Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding more federal obscenity prosecutions. The letter was co-signed by more than 100 other senators and congressmen. Here's an excerpt:
Last June, an important briefing in the Capitol outlined how pornography has changed, becoming more harmful, addictive, and available, and linked to other crimes. Researchers, scholars, and other experts explained, for example, how today’s hardcore pornography is typified by extreme violence against women and how pornography consumption can contribute to sexual harassment and sexual violence. Another expert warned that Internet adult pornography normalizes sexual harm to children, while another addressed the growing connection between pornography and sex trafficking...
Simply put, we know more than ever how illegal adult obscenity contributes to violence against women, addiction, harm to children, and sex trafficking. This material harms individuals, families, and communities and the problems are only getting worse.
Hatch is full of crap. We don't "know" any of these things. In fact, every conceivable social indicator over the last 20 years obliterates the idea that porn is causing widespread societal harm.
The rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s made porn increasingly accessible to the point that today, just about everyone can watch people have sex damn-near any time of day, in every conceivable manner, in in every possible variety. If Hatch and his colleagues are right, over the last 15-20 years, we should have seen a massive increase in the social ills listed in Hatch's letter.
And in fact, every single one of these problems is trending in the opposite direction. And it isn't even close:
- Sex crimes against children: Down 53 percent between 1992 and 2006.
- Abortion: The abortion rate has dropped by about 25 percent since 1993.
- Teen pregnancy: In 2009, teen pregnancy hit its lowest rate in the 70 years that the federal government has been tracking the statistic.
- Divorce: The U.S. divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970.
- Domestic violence: The rate of reported domestic violence in the U.S. dropped by more than half between 1993 and 2004.
- Rape: The forcible rape rate in the U.S. has dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 28.7 in 2009. That latter figure is also an all-time low.
These numbers are overwhelming. What's more, there are at least a couple of studies suggesting that the widespread availability of pornography is partially responsible for some of these trends, especially the drop in reported rapes.
Of course, like the activists pushing bullshit sex trafficking figures to shut down online escort ads, Hatch and his colleagues aren't interested in actual data. This much is certainly true: There are substantially more people masturbating to pornography in America today than 20 years ago. And that's really the only figure that matters to people like Hatch. (My favorite example of this line of thought: Concerned Women for America's amusing attack on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue a couple years ago. Note that the article is titled "Do the Math", yet doesn't contain any actual math.)
Expect no one to actually challenge Hatch or his co-signers on any of the letter's claims.
In other porn news, fallen CNN anchor Rick Sanchez—remember him?—is outraged that some politicians have received campaign contributions from a pornographer. He's demanding they return the money. Clearly Rich Sanchez hates pornography. Given the figures above, I think there's a much bigger story here: Why does Rick Sanchez want more women to be raped?
Here's Reason.tv's interview with porn maven (and Reason Foundation contributor) John Stagliano, discussing Stagliano's federal obscenity trial: