Santorum, Pornography and the Left

 

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s remarks about pornography have drawn the expected reactions: nods of agreement from social conservatives, eye-rolling from some Republicans who don’t want to see the party bogged down in controversial social issues, and derision from liberals who accuse the party of wanting to control the sexual and reproductive lives of Americans.

There is certainly some hypocrisy embedded in all those positions. You would have to be naïve to think there aren’t those among anti-pornography crusaders who head straight to the “adult” channels when they check into their hotels. Likewise, there are Republicans—and Democrats—who fear the societal toll of pornography, but are afraid to speak up lest they be tarred as blue-nosed advocates of censorship. 

But it’s the position of the Left that I find most convoluted, because it’s a subject that would seem ripe for discussion within a movement so closely associated with women’s issues. After all, the exploitation and degradation of women are among the primary allures of pornography. Beyond that, you would be hard-pressed to find a marriage counselor, psychologist or family-issues expert who wouldn’t concede that there can be serious negative consequences to repeated exposure to porn.

Enter the dreaded slippery-slope argument: if you try to exercise some control, you’ll inevitably come up against a yahoo sheriff who raids the local art museum, confiscates the Chagall exhibit and jails the museum’s curator. But that’s like suggesting jury trials should be eliminated because innocent defendants are occasionally found guilty. 

None of this is an argument to ban pornography, but its omnipresence in this information age certainly makes it a subject worthy of discussion. But when pornography—or any of the so-called social issues—is brought up, the political switchblades are immediately introduced, and any rational discussion seems impossible.

There are absolutists on both sides of the issue, but, as is often the case, the best course is likely to be found somewhere in the middle. That, however, would require the kind of serious and thoughtful give-and-take that seems unattainable in this era of shrill talking heads. As for the Left, their argument that the government should stay out of the bedroom is one that would be easier to support if only they weren’t so anxious to welcome it in to every other room in the house.

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Members have made 87 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Pat Sajak:

    There is certainly some hypocrisy embedded in all those positions. You would have to be naïve to think there aren’t those among anti-pornography crusaders who head straight to the “adult” channels when they check into their hotels.

    Not if they’re staying at a newer Marriott, they won’t be. While Santorum’s proposed solution of shutting down Californian porn shoots would only mean that people watched the slightly more misogynist products of Eastern European studios, Romney’s quieter strategy of dissuading a leading brand from carrying pornography carries actual benefits with none of the political costs and none of the government intrusion.

    • #1
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:18 am
  2. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe

    This is a simple liberty issue to me. In this respect, porn is not different than cigarettes or trans fats.

    • #2
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:24 am
  3. Profile photo of Nick Stuart Thatcher

    The problem is it will be a distraction from the more important issues of the overweening federal state, and national security. Do we really want this election to be about birth control and porn?

    • #3
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:26 am
  4. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor

    Every time I get ready to endorse Santorum, he pushes me away.

    A ban on pornography is as unnecessary as a helmet law. We don’t need laws to protect us from ourselves – only from one another. 

    If Santorum disagrees with me, then tell him to ban smoking while he is at it.

    And tell him never again to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, because his thinking is so far from Reagan’s on the role of government I won’t hesitate to call Santorum a liberal.

    • #4
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:27 am
  5. Profile photo of Viator Member

    How can you discuss pornography on a website that practices censorship? It’s like talking about the weather in a forum where the words rain and snow can’t be uttered.

    As far as banning pornography, good luck. I remember pornography was alive and well in the nineteen fifties although not so readily available, just hidden better from conventional wisdom. Whenever the cops heard about it they raided the joint and confiscated the films which then ended up in the unofficial police porn library for viewing by the cops and their friends.

    • #5
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:27 am
  6. Profile photo of Leporello Inactive

    The main goal of the GOP should be to appoint justices who will overturn Supreme Court precedents protecting pornography as speech. Then every local government can determine whether it wants to ban it, regulate it, or leave it alone.

    • #6
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:30 am
  7. Profile photo of katievs Inactive

    I don’t know the best way to go about combatting pornography, but I am with Santorum in believing that it is a scourge that ought to be combatted. 

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace.

    • #7
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:34 am
  8. Profile photo of Leporello Inactive
    Viator: How can you discuss pornography on a website that practices censorship? It’s like talking about the weather in a forum where the words rain and snow can’t be uttered.

