Future

The War on Porn Is Back

Conservatives hope to renew their old alliance with radical feminists.

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"If you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle," declared New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in a 2018 column bluntly headlined "Let's Ban Porn."

In this, as in many things, Douthat was ahead of the conservative intellectual curve by a year or two. And in this, as in many things, he was dangerously wrong.

In due course, Douthat has been joined by the folks at the Christian journal First Things, who have taken up the anti-pornography banner as part of their peculiar subvariant of a resurgent interest in nationalism among traditionalist conservatives. In last year's manifesto, "Against the Dead Consensus," a clutch of First Things friends and familiars reject "economic libertarianism" and "the soulless society of individual affluence" and add that they "respectfully decline to join with those who would resurrect warmed-over Reaganism." Which makes it all the more disconcerting when they turn around and immediately kneel before the scolding ghost of Ed Meese.

As attorney general, Meese sought to deliver on Reagan's 1987 threat to "purveyors" of obscene material that the "industry's days are numbered." It was Meese who pulled together the first National Obscenity Enforcement Unit. (One surprising and familiar name also crops up in the tale: then–assistant attorney general and recent Libertarian Party vice presidential pick William F. Weld, who was given the task of bringing together various agencies for the task force.)

Meese's bill of grievances against the relatively constrained pornography of his day—which he credited in a speech to a report from a federal Commission on Pornography convened the previous year—will sound alarmingly familiar to readers of Douthat and First Things. He asserts "that violence, far from being an altogether separate category of pornography, is involved with almost all of it; that there are empirically verifiable connections between pornography and violent sex-related crimes; that the pornography industry is a brutal one that exploits and often ruins the lives of its 'performers' as well as its consumers, and that the 'performers' often include abused children and people plied with hard drugs; that whether or not it is directly imitated by those who consume it, pornography has a deleterious effect on what its consumers view as normal and healthy."

The effort was, in some sense, successful. By 1990, the Department of Justice had managed to use obscenity statutes to force seven national porn distributors out of business. But the decades that followed were boom times for porn as the industry moved into new forms of distribution, so the success was far from permanent.

In a rare moment of sanity in 2011, the Justice Department shuttered what had come to be known as the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, resulting in the delightful Politico headline "Holder accused of neglecting porn" and a harrumph from peeved conservatives, who vowed to reverse the Obama administration's decision as soon as they could.

In December, four Republican congressmen wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking his Justice Department to do just that by prioritizing obscenity prosecutions.

"The Internet and other evolving technologies are fueling the explosion of obscene pornography by making it more accessible and visceral," they wrote. "This explosion in pornography coincides with an increase in violence towards women and an increase in the volume of human trafficking as well as child pornography. Victims are not limited to those directly exploited, however, and include society writ large."

Like herpes, the war on porn flares up when the body politic is compromised or stressed. Both in the 1980s and today, cherry-picked social science write-ups purposely conflate "addicts" and users, assert connections between porn and violence at a time of increasing porn consumption and decreasing violence, and offer terrifying but unsubstantiated stories about brain damage and erectile dysfunction in the nation's young men. Such coverage fuels the porn panic even as the predicted hairy-palmed decline of the U.S. fails to materialize.

The proposed crackdown fits nicely with the nationalist agenda, which is focused—as nationalists tend to be—on purity. As has too often been the case historically, a campaign for moral purity can slide awfully smoothly into efforts to preserve ethnic purity, as Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown documents in her cover story on the current panic over Asian-run massage parlors.

In his 1987 speech, Meese was careful to limn the distinction between pornography and obscenity, acknowledging that only the latter is subject to prosecution per the Supreme Court's clear instruction.

By contrast, at the end of 2019, Reason's Damon Root was compelled to publish a basic explainer about the First Amendment protections afforded to material that fails the three-pronged Miller test of obscenity. Too many would-be porn banners have simply ignored the legal guardrails the Court provided.

The porn-banning conservatives, though newly impatient with their former allies on the libertarian side of the spectrum, are often the same folks who were quite recently willing to fight bans on smoking, extra-large sodas, and trans fats to the death, and who would never entertain a return to alcohol prohibition.

There are people on the left, of course, who would forbid porn along with the rest of that list and much more as well, and Catholic writer Sohrab Ahmari would happily make common cause with them: "Conservatives must partner with anti-porn feminists. We won't agree on everything, but imagine how powerful such an alliance could be," he tweeted in December.

The utterly unfunny joke, of course, is that we don't need to imagine such an alliance. It was indeed a powerful force in 1980s politics, with rhetoric crafted by feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon furnishing talking points for Reagan and Meese. In 1984, legislation defining pornography as a violation of women's civil rights was passed with the support of conservatives on the Indianapolis city council and signed into law by a Republican mayor. (It was later struck down in the courts.)

Conservative firebrand Phyllis Schlafly borrowed from Dworkin in her 1987 book Pornography's Victims: "Those who become addicted crave more and more bizarre and more perverted pornography, and become more callous toward their victims. Pornography changes the perceptions and attitudes of men toward women, individually and collectively, and desensitizes men so that what was once repulsive and unthinkable eventually becomes not only acceptable but desirable. What was once fantasy becomes reality. Thus conditioned and stimulated by pornography, the user seeks a victim."

