Dispatches from the Creation Wars

July’s Idiot of the Month award goes to Judith Reisman, a nutty anti-anything-sexual crusader who is astonishingly popular with social conservatives. Reisman is one of the leading lights of the “abstinence-only sex ed” movement and a longtime anti-porn and anti-gay activist with a history of saying absolutely loony things. Her latest contribution to absurdity is the notion of “erototoxins”, which she invented out of whole cloth and foisted on an unsuspecting Congress last year. “Erototoxins” are brain chemicals allegedly released in the brain when one views pornography, chemicals which, Reisman says, are highly addictive and turn those who view pornography into something like a porno zombie:

Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail, arguably, subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process. This is true of so-called ?soft-core? and ?hard-core? pornography. And once new neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible to delete.

Pornographic images also cause secretion of the body’s ?fight or flight? sex hormones. This triggers excitatory transmitters and produces non-rational, involuntary reactions; intense arousal states that overlap sexual lust–now with fear, shame, and/or hostility and violence. Media erotic fantasies become deeply imbedded, commonly coarsening, confusing, motivating and addicting many of those exposed. (See ?the Violence Pyramid? at http://www.vbii.org/violence.html) Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the ?high? from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins — mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain.

How does this ‘brain sabotage’ occur? Brain scientists tell us that ?in 3/10 of a second a visual image passes from the eye through the brain, and whether or not one wants to, the brain is structurally changed and memories are created ? we literally ‘grow new brain’ with each visual experience.?

Now one might think, since she dubs herself as “Dr” Judith Reisman, that she must know what she’s talking about. But in fact, her PhD is in communications, not medicine or neuroscience or even psychology. And this nonsense above is just pseudo-scientific claptrap. Of course a visual image creates a memory, and since memory must be stored within the brain, the brain is therefore “structurally changed.” But so what? Where is the link between that and anything else? It appears she just assumes it, or hopes that the mere mention of the process by which the brain stores information will dazzle her uneducated audience enough that they won’t bother to ask for such a link. There is no such thing as an “erototoxin”, of course, but there are pleasure chemicals that are released in the brain called endorphins and they are released in a wide range of activities, including physical exercise, laughter and – surprise, surprise – sex itself. Which of course leads to the one question which destroys this entire edifice of stupid rationalizations she has built for her opposition to pornography: why isn’t it also true of sex itself? Surely if seeing a sexy picture triggers “structural changes” in the brain that “subvert the First Amendment” and alter the mind, why does not sex itself do this? The same brain chemicals are released, but this time you have a live human body that you can experience it with right there in bed with you. That means not only do you have the visual stimuli of the erotic image seering itself into the brain, you have the input of the other senses as well. So by Reisman’s “reasoning”, the actual act of having sex should do far more to alter the brain, and in precisely the same manner, as the viewing of pornography. So why not ban the act of sex itself? Hell, that may be next.

One might also ask another question in this regard. Reisman herself was given over $700,000 by the Reagan administration in the early 80s to study pornography as part of Edwin Meese’s anti-porn crusade, which means she likely exposed herself to more pornography than the average middle-aged male could likely consume in his entire adult life. Why, then, has this not reduced Reisman’s brain to mush? Remember, she claims that the release of “erototoxins” is non-rational and involuntary.

The reason why she has invented this fanciful and self-contradictory rationale is because she is pushing for harsh and invasive anti-pornography laws, and even more so because she is pushing for tobacco-style lawsuits against the pornography industry for taking control of people’s brains and making them do horrible things. In her Congressional testimony she actually said:

State-of-the-art brain scanning studies should answer these questions with hard, replicable data. As with the tobacco suits, these data could be helpful in litigation and in affecting legal change…

An offensive strategy should be planned, mandating law enforcement collection of all pornography data at crime sites and judges, police, lawyers and law schools should receive training in the hard data of sexology fraud and erototoxins as changing brains absent informed consent.

Informed consent is an important legal concept that she is actively trying to undermine. If pornography turns people into porno zombies against their will, then they are unable to engage in informed consent and are rendered child-like, requiring protection from their own brains by those good folks like Reisman who are, after all, just looking out for them. As the Guardian pointed out last week:

They foresee two possible outcomes: if they can demonstrate that porn physically “damages” the brain, that might open the floodgates for “big tobacco”-style lawsuits against porn publishers and distributors; second, and more insidiously, if porn can be shown to “subvert cognition” and affect the parts of the brain involved in reasoning and speech, then “these toxic media should be legally outlawed, as is all other toxic waste, and eliminated from our societal structure”.

But Reisman’s lunacy in no way stops here. At 70 years old, she’s had decades to build up a record for saying loony things and she has succeeded admirably. Not only is she virulently anti-gay, but she even manages to blame homosexuals for the holocaust itself, as the New Yorker reported late last year:

The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were largely the creation of ?the German homosexual movement.? Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes. ?Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’?