    As far as banning pornography, good luck. I remember pornography was alive and well in the nineteen fifties although not so readily available, just hidden better from conventional wisdom. Whenever the cops heard about it they raided the joint and confiscated the films which then ended up in the unofficial police porn library for viewing by the cops and their friends. · 2 minutes ago

    By that rationale, we should not have laws against robbery, either. After all, people will still commit robbery when others aren’t looking. And the police will sometimes take stolen goods or money for their own use.

    True, we can’t stamp out pornography, nor should we wish for a government that had the power to do so, but that doesn’t mean it should be sold in public at city newsstands and bookstores, accompanied by poster-size advertisements for it.

    • #8
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:34 am
  9. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe
    Viator: How can you discuss pornography on a website that practices censorship?

    Not at all! This is a volunteer forum, and there are House Rules, just like there is at any club. If someone wants something else, they go elsewhere.

    I am a libertarian. But anyone who exercises their right of free speech by including obscenities while at my table is not invited back. No hypocrisy there at all.

    • #9
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:39 am
  10. Profile photo of Douglas Member

    Thanks, your comments are pretty close to my own thoughts.

    • #10
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:40 am
  11. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe
    katievs:

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 5 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is right at all. Apparently 70%+ of men view porn. If 70% used hard drugs, the damage would be far, far worse.

    • #11
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:41 am
  12. Profile photo of Mel Foil Inactive

    A lot of people commenting on these stories (about Rick Santorum and his “crusade” against pornography) seem to pretend that pornography is pornography–its all one thing. It most definitely is not. Can we agree that violent pornography (simulated rape with simulated beatings, and even death) is unacceptable? The laws against it are there, but few US Attorneys ever pursue it. In the Ashcroft days, that’s what they concentrated on prosecuting–the really sick stuff. The Justice Department is not stupid. They pick their battles. They won’t be going after every naughty video on the internet or on TV. There has to be a line somewhere. For the producers of this stuff, there’s no moral line–only the bottom line.

    • #12
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:48 am
  13. Profile photo of Robert Lux Member

    People may want to check out the Witherspoon Institute’s “The Social Costs of Pornography.” Heavy hitters: Hadley Arkes, James Stoner, and Roger Scruton. 

    • #13
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:49 am
  14. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    iWc
    katievs:

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 5 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is right at all. Apparently 70%+ of men view porn. If 70% used hard drugs, the damage would be far, far worse. 

    One reason pornography is so destructive is that it is so widespread.

    • #14
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:50 am
  15. Profile photo of Stuart Creque Member
    James Of England
    Pat Sajak:

    There is certainly some hypocrisy embedded in all those positions. You would have to be naïve to think there aren’t those among anti-pornography crusaders who head straight to the “adult” channels when they check into their hotels.

    Not if they’re staying at a newer Marriott, they won’t be. While Santorum’s proposed solution of shutting down Californian porn shoots would only mean that people watched the slightly more misogynist products of Eastern European studios, Romney’s quieter strategy of dissuading a leading brand from carrying pornography carries actual benefits with none of the political costs and none of the government intrusion. · 37 minutes ago

    Hey, guess what? I just found out that Good Housekeeping doesn’t publish pornographic images and stories in its pages. Problem solved!

    • #15
    • March 16, 2012 at 10:59 am
  16. Profile photo of EJHill Member

    It’s not the Pornography Industry that’s all screwed up (if you’ll pardon the expression.) It’s the Shame Industry that’s upside down.

    What was celebrated 60 years ago is now something to be ashamed of and everything that was considered unseemly then is now guilt-free.

    • #16
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:01 am
  17. Profile photo of tabula rasa Member
    katievs: I don’t know the best way to go about combatting pornography, but I am with Santorum in believing that it is a scourge that ought to be combatted. 

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 21 minutes ago

    I agree. The old social science response to porn was that “it’s just a diversion, and has no harmful effects.” Then studies began to come in that shows the devastation it causes in marriages. Porn is one of the primary causes of marital problems. For a review of the subject, take a look at testimony presented to Congress in 2005 by Jill Manning, a visiting scholar at the Heritage Foundation.

    The next question, of course, is what we should do about it and to be honest, I’m not sure. That’s why I agree with Pat: it’s about time we had an adult conversation about the subject.

