Mal Fletcher comments
The Swiss police have this week broken up an online child pornography ring operating in at least four countries.
It seems now that hardly a week goes by when we're not confronted with stories about pornography, and its links with paedophilia and other forms of sex abuse.
Some prominent social commentators say that the growth of the porn industry reflects the breakdown in western culture - and a threat to human health. Yet many people who expose themselves to porn see it as nothing more than a pleasurable pastime. Who's right?
Once upon a time, pornography was something pedalled under the counter by people you didn't want to know. Today, porn is big business.
Porn movies, for example, cost a fraction of the budget of a major Hollywood release and the US industry releases around 10,000 new titles each year. The Internet revolution of the 90s opened up huge new opportunities for the distribution of porn.
Experts say that the most visited sites on the Web today are those containing so-called "adult content" - an industry code word for porn. Using the net, pornographic product can be delivered into people's homes without anyone knowing about it.
Husbands and wives can carry on "cyber-relationships" without their partner being aware of it and children can access harmful material without the knowledge of their parents.
One porn company is trying to invent a 3-D, interactive DVD which would be viewed with special glasses and would give, they say, the best "virtual sex" experience ever. They're also working on a computerised sex suit that would enable people to stimulate partners via the Internet.
I have a good friend who is a chemist. In his home laboratory he has a bottle of cyanide. It is one of the world's most deadly chemicals - it can kill a human being in seconds. Yet, when you uncork the bottle and smell it, cyanide has the aroma of almonds. It is one of our sweetest smelling chemicals known to man.
I could easily change the label on that bottle, replacing the words "Deadly Poison" with "Sweet Almond Juice". But the contents would remain just as deadly. Changing the label would not change the danger of what is inside.
What is true in the natural realm of life is, I think, also true in the emotional, psychological and moral arena.
Some people try to redefine pornography using terms like "erotica". They say that erotica is simply a depiction of sexual things, while hard core porn is a mixture of "harmless" erotica with "harmful" violence.
But changing the label on the jar does not remove the possible danger of what's inside. The human body and mind were simply not designed to take in certain things. Some things are deadly to us, whether we admit it or not.
In fact, pornography is more than a harmless pass-time. It is a form of spiritual, moral and social poison. The word "pornography" comes from a Greek word which literally means, "the writing of prostitutes".
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