Want the Government To 'Defend Families' From Porn? Child Protective Services Should Be a Cautionary Tale.

The new right naively thinks a government more empowered to "protect children" would be good for families. Nope.


In their zeal to break with libertarians and limited-government conservatives, various thinkers on the new right have been making a lot of noise about the allegedly urgent need to ban pornography.

Such a crackdown is being touted as pro-family and pro-child—part of a revitalized conservative agenda that thinks the government has an important role to play in promoting and defending families and children.

These conservatives should consider the track record of the government agencies most directly involved with ostensibly safeguarding the welfare of children: the states' various child protective services departments. I submit that think-of-the-children conservatives who grapple seriously with CPS's long history of tearing apart families for no good reason should shudder at the idea of giving more power to the state.

Let's consider the most recent article from Matt Walsh, a Daily Wire writer who has helped to revive and revisit this debate. Walsh is among a group of social conservatives—Sohrab Ahmari and Matthew Schmitz are two others—firmly in the camp that says conservatism should shed its libertarian side and fully embrace the government's power to promote social welfare. In an interview with Vox's Jane Coaston, Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward described this view as "the idea that we should prohibit people from making bad choices," or more simply "make the bad thing illegal." In his various debates with conservative writer David French (who leans more toward the libertarian side, though he supports some efforts to curb pornography), Ahmari has repeatedly reminded audiences and readers that he is "willing to ban things."

Walsh defines his position thusly: "Every Child Exposed to Internet Pornography Is an Abuse Victim. There Should Be Laws Protecting Them." For the sake of argument, let's assume that the first part of that contains at least some truth, and that porn is indeed harmful for kids. (The harms of porn are generally overstated, but we'll ignore that for the moment.)

There is a government agency tasked with protecting children from abuse. This agency goes by a different name in every state; in California, for example, it's Child Protective Services, or CPS. It is empowered to remove children from homes where abuse is suspected.

Now, it is undoubtedly true that some children are in indeed vulnerable situations. But CPS is a hammer, and every family that comes under suspicion of having done something wrong is a nail. Here at Reason, Lenore Skenazy and I have chronicled many horror stories about these agencies' wrongful interventions. Diane Redleaf, an attorney, families advocate, and author of They Took the Kids Last Night: How Child Protective Services Puts Families At Risk, told Skenazy that "children are routinely taken from their parents, even when there's no evidence of abuse." They are taken because of a false accusation from a nosy neighbor or teacher, because perfectly capable children were left alone by themselves for short periods of time, because of injuries that the authorities wrongly attributed to abuse, because doctors' instructions weren't followed to a T, and for a host of other reasons that did not actually necessitate tearing families apart.

The Houston Chronicle recently conducted a massive survey of CPS victims. Some 300 parents told the paper that medical misunderstandings had resulted in them losing custody of their children. For more on this subject, read my report about the Lowther family, torn apart for half a year because of a false accusation of child sexual abuse.

I'm sure many pro-family conservatives react with horror when the government overrides parental rights in these cases. (Indeed, I recall that Walsh covered the Lowther case, for which I am grateful.) Do kids belong to themselves and their parents, or are they the property of the state? Should we default toward trusting parents to know what's best for their kids, or should they have to prove that they are better stewards of their own children's well-being than a vast government bureaucracy? I think it's obvious where social conservatives should stand on this.

Declaring that thousands of perfectly healthy young people are actually victims of sexual abuse because they consumed some pornography is a recipe for disaster. It's an invitation for the state to punish parents for having failed to prevent this abuse.

I understand that the aim of anti-pornography conservatives is not to punish parents but to help them, by going after porn creators and distributors. But other wars on vice—drugs, prostitution, alcohol, cigarettes—have virtually always been waged against the consumers of such vices as well as the producers and providers. Why would porn be any different?

When the state's responsibility for children increases—when every undesirable thing is considered a form of abuse necessitating governmental intervention—parents lose rights. Giving the government more opportunities to hassle families should have no place in a pro-family agenda.

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  1. But you have to ask, should we really be putting giant red porn buttons on our computers? We need common sense keyboard control.

    1. I just keep the giant red porn shortcut on my desktop. Do us both a favor and don’t ask what’s under the small blue “Gender Studies” shortcut.

