Duplicating pornography

Q. I work in the video duplication room at an advertising agency. While duplicating tapes I have been exposed to “soft” pornography on some of the commercial directors reels. Is it inappropriate for me to duplicate these videos?

A. There are two distinct questions here: your own exposure to indecency, and your role in disseminating it. Let’s examine these separately.

There is no question that you must avoid exposure to these videos. Jewish tradition considers provocative material to have a very damaging effect on the human spirit. Even a married person who might think he is channeling the influence in a permissible way is bound to make unconscious and destructive comparisons between the supposed “ideal” we find in the media and his actual experience.

If you absolutely must view the videos as you duplicate them, to check light, color, focus, and the like, here’s a solution which may work for you: Try making a mask for your video monitor. A half-dozen or so narrow vertical stripes over the center half of the screen may be enough to completely neutralize any provocative effect of the movies. If this trick doesn’t allow you to do your job properly, or doesn’t eliminate the influence of these videos, consider eliminating this aspect of your work – even if it will harm your income.

The problem of disseminating these videos is more involved. It would certainly be wrong to spend your entire day copying hard-core films. However, the situation you describe is much different. It’s only a small part of your job; the material is not as offensive; and you don’t really have much influence since you’re not the boss and lots of other studios are prepared to do this work. Given that your livelihood is on the line, you don’t have to quit to avoid duplicating an occasional problematic film which would be copied anyway without your intervention.

SOURCES: Rashi, Numbers 15:39; Genesis 34:7; Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 20b; Mishna Shvi’it 5:8-9, 7:4.