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Fighting Porn: The Reviving Cause Social Conservatism Needs

After the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized gay marriage across America, most of us were ready to consign social conservatism to the proverbial morgue. And what an inglorious death it would have been! The entire same-sex marriage debate was absurd from beginning to end. Both sides vaguely understood that marriage is important, yet neither could explain exactly why. It was like watching schoolchildren fight over a Fabergé egg: they wouldn’t know what to do if they got it, except break it.

At least the pro-SSM camp could selectively minimize its importance when it suited them. When talking amongst themselves, same-sex marriage was “the greatest civil rights issue of our generation.” But when a conservative walked into the room, they played it cool. Commitment isn’t really their thing, but if some gay fogies want to tie the knot, why should anyone stop them?

Meanwhile, the anti-SSM camp had to explain why this institution was singlehandedly upholding the civil order—even though it had already been wrecked by free love, the welfare state, and no-fault divorce. Social conservatism not only suffered a humiliating defeat, it came away looking sweaty and over-excited. Whatever credibility we had left was gone. It was around this time that conservatives started looking for non-political solutions, such as the Benedict Option.

But social conservatives may now have found a new cause célèbre: banning pornography. Two of the most respected traditionalist thinkers in the country—Matthew Schmitz [1] and Ross Douthat [2]—have now taken up the prohibitionist mantle.

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The rush of pro-smut polemics that followed their publication was astounding. Pornography, we are led to believe, is the very essence of free speech. After all, if you let those rotten bureaucrats in Washington censor pornography, they will inevitably censor art as well. Censoring things is their raison d’être, and here we are enabling them. We can make no distinction between Hustler magazine and Titian’s Venus of Urbino unless we’re prepared to lose both to the arthritic fist of the nanny state.

But is that true? Yes, we all know about the infamous “fig leaf campaign,” when Pope Paul IV ordered the Roman Inquisition to cover the genitalia on statues with plaster leaves. But this is an historical anomaly. The most fervent Catholic kings and Protestant princes seldom thought to class nudity in art as “obscene.” Justice Potter Stewart was right: we know porn when we see it.

For all their high-minded, alarmist rhetoric, ordinary people know that slippery slope is a figment of the libertines’ fetid imaginations. This isn’t about Italian sculpture and French painting—it’s about girlie mags and stag films. And if some poor souls can’t tell the difference between Hustler and Venus, that’s a shame, but it’s not the legal system’s job to coddle the aesthetically illiterate.

So Schmitz’s and Douthat’s arguments really aren’t so radical, if we can peer above the agitprop. We know that porn causes sexual disorders. We know it normalizes violence [3] towards women. We know it’s a leading contributor to divorce. Thirty percent of men between the ages of 18 and 30 use it daily, while 10 percent of the population believe they are porn addicts. The average age of exposure is 11. Were it not for our oversaturation in sex [4], we wouldn’t think twice about banning it.

There is a greater principle at work here, too, and it’s equally promising: young men and women on both sides of the political spectrum are questioning the Sexual Revolution. Last November, The Spectator’s Lara Prendergast called out [5] those prudish elements of the sisterhood whipping up a “Sexual Reformation”:

The old feminist trope says that it is not a woman’s responsibility to worry about her own safety; it is a man’s job not to harass her. Yet women are clearly taking increasingly extreme measures to protect themselves because a small number of vocal campaigners are telling us that all our worst fears about men are true—and we must take action.

Prendergast reminds one of Wendy Kaminer, who in 1992 wrote in The Atlantic [6] warning that anti-porn feminism “promotes a view of men as lubricious brutes, and that has united authoritarians on the left and the right in an assault on free speech.” In fact, we are brutes—at least when we’re told to indulge our most lubricious appetites and play out our most bestial fantasies.

What’s happening is that these “sex-negative” feminists are coming back around to the idea of the Fall of Man. Russell Kirk, in his “Ten Conservative Principles [7],” explained that “human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults”:

 …if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: “the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

Until the advent of fusionism [8], no conservative would have doubted that the government is (to a strictly limited extent) one of those safeguards. The idea that mankind’s Fallenness is a grave threat to social stability, and that we must in extreme cases use the force of law to restrain our destructive appetites, is not a progressive one. It’s deeply conservative.

We on the right shouldn’t pooh-pooh them for it. We should welcome them with open arms. We should explain that their horror at man’s potential for depravity is not only valid: it’s central to both orthodox Christianity and Anglo-American conservatism.

In fact, Kirk wouldn’t be surprised to hear of the traditionalist remnant finding common cause with leftists. As he wrote in “Libertarians: Chirping Sectaries” [9]:

Conservatives have no intention of compromising with socialists; but even such an alliance, ridiculous though it would be, is more nearly conceivable than the coalition of conservatives and libertarians. The socialists at least declare the existence of some sort of moral order; the libertarians are quite bottomless.

After three centuries of “Enlightened” faith in mankind’s invincible goodness and wisdom, liberals are finally coming back around to the ancient notion of Fallenness. The traditionalist and the anti-porn feminist would both no doubt agree with Honoré de Balzac: “Man is neither good nor bad. He is born with certain instincts and appetites. Society, far from corrupting him, as Rousseau says, perfects him.” Or, rather: it should help his moral and social progress, not hinder it.

So, we should not mistake the anti-porn movement for the dying gasp of the religious right, as Damon Linker has [10]. Schmitz and Douthat are not the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson of their generation. They’re the first of a new breed of traditionalists.

These young trads are cropping up [11] on college campuses across the country. They have as little use for the crude dominionism of the religious right as they do for the urbane permissiveness of the Clintonites and “conservatarians.” They’re teaching themselves Burke, Aquinas, and Chesterton. And they’re preparing to make a stand on the ruins of Western civilization.

