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The question of pornography is certainly actively debated throughout the recent past. The first question which confronts anyone about to make a statement about pornography is "what is pornography?" In the present state of the law, there is no simple answer to that question. However, by applying the moral values expressed herein, a better answer can be approximated. First, pornography must be analyzed under the concept that pornography is dangerous knowledge. Thus, anything which is not a depiction of dangerous knowledge should not be considered to be pornography. Accordingly, pornography is not simply a depiction of mere nakedness.100 Individuals are inherently naked, and thus they are inherently aware of most aspects of nakedness through examination of their own bodies. The only hidden knowledge would be the knowledge of the differences in the nakedness of others, particularly those of the opposite sex. Our society tends to treat this subject as "dangerous knowledge" through establishing bathrooms based upon sex, and so forth. Nudists, however, would vigorously dispute that knowledge of the nakedness of others, even those of the opposite sex, without something more, is inherently dangerous knowledge, and that position seems axiomatically correct. In numerous situations where casual nudity (or near-nudity) is allowable conduct, there does not seem to be any dangerous knowledge component in the nakedness alone. Thus, mere nakedness, without more, is not pornographic, and no such act or depiction should ever fall within any proscription imposed by society.101 The dangerous knowledge issue comes into focus when one or more naked (or even only partially naked) people begin to perform some form of sex act102 or some form of elimination act103 involving the lower genital or anal regions of their bodies, or where the depiction includes a choice of pose, lighting, and/or composition which tends to emphasize the lower genital or anal regions of the bodies. The principal dangers of such depictions are that they would tend to lead to curiosity about and/or attempts at sexual activity by individuals who are not yet suitable for the possession of such dangerous knowledge. (Actual attempts at sexual activity would present the dangers discussed above for human sexuality, and such attempts would clearly be covered by those rules.104) Since allowing dangerous knowledge to become known without the prerequisite wisdom is proscribed, this then becomes a convenient definition of what constitutes pornography. Accordingly, pornography is any depiction of an actual, attempted, completed, or potential sex act105 or elimination act which in any way communicates any portion of what is now known to be dangerous knowledge about sex acts and elimination acts, or which emphasizes the lower genital or anal regions of the bodies.106 The fundamental rule of pornography is thus the general rule of dangerous knowledge, which states that "dangerous knowledge of all types must be withheld from all individuals who have not mastered, or who are incapable of mastering, the wisdom which is necessary as a prerequisite to the possession of said dangerous knowledge." Finally, to the extent which pornography is challenged on the basis that it harms those who participate in the production of the pornography, no special rules would be required beyond the fundamental rules of human sexuality except that any of the participants must also clearly, explicitly, and voluntarily consent (either in writing or orally as part of a master recording) to not only the particular act(s) to be recorded, but also to the recording and/or the commercial exploitation of said act(s), as might be appropriate to the intended use of said recording (with the consent requiring a specific statement as to said intent).

For any species, the eternal existence of the species is dependent upon either the attainment of eternal life or the eternal propagation of the species from generation to generation. However, again, the rules stated in this section clearly apply only to humans. Science has proven that the human species would be stronger and more genetically diverse if women would arrange to have each child they bear by a different father. For men, too many children by the same father is also genetically dangerous. Inbreeding is essential for breeding animals, but another essential element of such a breeding program is inflicting a purposeful death upon any genetic "mistakes" which occur due to the inbreeding.107 Since inflicting a purposeful death upon essentially innocent children goes against the grain of all humans, the best way to prevent genetic "mistakes" is to prevent inbreeding (thus we recognize the classic prohibition against incest),108 which also includes preventing any one father (or mother, for that matter) from fathering (or mothering) too many children.109 Once conception has occurred, it should be recognized that there is a great underlying wisdom to the Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. During the first trimester, a woman ought to have the unfettered right to institute an abortion, and she especially ought to be able to avoid pregnancy in the first place with any effective "morning after" remedy.110 Second trimester abortions are to be strongly discouraged, but not forbidden entirely.111 Third trimester abortions are to be limited to those situations where medical necessity demands an abortion, including those situations in which the mother is at high risk of death and those situations where the unborn child is clearly genetically damaged to the point of non-viability of existence as a human being. Once a child is born alive, no matter when or how the live birth occurs, the child must be protected by society and raised by its parents and tribe to be the best that it can be throughout the life of said child, no matter how long or short that life may be. With these facts in mind, it is clear that children must be trained to bear children only when they are ready for the responsibility of raising children. They should declare that readiness with the ceremony of marriage, which ceremony declares an end to relationship experimentation and a beginning to a permanent relationship for the purpose of raising one or more children. However, modern medicine has clearly shown that it is better to bear children at a younger age as opposed to an older age. This is in stark contrast to the present economic realities of the typical breeding pair of young adults, who quite literally cannot afford to have a separate life with one another, let alone afford to support any infants which might come along. Accordingly, it is up to society to develop appropriate support systems for young (hopefully married) adults who are ready to begin having children of their own. (This duty is addressed separately, elsewhere.) Finally, as a direct corollary of all of this, one aspect of training for young adults before they begin engaging in sexual activity must be the knowledge that once they have a child, there is no going back, and they should be absolutely certain that they are ready for that responsibility before they take it upon themselves to have a child. However, as in all training involving sexual activity, the use of "scare tactics" is to be avoided, as most children can inherently tell that you are "putting them on," and that knowledge causes them to "tune out" the very important message the education is expected to convey.

