Pornography

A Virginia Legislator's Progressive War on Porn

Bob Marshall wants to treat pornography as a public health crisis.

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Del. Robert Marshall and his liberal critics might be appalled by the suggestion that they share anything in common. Marshall ferociously opposes abortion, he co-sponsored Virginia's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and he once even tried to prohibit single women from getting pregnant through artificial insemination. But while he and those on the left differ on policy specifics, they share a core assumption.

This year the Prince William delegate wants the General Assembly to take a stand against porn. He has drafted a resolution declaring pornography a public health hazard and advocating a "policy change . . . to address the pornography epidemic."

The resolution is problematic, and not just because it draws no distinctions between, say, airbrushed Playboy centerfolds and stomach-turning torture porn. It makes a variety of declarations that vary from debatable to patently false—e.g., that pornography "normalizes violence," that it leads to "low self-esteem," that it produces "dissatisfaction in marriage" and has a "detrimental effect on the family unit" and that "overcoming pornography's harms is beyond the capability of the afflicted individual to address alone."

Well now. It's true that, thanks to the rise of the Internet, the volume and availability of pornography have grown exponentially. One study in 1998 pegged the dollar value of the "adult content" industry at no more than $1 billion. By 2015, the estimated value had risen to $10 billion in the U.S. and $97 billion worldwide (inflation over that period was 45 percent). If porn were as harmful as Marshall and others contend, then one would expect its attendant harms to have increased as well.

Yet just the opposite has happened. For instance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the rate of rape and sexual assault has fallen by more than half since 1995. And at the same time porn has spread, divorce in the U.S. has fallen—and is now at close to a four-decade low.

But let's say Marshall is right. For the sake of argument, let's assume erotic material degrades the spirit and erodes the soul and leads to, as his resolution puts it, "emotional and medical illnesses . . . deviant sexual arousal, and . . . difficulty in forming or maintaining intimate relationships."

Even assuming all that, the question still remains: Why is this the government's business?

Conservatives claim to believe in limited government. Some matters, they say, are best left to other institutions such as the church, social-improvement societies like the Boy Scouts, and nonprofit civic groups. To the extent that porn is a problem, it is a problem for those groups to solve—not the government.

Marshall's desire to involve the government with your sexual appetites sounds much like the progressive interest in involving it with your gastronomic appetites. The "food police," as they are sometimes called, have decided that your diet is their concern. They have imposed soda taxes, banned fast-food restaurants in certain locations, and even proposed regulating the aisle placement of products in grocery stores. The FDA is trying to reduce the amount of salt in prepared foods—even though scientists have raised serious doubts about the case against salt. The nation has been subjected to endless hectoring about an "obesity epidemic." First Lady Michelle Obama preaches the virtues of vegetable gardens and their utility in "growing a healthier nation."

Marshall compares pornography to cigarettes: "Before smoking was identified as a problem, at least the recognition that it led to certain pathologies was a starting point to put restrictions on it." Likewise, food scolds are drawing frequent comparisons between the sugar industry and big tobacco.

But government is not supposed to police everything somebody considers harmful—not unless government is meant to be infinite. Government's job is to protect your freedom to make choices for yourself. The inculcation of wisdom is a job for others.

Puritans of the left and right sometimes try to skirt this point by depicting their targets as threats to public health. But a threat to the health of many people is not the same thing as a public health threat. Air pollution is a public health threat, because individuals can be subject to it without their knowledge and against their will. But if a million people decide of their own free volition to eat a 1,420-calorie Monster Thickburger every day—well, it's their funeral. You might think the burger-eater would be happier if he ate kale chips instead. But he thinks otherwise, and you have no right substitute your preferences for his.

Many liberals think otherwise, of course. They mean to make you do what's good for you, whether you like it or not—just like Bob Marshall.

This column originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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52 responses to “A Virginia Legislator's Progressive War on Porn

  1. Christ, what an asshole.

    1. 5 bucks says into some really sick shit.

