PETA Porn: Humans are Animals Too

Most people I encounter on a daily basis recognize People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as pretty “out there” at least in their methods, if not their message. I respect the group’s passion for animal rights, though I don’t agree with all of their arguments, and like many advocacy groups, I think their single-mindedness sometimes compromises what might otherwise be a more popular case for ethical treatment of animals.

A while back, PETA began placing ads in print media and online that were very sexually provocative, presumably with the intent of creating a buzz around their primary mission. The fans continue to be flamed, and now PETA is going a step further by announcing they will soon launch their own “Porn Site” with the anti-fur, pro-vegan themes woven throughout.

Yes, we all know that sex sells, particularly in today’s western culture. We are, at the same time, obsessed with sex and ashamed of it. We cling to curious Puritan values, while also bombarding pornography sites by the billions every month. We seek to deny our sexuality, while also flaunting it without reservation.

I think I understand why PETA has resorted to what I consider “lowest common denominator” marketing, but I think they bear particular responsibility in the approach they take to engage the public, specifically because of what their mission is. Though they claim to be fanatical about ensuring that animals are treated with the utmost of ethical concern, the same ethics do not seem to apply to human beings.

Employing figures like Playboy playmate Pamela Anderson and adult film star Sasha Gray in their campaigns suggests to some observers that it’s acceptable to objectify people – and women in particular – other ends. To reduce them to two-dimensional sexual symbols undermines the very ethic that PETA supposedly stands for.

I understand that these models agree to pose for these photographs, and that there’s a case to be made that their willingness to participate separates them from the animals who do not choose to be exploited. But complicit exploitation is still that: exploitation. And while some have found a way to make a rather comfortable living through complicit exploitation, that doesn’t make it right.

I was particularly bothered by this image of an expectant mother, corralled in a stall like a cow, stripped bare and set out in the public forum for people to ogle. Yes, she did so willingly (though I expect no one consulted the unborn child in their feelings about it), but the very nature of this image is dehumanizing. And maybe I’m missing a larger point, but if PETA can’t first demonstrate what I would consider a reasonable degree of respect for women, I have a difficult time taking anything else they say with anything other than a giant grain of salt.

And before they come, yes, I am sure there are those who will condemn me for re-posting these images. Am I contributing to the problem by giving them a larger platform? Am I simply reducing myself to the same sort of “lowest common denominator” sensationalism to get attention? All fair enough to argue. But as a Christian, I believe part of my responsibility is to identify wrongs out into the light. In doing so, it’s my hope that such images will be seen in a new context: hopefully one that will lead to a culture in which we advocate for a more ethical treatment of humans in general, and more specifically, women.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • Pastor_Earle

    My take on this piece is rather simple. Not too difficult to deconstruct if you ask me. Clearly the major players and marketeers of PETA do not see every human as humane and redeemable. PETA was calling for the “execution” of Mike Vick (a human)… so when they use porn to push their message they clearly find it appropriate to demean (who they perceive to be) inhumane humans (women in this case) for the sake of the value they have placed on SOME animals… because technically, humans are homosapiens (human animals)… again, not a novel concept to me…

    I parallel this to how Republicans are “pro-LIFE” for a fetus, but simultaneously (and oxyMORONically I might add) “pro-DEATH-penalty” for adults (or even some adolescents)… because most of those individuals are minorities (people of color who they instinctly percieve as inhuman – subhuman – animal like)…

    But again, shout out to you my brother for keeping it real and righteous and posting such provocative and prophetic material with Spiritual Maturity. May all of your readers take note and do the same..

    -PE-

  • http://www.TheBibleSpeakstoYou.com James Early

    When you lift up a rotting log on the forest floor, what happens?  All the bugs, spiders, snakes, etc. that were hiding there run every direction and sometimes bite or sting you.  You, Christian have enough gumption to lift up the “rotting logs” in society and expose what you believe are the bad bugs hiding underneath.  I always appreciate your thoughtful insights.  Don’t necessarily always agree, but I admire your tenacity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/christianpiatt Christian Piatt

      thanks James. I take that as a sincere compliment! and if you always agreed with me, I’d start to worry.

  • Ted

    You completely missed the point of the campaign. These women are being treated badly. It is shameful that they are being subjected like they are. Oh, and you’re supporting the exact same thing by eating meat. Well, not the same thing, of course. These women are being treated much better than animals. A cow in a similar situation would remain there for its entire life, being continually raped (cows only produce milk when they’re pregnant, you see), and when they outlive their usefulness they are hung upside down and their throat is slit, the horrific end to a life of suffering. If you support the systematic abuse and annual slaughter of ten billion of God’s creatures, you need to seriously reconsider your beliefs.

    “Animals are God’s creatures, not human
    property, nor utilities, nor resources, nor commodities, but precious
    beings in God’s sight. Christians whose eyes are fixed on the awfulness
    of crucifixion are in a special position to understand the awfulness of
    innocent suffering. The Cross of Christ is God’s absolute identification
    with the weak, the powerless, and the vulnerable, but most of all with
    unprotected, undefended, innocent suffering.”
    – Andrew Linzey


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