Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Porn: To Ban or Not to Ban, That is the Question

 

Political Twitter does this thing where a subject pops up and debate rages for days; eventually, the debate migrates to blogs, where someone writes on the topic du jour, then someone else responds, and then someone else responds to that response, and so on. The debates are always largely pointless, they debate theories that are entirely theoretical and hypothetical. And yet, here I am, weighing in, because unfortunately everyone else weighing in on the “ban porn” debate is wrong.

For those of you smart enough to stay away from Twitter, it started here:

The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh weighed in, arguing that we should ban pornographers and prosecute its creators.

On one end, you have the (largely childless) libertarians, arguing that porn isn’t that bad and that parents should be teaching their kids about sex anyway. If only you’d just parent and safeguard your kids media consumption, you need not fear. Let’s take the second claim on with the words of a few of my followers on how they or their kids first encountered pornography:

Unless parents are homeschooling their kids with no technology and no friends, chances are they’re going to encounter pornography. The average age kids first encounter it is between ten and thirteen years old, and it’s not just sex. It’s violent, it’s sadistic, it’s nothing resembling the kind of sex any of us would want our children to have one day. Telling parents “one day your kid will have sex, what’s the big deal about them seeing porn?” is like telling them “one day your kid will learn about murder, so let’s show them some videos of beheadings at ten years old.”

So what about banning it? Well, the two most compelling arguments against it from a conservative perspective are:

and

There’s just no way to actually ban something so freely available on the Internet, nor do we even want to open that Pandora’s box. Which leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Porn is toxic; there’s no shortage of research on the subject. But that doesn’t mean we can ban it, even if we wanted to.

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There are 25 comments.

  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I find this hyperbolic and on both sides. Because it’s Twitter, nobody is talking about the reality of situation. The market works if you create a market. But is it really a “market” if there’s no monetary exchange?

    Virtually every purveyor of online porn gives away a certain percentage of its product. Now ask yourself this question: At what time did we ever find it acceptable for brick-and-mortar stores to supply kids with free porn mags, smokes and alcohol? The answer, of course, is never.

    So exactly what is objectionable about society demanding a paywall from online folks? It’s merely the online version of the counter, the brown paper wrapper you can’t take off unless you buy.

    • #1
    • December 9, 2019, at 7:36 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. danys Thatcher
    danys Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    I find this hyperbolic and on both sides. Because it’s Twitter, nobody is talking about the reality of situation. The market works if you create a market. But is it really a “market” if there’s no monetary exchange?

    Virtually every purveyor of online porn gives away a certain percentage of its product. Now ask yourself this question: At what time did we ever find it acceptable for brick-and-mortar stores to supply kids with free porn mags, smokes and alcohol? The answer, of course, is never.

    So exactly what is objectionable about society demanding a paywall from online folks? It’s merely the online version of the counter, the brown paper wrapper you can’t take off unless you buy.

    That’s an interesting idea, EJ.

    I’ve wondered if it would be possible to require online porn vendors to have a specific .extension that they are required to use. I’m not a techie so I don’t even know if that’s feasible.

    • #2
    • December 9, 2019, at 7:44 PM PST
    • 1 like
  3. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    I have been meaning to write a post about Pi-hole. Which is a DNS Sinkhole that runs on a Pi mini computer. (A single board tiny computer that typically costs less than $50.)

    A DNS Sinkhole is a DNS server, DNS – Domain Name Server – the service that turns domain names into IP address, so your computer can find the server that hosts the data your computer is looking for. What the Sinkhole does, is delete the entries for the undesirable companies, like ad servicing (or porn) companies. So you can look at a web page full of ads, but only see blank white spaces where the ad should be blocked in. And unlike an ad blocker, the websites don’t detect that you’re not seeing the ads they’re sending you, so you won’t get nagged to unblock their ads.

    Think of it of a black list for websites, everything you find objectionable can be easily eliminated.

    Pi Hole

    Setting up Pi Hole in 5 easy steps.

    So while you can’t (or shouldnt) ban porn on the internet, you can ban it from your house and your network.

    There are a number of free services that provide DNS Sinkholes to block porn. Here is a list:

    Free DNS Services to Block Porn.

    • #3
    • December 9, 2019, at 7:45 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    I find this hyperbolic and on both sides. Because it’s Twitter, nobody is talking about the reality of situation. The market works if you create a market. But is it really a “market” if there’s no monetary exchange?