This is not the end of social conservatism. It’s the promise of a fresh start, a new beginning.

Michael Warren Davis is U.S. editor of the Catholic Herald. He tweets @MichaelDavisCH [12].

95 Comments (Open | Close)

95 Comments To "Fighting Porn: The Reviving Cause Social Conservatism Needs"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 17, 2018 @ 9:07 am

I am single. I was a teenager. I was in the military. I am a conservative, well, probably more conservative than i ought to admit. This issue has never left conservative orthodoxy. It’s pervasive on the internet has out maneuvered parents temporarily, it seems via the internet. But what constitutes pornography today is vastly different than when I was growing up. Almost all television dramas include levels of intimate behavior that would have been unthinkable fifteen years ago. And the open discussions about human intimate behavior would have elicited volumes of blushing giggle and dumb struck faces, even when I was in the service many odd years ago.

And a look at the number of female educators, directors, script writers, social advocates, writers, actresses, etc. make it clear that at the forefront of the pervasiveness have been women.
I am not defending pornography, but what the studies indicate is that a steady diet of such material causes harm. But what is ignored is the response by the adult community, which has been blunted by the changing more’s, no small amount resulting from the advocacy of women.

What we are discovering about the younger generations is not the influence of feminists dogma. But rather the consequences not merely of pornography, but of the entire shift of more’s. As we are seeing in the reduction of women killing children in the womb. There’s an increase in rejecting the shift because it has been harmful and upon examination, has resulted in a barrenness that human relations are actually intended to alleviate.

If feminists want to rail against pornography fine, but if the rail is of their standard model, it’s men’s fault — excuse my eye roll. When they become advocates for family as anything but a slave trade of women — let me know.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 17, 2018 @ 9:11 am

ohhhh laugh . . . I have no intention of giving up my red blooded desires have a women as friend, partner, wife and intimate guide in intimacy.

I say guide because meeting a woman who comprehends celibacy, much less practices is more foreign than a buffalo. Nice job feminists.

#3 Comment By Rob G On February 17, 2018 @ 9:16 am

“We Millenials see the hypocrisy and incoherence in those positions. We are seeking to integrate.”

You need to learn how to think first. All I hear from millenials is lots of emoting without much substantive content.

“I get that it is much more satisfying to impose your will by cutting off the supply than to persuade others to cut their demand…”

Yeah, because that approach has worked so well with meth and opioids. (eyeroll)

#4 Comment By Joan from Michigan On February 17, 2018 @ 10:15 am

I notice that, when you write about anti-porn feminists, you don’t actually quote any. You quote their critics, Laura Prendergast and Wendy Kaminer. From these critics’ overgeneralizations, you conclude that anti-porn feminists have something resembling a belief in Original Sin and therefore are open to an alliance with social conservatives that might possibly lead to an increase in the popularity of the anti-porn position and thence to a return to traditional values on the part of the general public.

What are you smoking?

#5 Comment By RJohnson On February 17, 2018 @ 12:52 pm

Christian conservatives speaking on social issues such as this have no credibility given how they have supported Trump. Sorry…you sold your inheritance for a bowl of porridge. Your loss.

#6 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 17, 2018 @ 12:53 pm

As someone more clever than myself asked… if conservatives could ban porn, then why can’t liberals ban guns?

Both involve similar Constitutional and logistical issues, after all…

#7 Comment By Saad On February 17, 2018 @ 1:04 pm

Literally millions of hours of porn have been created to date. And thousand of hours can be easily stored and traded on a micro sd card which is smaller than a dime. I think it’s too late to ban porn. The best option is to become Muslim and create gated communities which allows only those who choose to voluntarily give up porn.

#8 Comment By Nelson On February 17, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

Just because porn exists doesn’t mean you have to view it.

#9 Comment By Andrew E. On February 17, 2018 @ 2:08 pm

Barnabas Shetler:

“I too lead a local effort to ban porn access in my town, because all of this porn is degenerating our culture and turning our youth away from our Christian values. Although despite the ban, it seems that our kids are fornicating even more than ever, judging by the fact that the number of pregnant teens has almost doubled since”

I can’t speak to the kids living in your area but since 1990 the number of teenagers getting pregnant in the U.S. has plummeted across the board, coincidentally as the internet and porn have become more and more accessible:

[13]

There’s also of downward trend in the last 25 years of teen sexual activity. Kids today are actually having less sex and putting it off longer than their parents did at their age:

[14]

I have no idea the factor of easy access to porn but the numbers are the numbers.

#10 Comment By Lenny On February 17, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

Trump gets Mulligans from Social conservatives

Why not the rest of us?

#11 Comment By Twinpinesmall On February 17, 2018 @ 3:27 pm

I don’t like porn any more than you do. But to trust the empty-headed idiots in government and law-enforcement to keep us safe from something, only betrays (in the words of Emerson) a “want of self-reliance and an infirmity of will.”

Three words: Pop Tart Guns.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 17, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

As for the attacks of conservative ethos and practice as failure —-

It has yet to fail me ever. And adhering to its tenets may be tough at times, but it won’t fail one when confronted with limiting the potential of over exposure to pornography.

#13 Comment By Chris C. On February 17, 2018 @ 6:32 pm

You can have my smut when you pry my computer from my cold, dead hands.
On another note, I suggest, sir, that if you are so unfond of libertarianism, you might write for NR and not TAC.

#14 Comment By Thaomas On February 17, 2018 @ 7:49 pm

If Social Conservatives have any ideas about how to make watching porn as socially toxic as smoking in a business meeting, then let’s hear them. But the folks who could not explain to anyone what is wrong with same sex marriage and whose only idea about preventing abortions is to make then REALLY difficult to obtain are unlikely to be able to explain why watching pron is bad for you and your partners.

