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On the Word “Porn”

Ross Douthat wrote it in his book, Bad Religion. On Sunday, February 15, 2015, a New York Times writer, Bob Morris, wrote it in a column on cute animal videos. The word is “porn,” which was once short for pornography. Another word for it was “smut.”

Douthat wrote of “travel porn.” I nearly fell over when I read that. What could it mean–smut across the world? No. It meant travel literature that gives one pleasure. Brown writes of “cute animal porn,” and he is not referring to bestiality. He means animal videos that one enjoys.


Why this use of porn? Pornography is the written or visual expression of illicit eroticism. It is indecent and can be addictive. It is bad pleasure: hollow, cheap, degrading, and dirty. But now pornography is considered just another form of pleasure. The sting is gone. If this is the new meaning, then “porn” can be attached to anything that is pleasurable. Who wants more “golf porn”?

Language reflects the mindset of a culture. A culture awash in hedonism wants its porn everywhere, since its desires have been uprooted from moral reality. Nothing we enjoy should be porn. Desires were meant to aim at the good, the true, and the beautiful. The desired should be the desirable. When porn is the norm the self is shorn of life.

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