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Harvard University: the new home of 'ethical pornography'

A Harvard academic who looks after the pastoral needs of new students is a keen advocate of what she calls "fair trade porn."

Harvard University: the new home of 'ethical pornography'
Carolyn Moynihan
United States

December 27, 2012

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Parents whose offspring have achieved a place in one of the world’s leading universities must feel a thrill of pride as they hand their fledglings over to the care of a housemaster at one of its hallowed halls of residence. It is going to cost them a fortune but with hard work and good mentoring a gilt-edged career for their son or daughter is almost guaranteed. It may not have occurred to them, however, that the moral environment their kids are entering leaves everything else to chance.

Let’s say a girl is heading for Harvard, where she is going to do a pre-med course, and likes the sound of Pforzheimer House, a collection of dormitories in Harvard’s Quadrangle. If her parents take the trouble to check out Pfoho (as it is affectionately called) they would be able to meet, at least online, the married couple who are co-masters of the house, Erika and Nicholas Christakis.

Mrs Christakis is herself a Harvard graduate and her profile on the Pforzheimer website reveals a warm-sounding person (“I love caring for young mammals…”) who is a mother, teacher and a Master of Public Health who has been involved in development projects in Africa and Asia. She has “a longstanding interest in the intersection of health, eduction, and family” and is happy to talk with students who are also interested in teaching and public health, “or who are not sure what they want to do ‘when they grow up’.”

Mr Christakis is actually quite a famous academic, a physician and social scientist with joint appointments at Harvard Medical School and in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Department of Sociology). Formerly also a front-line hospice doctor, he is best known these days for his research on social networks and their influence on health. In his profile he says he wants students to feel free to talk to him “at any time, about any topic. I am especially interested in getting to know you as people -- to know about your individual interests, hopes, aspirations, quandaries.”

Together they sound like pretty eligible stand-ins for parents, just the sort of people to guide emerging adults around the pitfalls of living in a large community of peers who are testing their freedom against new-found access to alcohol and sex. As Mrs Christakis says, “Nicholas and I feel connected to you. And we are eager to support you on your intellectual, social and moral journey at this stage of your lives.”

Nice to hear that word, “moral”. But hold on -- could this be the same Erika Christakis who thinks there is nothing wrong with pornography so long as one can find an “ethical” source for it? I’m afraid so. Writing in the Huffington Post early this month, the same “educator, public health advocate and Harvard College administrator” put “The Case for Fair Trade Porn”. It’s time, she argued, that we became as selective about “our” porn as about our coffee and pork.

Basically her view of porn is this: the urge to watch it is primitive (universal) but “relatively harmless”, and with the advent of online porn the vast majority of Americans (if not the human race) indulge the urge -- including Evangelical Christians (important to mention that). Calls to regulate the content of pornography must be rejected because they would spoil the “buzz” which is the essence of porn for many people: “One person’s degradation may be another person’s kink…”

Nevertheless, consumers cannot be completely without standards when shopping for porn. Although some porn stars may actually like what they are doing, it appears that some are coerced and subjected to dangerous conditions, and it is important for consumers with ethical sensitivity to know which are which. People should be able to make an informed choice of filth that the actors enjoyed making or at least agreed to freely.

Full Story: Harvard - home of ethical porn 

Source: Mercatornet

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