    2. I pried my giant red porn button off my keyboard with a screwdriver to protect the kids.

    3. This makes me think of the Staples “Easy Button”.

    4. I taped over the porn button, and wrote a sign saying “don’t touch, you’ll go blind”.

  2. Why is sex such a terrible thing?

    1. Well, next time you have sex, think of the children.

      1. That’s why you pull out

      2. Isn’t it generally considered a bad thing to think about children during sex?

    2. It depends on your personal and religious beliefs whether you think sex is bad, sex outside of marriage is bad, or watching others have sex is bad.

  3. I thought the Supreme Court had already addressed this issue?

    1. Must have a plan to pack the court, so to speak.

  4. I’ve long said there is no philosophical difference between the America political left and right. They only differ on which parts of government should be bigger and which parts of your life are the governments domain. They no longer even disagree on which of your property actually belongs to the government or which of your rights are sacrosanct. All of it and none of them, respectively.

    This article just illustrates that they are now ready to drop the facade of any belief in small government.

    1. Depends on which parts of the right we’re talking about. There are populists and statists and statist-populists, distinguished from the left mainly by…well, by not being woke (to put it mildly). But there are liberty-minded rightists – not the ones wielding power right now, but they’re used to not wielding power.

      There even seem to be some kind-of-liberty-oriented leftists, like the editors of this magazine, for example.

    2. Considering that all of that small govt talk is from one side of Republican mouths.

      1. The government should leave me alone.
        The government should tell you how to live.
        Got it now?

    3. They don’t even necessarily disagree on which part, just why it should have its boot on your neck.

  5. It’s also an invitation to strip away rights from people who aren’t even watching porn–think of how the war on drugs outlawed financial privacy. My guess is that the war on porn would have to do something similar to the Internet.

    1. This is just one of many fronts the authoritarians are using to attack the internet and the relative freedom and privacy it affords.

    2. There is no privacy on the Internet. Spying starts with your ISP. You can do things to minimize spying and try to preserve some of your privacy, but remember they catch people on TOR and the dark web.

    3. Drug prohibitionist fanaticism used the Income Tax Amendment as a bloody scimitar with which to enforce the Prohibition Amendment. This destroyed the U.S. economy. Milton Friedman almost connected the dots. Just as putting money into a bank expands the money supply, sending thugs with guns rob the bank waving asset-forfeiture letters of marque causes those deposits to flee. This causes liquidity crises as the money supply undergoes leveraged collapse. 1929, 1987, 2008 all featured this exact mechanism. The flash crashes did too, and brokers were bullied to shut off trading to stop those. Money laundering is any attempt to remove parasites from assets.

  6. Could we have a War on War on Vices?
    I might get behind that one.

    1. Or at least an admission that aggressive war itself is among the greatest vices.

    2. If the Libertarian Party’s front and center, by far the loudest policy was a “war on the war on vices”, with fiscal conservatism a close second, it might make some headway in elections. So why does the party continually push subjects that freedom lover’s can’t agree on, like open borders?

  7. Porn is legal. Porn shops are everywhere. Prostitution is even legal in some places.

  8. They hardly right wing. They’re the same “enlightened” leftist neo-cons who think the US should be forcing democracy down the world’s throat because they know better. Two sides of the same coin.

    1. Robby’s using the term “right-wing” the way that 99% of people use it. Not the silly way that you revisionists do.

      1. 99% of media, not people, prog

        1. Is that how you’ll justify it when Dear Leader finally puts them in camps? That they’re not people?

          1. You mean putting people into camps like FDR did?

            Just asking.

              1. A person did a bad thing in the past, therefore nothing Trump does can be bad.

                This is the new line, I gather.

                1. It also means my outrage isn’t only predicated upon which team committed the atrocity. Number 2 assumes since I don’t like Trump I must be rooting for Democrats. All of you must have missed the part where this is a libertarian publication.

                  1. Even libertarians have to live in a world where either a Republican or a Democrat will be president.

  9. People seem to be misinformed on porn laws or the industry as a whole and as a result they are trying to fight the 1st Amendment when there is no need to. One doesn’t have to go after producers or distributors. One doesn’t need to ban porn to solve the problems they are listing.