#15 Comment By March Hare On February 17, 2018 @ 8:11 pm

Anyone who cites Hustler magazine and uses the phrase “girlie mags” in a discussion of pornography is so blatantly clueless that he cannot be taken seriously.

Uhhh, have you noticed that most of those “girlie mags” went out of business ten years ago? Have you noticed that much if not most sexual content on line is generated by users and not by big greedy publishers?

You might as well be complaining about sexy stories being distributed on clay tablets.

#16 Comment By Les Govment On February 17, 2018 @ 9:56 pm

I’ve formerly posted at TAC as “A Libertarian Guy”

Michael Warren Davis, the author of the article above, made this statement:

“For all their high-minded, alarmist rhetoric, ordinary people know that slippery slope is a figment of the libertines’ fetid imaginations. This isn’t about Italian sculpture and French painting—it’s about girlie mags and stag films. And if some poor souls can’t tell the difference between Hustler and Venus, that’s a shame, but it’s not the legal system’s job to coddle the aesthetically illiterate.”

and he followed with this statement:

“We know it [porn] normalizes violence towards women.”

MY RESPONSE: First of all, slippery slopes can be quite real. Second, good libertarians are not libertines. Thirdly. throughout his article, Mr. Davis failed to adequately address the different degrees of pornography. Based on Webster’s definition of pornography (see definition at the bottom of my post), a Hooter’s swimsuit calendar is pornography. But, clearly, things like swimsuit calendars are somewhat different from nudes, and nudes are different from sexual intercourse videos, and sexual intercourse videos are different from sexual vulgarity. And child pornography should be treated as an altogether separate issue.

So, I have to ask: Which type(s) of pornography normalizes violence against women? Davis didn’t say, so I’ll take a stab at it: Pornography depicting violence against women or sexual assault of women.

I have accidentally stumbled across some porn sites that made me go “YIK!” and I got off of those sites ASAP. But I’ve yet to see any porn site that promoted violence or sexual assault. I imagine that such sites exist, but a person would have to be a real creep to want to visit such sites. And such a person is likely already inclined to violate women.

Having said all of that, I must insist that Hooter’s calendars and the like do not promote or normalize violence against women, and similar depictions of women are not driving the high divorce rate either.

Davis also made this statement:

“What’s happening is that these ‘sex-negative’ feminists are coming back around to the idea of the Fall of Man.”

MY RESPONSE: In that statement, Davis displays a ridiculous level of naivete’. Radical, gynocentric feminists (sex-negative feminists) are not embracing the biblical concept of the Fall of Man. The gynocentric feminists are not the new Puritans (as some seem to think). If they really were the new Puritans, they’d be speaking out against things like adultery and sodomy and the hook-up culture; Formula 1 Grid Girls in rompers would be low on the gyno-centric fems’ list of things to oppose.

As a libertarian, I believe that the only kind of pornography that should be banned is child pornography– specifically pornography produced by adults that features real, live children (anyone under 18) engaging in sexual interactions, or doing a sexual performance act of some kind.

There is a lot of trash available (I’m now talking about adult porn featuring adults), particularly on the internet. But putting people in prison for making such porn would be another example of the cure being worse than the disease.

— Les Govment [15]

from Webster’s Dictionary, 1957:

pornography: 1. originally, a description of prostitutes and their trade; hence, 2. writings, pictures, etc. intended to arouse sexual desire.
.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 18, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

“Christian conservatives speaking on social issues such as this have no credibility given how they have supported Trump. Sorry…you sold your inheritance for a bowl of porridge. Your loss.”

Ohhhh nonsense. No one is supporting the current executive because of who he slept with, what meaningless tawdry private brags he had with other men, — utter rubbish. Going down this path is a millstone around the necks of liberals Pres Kennedy, Pres Johnson and Pres Kennedy chokes them silly on the way down into the muck .

I would have thought that liberals had learned the lessons about going down this path.

#18 Comment By Imissbuckley On February 18, 2018 @ 5:50 pm

You don’t have to be a libertarian, social liberal or libertine to think that the government banning porn is an astonishingly stupid idea. First as other commenters have pointed out I have yet to see an actual definition of porn that you want to ban? Or how you’ll get around the First Amendment concerns that protect people watching adult porn in the privacy of their own homes? Or how you would enforce such a ban? Is a War on Porn in the cards? Possessors of porn in their homes get misdemeanors for possession and producers get tossed in prison? Would it be enforced equally or would the wealthy connected folks be left alone while the middle class and poor get targeted (stupid question, of course the powerful will be left alone)?

Frankly, I’ve grown quite weary of prohibitionist/big government conservatives. The world does not need more conservative social engineers trying to use the power of the state to enforce more bad ideas on the American Public. I dislike Progressivism but big government conservatism is worse. And if you and Ross Douthat actually think that Progressive Feminists are going to help restore conservative “virtue” than y’all must be smoking some highly illegal stuff.

#19 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 18, 2018 @ 8:16 pm

“If Social Conservatives have any ideas about how to make watching porn as socially toxic as smoking in a business meeting, then let’s hear them. But the folks who could not explain to anyone what is wrong with same sex marriage and whose only idea about preventing abortions is to make then REALLY difficult to obtain are unlikely to be able to explain why watching pron is bad for you and your partners.”

Well, you’ll note that watching porn in business meetings is nowadays socially toxic (largely due to the efforts of the cultural Left, I might add–much of conservativism has long tolerated Mad Men business culture, even if they try to keep the hoi polloi on the straight and narrow), and smoking in the privacy of one’s home is still perfectly acceptable.

Which makes perfect sense. Many things cause offense when done in public, but nobody is the wiser if done privately.

#20 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 18, 2018 @ 8:33 pm

You want a cause of action that might attract some liberal agreement?

