Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hey Dad, you wanted a new blog post?

Alright, care to grade my final psych paper? It's long past when I turned it in but if you feel like reading it lemme know what you think. I'll have 3 intensive writing courses next semester so even blanket statement suggestions for writing would be helpful.

Curtis DeGraw

PSYC 101 – Dr. Nelson

Pornography & Psychological Health

Every major civilization has had its own cultural beliefs about that which is deemed sexual. Society has determined the norms and set boundaries based on that which was considered unacceptable variations. Homosexuality, for example, was commonplace among the ancient Greeks but only in our recent history has begun to pick up steam as a major issue. However, from time to time questions of sexuality arise that no previous civilization has faced. Pornography has existed in the past but never has it possessed the capacity to be so omnipresent or as easily accessible as it is today. Within seconds thousands of sites, images, and other explicit materials surge forth at the stroke of a keyboard and click of a mouse. The internet has given pornography potential to burst silently into almost every home in the world in an instant. But how does one control such a barrage? Concerns were expressed about what to do if pornographic material was unwanted and as a result of these fears, there are now certain restrictions in place to supposedly prevent such an unwanted intrusion. From these restrictions rose the inevitable conflict. The staunchest of free speech advocates maintain that porn is a harmless form of self expression and vent for releasing unhealthy sexual urges. They believe that the rules are restricting freedoms. Meanwhile, there are those who feel that the restrictions are too weak and that pornography poses a threat to our society, particularly the impressionable youths.

The first amendment of the United States Constitution is that Congress shall not interfere with the right of free speech or the press. This is the most important hurdle for proponents of further restrictions, and jumping over it requires a great deal of momentum. The only way the rights of the press and speech can be legally reined in is if there is a case of said freedoms causing harm. This means that with studies and evidence proving that pornography is harmful, the hurdle of the first amendment becomes nothing more than a small bump in the track. However, this means that collecting the required conclusive evidence is the difficult task. Studies are being done by both sides, each trying to reach a decisive victory over the other. Sex therapists, like David Schnarch have experienced success re-energizing married couples in which both partners are willing to try something to revitalize their sex lives. The claims that pornography influences the killer clowns to come out of hiding to abscond with little girls and boys are not entirely fact, nor completely fictitious. A “normal” person, meaning the psychologically stable, average Homo sapien, can easily distinguish between the fantasy of pornography and the reality of sex and not be overcome with a desire to act on deviant urges. There are also tests run to see if addiction is a valid concern. From UCSB, Daniel Linz says that there are several “unbiased” explanations, including that the so called addiction is nothing more than learned behavior which can be unlearned and that the tests that show proof of addiction are flawed.

The cause of so much defensive research is the number of focused points that the pro-restriction side is using. In one study, Dr. Victor Cline supports the four stages of pornographic addiction; aphrodisiac is the original stimulation, escalation is the desire for more explicit materials, desensitization where one has begun viewing hardcore materials as acceptable, and finally action on what the viewer has grown used to seeing. While the numbers decrease over the progression into higher levels, few seem to stop at the first stage. Also describing addiction is Dr. Judith Reisman who writes that “images trigger an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail.” Although addiction itself is very difficult to test conclusively, the facts support addiction ideas. There are approximately 72 million users that visit porn sites each year, pornography has become a multimillion dollar business, and even those without addictive personalities or psychological imbalances are shown to develop addicted characteristics over time. Research has also been done showing that pornography is harmful. Government tests and surveys show that of all the prisoners imprisoned for sexual crimes (rape, pedophilia, etc), 100% of them owned their own adult pornography. Marriage clinics doing tests have shown shocking results, such as the Center for Online Addiction which recorded that 65% of the people there were experiencing problems as a result of porn, 40% of addicts lost their spouse, 58% experienced severe financial loss, and 27-40% lost their job or profession.

