THE EFFECTS OF PORNOGRAPHY
HOMOSEXUALITY ON SOCIETY By Michael Mumisa
The literal meaning of pornography is “writing about prostitutes.” It also means relating information about sexual actions of one’s self or about others, to those who feel delighted in absorbing such information, or who, as a consequence, are drawn to it.
From time immemorial, lewdness and shamelessness are present in human nature if they are not properly controlled. In the Bible, Torah and the Qur’ân, we come to know about Qawm Lût, the people of Prophet Lût (Lot), who were involved in perverted sexual activities which attracted Allah’s wrath. All these great scriptures have preached towards regulated sexual activities and procreation.
Sexual activities began with the creation of man. Human sexual intercourse was portrayed in a sandstone engraving as early as 7000 BC. Art from Peruvian ceramic funerary pots dating to about 1500 BC included portrayals of explicit sexual behaviour, and “anal coitus is one of the most common behaviours depicted”. Phallic imagery was prominent on Grecian urns and cups, which were decorated with explicit scenes of both hetero- and homosexual activity.
Ancient written works such as the Indian Kama Sutra provided sexual instruction, and other explicit works were often “published openly and legally, including Poggio’s Facetiarum liber in 1470 and Cynthio Degli Fabritti’s Orignie delle Volgair Proverbi in 1526. Chinese novels dating from about 1610 under the Ming Dynasty depicted explicit scenes of sexuality. Su Wo P’Ien or The Lady of the Moon provides the framework for introducing illustrations of positions for sexual intercourse. Most such works were destroyed when the Emperor observed limitless moral decay and ordered the country rid of “incestuous and other immoral works” (Brewer, 1982, p. 319). The Jahiliyyah Arabs before the advent of Islam practised adultery through limitless polygamy. The Jahiliyyah poets wrote poems describing sexual parts of the human body.
In recent times, in various media, print as well as electronic, there seems to be an explosion of pornographic material and the relatively current media content seems to be generally phonographic. Under some definitions of pornography, anything that serves to arouse sexual feelings qualifies as pornographic. Such an interpretation could include broadcast, cable and satellite-delivered television. Other forms of explicit sexual depictions tend to be circulated to relatively specific audiences.
New technological development has brought about unregulated pornog
raphy. In the old days, a privileged few could compromise their erotic imaginations and experiences by reading about sexual engagements or by perusing drawings or paintings of such engagements. “Nowadays, any conceivable sexual activity performed by others can be witnessed in living colour and sound. The portrayal has ‘you-were-there’ quality. In fact, video presentations are said to show sex that is ‘bigger than life’ by closing in on the events in ways that go beyond the unarmed eye and ear. However, the social dimension of exposure to such super-iconic representations of sex is probably more significant. Pornography has gone truly public. It reaches all the people. Any adult has assured access, and almost all adolescents seeking access manage to attain it. The proliferation and distribution of pornographic materials are such that more and more children find access.”
In Islam pornography in any of the forms discussed above is harâm (unlawful) and therefore strictly forbidden. According to Shaikh Yûsuf Al-Qardâwî, ‘awrah (nakedness) that which is to be hidden denotes those parts of the body which Islam requires to be covered in front of others whether of the same or the opposite sex, and exposing it is harâm. Everyone naturally feels a sense of shame for exposing it. There are reasons why Muslims are obliged to cover nakedness in public. The first and foremost reason is to develop a healthy Islamic society and to preserve peace and harmony in the ummah. When everybody follows the commandments of Allah and His Messenger to cover their ‘awrah, disputes arising out of chasing men and women in a shameful manner will be greatly curtailed. The Messenger of Allah forbade Muslims from looking at the nakedness of another, whether of the same or the opposite sex:
“A man should not look at the nakedness of another man, nor the woman of another woman, nor should a man go under one cloth with another man, nor a woman with another woman.”
However, there is an exception concerning looking at and touching the parts of the body which must otherwise be covered arising out of need and necessity, such a case is medical treatment or emergency first aid.
The consequences of looking at other’s ‘awrah leads to coming closer to zinâ (adultery) or committing zinâ which is strictly prohibited in Islam. When one looks at another’s ‘awrah with lust and desire it will encourage or lead one to commit zinâ which the Messenger of Allah calls the greatest evil after shirk (polytheism):
“There is no sin after shirk and greater in the eyes of Allah than a drop of semen which a man places in the womb which is not lawfully for him.”
Islam prohibits every step and every means that leads to committing zinâ as mentioned in the Qur’ân:
“Do not come nearer to adultery for it is a shameful deed and evil, opening the road (to other evils).”