    Virtually every purveyor of online porn gives away a certain percentage of its product. Now ask yourself this question: At what time did we ever find it acceptable for brick-and-mortar stores to supply kids with free porn mags, smokes and alcohol? The answer, of course, is never.

    So exactly what is objectionable about society demanding a paywall from online folks? It’s merely the online version of the counter, the brown paper wrapper you can’t take off unless you buy.

    One advantage of requiring a paywall for all web sites would be no more GoogleFacebookTwitter chokehold on political discourse.

    • #4
    • December 9, 2019, at 8:18 PM PST
    • Like
  5. Henry Castaigne Member

    Why can’t we just agree on a .kids domain and I can watch youtube videos with my nieces without worrying about weird stuff popping up. 

    I’m not a fan of government force so why can’t we avoid government force by making a google chrome or something that is voluntarily censored for my nieces. 

    • #5
    • December 9, 2019, at 10:11 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. James Lileks Contributor

    It’s all a Twitter posture-dance. What’s interesting is all the people discussing porn without defining it. 

    • #6
    • December 9, 2019, at 11:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Titus Techera Contributor

    Could anyone explain to me why a porn ban would require a massive expansion of the gov’t?

    • #7
    • December 10, 2019, at 3:32 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Guruforhire Member

    My thoughts are that Porn is like anything else that affects the hormones in our brains, its not good or bad for everybody. Like drinking, smoking, or overeating its occasionally fine.

    Like the food revolution that Megan McArdle writes about Porn when viewed as information is an interesting exploration on how people can enjoy sex. In that context its no different than a cookbook for a very important part of a persons life.

    But no cookbook, no matter how well regarded, or how pleasing the photography, is a justification for cake every day. But because the cookbook exists you know that cake exists, and can now bake a cake and enjoy it on appropriate occasions. So porn fills an important part of the information ecosystem and does add to overall human happiness.

    I read an article in the Atlantic a number of years ago, discussing porn as information, in that because it is already taboo, its already free from what could be called a social acceptability bias, and that it is a window into the decidedly non-egalitarian nature of human sexuality.

    Next up is the importance of taboos. Porn and certain kinds of pop art (I am looking at you britney spears and Rhianna) shouldn’t be flouting taboos in content made for preteen girls (or boys but pop music isn’t really directed at boys). Taboos create a line where the consenting adults can experiment and find the right things for them, but communicate that there is a line. and that keeps early experimentation in a safe and healthy area.

    Next up, I think the government does have a regulatory power here, because there is in fact negative externalities. You can’t hand wave them away. The problem with Libertarians is that they exempt themselves from the civilizational crackhouse they would have everybody else live in.

    Onto the religious perspective: When did King David sin? Was it when he saw his friends wife bathing? Was it when he had a little fantasy about lying with her? Or was it when he gave into temptation and did something to affect it? I think its the later. Now people of the christian persusian also have a bit of wisdom that its probably not a good thing that may lead one to sin. So avoiding porn because it could put a fantasy in your head, that you then may in your human fallibility decide to put into affect (whether or not you succeed is a different story, its about the intention). Its not a sin to be tempted, but its unwise to go out looking for temptation.

    So a healthy religious taboo against porn is also good, but the porn isn’t the sin, porn is the thing that leads you to sin.

    So, its complicated. Its good that it exists, and its good that its taboo.

    • #8
    • December 10, 2019, at 5:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  9. GrannyDude Member

    FWIW, my first exposure to porn was when I was six or so, and picked up the paperback Henry Miller novel my uncle had left behind in the guest room. Opened it at random, read (precocious reader, here) a few paragraphs and immediately went to find siblings and friends to show it to. 

    To this day, the word “slut” upsets me. 

    Don’t know what help this is to the general conversation, but at least Uncle H. had to purchase that paperback. (Which, by the way, was literature, not porn…though it seemed pretty porn-ish to me.) 

    • #9
    • December 10, 2019, at 5:37 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Front Seat Cat Member

    I am all for stricter regulation of all social media. Supposedly, the terror incident in Pensacola at the Naval Base involved the killer having a party right before and showing you tube videos of mass shootings? Shame on you tube. If there’s no way to protect kids, then society is failing them and we are all guilty. Kids and young adults are so addicted to social media, you rarely see anyone not staring at a phone in public. Innocence used to mean something.

    • #10
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:23 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Front Seat Cat Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    It’s all a Twitter posture-dance. What’s interesting is all the people discussing porn without defining it.

