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Pornography: The Other Side

Annotated quotations from the book by Ferrel M. Christensen


The following quotes and annotations were provided by someone who read Pornography: The Other Side and became concerned about the red thread that runs through the book.   Except for where noted otherwise, the comments following each quote are by the individual who sent the quotes.
   Quotes from the book are in italics.

The main point of the first chapter of this book is that pornography, together with the desires that underlie it, is natural and healthy. (p. 14, par. 1)

No distinctions here for sex and porn involving kids, just blanket statements that all sex and porn are good.

In the following Christensen describes in derogatory fashion the limits parents place on child sexuality.

Even among parents who do not overtly punish their children's expressions of eroticism (which many do, physically or psychologically) the message is sent in subtle ways.  If a child is playing with its genitals, the hand is pushed away...Of course, there is also the perpetual anxious avoidance of nudity and of sex talk around children.  The message is subliminal but clear: there is something sinister about sexuality and certain parts of the body. (p. 16, par. 2)

What is sinister, in my view, is Christensen's belief that we should encourage childhood sexuality, making children vulnerable prey to the pedophiles who just look for such children.  That is why children who have been abused are more likely to be abused again, because once sexualized, the pedophile's zoom into the child with their radar for such things.  Ferrel M. Christensen's views would make children completely vulnerable to adults who want to have sex with them.  You want the opinions of experts on this, I will give them to you.

...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, par. 1)

Exploitation in porn would not be equated by most of us as equal to portrayals of family life in the Waltons, especially when children are used in its production.

A commonly expressed fear from the antipornography camp is that little girls may suffer distress and damage to their self-image from the sight of the naked women in pornography.  The real source of any such reaction would be the sex-negative emotions they have previously been conditioned to have....the author of this book can report the effect such exposure had on his self-image as a little boy: aside from satisfying some powerful yearnings that had been denied, it gave him the reassuring feeling that at least some people did not regard him as evil for having those desires. (p. 50, par. 2)

Society should just do as Ferrel M. Christensen says and expose children to sex and porn, since after all, his own childhood should be dictating to the rest of us what our morals and values ought to be.

You should read the entire section from page 109 to 113, as this is the short section where he attempts to deal with sex and children.  My favorite here is,

Although to do this subject justice would require an entire book, it is essential here to say a few words about one thing: the common idea that there is something inherently emotionally unhealthful about children, or even adolescents, having sexual knowledge or sexual activity.  It is widely averred, for example, that they are not "emotionally ready" for such things.  Or, in regard to children, that it is not natural for them to have sexual feelings.  The latter is a perfect example of rationalization and ideologically induced blindness.  (p. 109)

Here is a man who has never had a child, or been close to one, but assumes a great deal about childhood sexuality.  Who is doing the rationalizing here?

 

It is just as wrong to censor portrayals of alternative sexual lifestyles as it is to suppress those of different political or religious systems. In all likelihood, given the large range of human differences that exist, the best system in the present regard is a pluralistic one that allows individuals to discover the different modes of living that maximize their fulfillment. (p. 100)

In other words, if it feels good do it .

Should we nonetheless try to keep young people from acting on those desires by preventing positive messages about sex from reaching them? Absolutely not. The sexual ignorance and guilt traditionally imposed on adolescents are harmful in countless ways. (p. 100)

Again, Christensen seems to be unable to recognize any harmful effects arising from early sexualization, but denounces the methods used to slow down the sexual awakening as cruel and unusual punishment for the young. It appears that he has done no research at all on the impact of early childhood sexual experience.

The only moral wrong involved in teenage sex, or any other kind, lies in taking an appreciable chance in bringing harm to another - not in sexual activity per se, nor in the desire that leads to it. (p. 101)

According to Christensen, sex at any age is a good thing, and there are no harmful effects, in his view.

Here's an odd rationale for introducing children to sex:

What evidently is true is that for many individuals, owing in part to a greater dependency on genital friction for arousal, sexual "awakening" can be long delayed by preventing the youthful experimentation in which they would otherwise naturally engage. (p. 110)

So kids would have orgasms much sooner, if only we would let them.