Islam not only considers adultery as a great sin but also an act which opens the gates for other shameful acts, which destroy the very basis of the family, lead
ing to quarrels and murders and the ruin of reputation and the spread of numerous diseases both spiritual and physical.
At times, certain types of dress which reveal certain parts of the body, come under the category of nakedness because the libâs (dress) is not in accordance with the requirements of Sharî’ah e.g. the tightly fitting or see through clothes which delineate various curves of the body, especially those parts which are sexually attractive. Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah said:
“I will not be a witness for two types of people who are destined for the fire: people with whips, like the tails of cows, who beat the people (i.e. tyrants who are the enemies of their own people) and women who, although clothed, are yet naked seducing and being seduced, their hair style like the tilted humps of camels. These will not enter the paradise nor will its fragrance reach them although its fragrance reaches a very great distance
Allah has stressed in the Qur’ân and asked the Prophet to declare:
“Tell the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their sexual organs: that is purer for them. Indeed Allah is well acquainted with what they do. And tell the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their sexual organs.”
Allah also says in the Qur’ân:
“And not display their adornment, except that which is apparent of it, and they should draw their head coverings over their bosom, and not display their adornment except to their husbands or their fathers or their husband’s fathers, or their sons or their husband’s sons or their brothers or their brother’s sons or their sister’s sons or their women, or those whom their right hand possess, or male servants who lack sexual desire, or children who are not aware of women’s nakedness: and that they should not strike their feet in order to make known what they hide of their adornment.”
Nakedness in respect of man has to be covered from another man is from the knee to the naval. It means that man is prohibited to look at the ‘awrah of another man between the knee to navel. In a Hadîth the Messenger of Allah said:
“Parts of the body from the knee are ‘awrah, and what is below the navel is ‘awrah too.”
However according to Imâm Mâlik, thighs are not part of the ‘awrah and there is no harm in exposing it. The majority of the jurists differ with him and say that thighs are part of the ‘awrah as mentioned in the following Hadîth:
Once we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah and my thigh was not covered and the Messenger of Allah said: “Don’t you know that thigh is part of the ‘awrah?”
In another Hadîth, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said as narrated by ‘Alî:
The Prophet said to him (Ali): “Do not expose your thighs
Another Hadîth, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said:It is related by Abû Dâ’ûd on the authority of Ali: “Do not look at the thighs of a person either alive or dead.”
In reality Rasul-Allah did not only forbid us from looking at the ‘awrah of another, but he forbade us also from looking at our own ‘awrah. He said:
“Restrain yourself from nakedness, because with you have certain parts which will not separate from you, except when you are in the bathroom or when you consummate with your wife.”
Although pornography has been seen in other cultures and religions, its rise and spread unrestrictedly began in the West in recent times. Even up to the 1950s, people felt shy to purchase pornographic materials and if one wanted to buy even in the United States of America, one only did so “through a friend of a friend“. Pornographic material in print began to appear in paperback books a decade later, but they still avoided the use of vulgar terms to describe sex acts, genitalia, excretion, or other sexually related activity. Still photography depicted scantily dressed women in grainy black and white photographs that hid the pubic area. This avoidance of genitalia, according to the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (U.S. Department of Justice, 1986), enhanced the popularity of magazines, photographs were taken in nudist colony settings which appeared in these magazines. It was only by the 1960s, public displays of phonographic materials became common. Simulated sex acts with no exposed genitalia …… began to appear in colour pictures.
Nudist magazines then began to portray photographic integration by gender, portraying male and female nudists playing and working together. By the mid-1960s, a group of pseudonudist magazines began to feature more attractive models than those who appeared in traditional nudist magazines. By 1967 or 1968, another group of magazines emerged that featured a kind of photograph designed to emphasize the female genitalia. Also in the late 1960s, a group of magazines began to cater for male homosexuals. The era also saw the growth of a small number of fetish books and magazines. By the early 1970s, sexually explicit magazines began to use more females and males and some depicted males and females together. With the liberalized Supreme Court attitude toward published obscenity, secondary publishers in the late 1960s and early 1970s began releasing new editions of almost all books that has been previously considered to be obscene. By 1970, Romance novels began to appear in which the most salient characteristic is sex and 77% of story titles directly implied some sort of sexual activity as the main theme for the story. Among the sample stories, 63% included coitus, 60% kissing, and 18% petting. The 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography reported that “adults only” paperback fiction represented “one of the largest areas of pornography production in the United States”.
In 60% of the coded episodes, the motive for sexual activity included only physical gratification, almost one-third involving the use of force by the male against the female. Males frequently coerced females.
Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality have been condemned in all the great religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The constant tradition of the scriptures in these religions, especially the traditional texts condemn homosexuality. Before examining what Islam says about al-liwât (homosexuality) or the âmal (practice) of Qaum Lût, we shall quickly cast a glance at the Christian and Jewish view. One Christian view sees the heterosexuality alone as divinely willed and homosexuality as a reflection of the flawed and broken nature of the world after the fall. Therefore, homogenital acts are condemned as contrary to human nature. In Roman Catholic teaching, they are described as ‘intrinsically evil’ because sexual intercourse (which can be morally good only in marriage) is ordained for the two purposes of union with the beloved and procreation.
Christian judgement relies heavily on biblical texts that are traditionally understood as clearly and unequivocally condemning homosexuality. There are biblical sanctions that impose the death penalty for homosexuality, mostly as proof of their conviction that it is a moral evil. At one time the Church endorsed publicly the death penalty for homosexual people, and “AIDS” is considered as God’s punishment.
St Thomas Aquinas used the physical act of insemination to distinguish natural from unnatural sexual acts. The bottom line for this analysis is the possibility of insemination. Those acts that promote insemination, according to St Aquinas are natural and, therefore both moral and good; those acts that impede or eliminate insemination are unnatural and, therefore, both immoral and bad. The argument here rests on whether or not one is convinced that the possibility of insemination is or should be a requirement for the moral acceptability of sexual intercourse.
The American Lutheran Church in 1979 issued a position paper on homosexuality stating that homoerotic behaviour was wrong, but that celibate homosexual people do not violate the Lutheran understanding of Christian behaviour. The statement also urged local church support for gay and lesbian civil rights.
The Lutheran Church in America (LCA), in a 1970 statement entitled Sex, Marriage and Family, stated that “homosexuality is viewed biblically as a departure from the heterosexual structure of God’s creation.”
American Baptists do not give official recognition to their gay and lesbian caucus and a 1988 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention, after ten minutes of debate, condemned homosexuality as an abomination in the eyes of God, a perversion of divine standards and a violation of nature.
As far as Judaism is concerned, there is no direct unanimous Jewish answer for gays. For Traditionists, homosexual behaviour is forbidden. The so-called compassionate see it as an illness and the rigorist look at it as a sin, and the commended therapy ranges from counselling to stoning. The prohibition on homosexual relations in halachah, the Jewish law, is based on the explicit prohibitions of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Certain narrative passages are also associated by traditional Jewish commentators with homosexual acts, including Gen. 9:22, 19:5, 39:1 and Judges 19. While only male sexual relationships are
identified biblically, later talmudic law extends the prohibition to women as well. The prohibitions are codified in Maimonides’ authoritative 12th-century work, the Mishneh Torah. Maimonides distinguishes between male homosexual acts, which are capital crimes, and female homosexual acts, which are merely “obscene”. In other words, Judaism categorically rejects the notion that homosexuality constitutes a legitimate alternative life-style.
For some time now, the new thinking in Christianity and Judaism is “homosexuals and lesbians are present in the world as a sign of the rich diversity of creation, and their homosexual expression is as natural and good in every way as heterosexuality.” The merging view, as pointed out by McNeil is that “the love between two lesbians or two homosexuals, assuming that it is a constructive human love, is not sinful nor does it alienate the lovers from God’s plan, but can be a holy love, mediating God’s presence in the human community as effectively as heterosexual love.”
Islam looks at homosexuality and lesbianism as unnatural act of sex to satisfy one’s passion. The Qur’ân gives the example of the people of Lut, (Prophet Lut) who, in spite of the warning from Prophet Lut they committed sodomy and their entire society became involved in it.
The Qur’ân speaks of them in the following words:
“We also sent Lût; he said to his people: ‘Do you commit adultery as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For you practise your lusts on men in preference to women: you are indeed a people transgressing beyond limit.”
Islam therefore considers homosexuality a great sin and a crime punishable by Islamic law. Muslim jurists however differ regarding the nature of punishment. According to the Hanafi school of legal thought, the act of sodomy does not amount to adultery and therefore there is no specified punishment to be given to the offender and the decision will be left to the judge and the court. The Mâliki school on the other hand argues that hadd punishment will be applied whether the offender is married or not. Shafi’i, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaibani maintain that the married offender will face the the hadd of stoning to death while the unmarried will face the Ta’azir [any penalty the judge decides to apply]. According to Sayyid al-Khoi of the Ja’fari school of jurisprudence, the offender will be treated in the same way as the one committing adultery and must face the hadd.
(Editors note: This abridged version of Shaykh Michael’s article contains without any major alteration the Introduction, discourses on Qur’an, ahadith and rulings and his conclusion. The unpublished parts of the article are a series of thorough and detailed reports on different types of pornography, case histories, offences and offenders that are of value to specialists in this area of social law rather than for a discussion of the Sharia issues.)