Douthat has noted that porn is "a product," which he helpfully defines as "something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire."

"We are rightfully skeptical of government overreach, but I think we take that skepticism so far that we're skeptical of even using political power when we have it for ends that we think are valuable," Hillbilly Elegy author and conservative golden boy J.D. Vance explained in a podcast episode taped following a July conference on national conservatism that brought together the new movement's leading lights. "And I do think that we have to get over that, and we have to recognize that when people entrust us with political power to solve problems we should at least try to solve them." Suffice it to say that in political rhetoric, as in pornography, everything before the but should be ignored.

To do as Ahmari wishes and "fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good" will not eliminate vice, nor will it eliminate the production and consumption of porn. As with all prohibitions, a ban would discourage generally law-abiding and nonproblematic users while driving more committed or addicted users to darker places to find what they want. Meanwhile, more committed producers, taking on more risk, would likely produce more outré content. The new war on porn is a dangerous symptom of a recurring delusion on both the left and the right that men can be reshaped by the state into better versions of themselves.

NEXT: Brickbat: Stumbling Around

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  1. Reason is so desperate for this to be a story.

    Slightly related,
    Mangu-Ward: you are an enemy of the people and libertarianism.

    1. I do see more drivel about how Porn is Just Awful out of the lamestream media lately. A blogger I read regularly opined that this was an attempt to distract from the Progressive Left’s cascade of failures, which certainly could be.

      In any case, any ‘cause’ that unites the Religious Right with the Deranged Feminist Left should be viewed with deep suspicion.

      1. In any case, any ‘cause’ that unites the Religious Right with the Deranged Feminist Left should be viewed with deep suspicion.

        I am suspicious. From a magazine that routinely churns out absolute crap based on up-to-the-date tweeting on any given topic, we get a loose constellation of associations based on a month-old tweet.

        1. The thing is, the alliance of Intolerant Religious Right (there IS a tolerant Religious Right, too) and Deranged Feminist Fascists has happened before, more or less just as described in the article. The Right were full of righteous indignation. The Feminists were full of fake solicitude for the ‘women’ who were being ‘exploited’, and never mind that banning porn wouldn’t STOP it, it would just remove any legal protections the models had.

          So, basically, the Feminists were throwing a snit because some women didn’t choose the live the way the Feminists would choose in their place. The Left does that a lot.

          *pfui*

    2. You idiots lose the popular every fucking election so who is this enemy of the people again?

      1. Aren’t you the ones who say the people can’t be trusted to make their own decisions and that’s why the government needs to step in on every aspect of life?

      2. That would be you faggot. You represent everything evil and oppressive in the world.

      3. Ah, the old “Shrillary women the popular vote’ argument. Let me ask you; what makes you think so? I mean, set aside that the electoral college was a designed expressly to keep the big cities from setting the agenda and ignoring the wants of the farmers. What makes you think that if we managed to eliminate the systemic vote fraud the Democrat Party has perpetrated in every national election in the last thirty years, that a Democrat Candidate would be competitive? Shrillary ‘won’ the popular vote by, what, just under 3,000,00 votes? There’s a finding, of disputed veracity, granted, that IN CALIFORNIA ALONE 5,000,000 illegal votes were cast in the 2012 election.

        So, what makes you think that Shrillary DID won the ‘popular vote’?

        1. Has your reality check bounced? Where is your evidence of illegal voting?

          1. It isn’t my reality check I’m worried about. For all the ‘There’s no evidence of vote fraud’ narrative the Democrats and the Media peddle, there have been cases in every election cycle since the 1990’s.

            https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud/search

            And that’s with the Democrat power structure being as obstructionist as they dare.

            There is no other reason to oppose voter ID and the purging of voter rolls as required by law. And yet the Democrats do so regularly.

      4. @A leftist Hey mouthbreathing, assfucker, ignorant sodding piece of fucking shit, we’re not a democracy, we’re a representative republic. Majority rule doesn’t win, YOUR the enemy of the people and you should fucking die.

    3. Slightly related,
      Mangu-Ward: you are an enemy of the people and libertarianism.

      Yeah, a distinct part of the problem is nearly every writer on the Reason staff’s inability to distinguish between libertarian and libertine.

    4. Thank you. I was trying to figure out how to say that. Being in the most conservative of conservative Christian circles, I am reasonably sure this isn’t a thing. I’m guessing it’s just a stick to beat people away from the current popularity of the conservative movement.

  2. Not convinced that there is some sort of renewed “war on porn.” Christian conservatives have always been against it and there has always been a loud minority in favor of legislation. What is interesting is the new puritanism of the left on sex issues. Of course there have always been anti-sex and anti-porn feminists. Is it not more concerning on this issue that this sect seems to be growing and radicalizing? Religious traditionalists hold the same positions they always have while also having far less power than even in the recent past is not a news story

    1. “puritanism of the left”
      How can you learn to respect a 300 lb. rainbow haired, 37 body piercing Harpee if you haven’t learned how porn has warped your views of her?