Here is another,

As for the common idea that sexual awareness and exploration are harmful to children or adolescents, it is no less biologically false.  Stories of emotional distress from early sexual experience are often told in this society; but it is clear that the real sources of such trauma...lie in the accompanying social attitudes. (p.110, par. 2) 

In other words, children are not harmed by sexual behaviour, it is only our response to it which creates trauma in them.  I guess that's why sex abuse victims are more likely to become prostitutes, addicts, drunks, have sexual problems in adulthood, have psychological problems and commit suicide.  It's not the sex, it's what we think of it that harms children.  I guess if we accept the idea of children having sex, then they wouldn't get hurt, according to Ferrel M. Christensen.

It may even be the case, as various [unnamed] researchers have suggested, that there is a valuable place for erotically explicit materials in the education of children, especially given the fact that our society's high degree of privacy deprives them of the exposure to nudity and sexuality they would have in a more natural environment. (p. 111, par. 3) 

We should provide erotically explicit materials for the education of children.   Now, pedophiles tell us that this is how they groom children for sex, so I wonder which "researchers" are actually advocating this in the main stream.  See, for example, Elliott, Michele (1995) Child sexual abuse prevention: what offenders tell us. Child Abuse and Neglect. 19:5, pp. 579-594.

On page 112, Ferrel M. Christensen states his belief that children are vulnerable to pedophiles because they are not exposed to sexually explicit porn.  In the same breath, he suggests that eliminating the porn materials would not stop the pedophile from making his own "to use as 'bait' to entice children into sex with them."   The idea is in the 2nd par.

So here, Christensen acknowledged that pedophiles use porn to bait children, but nevertheless thinks society should provide this "education" to children.  The porn is used to break down a child's resistance to sex, but we should provide it to kids en masse.  Is this as weird to you as it is to me?

I just can't say anything about paragraph 3, it is just entirely indefensible, so you check it out....[subsequently the reviewer provided  comments on that paragraph after all —WHS] ...I've changed my mind, and here are my comments on this paragraph:

Here is how Ferrel treats the problem of child porn, in paragraph 3:

Finally, what about that special category of pornography that has caused so much alarm in recent years, that which itself portrays children? This is another topic that needs far more treatment than can be given here, but a few things can be said. (p. 112, par. 3)

Since this is the most serious objection anyone has to pornography, that being the production of child porn, it would seem to me that more than a paragraph should be devoted to the subject in a book that purports to legitimize porn.

Once more, there is no evidence that such materials cause a sexual interest in children, any more than seeing homosexual pornography produces a homosexual orientation. (Ibid.)

I beg to differ, for the evidence in the literature is clear that exposure to sexual themes and materials do initiate a child into sexual awareness. An adult viewing homosexual porn is different from young children immature in thought and the ability to protect themselves. They need our protection from views exactly like these. Anyone who says that sexual abuse of a child is not harmful is deluding themselves.

As for those who already are sexually aroused by children, for reasons that have already been discussed, banning it [pornography] does not prevent them from being so aroused. (Ibid.)

Christensen seems to say here that society should not even try to limit the sexual behaviour of pedophiles, since banning their porn isn't going to help.

Even something as innocuous as the little girl in the old Coppertone ads has been reported by numerous pedophiles to be highly sexually stimulating. Note also that in most of the world throughout history, children have gone naked until the age at which they begin to internalize their culture's taboos. This is often the case in modern Europe, where complete nudity for swimming is common for all ages. (Ibid.) [1]

We know that pedophiles tend to gravitate toward places where children will be uninhibited and unprotected, like schools, parks and beaches, but Ferrel M. Christensen certainly doesn't alleviate any of our concerns with this statement. If anything, he reminds us that pedophiles don't wear signs on their foreheads, and we must remain vigilant to the threats that face our children.

Moreover, even the possibility that overtly sexual depictions of children elicit child molestation is somewhat disconfirmed by the fact that no increase in police reports of such acts occurred in Denmark during the years there when child pornography was legal and widespread. (Ibid.)

This seems to be rather skimpy evidence to base such a serious conclusion on. If child porn was so rampant in Denmark, perhaps the sexual acts children experienced were not necessarily reported to police. Though Christensen provides a footnote for his Denmark info, he does not provide the volume of the journal the alleged article can be found in, rather sloppy for an academician, and perhaps purposely so.

Hard to believe that all of these comments were contained in one paragraph of Ferrel M. Christensen's book.