    Banning Twitter would be a start – a cesspool.

    • #11
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:25 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. RyanFalcone Member

    Porn is one of the great evils of our time. I’m not sure there is any way to combat it without massive curbs on individual liberty. There just isn’t a safe answer here in my opinion. What a mess.

    • #12
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:29 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    No matter what internet filter, DNS setting, router configuration, online service or other method you attempt, it is nearly impossible to prevent truly awful hardcore porn from reaching your family. This isn’t a playmate centerfold. I would posit that most kids “stumble” on hardcore porn in their first exposure. There are residential treatment centers devoted to adolescents who have porn addictions. Internet filters and router settings do not work on XBox or other gaming platforms where browsers are both built in and available as apps. Porn shows up on YouTube whether you have family settings or not. Phone company filters and settings can be set to filter out the most popular apps, but are easily bypassed or removed by the user. Porn is accessible through the chat functions of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever the latest social media app comes available—and filters or restrictions have no effect on the chat function of these apps. You can download a VPN for your phone that will allow you to bypass anything.

    The first exposure to porn may be free of charge, but it is a psychological fact that habituation causes the mind to seek more and more…at a cost. Porn is still available as pay-per-view by your cable or satelite provider, in hotels, through gaming devices. The moment one avenue is closed off, another way of accessing will be found.

    Porn that was not so long ago on the fringes is now readily accessible to the point of being considered “mainstream.” And you can have all the libertarian conversations you like, but porn absolutely hurts those who make it. Women, more likely girls, drugged, trapped in a life of violence and dehumanization they cannot escape except by suicide. Does it happen all the time, no, but no parent looks at their infant and says, “I hope he or she becomes an adult film star!”

    As Potter Steward said, I know it when I see it. How coarse our culture has become. 

    • #13
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:38 AM PST
    • Like
  14. Stad Thatcher

    It’s tough, but if you’re going to have a free society, people have to be able to do things that are bad for them, whether it’s smoking cigarettes, overeating, or watching porn.

    • #14
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:47 AM PST
    • Like
  15. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You said the SH word on Twitter.

     

    • #15
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:53 AM PST
    • Like
  16. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Could anyone explain to me why a porn ban would require a massive expansion of the gov’t?

    Depends on how you define “massive”.

    There are “massive” amounts of porn out there now. So it would take an “army” to go investigate those people and punish them in accordance with whatever law was passed. That’s why.

    • #16
    • December 10, 2019, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Sabrdance Member

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    My thoughts are that Porn is like anything else that affects the hormones in our brains, its not good or bad for everybody. Like drinking, smoking, or overeating its occasionally fine.

    Like the food revolution that Megan McArdle writes about Porn when viewed as information is an interesting exploration on how people can enjoy sex. In that context its no different than a cookbook for a very important part of a persons life.

    I have an academic interest in porn, and the psychologists who study it note that the number of people who can take in porn purely as information is vanishingly rare (actually, I’m hedging -they think the number is zero).

    I read an article in the Atlantic a number of years ago, discussing porn as information, in that because it is already taboo, its already free from what could be called a social acceptability bias, and that it is a window into the decidedly non-egalitarian nature of human sexuality.

    The people doing these studies aren’t consuming porn. I’m familiar with them, and the econometric research is on things like downloads, view times, and search terms.

     

    Onto the religious perspective: When did King David sin? 

    In verse 1: “In the Spring, when Kings go off to war, David sent Joab…” David was supposed to lead the army. His first sin was laziness and idleness. And idle hands, devil’s playground, and then after that, what’s a few murders to cover it up.

     

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Could anyone explain to me why a porn ban would require a massive expansion of the gov’t?

    I’d like to hear this, too. My academic interest has led me to believe that porn is highly consolidated at this point, with a majority of the traffic passing through only a few companies, which means there is now, actually, a spigot we can turn. Mindgeek claims to be among the top 5 bandwith handlers of the world. The internet itself is highly consolidated, with pressure points at the DNS server, the ISP, and the Tier 1 provider (though that last is a bit beyond my knowledge). It is clearly possible to delist certain websites, because it has already been done, and not just by China. It’s been done in the US, too, to Daily Stormer. So the idea that it can’t be done without a single change to the current legal regime is clearly incorrect.

    I’m open to the idea that doing so is a bad idea, but most such objections presume that things that already happen don’t, in fact, already happen. It’s already been done to internet gambling -legal only in West Virginia, which apparently has a number of laws to make sure that no one geographically outside the state uses the websites, with penalties assessed on companies that let it happen.

