Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Sustainable Culture, Sidelined Pornography

January 27th, 2011 by Adam G.

The United Kingdom is pushing Internet Service Providers to automatically block access to pornographic sites. Adults could have the block removed on request.

The UK’s rationale is that pornography damages children and even teens who access it.* Sophistated juvenile users will always be able to get around the blocks, but not all juveniles are sophisticated users, and not all juveniles who come across pornography on the internet meant to. In any case, the more effort a youth has to make to get to porn, the easier it is to resist the temptation to do it. “Lead us not into temptation” is a powerful recognition of human weakness and the limits of human resistance. So I suspect the UK’s proposed efforts will benefit adults too. Some who might not have the late-night willpower to resist pornography lwhile fiddling around on the internet will have the day-time willpower to not ask their Internet Service Provider to take their filter off.

I strongly endorse the United Kingdom’s proposal for domestic American consumption. We are in the middle of an economic collapse perpetrated by short-term and medium-term practices that were unsustainable in the long-term. In the long run we’re dead, Lord Keynes said . . . over a lifetime ago. The long run has now arrived. We’re now realizing that the model of debt-fueled government spending and an international economy of Americans buying stuff from the rest of the world in exchange for home loans cannot last. But we are also shacking up with unsustainable social models. In fact, the unsustainable social models overlap the unsustainable economic models. Part of our trouble now is the demographic collapse of less people getting married and less marrieds having kids. Part is the illegitimacy explosion, which harms productivity (children from fatherless homes are subject to lots of ills and don’t have as much human capital) and which requires lots of costly government spending on welfare or law enforcement (children from fatherless homes are subject to lots of ills and don’t have as much human capital).

Our current partial social model of hook-ups and cornucopic pornography is unsustainable. A society by definition is about rich and multi-textured connections between people. It is also, if it is to have some sustaining depth, about children and child-raising. Hook-ups and pornography are not about any of these. They are self-centered and now-centered. Nothing comes of them. Their ethos is incompatible with a prior commitment to marriage and family.

But while that is all true, its just a little abstract. The UK initiative highlights a more common-sense reason why kids and pornography don’t mix. Put the ethos and all that to one side. Sing a sick paean to the joys of privacy, porn, and a bottle of pump hand lotion. Tell yourself that watching Black Girls S**k C**k III is an awesome part of your marital intimacy. Pathetic and wrong, but whatever. You still don’t want children and young teenagers being exposed to porn and neither does anybody else. We have a widespread consensus that kids and porn don’t mix. So our default internet access to pornography therefore means that, online, in our culture children and childrearing are secondary to even hollow adult pleasures. An afterthought. A sideshow. In perhaps the important arena of modern life, we are agreeing that kids are a nuisance that if you insist on having, you’ll have to protect them yourself.

That’s why sidelining pornography like the UK is proposing is so powerful. It reverses the reversal of values that puts porn above the young.

Stateside, we should do it too. Politically its feasible. This is the sort of proposal that could get bottled up in committee by lobbyists, but if it ever comes to a vote would pass by huge margins. Legally Congress has the power to do it under the Commerce Clause—I suspect, even under a non-maximalist interpretation. I do not believe our First Amendment jurisprudence would necessarily prohibit it either. States should also be able to implement these proposals, depending on how the legislation is structured.

This is a cause Mormons should support. We know the evils of pornography. We know the importance of family and children. We know we are called to promote legal measures that support the family. Swapping scary porn stats in sacrament meeting is fun, but someone who wants to do something should consider supporting worthy causes like this one.**

* suggestive evidence about the biochemical effects of pornography even on adults discussed here.

**Or worthy groups.

Cross-posted at the Old Country.

Comments (24)
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January 27th, 2011 10:27:59
24 comments

Gdub
January 27, 2011

I love the points you bring up about our society’s weak grasp on reality and responsibility for actions. I would be in favor of this sort of action, but it would have to be implimented in a manner where those blocked sites were easily unblocked by the customer. Otherwise, we’d risk freedom of speech.


Adam Greenwood
January 27, 2011

Gdub,
me and freedom of speech aren’t real close, though we still send Christmas cards. But I agree with you. This isn’t a stealth ban on pornography, its replacing opt-out with opt-in.