Next, here Ferrel M. Christensen makes a concession, 

...there is something to the idea that if "kidporn" were legal, it would send the message to pedophiles that their desires are socially acceptable.  Even that is unlikely, perhaps, in a society where they are often despised more than murderers.

and,

Given that children are particularly vulnerable to coercion, protecting them from being pressured or forced into something which, in present social conditions, can be highly distressing...is a serious concern (though it is potentially no more so than the practice of coercing them not to act sexually). (p. 113)

Of everything in this book, this quote bothers me the most.  Ferrel Christensen equates the pressure to force children into sex as no more evil then the pressure he claims children experience from being told not to have sex.  He notes that coercing a child "can be highly distressing", but only under "present social condictions".  It is hard to imagine how social conditions could change sufficiently that coercing a child into sex would somehow ever be ok.  Most people agree that coercing anyone into sex is always harmful, but especially a child.  The idea that denying children sex is equal to coercing them into sex, is the oddest thing I have ever heard anyone say. 

Christensen asserts that those who campaign against child porn,

...are constantly alleging, on the basis of no evidence whatever, that pornography in general encourages child molestation. (p. 113, par. 2) 

The truth is, it is almost axiomatic that a child molester who is caught will frequently have a fine collection of porn, so that is evidence enough for most of us.  In spite of that, Christensen claims on page 129, par. 2, that "many psychiatrists...believe that pornography often has the effect of preventing sexual violence."  Dr. Money [of Johns Hopkins University —WHS] (Ferrel M. Christensen calls him the foremost expert on childhood sexuality), he claims, says that "persons requesting help in a sex offender clinic '...commonly disclose in the course of counseling therapy that pornography helps them contain their abnormal sexuality within imagination only, as a fantasy.'"  If so many sexual offenders are caught with porn, it is obvious that the fantasy was not enough all the time, making porn the instigator which feeds the fantasy to bring it to action. [2]

For whatever it is worth, the majority of investigators evidently believe that exposure to media aggression produces long term and short term tendencies toward the real thing. (p. 141)

That statement in Chapter 11 seems to be a direct argument disputing the thesis of the book, that porn does not cause sexual deviance.

Those who commit coercive or brutal sex crimes evidently fall into various categories with different types of motivation, but clinicians who work with them and social scientists who interview them have repeatedly reported the following fact: among a certain percentage of these persons, a background of sexual repressiveness appears to be a significant factor in producing their violent behaviour. (p. 148)

Christensen blames the existence of violent sexual predators on sexual repression in childhood, a rather explosive remark to make, given that he provides no citation to support this claim. Even a cursory glance at the professional literature on this issue, not to mention common sense, tells us that violence begets violence, and a child initiated into sex too early in life will often have sexual problems in adulthood. Though repression causes problems of its own, violent sexual offenders will frequently have violence and sexual interference as part of their childhood histories as the primary cause of their needs. Christensen really needs to use a little academic support of his outrageous position, but we are to accept his word for it.

This would be especially true in cases where sex has been associated with physical or emotional violence by parents who severely punish their children's expressions of eroticism. (p. 148)

Well, on the bright side, Christensen concedes that violent criminals usually have violence in their childhood, but for reasons that can not be fathomed, he believes that this violence is associated with childhood sex. Many victims will say that alcohol is the biggest cause of beatings, but Christensen ties the problem to childhood sexual repression, without a single reference to back himself up. This bizarre logic then takes another turn when he writes in the same paragraph:

In a similar vein, it has been found that many especially violent rapists were themselves sexually assaulted when young. The cycle continues, but how did it get started? (p. 148) [3]

In other words, "Oh woe is us," is it being sexually assaulted in childhood or being beaten for sexual repression that causes violent adult predators? While Christensen tries to raise doubt on the answer to that question, his effort is a dismal failure, since we know by evidence, instinct and common sense that adult violent sexual predators almost always were themselves assaulted in similar fashion as children. I have to ask why Christensen perpetually down-plays the impact of childhood sexual interference throughout his book, but never more so than here.

And something that is true of male pedophiles in general - the majority of whom are passive, nonviolent individuals - is that they feel threatened by women. This suggests that their sexual interests are turned toward children precisely because of anxiety over rejecting and hostility. In other words, what makes children sexually preferable to such persons is that they are accepting and unthreatening. The extent to which this culture's negative attitudes toward sexuality in general, and male sexuality in particular, might play a part in this has not been adequately explored by psychologists. (pp. 151-152).

