Monthly Archives: February 2011

Pornland – Event at the Kennedy School Tomorrow

Check it out, there’s an event tomorrow sponsored by the Carr Center’s Program on Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery, and features Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.

Event Details:

“Gail Dines: “Intersection Between Human Trafficking and Pornography””
Monday, February 28, 2011
5:00 – 6:30 pm
Perkins Room (Rubenstein Building, Floor 4) Harvard Kennedy School of Government


Fox News on the Love and Fidelity Network

“…It’s this type of lifestyle the Love and Fidelity Network is targeting this Valentine’s Day with half-page ads in the campus newspapers of 18 mainly Ivy League colleges and universities, including Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton.‬‪..

The ads, co-sponsored by the Let’s Strengthen Marriage organization, will run in connection with National Marriage Week, which ends on Valentine’s Day.

There are two different ads. One shows a heart-shaped puzzle with a few pieces missing. The caption reads: “There’s more to sex and relationships than campus culture suggests. We’re filling in the missing pieces. Join us.”‬‪

The other ad features a man holding a cardboard-shaped heart with the words “Will work for love,” on it. The caption is the same about “campus culture” except the tag line is, “And we’re doing something about it.”‬‪

Hough said she believes her organization is tapping into the heartfelt desires of young people today who want meaningful relationships.

She’s actually echoing a just-released poll of 13- to 18-year-olds by One Hope,‬‪ which reported that 82 percent of them believed God intended marriage to last a lifetime.‬‪

But there’s a big problem said Hough. “Young people growing up in a divorce culture have no understanding of how good marriages work.”‬‪ They’re inundated, she says, with sexual content in movies, magazines, and on TV like MTV’s explicit show “Skins.”

Then there’s the ever-present peer pressure on campuses to be carefree and casual in their attitudes about sex.‬‪..”

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The sex trade and slavery

UT Sociologist Mark Regnerus, along with Ellyn Arevalo, write for Public Discourse on “Commercialized Sex and Human Bondage”. Their article argues that the American sex trade – strip clubs, prostitution, and the booming pornography business – feeds on and fuels modern-day slavery.

The article explores the themes of consent and coercion, which should be  irrelevant in rescuing women from the sex trade:

“What if a woman wants to become a prostitute? In her book Prostitution, Power and Freedom, Nottingham University Sociology Professor Julia O’Connell explained that this phenomenon, known as “casual prostitution,” accounts for a mere one percent of women in the sex industry (University of Michigan Press, 1999). And in a recent study of trafficking and prostitution across nine countries, researchers found that out of 785 sex workers, “89 percent…wanted to escape prostitution but did not have other options for survival.”

Free choice here is largely a myth. Catherine MacKinnon, pioneer of the legal battle against sexual harassment in the workforce, argued that “If being a sex worker were truly a free choice, why is it that women with the fewest options are the ones most apt to “choose” it?” Closely related to the issue of choice is that of consent, or the idea that prostitution is innocuous if the prostituted woman gives her consent. But the condition of consent is an unfounded criterion.  Melissa Farley, director of the organization Prostitution Research and Education, explains that “it is a clinical, as well as a statistical error, to assume that most women in prostitution consent to it. In prostitution, the conditions which make genuine consent possible are absent: physical safety, equal power with customers, and real alternatives.” While no doubt some women choose this line of work freely, they remain a very small minority.

When you operate within the framework of consent and choice-based rhetoric, there will still be women who meet the requirements for victim status but remain overlooked. This is one reason why the prevalence of sexual trafficking is underreported in the US. The TVPA law currently stipulates that in order to prosecute traffickers and receive aid themselves, victims must be either under 18 years of age, or prove that their entry into the commercial sex industry was the result of force, fraud, or coercion. But what happens to women who initially agreed to come to the United States to work in the commercial sex industry (migrant sex “workers”), but would never have given their consent had they known what slave-like and abusive conditions awaited them? These women technically qualify for benefits under the TVPA, but will have a very difficult time securing them since they can’t easily prove that coercion occurred as defined by the law.

If the United States wishes to combat modern slavery, it should make exploitation, rather than force, fraud, or coercion the main consideration in possible trafficking cases. The United Nations already does this, and considers “consent” to be irrelevant in determining trafficking victim status. If the United States were to shift its emphasis away from proving force, fraud, or coercion toward establishing whether persons were being exploited for commercial sexual services, then far fewer victims would fall through our legislative cracks and it would be easier for law enforcement to prosecute sexual trafficking.”

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The Moralism of the Culture Wars

True Love Revolution President Rachel Wagley publishes “Old War, New Weapons” in the Harvard Crimson today. Her article examines the moralistic rhetoric utilized by the traditional and progressive camps of the culture war.