This displays a breathtaking ignorance of history. The Nazi party was violently anti-gay and eliminating homosexuals from society was every bit as much a part of the Third Reich as eliminating Jews. Over half a million homosexuals were killed in the concentration camps along with millions of Jews (though, unlike the Jews, when the US liberated the death camps they turned the homosexuals over to the authorities rather than releasing them). It’s especially shameful for Reisman, a Jew herself, to blame those who suffered and died beside the Jews at the hands of the Nazis for their own suffering. But this is hardly surprising. Reisman also blames her fellow Jews for the “abortion industry”. So, for contributing so much utter nonsense to our public discourse, and for providing the ridiculous rationale for a further expansion of the governmental nanny state that must protect us from ourselves, Judith Reisman has earned July’s Robert O’Brien Trophy as July’s Idiot of the Month. Congratulations.

Comments

  1. #1 OGeorge
    July 25, 2005

    “Why, then, has this not reduced Reisman’s brain to mush?”

    Ed…are you so sure she’s not on to something?

  2. #2 John
    July 25, 2005

    Ed, real sex does less damage than pornography because nobody gets enough of it.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    July 25, 2005

    O’George makes a good point. Maybe porn has turned Reisman’s brain to mush.

  4. #4 Kathy Britain
    July 25, 2005

    Ed says:
    So by Reisman’s “reasoning”, the actual act of having sex should do far more to alter the brain, and in precisely the same manner, as the viewing of pornography. So why not ban the act of sex itself? Hell, that may be next.

    Why don’t we just skip to the last step. Sew the eyes shut at birth. What is the first thing a breast feeding mother shows the baby. What an image!

    My reliable source tells me that we (especialy the males)don’t need images from magazines, Hollywood or other sources to turn thier brains to mush. We can do that quite well with our own imagination.

    And Reiman’s statement that children and teenagers are exsposed to porn is greatly exaggerated. I am not saying that it does not happen to some percentage, but she made it sound as if all kids are exsposed every day all day to pornography. Based on her statements, how is it possible for an adult male to function at all normally?

  5. #5 Celcus
    July 25, 2005

    I think I have an idea where this is heading…

    “The only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party. Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema. This again was never put into plain words, but in an indirect way it was rubbed into every Party member from childhood onwards. There were even organizations such as the Junior Anti-Sex League, which advocated complete celibacy for both sexes.” George Orwell, 1984

  6. #6 Paul Christopher
    July 25, 2005

    I believe it is true that homosexuals played a role in the rise of the Nazi party. It’s also true that they were killed when Hitler’s government was secure.

  7. #7 jpf
    July 25, 2005

    What about the religiotoxins being produced in people’s brains when they view religious media or participate in religious activities. There is a growing body of science that shows that religion alters the state of a person’s brain, and it may be that those who are exposed to religion are permanently restructuring their brains, possibly leading to temporal lobe epilepsy:

    The first clinical evidence to link the temporal lobes with religious sensations came from monitoring how TLE patients responded to sets of words. In an experiment where people were shown either neutral words (table), erotic words (sex) or religious words (god), the control group was most excited by the sexually loaded words. This was picked up as a sweat response on the skin. People with temporal lobe epilepsy did not share this apparent sense of priorities. For them, religious words generated the greatest reaction. Sexual words were less exciting than neutral ones.

    So you see, religiotoxins rewrite the brain causing an abnormal desire for more religious stimulation, leading to more brain restructuring in a spiral of destruction. Surely a person with such brain damage cannot be considered to be able to engage in informed consent.

    Big Tobacco and Big Porno are nothing compared to Big Religion.

    In other words, those religious people who think Reisman’s argument might be useful, regardless of it being pseudoscientific gibberish, should reconsider promoting this line of thinking since it can very easily be applied to them. (Hey, if you can’t reason with them, maybe you can scare them!)

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    July 25, 2005

    Paul Christopher wrote:

    I believe it is true that homosexuals played a role in the rise of the Nazi party. It’s also true that they were killed when Hitler’s government was secure.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that there were probably some homosexuals in the Nazi party, just as there were heterosexuals in the Nazi party. But that is a far cry from the Nazi party being a creation of the “German homosexual movement.”

  9. #9 Andrew Wyatt
    July 25, 2005

    I wonder what it’s like to devote decades of your life to the singular task of ensuring that no one has any fun? What a lunatic hag.

    It would be a fitting end for her if Alfred Kinsey’s zombie rose from the grave and devoured her brain.

  10. #10 Chris Krolczyk
    July 25, 2005

    Kathy Britain:

    And Reiman’s statement that children and teenagers are exsposed to porn is greatly exaggerated. I am not saying that it does not happen to some percentage, but she made it sound as if all kids are exsposed every day all day to pornography.

    Hmmmm.

    The first time I ever saw a copy of Playboy was when I was a freshman in high school. I’ve read or watched porn since then. Near as I can tell, I don’t have any arrests for sexual assaults, public masturbation or solicitation of prostitution on the books.