      1. At the very least i would guess that, when he says “overcoming pornography’s harms is beyond the capability of the afflicted individual to address alone,” he’s speaking from experience.

        1. Sure, he “knows a guy…”

        2. I think Bob’s problem *is* overcoming.

    1. Jesus, I give up.

      1. “Jesus, I give up.”

        -A line from a film he keeps on a secret flash drive.

      2. Don’t give up – he’s Jesus.

        1. 8 year-old, Dude….8 year-olds.

  2. ENB out sick? She’s supposed to handle the porn beat.

    1. Damn, that phrasing could use some work!

  3. Where is John to tell us that it is really liberals who want to ban porn?

  4. Theocratic moron suggests a stupid law. Progressives also like to pass laws. Thus said moron and his stupid law are progressive!

    Where can I renew my subscription?

    1. Sorry it bothers you so much that theocratic morons have adopted the same public health scaremongering tactics pioneered by progressive puritan morons like yourself.

      1. It’s normal for government to concern itself with public health. Jesus fuck. Why can’t you people just criticize a conservative for once without the embarrassing rhetorical gymnastics required to somehow make it progressives’ fault? You don’t have to act like your every thought was fed to you by Sean Hannity, you know.

        1. Derp.

          Because if you had your wish, President Trump would have a lot more power than he does now.

          Someday I hope the lesson sinks in. Call me an optimist.

          1. What wish? That libertarians figure out how to disentangle their philosophy from an apparent involuntary need to put literally everything in the context “Progs are evul!! And I fuck my cousins!!”?

        2. It’s normal for government to concern itself with public health. Jesus fuck.

          uh, did you even read the article?

          Puritans of the left and right sometimes try to skirt this point by depicting their targets as threats to public health. But a threat to the health of many people is not the same thing as a public health threat. Air pollution is a public health threat, because individuals can be subject to it without their knowledge and against their will. But if a million people decide of their own free volition to eat a 1,420-calorie Monster Thickburger every day?well, it’s their funeral. You might think the burger-eater would be happier if he ate kale chips instead. But he thinks otherwise, and you have no right substitute your preferences for his.

          1. Who are these puritans of the left trying to ban porn?

            Name one please.

            And not some anti-porn long-dead feminist. Come up with some legislator somewhere (in office).

            1. You understand that the “puritans of the left” being referred to are not necessarily ones who want to ban porn, right? You should probably read the article before commenting.

              Furthermore, the conservative legislator mentioned in the article doesn’t fit your criteria either, since he is not in fact trying to ban porn.

              1. Oh, so he means just leftist puritans on any issue? Although I don’t think that is clear.

                Yeah, they definitely exist.

                Yes, I see that purity in ‘Citizens United’ (which was rightly decided by SCOTUS). I have asked Progs many times on CU “You know you want to ban SPEECH, right?” and they never can articulate a defense.

                Tony? Are you that much of a lefty purist?

                1. Oh, so he means just leftist puritans on any issue? Although I don’t think that is clear.

                  Not clear? He describes it just two sentences later:

                  But if a million people decide of their own free volition to eat a 1,420-calorie Monster Thickburger every day?well, it’s their funeral. You might think the burger-eater would be happier if he ate kale chips instead. But he thinks otherwise, and you have no right substitute your preferences for his.

                  Substitute drugs, smoking, vaping, whateverthefuck for monster thickburger. There are metric assloads of lefty puritans trying to save people from themselves.

                  1. I missed the burger ban then.

                    1. NY banned large sodas. Courts struck them down.

                2. I get why some free speech absolutists on the left think CU was rightly decided, but there are perfectly credible arguments for why it wasn’t, and I’m an outcomes guy (i.e., if the first amendment requires that we allow unlimited corruption in elections, then the first amendment is flawed). Are you swayed by Laurence Tribe’s argument?

        3. “It’s normal for government to concern itself with public health. ”

          Flint waterworks
          Tuskegee syphilis study
          Food pyramid
          CDC Ebola protocol
          VA
          etc
          Bravo government public health concerns.

