Baritua, Jewel Bethel: Rationalizations of Pornography

SY 2008-2009, First Semester


Pornography has always been an issue from the beginning of time. The method of its distribution varies greatly but the main purpose is the same; it is the depiction of sexually explicit acts that causes arousal to viewers. Great controversies exists concerning pornography as some views it as acceptable while some views it as immoral. In the Philippines, being a Christian nation, pornography has always been viewed as a taboo and immoral, something that has to be done in secret at the risk of being ridiculed or condemned by family, friends, or by the society. Filipinas are always depicted as the modest and conservative lady and the Filipino the gentleman. However, I have come to realize that Filipinos have changed and has become more liberated and free with their sexuality as evidenced by the sudden increase of unwed mothers and/or unwanted pregnancies. [1] Nonetheless, the government, church and some organizations greatly condemns the distribution of pornography and has implemented laws and rules to discourage the use and distribution of such materials. Surprisingly, however, these laws seem to be without teeth as the distribution of these kinds of materials continues or seems to increase even more. What might be causing the increase of the distribution of pornography and what might be the reason for it? What are the effects of the increase in pornography distribution?

What is Pornography?

Pornography came from the Greek word porne which means prostitute and graphein which means to write and originally referred to works of literature and art dealing with sexuality. [2] There really is no definite definition of pornography. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” [3] In another dictionary, pornography is defined as “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit”. [4] One states that any act or work that causes arousal to its viewers is considered pornography, while the other states that it is any obscene act and those with less or no artistic merit, making the acts or works that are not obscene and/or has artistic merit not pornography. The only common element in these definitions is that the material is sexually explicit. Defining a work as pornography though, will highly depend on the viewer’s position on whether the sexual depiction is acceptable or unacceptable, harmful or harmless, art or smut.

The History

Tracing the exact beginnings of pornography is obscure; one can say that it is present already from the beginning of time as evidenced by the paintings and other works of past arts like cave artworks, paintings, and sculptures. But it is known that it is definitely as old as written records. 5 It is believed though that pornography surfaced in the 1800, when John Cleland wrote Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure in 1749, an erotic and fictitious story about an English prostitute [5]. This started the work of authors with similar genre and the eventual increase of awareness on pornography. As technology progressed, the method of distribution of these materials changed, from writings and paintings, to pictures, to movies, to optical devices, and now through the internet. It is surprising to note though, that works of arts in the past are considered merely as an erotica and not pornography. This brings us to defining the difference between erotica, pornography, and obscenity.

In the book “Mitigating the Effects of Violent Pornography”, the authors define erotica as something that portrays non-aggressive sexual activity between willing, sensitive, caring partners. The partners share in the initiation and choice of activities, relatively free from the stereotype pattern of male dominance and female subservience that characterizes much pornography. [6] The authors further clarifies the difference by defining pornography as an act that presents the coercion of a less powerful person by a more powerful one. Women are the slaves, the sexual playthings, for men to use and discard. Neither women nor men are accorded much compassion or empathy, but women, in particular, are degraded and demeaned. [6] Obscenity, on the other hand, is a legal term, not a scientific one, referring to material that has been judged by the courts to have violated specific statutes concerning matter of this kind. Central to many obscenity laws is whether the materials violates community standards of acceptability and whether it involves minors. [7] The difference therefore between the three is that erotica is considered as acceptable sexual depictions, pornography are those unacceptable sexual depictions, and obscenity are those that have been defined by law as illegal. Nonetheless, all three are similar in the manner of depicting sexual acts.


Existing Laws and Bills

As stated above, the Philippines, being a Christian Nation, condemns pornography, hence, the country does not lack the laws to discourage the distribution of pornography. The Revised Peal Code (RPC) alone, though created before the internet became popular, defines obscene act as criminal and is therefore punishable by law. Article 201 [8] of the RPC states that:

“ Immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent show. – The penalty of prision mayor [9] or a fine ranging from six thousand to twelve thousand pesos, or both such imprisonment and fins, shall be imposed upon:

1. Those who shall publicly expound or proclaim doctrines openly contrary to public morals;


a. The authors of obscene literature, published with their knowledge in any form; the editors publishing such literature; and the owners/operators of the establishment selling the same;

b. Those who, in theaters, fairs, cinematographs or any other place, exhibit, indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or shows, whether live or in firlm, which are prescribed by virtue hereof, shall include those which:

i. Glorify criminals or condone crimes;

ii. Serve no other purpose but to satisf8y the market for violence, lust of pornography;

iii. Offend any race or religion;

. Tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and

v. Are contrary to law, public order, morals, and good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts;