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    1. Ain’t no fucking way I’m clicking a link in a thread about porn!!!

      1. Have a sense of adventure, you might discover a new kink.

  4. Pornography changes the perceptions and attitudes of men toward women, individually and collectively, and desensitizes men so that what was once repulsive and unthinkable eventually becomes not only acceptable but desirable.

    Hawt.

    1. Hey, if porn is responsible for the uptick in women who like anal in the past 30 years, I celebrate that.

      1. The only “women” who enjoy anal are trannies.
        Without a prostate to stimulate there’s only anal fissures to look forward to.

        1. This is the crux of feminist opposition to porn; it depicts sex acts most women don’t want to do. Conservatives oppose porn because it depicts sex acts that don’t lead to marriage and babies.

        2. Perhaps you didn’t know that our orgasims com from the siatic nerve, which attaches close to the rectum. I’ve learned the pleasures of Greek, but not through porn.

          There’s a study out there of the states around the world and timing of their increased access to porn, typically due to VHS and then Internet access. The study found that as access to porn increased the sexual assault and domestic violence rates either held steady or declined.

    2. Confession time. The porn I’m really into is that sensuous massage porn. Where a man gives his lady a full body massage over a half an hour and then pleases her.

      How is that repulsive? How is the emphasis on pleasuring the female unthinkable? Why does the Christian Right and Feminist Left insist we lock women away being burkas and niqabs? Next they’ll be insisting on female circumcision to prevent them from getting any pleasure at all.

      1. How is that repulsive? How is the emphasis on pleasuring the female unthinkable? Why does the Christian Right and Feminist Left insist we lock women away being burkas and niqabs? Next they’ll be insisting on female circumcision to prevent them from getting any pleasure at all.

        I remain unconvinced that much of niche and/or respectful or artful porn is what they’re opposed to (actually, I’m largely unconvinced that Reason isn’t grasping at straws, trying to find any drug to make it feel the way TDS made them feel).

        As I mention above, it’s as much about the proliferation of a promiscuous, libertine lifestyle as it is about actual nudity and/or sexual content. Just like plenty of Churchgoers in the 1920s drank alcohol but felt that drinking to excess regularly as part of hip, urban lifestyle wasn’t a good idea.

      2. Holy crap. Look at her rip the stuffing out of that straw man.

  5. What will happen when these moral scolds seeking to align with the current crop of radical feminists (the old feminists wanted sexual liberation for hetero women) realize that it’s not all porn their new allies are against? LGBTQ porn is, no doubt, applauded and encouraged.

    1. Surprisingly no. The group that pushes this shit intersects with one of my hobbies, and they’ve been shaming other lesbians for wanting to look at anything more risque than two girls holding hands. They’re now trying to do the same to gay guys, but they aren’t having as much success because guys haven’t bought into this bullshit in the same way girls have.

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  7. Conservatives hope to renew their old alliance with radical feminists.

    Okay, so hear me out, what if instead of the pizza delivery guy showing up it’s a Bible salesman and instead of a group of hot young co-eds who’ve had a painting accident that’s caused them to take all their clothes off it’s a meeting of the Betty Friedan book club? No? Too niche? Okay, it’s the cable installer and the horny housewife once again.

    1. Been done.
      It’s called Orgazmo.
      Great movie

      1. LOL. Damn. I had almost forgotten that movie. Hilarious.

    2. Damn, I would pay $9.99 to download that!

  8. “There are people on the left, of course, who would forbid porn along with the rest of that list and much more as well, and Catholic writer Sohrab Ahmari would happily make common cause with them: “Conservatives must partner with anti-porn feminists. We won’t agree on everything, but imagine how powerful such an alliance could be,” he tweeted in December.”

    I suspect any alliance between Evangelicals and feminists is likely to fail for the same reasons that American Jews remain reluctant to embrace Evangelicals–despite the enthusiastic support of Evangelicals for Israel.

    https://www.city-journal.org/html/why-don%E2%80%99t-jews-christians-who-them-13068.html

    Whatever the reasons that American Jews, who trend politically liberal, greet the embrace of Evangelicals with hostility, those forces are stronger than the attraction of Evangelical support for Israel–and Jewish support for Israel is probably even stronger than the feminist opposition to pornography.

    In fact, in the case of Evangelicals and feminists, the hostility is bilateral. We’re not just looking at politically liberal feminism overcoming hostility to conservative Evangelicals; we’re also expecting politically conservative Evangelicals to overcome their aversion to liberal feminists?

    I’m more concerned about a self-described socialist winning the nomination of the Democratic party for president.

    1. No one cares liar.

    2. Well, coming from an Evangelical background, I can reveal that Evangelicals have a quite twisted conception of Jews. They’re people who just aren’t Christian yet, but once the Temple gets rebuilt in Israel then the Second Coming will occur and they’ll all become Christian and no more of that weird cultural Jewish stuff like Hebrew School.

      They support Israel because it immanentizes the eschaton. Yup, it hastens the end of the world. Jesus can’t come back and get rid of the socialists and Muslims and pornography and Democrats until the Temple gets rebuilt in the nation state of Israel. And that can’t happen until the Temple Mount is fully in Israeli hands. Also, they need to start the practice of temple sacrifices of bulls again.

