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If You Can’t See It, Is It Still Porn?

New erotic book for the blind raises more than just images

If You Can’t See It, Is It Still Porn?

TORONTO—The news that a book of porn—Tactile Mind, created by photographer Lisa J. Murphy—has been produced for the blind raises some interesting questions in a day and age when porn is increasingly being associated with addictive substances such as cocaine, tobacco and The Daily Show.

A few questions come to mind.

If blind people have to feel their porn in order to “see” it, should young blind people be forced to wear gloves in order to protect them from offensive Braille? If one of them sent one of the images by way of their Braille mobile phone, would it be considered “sexting?”

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And if some prosecutor were to try to prosecute non-viewable porn for the blind, wouldn’t the jury have to be made up of blind people? Otherwise, how could a seeing juror determine whether the stuff is offensive by community standards? In such a case, wouldn’t a community of blind people be required?

The written word has, of course, been found to be legally obscene, so it is safe to assume that porn for the blind could as well, but such a case would certainly broach new legal territory in terms of how to adjudicate it, and perhaps some other politically sticky issues related to prosecuting the visually disabled would arise as well.

The whole discussion, while seemingly silly, does also reflect upon the inane argument furthered by socially conservatives that porn is no different than addictive drugs. They point to research that shows the viewing of porn stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, creating chemical reactions similar to those instigated by some drugs. That, they say, proves their point.

The point they make, however, actually supports the legalization of drugs rather than the criminalization of porn, and reinforces the argument that the government has no business conducting what amounts to a war on pleasure.

Is it news to anyone—especially the blind—that the brain is the place where all of our senses are created? Is it news to anyone that humans seek out pleasurable sensations? Isn’t it equally obvious that many senses—including both pleasant and negative ones—are best experienced in moderation? Has anyone even tried to explain why an “addiction” to work, sports, money, success, religion or anything else is acceptable, but the mere availability of porn is considered by many to be beyond the pale? Or why the taking of a foreign substance—cocaine, heroin, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco—is anything like watching an image or film created by people? Needless to say, those distinctions have not been made because they cannot be made.

All that aside, it is a great thing that someone has decided to provide something to blind people that they have never had before, namely tactile pictures of nudes for adults. Playboy published a version of the magazine in Braille from 1970 to 1985, but only for the words and not for the photos.

Of the 17 raised images in the current magazine none is truly pornographic, however, which is a shame. Hopefully, sexually explicit raised imagery will be made available in the future, as will niche content for the inevitable thousands of sight-impaired people who have thus far been denied what is their human right to “see.”






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Tom Hymes

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