A significant item in a recent Television Jamaica late night news bulletin, stated that pornography had become the latest addictive pastime among teenagers. Pornography is defined as: "the explicit description or exhibition of sexual activity in literature, films etc, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings" (OED). This is the second occasion in recent times that this issue has seriously attracted public attention, particularly parents with teenage children. Parental influence is the first and most formidable bulwark against this maleficent aberrant force.
The first public concern was the outrageous incident of pornographic films being shown on Coaster buses transporting school children when observed by Cdr John MacFarlane, who reported his experience in letters to the Jamaica Observer and the Gleaner newspapers. MacFarlane was moved to write about the incident thus: "I shudder to think how the mind of a teenager on that bus on his or her way to a church young people's meeting would be affected. No amount of prayer can erase the impression, however fleeting, made on that still malleable young mind. It is seared forever. We may, if we become aware of the experience, be able to mitigate the damage, but the memory will always be there, sometime perhaps waiting for the "perfect storm set-up" to be unleashed. Where further, that young mind is devoid of strong positive parental or community guidance, and especially so for our young men for whom strong male role-modeling is less likely, the consequences become even more devastating." Subsequently, the authorities removed the heavy glass tinting and films from the offending buses.
Pornography is as old as the hills. It was boldly featured in classical Grecian and Roman artefacts depicting unlimited multifarious sexual behaviour. Homosexuality and pederasty, about which much was written, were accepted and admired. Sexual activity among heterosexuals was also a popular topic. However, in Roman times, depravity became a common ingredient in Roman literature and art characterised by brutality, violence and sadism that reflected the historic decadence of Roman society. Some of this barbaric behaviour is replicated visually in contemporary television shows describing Roman personalities such as Spartacus. Christian teaching and influence eventually overcame the diabolical excesses, which have since time immemorial characterised Greco-Roman history. Finally, in 1857 the first Obscene Publications Act was introduced, which initially had the beneficial result of reducing the deleterious effect of unbridled lewd and obscene material.
The injurious effects of pornography have been well documented: "there is plenty of evidence that it (pornography) sometimes does harm, that it can therefore do harm. There is much evidence of its tendency to do harm as could be deduced from any comparable social factor; depicted violence for instance. There is quite sufficient to confirm the instinctive reaction of most people that what strikes them as revolting is likely to damage the individual, both directly and indirectly as a member of the community whose moral standards are lowered.
The most common effects are: firstly, an ever growing appetite for pornography until it becomes a serious addiction leading to all sorts of deviant obsessions and actions which may or may not take a delinquent form; secondly, a deadening process, a diminished sensitivity, a ceasing to be shocked. This is calculated to blunt the individual's proper and instinctive reactions even when it does not lead, as it well may, to a demand for harder and harder pornography" (Longford Report 1972). Considering the above, it is likely that the pornographic films shown earlier on buses induced the practice of "no panty days", "express pockets" and overt sexual activity.
A potent contributor to the spread of pornography is the advent of cellular phone technology that provides a strictly private channel for the verbal and visual transmission of erotic material. Parental control of this activity is very difficult due to the covert nature of the transmissions. When the phone rings, the recipient usually retreats to a private space to receive the message, indicating the confidential nature of the incoming call. Recently there have been appalling videos being circulated of children as young as five to seven years old, indulging in sexual intercourse and being encouraged by adults. This type of outrageous material is transmitted without the consent of an unwitting recipient. Having been forewarned, it is up to parents to devise the best way to deal with this very complex problem.
Longford concludes the report thus: "What we want to secure for all children and young people is the opportunity to imagine, expect and achieve the best kind of personal relationships. Some of us approach this positive aim from humanist and humanitarian motives; others of us from avowedly Christian beliefs and hopes: but all of us are concerned to open up for the young, an understanding and experience of sexual relations as the exchange of personal affection, caring and commitment. Far from wishing to dismiss the body from its function in expressing relationship, it is the Christian marriage service which invites the bridegroom to say to the bride "with my body I thee worship".
In Christian teaching, the physical union when rightly understood is experienced as the sacrament of love. It is the outward expression of the existing loving commitment of the one to the other and the outward means of deepening that personal commitment in a shared life".
In the vanguard of any remedial measures, the parents must take responsibility for the spiritual and physical well-being of their children who are at risk.