      It’s extremely cartoonish.

      1. Right, but you might think liberal Jews would appreciate support for Israel from wherever they can get it, and there is probably no sector of American society more supportive of Israel than Evangelicals.

        Meanwhile, when we’re talking about feminists and Evangelicals working together . . . um . . . it isn’t just that social conservatives think of feminists as baby murderers. It isn’t just that social conservatives find gay marriage abhorrent and lesbianism a crime against nature that can be remedied through bible counseling. It’s also that plenty of feminists imagine destroying the nuclear family to be a central goal of feminism. In fact, plenty of social conservatives may oppose pornography specifically because it demeans the sanctity of marriage and the cult of motherhood.

        Those groups aren’t likely to work together–for anything.

        1. “Those groups aren’t likely to work together–for anything.”

          They don’t need to work together. It would probably serve their cause better to work separately, one from the left, the other from the right.

      2. “They’re people who just aren’t Christian yet, but once the Temple gets rebuilt in Israel then the Second Coming will occur and they’ll all become Christian”

        That’s basically what Paul, Peter and James say in several different books of the New Testament. The interpretation of “the time of the gentiles” and its end has been around since at least the third century and isn’t unique to modern evangelicalism.

        “Jesus can’t come back and get rid of the socialists and Muslims and pornography and Democrats until the Temple gets rebuilt in the nation state of Israel. And that can’t happen until the Temple Mount is fully in Israeli hands. Also, they need to start the practice of temple sacrifices of bulls again”

        This isn’t actually the doctrine of any evangelical denomination. The parts that aren’t Brandybuck’s own demagoguery, are very loosely derived from a book called The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, which was published in 1970.

        Brandybuck strikes me as a kid whose parents were religious dabblers. Big on demonstrations of overt religiosity, but shallow, with very little knowledge of actual doctrine or theology.
        Children of these types invariably begin to question their parents beliefs and when they find no substance, reject them.
        Because they never bother to actually research the doctrines or philosophies they think they’re rejecting, their views are as warped as their parents views are. Just in the opposite direction.

        Virtually none of what

        1. I don’t see any reason to go after Brandybuck or his parents. The subject was whether Jewish voters being reluctant to make common cause with Evangelicals over their support for Israel is especially different from feminists making common cause with social conservatives.

          1. Brandybuck was spouting bien pensant platitudes. That’s a great reason.

        2. The modern Evangelical movement is just religious dabbling then, because they’re really into this stuff and would have sainted Hal Lindsay if they could. The restoration of the temple as part of eschatology has been a serious thing in Evangelical circles for over a century. The only real debate is whether Jews can join in the rapture or whether they have to stick around during the tribulation to evangelize.

          It’s why there was such an evangelical fervor in the late 19th century. Because of the belief that the world would not end until everyone heard the gospel. So the great push was to get the gospel out to every corner of the globe. Not so they could save people for the sake of saving them, but because of the eschatology.

          1. The modern Evangelical movement is just religious dabbling then, because they’re really into this stuff and would have sainted Hal Lindsay if they could.

            But it’s not modern evangelical movement. It’s your parents circle and the people who read a sensational book, who you seem to imagine is everyone.
            In 2016, there were an estimated 619 million evangelicals in the world, meaning that one in four Christians would be classified as evangelical. Their hermeneutics cover the entire spectrum of Futurist, Preterist, Historicist and Idealist. It’s not just all about what daddy thought.

            It’s why there was such an evangelical fervor in the late 19th century.

            There was such an evangelical fervor in every century. That’s why by 380 AD the church ranged from Ireland, to Arabia, to Ethiopia, to India, to China. The Gospels record the Great Commission as being Jesus Christ’s final orders to humanity. There’s no major denomination on earth that doesn’t prioritize it.
            It’s not all about efforts to immanentize the eschaton.

            1. True, the Anti-Missionary Baptists aren’t very numerous.

      3. It’s also pretty well supported in the Bible, but, you know, I need a justification for my religious beliefs outside of their supporting doctrines.

    3. The reason Jews don’t trust Christians is because the Catholic church scourged them across Europe for several centuries. Tends to leave scars.

      Evangelicals and feminists are linking up. There was a feminist takeover of the Southern Baptist convention last year or the year before. What do you think Joyce Meyer is? Evangelicals have 100% embraced the feminist view of marriage and are more and more open to feminist views of equality in the church. Making common cause will work out well for feminists. Evangelicals have very little defense against them at this point.

      1. Beyond being a prosperity evangelist, and targeting her message to women–like Oprah does–I’m not sure she has much of a rigid theological message at all. In fact, I see her as like an openly religious Oprah Winfrey + Martha Stewart or Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s basically a lifestyle brand.

        Marketing yourself to women does not make you a feminist.

        You’re talking about a feminist takeover of the Baptist church?

        We may be talking about different things.

        I’m talking about average Evangelical voters–the ones in the pews–rallying behind feminist candidates because they’re fighting against pornography. I’m talking about feminists out there in the world rallying behind Evangelical candidates–because those Evangelical candidates are against pornography.