3. Those who shall sell, give away or exhibit films, prints, engravings, sculpture or literature which are offensive to morals. “

Article 200 of the same law also define what Grave Scandal is, stating that “the penalties of arresto mayor and public censure shall be imposed upon any person who shall offend against decency or good customs by any highly scandalous conduct not expressly falling with any other article of this Code.” [10]

To protect the public further from any unacceptable acts, statement of even exposure to any pornography, RA 1986 took effect on October 5, 1985, formulated by then President Ferdinand Marcos, creating the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and giving them the power and functions to:

c. To approve or disapprove, delete objectionable portions from and/or prohibit the importation, exportation, production, copying, distribution, sale, lease, exhibition and/or television broadcast of the motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials subject of the preceding paragraph, which, in the judgment of the board applying contemporary Filipino culture values as standard, are objectionable for being immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customers, injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people, or with a dangerous tendency to encourage the commission of violence or of wrong or crimes, such as but not limited to:

  1. Those which tend to incite subversion, insurrection, rebellion or sedition against the State, or otherwise threaten the economic and/or political stability of the State.
  2. Those which tend to undermine the faith and confidence of the people int their government and/or the duly constituted authorities;
  3. Those which glorify criminals or condone crimes;
  4. Those which serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence or pornography;
  5. Those which tend to abet the traffic in and use of prohibited drugs;
  6. Those which are libelous or defamatory to the good name and reputation of any person, whether living or dead; and
  7. Those which may constitute contempt of court or of any quasi-judicial tribunal, or pertain to matter which are sub-judice in nature.” [11]

Republic Act No. 9208 also provides:

Section 4. Acts of Trafficking in Persons – It shall be unlawful for any person, natural, or juridical, to commit any of the following acts:

a. To recruit, transport, transfer, harbor, provide, or receive a person by any means, including those done under the pretext of domestic or overseas employment or training or apprenticeship, for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

b. To introduce or match for money, profit, or material, economic or other consideration, any person or, as provided for under RA. No. 6955 [12], any Filipino woman to a foreigh national, for marriage for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading him/her to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

c. To offer or contract marriage, real or simulated, for the purpose of acquiring, buying, offering, selling or trading him/her to engage in prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;

d. To undertake or organize tours and travel plans consisting of tourism packages or activities for the purpose of utilizing and offering persons for prostitution, pornography or sexual exploitation;

e. To maintain or hire a person to engage in prostitution or pornography;

f. To adopt or facilitate the adoption of persons for the purpose of prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage;…” [13]

R.A. No. 9231 also provides:

“Sec. 12-D. Prohibition Against Worst Forms of Child Labor. – No child shall be engaged in the worst forms of child labor. The phrase “worst forms of child labor” shall refer to any of the following:…

2. The use, procuring, offering or exposing of a child for prostitution, fr the production of pornography or for pornographic performances…” [14]

Other laws that can be use against pornography is Republic Act 7610 which states that:

“ Any person who shall hire, employ, use, persuade or coerce a child to perform in obscene exhibitions and indecent shows, whether live or in video, pose or model in obscene publications or pornographic materials or to sell or distribute the said materials shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period.

If the child used as a performer, subject or seller/distributor is below (12) years of age, the penalty shall be imposed in its maximum period.
Any ascendant, guardian, or person entrusted in any capacity with the care of a child who shall cause and/or allow such child to be employed or to participate in an obscene play, scene, act or movie, shall be imposed a penalty of prision mayor in its medium period. [15]

Aside from these existing laws, there is now a bill in the senate submitted by Senator Revilla Jr. which is entitled the Anti-Pornography Act of 2007. In this bill, pornography is defined as “referring to any representation, through publication, exhibition, cinematography, indecent shows, information technology by whatever means, of a person (whether minor or adult) engage in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any other representation of the sexual parts of a person for primarily sexual purpose that is intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feeling.” [16] In Sec. 5 of the said bill, it is stated:

“Sec. 5. Prohibited Acts – It shall be unlawful for any person, natural or juridical, to commit any of the following acts:

  1. Publication, broadcast, or exhibition of Pornographic Materials
  2. Soliciting, selling or giving away any pornographic material.
  3. Destroying or concealing the effects of instruments of the body of the crimes, in order to prevent its discovery.
  4. Possessions of any pornographic materials as defined in this act, with intent to publish, broadcast or exhibit.
  5. Any visual or audio that advocates or encourages unlawful sexual activity.
  6. Produce any effects and issues of pornography.
  7. Assist anyone in promoting pornography.
  8. Knowingly sell, lend, distribute or otherwise provide access to any person.
  9. Representation of information, data or image of such pornographic materials.
  10. Possession of lewd photographs, sex stories, and other similar articles in all forms of media regardless of purpose or intent.
  11. Procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of Pornography or pornographic performances.
  12. Holding any public lectures or organization of public performance with pornographic content.
  13. Enticement of any person under the age of 18 to allow him or herself to be depicted as part of a commercial production of moving or still pictures with a sexual content of any person under 18 or production itself of such material.”

