Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae vitae, “that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires.” This prediction might have seemed far-fetched in 1968 when the encyclical was released, but we now have ample evidence that it was completely correct.
Two Dunedin university students have been in the news over their attitudes to women and their bodies. One thinks that university students should have the right to access pornography through the University of Otago computer network. He says it doesn’t make sense ‘to have the university interfering with what you are doing in your private time.’ This is a very common appeal to personal autonomy. However, the internet connection isn’t their own. It’s the University’s connection, which is available to many students at their halls of residence.
The University doesn’t just filter pornography, it filters file sharing sites too. It provides the connection to help the students in their studies. It’s pretty obvious that pornography isn’t going to help a student. I’ve heard of marriages destroyed by pornography, and family homes that have had to be sold to pay for online pornography debts. Filtering of internet content isn’t unusual in New Zealand. The connections of 75% of the population are filtered for child pornography.
The second student has been in the media over his private Facebook page with featured explicit pictures of local women, posted without their knowledge or permission. The initial response of the police was, “These kinds of sites are not necessarily unlawful, but we do appreciate that they can cause significant upset and social harm.” Now the police are now encouraging victims to contact them. The University has come out strongly against the now removed page, and is taking disciplinary action.
The images on the Facebook page were only possible because these pictures are being taken and shared with boyfriends. Here the boyfriend seem to think that they have a right to these explicit pictures, or are pressuring their girlfriends into supplying them. The recent celebrity phone hacking scandal has shown how common it is for young women to share ‘intimate’ photos with their boyfriends. Is it coercion, fear of losing boyfriends, or the women buying into the lie that their body is just another commodity that they can use to get what they want? Whatever it is, it’s the boyfriend’s lack of reverence that is driving it. The celebrity, Jennifer Lawrence made the comment about stolen explicit photos she took for her boyfriend, “and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you”.
Another recent trend is ‘upskirt’ photography. Men use hidden cameras at low level to take ‘upskirt’ photos of women in public places. Fortunately New Zealand courts have been prosecuting perpetrators. This is in contrast to a recent Texas legal decision that has decided that this form of photography is a constitutional right. This is similar to the Dunedin students claim that he has a right to pornography. Obviously the Texas court thinks freedom in photography is much more important than the rights of those being photographed.
This is in contrast to a recent French decision on a young man who photographed not women, but Paris landmarks, from a camera on a flying ‘drone’.
Obviously our society has decided that New Zealand and Texan women are worth a lot less than the photos of French monuments.
Jennifer Lawrence calls the distribution of her photos a “sex crime”. Before contraceptives were accepted, everyone would have agreed with her.