    Sadly, it’s not going to be during this presidential fight. But, heck, it’s just another can to kicked down the road. That’s something we’re really good at doing.

    • #17
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:02 am
  18. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe
    katievs
    iWc
    katievs:

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 5 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is right at all. Apparently 70%+ of men view porn. If 70% used hard drugs, the damage would be far, far worse. 

    One reason pornography is so destructive is that it is so widespread. · 5 minutes ago

    This is entirely illogical. Either porn is as dangerous as hard drugs, or it is not. 

    • #18
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:11 am
  19. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    katievs: I don’t know the best way to go about combatting pornography, but I am with Santorum in believing that it is a scourge that ought to be combatted. 

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 30 minutes ago

    I agree with you that there are terrible costs to pornography. I don’t think I agree with your implied claim that they are much worse than smoking. The CDC claims that “The adverse health effects from cigarette smoking account for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.”

    That’s, well, a lot. I’m sure it’s an overestimate, but it sounds like more marriages being broken up by tobacco than by pornography to me.

    • #19
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:11 am
  20. Profile photo of Stuart Creque Member
    iWc
    katievs:

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 5 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is right at all. Apparently 70%+ of men view porn. If 70% used hard drugs, the damage would be far, far worse. · 18 minutes ago

    The prevalence of alcohol use is pretty high: over 80 percent of men in the USA (including over 80 percent of high school seniors).

    Most men and women can use alcohol in moderation without suffering (serious) ill effects. However, about a third of alcohol users (whic equates to about 25 percent of all men and a smaller percentage of all women) become alcohol dependent to some extent.

    Of course, our society enacts laws and creates social pressures to regulate alcohol use formally and informally. We try to keep kids away from it, we try to limit overconsumption in public, we try to eliminate or punish irresponsible use in settings that involve public safety, we recognize heavy dependence as a sickness that needs treatment.

    I don’t see too many slippery slope arguments that say all alcohol regulation is dangerous to freedom.

    • #20
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:12 am
  21. Profile photo of Douglas Member
    iWc
    katievs:

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 5 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is right at all. Apparently 70%+ of men view porn. If 70% used hard drugs, the damage would be far, far worse. · 20 minutes ago

    And would that %70 figure stay that high if it was as hard to get as Heroin?

    • #21
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:14 am
  22. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe
    EJHill:

    What was celebrated 60 years ago is now something to be ashamed of and everything that was considered unseemly then is now guilt-free. · 10 minutes ago

    I agree with this. We are now proud of doing things that should be shameful. Shame is essential to a good society, because without it, there is no reason for people to seek to grow.

    We all do things that are wrong. When we admit that something is wrong, though, then we can try to improve ourselves.

    But when we believe that wrong is right (usually because it is “natural” or it feels good, or because it is what “makes us happy”), then there is no hope.

    • #22
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:17 am
  23. Profile photo of Stuart Creque Member
    Pat Sajak: As for the Left, their argument that the government should stay out of the bedroom is one that would be easier to support if only they weren’t so anxious to welcome it in to every other room in the house.

    I note also that the Left likes having the Government enforce exposure of what goes on in their bedrooms to schoolchildren in the name of inculcating tolerance and providing instruction in human sexuality. “Keep the Government out of our bedrooms” is dandy, but so is “Keep your bedroom activities out of our Government-run classrooms.”

    • #23
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:17 am
  24. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Stuart Creque
    James Of England

    Hey, guess what? I just found out that Good Housekeeping doesn’t publish pornographic images and stories in its pages. Problem solved! · 13 minutes ago

    I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that it’s commercially obvious that Marriott should have discontinued adult entertainment sales, in which case I think you’ll find yourself in the minority, or making iWc’s point that we shape/ choose our environment?

    I think it’s worth noting that Good Housekeeping readers dating/ married to/ wishing to be dating/ married to porn consumers comprise a significant portion of pornography’s victims.

    As with cigarettes, I don’t believe that we should be wielding the heavy hand of government here (I’ve long been in the habit of giving bulk cigarettes, cigars, and accessories to smoking friends and family for birthdays, Christmas, etc. in protest) but I do think that we should be honest about the brutal human cost of our correct applications of first principles.

