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The Depraved Imagination

by Barnabas
May 15, 2002

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The Depraved Imagination_Barnabas- I heard this story at a seminar on sexual behavior over twenty years ago, so it has whiskers.

The psychologist decided to approach his new client, an uptight young man, with a non-threatening approach. He drew a straight horizontal line on his legal pad and showed it to the client. “What does this make you think of?” he asked.

“Sex,” replied the client. The psychologist hid his surprise at the response, and drew a square. “What about this?”

The client squirmed a little. “Sex,” he said again. The psychologist drew a squiggly line, and this time the client raised his voice. “Sex!”
One more, thought the psychologist, and drew an ellipse. The client was on the edge now. “Sex!” he almost shrieked.

The psychologist put down his pad and said, in a comforting voice, “You think a lot about sex, don’t you?”

“ME? ME?! You’re the one drawing all the dirty pictures!”

Few responsible citizens defend internet pornography. If you try to defend the freedom of the press in the context of pornography, you will be shouted down. So let’s not try.

On the other hand, sexual obsession would continue even if the screens were to go blank on every pornographic site in the world. The greatest pornographer of all is the human imagination. We see dirty pictures when nobody is drawing them. Sexual imagery doesn’t even require an act of the will; during sleep the unconscious mind is happy to provide both camera and action, and the images it conjures in a virginal adolescent’s dreams aren’t confined to heterosexual relations between legally married consenting adults.

The curmudgeon has a question. If the kid recounts his dream on the playground next day, is he engaged in kiddie porn?

“Now, Mr. Curmudgeon, you are not playing your part! Curmudgeons are stereotypes who condemn other stereotypes, and here you are missing the fat pitch thrown at you by these cyberspace criminals! What good are curmudgeons who don’t feed our righteous anger?”

The curmudgeon replies that good curmudgeonry demands contrariness, including the right to choose his own targets. My target in this essay, if it isn’t obvious, is the shallow moralism that sees internet pornographers as a cause rather than as a symptom, and which holds that getting rid of “them,” whether by law or intimidation, would rid us of sinful desires both conscious and unconscious.

I have not yet learned how this “virtual victory” would be communicated to the autonomic nervous system of a sound-asleep young person in the midst of a very interesting dream.

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The Depraved Imagination
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