The "Let's Ban Porn" Conversation Once Again Rears Its Ugly Head

Porn literacy, the #MeToo movement, and the sexually educated teenager: can society have all three? And if all three don’t fit so comfortably together, what should we do? Are we too afraid to consider the possibility of societal benefit from BANNING porn? Is the answer to BAN porn?

How about: NO

The #MeToo phenomenon has been a movement long overdue for women, men, and sexual assault survivors everywhere. Now that it’s here and society is facing some uncomfortable hard truths about culture, dating, workplace behavior, and the entertainment industry, what ripple effects will we see here in the adult entertainment industry? One opinion making the rounds in mainstream news outlets is that porn is harmful to society because this is where our kids learn about sex. Ross Douthat, a columnist who replaced Bill Kristol as the conservative voice on the New York Times editorial page, wrote 1,000 words last week in the Opinion section, titled “Let’s Ban Porn.” According to Mr. Douthat, pornography and the #MeToo movement are not compatible in a healthy society. Mr. Douthat dismisses the idea of “porn literacy” as a very noble idea, but one that can’t possibly work, and believes these educators are resigned to their fate that their work is simply remedial, and there is no escaping the dark and brutal world that pornography has left us with. He ends his piece by appealing to feminists to join the ban-porn bandwagon.

Feminists and conservative columnists make for uncomfortable bedfellows, don’t they?

So what is “porn literacy?” Porn literacy aims to make teens more critical consumers of porn by examining how gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, queer sex, relationships, and body images are portrayed (or, in the case of consent, not portrayed) in porn. The main idea of porn literacy is that pornography is NOT a documentary, and seeks to give teens and others a set of skills they need to decode porn and manage it in a salubrious manner in their sex lives.

Mr. Douthat goes on to say that society’s sexual reassessment will never be complete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, mostly young men, get their sexual education from smut online. He claims that the #MeToo movement wants to talk about our pornography problem in society but are not ready to admit that comfortably yet.

The fact is, in this country there is no way for teenagers to learn about sex. And the #MeToo movement has already brought the adult entertainment industry into the conversation. The industry, just a few years back, had its own #MeToo movement and self-reflection in light of accusations cast against a few iconic male performers in the industry.

Mr. Douthat does concede that problematic behavior some young men exhibit would still exist without the wide availability of porn, and then goes on to blame pornography for a decline in married people having children, and sex itself. Mr. Douthat cites no empirical evidence for this claim, he just… states it. He also doesn’t DEFINE what he considers pornography. What is it, Mr. Douthat? A woman being double penetrated? Lady Chatterley? The NC-17 version of Showgirls?

You want to BAN something completely? Please be sure you can define it.

And we have to wonder why so many conservative arguments always circle back to, WE’RE NOT HAVING ENOUGH CHILDREN! Again, Mr. Douthat cites no evidence to support that the adult entertainment industry is behind a drop of births in married couples. There are 335 million people in this country. From all the extinction events humankind may face, underpopulation because of men choosing to jerk off to porn instead of in their wives seems a tad absurd.

Mr. Douthat goes on,

“…making hardcore porn something to be quested at in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, it’s cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere. That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power.”

Mr. Douthat ignores recent history here as a precedent.

This type of noesis and protectionism did not work out so well for prohibition and the War on Drugs. His opinion piece also doesn’t address how law enforcement should handle this, or even whom should handle this. Should it be the federal government that steps in and bans porn like it’s a sugary sweet, or should it be left to localities and the whims of local religious/spiritual leaders in communities?

Porn literacy should be seen as one of the solutions needed to solve a cultural problem; in a world where parents just refuse to have uncomfortable conversations with their children, and abstinence-based sex education has relied on upon for too long, porn literacy may well be the future of sex education here in the United States.

Our biggest problem with Mr. Douthat’s piece: he asserts again and again that we as a society are too afraid to have these tough conversations. But haven’t we been having these conversations about pornography for decades now? Since Deep Throat blew up the mainstream back in the 70s? Ross Douthat is hardly the first conservative columnist to take to an opinion board and call for something he personally deems immoral to be outright banned. Conservative USA has had their huge balls in a knot for a pornography ban for years now. The murmurs resurface every few years, especially in Southern localities. Can we recall Utah’s experiment with a porn czar?

That didn’t work out so well either – check out MormonGirlz right here and see for yourself.

Utah leaders have long sought to play a central role in the anti-pornography movement, but the state’s most well-known attempt to strike down smut didn’t go as hoped. The state’s much-lampooned “porn czar” lasted a few years in the early 2000s before the position was eliminated. Earlier this month, Utah legislators eliminated the statute permitting the state attorney general to employ such a prosecutor. From last week’s Washington Post article, “In Utah, the Fight Against Porn is Increasingly Being Framed as a Public Health Crisis,” Republican Utah Rep. Michael McKell stressed that it isn’t the job of the government to sit in a dark room and review porn. This is the same House sponsor of the bill that eliminated the czar – who, he insisted, was not intended to be an obscenity nanny in the first place.

David Routhat is wrong. We HAVE been having these type of conversations in this country about the adult entertainment industry for quite some time now. And he’s wrong to conflate the momentum of the #MeToo movement with adult entertainment. We shouldn’t ban porn and engage in censorship; we should talk to adult producers and performers in the industry and share ideas on how best to educate our young people when it comes to interpersonal relationships, sex, and our consumption of porn.

How about we ban abstinence-based sexual education in schools? To the NYT‘s editorial page, Stoney Rubble and everyone here at HotMovies are available with our thoughts and experiences, and we’ll give you a piece a little more nuanced than a thousand-word poorly-thought-out Tweet masquerading as an opinion piece in one of the nation’s most influential newspapers.

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