        That isn’t likely to happen anytime soon–no matter what Joyce Meyers is preaching and no matter what’s happening in the leadership of the Baptist church.

    4. “I’m more concerned about a self-described socialist winning the nomination of the Democratic party for president.”

      Why? Don’t you want a neo-liberal austerity imposed on America? Who better than socialist to do this? That’s how things worked out in Greece after the electorate put Syriza into power. Syriza was certainly the most radical leftist party to achieve ‘power’ in Europe. Power in scare quotes because real power remained in the hands of Greece’s creditors.

      If Sanders ever was elected wouldn’t he face the same problems or does the size and strength of the US with respect to the rest of the world give Sanders options (like controlling the $) that Euro bound Greece never had?

      1. What concerns me is how religious zealots want to tell others how to live their life. Move to Saudi Arabia already!

        And it’s the Dominionists, a spin-off from Fundamentalists who are partnering with Radical feminists to wage war on everything sex related. Unless you are in a hetrosexual marriage and making a baby, they are against it. They want to not only outlaw abortions, but contraceptives too.

        Read America’s War on Sex by Marty Klein to connect the dots. This group has been very successful and shows no sign of letting up. A quote from the book: “Joseph Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, sums up the conservative point of view when he said, “I would like to outlaw contraception. It is disgusting—people using each other for pleasure.””

  9. The porn-banning conservatives, though newly impatient with their former allies on the libertarian side of the spectrum, are often the same folks who were quite recently willing to fight bans on smoking, extra-large sodas, and trans fats to the death, and who would never entertain a return to alcohol prohibition.

    This is, and has been, like forever, a distinguishing feature of both conservatives and populists. They distinguish the bans that would be applied by elites from the bans that are a common feature of the mainstream culture. Things like pornography they think are an impingement on their own lifestyle by being in some sense shoved in their faces. In many cases this is an exaggeration in that those things (such as pornography) aren’t really displayed prominently, but catch their attention so strongly that they seem “in your face”.

    And so if you asked these people, they’d consider themselves very much pro-freedom broadly. They don’t think about the things they’d ban as being impositions; usually they don’t think about those issues at all when they think of public policy matters — or at least they didn’t use to think about them that way until about the middle 1960s, when many issues that had had an unspoken society-wide consensus became matters of controversy and culture war. The older persons among them think of theswe times as a possibly temporary aberration imposed by an alien who-knows-what or elite, and would like to get back to the culture of their childhood.

  10. As has too often been the case historically, a campaign for moral purity can slide awfully smoothly into efforts to preserve ethnic purity,

    I think it’s at least as likely to be the other way around, with ethnic or national purism sliding into moral purism. So for instance, anti-Chinese sentiment inspiring sentiment against things culturally associated with the Chinese, chiefly opium; sentiment against Italians, Irish, and Germans fueling alcohol prohibitionism; and a desire to get rid of Negros adding to the anti-slavery push.

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  12. Which makes it all the more disconcerting when they turn around and immediately kneel before the scolding ghost of Ed Meese.

    Neat trick, given that Meese isn’t dead yet.

    1. That is unfortunate.

  13. We didn’t just fight this war in the 80s. We also fought it in the 70s. We won both times. Won in the sense that freedom prevailed.

    So why are we fighting it again?

    The only thing that has changed is the ubiquity of porn. Gone are the days of Playboy and Penthouse locked behind a scowling newsstand vendor so the kids had limited access to it. But so what? Are these scolds really trying to ban a magazine that’s been legally published for over sixty five years?

    What’s their line for what gets banned and what doesn’t? Nudity? That’s Playboy. Penetration? That Penthouse. Those two cover 99% of online porn. Child porn is already illegal. The really gross freaky stuff may be icky, but doesn’t meet the community standards test of obscenity in the internet age. What’s left if the violent stuff. The snuff and the torture. But the obscenity test and other existing rules already cover it. What left is so niche that it’s pointless to start a full scale political war over it.

    If the soccons and feministas want to change attitudes about sexuality, they can do it through non-political persuasion and good role models. But using the violent jackboot of the government thug to force their attitudes on others is the true obscenity.

    1. “But using the violent jackboot of the government thug to force their attitudes on others is the true obscenity.”

      That’s good for putting people in jail. To change attitudes, a different approach is necessary. People are ashamed of their porn consumption habits. Exploiting this shame with internet campaigns is more likely to work and needs no input from government.

      1. I am not the least bit ashamed of watching porn. And frankly, I think a lot of men AND women aren’t ashamed of it. They might not announce it publicly, but not because they think it’s wrong, but because they don’t want to deal with moralizers and feminist scolds.

        1. Slight disagreement. Not because I don’t watch porn but, to me, porn is in many ways categorically inferior to strip clubs and I know plenty of people who will relatively openly tell you how dumb they think strip clubs are. I don’t doubt that people don’t want to be subjected to moralizers and scolds but I also think there are a good fraction that don’t want to be lumped in with moralizers and scolds because they can’t rationalize it internally. What used to be ‘Don’t discuss sex or politics in polite company.’, after several waves of feminism and a couple of sexual revolutions, only applies to porn viewing habits.