How about legally sanctioning adultery?

(I will define “adultery” here as a married person–gay marriages included–having sexual relations with anyone other than their spouse, without the spouse’s consent.)

Now, I wouldn’t throw adulterers in prison, necessarily–jail should be for those who pose a threat to society, and one problem in fashioning a suitable punishment is coming up with one that doesn’t harm the victimized spouse–but something stronger than an unfavorable divorce settlement should be available.

And this wouldn’t run afoul of the Constitution, nor face the logistical obstacle of trying to regulate data.

Of course–why do socons need a “reviving issue”? Is a future without political power simply to terrifying for y’all to contemplate, and so you’re desperately trying to find a camel’s nose to stick under the tent?

#21 Comment By EliteComminc. On February 19, 2018 @ 2:38 am

“But the folks who could not explain to anyone what is wrong with same sex marriage and whose only idea about preventing abortions is to make then REALLY difficult to obtain are unlikely to be able to explain why watching pron is bad for you and your partners.”

I am not sure you were listening the reasons for opposition to both “same relational marriage” and “murdering children” in the womb are simple and sound.

Short version,

The male female dynamic provides a unique benefit to community. in short no community can survive without it.

killing children in the womb —

murdering children in or out of the womb should be legal and no tax payer should be forced to support the murder of children with a single tax dollar

#22 Comment By Kevin Summers On February 19, 2018 @ 10:05 am

@charles cosimano

“Social Conservatives do have a losing fetish don’t they?”

Actually, we (i.e. social conservatives) consider it a sign of high quality character.

#23 Comment By Doug On February 19, 2018 @ 11:35 am

I cannot help but continue to scratch my head at the notion that either forcing or preventing humans from doing what they want with their lives–short of forcing or preventing others doing the same–can be made coextensive with liberty. If liberty’s not what America is about I’d rather have nothing to do with whatever else is left. I myself find porn objectionable not nearly as much as I do forcing or preventing men and women from doing what they want with themselves and their property. Why do we still have these discussions?!

#24 Comment By Rob G On February 19, 2018 @ 11:51 am

Man, some folks here get awful het up when you start talking about limiting access to their dirty websites! Ought to tell ya something.

#25 Comment By Stephen Gould On February 19, 2018 @ 12:07 pm

What part of “shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech, or of the press” do people not understand?

At least, I’d hope every pro-2A advocate who uses the same argument in opposition to gun control would accept this point.

#26 Comment By The Scientist 880 On February 19, 2018 @ 2:36 pm

EngineerScotty,

“You want a cause of action that might attract some liberal agreement?

How about legally sanctioning adultery?”

You think liberals would want to have legal sanctions against adultery? There is zero chance this would get any significant buy in from liberals.

#27 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 20, 2018 @ 12:57 am

Man, some folks here get awful het up when you start talking about limiting access to their dirty websites! Ought to tell ya something.

I may have missed it, but where’s the evidence that any of the participants in this thread use porn?

You can believe that porn is good or neutral for society, or that it’s a matter for personal freedom, without using it yourself.

#28 Comment By Rob G On February 20, 2018 @ 1:27 pm

“You can believe that porn is good or neutral for society, or that it’s a matter for personal freedom, without using it yourself.”

Uh, sure, anything you say. But in my experience people don’t tend to get worked up about stuff like this unless they’ve got some sort of stake in it personally.

#29 Comment By Ricport On February 20, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

More looney Talibangelical (or, in this case, Talibangelical-esque) ravings of, yes, a dying, deeply unpopular and terminally hypocritical viewpoint, despite the sad protestations to the contrary. It’s always amusing when these self-righteous nannies claim to be for less government, all while demanding that the only solution to any real or perceived moral deficiencies in our culture is to get big government involved. It’s like the 18th Amendment never happened.

Whenever I see dreck like this, I’m reminded of a quote from Franklin:

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

#30 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 20, 2018 @ 5:55 pm

EngineerScotty,

You think liberals would want to have legal sanctions against adultery? There is zero chance this would get any significant buy in from liberals.

There are lots of people on the “cultural left”, while objecting to conservative positions on e.g. LGBT issues, fornication in general, or other questions of consensual adult sexuality, do disapprove of adultery (again, defining the term of betrayal of one to whom one has made a monogamy vow; with marriage being the form thereof). Adulterers are not a minority group, and it is not a victimless offense. There MIGHT be some support there.

That said–I certainly don’t think it should be a criminal offense; and certainly don’t want the cops or the local DA peeping in people’s windows. So perhaps it’s not the sort of Grand Moral Crusade that the author of this post has in mind.

But it does involve far greater tangible harm than (private) consumption of pornographic materials.

Of course, the chance of such an alliance is probably the same as the chance of feminists and socons allying on an anti-porn crusade, and for the same reason: Generally speaking, the left broadly distrusts the Christian right, and with many very good reasons.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 20, 2018 @ 8:18 pm

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power”

Such is the value of on who extolled liberty for some while condoning something quite the opposite for others.

Your miss here is two fold:

1. assume that challenging pornography requires
laws

2. you assume that the position is merely
religious minus any actual social consequence
all its own

I guess it is possible that some conservatives only think about their small world. But in reality, the conservative is thinking about his or her society on the whole. It’s not merely advocacy as some kind of religious demand, but one that is taking into account the impact on intimate behavior and images from one of healthy normative bonding to one merely of self gratification. And while addictions are more problematic, a general acceptance of intimacy as public peeping changes the value of the very act of the intimacy itself. The knee-jerk response by liberals to conservative thought suggests that if conservatives became feminists tomorrow – liberals would oppose as some manner of religious quest for state imposed religion.

