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Widely Available Porn is the Bellwether of a Free People

Pamela Anderson’s opinion piece in the “Wall Street Journal” a few weeks ago (Take the Pledge: No More Indulging Porn, August 31, 2016), calling attention to, as she puts it, “the true nature and danger of porn,” inspired me to revive my long dormant blog.  

As difficult as it was to look past the hypocrisy of a woman who profited by using her sexuality arguing that depictions of sex have a “corrosive effect on a man’s soul and on his ability to function,” I seriously considered Ms. Anderson’s argument.  I truly did.  And, even acknowledging my understandable bias, Ms. Anderson and her coauthor, Rabbi Boteach, I believe, are wrong.

In their opinion piece, they state that as many as 99% of adult men and 86% of adult women have viewed porn.  As part of researching the literature relating to porn, I came across a point of humor and frustration amongst researchers:  There is no way to assemble a control group because everyone has viewed porn.  Porn is, as it were, part of the experience of being human.

Ms. Anderson’s piece assumes, without support, that viewing porn is potentially addictive.  The American Psychiatric Association disagrees, concluding that there is insufficient evidence for such a diagnosis.
Before I make the argument that porn is actually good for viewers, I’m going to put forth my strongest argument in favor of the wide and unfettered availability of a variety of porn.  Such availability is, among other things, a clear sign of a free people and a robust exchange of ideas.

Although Ms. Anderson does not go so far as to argue that porn be banned, blocked or censored, a call for government action lurks just beneath her warnings of public hazard, suffering families, imploded marriages, and (I kid you not) Anthony Weiner’s shit show.  Ms. Anderson either does not differentiate or fails to draw distinctions between viewing porn and sexting.

How would the public’s consumption of porn be monitored?  Who would do the monitoring?  Who would make the determination that certain content is illicit? What is porn? In the 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio, which addressed whether Ohio could ban the showing of a film it had deemed to be obscene, Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter famously defined hardcore pornography by saying, “I know it when I see it.” With that sort of undefined standard, the censors would have unfettered discretion to ban or block anything.

According to the International Modern Media Institute, a watchdog organization for media freedom, “It is technically impossible to censor content delivered over the Internet without monitoring all telecommunications. Not just unwanted communications or inappropriate material, everything must be examined automatically by unsupervised machines which make the final decision on whether to allow the content to continue or not. This level of government surveillance directly conflicts with the idea of a free society.”  A society without internet porn already exists, Ms. Anderson.  It’s called North Korea.

On a more personal level, I cannot tell you how many clients have told me that watching Internet porn was the first step in exploring and finding their true sexual identities.  Porn is proof and reassurance to people that their sexual preferences and desires, though not necessarily accepted publicly, are not bizarre, and need not be cause for shame.

I am aware that researchers have attempted to determine whether viewing porn is correlated with sexual misconduct or violence.  As I mentioned previously, the difficulty in answering such a question is in identifying a control group (those that don’t view porn) in a society where 99% of all men may have, at one time, viewed porn.  That said, over the same period of time that porn viewing rates have climbed to 99%, the rate of sexual violence has in the United States has dropped substantially.  I won’t make the claim that the wide availability of porn has caused the drop, but the numbers foreclose any argument that such wide availability has led to a spike in sexual violence.  In any event, common sense tells me that if people are at home watching internet porn, they are not simultaneously harming other people.

Ms. Anderson and her coauthor ultimately resort to the weakest of arguments, the one that proves to me the intellectual bankruptcy of their ideas.  They argue that porn is bad for kids.  Kids are the “crack babies of porn,” they claim.  The surest indication that one side has lost the argument is when it purports to be protecting children.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply acknowledge that Internet porn, like motorcycles, tequila, and dynamite, are not appropriate for use by children.  If the standard by which we determine what will be available to adults in a free society is whether something is appropriate for use by children, we adults would miss out on many, many things that make life rich with excitement, color, and pleasure.  Imagine a world with lots of Dora and no Game of Thrones.

I acknowledge that this blog post has crossed over from informative to indulgent, but bear in mind, as I make this last point, that I have not posted in about a year.  For me, porn is, among other things, an expression of sexual freedom and a rejection of patriarchy.  I read recently in an article from “The Atlantic” online, that in Colonial America, “common scold” laws were used to prevent women from being too loud or too visible.  Women that ran afoul of such laws were sometimes fitted with a “scold’s bridle,” which fit over the head and depressed the tongue to prevent them from speaking.  I have no intention of submitting to the Ms. Anderson’s metaphorical “scold’s bridle.” I’ll continue to advocate for a free society by supporting personal autonomy, sexual freedom, and the widespread availability of pornography.

2 Responses to Widely Available Porn is the Bellwether of a Free People

  1. Perfectly stated, Laura! I didn’t think it was possible, but I am now an even bigger fan of yours. I would love to watch porn with you!

  2. Adurable

    Laura Bentley I’m a big fan of you from North Africa I sincerely like everything about I don’t mind to take a selfie pics with I love you for being a courageous lady

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