    The porn companies can be left alone. They film a product, put it on a website or DVD, and then the website is behind a paywall. It’s rather complicated for a kid to access a paysite or buy a DVD. The “porn industry” is not making porn widely-accessible. They are the ones trying the hardest to keep it hidden unless you throw down cash.

    In August of 2018 Section 18 2257 was amended and websites that hosted user-uploaded content were immune from the law. They no longer were required to obtain ID’s of every performer and keep them at a place of business as well as publish the address of said place of business.

    This resulted in any website that allows users to upload material to be free of any consequence resulting from illegal material. Websites then allowed pirated content or uploaded it themselves and porn was then everywhere. Porn companies don’t get paid for the content that is on free websites unless they have an account themselves and are allowing the site to take the majority of the income the videos make. They would only do this out of desperation as a result of their paysite revenue being extremely low.

    Now, only the porn companies are adhering to 2257 laws and those that just own a website and don’t produce anything aren’t and are the ones responsible for porn being everywhere.

    Just fix that.

    Picture it being 1995 and you thought of having a website that would allow anyone to post anything. Your first thought would be “Well, can’t do that. Someone is going to post illegal nudes.” At some point people stopped having that thought. We should probably fix that. It’s the root cause.

    True, a site like reddit may not be able to stop a user from posting a nude of a 16 year-old or verify that the 21 year-old is in fact 21, but that’s their problem. A porn company has to worry about that. That’s why they don’t allow the public to make DVD’s for them that they then release to the world. That’s why they don’t just take someone’s word that they are of legal age.

    It would make more sense for all porn companies to just turn into reddit and allow nothing but user-uploaded content to free themselves of all of the hurdles.

    Oh wait. People are already doing that… That’s why we have this problem.

    1. Or maybe we should just stop being such prudes about a normal human function of reproduction.

      1. My post was more about illegal content. If you want to advocate for that then it is your right. I’m cool with everything minus that. However, the current system allows for both and those that go out of their way to make sure nothing illegal is created are the ones going bankrupt.

    2. So, you don’t care for or

      I guess if I had kids – I wouldn’t want my 11 year old watching those sites.

      1. They’re just distributors of pirated content. As a result they also host illegal shit. It would be like saying Napster was the entertainment industry. They’re not the porn industry. Any attempts to ban porn have been going after the industry. It’s misguided and helps the bad actors which increases the problems the politicians are complaining about in the first place.

        1. They don’t host ‘illegal’ shit. In fact, they’re fully compliant with copyright law and respond to IP owner’s demands to remove copyrighted material.

          A lot of porn producers *put their own material* (edited, of course) up on these sites as a form of advertising. Other stuff is so old the companies that ‘own’ it don’t exist anymore. Its not just all pirated material. If it was they’d have been shut down long ago.

          1. It doesn’t matter if they comply with the DMCA because the second it is taken down it is reuploaded. This means that an already struggling company has to hire a team to scour all the sites to issue DMCA takedowns. Digital fingerprint software? Must not work too well. I’m a former company owner. I sold everything off and got the fuck out of Cali, but those that own it aren’t giving it away for free.

            A lot do it for advertising reasons. A lot of users also post the entire scenes so unless you’re checking daily through the thousands and thousands of scenes uploaded you’re not going to find it. You have to go through each page too because “redhead suck big one” is a poor description of your content.

            The DMCA is rather useless in this as well because as long as the site allows people to upload in the first place they upload the scenes, people jerk off, and they leave. The sites make the money. Those that produce don’t. Under the guise of “compliance” they have stolen the money away from those that produce it. They’re also not required to follow industry regulations. As a result the new business model is to let people upload thousands of pirated scenes and then remove them once requested. Still make bank. They’re not even required to give a cut to those that had scenes removed.

    3. The porn companies can be left alone. They film a product, put it on a website or DVD, and then the website is behind a paywall. It’s rather complicated for a kid to access a paysite or buy a DVD. The “porn industry” is not making porn widely-accessible. They are the ones trying the hardest to keep it hidden unless you throw down cash.

      You do not seem to be very familiar with the internet.

      1. That’s not how porn on the internet works.

      2. Even if you made that ‘law’ – there are other countries. And porn on the internet in those countries doesn’t follow American law.

      1. I agree. You’re not going to stop everything. Look at torrents. They’re still going strong. There isn’t any money in torrents.

