Porn and Pandora

February 11, 2018
Posted by Jay Livingston

Ross Douthat wants to ban porn. No wonder he buries the lede even though it’s the only bit of systematic evidence he cites in his column today.

According to Douthat, we had a chance to ban porn a few decades ago. We could have done it. And we all, especially women, would have been better off – happier in our sex lives. Instead we “surrendered” to smut. But why?

Between the individualistic drift of society, the invention of the internet, and the failure of the Dworkin-Falwell* alliance’s predictions that porn would lead to rising rates of rape, the anti-porn case was marginalized  — with religious conservatism’s surrender to Donald Trump’s playboy candidacy a seeming coup de grace. [emphasis added]

Like Trekkie Monster in “Avenue Q,” I have no doubt that the internet made for much wider consumption of porn. As for US society being more individualistic now than it was 40-50 years ago, I would prefer to see some evidence. But on cause #3 – the failure of those predictions about rape – Douthat glides past an important fact. The rates didn’t just “not rise.” They fell. A lot.

The BJS victimization survey (here) shows that rates of rape and sexual assault in 2010 were less than half of what they were in 1995. More recent BJS surveys show no significant increase since 2010.


The same is true for victimization among college-age women. For both students and non-students, victimization rates in 2013 were about half of what they had been before the internet-porn explosion.



Maybe some John Lott of porn will write a book – More Porn, Less Rape.

Douthat doesn’t like porn. So rather than confront this large but inconvenient fact about porn and sexual assault, he buries it in the middle of a sentence one-third of the way into his column. 

It’s not just porn that Douthat doesn’t like. He doesn’t like sex for sex’s sake. He’s condescendingly dismissive of sex ed that is not focused on repression.

The sex education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all.

The students of the 90s, when Douthat was in those classes, wound up being much less sexually assaultive and sexually victimized than their counterparts of earlier years. No matter. Douthat likes those “forces of repression” and wants to see them rolled out again.

Don’t hold your breath. That Pandora’s box has been opened. Those erotic evils will continue to float unconfined, and Pandora herself has gone into the Internet music biz. So we are all free to pontificate, unconstrained by data, about what would happen if porn were banned. But if we’re going to speculate about the effects of pornography, we should pay at least some attention to the evidence we have about what actually did happen.

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*Andrea Dworkin did not coin the phrase “Porn is the theory, rape is the practice.” That was Robin Morgan. But Dworkin, in her vigorous fight against porn, espoused that causal idea. Falwell is Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. He too did not like porn, though in my very unthorough Google search, I could find no reference to his claiming that it caused rape.

1 comment:

mirai-e said...

The supposed lower rates of sexual assault and "progressiveness" we pride ourselves today should lead to a larger anti-porn movement- but instead we get journalists exclaiming that they're "thankful" that porn will never be banned.

???

I dislike conservatism as much as anyone else but I can't help but think that those who are apathetic or pro-porn haven't been exposed to the endless testimonials by ex-performers exposing the rampant exploitation and dehumanization that's so common industry? Or the notion that male access to female bodies is a implied to be a right? Criticism of porn is often ridiculed and/or ignored to such a great extent you have to ask yourself whether individualism hasn't become a problem. And if you're a woman you're acutely aware of how dangerous it feels to live in a culture where cruelty is so widespread and demanded-for. I'm, frankly, terrified and extremely frustrated at those who try to minimize emotional pain and trauma.


References:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Feminism/comments/5b0jw4/japans_misogynistic_and_rape_culture_why_dont_you/d9manfr/

http://crawlakill.tumblr.com/post/122856341803/radfem-momma-fuckyeahsexeducation#tumblr_notes

http://crawlakill.tumblr.com/post/117644527882/exgynocraticgrrl-lara-roxx-on-primetime-hiv#tumblr_notes

http://antipornographyorg.tumblr.com/post/110111715787/new-documentary-hot-girls-wanted-goes-inside

http://antipornographyorg.tumblr.com/post/104375981587/anti-porn-mega-pack#notes

http://crawlakill.tumblr.com/post/119986720012/i-think-we-should-have-more-sexual-education-can#tumblr_notes

http://web.archive.org/web/20160409173451/http://exgynocraticgrrl-archive.tumblr.com:80/post/104311005989/anti-porn-mega-pack