Battling Online Smut Is Still a Conservative Priority
Not long ago, both parties gave serious consideration to the destructiveness of porn.
Imagine a child at home after school while the parents are at work. Now imagine what those parents would think if someone entered their home and showed their child pictures and videos of graphic sex acts. The parents would be outraged, and they’d call the police. But this is exactly what happens to millions of American children every day who come home and view pornography on their computer screens. It’s the reality of a society in which our minds are saturated with pornographic images, even when we’re not looking for them, and a porn industry that continues to grow exponentially.
Not long ago, our nation gave serious consideration to such issues. Both Republicans and even some Democrats warned about a society in moral decay.
Politico’s Tim Alberta writes, “From the 1960s through the turn of the century, pornography played a dominant role in the American political argument — its morality and legality, its restrictions and regulations, its implications and unintended consequences.”
Yet despite these efforts, and after President Ronald Reagan assembled a Presidential Commission on Pornography in 1985 to warn that the pornography industry’s “days are numbered,” the movement seems to have lost its punch. Politicians and even religious leaders are now reluctant to open up the discussion.
Certainly, the fight isn’t completely over. In 2015, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation hosted an anti-porn summit on Capitol Hill. The following year, Utah state senator Todd Weiler introduced a resolution calling pornography a “public health crisis,” and since that time, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, and Kansas have introduced similar measures. Moreover, the Republican Party added to its 2016 platform the statement that “pornography has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.”
Weiler, according to Alberta, “says American culture is past the point of no return when it comes to porn, and explains that he sponsored the measure for one reason — to start a conversation about protecting minors.” Weiler himself adds, “People sell all kinds of things on the Internet, but they don’t sell them to 15-year-olds because they would get in trouble — gun manufacturers, vaping companies, alcohol distributors. That’s not the case with porn websites.”
On the other hand, pro-pornography libertarian Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes at Reason, “Plenty of porn-adjacent panics have sprung up since the 1990s as well, and plenty of political effort has gone into fighting them. So, yes, we might have fewer federal obscenity prosecutions, but we also have many more federal sex crimes on the books overall and no shortage of activity on their behalf. Since 2000, we’ve seen an ever-escalating federal war on prostitution, all sorts of panic (and prosecutions) over teen sexting, and dozens of bills introduced (in Congress and statehouses) to revenge porn and sextortion.”
But the debate should be about more than merely stopping teens from sexting one another. American minds are inundated with pornography and experts in many fields of science and psychology know the damage that exposure can cause to our families and children. This includes increased stress on married couples that can lead to separation, divorce, or infidelity; a higher likelihood that a person may become addicted to porn; the degradation of women; the belief that emotion and commitment aren’t necessary in a relationship; an assumption that pornographic scenes are commonplace and acceptable; and a higher propensity to engage in casual sex that leads to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
In 1996, Judge Robert Bork wrote a New York Times bestseller titled Slouching Toward Gomorrah in which he cautioned about the moral decline of our civilization. He was harshly criticized for suggesting that censorship of violence and graphic sex might have to be considered in the future to prevent irreversible moral decline. Today, many of his fears have come to fruition.
While censorship may not be the answer, we do need to rekindle a national discussion about morality. And we need to find ways to reverse the “anything goes” mentality and the moral relativism that has become the shameful norm in American society.
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