    • #24
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:19 am
  25. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe
    Douglas
    iWc
    katievs:

    Heroine and cocaine offer a better comparison than cigarette smoking in terms of destructive force and social menace. · 5 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is right at all. Apparently 70%+ of men view porn. If 70% used hard drugs, the damage would be far, far worse. · 20 minutes ago

    And would that %70 figure stay that high if it was as hard to get as Heroin? · 2 minutes ago

    No, but so what? There is no “cure” that is better than the disease.

    And at least male desire to look at porn comes from urges that can be channeled into something that is very productive and beautiful.

    • #25
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:21 am
  26. Profile photo of Whiskey Sam Inactive

    It is obviously impossible to remove all porn. Even if they shut down every producer in the US, you have the rest of the world to contend with. However, I don’t understand why that precludes making it more difficult to access. Something as simple as mistyping a URL can result in all sorts of things showing up on your screen. When a simple solution like having all porn sites register as .xxx domains was floated, porn companies threw a fit because it would make it to easy to block…well yeah, that’s the whole point. Why does asking for an easier way to filter it out (especially on a PC children have access to) draw cries of censorship? So not only can we not ask for actual censorship, we can’t even ask to be excused from having it unwillingly shoved in our faces without being called censorious prudes?

    • #26
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:27 am
  27. Profile photo of Stuart Creque Member
    James Of England
    Stuart Creque
    James Of England

    Hey, guess what? I just found out that Good Housekeeping doesn’t publish pornographic images and stories in its pages. Problem solved! · 13 minutes ago

    I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that it’s commercially obvious that Marriott should have discontinued adult entertainment sales, in which case I think you’ll find yourself in the minority, or making iWc’s point that we shape/ choose our environment?

    I’m taking issue with this:

    “Romney’s quieter strategy of dissuading a leading brand from carrying pornography carries actual benefits with none of the political costs and none of the government intrusion.”

    Setting aside the fact that Marriott is run by a devout Mormon family that puts the Book of Mormon in the nightstands of its hotels, and that they’ve always been leery of offering pay-per-view porn in their rooms, what actual benefit is it that they offer porn-free rooms? It may be a selling feature for travelers who don’t want that material, but travelers who do have many other hotel choices. The fact that Good Housekeeping isn’t a porno mag doesn’t counterbalance Hustler.

    • #27
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:29 am
  28. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    Turn on a tv in an European hotel and the regular channels have it on, which I was taken aback as my young children once discovered in an English hostelry.

    Porno is as old as Pompeii, and the images endure past Vesuvius. It is a taboo and should be maintained as such. Liberals like to uncover taboos and dissemble the society rules in order to..well dissemble stuff so they can get some power somehow, because nobody likes to entrust with it. We’ll see how that works in November. I think you would be surprised. Only the usual suspects , like the press and academia are rooting for more porn. That should tell you everything you want to know. My 15 yr is so focused on breaking down the parental controls in order to get to MTV, you’d think it was Ft Knox. Typical first amendment arguments in the wrong hands.

    These are the same people presently defending Bill Maher, short argument.

    Sure is good to see the Sage Sajak back.

    • #28
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:31 am
  29. Profile photo of No Caesar Thatcher
    katievs: I don’t know the best way to go about combatting pornography, but I am with Santorum in believing that it is a scourge that ought to be combatted. 

    With parenthood I’ve become a lot more socially conservative (funny how that happens…). Nevertheless, I want the government’s addressing of the issue limited to direct protection of children. In other words, sensible hypocrisy: porn is bad, but you can sell porn, but not to minors and the barriers for minors getting it have to be high. …And you can’t use minors in the generation of it.

    With regard to internet porn, I’ve not found it too hard to control my kids’ access. Our home computers have filters, they know the filters are there and why. The schools and library all have filters too. If they really want, they can probably figure out a way around the filters and might see something at a friend’s house who doesn’t have the filters, but I don’t run a police state and I recognize 100% compliance is unreasonable. Besides all the barriers make clear to them why it’s bad for them. 

    • #29
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:34 am
  30. Profile photo of iWe Member
    iWe
    flownover: 

    My 15 yr is so focused on breaking down the parental controls in order to get to MTV, you’d think it was Ft Knox.

    My 15 year old cracks award-winning parental locks in less time than it takes me to install them.

    I am a libertarian of necessity as well as conviction: I need to raise my kids so they make good decisions, because I know full well that there is no practicable way to shut the big bad world out.

    • #30
    • March 16, 2012 at 11:36 am
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