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Refrain from actions which cause pain and fear


To the Editor:

I'm enamored of the categorical imperative. Some things are right, others wrong, and we all can figure out which are which.

For example, if my entertainment or leisure activities threaten some group of people, causing them to feel fear or pain, I ought to refrain from enjoying myself in that fashion.

If I believe the threat is illusory, or the fear groundless, I may attempt to convince these people of their error, but, unless I happen to succeed, I am bound to find other forms of entertainment.

Perhaps some clever people are already creating or recalling cases in which, though they fit this general pattern, the right behavior is not at all obvious (the righteous behavior is always self-evident).

However, few among, say, the MIT community, will disagree with the general idea: I ought indeed to pass-up my fun if it causes so much pain or fear, albeit groundless.

I'm a late-comer to the pornography question here at MIT, but the anger recent letters and articles have expressed has disturbed me enough to make me write (which, as my few English teachers might attest, is saying a lot).

A sizeable minority feels strongly that showing pornographic (substitute "sexually-explicit," "XXX-rated," "exploitative," or "fun" as you prefer) films on campus is an attack on them as women, students and/or members of the community.

The combination of their numbers and the degree to which they feel threatened exceeds whatever threshold it must to merit serious consideration (just think of all those people writing, speaking, and organizing in protest). After the early attempts to change their views, the issue should have subsided.

The Lecture Series Committee ought to have graciously refrained from showing such films, in deference to those people who continued to perceive them as a serious threat.

Instead, we have this acrimonious and rather absurd series of debates focusing on such essentially unrelated issues as freedom of expression (as though watching someone else's sexual fantasies on film were a basic human need we must defend against the onslaught of totalitarian legislation) and does pornography really promote rape (who knows? even the remote possibility might give us pause).

I'm at a loss to discern the source for the venom inbuing some of the columns and correspondence. There must be some hidden factor poisoning this otherwise straight-forward discussion, making it writhe and contort.

In any case, I hope this obvious way of looking at the problem may have an antidotal effect. The question is simply whether a person ought to pursue her or his entertainment at the expense of others' fear and pain.

For my own part, though I might well enjoy the films, I suspect the process of making and showing them is, overall, socially counter-productive. Even if I felt otherwise, I hope I'd be more than willing to give up this particular form of entertainment in view of the pain doing otherwise would inflict on other people.

Dana Fine G->