Originally Posted by QuantumIguana
People had sexual fantasies long before Penthouse letters came along. How were their minds changed by reading written fantasies? The idea that you could have sex with someone is an idea that no one has to implant in you. Does anyone pick up Penthouse letters and think "What? I could have sex with someone? That never occurred to me?" A book like "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "Uncle Tom's Cabin" present people with perspectives they didn't have before. Written erotica just presents them with fantasies they already had. People already want to have sex, erotica doesn't create the desire to have sex.
But what is dehumanizing about sex? I "use" my baker as a means to get my bread, is that dehumanizing? If someone reads some written erotica and says "That looks like fun! Maybe I can find someone who would like to do that too," what is dehumanizing about that? Throughout history, people have been persecuted, imprisoned or killed because their sex life didn't meet someone else's standards. That judgment seems pretty dehumanizing.
Sure--they had fantasies, and I don't think the Penthouse Letters created all of these new paraphilias or anything. Erotic literature is not to blame for what people do--people are to blame for what they do, though I think their choices in what they consume can affect what they choose to do.
People have always been inclined to dehumanize or sexualize others, but I think literature (and other art as well) has the ability to influence folks towards a sexual mindset that sees other people not as objects but as people with intrinsic value--as valuable and worthy of consideration because they are people. It also has the ability to do the opposite.
Sex is not dehumanizing at all. I love sex. It's awesome, and I think that it can be incredibly humanizing. And I agree--it is dehumanizing to kill or harm or persecute someone who holds a different sexual standard. It turns the person that is being killed into an object as well--reducing them to their sexual activities or proclivities and ignoring the rest of who they are as a person.
But while a lot of sexual activity can be humanizing, a lot of sexual activity can also center on degrading another person, harming another person, using another person only for one's own ends, and that is dehumanizing. Dehumanizing sexual activity is about turning the sexual partner into an object. Rape and child abuse are dehumanizing sexual activities, in which the victim is only used for the gratification of the offender. Some people use positions of authority to pressure a person into an uncomfortable sexual relationship, and this can also be very dehumanizing.
So, using rape as an example: If a book glorifies rape--it presents it as titillating, it eroticizes rape, it shows rape as ultimately satisfying for the offender, it presents no negative consequences, it even shows the victim coming to the conclusion that such an encounter was mutually pleasurable--then the reader has a choice. Do they respond with, "Rape=good" or "Rape=bad"? Some people, unfortunately, will respond with the former rather than the latter. This remains their fault, of course, but without the author presenting a case for rape as a good thing, they may have remained firmly opposed to it as a means for sexual gratification. They may not have picked up the book already fantasizing about raping their neighbor, but they may put down the book doing so.
I'll add this and be done--I don't think any one book is going to cause a person to become a rapist (or any other kind of sexual offender). I do think a steady diet of pornography can incline a person towards a dehumanized/dehumanizing sexual mindset. This is, of course, an opinion.
I'm happy to give you the last word in the discussion if you want it. Thank you for your civility!