3. Feelings of Shame and Guilt [846]

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
1

The Commission heard testimony from many witnesses who described feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and shame which they attributed to experiences involving pornographic materials.

As an adolescent, I was sexually molested in my own home by a family member who regularly used pornographic materials. I have been threatened at knifepoint by a stranger in an attempted rape. I have been physically and verbally harassed on the street, in other public places, and over the telephone at all hours of the night. I have experienced and continue to experience the humiliation, degradation, and shame that these acts were meant to instill in me.

This connection became clear to me when I saw a documentary about pornography called Not a Love Story. I realized that I was any one of the women in the film, at least in the eyes of those men who have abused me. I saw myself through the abusers' eyes and I felt dirty and disgusting, like a piece of meat. It was the same shame and humiliation as in the other experiences.[847]

The Commission also heard testimony from people who experienced feelings of guilt and shame when shown pornography:

It was important to me to try and stop the feelings of embarrassment because then I thought that they would not be able to see my shame. Somehow I thought they watched me, waited to see my reaction to the pornography and then they would continue holding it up in front of me to make me squirm. I felt humiliated and hollow.[848]

Guilt and shame were also reported by witnesses as feelings associated with the production of pornography. For example, a young man who was used in the production of pornography as an adolescent testified:

A couple of months later I went into the Straight program, and I talked about it a couple of times, why I would do it. Take her money and go down to buy cocaine with it. I just felt it really disgusted me and I shamed myself.[849]

A statement submitted to the Commission by the National Conference of judges discussed the feelings of guilt and shame that victims experience because of the production and use of homemade pornography:

... collections of self-made pornography detailing who their victims were and the acts they committed. This is a particularly traumatic issue for many of the victims that we treat. It is a source of extreme shame and embarrassment for the victims that pictures of the activity between them and the offender exist. We may not have all those pictures, copies of the pictures may have been sold or traded to other collectors, and we may not have found the entire collection. These collections are catalogued at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and continue to exist long past the time when the crime has been reported....

In many of our incest families, the perpetrators use pornography as tools or guides in order to initiate their family members into sexual behavior. Manuals and books that speak of father-daughter love, father-son sex, or family love have been used to rationalize and validate this kind of behavior.

Many of our child molesters, both juvenile and adults, have utilized both adult and child pornography as a way to initiate their victims into the sexual behavior as well as a tool or guide for the sexual behavior of child molesting. Many of our victims blame themselves and feel a great deal of culpability because they believed the original depiction from pornography as being normal behavior between adults and children.[850]

In a letter presented to the Minneapolis City Council, a woman described her public embarrassment and shame at seeing what seemed to be a photograph of herself:

It was a full-length figure, naked except for high-heeled shoes and stockings, taking off a shirt. Never in my life had I posed for any photograph, drawing or painting remotely similar to this image. The people giving me this laughed, thought it was funny, thought I would find it funny and truly meant no harm-they are all talented, intelligent, nice people, an indication of the extent of the pornographic mind-set we all suffer under. I felt upset, ripped-off, diminished, insulted, abused, hurt, furious and powerless. All of which I concealed from my friends by smiling and saying, "Where did you get this?" (For the moment I thought they had it made up by the art department at the studio.) "From a magazine" was the answer. Added to the aforementioned reactions was horror! I thought, "This has been published! It is publicly available for anyone to see and assume I may have posed for it."

I curtailed my honest reaction because in a few minutes we would all have to begin filming our show-which we dId. They, thinking it had been a fun joke, me in a great deal of pain and distress.[851]

Notes

  1. These symptoms may be reflective of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. See, DSM-III, supra note 762, p. 238.
  2. Public Hearings before Minneapolis City Council, Session III, (Dec. 1983), p. 126.
  3. Washington, D.C., Hearing, Vol. I, p. 225.
  4. Washington, D.C., Hearing, Vol. I, p. 170.
  5. National Conference of Judges, October 12, 1986.
  6. Public Hearings before Minneapolis City Council, Session III, (Dec. 1983), p. 4.