The opposition to pornography does not require a law – but challenge. The point is to impact change and in many respects, the realization by by previous generations that abortion really is killing a child is due to opposition to that choice of birth control. It is interesting to now that while the strongest advocacy is from faith organizations and members, killing children in the womb reduction is happening as faith itself is diminishing influence according to poll numbers.

#32 Comment By Olga On February 20, 2018 @ 8:47 pm

When I was 18 (1990) I went to a video store with a boyfriend and I think I watched a total of 3 porn films and one was animated. They did not do anything for me. Movies with plots and romantic/sexual themes were more interesting in that regard than porn.

I separated in 2008. I watched a few clips/films online. My curiosity was satisfied and I was not that interested in the available products. I am female and pornography is produced for a male audience.

I think porn is like anything else. A glass of wine with dinner, might be good for the heart. A few minutes of porn watching with your spouse to “warm up the engine” also probably is more good than bad. The problem is it is entirely too easy for children to access porn. There is no barrier to getting it. For most people, you can access most of it for free.

I think all porn should be behind a paywall. It doesn’t need to cost much. Even if it only cost $1, it would make it more difficult for 14 year old boys to access it. It would also make it just difficult enough/expensive enough to keep many people from developing a habit of watching it all of the time.

#33 Comment By Ricport On February 21, 2018 @ 11:27 am

“Such is the value of on who extolled liberty for some while condoning something quite the opposite for others.”

It’s always amusing to see Talibangelicals (masquerading as conservatives) use the Founding Fathers as one of their main arguments for their warped vision of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, yet run from them when more than ample evidence is shown to prove that while the Founding Fathers were, by and large, men of faith, they also saw the very real danger of theocracy.

“Your miss here is two fold:

1. assume that challenging pornography requires
laws

2. you assume that the position is merely
religious minus any actual social consequence
all its own”

1. I’m not “assuming” anything. Here’s what the author said:

“But social conservatives may now have found a new cause célèbre: banning pornography.”

The only way to achieve a ban is through government action.

“2. you assume that the position is merely
religious minus any actual social consequence
all its own””

Again, not sure how that’s an “assumption,” but no, I don’t deny that pornography CAN (NOT does) have deleterious effects on society. The real question is how do we deal with it? I say the solution is for churches, synagogues, etc. to preach all they want against it in their pulpits. Rent out billboards. Yell and scream in the town square. But, as Franklin (and many other Founding Fathers) wisely points out, the answer is NOT letting religious leaders dictating government policy.

Google “Eighteenth Amendment,” and get back to us on how successful that was.

One last point: I find it utterly hilarious that SoCon Catholics like Davis are more than willing to crawl into bed (politically) with the Talibangelicals, while those same Talibangelicals are preaching vociferously from their pulpits that anything coming out of Rome is “false prophesy.” To quote the old adage, “Be careful of your friends…”

#34 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 21, 2018 @ 1:00 pm

Your miss here is two fold:

1. assume that challenging pornography requires
laws

Not the OP, but much of the conversation here concerns banning porn. Not in merely criticizing it (go ahead!), or trying to make it taboo (see how cigarette smoking has become somewhat taboo, despite remaining perfectly legal). “Banning”, to me at least, means making it illegal to produce, possess, or distribute, under penalty of law.

Maybe you meant something else, like authorizing employers to investigate their employees’ private lives and fire anyone who doesn’t measure up to the boss’s moral standards (though would you give that power to the HR department at Google?), but there’s a long history of pornography prohibition in this country, and of sex workers (including porn actors) being thrown in jail. When something crosses the line into human trafficking (which by definition includes anything involving children)–I certainly agree; but it’s a far harder case to make when only consenting adults are involved.


2. you assume that the position is merely
religious minus any actual social consequence
all its own

I guess it is possible that some conservatives only think about their small world. But in reality, the conservative is thinking about his or her society on the whole. It’s not merely advocacy as some kind of religious demand, but one that is taking into account the impact on intimate behavior and images from one of healthy normative bonding to one merely of self gratification. And while addictions are more problematic, a general acceptance of intimacy as public peeping changes the value of the very act of the intimacy itself. The knee-jerk response by liberals to conservative thought suggests that if conservatives became feminists tomorrow – liberals would oppose as some manner of religious quest for state imposed religion.

You can say that about anything. I’m sure someone can put together a decent argument (not a winning one, but a plausible one) as to why taking the Lord’s name in vain is damaging and corrosive to society. And we’ve heard such arguments about all sorts of things, from gambling to drinking to homosexuality to straight fornication to dancing to the Pill.

In some cases (many things commonly called “vice”; things which are often harmless in moderation but can become dangerous or addictive if done excessively) you may have a point, but in many of these, the cure is worse than the disease. I’d rather have potheads on the bus, smell and all, then fill the jails with them; and I certainly wouldn’t want the prisons full of people whose only offense was posting videos of their own lovemaking on Porntube.

The opposition to pornography does not require a law – but challenge. The point is to impact change and in many respects, the realization by by previous generations that abortion really is killing a child is due to opposition to that choice of birth control. It is interesting to now that while the strongest advocacy is from faith organizations and members, killing children in the womb reduction is happening as faith itself is diminishing influence according to poll numbers.

And we’ve been telling you this for years–when opposition to abortion is easily reduced to opposition to fvcking (by your opponents), the argument loses all its moral weight. Were the pro-life movement to propose banning abortion–but make it clear that it would support e.g. poor women who get pregnant, advance (non-abortofascient) contraceptives as an alternative for those who are unwilling or unable to remain chaste until marriage (or for those married couples who no longer wish to have children but do wish to continue having sex), and support those moms who do become pregnant and who may be unable to either afford labor and delivery, or who are unprepared to raise a child–people might take your moral arguments silly. But when you can’t even accept the proposition that women taking the Pill is a lesser evil–that the question of terminating a fetus in inexorably bound with sexual morality–and ally with political actors who desire to shred the social safety net regardless of how much suffering it might cause–then your commitment to a “culture of life” starts smelling like a large mound of bullsh1t.

