The Spread of Pornography Is a Public Health Crisis
Conservatives debate the question of how much government action is needed.
Last week, four House Republicans wrote Attorney General William Barr, asking the DOJ to crack down on hard-core pornography by aggressively enforcing existing anti-obscenity laws.
The letter caused a stir after conservative columnist and podcaster Matt Walsh wrote an article calling on the president and Congress not only to enforce existing obscenity laws but to ban pornography altogether. The primary reason, according to Walsh, is because pornography represents a quantifiable harm to children who are exposed to it.
It should be no surprise that such a suggestion immediately stoked outrage from the Left, where sexual confusion is celebrated, and every form of sexual deviancy is considered a sacred human right.
Perhaps more surprising were the objections to banning pornography from conservatives who, while personally opposed to pornography, nevertheless see expanding government intrusion into our lives as the greater evil.
We should first stipulate, before we debate what role government should play, that claims of a “right” to pornography are ludicrous. Multiple Supreme Court rulings have attempted to define pornography and establish legal limits, but the Court has never established it as an unimpeachable right.
As Walsh correctly notes, “Porn is not speech. It does not convey a message or communicate an idea. It is a product, not a statement. And not all products are, or should be, legal.” If a man pleasures himself on a park bench or a couple has sex on a table at the mall food court, they would be arrested. How does something illegal become an inalienable right simply because a camera records the act and it’s posted online?
The most pressing issue, for Walsh, is the impact that the pervasiveness of pornography is having on children and families. Porn is a massive industry, raking in tens of billions of dollars a year, and in a connected world of smartphones, laptops, and iPads, even with parental-control software, it is nearly impossible to ensure that children are not exposed to it, accidentally or otherwise.
By age 18, fully 90% of boys have seen porn. In fact, the average age at which children are exposed to porn is 11 years old. Think of that. Even with parental permission, children are not allowed to create a YouTube account until they are 13. Yet children even younger are being exposed to hard-core, sexually explicit videos. Children simply do not have the intellectual, emotional, and psychological maturity to process what they are seeing, and it does lasting damage.
From a scientific perspective, we know pornography gives a massive dopamine kick, stimulating the pleasure center of the brain. However, over time the brain requires more aggressive and explicit sexual acts to achieve the same high.
In 2013, Cambridge University released MRI brain scans from porn users, revealing porn creates an addition similar to that of drugs. In fact, over time, the chemicals create new neural pathways, literally rewiring the brain to avoid the prefrontal cortex, where decisions are weighed by morality. It is no surprise that those arrested for child pornography are usually long-term, heavy porn addicts.
Furthermore, sometimes it is children who are engaging in the pornographic acts on screen. While porn’s defenders claim it should be legal because it’s an act between consenting adults, the reality is the viewer has no way of knowing if the participants are legal adults or older children. Child pornography is a $3 billion/year industry, and it is only growing.
For that matter, even if the participants are adults, there is no way to know if they are consenting. Countless thousands of girls and women are sold into sex slavery each year, given addictive drugs and/or beaten to ensure they are compliant.
Opponents of having government ban pornography argue we shouldn’t empower government to make these decisions because “you can’t legislate morality.” That is a poor argument, since laws are nothing more than the codification of social morality. Every law passed is passed (ostensibly) to prevent harm or promote good.
Some conservative critics argue it should be parents, the community, and the church that address the pornography problem by changing the culture, and they are absolutely right. But try that argument on the opioid crisis — make fentanyl or meth legal and leave it to parents to make sure their kids don’t have access.
While government can’t be the primary weapon in our arsenal to combat pornography, it certainly has a significant role. The wake of destruction left in the lives of children and families is simply too great to be ignored. Yes, there are tools for parents to use to protect their children, but the vastness of the industry and its insatiable appetite for new addicts is simply too great for parents to fight alone.
Of course, it would also help if government schools would stop teaching graphically explicit and age-inappropriate “sex education.”
Declaring porn a public health crisis, as 16 states have done, raises consciousness of the magnitude of a problem that is only whispered about, and rarely discussed in polite company. And vigorously enforcing existing laws and regulations expands neither the power nor scope of government.
Pornography is destroying the ability of boys to become men who have healthy relationships with women. It teaches men to objectify women as impersonal objects to be used for their pleasure. It promotes sex trafficking. It harms children and demeans wives.
Regardless of what legal restrictions are or are not in place, every decent person must combat the plague of pornography with every tool at our disposal.