          1. He said “concern itself with”, not “improve”. Hitler concerned himself with the welfare of the Jewish people.

        4. Who is Sean Hannity?

    2. Close but “progressives” and “theocrats” are sub-classes under the the header of “shitbags that want to control personal behavior”.

      1. “Close but “progressives” and “theocrats” “conservatives” are sub-classes under the the header of “shitbags that want to control personal behavior”.”

        (fixed it for you)

        1. Didn’t need fixing. Was perfectly accurate. There is only a razor thin difference between a “conservative” and a “religious zealot” (oops, sorry, “theocrat”), and I am being generous with the razor thin.

          1. Quite a bit more complex than that. If I recall the reason polls, roughly one third of conservatives are social conservatives, another third are economic conservatives, and the remaining third are both.

      2. Progressives are theocrats, of a sort, as were the fascists and communists.

  5. I don’t care if it’s a “progressive” (a member of the regressive left that want to control every aspect of people’s lives) or a rightwing dipshit- this is just an end run around the 1st amendment.

  6. Virginia …….delegate………………?

    What/ Couldn’t find an alderman or ward boss? Or the kid that empties the trash bins after the local GOP has their ‘poker night’?

    Why are there so many of these articles?

    The header–

    “Noted republican/conservative/Christian/ ACTUAL libertarian says/does/thinks ungoodthinkful things”

    And then, buried in the article, a few lines describing how low on the ‘effective’ totem pole this person is–‘his proposal to ban progressivism only lost by 90 votes in a room of 80’.

    Why?

    1. He’s not that low on the totem pole, at least as far as his ability to affect the lives of Virginians such as me. He’s been a delegate like forever and has huge seniority.

      he co-sponsored Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage

      The Marshall-Newman amendment which didn’t just prohibit the state from issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, but also seemed to ban private contractual arrangements approximating marriage. I wrote “seemed to” because that was never tested in court.

    2. Virginia has a bicameral legislature, the General Assembly, that’s divided into the Senate and the House of Delegates. A Delegate is thus the state-level equivalent of a member of Congress. Not that unimportant a guy.

  7. He has drafted a resolution declaring pornography a public health hazard and advocating a “policy change . . . to address the pornography epidemic.”

    Take my pr0n? From my warm, sticky hand. //c.heston

  8. I have been a Libertarian long, before it was even called that. For at least 70 years. I also was exposed on an on going basis, from the age of 7 or so, to what can be described as hard core porn, of all sorts. It has not been a healthy or positive direction or exposure in the least for my life.
    At the very least, porn, “Hard Core Porn”, should be fully controlled, so that any one under 16 or 18, can not have access to it. There also should be a serious warning accompanying any and all of it, much like any other pollution, for any and all that choose to avail themselves of it.
    You can call me anything you like, but I have direct lifelong knowledge of this scourge, and it is a complete net negative!

    1. Then I would say that while I am sorry that pornography has changed your life for the apparent worse, your anecdotal evidence is hardly rigorous scientific evidence, and even if it was proven that porn negatively affects one’s condition, it would be far beyond the government’s prerogative to regulate an item such as this, and that banning it would be entirely impractical to say the least. Rights are fickle, you can’t pick and choose, otherwise they wouldn’t be rights, would they?

      1. There are exceptions to all rules, even in a Libertarian society, which we are far from. Children should not be able to have any access to it. None! Just like many very dangerous and or damaging things.
        As far as scientific evidence, it is certainly difficult to define it, when we are talking about a life time of involvement. Should we talk about the money spent in porn shops over the years. 10s of thousands. One example.

  9. The noose of the therapeutic state tightens. Tom Szasz, RIP.

  10. Sounds like the same coalition of conservatives and progressives that gave America prohibition.

  11. While pornographic images can be quite shocking, they are not nearly as shocking as Mr. Marshall’s grasp (or lack there of) on reality. The scantily clad Jeanie is not going back into the bottle. That is impossible due to modern information technology.

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