Many communities today are greatly concerned about air and water pollution, and rightly so, because foul air and filthy streams are a menace to health. States and cities are spending millions to check the smoke, smog, and dust in the air their people breathe. They are also taking steps to stop the dumping of waste into rivers that provide water for drinking and for the wholesome recreation of swimming, fishing, and boating.

But pollution of air and water is a small thing compared with the pollution of men’s minds that is rampant today. Our moral atmosphere and waters are being corrupted by lewd and lurid literature. The great menace now is the pornographic garbage being dumped into America’s moral streams.

It is said that more than fifteen million copies of “girlie” magazines are bought every month in the United States. In a year’s time, three billion copies of all kinds of pornographic publications—enough to fill to overflowing five Empire State Buildings—are purchased by adults and teen-agers.

It is also reported that the sale of salacious magazines is twenty times that of all religious publications—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish—combined. And National Citizens for Decent Literature says that 75 to 90 per cent of all pornographic literature ends up in the hands and therefore in the minds of children.

Just what is pornography? According to Webster, it is “writings, pictures, etc., intended to arouse sexual desire.” So popular is the stuff that it takes 800 distributors of pornography to satisfy the popular hunger for it.

The scum publishers and sellers, of course, do not acknowledge the real purpose of their prurient products. They employ all kinds of subterfuge to give their degrading wares a mask of respectability. Some publishers even have the temerity to claim that their periodicals, jam-packed with page after page of nudity, are designed to appeal to the aesthetic sense and are for connoisseurs of fine art. Other publishers attempt to pawn off their pornography as marriage manuals or guides to successful sexual relations between man and wife. An increasing number of smut periodicals are seemingly for teen-age boys and young men interested in muscle-building, body culture, and weight-lifting.

As a matter of fact, it is not only the “girlie” magazines that are prominently displayed on newsstands today. Right out in front, for all to see, are publications featuring transvestism, homosexuality, sadism and masochism, and other perversions. Their publishers would have the public believe that such trash is either educational, or artistic, or both. Another artifice of the pornographers is to disguise their periodicals as guides for boys and young men interested in becoming professional models.

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But let us not be naive. Pornography is serving no legitimate purpose. It is being published, sold, and purchased with a single idea in mind. And for that idea we refer back to Webster’s definition: “writings, pictures, etc., intended to arouse sexual desire.”

While one certainly cannot admire the pornography producers for their moral principles, when it comes to ingenuity and cleverness they are superb. Were they to use their photographic, engraving, advertising, and journalistic abilities in more wholesome pursuits, they might be a force for good.

The pornography industry does not, of course, confine itself to gutter-type magazines. It is also busy producing so-called “art” films for stag or bachelor parties, salacious desk and wall calendars for the pretentious “he-man,” and so-called physiology books. Nor are commercial motion pictures free from its taint.

“Although nudity is not itself obscenity, and might even have an artistic function in a film of quality, it is never a necessary or indispensable means to achieve dramatic effect,” says the Legion of Decency in giving a “C” (condemned) rating to The Pawnbroker, a recent Hollywood movie. “The good of the motion picture industry,” the Legion declares, “as well as of the national community requires that a marked effort on the part of some producers to introduce nudity into film treatment be discouraged, for such treatment is open to the gravest of abuse.”

The worst pollution in America, then, is not the gasoline fumes in the air or the waste in the waters. It is the dirty books, filthy films, and immoral magazines. Directly or indirectly, according to crime authorities, the reading and viewing of pornography leads to an increase of illegitimacy, venereal disease, especially among teen-agers, and major crimes, such as murder and rape.

Why does the pornography industry continue to flourish and to pollute the minds of youth? What can be done about this ocean of obscenity that is menacing the morals of millions?

As teachers and parents we must be realistic and honest with ourselves. Sex is just as sure as the proverbial death and taxes. It is not to be denied or deprived of rightful expression. But in the realm of sex education, many fathers and mothers have abdicated. They have forfeited their moral right and duty. Teen-agers from families in which any discussion of sex is taboo are ideal targets for the trash publishers. Sexual curiosity must and will be satisfied. And if it is not satisfied through wholesome instruction in the home, the two-billion-dollar-a-year pornography business is all prepared to do the job. Therefore, a share of responsibility for much of the vice and venereal disease that prevail today must be assumed by parents.

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Close by the historic plain

Of Esdraelon of the twenty battlefields,

Not far from the glistening waters

Of Galilee;

Nazareth, on whose neighboring hill

A boy might watch the ships

Embarking for Rome or Alexandria;

Nazareth, near whose site

The diffident camels passed

Up from Cathay;

Somnolent village,

Why do they call your inhabitants

Plain and crude?

Why do they say

You can produce no good thing?

How was the Wisdom generated

In your midst?


An anti-pollution program does not begin in the White House, in some governor’s office, or in a local city hall. It begins in the hearts and minds of parents. It begins with wholesome and positive attitudes toward sex in the home. It begins with the recognition that sex is something divine and sublime, something normal, natural, and necessary. Sex is the God-given power for the perpetuation of mankind and for the expression of love within marriage.

In homes where sex is treated with frankness and dignity, pornography should have little if any appeal to adolescent boys and girls. On the other hand, parents who adopt a hush-hush policy unwittingly become the very welcome allies of the purveyors of obscenity.

Legislation can also help. But all too often laws only drive pornography under the counter, into the back room of a bookstore, or to the black market. And enforcement of laws in this area is particularly difficult. Courts, however reluctantly, often side with publishers and peddlers of pornography because of such issues as freedom of press and speech and because of fear of censorship. Publishers do not call their filth pornography. They call it art, marriage guidance, sex information, physical culture, body-building, or employment advice for would-be male models. It is not easy for prosecuting attorneys to win convictions.

Legislative and judicial experts actually are at a loss when it comes to stamping out pornography. Legally, there are fine lines of distinction between slime and the sublime, between the obscene and the clean, between the venomous and the virtuous.

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There are several things that we as individuals can do to help to purify the moral atmosphere and clear the muddied waters. We can boycott newsstands and bookstores that sell pornography. We can ask news-dealers and store-owners whom we know personally to stop selling questionable magazines and books. We can be guided by motion picture reviews published in church periodicals and by recommendations of such organizations as the Legion of Decency. We can write letters of protest to theaters showing filthy films.

But we must do more than boycott and protest. Our anti-pollution program must have positive aspects. Among other things, we can subscribe to church periodicals and worthwhile secular magazines, encourage Sunday school attendance and Bible study, and foster decent, constructive recreation, such as wholesome social activities, sports, and outdoor life.

If we want to badly enough, we can do something about pornography and moral pollution. But it will take alert and unremitting effort to stem the tide of indecency.

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