Both sides certainly have strengths and weaknesses in their arguments. Having the First Amendment behind an argument is one of the biggest advantages one can ask for as a beginning. There is also the advantage of funding from companies in the industry that want to stay in business as much as possible. Basically the side arguing for fewer restrictions (Group A) begins with a large head start while the side trying to prove that pornography is harmful (Group B) has to try and catch up. However, Group B has much stronger statistics in their favor, as well as the ability to get a stronger emotional response by mentioning violence, sexual crimes, and the like. The argument for Group A is not as convincing as it would be if there were studies done that would show that “A is right” rather than ‘”B isn’t always right”. The weakness for Group B is using one of their strengths too much: the knee-jerk emotional reaction. It helps to get support but will lead to basically mud slinging like a political campaign. Group B has to be careful not to make their argument too emotionally driven or else they will distance themselves from the evidence and statistics.

Pornography desperately needs to be kept in check. It is designed specifically to be addictive, and surveys show that it creates distorted perceptions about sex, sexual dissatisfaction, unrealistic sexual expectations, and fosters doubts about the importance of the institution of marriage. As it is now, parental controls are a joke unless that parent is great with computers, or spends money on additional protection, leaving lower/lower-middle class families out of luck. The sites themselves make a mockery of the attempts to control explicit material by having big flashy buttons saying “click here if you are 18 or older or click here if you are 17 and we’ll link you out of here” as if a 14 year old is incapable of simply clicking yes to being 18. The Center for Online Addiction found that pornography is connected with the breakdown of the American family. The statistics show that pornography is both addictive and harmful, and is certainly not a victimless “crime”. Granted, the freedoms of speech and press must be protected and we should all learn to accept others for their differences, even different sexual beliefs. However, proof exists that pornography poses a genuine threat and as such it should at least be restrained in an effective way, as opposed to what is in place now. Group B wanted a guard dog to stand watch and prevent pornography from going where it wasn’t wanted. What they got was an old dog, too tired to chase away dangers, and too obsolete to do the job it needs to be doing in order to protect the people it should be serving.

Works Cited

Berne, Emma C., ed. Online Pornography: Opposing Viewpoints. New York, NY: Greenhaven P, 2007.

Williams, Mary E., ed. Sex: Opposing Viewpoints. New York, NY: Bonnie Szumski, 2006.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Been thinking about mortality some...

What Sarah Said: by Death Cab for Cutie (name is total coincidence)

And it came to me then that every plan
is a tiny prayer to Father Time,
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409.

And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself
That I've already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me (away from me)

Amongst the vending machines and year old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It's then with a violent wind that our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our mind

And I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

Cuz there's no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous paces bracing for bad news
Then the nurse comes 'round and everyone lifts their head
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said...
Love is watching someone die.

(So who's gonna watch you die?)

(So who's gonna watch you die?)

(So who's gonna watch you die?)

*music gradually fades after about a 1:40*

Most people reading this probably know from other blogs that my cousin died recently. For those that don't, she had a severe allergic reaction to cats that is apparently genetic (uncle had a strong reaction, another cousin had a reaction, and my brother Jeff is already known to be allergic). I wasn't particularly close to her because they live so far away and I don't know many of the cousins younger than me. What made me think the most though is that I didn't feel particularly sad... I know that the whole "when the bell tolls it tolls for thee" type of thing but for some reason it didn't even hit me for a couple days.
When I found out it was Fall Break, maybe Friday morning. I was texting a friend about stuff and then all she said was to call the house. Nothing urgent or anything, just said to call. I figured they were over and wanted to vent vocally or whatever (wouldn't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last). This was the weekend where I was unexpectedly stuck off campus because my roommate threw away the forms that needed to be filled out saying I could be there over the break. I never even saw them, but that's beside the point. I was crashing at a friend's house cuz he lived off campus a few minutes so I'd be able to stay there until Jason and Lunchbox got back and still be close enough to walk to my Saturday class. After class on Saturday I went with Jason and Lunchbox out of town to Jason's where I only brought it up in passing when I saw the cats there. As far as the weekend was concerned that was basically it. Didn't give myself a chance or anything to think about it because of what was going on around me. Told Alex when he called but again, it was in passing and didn't dwell past the whole "yeah so I'm avoiding cats for the time being" thing.
A few days into the next week I somehow have downtime. That's when I realized that my cousin had died and that although it wasn't someone I knew well at all, barely recognized the name, I still should have felt some pang of sadness but for some reason got nothing. I cried watching Stop Kiss (the absolutely amazing play at Winthrop I was doing lights for and where this song was played) but not for someone's daughter. I don't know if it's because I'm not a parent or whatever but I eventually got to the point where I noticed that I had been sad-ish but somehow I didn't think I felt sad enough. No tears, or fond memories, or wishing I could have been there, or anything like that... I was more saddened by the fact that not only had it taken me so long to think about somebody dying, but that I didn't feel anything special about it. What kind of reaction is that? To be sitting there thinking "My cousin died" but then having it leave your mind cuz you gotta talk to someone about this 32oz steak you ate that weekend.
Before I come off as some sort of miserable, uncaring douche, it wasn't that I didn't wish I could have known her better and all. I just didn't think much about any of it. I guess I'm just now getting this all out of my head. Should I have at least had some brilliant mental ping about mortality and the brevity of my own existence? Some sort of gain from another person's loss? Heck I couldn't even use the excuse of a relative dying if I wanted to and here my roommate is making up relatives because he got slept through an exam. WTF?
Basically I guess what I'm stuck on is the last phrase repeated of the song... If love means watching someone die, who's gonna watch me if I can't even conjure teary eyes for someone else?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blame My Parents, Especially Papa