An absolute choice (i.e., a fixed age) for the "age of consent" seems impossible to set, especially when we seek to promote the formation of relationships at a very young age as one of our social goals. However, there is no disagreement that "sexual predator" conduct must be prohibited to the maximum degree which is practicable, and that a great disparity in age is one usual aspect of "sexual predator" conduct which is fairly easy to regulate. Here is a suggested rule for establishing the proper "age of consent" for performance of any sex act: 1) a legal consent is always implied by the law, without regard to the respective ages of the parties, when the two people who have mutually consented to the sex act have been joined together into a formal relationship by the informed consent of the family, tribe, or the civil authorities; 2) the "age of consent" for any person who is 24 years of age or older is that the partner of any such person cannot give a legally valid consent if they are under the age of 18 years old; 3) the "age of consent" for any person who is 22 or 23 years of age is that the partner of any such person cannot give a legally valid consent if they are under the age of 17 years old; 4) the "age of consent" for any person who is 20 or 21 years of age is that the partner of any such person cannot give a legally valid consent if they are under the age of 16 years old; 5) the "age of consent" for any person who is 18 or 19 years of age is that the partner of any such person cannot give a legally valid consent if they are under the age of 15 years old; 6) the "age of consent" for any person who is 16 or 17 years of age is that the partner of any such person cannot give a legally valid consent if they are under the age of 14 years old; and 7) the "age of consent" for any person who is under 16 years of age is that the partner of any such person cannot give a legally valid consent if they are under an age which is two years less than the age of the older person. This seems to be a reasonable codification of what our society is actually trying to accomplish with the present "age of consent" rules based upon a fixed age, but where prosecution is mostly absent when the two people involved sexually are close to one another in age.

There is one basic rule for plural relationships: "Don't Bother!" The fantasy of a potential plural relationship is usually more attractive than is the reality of actualy experiencing one.112 We must not allow this fantasy to lead us into destroying the happiness which we (and our partner(s)) will usually have in our more typical two-way relationship. Remember, our basic ethical rule is Utilitarianism: the maximum amount of happiness for the maximum number of people. In a three-way or four-way relationship, it always seems to work out such that there is much less total happiness among all of the participants than if these same participants were in good two-way relationships. Why is this true? I believe that this results from the fact that each of us places a very high value on security,113 whether we admit it or not. In a committed two-way relationship, there is the security of knowing that your partner "will always be there for you." That commitment is the very thing which establishes such a relationship! But when you attempt to expand the relationship to a three-way affair, it is all but impossible to so organize affairs that nobody feels "left out" by something which is going on between the other two. In other words, this "left out" third person (which may well be an ever changing selection among the three people involved) will always have this feeling that they are the "odd man out," and that each of the other people has, if even only for a moment, rejected them in favor of the other person in this particular relationship. This leads to a continuing undercurrent of insecurity in any actual three-way relationship. These feelings are usually so strong that the "left out" third person cannot keep them inside, and must find a verbal or non-verbal method of expressing their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs of their being "left out." Such expressions cannot go unnoticed by the other participants, and they will almost invariably detract from the pleasure and happiness felt by these others. While the feelings of being "left out" may well be less pronounced in a four-way relationship, the idea that you could be "traded to" another partner in the relationship at any time, upon the "whim" of one of the other participants in the relationship, feeds this same sense of insecurity; a sense which is never present in a two-way relationship. And if we can't make either three-way or four-way relationships work, then there is virtually no chance of making higher order relationships work over any significant period of time.114 And temporary (i.e., transient) relationships are almost never as satisfying as long-term ones. It takes so much time and effort to adapt ourselves to the giving and receiving of pleasure with another person, plus the ever-present "danger factor"115 of any kind of short term relationship, that such relationships are themselves usually not worth the trouble. So, while mankind has experimented with different kinds of relationships in our different societies down through time, we seem to always come back to the same old two-way long-term monogamous relationship which has stood the test of time. Based on my own study of this subject,116 and a moral rule of Utilitarianism, I see no reason for the Agnostic Church to advocate any other moral rule. Of course, some people may wish to have their own experiment(s) with plural relationships in order to prove these points to themselves, so I see no need to interfere by imposing an outright ban. Instead we should tolerate such experiments as a "learning experience" for these people, in accordance with the Principle of Tolerance.117 Otherwise, until and unless proven differently, stick to monogamy.

99 While this text is specifically drafted to respond to the "hot button" issue of pornography, the concepts stated herein are clearly applicable to all "adult" entertainment subject matter, including adult language, adult situations, violence, nudity, sex, and so forth.

