By Rachael Liberman
Everyone has an opinion on pornography. Some argue that it is a vital contributor to understanding sexuality, some assert that it is a vulgar practice that objectifies women, and some maintain that is a lucrative industry just like any other capitalistic enterprise. Of course, these three positions are not the only ones that pervade the cultural discussion of the pornography industry. For example, during the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. this past weekend, Michael Schwartz, chief of staff for Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told an audience that: “All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.” He went on to say that: “And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants! You know, that’s a good comment, it’s a good point, and it’s a good thing to teach young people.”
Now, taking Schwartz’s ultra-conservative standpoint into account, this statement could be written off as another homophobic, moralistic rant. However, the inaccuracy of this assumption, coupled with its context as part of a panel on “The New Masculinity,” deserves some attention. Schwartz’s statement that “all pornography is homosexual pornography” was taken from a conversation he had with a “very good friend” that was commenting on “the malady that he suffered” due to living the “homosexual lifestyle.” This “astonishingly insightful remark,” as Schwartz categorizes it, assisted in his later remarks about pornography and how it destroys lives. According to Schwartz, “If it doesn’t turn you homosexual, it at least renders you less capable of loving your wife. And it’s something you need to be healed of.” These statements, which have no theoretical or empirical base, were unchecked by the crowd or the panel.
While these statements are offensive and crude, the fact of the matter is that they were part of a public forum that was organized by the Family Research Council. While the First Amendment protects Schwartz’s right to free speech, one can’t help but wonder what protects him from having to fact-check or provide empirical evidence for his claims. Revealing that his information came from a “homosexual’ and that therefore it is a credible source on the subject, is a fundamentally flawed way to validate a point. In a culture where misunderstandings about homosexuality (and pornography) run rampant, this is just another example of how myths are falsely created and disseminated on a public platform. In the end, this is not a matter of offensive and inaccurate remarks made by an ultra-conservative member of the religious right – because this (offensiveness and inaccuracy) has become part of their common discourse on sexuality. What is striking about these comments is that Schwartz, who is employed by an elected state representative, is using this rhetoric and asserting it as truth. However, some questions need to be answered. What does “inwards” mean? Is he talking about masturbation? Does masturbation make you a homosexual? How does pornography “make” you less able to love your wife? Is it true that boys will stray away from Playboy because they’ll think it will make them a homosexual? Thinking about the last question is giving me a headache.