It is hard to know where to start with this incredible statement, but here is an effort. First, Christensen makes a blanket statement that the majority of male pedophiles are passive, nonviolent individuals, with nothing to back it up. He then blames the rejection of women as the cause of pedophiliac tendencies, rather than what the evidence shows, that sexual interference in childhood frequently causes pedophilia in adulthood. He then blames pedophilia on this culture's negative attitudes toward sexuality, suggesting that pedophiles, en masse, we are to assume, are attracted to children because they are accepting and unthreatening, unlike women. This theory for the genesis of pedophiles ignores the most common pattern we have found in the life cycles of confessed pedophiles: most were sexually interfered with at a young age, and re-enact their trauma in adulthood as a result of that interference. Since this would destroy Christensen's theory that child sexual interference causes no harm, he posits this absurd theory of pedophile causation and blames society's sexual repression for creating this sexual preference. Pedophiles create pedophiles, Mr. Christensen, the way it always has been and will always be. It is the primary reason why we should protect children from sexual interference for as long as possible. [4]

The teenage son of a childhood friend of the author was driven to suicide by guilt, guilt produced by his religion's telling him he was sinful and unworthy if he could not stop masturbating and having sexual thoughts. The conclusion that sexual guilt is at fault in some violent sex crimes is difficult to escape; it is virtually written on the face of certain cases. (p. 152)

Once again, Mr. Christensen assumes that we should reform sexual values on the basis of his personal experience. It is certainly hard to believe that a teenaged boy would leave a suicide note talking about masturbation and church, but Mr. Christensen seems quite certain that he knows why the boy took his own life. Let's just hope he did not run this theory by his childhood friend at the time of their great loss. Based on this single alleged suicide, Christensen now believes he has provided indisputable proof that sexual guilt is involved in violent sex crimes, "virtually written on the face of certain cases." Too bad he has so little respect for the reader that he provides no cases, nor any other evidence, to support this argument. I don't think I have ever been happier to reach the end of a book, but one more Christensen conclusion bears review. On the last page, 165, Mr. Christensen provides us with the solution to all of humanity's sexual problems when he writes:

...pornography by itself is not the basic issue. Opposition to it is only a symptom of more general attitudes toward sexuality that are both false and harmful to us all. But sane and humane attitudes about that subject can never be cultivated as long as harmless sexual fantasies are despised by the general public and suppressed by the power of the state. Indeed, the current campaign against pornography is also harming sex education and the rights of sexual minorities; in the long run, it is a threat to the privacy, liberty, and dignity of everyone. (p. 165)

I have never heard pedophiles, violent sex offenders, sadomasochists and other weirdoes called a "sexual minority" before, but this fits with Christensen's assertion that our efforts to reduce and eliminate these predators is no different then the oppression of the Negro under Jim Crow laws. I'm sure the NAACP would love to hear that this oppressed class is using the history of struggle of blacks in America to obtain legitimacy for their activities in society. Needless to say, this book was perhaps the most difficult I have ever had to read, but I am comforted by the fact that all this work to identify Mr. Christensen's agenda will never have to be repeated. I hope it has also saved other readers from swimming through this arrogant, sanctimonious rationalization of childhood sex, and the pornography that supports this desire among us.

—Anonymous

[Name withheld on request.]


My Notes (—WHS):

  1. To alleviate the impression one is left with by reading F.M. Christensen's allegation, the vast majority of public swimming places or beaches in Europe do not permit nudity.  Nudity is permissible only in relatively few designated areas.

  2. As a case in point, refer to the assessment made by Lorne Gunter of the extent of the "harmlessness" of the collection of child pornography in the possession of Robin Sharpe: "Child porn must remain taboo." 

  3. The answer to that question is in the observation quoted by Frederick Mathews of the relationship between children who were sexually abused and became in turn sexual abusers as adolescents and adults.

  4. See Frederick Mathews.

See also


Back to main page of comments on Pornography: The Other Side

__________________
Posted 2001 03 13
Updates:
2001 03 14 (to include additional quotes)
2001 03 26 (to make grammatical correction)
2001 03 27 (minor edits)
2001 03 30 (moved appended comments to a new page)
2001 04 02 (re-formated to reflect updates by reviewer)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)