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WRAP week event examines sexuality in the age of birth control, pornography

| Friday, October 27, 2017

As White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) week wraps up, the Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) hosted an event exploring modern-day relationship culture. The lecture, delivered by Brett Robinson and Jessica Keating — director of communications and director of the Office of Human Dignity and Life Initiatives, respectively — focused on the ways that porn, birth control pills and changing views on sex have “fragmented” popular notions of relationships, love and identity.

Jessica Keating and Brett Robinson discuss the effect of pornography and birth control on sex culture.Kathryne Robinson | The Observer

Jessica Keating and Brett Robinson discuss the effect of pornography and birth control on sex culture.

Robinson began the talk with an explanation of humanity’s relationship with nature.

“Plato subscribed to the view that the work of the craftsman when making an artifact is, in fact, to imitate nature’s craftsmanship,” Robinson said. “From this starting point of imitation, human sexuality, in the modern age, has been rendered somewhat broken, fragmented and disconnected from nature.”

Keating described how “the pill” — hormonal birth control — represented one such way that our social understanding of sex has been radically changed.

“We usually talk about hormonal birth control, not in terms of technology, but in terms of women’s health, social health and environmental effects,” she said. “But we’d like to suggest that the pill is part of our technological ecology. … We might not think the pill is a mind-altering drug like LSD, but it is mind-altering in that it changes social consciousness. It gives us a new consciousness about sex, both on the individual level and socially.

“The pill promised this kind of freedom — the freedom to have sex based solely on choice and pleasure without the risk of pregnancy. This is the first time in history that sex is systematically disassociated from human reproduction.”

The experience of sex, Keating said, has become increasingly “episodic” in modern culture.

“The episodic nature of sex is facilitated by the pill — you can move from partner to partner with ease, without commitment,” she said.

Keating shifted her focus to the technological paradigm of our current culture, which, she said, cultivates forgetfulness of the self and fetishization of the body.

“Pornography exists within this ecology of depersonalization and fragmentation,” she said. “It’s an immersion or merging of the self into technology. … It’s not just a question of eliminating porn — which we should — but it’s also a question of critiquing the social environment and this virtual ecology that allows pornography to flourish as a billion-dollar industry.”

Robinson elaborated on the effects of the technological paradigm we now face. The rise of social media and digital communication, he said, has led to a removal of “all the parts of human communication that make it human.”

“This environment that we’ve lived in for now two decades has become increasingly discarnate or disembodied,” Robinson said. “The body in one sense is fetishized, and in another sense forgotten, because we can literally immerse ourselves in environments that don’t actually require our bodies to be there.”

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