The severity and number of the existing laws and bills protecting the public, in part or in whole, from pornography, shows the stand of the government. The only works which includes nudity that can be gleaned acceptable from these laws are those works made for art, like paintings, with no intention whatsoever to cause arousal to the viewers but rather to send a message. Even with these laws, however, distribution and creation of pornography prevails in our country.


Increase in Pornography

How come pornography continues to prevail not just in our country but all over the world? Some might say that the government is not implementing the laws properly, but I have seen government agencies burn “smut” materials in public and destroy optical devices containing pornography only to have the same people go back to their original activities, selling pornographic materials.

Statistics shows that there is a great increase in the viewing of pornography ever since the internet has been invented. The number of pornographic sites alone is staggering at 4.2 million with 372 million pornographic pages. [17] With such materials easily available in internet, it’s no wonder that viewing pornography is very easy and is slowly becoming a norm.

What’s even more alarming is that more and more young people are being exposed to these kinds of materials everyday. And if a child of innocence is exposed to such materials, their belief will definitely be based on what he has been exposed to. As most doctors are saying, pornography can be very addictive, and once you are exposed to it, you will continue to desire it. And similar to any kinds of addiction, it will not be easy to overcome it.

With the great increase in pornography and the very accessible methods of distribution of such materials, not to mention that most of these pornographic websites are coming from other countries where pornography may or may not be illegal, and where international laws are to be used for the prosecution of such acts, it is no wonder that one cannot fully implement the laws existing to curb the distribution of pornography. One can try to put the blame on others, but it will be of no use, as long as there will be people who will support and continue to view such materials.

Pornography at Present…A Norm?

One can easily say that pornography has now become the norm not just in the Philippines but all over the world. One can only project that in the future, pornography will definitely be more widespread and accepted than it is today. To have an understanding as to why people continue to make pornography as a way of living, we have to know what their reasons for making pornography. In the course of my research, I’ve come across three commonly used rationalizations for the support of pornography.

One common rationalization is that it is not pornography but Art, and it is their right to freely express themselves in a manner that they desire. One example is a producer in the United Stated name Andrew Blake. In an interview, he said that as much as he can be classified as a pornographer for creating films that are pornographic in nature, he still maintains that what he is doing is not fully pornography and coined it as erotic art. [18] The Philippines constitution states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” [19] Most individuals and institutions selling, making or distributing what may be considered as pornographic materials uses this law to fight for what they call is their right. They usually contend that they’re materials does not have any intent to cause arousal in the viewers and that it is for the sake of art and not pornography. The Philippines has numerous movies that one can classify as pornographic and yet was allowed by the MTRCB to be showed in the movie houses for the sake of art. It can be considered as a sign that pornography is slowly becoming acceptable not only in the Philippines but all over the world. In the United States, there was even a “Porn Camp”, a seminar teaching people how to become a successful porn star. [20] And film students are being tasks to make pornographic films as their requirements in school.

The next rationalization is what I believe the primary reason for the continuous growth of the pornography industry, and it is money. With the increase of demand in pornography, the growth of the industry is inevitable. There really is no reliable statistics made yet on the pornography industry, but so far, these are the statistics that I found regarding the value and growth of the pornography industry. According to Forbes, the total worth of the pornography industry is around 2.6 billion to 3.9 billion dollars. [21]

In another website that I accessed, they showed the revenue of pornography in the different countries. As much Philippines is not part of this statistics, I believe these statistics still show how fast pornography is spreading.

