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This column is not about pornography

HEADLINES (from REB) - Pornography, rhymes with Technology.

- Pornography-ography

Column/Ronald E. Becker

Sex, sex, and more sex: It seems to be all that's on the minds of MIT students these days. At least it seems to be forced upon the minds of students these days. You can't walk down the Infinite Corridor without seeing at least four or five posters that protest the showing of pornographic films.

Just about every women's group on campus is protesting the Lecture Series Committee's perceived gall. Many coed groups have also made it known they are opposed to the showing of pornography on campus. They haven't been nearly as loud about it.

Discussions, accusations, protests and demonstrations have filled daily life around the Institute. They have filled the pages of The Tech. It seems that, as usual, it is the vocal few who are most actively involved in these debates and squabbles. The majority of MIT students would probably rather be left alone.

For me, the aspect of all this hoo-hah that strikes closest to home is the constant appearance of columns such as this one in The Tech. The folks over at the CIA who read this paper must think we're sex-starved. They're probably planning an offensive against the Russians based on our superhuman drive for pornography. (Yep, fellas, the Ruskies have loads of obscene material. All we have to do is go over there and take it away from 'em! Laser satellites will do it, build a laser satellite an' get yourselves some juicy porn).

If you have managed to get this far through my flaming, dear reader, I congratulate and thank you. I know from speaking to many of you that you have seen enough pornography columns in this esteemed MIT Community forum to last until evolution removes all evidence of sexuality from the face of the earth. The trend is beginning, by the way, e.g. "Boy" George, Michael Jackson, and Nancy Reagan.

As soon as most of you see a pornography column, you immediately turn to the sports pages. Arts, as a recent development, offers no relief from the onslaught of pornography-ography (excuse my Greek).

I don't imagine I'll solve the problem posed by pornography. I hope, however, this message will help bring an end to this rather incessant and annoying controversy. I know I cannot force an end to it, since that would involve pleasing everyone. That is impossible.

This is a flame to end all flames. (Please don't take the attitude that one good flame deserves another -- the MIT Community probably couldn't take it).

I believe my view on this whole messy matter is similar to that of many, if not most, MIT Community members. If you would like to express your view to me, or would like to hear my view you can send me a letter C/O this paper and I will answer you if you want. Although I can't imagine what I could say that you haven't heard before.

The right to free speech, as guaranteed by our truly magnificent Constitution, is perhaps what makes this country a bearable place to live. People can deal you all the bullshit they want, but they cannot keep you from dealing it right back to them.

But the right to free speech is not all-encompassing. Other rights can supercede it.

The dilemma all over the country is this: Pornography is undoubtedly bad, but to ban it across the board would be (slightly) worse. Cities and townships have had full-fledged battles regarding these legalities.

The problem we most seriously face here at MIT is that people are being desensitized to the seriousness of the issue by constant exposure to debate about it. It is quickly getting to the point at which the MIT community is becoming desensitized to the issue -- which exists outside MIT as well. I wouldn't be surprised if people's attitudes toward the Combat Zone type of "hard core" has been mullified by the daily exposure to the word "pornography."

Just about everything new that can be said about on-campus pornography has been said. Very few relevant points have been raised in the last few months. Everyone, however, seems to feel (as I do) that his or her particular viewpoint's time has come. The Tech, therefore, is flooded with letters and columns about pornography.

A healthy discussion is good for the opinion pages of this paper. However, the pornography discussion hasn't been healthy recently. Just about everyone speaks out against pornography -- they only argue about why they don't like pornography and about how much one should hate pornography.

This constant exposure and re-exposure to pornography has one major negative effect on the MIT population in general. I was reminded of it by a friend who read this column before publication. Strangely enough, the glut of anti-pornography literature can have the opposite effect intended.

I will wrap up this very long flame by urging those of you who believe that pornography is a serious problem: take the matter to more subtle grounds for now. Please realize that most of the MIT campus has set notions about pornography that have been shaped by controversy and not by individual reason.

Very few people would doubt that pornography exploits women and men, with an emphasis on women. Those that do deny this are probably beyond hope of being reformed; they should be retired to an old-bigot's home. The problem that "rational" people discuss in these pages is whether pornography is sufficiently degrading to men and women to be banned from the campus.

This problem is a legal one with which MIT administration must deal.

Opponents of pornography espouse a noble purpose, but all they seem to be doing is grinding the issue into the minds and lives of MIT students.

Human beings (male and female) are stubborn creatures. The more they are told not to do something the greater the desire to protect their "rights" by doing it anyway. Leave the pornography situation alone, at least for a while, and see if it doesn't reach a reasonable equilibrium.

My parents receive a subscription to this paper delivered to our home. I can only imagine what they think of this whole deal.