  14. Reason’s Conservative Porn War Panic is pretty funny. Especially the timing of winding it up as the impeachment is winding down.

    1. They need something to complain about to even out the lefts desire for massive Globalist government programs and wealth redistribution

    2. A Moral Panic about non-existent moral panic

  15. I imagine the progs will try to regulate porn to near extinction first before they ban it:

    1. All porn must be inclusive(non-heteronormative) and racially/ethnically diverse

    2. No smoking or vaping may be shown in any porn

    3.No cars or meat may be show because global warming

    4. All actors must be paid a living wage so no amateur porn

    5. All sex toys must be sustainably and ethically sourced

  16. “As has too often been the case historically, a campaign for moral purity can slide awfully smoothly into efforts to preserve ethnic purity”

    You know, because cultural and racial homogeneity are the same thing…

    1. Having moral standards is step one on the slippery slope of genocide.

      1. Which is hilarious coming from a magazine and culture that’s blown the feminism and diversity horns so often that we wonder if something might’ve gotten lost on the way to forcing women to wax a man’s balls and pretend it’s a vagina.

        1. Wondering what went wrong is the first step to genocide, you know.

  17. Well, if ROSS DOUTHAT and the editor of an obscure religious mag say so, it must be a thing.

    Curiously, no mention of the attitude of immigrants on porn. Where do do all the Somalis and Guatemalans stand on this? Maybe immigration Does change the country? Nah.

    Also, better to worry about this than the Deep State coup, where all OTs none of the conspirators have been removed from their perches determining “official US Policy
    “ for the mere elected officials like POTUS

  18. Unfortunately there’s a huge contingent of conservatives who buy into the extreme of chivalry and it’s updated version, radical feminism. Both groups are fueled by the cultivated self-hatred that has infiltrated Western society since World War II.
    How can they be defeated when they’ve long claimed to have such values as equality and freedom on their side?

    1. Somebody’s been reading their Dalrock.

  19. As for the actual argument about porn and its morality, it has a special place among the libertarian-leanings because it is explicitly degenerate. The moral line in the sand has always been drawn at the point where freedom chips away at the foundation of society. It is not that different from the issue of open borders. If you believe that open borders will destroy a free society, then you will have to restrict freedom of movement and association at some level.

    I can’t find the video, but there’s a hilarious link from a Libertarian party convention where someone dared question the logic behind blanket legalization of all drugs, including hard drugs like heroin and crystal meth. Their concern was about children and young adults making poor, uninformed decisions and getting addicted to something that can seriously impact your health and they were booed loudly. That’s the line manifesting itself in reality and it is the gap between ordinary, apolitical people and ideological libertarians that the Libertarian party has always struggled to connect with.

    Calling something degenerate is a big claim and I’m personally split on the issue, but here’s how I see it. Aside from the simple libertarian argument of letting people freely associate, pornography can be part of a healthy exploration of sexuality. It can also be addictive and unhealthy habits can form (unrealistic expectations, desensitization, etc.), but I have never liked that argument because most freedoms can be abused. People can buy guns and commit crimes, but that’s hardly a reason to ban guns. People can say mean things, but that’s hardly a reason to censor speech.

    On the opposite side, pornography can be more insidious than just consensual sex. We’re only seeing the finished product. We don’t really talk about how dehumanizing it is to commodify your body for sex, or how actors, especially young adults, are often taken advantage of. I don’t even mean in the illegal sense of drugs/alcohol/rape, but in terms of financial vulnerability, poor judgment, the internet is forever, etc. Culturally, porn is still frowned upon in spite of it being legally permissible. I think it’s not going to destroy the world on its own, but in a weakened Weimar culture like our own that does not stand for principles and is afraid to defend what few it has left, the idea of permitting anything and everything is just another chink in the armor that was American culture.

    1. where freedom chips away at the foundation of society
      So men AND women (both young and old) watching porn and fapping, sometimes together, is chipping away at the foundation of society? That is the claim, but no one can muster ANY objective evidence proving that.
      Since porn has become more ubiquitous, crime is down. Out of wedlock births are down. And if someone truly gets addicted to porn (not going into the argument over what addiction truly means), they can get help. Just like alcoholics, or shopaholics or whatever. Ban it, and while it might lower the casual use, the people who are prone to addiction will find it and will still get addicted (or will find another habit and get addicted). And frankly, even watching porn a lot doesn’t necessarily lead to problems. Unlike alcoholism which leads to health problems, bar fights, spousal abuse, etc.
      And, as far as violent porn, it isn’t really all that common. And it is almost always not true violence (just like in regular movies). Because if any actual violence occurs, the police can be called. However, if porn is banned, just like with prostitution, there will still be people who create it, but the women will be far more vulnerable.

      And by the way, would banning porn mean if my wife and I make amateur videos, even if we don’t make any money, would we be breaking the law?

      1. And by the way, would banning porn mean if my wife and I make amateur videos, even if we don’t make any money, would we be breaking the law?

        No. Or, at least, not according to me.