        Video hosting is extremely costly. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice that payment processors have been exiting. Most recently Paypal with pornhub. That’s probably the canary in the coal mine. Changes are happening and everyone from twitter to Paypal are distancing themselves from adult content. I wouldn’t be surprised if politicians are filling them in on what’s going to happen.

        Even if you’re an overseas company and you can’t receive payments from major processors or send money to people you’re done as a video host. If banks are closing the accounts of your cam models you can’t operate. The amount of people that are going to jump through the hoops to set up overseas accounts with banks and all that is so small it won’t cover your operating costs. One can hope for crypto to cover it, but what if you then can’t cash it out?

        We can be idealists or we can look at history and then act according to what that has taught us. Sure, they can take advertising dollars, but if the US states you’re wanted for distributing underage porn to the US who is going to want their brand to be associated with yours? Revenue from Pajeet’s Goats4Less isn’t going to cut it.

  10. Left or right – IT’S.ALL.ABOUT.CONTROL.

    1. You have more control if you don’t ban porn. Once you ban it then it goes underground and there are no rules. That always results in something like “Blackface_antisemitic_granny_horsesex.wmv”. When it is legit you can regulate and control it.

      1. Other than child porn, I see nothing that needs to be regulated or controlled.

        1. I’d throw animals in there. That shouldn’t be a thing to do or profit from.
          Thankfully, just verifying age of performers is enough regulation to keep the industry alive and stop copyright infringement. Once you verify age the free model collapses and then age is verified of viewers when people enter their credit card numbers.

          1. then age is verified of viewers when people enter their credit card numbers.

            And their sexual proclivities and private lives tracked. Hard pass.

            1. Then buy a DVD or Blu-ray with cash. Every porn company has a non-porn company name that looks extremely vague. If you’re worried about the site knowing your viewing habits they can fingerprint you from your browser settings and track you that way even if you have a VPN.

              Or use a pre-paid card.

              1. If you’re worried about the site knowing your viewing habits

                If you’re worried about the government knowing your viewing habits

                If you’re worried about the your wife’s divorce lawyer knowing your viewing habits

                If you’re worried about the your parole officer knowing your viewing habits

                If you’re worried about the Child Protective Services knowing your viewing habits

                If you’re worried about the your boss knowing your viewing habits

                1. Do you view porn online now? If so, they have your browser settings, IP address, and unique device ID. So does facebook. So does your credit card company, google, ISP, and everyone else. They all sell it. Do you use a burner device each time you go online and destroy it after each use? Figuring out your viewing habits would be easy if you’re a big company. Refusing to pay for porn with a credit card is pointless if you are willing to watch it for free. The last person you have to worry about leaking your shit is the porn company because then people would be afraid to pay them. The free sites give it all away. It’s how they make money.
                  Can’t go wrong with physical copies though. Seeing as the USPS scans every package and has a photograph of it you may not want to order through mail. Then again, stores have cameras. They could film you buying it. I guess you can’t view it then.

                  Can you draw? You could draw a dirty picture and then destroy it when you’re done with it.

                  1. I have yet to hear a good reason for regulation.

                    1. Underage content. That’s a good enough reason. Kids are uploading themselves to Pornhub. If those sites don’t verify the age of viewers then the viewers can upload content of themselves. When your website is open to everyone that means everyone. As of now there is nothing in place to prevent it and there is zero need on behalf of the companies to fix it.

                    2. Kids are uploading themselves to Pornhub.

                      No they are not.

                  2. I am surprised that nobody in politics has crossed that red line. Someone will, eventually.

                    Obama famously benefited when his opponent’s sealed divorce proceedings were leaked. That’s pretty close to this.

                    Someday, and probably not some day too far away, some politicians PornHub history will be leaked and some blogger or twitter “influencer” will publicize it.

                    That will be an interesting day.

        2. “It’s not okay to ban things just because they are yucky but THIS thing is SO yucky that it’s okay to ban.”

          So which is it? Is banning things powerful people find detestable okay or not? Or is it really a matter of getting the right Top Men in place to ban the things that you find detestable?

          1. They’re both crimes caught on film.
            That’s reason enough.

            1. They’re both crimes caught on film.

              Then present them as evidence at trial.