#35 Comment By kevin on the left On February 21, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

“Uh, sure, anything you say. But in my experience people don’t tend to get worked up about stuff like this unless they’ve got some sort of stake in it personally.”

This presumes that anyone on this thread assumes there is one 1/1000 chance that any restrictions on porn websites are in the card.

Also, weren’t you just complaining about millennials and their lack of rigor? Because, you know, arguing from anecdata is a very weak form of argumentation.

#36 Comment By Ricport On February 21, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

@EngineerScotty:

I think we’re probably in general agreement on the issue at hand, but as a common-sense (first and always), Libertarian (second) Conservative, I believe that the pro-abortion side shoots themselves in the foot with the “If you loved unborn babies so much, why don’t you help take care of them?” argument.

One of the main problems with our society is that while people should be free to make as many personal choices as possible (of course, provided it does not directly harm someone else, which I argue abortion does by its very nature), the left demands absolution from making bad choices, and that the rest of us should bail people who make bad decisions out with our tax dollars. No one is responsible for that poor woman deciding to have unprotected sex other than her. Condoms are plentiful and cheap (and, in many cases, free). And thus, no one is responsible for any outcomes of her decision to have unprotected sex other than that woman herself.

#37 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 21, 2018 @ 10:05 pm

“It’s always amusing to see Talibangelicals (masquerading as conservatives) use the Founding Fathers as one of their main arguments for their warped vision of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy” and “1. I’m not “assuming” anything. Here’s what the author said”

This contend more than suggests the goal here is some manner of theocracy over the country. My position is that one does not have to advance a law to challenge the spread and pervasiveness of pornography. Since you are responding to my comments, interjecting the author’s view, ignores the differences between them. I do not contend that only a law would ban pornography. Second, even if a law was pressed, the aspect of the artivle, is that feminists acknowledge that pornography at some level does social harm — that is not a theocratic argument. In fact, in this discussion, there’s no evidence of anyone arguing for a theocratic position — which would be

a. pornography is harmful spiritually and socially and personally – the evidence is clear and if you don’t buy that

b. God says so —-

A and B in conjunction with each other — that would be a theocratic position. Or merely contending B alone would be theocratic. Should a law be passed it need not be in any manner theocratic. This is typical polity among liberals as noted previously, once a person of faith advocates a position -regardless how sane and beneficial to the whole — someone will start “hand ringing” about theocracy. Why not just dump the constitution because most of the founders were men of faith even of different faiths. If anything the recognition of christian belief and its role in shaping the country is a testament to the wisdom of the principles of faith that anyone can follow without ever genuflecting at a single alter or saying a single prayer.

recognizing the hazards of pornography doesn’t require a single ounce of faith.

Your advance concerning the founders is completely wrong — they did not say that people of faith should not have a voice in designing policy. They said that government should enforce any particular faith as policy.

The government shall not establish a church and demand obedience to any particular faith. The reasons they were so adamant about that point is because they were English, and more than 700 years of English history is rivers of war and blood over the what would the state religion.
——–

#38 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 21, 2018 @ 10:29 pm

“Maybe you meant something else, like authorizing employers to investigate their employees’ private lives . . . (though would you give that power to the HR department at Google?), but there’s a long history of pornography prohibition in this country, and of sex workers (including porn actors) being thrown in jail.”

Nice try. If employers want to ban pornography in the workplace that is their choice.

My position is pretty clear

1. one does not have enact laws to buffet the
impact of porn and
2. laws that do limit pornography in any manner
are not signs that one is an advocate for
theocratic governance

The issue is not about language but the impact of pornography, I am not sure there are any laws about taking the lord’s name in vain, but introducing it here is just bizarre. Of the inevitable advance for legalizing marijuana, good grief is there no boundaries to the liberal mind. to the extent that any mental impacting substance has impact on the society at large beyond the user, it’s a legitimate question for social management via regulation.

There is very little objection to contraceptives that don’t involve killing children in the womb. While the first adamant opponents of killing children in the womb were Catholics, they don’t own this issue and many of them have granted that contraception is a far better choice. I am not a practicing Catholic, so I can speak only tentatively on their position contraception. But i reject the excuse being suggested. I will kill a child since said group opposes contraception. One could just as easily ignore the opposition to contraception and still reject killing children in the womb.

As for the level of care that christians, including social conservatives tend to unwanted children, I have repeatedly listed numerous organizations that arrange for said adoptions, they do, they will and they are. But I would be hard pressed to make an argument that anyone who opposes killing children in the womb should adopt a child or they are insincere. The position is clearly they would prefer to avoid the unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

#39 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 22, 2018 @ 10:00 am

This presumes that anyone on this thread assumes there is one 1/1000 chance that any restrictions on porn websites are in the card.

Oh, I don’t doubt that heavily restricting porn would be possible. China does it after all, and they’re a world leader in science and innovation today so it’s hardly the case that banning porn would necessarily stifle creativity in other ways. There’s a sloppy kind of reasoning to the effect that “banning things doesn’t work”, which is very widely held in American discourse. (Conservatives say it about politically incorrect speech and guns, liberals say it about porn and drugs, some feminists say it about abortions, everyone says it about alcohol). It’s not really true in any case: banning things usually does make people consume less of them.

I would actually be fine with some narrowly construed bans on certain kinds of porn, violent stuff for example, or possible stuff depicting some of the weirder and more medically unwise acts. After all, as noted, there are plenty of societies which do heavily restrict porn and not all of them are particularly puritanical in other ways.