I had a really interesting conversation with an anonymous friend (at least as far as online anonymity goes), during which she said some really interesting things. I wish I had saved the messages so I could quote exactly but I'll do so to the best of my recollection:

- "I just wish I could find someone who treats me like you did."
- "I would marry you simply for the fact that I know that I would smile every day for the rest of my life."
- "Papa said that I deserve someone who treats me like he treats Mama, and that pretty much just leaves you."

I'm incredibly fortunate to have the parents I do. It seems like I become more and more aware of just how amazing they are with every passing day. How'd you guys do it?! I get frustrated with a roommate leaving his pile of dirty clothes in front of the fan in one corner of the room and putting his lacrosse gear on the AC next to my bed in the other corner (hence the perpetual state of funk in my room). How did you raise 6 kids, adopt another, take in an entire family, and then snag me another brother, and still have room in your house and hearts to make it a haven and sanctuary for friends of any of the aforementioned in times of distress or for no reason at all? Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm writing this as some sort of survival story either: you did it so well!

Even with everything going on you taught me probably the greatest thing I will ever learn. I could not have imagined any better example of how to treat the people I love. Even when Mama got overwhelmed and had no options left but to yell at us to get us to do simple stuff, in retrospect it was always a) obvious that she loved us regardless, b) followed by an apology and reminder of how much we were loved, and c) probably much less than we deserved.
*** Love you Mama, but now back to the point that got me started***

Pardon the expression but, Damn! I can't think of any better way to sum up what a phenomenal example of a leader, teacher, friend, brother, father and most importantly husband you have been and will continue to be. In psych, we had a survey of different questions and the point of the lesson aside, one of them was the most influential person in our lives. There wasn't a doubt in my mind, nor a hesitation in my hand. I barely thought about it by the time "Dad" was on the page. I don't think there is space to write how much I owe you.

Thank you for helping me develop this chivalry complex, for showing me what it really means to love someone with every inch of yourself, and for teaching me how to act towards the people that matter most to me. I don't know how you did it... What I do know is that someday, if I am ever a tenth of the man you are, someone's daughter will come up to you and thank you -- and it'll happen because when my wife says she's the luckiest woman in the world, I'm going to blame you.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

And so it begins...

I doubt I'll be as poignant as Mama, Papa, or Brett (or as pungent, with regard to the latter two on certain occasions) but here I am anyway. I guess the biggest question I have right now is "Now what?" despite the resounding answer from the peanut gallery in my head being "Post more, retard. Any other brilliant questions?"

As far as the regularity of this blog is considered, I've never been terribly good at keeping a journal or anything of the sort so this could be a lot of fun or a total ghost town. More than likely it'll come and go in spurts, although hopefully a little easier to keep up with now that I have time in the afternoons on M, W, and F since I dropped a class.

I'll get around to more later I suppose. Thursdays are pretty busy with Improv and classes (and hopefully practicing for my Social Dance class as of today).