        However, let me ask a different question: What if my opposition to the proliferation of porn was an opposition to the substitution of fiction for reality, especially when it came to sex and gender (roles), would I still be a hyperventilating ultra-Conservative fruitcake?

        OK, two questions:
        If that were my sole reason for opposing the proliferation of porn and I were exceedingly passionate about it, would the average person be able to distinguish my issue from (ironically a bit fictitious) bog-standard neo-hybrid Conservative feminism?

  20. Actually, we talk rather a lot about how dehumanizing it is to commodify your body for sex. What we don’t hear very much are complaints from the people actually commodifying their own bodies. All the talk about how dehumanizing it is seems to come from the people who aren’t doing it. A cynic might think they don’t know what they’re talking about.

    Think of it another way. LeBron James has certainly commodified his own body. Yet no one, least of all him, argues that his basketball career was dehumanizing. In what way, precisely, is sex work any more dehumanizing than any other kind of work?

    1. I bet if we looked, we could find some porn stars talking about how dehumanizing it is to produce porn. If you were interested.

      The implication that sex for money is the same as playing basketball for money is pretty much the focal point of the entire argument, I think.

      Yet, I’ve never heard of someone being arrested for non-consensually stealing someone’s basketball and making a layup against their will.

      1. I bet if we looked, we could find some porn stars talking about how dehumanizing it is to produce porn.

        Netflix has a series that has a number of high-profile stars. I believe it’s something to do with ‘Confessions of a Porn Star’ or similar. I thought Reason did a feature a while ago.

        The issue isn’t that there aren’t women bemoaning the industry. There are plenty and plenty of the ones who don’t have some pretty fucked up lives that make you think they’re suffering Munchhausen’s Syndrome. For every Maitland “I’m still just acting, but now getting paid more!” Ward there’s at least one Mia “I was at the top. Worked hard. Made no money. Would not do again”, and at least a couple of August Ames (suicide) and Amber Rayne (O.D. – cocaine).

        1. The issue isn’t that there aren’t women bemoaning the industry.

          Women and men but the issue is that Rossami’s pushing selective hearing/attention/narrative as situational truth.

        2. Mia “I was at the top. Worked hard. Made no money. Would not do again”

          FFS, Mia Khalifa.

          *obligatory bitching about the edit button*

      2. Some talking about it, yes. But you can also find some factory workers talking about how “dehumanizing” it is to be on the assembly line, some office workers moaning about how “dehumanizing” their work is, even some of fearless boys and girls in blue whining about how “dehumanizing” police work is.

        Those outlier complaints do not, in my opinion, add up to “much” compared to the volume of claims about the alleged evil effects on performers that come from people outside the industry.

        1. Those outlier complaints do not, in my opinion, add up to “much” compared to the volume of claims about the alleged evil effects on performers that come from people outside the industry.

          So, you admit that it’s not everyone outside is complaining and no one inside is complaining. Now, exactly how many would you have to hear to decide that they weren’t outliers? How loudly or earnestly would they have to be? How invested in the industry/lifestyle would they have to be? At what ratio of outside:inside would you say, “OK, maybe some of the complaints are legit and the industry/lifestyle is a little fucked up.”?

          Because you certainly aren’t going to get complaints from the most devout acolytes and waiting until they’re ready to throw in the towel is exceedingly libertine. Libertine in a manner you wouldn’t tolerate (e.g.) AGW zealotry or ‘1-in-4 women are raped on campus’ zealotry.

          I’m not saying to ban porn (a portion of my income is indirectly dependent on porn), but let’s not pretend that more porn is always better or that queries about how you take your women/dick should ever be regarded as glibly as how you take your coffee.

    2. In what way, precisely, is sex work any more dehumanizing than any other kind of work?

      You mean aside from the fact that no matter how many times Lebron James puts the ball in the hoop a baby never comes out the other side?

      You do realize that sex is, by-and-large and in an exceedingly real sense, *the. only* humanizing act, right?

    3. That was kind of the point. These people don’t think there’s any shame in what they’re doing and that’s what many people would consider a degeneration of society.

      Also, please keep in mind that I play devil’s advocate a lot. I think a lot of porn is damaging for people to look at, but we are on a libertarian site. I’m not fond of any kind of censorship or restrictions on speech, but I’ll gladly criticize it and help to maintain the culture, even if it isn’t codified in law. I was just trying to shine some light on other perspectives because far too often, I feel like people look at this with the assumption that people who want to ban porn are just nanny state control freaks and that there couldn’t possibly be any other reason for their disdain.

  21. Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away!

  22. Thank you for your tireless efforts to fight for our rights to cum on our chests while looking at dirty pictures. FREEDOM!

  23. You forgot to mention this alliance occurred back in the 1800s with England. Christian women and feminists joined hands in spreading lies and rumors about men raping younger women, and how immoral it was even if it was consensual (from a Christian’s point of view) and patriarchal it was (from a feminist’s point of view).

    The reality is that jealousy fueled the start of feminism, and it is the life blood of feminism today. Why else would feminists be screeching so much about men sleeping with women on a video? Why else would our society be brainwashed into thinking it is “creepy” or “gross” for an older man to date a younger woman?