My big problem with the anti-porn crowd in this country is that once you get beneath the most obvious surface issues like rape porn (which I’d actually just as soon get rid of), you start hearing the deeper moral arguments, from the feminist side about “objectification” and from the religious side about restricting sex to marriage, “commodification”, etc.. It’s because I strongly disagree with both of these ideologically motivated sets of concerns that I’m cautious of allying with either social conservatives or feminists on the narrower issues.

And yes, Rob G, as Kevin points out, whenever anyone says “in my experience” I prepare myself to hear a really terrible argument. The argument from personal anecdote is much overused and seldom very useful.

#40 Comment By Ricport On February 22, 2018 @ 1:25 pm

“My position is that one does not have to advance a law to challenge the spread and pervasiveness of pornography.”

I can’t help but be reminded of the old saying, “You can’t be ‘a little pregnant.'”

Either you are advocating government intervention via legislation to “challenge the spread,” or you are advocating non-government interventionist means. Advocating the former is what I and others here vigorously disagree with for the many reasons stated. If it’s the latter, great! Knock yourself out! For, in the end, law-abiding, consenting adults will still have the freedom to look at all the legal porn they wish, even if you, I or other people might not like it.

“a. pornography is harmful spiritually and socially and personally – the evidence is clear.”

Spiritually? Probably. In terms of the social and personal, no, the evidence is conflicting, at best. Porn hasn’t even been classified by experts as something that could be addictive. For every study you could dig up claiming porn is am net social harm, I could find an equal one saying it isn’t. I’m willing to say it CAN be harmful, in the same way that too much alcohol, pot, food, and yes, even religion can be harmful. But the more germane question is do we want to live in a society where people are free to make bad decisions (arguably, they are often not held to the consequences of those actions as they should be, but nevertheless), or are we going to have a bunch of self-appointed religious nannies dictating what we can see, watch, do, think, say, etc.?

“Since you are responding to my comments, interjecting the author’s view, ignores the differences between them. I do not contend that only a law would ban pornography. Second, even if a law was pressed, the aspect of the artivle, is that feminists acknowledge that pornography at some level does social harm — that is not a theocratic argument. ”

So, I thought we were sticking to your viewpoint? And frankly, I don’t give a whit about what feminists think about porn. I’ve heard feminist perspectives across the board on this subject, so even they can’t come to a consensus. I care far more about allowing free-thinking, law-abiding adults to have as much freedom to do what they want (provided, again, it does not directly harm others), something which the Talibangelicals are dead against.

“Your advance concerning the founders is completely wrong — they did not say that people of faith should not have a voice in designing policy. They said that government should enforce any particular faith as policy.”

No, what I am saying (and have said) is that while the Founding Fathers were men of faith, and no doubt that faith did help guide them, they also realized the real and inherent danger in establishing law based primarily on that faith, instead of on Constitutional principles. That is anathema to the Talibangelicals, who revel in the circular argument that:

1) The Founding Fathers were, by and large, Christians;
2) The Founding Fathers founded this country;
3) Therefore, this is a “Christian nation.”

In other words, while I don’t always agree with him, one of the many things I like about Ben Shapiro is that he never uses “God says so” as his primary basis for any policy position. He is a man of deep faith, and I’m sure he believes that God may indeed say so, but he also knows that this country is guided by the Constitution solely and not the Bible or any other document. That’s how the Founding Fathers were, that’s how I am, and that’s how the Talibangelicals are most definitely not.

Despite our difference of opinion, I appreciate the rational and civil back and forth of you and the other posters here. It’s a refreshing break from the mindless chest thumping and endless invective unfortunately found elsewhere.

#41 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 23, 2018 @ 3:59 am

I think I can clear this slate pretty simply.

“a” would be a theocratic position, one held by those who attenuate a spiritual existence. Your exposition suggests that I am advancing that as a secular post when in fact, I am segregating the position away from what would be a secular view.

But the christian component does not require a mere “god said so.” Which is the larger advance here. In other-words, just because someone believes it ought to be a certain way because it is of God, in their view — does not deny the positions value generally whether one believes in a spiritual or not. And that is the turn by which liberals get the what the founders were saying completely wrong.

people of faith have every right to participate based on their faith and even allow said faith to influence their view of law and behavior.

Government at least on the federal level cannot determine what faith people belong to. I think this accurate for state government as well. That is what a theocracy is. A system in which government dictates faith, not merely that it advocates a code of behavior or ethics that might parallel that of people of faith. The distinction may seem minor, but it is poignant.

A state can even adopt an official faith, it cannot compel people to obey or follow any particular faith based loyalties. In this discussion those claiming some manner of theocratic advance are basing it not on government’s use power to advance a particular loyalty or participation in any particular faith , but rather on the faith of the participants. Seeking to bar their participation because you disagree with the reasons they hold a position is a violation of their right to participate regardless or why they hold said position.

I think it is easy to discern social value from faith based positions that are sound and helpful to community — despite the faith.

A legal position based on someone’s faith does not by definition of the holder mean one is advancing a theocratic form of government.

The founders never intended to sever people of faith from the process because their polity was guided by faith.

Same sex relations are certainly disdained by God. And many people of faith are welcome to oppose it politically based on that belief. But it also accurate that same sex relations provide no unique benefit to community and by that standard should not receive any special benefit from the same, i.e. marriage sanctions. And that would be accurate regardless of one’s position on the existential plane of the supernatural. A believer’s inability to articulate that does not disqualify them from participating in shaping the governance.

—–

The reference to the country as christian is a reflection of a reality that it’s people of that ethos have been influenced by christian ethos influential in the process of governance and they have done so without demanding that the government impose a faith system on anyone else.
——-

The genuineness of the liberal posit about faith and government is tested when people of faith are in sync with a liberal position — then there is never a demand that said christians are advancing a theocratic position. One never hears a liberal say,

“Please stop advancing religious beliefs on me,”

If its charitable to their point of view. A liberal never says, “Stop using the beatitudes concerning the social construction of US life.”