    • #17
    • December 10, 2019, at 8:27 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin: Depends on how you define “massive”.

    According to BBC reporting, 14% of all searches on the web is for sexual content and 4% of the world’s domains are devoted to porn. But the stunning number is 5,517,748,800. That’s how many hours of porn were watched on a single site in 2018.

    • #18
    • December 10, 2019, at 8:31 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Sabrdance Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    It’s all a Twitter posture-dance. What’s interesting is all the people discussing porn without defining it.

    I think we can safely wall off PornHub without threatening Madame Bovary or whichever classic work we want to discuss.

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    No matter what internet filter, DNS setting, router configuration, online service or other method you attempt, it is nearly impossible to prevent truly awful hardcore porn from reaching your family. This isn’t a playmate centerfold.

    The first exposure to porn may be free of charge, but it is a psychological fact that habituation causes the mind to seek more and more…at a cost.

    Porn is no longer the product -it’s the loss-leader to other products. The websites are massive ad hosts, and they also use subscription models. The darker side is that, as noted below, much of the porn industry is involved in small scale human trafficking.

    Women, more likely girls, drugged, trapped in a life of violence and dehumanization they cannot escape except by suicide.

    The model is pump and dump. Women are enticed into it, often with lies about modeling, defrauded of enough money to make them feel like they can’t escape (or threatened with having the videos they have already done released with their real names attached, rather than stage names), pushed until they are no longer able to perform, and then replaced with the next one. Some women become big enough stars that they are able to take some control over their careers. Mainstream porn is built on criminal racketeering. A couple months ago, Mia Khalifa -I think that’s her stage name -did an interview on this. She apparently hasn’t worked in porn in over a decade, but her videos are still top view-getters. She gets no royalties from it, and claims to have been hoodwinked into it to begin with (she was part of a lawsuit brought against the pornographers for these practices). But, again, this has been going on and reported on for ages –Susannah Breslin’s classic reporting on the adult industry is a decade old, and includes several examples of coerced sex acts that are actually crimes, but no one reports them, and when we try to prosecute them (as Ashcroft had at the time the article was written), he was mocked for being a prude.

     

    • #19
    • December 10, 2019, at 8:42 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Manny Member

    In my opinion, and I know it won’t happen, ban it. It is a cancer in society and a degradation of women and the human condition overall. It has absolute no value and many deleterious effects. It has even been proven to be an addiction.

    • #20
    • December 10, 2019, at 8:57 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Guruforhire Member

    Sabrdance (View Comment):
    I think we can safely wall off PornHub without threatening Madame Bovary or whichever classic work we want to discuss.

     

    Careful, Pornhub maybe the only place willing to host the Ricochet podcast in the near future.

    • #21
    • December 10, 2019, at 9:13 AM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Sabrdance Member

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    Sabrdance (View Comment):
    I think we can safely wall off PornHub without threatening Madame Bovary or whichever classic work we want to discuss.

     

    Careful, Pornhub maybe the only place willing to host the Ricochet podcast in the near future.

    Then we shall have far larger problems than pornography, and the idea that we are protecting pornographers in order to protect actual political speech will be revealed as the poor joke it is.

    • #22
    • December 10, 2019, at 9:20 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Spin: Depends on how you define “massive”.

    According to BBC reporting, 14% of all searches on the web is for sexual content and 4% of the world’s domains are devoted to porn. But the stunning number is 5,517,748,800. That’s how many hours of porn were watched on a single site in 2018.

    And most of that was @thekingprawn

    • #23
    • December 10, 2019, at 2:31 PM PST
    • 1 like
  24. Henry Castaigne Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    As Potter Steward said, I know it when I see it. How coarse our culture has become. 

    It’s not the culture that’s wrong but humanity. We would have done this three hundred years ago if we had the technology.

    • #24
    • December 10, 2019, at 4:57 PM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Don’t we already ban child porn? Didn’t that already require a “massive expansion” of the government, if such a thing is necessary?

    I don’t know that it would be difficult to ban internet porn. It’s a technology question, and I just don’t know the answer. I would think that making ISP’s liable, perhaps just by fining them, would seriously reduce the availability of porn online.

    YouTube doesn’t seem to have too much of a problem keeping porn off of their site.

    • #25
    • December 11, 2019, at 9:56 AM PST
    • Like