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Is the GOP afraid of porn because it can lead to religious struggles?

 

New GOP slogan

New GOP slogan

The GOP released one of their platforms ahead of the Republican Convention: porn, or specifically say no to porn. The statement explaining this new direction from North Carolina’s Mary Francis Forrester is a hot mess:

Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography which closely linked to human trafficking.

Even more frightening is the provision supporting the thoroughly discredited and dangerous conversion “therapy” for homosexuality and a statement affirming opposition to same-sex marriage. Others have covered these issues far better than I can, so I want to focus on porn.

First of all I’m not into porn so I’m an unlikely defender, but science is science. Porn seems largely a sprint to penetration, however, each to their own and if that’s someone else’s thing then great. If the actors are safe (read condoms are used) and everyone is 18 years or older, then I’m cool. However, if you are going to label something a health crisis it better actually be one. 

The medical literature on the negative effects of porn is underwhelming. I know Time magazine was recently all about sounding the porn alarm, but honestly the literature isn’t clear. Obviously attitudes about sex and sexuality are multifactorial and watching porn may actually be a symptom and not a cause. But you know what is clearly about harm? The literature on guns, which shows that a gun in the house increases the risk of suicide and homicide. I was really surprised by this, not that guns kill all kinds of people accidentally and on purpose, but that the literature on porn being harmful isn’t robust. Although one thing that might have the GOP concerned is that porn may have some role in religious and spiritual struggles. Fewer in the hard core religious right means, well, less of the voting block the GOP has so carefully cultivated.

Some studies suggest that viewing porn could change adolescents‘ perception of what is “normal” and one study shows that adults primed with exposure to surgically altered, smaller labia changes the perception of what makes a labia desirable. However, how different is that from the priming effect experienced by a 12-year-old bombarded with images of size 0 women? I think it’s just as equally sad for young men to think that women moan and make constant vocalizations with a high-pitched nasal voice during sex as it is for young women to think a “normal” appearing face requires 45 minutes of make-up contouring. However, neither of these distortions are going to bring America to its knees.

Social media, however (sexting etc.) does appear to have a negative effect on body image and anxiety, but that of course isn’t porn. Young women who sext can be blackmailed and even driven to suicide, but that’s also not porn.

You know what else porn doesn’t do? Turn people into child offenders. A recent (2016) review “found little to no evidence that availability of the Internet has increased the worldwide incidence or prevalence of in-person child sexual abuse. In fact, during the time period in which the Internet has flourished, international crime statistics have shown a steady decrease of in-person child sexual abuse. The only exception to this trend is an increase in Internet child pornography or luring offenses (e.g., Stats Can, 2014), which involves child abuse by definition.”

The Internet does makes child luring easier. It seems that daily we read terrible stories about girls and boys groomed online with tragic outcomes, but this is not the fault of porn. This grooming happens in chat rooms and with online gaming, not on PornHub. Every few days I remind my kids that they must never interact with anyone online who I don’t know in real life. Ever. One of my sons’ was asked for his age just the other day by some unknown person while playing on his Nintendo DS. Somehow he had migrated online while playing. One again we had the NEVER-EVER-EVER-INTERACT-WITH-A-STRANGER-ONLINE-EVER-THEY-MEAN-YOU-HARM conversation. Just like we have the conversation about what to do if he is offered a cigarette or drugs or some stranger wants him to see a box filled with puppies in the back of a van. The point is luring is terrifying and terrible and the Internet makes it easier, but it has nothing to do with porn.

We have many things science tells us we should fear, like guns and Zika, but guns get votes and Zika means talking about contraception so those won’t work for a platform.

The only scientific reason to “fear” porn is that it may reduce the God-fearing-no-questions-asked voting block, but it’s pretty clear that we have no firm evidence that it is destroying millions of lives. Then again science seems to matter little in this GOP platform so it’s probably about dressing fear and bigotry and hate up as “family values” to pander for votes.

 

 

 

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Is the GOP afraid of porn because it can lead to religious struggles?

  1. Comments in the UK about this were along the lines of, ‘better sex-ed in schools needed’. Marty Klein, in the US, has similar thoughts:

    https://sexualintelligence.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/republicans-porn-a-public-health-crisis/

    And for a view of how this all could have come about in the US, see:

    http://notchesblog.com/2016/07/12/reverend-anna-garlin-spencer-and-the-rise-of-family-life-in-early-sex-education/

    Posted by korhomme | July 12, 2016, 10:05 am
  2. A threat to religiosity probably does motivate some of the Republicans, but I think the best answer is the simplest: having lost so utterly on “gay people are extra-icky,” they need another shiny Family Values object to keep the base riled up.

    Posted by madder | July 19, 2016, 1:43 pm

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