So I have to thoroughly reject the complaint about faith and political participation as suggested in these conversations.

#42 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 23, 2018 @ 10:47 am

” I’m sure he believes that God may indeed say so, but he also knows that this country is guided by the Constitution solely and not the Bible or any other document.”

Very few of the most intense fundamentalists are trying ti substitute the bible for the constitution, even if they so desired.
Pre-republic history suggests it’s rife with issues.

#43 Comment By Olga On February 24, 2018 @ 1:20 pm

Porn itself can be neutral. In a perfect world, the people that produce the porn do so voluntarily, in a safe environment and are well compensated. Those that consume it, do so only on occasional (like during foreplay with a spouse) and don’t rely on it as a sexual outlet. Smoking a cigar once in awhile won’t kill you. Enjoying a glass of wine with dinner might be health. Excessive, smoking, drinking and drug use has serious health and social effects. We can easily put porn in that category.

When I was young (late 80s) children might have managed to see a Playboy Magazine that a parent, uncle or older sibling failed to hide or secure. Those with cable probably saw a few “Skinomax” movies. A few people might have been so lucky as to see something on the Playboy channel if their parents failed to password protect it. The internet was too slow for quality porn at that time. Such small snippets probably didn’t hurt anyone.

Now, it is nearly impossible for a parent to protect a child without closing them off from the online world. Netnanny and other services help, but clearly it is not healthy for prepubescent boys and girls to watch a lot of extreme porn as they have no proper context to put it in. Even liberals (I have read about sex workers making the argument) know that boys watching extreme porn coupled with lots of violent masturbation at an early age ruins them for relationships in college. They become too focused on their own needs and pleasure that they no longer see women as human nor do they consider their feelings and having to do things to please another person, seems like work to them. At a minimum, putting porn behind a paywall could fix two problems. One it could provide better pay and protection for the sex workers. Second, it will mean that people will be older (old enough to have a credit card in their own name) before they can access these sites.

Some women have sexual fantasies that are rough or even seem violent. However, it is very different if two people talk about a fantasy and consensually act it out vs a person forcing another person to submit to their sexual needs.

#44 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 25, 2018 @ 3:27 pm

“Even liberals (I have read about sex workers making the argument) know that boys watching extreme porn coupled with lots of violent masturbation at an early age ruins them for relationships in college. They become too focused on their own needs and pleasure that they no longer see women as human nor do they consider their feelings and having to do things to please another person, seems like work to them.”

Laughing.

I for one am not going to contend for “sex outside of marriage”. But my position is not one for outlawing people’s choices, save maybe in the case of adultery. It seems to make sense for the community to protect, and encourage the sanctity of of one’s marital fidelity.

I like most am hesitant to venture on the world you describe. I don’t think self gratification by itself is anything other than that — it could like all human indulgences have excesses. I think the best exemplar for boys is exposure to traditional parents and relationships. Since the time of Dr. Freud, perhaps before, the preoccupation with our subconscious desires has been exaggerated. Humanity has managed to reproduce itself with vigor before psychoanalysis, before the Kinsey report, before the “sexual revolution”, and before the internet made nude intimate contact available on demand. And before the educational community decided that “sex education was vital, most people understood how babies were made and why it was wise to avoid making them prior to marriage, regardless of how much one loved the other.

Desire is no crime, nor should it be. In my view desire is not “lust” as President Carter intimated in Playboy magazine. What porn does do is focus on the pleasure for self or other — and that pleasure alone unto itself is healthy and good, freeing – normal. I have never heard a christian or anyone of any faith faith contend that the previous wa not true. But i have heard, plenty about about the context in which relational behavior even as sensual pleasure is best expressed in the context of a committed dynamic — so committed that the man and women – woman and man — pledge sole allegiance to one another and we as community support that. And there are mistakes, we work to rebuild and restore as is modeled by God — as opposed to an easy and quick exit.

If a married coupe decided to use said material as “sauce for the goose”. I would have to admit that is none of my business as is most such relations.

#45 Comment By Olga On June 10, 2018 @ 11:03 pm

Do we remember prohibition of alcohol? This led to the creation of gangs, violence in the streets and speakeasys. The war on drugs led to gangs, violence, death and long prison sentences for people that really just needed rehab. While some people will become alcoholics and drug addicts if they can access drugs, it is easier and cheaper to treat the addicts than to enforce a ban on something.

I see porn like I see alcohol and drugs. Porn can be harmful. If you use porn all of the time and masturbate all of the time, it will eventually desensitize you and make it hard to function normally sexually. On the other hand a married could watches some porn, engages in some sexy talk and has sex, that is a perfectly healthy use of porn.

I am single and I could watch porn anytime I want and I have almost no desire to do so. After my divorce, I was curious. I watched a few clips and that satisfied my curiosity and stopped. I am female, and I recognize that porn is not made for me. It is made for young men and it is made to appeal to their brains and their desires. Romance novels and made to appeal to women.

Rather than ban porn, why not talk about porn? Why not talk about sex and relationships? Why not talk about what good sex looks like for each gender? I grew up in a conservative state and married young. The sex in that marriage did not work for either of us. Conservatives fear sex ed because it might teach young people to have sex. However, good sex education can help people choose the right partner for them and keep marriages strong.

As far as porn, the main problem that I see is that it is free to access. So the producers are not well compensated and if it is free, a 13 year old with no sexual context can access porn. The only regulation that I would recommend is put all of it behind a paywall. That would make it much harder for young teens to access it and would decrease the frequency in which adults access it.