece. Then we ran the last 4 miles holding up photos and chortling over our seeming good fortune at landing free porn.
It was not the supposedly high-class porn of Playboy or Penthouse, the two standard-bearers for pornography in the 70s and 80s. Instead it was magazines like Hustler and others that played by almost no rules presenting naked photos of women. There was a hierarchy even then among pornographers. Playboy was the most popular, also the most airbrushed and demure. Truly those photos were not even of naked women, but airbrushed images more closely resembling statues than honest-to-goodness women. Their supposed perfection was their so-called trademark, as it were.
Next came Penthouse, slightly less demure with its candid photos of women’s genitals, and a bit less airbrushed, or so it seemed.
Then came the entire litany of pornography magazines like Oui and others that imitated Playboy and Penthouse or threw those standards completely out the window. Opening those pages, you knew there were no rules.
These are exactly the types of moral questions opponents of pornography bring to the table when discussing its effects on the human mind and soul. Some argue that porn is a sign of the breakdown of society. Except that porn in some form has existed since the first horny guy formed a large-breasted female form out of stone as a fertility symbol. Things have never changed. It’s the degree of emphasis and intention that define whether something is holy or pornographic, in many instances.
One could similarly argue that pornography, being pre-dominanently used by men, is actually a salve against a strong sex drive. Otherwise why would men use magazines and throw them out the car windows or dump them over a bridge after the effects, as it were, have worn off?
Porn addiction is a genuine problem, just as addiction to alcohol, drugs or guns are problems for society. People hooked on a habit or a thing cannot easily release themselves. There is the argument that porn diminishes respect for women among men, that it distorts the healthy image of a desirable woman and distracts from genuine relationships. There’s plenty enough proof out there to justify all those opinions.
But there are also millions, possibly billions of people who use pornography without needing to throw it out the window in shame. But some countries outright ban pornography.
Those people keep their desires in perspective and let pornography works its naughty little magic and go back to their lives in fullness if not eternal grace. Sometimes it is the most conservative or repressive factions of society that have the greatest problem managing their own heads.
The Bible quotes Jesus saying that a man commits adultery just looking at a woman with lust. It also quotes Jesus saying that murderous thoughts are as bad as murder itself. But a healthy person holds back on those murderous thoughts rather than acting on them, just as a person releases lustful desires rather than screwing the neighbor. Human nature is complex that way.
It is rather interesting to consider the case of the guy who finally felt so moved to rid himself of pornography that he dumped an entire stash over the side of a bridge in rural Iowa. That is either a sign of genuine repentance or fear that his wife would finally find the collection and kill him. There go those murderous thoughts again. Would she be castigated by Jesus for killing her husband in a jealous fit of rage over his porn collection? There’s a topic worth debating in all its theological wonderment.
What remains true however is that porn has migrated these days from the printed and videotaped form (and to some measure, on DVDs) to the Internet. As a result, one almost never finds porn tossed alongside the highway anymore. In my 50,000 miles of running I saw, and admittedly picked up a few choice bits of porn over the years. It was strangely titillating to see what someone else thought was sexy. Sometimes it would just turn out to be stupid, or ignorantly profane. Then you’d pitch it again.
In my late 40s it was time to ditch the few porn magazines I’d collected (like many men…) and kept for almost sentimental reasons over the years. A few classic Playboys survived to that point, and some torn out photos of women that were particularly pleasurable to look at. But one day while cleaning out my art study it all just struck me as silly and boring, and the decision was made to get rid of it all.
Hilariously I first tried burning the magazine collection in a backyard pyre, only to find bits of unburnt pornography floating up in the air and carried away by a late afternoon breeze. With horror I damped down the fire and ceased the effort for fear of raining down tits and ass on the lawns of the entire neighborhood. Talk about an apocryphal lesson in the sins of lust! But my experience as not so apocalyptic as the fellow who had 20 years of porn magazines stored in his attic when a house fire burned through the stacks, throwing scads of half naked women across the entire neighborhood. Busted. So to speak.
My tastes and interests evolved anyway, over the years. The only photos of women that appealed turned out to be mostly natural-looking gals whose breasts were not pumped up, and whose bodies were not airbrushed into fuzzy oblivion. And it wasn’t loss of desire that obliterated even these from concentrated interest, just the sad realization that porn is not really that creative or interesting in the long run. Pun intended.
Of course, it’s possible now to find anything you want on the Internet. Porn in all its forms drives billions of dollars in commerce each year, and free pornography is everywhere, piled up so high in the ditches of the information highway you almost can’t avoid it.
Some people hate the thought. But the Venus of Middendorf and countless other figurines of fertility and lust will never be denied some sort of status in society. The Bible acknowledges even the lusts of women as exceedingly powerful, with the whores of Babylon and princesses lusting over men with penises the size of donkey-dicks. The fact of the matter is that lust is not always a pretty picture, but sometimes it is.
You can try to erase and suppress lust and it will pop up somewhere else. Knock porn off the Internet and you’ll likely start finding it in various forms along the roadway again.