Many porn shop defenders appear to believe that shame is always bad, and public shaming is always wrong. Capital Video attorney Michael Pill is quoted in today’s Republican as saying, “‘I hope we’ve gone beyond Puritan Massachusetts and the scarlet letter and public shaming.'”
We say that shame is not always bad. Shame is a natural and healthy emotion when you are in fact doing something wrong, something shameful. To be shameless is to act without regard for the interests of others, to be heedless. A sense of shame, like a sense of physical pain, can guide you to interact with the world in a healthy way.
Wikipedia provides an interesting discussion of shame, saying it “carries the connotation of a response to qualities that are considered morally wrong.” It acknowledges that feeling shame is not always healthy, such as in the case of victims of child sexual abuse. However, “shame [is] also generally considered one pillar of socialization in all societies… Shared opinions and expected behaviours that cause the feeling of shame (as well as an associated reproval) if violated by an individual are in any case proven to be very efficient in guiding behaviour in a group or society.”
We say that profiting from suffering, such as Capital Video and the Goldbergs are proposing to do at 135 King Street, is shameful, and should be publicly known and criticized. Movies and magazines that encourage viewers to use and dump women, to enjoy tying people up regardless of how they feel about it, are shameful. Movies that promote despair about marriage and celebrate cheating are shameful. Fighting a small town (Kittery) over a well-documented health hazard (private viewing booths) is shameful. Locating a large porn shop next to homes, schools, mental health counseling centers and houses of worship, despite the well-known risks of secondary effects, is shameful.
When big corporations do shameful things, the people of Northampton generally have no problem shaming them. For example, visit the website of Northampton’s Media Education Forum. Today it’s promoting the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood and Corporate Power. “Mickey Mouse Monopoly,” states the summary, “takes a close and critical look at the world these films create and the stories they tell about race, gender and class and reaches disturbing conclusions about the values propagated under the guise of innocence and fun.”
Capital Video is just another big corporation, “the largest adult retail chain in the nation,” according to one of its websites. They, and the people who do business with them, have no right to be insulated from public comment.