February 07, 2011

Old War, New Weapons

In cultural debates, both sides use moral rhetoric

“I’m Barbara Bush, and I’m a New Yorker for marriage equality,” declares George W. Bush’s daughter on last week’s Human Rights Campaign video. Unsurprisingly, critics are up in arms. Some, like a writer on “Dispatches from the Culture Wars,” insinuate that Daddy Bush’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was mere political pandering “to bigots.” Others, like a writer on the “Republican Redefined” blog, solemnly suggest that this video is the end of the beginning of the road toward legalization of gay marriage. These predictions are all well and good—God forbid journalists fail to exaggerate the impact of the younger, more progressive Bush’s opinion—but far more fascinating are the moralistic claims about the nature of marriage that this video inspires.

Moral rhetoric is the culture war’s current weapon of choice, but the culture war’s real meat lies in the orthodoxies that compel the moral intensity at the front lines. We cannot adequately understand how the culture wars evoke such moralistic passion until we recognize the authority of these orthodoxies. Effectively, two camps wage the culture war: the secular orthodoxy, composed of those who identify with the medley of feminism, pluralism, liberationism, and multiculturalism, and the traditional orthodoxy, wed to Judeo-Christian values. As the incessant unrest over Roe v. Wade illustrates, the intrinsic disparities between these orthodoxies render them philosophically incompatible.

Both orthodoxies utilize moral rhetoric and indeed must utilize moral rhetoric in order to gain public approval on the three major battlefields: religion in the public sphere, issues of human life, and sexuality. On the sexual battlefield, the secular approach to sexual morality is as fiercely moralistic as the traditional approach to sexual morality. A Harvard “contraceptive justice” event this fall advertised Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards as “a leader in the reproductive justice movement” and perfectly illustrates the self-righteous rhetoric of justice wielded by secularists. This social justice rhetoric is particularly persuasive to our generation, which is programmed to stop, drop, and roll whenever we hear the words “equality” and “fairness.”

But the secularists’ use of moral rhetoric should not be taken for granted. Secular morality owes its origin to a conscientious shift in language resulting from centuries of philosophical debate. This is the shift away from moral relativism and toward the rationalist, objectivist approach of traditionalists.

Traditionalists maintain that reason must reign over emotion and passion. Intellect must master appetite for the common and personal good, and desires must never seek their own fulfillment. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle also came to view reason as the master of passion: Plato spoke of the rightly ordered soul in which virtues lead to happiness, and Aristotle saw moderation as the divine virtue. The traditional view of morality presupposes intrinsic goods that humans must affirm to enable human flourishing. The belief that all human life, regardless of age or “quality,” has intrinsic value serves as a good example of this view of morality.

In contrast, classic secularist thought revolved around the idea that reason is the instrument of emotion. As one of the first secular philosophers, David Hume, wrote in “A Treatise on Human Nature”: “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and may never pretend to any office other than to serve and obey them.” Reason itself is thus utilitarian, existing to manipulate, rather than to discover the rational.

In “A Clash of Orthodoxies,” Princeton Professor Robert P. George gives credit to 20th century liberal philosopher Joel Feinberg for pointing out the dangers of relativism, which denies the validity of moral judgments. Feinberg once reminded his own secularist camp that those waving its flag “must beware of [using] relativism—or, at least, of a sweeping relativism—lest they be hoist on their own petard.” Both George and Feinberg wondered where we acquire fundamental rights if reason is instrumental. What is the foundation for freedom of religion? Speech? Equality? This became immensely problematic for Hume-influenced secularists as they defended their beliefs. In a cultural theater judged by public opinion, relativism is futile, and moralism is persuasive.

Many modern secularists found that relativism did not serve their own purposes. For instance, the right to abortion is a moral claim and can exist only if we deny holistic relativism. In one of the greatest recent philosophical shifts, the secular orthodoxy awoke from its moral neutrality; secularists are now as moralistic as the traditionalists.

The secular orthodoxy has taken a page out of the traditional book (no Biblical illusion intended). While the competing orthodoxies have irreconcilable philosophies on life, community, and happiness, shared rhetoric is a rare point of accord. But does our mutual moralism compel us toward common understanding or simply drive us further apart under the fire of name-calling and assumptions that “the other side” is morally reprehensible? The American cultural landscape currently suggests the latter. After all, as British politician Tony N.W. Benn once observed, we would die for our faith, but we would kill for our doctrines.

Rachel L. Wagley ’11 is a sociology concentrator in Quincy House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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