[Image included in original] [22]

[Image included in original] [23]

[Image included in original] [24]

With these values, it is no wonder that more and more people are making their own pornographic materials. The number in itself speaks volume. A classic example of how these kinds of money is appealing to the people, ABC News interviewed an amateur porn star who posts her sexual acts with her boyfriend on a free video site and makes money out of it. She said,” It started out as a voyeurism thing and that was the fun part. At first we were skeptical that it would really work out, but then we got our first check and realized this is real, we’re really making money.” [25]

The last rationalization that I encountered in the course of my research is the there are benefits that can be received from allowing the distribution and legalizing pornography. Those who are pro-pornography are stating that what should be done is to educate the people rather than prohibit them from viewing pornography. One such pro-pornography is James MacConvil. Quoting the works of Notrhwestern University Law Professor Anthony D’amato, “The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85 per cent in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.” [26] According to him, The main point that Professor D’amato highlights in his paper is that there is a positive correlation between the recent explosion of household internet access in the US, and a decline in incidents of rape (measured in different ways, including police reports and survey interviews) during the same period. [27] He quoted her further by stating: “the four US states with the lowest internet access had the highest increase in rape incidents (53 per cent increase) between 1980 and 2004, whereas the four states with the highest internet access, experienced the largest decrease in rape incidents (27 per cent decrease).” [28] He said that Professor D’amato suggests there are two predominant reasons why an increase in the availability of pornography has led to a reduction in rape. First, using pornographic material provides an easy avenue for the sexually desirous to “get it out of their system”.Second, D’amato points to the so-called “Victorian effect”. This dates back to the old Victorian era where people covered up their bodies with an immense amount of clothing, generating a greater mystery as to what they looked like naked. D’amato suggests that the free availability of pornography since the 1970s, and the recent bombardment of internet pornography, has de-mystified sex, thus satisfying the sexually curious. [29] With these, MacConvil is proposing that it is time that it is time to be open-minded and to not regulate the viewing, distribution and making of pornography.


Personally, I have never been, and will never be, supportive of pornography. I have always been of the opinion that pornography is a means to violate the mind of the youths and degrade the society by depriving it of its moral values. To allow the people to freely make, view and distribute pornography will, I firmly believe, result in the destruction of the structure of the family. There is no room for speculation if pornography is becoming rampant, it is becoming rampant, even without the statistics shown above, one can see the effects of pornography in our society, our children and our family. I am not saying that pornography is the cause of all problems in our nations, but I do believe that is somehow adds to it. So what should be done to handle this problem? I’m afraid that I agree with what Mr. James McConvil said, there is no better weapon in defeating this enemy than education. We all know that the existence of the law is not always effective. Our country does not lack the laws needed to discourage these acts, but despite this, it continues to grow. To continue to rely on the law and not use other means will result in the continuous growth of this problem. It is time to be imaginative when it comes to battling this problem.


[1] Inquirer.Net. An article by Marlon Ramose. Alarming rise in teenage pregnancies noted. Dated Feb. 27, 2008.


[3] Pornography. A definition from Mirriam-Webster website.

[4] Pornography, definition.


[6] Mitigating the Effects of Violent Pornography, pg 219 by Margaret Jean Intons-Peterson and Beverly Roskos-Ewoldsen.

[7] Pornography: A publication of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Copyright 2007.

[8] Article 201. Revised Penal Code as amended by PD Nos. 960 and 969

[9] Arresto mayor has the duration of one month and one day to 6 months (Paragraph 5, Article 27, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.

[10] Article 200. Revised Penal Code as amended by PD Nos. 960 and 969

[11] PD No. 1986, Creating the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, October 5, 1985.

[12] R.A. No. 6955, An Act To Declare Unlawful the Practic of Matching Filipino Women for Marriage to Foreign Nationals on a Mail-Order Basis and other Similar Practice including the Advertisement, Publication, Printing or Distribution of Brochures, Fliers and other Propaganda Materials in Furthurance thereof and Providing Penalty Therefor., June 13 1990.

[13] Section 4, Republic Act No. 9208, Anti-Trafficking in Person Act, May 26, 2003.

[14] Sec. 12-D, Republic Act No. 9231, Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discimination Act, December 19, 2003.

[15] Republic Act 7610:An Act for Stronger Deterrents and Special Protection against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, Providing Penalties for its violation and for Other Purposes.”

[16] Senate Bill No. 12, Anti-Pornography Act of 2007 by Senator Bong Revilla Jr.


[18] Andre Blake: Average Pornography is Anti-Erotic, An Interview by Ben Barna.

[19] Section 4, Article 3, Bill of Rights. 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

[20] Tampa’s Newest Porn Star? It could be you. An article by Jay Cridlin of St. Petersburg Times, March 28, 2008.

[21] How Big Is Porn? An article by Dan Ackman.




[25] Do It Yourself! Amateur Porn Stars Make Bank, An article by Russel Goldman. Copyright 2008. ABCNews Internet Ventures.

[26] Pornography has its benefits by James MacConvil.

[27] Pornography has its benefits by James MacConvil.

[28] Pornography has its benefits by James MacConvil.

[29] Pornography has its benefits by James MacConvil.


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