22 April 2011

If It Smells Like A Duck

My long-held suspicions have been confirmed:

Their argument is that pornography causes sexual violence, molestation of children, sex trafficking, and other maladies. "This material harms individuals, families and communities and the problems are only getting worse," wrote the group, led by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of—you guessed it—Utah. You will wait in vain to hear of other senators joining together to say this is all nonsense, though that happens to be the case.
The past two decades have been to electronic erotica what Thanksgiving is to gluttony. Never in history have more people had easier access to sexually explicit material in such vast abundance and such low cost. More than one out of every three Americans with Internet access regularly visits porn sites.
By the logic of the puritans, we should be coping with an avalanche of collateral damage. But we're not.
Sexual violence? Rape has dropped by 86 percent in the United States since 1991. Harm to families? Divorce rates are down 25 percent during the same period.
As for sex trafficking, no one really knows how much goes on, or whether it's rising or falling. But when the Bush administration mounted a crackdown on the problem, The Washington Post reported in 2007, it found only "1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 a year the government had estimated."
Numerous studies have failed to prove that viewing prurient pictures has any deleterious consequences to individuals. Just because the occasional rapist or child molester blames his crimes on skin flicks doesn't make it true.

Since I am a Christian, I cannot and will not condone the use of pornography (cf. Matt. 5:28).  However, I’ve long been suspicious of the claim that viewing porn causes violent crime.  To me, the argument is similar to the claim that video games cause violent behavior.

Both claims are especially nonsensical given that both pornography and video games are used as escapes/substitutes for reality.  People who use either are generally seeking to avoid direct interaction with others, not escalate interpersonal interaction.

Of course, this doesn’t make porn healthy for people, and it certainly doesn’t make it moral.  But the porn abolitionists do not have a leg to stand on anymore.  No one’s rights are violated with porn.* And legalization doesn’t open up the floodgates to violent crime.  Opposition no longer makes sense.  Just move on already.

* In case you’re blinded by your emotions, remember that this post is only concerned with consumption, not production.

6 comments:

  1. While I most definitely concur that porn does not lead to violent crime, I have stumbled across research that links porn consumption in men to lower levels of oxytocin.

    IOW, using porn inhibits the ability to bond, perhaps in much the same way in which a woman who has multiple sexual partners will have that much more difficulty bonding to a husband once her ride on the Carousel is complete.

    I am unimpressed by the assertion that since divorce has dropped, porn must not be all that bad. Of course divorce rates have dropped...the rate of marriage has plummeted too.

    The curious piece here is the nexus between anti-porn Christians and anti-porn feminists. Both disapprove of porn for different reasons.

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  2. I think the bonding argument is over-rated. human animals are not like geese, mating for life because of chemicals in our brains. life-long marriage is a social construction. There are lots of real easily identifiable benefits as well as social underpinings. If we didn't have life-long monogamy, we would invent it. Men stay in their marrages because they they understand the importance of accepting and upholding obligations within their family and community.

    Chemical bonding won't keep a bad mariage together nor will its lack cause a good marriage to fail. I am forced to doubt if the chemical you cite has any role at all in this.

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  3. Country Lawyer22 April, 2011 17:10

    Professor,

    I think its importance occurs during the formation of a marriage (or LTR) and the first few years.

    However, I agree with you that it is a sense of obligation and responsibility that keeps men in marriage. Especially when they are invested in their children.

    It is getting to that point that the chemicals matter.

    I would posit that if it wasn't for these chemicals and drives, there is very little that would connect men with women.

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  4. @EW- According to Athol Kay, oxytocin is not the primary bonding neurochemical in men, so I wouldn't be overly concerned about that particular aspect. That aside, I would argue that porn has no place in a healthy marriage. Also, I was a little confused about the divorce rate statistic. I'm not sure if he was using the common metric (ratio of divorces to marriages per year) or the broad metric (ratio of divorces to population).

    @Professor Hale- The social aspect of marriage is too often overlooked. Marital success is dependent on more than just neurochemicals. There must be a greater sense of commitment, and sometimes even social pressure.

    @Coutry Lawyer- Neurochemicals may play a role in marital success, but whatever role they play is nothing in comparison to the role that social forces and personal commitment play in the success of marriage.

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  5. Porn's problem is that its not only a form of entertainment but it's also an information medium serving to shape the form of sexual desire.

    Western Sexual behaviour has rapidly liberalised since the 60's in two phases. The first phase, (pushed by cultural Marxists) involved separating sex from marriage, thus facilitating promiscuity.

    The second phase, (pushed by the pornographers) has involved a change in sexual practices. Oral sex, anal sex, multiple partners etc were not widespread practices in the past, yet have become more so in the last decade particularly.

    Anal cancer rates in females started rising in the mid-80's, which corresponds roughly with the introduction of VHS video.

    Porn's poison is in it being an agent of influence, its effect is very subtle. What it tends to do is subtly reprogram the mind with regard to male ideas about female sexuality. It hypersexualises male conceptions of female sexuality. The unreflective connoisseur expects (or wants) females to behave that way. When reality doesn't match with expectation, relationship tension ensures.

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  6. @Social Pathologist- Hasn't there always been a difference between expectations and reality when it comes to relationships and sex? I would say yes, although not necessarily to the same degree as the porn era.

    That aside, it seems foolhardy to put the state in control of shaping or reinforcing sexual mores since a) the state has tendency towards blatant immorality over time and b) the state has a tendency towards oppression over time. In fact, I would argue that the state has enabled and encouraged the current state of affairs in regards to sexual mores, which is why the best option is for the government to simply undo what it can and then leave things alone.

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