              1. You would have to track down those filming it, promoting it online, and profiting off of it and charging them with breaking laws. As it now stands if they’re wearing ski masks and uploaded it in India you can’t bust anyone. Not even the person profiting and broadcasting it thanks to CDA 230. As a result if it makes money then it creates a need for it to exist and the money then fuels the incentive to distribute. What you advocate for are the perfect conditions for such material to exist.

                1. If they’re uploading it in India, why should they be considered to be breaking *US* laws?

                  1. No reason. He just wants to regulate something.

                    1. No, it’s definitely a stretch and what most would consider to be an abuse of justice, but if someone in India uploads something illegal to Pornhub they can nab Pornhub because of where the servers for Pornhub are.

                  2. In previous cases regarding the porn industry if someone in the US views something considered illegal while in the US then the US can find you guilty of breaking US law. It goes state to state as well. Just because you’re in California doesn’t mean you can’t get busted in Tampa if your hosting company unknowingly to you hosts your content from a server there.

                    If you have a site in whatever country and someone in the US views it the US considers that to be you transmitting it.

                2. Tell that to Kim Dotcom.

  11. Cartoonist Tatsuya Ishida draws Sinfest. He was targeted by gender, antifa, LGwhatchamacallit and other pissed-off snowflakes and made to completely change his webcomic. It’s still nicely-drawn, but it’s hard to tell if he has gone full Stockholm Syndrome, is spoofing, or simply juggling swords and buying time. Art is not safe from nationalsocialism of the Republican or econazi varieties.

    1. He’s just bowing to pressure. When the entire world is connected and everyone can voice their opinion people are going to tell you that they don’t like what you do. Before the internet people would just not say anything or say it out loud to each other. He should just draw it the way he wants to.

  12. As a porn addict – I started with my dad’s collection of magazines when I was about ten – I can tell you this is an epidemic no one is talking about. I’m nearly 50 now and I’m still hooked. We have “parental controls” and I defeat them easily. There’s always a work around. In the world of sex addiction, online pornography is the crack cocaine. Thanks to the internet, and smartphones, it’s everywhere and largely free. The girls are beautiful, and whether I want it erotic or nasty, it’s always available.

    It is a serious problem.

    I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think it’s laws. We don’t need anything that makes it even more shameful. Or worse, anything that extends the net of the sex offender registry (something I believe is literally fucked up). But something needs to change, because there are serious negative consequences including, but not limited to, addiction, depression, abuse, and suicide.

    1. But something needs to change, because there are serious negative consequences including, but not limited to, addiction, depression, abuse, and suicide.

      Just like opioids or anything else addictive. And we all need to change because of you?

      Own your problem, or it owns you.

  13. Well, I guess you had to write something. And it’s not like you’re going to get a lot of disagreement. However, it’s not like the case you make would persuade anybody, since it’s such an abstraction removed from its concrete roots. Your time would’ve been better spent learning about any specifics, maybe on a completely different subject.

  14. The simplest solution is not to have any kids, then the government can’t use them against you, co-opt them, etc. Saves a ton of money, too.

  15. What a bunch of wanna-be dictators. Who elected these clowns.

    If the person running for office of congress doesn’t sell you on national security and government limits/cutting they are trying to sell you a dictator or you somebody else’s stuff that they don’t have any rights to.

  16. Why is sex “anti-family” or “anti-child” anyway? Without sex, there wouldn’t BE any children! 🙂

  17. SoCons usually get laughed out of the room when they propose any kind of law nowadays, so look for progs to wield the truncheons against porn. But it will only be heteronormative porn involving cis gender white people that has to go, a trans having sex with a horse will be perfectly fine.

    1. You people need serious help.

      Conservative assholes trying to ban porn is somehow progs’ fault. Because it has to be.

  18. Child abuse could be classified as not reading to kids and having books around the house. The intellectual spectrum is getting wider and those at the top are not going to be falling into the chasm.

    1. Perhaps you should play the radio for them.

  19. This anti-porn thing has broken into the mainstream in recent years. It’s got a whole pamphlet of pseudoscience and Christian “man and woman in missionary position only” conservatism behind it. Mark my words, it’s their next big thing. First they came for the abortionists, and you didn’t care because none of you are women or have sex with them. But you do jack off to porn, don’t you?

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