    1. You forgot to mention this alliance occurred back in the 1800s with England. Christian women and feminists joined hands in spreading lies and rumors about men raping younger women, and how immoral it was even if it was consensual (from a Christian’s point of view) and patriarchal it was (from a feminist’s point of view).

      Yeah, I’m sure in the progression from polygamy and harems to one man, one woman that occurred well prior to 1800 there were never any alliances between feminists and the Church.

    2. Because society contains lots of older wives dumped for younger women.

  24. Porn used to be far filthier. Really, really dirty, and that was mainly due to its gray-market status. When you weren’t sure of the legality of that Danish teenage rectal inspection video, well, it added a certain frisson to the viewing experience.

    Nowadays, with all the nipple slips and twerking during prime time, it’s just not the same. The botox in the face, the gel bags in the tits, the bleached assholes and the labiaplasties leave the true aficionado longing for the old days.

    I say make porn illegal again.

    1. Yeah, if you think porn has been good about increasing diversity in all forms on the internet. You didn’t start viewing porn on the internet before ~2005.

  25. In law school I learned that no contract for an immoral purpose should be enforced in the courts. I have not come across the issue in practice. Nevertheless, I think there should be no copyright protection or enforceable contracts in the creation and distribution of porn. The sex trade remains illegal in most places and that is also just fine with me.
    Banning internet porn could tie up the courts and, at least for now, no one forces someone to a porn sight and even the NY Times does not take ads for porn websites.
    Modern audio visual technology is so inexpensive that porn seems less harmful than the days when it was more likely to be associated with organized crime. Today we have the greatest U.S. President who owned a strip club, casinos, and was accused of befriending a porn star and producer.
    Abortion is a lot worse than porn in my book. Lets just keep the government out of the moral issue whenever possible.

    1. It isn’t inexpensive “modern visual technology” that makes porn less harmful. It is legality. And conversely, illegality is what made it harmful. And the sex trade should not be illegal either, as its criminality is what causes victimization of sex workers.

  26. You can have my porn when you pry it from my moist, sticky fingers…

  27. During the late 1980s the War on Porn arrived here on the West coast of Canada. Women were marching in the streets and boycotting corner stores in an attempt to “Take back the night” whatever that had to do with pornography. The end result was that all books that contained any mention of homosexuality disappeared from store bookshelves while heterosexual porn continued to be marketed without interruption. Gay bookstores were driven out of business because all of their stock was being confiscated at the US/Canada border by new powers given to Border Security guards by our federal government. And the protesting feminists then walked away and found something else to socially engineer.

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  29. Conservatives trying to force their morals on other people. I’m shocked, shocked I say. Well not that shocked.

    1. Wouldn’t a libertarian be attempting to force his morals on other people if he tried to prevent pornography from being banned?

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  31. I hope they don’t ban porn. About 60% of my small gauge film archive is ancient porn from the 1920s – 1950s. I specialize in social documentary subject matter. Porn is social documentary, the subject matter is interesting, there is no copyright on the ancient porn and it is relatively cheap to aquire…so it fits all parameters for my film archive as a collection area.

    Our country has much bigger issues than porn. A doped up, genderqueer nation would not last long in the real world. Stronger countries would take them over. Now, porn, especially if excessively used, is bad for the penis. It can desensitize it if you are constantly masturbating. Then the poor gals complain they can’t get their guy off. Of the gals complain their lesbian lover needs a jackhammer to get her off.

  32. Banning porn is idiotic, just like how banning anything is counterproductive and anti-liberty

    HOWEVER

    Porn should be shunned socially and looked down upon as the gross degeneracy that it is, much like smoking or obesity. Porn is hurtful for those who participate it and for those who consume it

  33. But, but… who are we to tell a woman what they can do with THEIR body???

  34. So 2 feminists convince government that porn is a violation of women’s civil rights even though men are in the porn and even though women who are in it are voluntarily performing.

    Women who seek to ban porn do so because they see it as a threat to the power they u hold over men via their sex. Its why they fight even harder to shut down the sex doll industry which is danger close to producing viable replacements for women within the next decade maybe sooner. Most men do seek a woman company at some point but the primary focus men have towards women are children and sex. I know women like to believe that men want to sit around and share their feelings with their wives all day like women do with each other but that’s not reality. Men do like to cuddle/snuggle at times but sex and kids are the reasons men have anything to do with women and anything that is a competitor for these 2 is a woman’s greatest enemy. If science finds a financially feasible means to produce children for men without a wife and advances the sex doll technology to the point of AI you can bet that women are screwed and not in the way that gives them power over men. Most women realize this and that why they seek to ban anything that represents competition.

  35. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for civil authorities to prevent the production and distribution of pornography. If Catholics are trying to ban pornography, then they are simply exercising their religious beliefs. Surely Reason would not be against people engaging in freedom of religion.

  36. I don’t think cracking down on porn is every going to be successful and I can’t think of any better way to start a revolution where people are actually shooting at each other than by attempting to ban porn.

    However, I DO think that porn purveyors should be held responsible for human trafficking and the punishment should be severe. How they lessen their liability should be for them & their lawyers to figure out.

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