    Maybe all that crap Reisman believes about “erototoxins” has as much basis in
    reality as the crap Sc**nt*l*g*sts believe about “Thetans” or the late, (hardly) lamented Heaven’s Gate cult believed about The Holy Spaceship Behind The Comet.

    (Feel free to insert “Gee, ya think?” at any time while you’re reading this, of course.)

    Based on her statements, how is it possible for an adult male to function at all normally?

    We don’t. That’s why over 475 of the Fortune 500 companies are secretly staffed by lifelike androids who have no sex drive or genitalia. And I’m sure that poor, beknighted Dr. Reisman would just love to research those companies, given that she apparently loves to research tons of unprovable pap in the first place.

    The idiocies of the Meese Commission refuse to die a natural death, I guess.

  11. #11 PaulNoonan
    July 25, 2005

    I hope that She and Dr. Laura open a clinic together.

  12. #12 Ginger Yellow
    July 25, 2005

    You’ve got to love the whole first amendment crap. She’s obviously annoyed that the amendment has been used to protect the rights of pornographers as well as prudes, and is determined to find a way to use it against the former. But in order to do so, she makes such an asinine argument that it just makes the rest of her flimsy diatribe even thinner. I mean, according to her standard, all speech of any kind is prohibited by the first amendment. Somehow I don’t think so.

  13. #13 raj
    July 25, 2005

    You have to realize a few things about Reisman

    First, her PhD (PhD: piled higher and deeper) is in communications. Her first claim to fame was that she wrote songs for the Kaptain Kangrroo TV Show.

    Her second claim to fame was that she was a contractor on Ed Meese’s anti-porn commission. If you recall, Ed Meese was Reagan’s attorney general. Nobody can figure out why he had an interest in pornography, but, apparently he did. And he contracted with Reisman to work for his commission.

    Her third claim to fame was an idiotic book about the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University She attacked the KI, and the KI denied the charges. Then she sued the KI for liable That made no sense whatsoever. Her lawyer withdrew from the suite and the suit fell aparts. And her fourth claim to fame follows from that. The KI sued her for their attorneys fees, on the basis that the suit was completely and totally frivolous, and, in a highly unusal decision, the court awarded the KI their attorney’s fees. A sum that she has refused to pay, This was in the early 1990s, by the way.

    She is a nut.

  14. #14 raj
    July 25, 2005

    Sorry, “liable” should be “libel”

  15. #15 Mithrandir
    July 25, 2005

    It would be a fitting end for her if Alfred Kinsey’s zombie rose from the grave and devoured her brain.

    Why would you raise Kinsey’s corpse from its grave just to have it starve back to death?

  16. #16 Jillian
    July 25, 2005

    Reisman herself was given over $700,000 by the Reagan administration in the early 80s to study pornography as part of Edwin Meese’s anti-porn crusade, which means she likely exposed herself to more pornography than the average middle-aged male could likely consume in his entire adult life.

    Pah. That was before the internet. You could find that much porn for free in about .073 seconds in one Google search. I’d wager your average sixteen year old guy with web access has already blown past that dollar figure on free access sites.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. ;-)

  17. #17 Joe
    July 26, 2005

    I’m assuming her Nazi=homosexual reference is to the leader of the SA (I forget his name and I’m about to leave work for the day). He was homosexual. Anyway he along with the rest of the leaders of the SA were all killed by the SS on a night ‘Of the Long Knives’ or some shit like that……………..fucking nazi assholes

  18. #18 raj
    July 26, 2005

    Joe, the head of the SA was Ernst Roehm (Note: the “oe” should be the “o” with “Umlaut”–two little dots over the “o” but I don’t know how to do that). Roehm wanted his Sturmabteilung (SA) to take over the function of the Army, but after the SA helped bring Hitler to power, Hitler determined that he needed the Army more than he needed the SA. Hitler had known about Roehm’s homosexuality for years, so that really had nothing to do with his murder.

    Far right wing idiots in the US have tried to suggest that a number of other top Nazis were gay. Do a search on the internet for Scot Lively and his book The Pink Swastika. It has been widely debunked, but I would be surprised if he wasn’t still selling it.

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    July 26, 2005

    Judith Reisman has enthusiastically endorsed Lively’s book.

  20. #20 Aaron M
    July 26, 2005

    Here’s more about Reisman and her attacks on Kinsey.

  21. #21 Raging Bee
    July 27, 2005

    So by Reisman’s “reasoning”, the actual act of having sex should do far more to alter the brain

    Trust this sort of “reasoning” to make up exceptions as needed. Remember the alleged difference between “good” (vaginal) orgasms and “bad” (clitoral) orgasms?

    I predict that the next step will be to assert that masturbation, and possibly gay sex, release “erototoxins,” while missionary-position sex between a man and a woman (married of course) do not.

  22. #22 Sophist
    November 13, 2005

    “‘Fight or flight’ sex hormones”? “Excitatory transmitters”? Jesus, it’s like she ate several neurology based refrigerator-magnet poetry sets and then threw up out of a fourth-floor window.