100 The "blue nose" faction of our society has seized upon nakedness as being equivalent to pornography largely because it makes it easy to prove that a given depiction is pornographic. That ease of proof does not make the underlying concept correct.

101 The ill effects of allowing the concept of nakedness to be swallowed up by the concept of pornography is strongly illustrated by case of a couple which is being prosecuted on charges of child pornography for taking naked pictures of their child.

102 The primary sex acts are masturbation (alone or with others), oral copulation (of genital or anal regions), vaginal intercourse, and anal intercourse. By definition, each of these constitutes "dangerous knowledge." Note that nothing herein mentions female breasts as being part of "dangerous knowledge." This is deliberate, because depictions of breasts are too numerous to go unnoticed by even very young children, and because no satisfactory "danger" has been proposed to result from allowing free depictions of all kinds of acts involving female breasts. Finally, our society has been attempting to encourage breast feeding, and in order to do this, has been eliminating many of the restrictions upon the display of female breasts. Other nations, such as Sweden, have already accomplished this goal.

103 Again, with the focus on what constitutes "dangerous knowledge," a tasteful depiction of elimination occurring, say of a naked person sitting on a toilet, would not constitute "dangerous knowledge" because there would be no health or safety issue with depicting that activity which would not be understood by the youngest toddler (e.g., use the toilet for elimination, and flush the toilet after you use it). An example of such a depiction would be the rather famous poster of Frank Zappa sitting on a toilet with the caption: "Phi Zappa Crappa." However, a depiction of a celebrity defecating on stage would constitute "dangerous knowledge" because it depicts an act which has a substantial health and/or safety risk if proper precautions are not taken. By definition, that depiction would be pornographic because it depicts "dangerous knowledge" involving sexuality or elimination.

104 Remember, the basic intent is to prevent youngsters from coming into possession of dangerous knowledge about sexuality without first possessing the requisite wisdom.

105 The phrase "potential sex act" is deliberately included for the specific purpose of including all of the so-called "soft porn" depictions of sex acts, where one or more models are posed in a position which suggests that a sex act is about to occur (or has just occurred) because there is no more likely "innocent" reason for that particular positioning.

106 The emphasis of genital and/or anal regions is pornographic because it calls attention to the fact that there is "something special" about those regions of the body, and thereby creates a curiosity in the very youngsters whom society seeks to protect about the particular dangerous knowledge which society seeks to protect them from.

107 Inbreeding removes so-called "weak" genes by selecting only the offspring which do not have those genetic characteristic and killing off or otherwise removing from the breeding stock all of those which do have the undesirable qualities. It is obviously intolerable to experiment in this fashion with intelligent individuals of any species.

108 Traditional rules allow marriage between first cousins. That seems too close for comfort (and also runs counter to the principle of encouraging genetic diversity), and in the absence of proof of safety, both first and second cousins should be prohibited from producing children.

109 Having one parent produce too many children raises the number of cousins to a very large number, making it very difficult to track the "forbidden" partners, and significantly raising the risk of accidentally mating with such a "forbidden" partner.

110 Of course, any woman who does not wish to be considered as a member of the breeding population, but who still possesses her fertility, should be strongly encouraged to use some form of "permanent" contraception, such as Norplant.

111 Open access to first trimester abortions and complete education about the necessity for making an early choice should mostly eliminate the need for second trimester abortions, except in the case of medical necessity, the same as for a third trimester abortion.

112 Even in two-way relationships, the fantasy of the relationship is almost always better than the actuality. It is just that we all feel such a need for SOME KIND of actual relationship (as opposed to a mere fantasy), and this feeling makes just about any two-way relationship better than no relationship at all. This same principle does NOT apply to three-way or four-way relationships, as asserted in this section, because the available actual two-way relationships at least end up seeming "better" for us than the available actual three-way or four-way relationships.

113 Security in our relationship(s) with our "significant other(s)" would seem to rank right up there with food and shelter as one of our most basic needs.

114 And thus the fact that very few "plural marrage" communities from the 1960's survived for very long. Those which did survive probably did so more as extended families, with a significant number of two-way relationships, rather than as a true "plural marriage." Accordingly, our tribal communities must NEVER be seen as so-called "plural marriages," but should ALWAYS be seen as an extended family containing a significant number of two-way relationships!

115 I refer here to the three possible "bad" things which can occur in any sexual relationship: a sexually transmitted disease, and unwanted pregnancy, and a "crisis of expectations."

116 I include in my experience at least three "unsuccessful" attempts at three-way relationships. Each of these attempts fell victim to the sorts of squabbles I refer to in this section.

117 The Principle of Tolerance holds that our society ought to tolerate people who choose to inflict minor harm on themselves and/or others, so long as the harm remains minor and so long as the harmed person consents to the harm. So, even if we know that three or four people who try to form a relationship will never be as happy as they would be in two-way monogamous relationships, our society still ought to allow them to try, so long as all parties voluntarily consent.

Copyright 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

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