Eric Nielson
January 27, 2011

Excellent. Thank you.


Musician
January 27, 2011

I am in favour of the points raised above, but even though this is being discussed here in the UK, it is not law, and there have been many serious comments raised about the technical constraints that we are under and how these ‘pornographic’ sites are defined. Do you define everything with nudity as pornographic? How do you define nudity? Is naturism porn? Is a rumbustious fine-art nude in the classical or baroque school classed as pornographic? The problem as I see it is where do you draw the line. Will it be somebody’s job to trawl the internet for porn sites and flag them in a database, or will we expect the site webmasters to do that work for us? How do we control sites from other countries with different ideas of ‘porn’ and what is acceptable? Who will police the police?
Lots of questions, but I see many problems with this idea. I totally advocate free speech (often very vocally) but also wouldn’t want my children to see porn on the internet. In our family we control this very simply – our children are not allowed to use the internet unless it is in an open place where all the family have the opportunity of seeing the screen. As to the objection that my children can see the internet at a friend’s house, I have to trust their discretion, after we have taught them the correct values. This is a part of free agency. We have to be able to trust our children and not rely on the ‘nanny state’ to control them, as this crushes individualism and makes our children into a part of the common ‘drone’ of humanity. We are encouraged to be ‘in the world, but not of it’ – to me this is a prime example of this. One of our UK ISPs has written about censorship and I think he talks a lot of sense. See http://www.aaisp.net.uk/news-censorship.html – please read his comments about how if we try to block pornography, we will just drive it deeper underground. This could be a danger for our children, as it wouldn’t be so evident – no telltale browser history for us to see after they have been using the computer.

“Web access censorship does not stop access to that material, and also creates a separate psychology that it is something secret and underhand which people can find just as reinforcing. When a recent wikipedia page was blocked, the hits on the page went through the roof with everyone accessing it (bypassing the censorship with ease) to see what the fuss was all about. Accessing something hidden and naughty is going to get people in to this not reduce it.”

I hope I haven’t rambled on too much…!


Vader
January 27, 2011

My problem with applying free speech protections to pornography is that, to my understanding, the dialogue is not exactly a critical element of most pornographic works.

Phone sex may be a significant exception.


Adam Greenwood
January 27, 2011

People always see technical difficulties with policies they oppose.

Free agency doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t worry about the influences we expose ourselves or our children too.

I don’t buy the whole underground argument. You know what’s better than my kid using porn in a major way and me not knowing about it? My kid not using porn in a major way. Boys don’t look at porn because its forbidden. They look at porn because it has naked lady parts.

Being in the world does not accepting the world’s values as a given. It means engaging the world, trying to change the world for the better.

If an opt-in for pornography is censorship, call me Book Burner in Chief.

Edit: I’m dismissive of the technical problem here, but they could be serious. Worth thinking through.


Bookslinger
January 27, 2011

As long as the moral relativists control the media and education system(s), the slide will continue.

What I learned with the short-lived Reagan revolution is this: You can elect all the conservatives you want, but the schools will just churn out more democrat/progressive voters, and the media will cause people with short attention spans to forget the lessons of the recent past.

Would we really have elected such a hard leftist as Obama if voters had remembered, the “misery index” of 1977-1981, and why Republicans won the House and Senate in 1994, and why we put a Republican in the White House in 2000?

We need to put grown-ups back in charge of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education in this country.


Zen
January 27, 2011

“People always see technical difficulties with policies they oppose.”
Perhaps – but that does not mean coming up with a good place to draw the line would be easy. Considering anyone with an interest and camera can make a blog and show anything you anything you want to see, you would have to police every image, video, blog and niche of the internet. Flickr tries to block porn…. and does not get all by a long shot.

Look at how well DRM has worked for Hollywood, music and game companies. It has been a complete joke. Do you expect govt will be more effective than executives who see their bottomline on the line?

The entire point of the Information Revolution is to make information easier and faster to share.

While we should take what steps we can, in the end, we have two choices, End the Information (and Scientific) Revolution

OR

Self-Control and Righteousness.

I strongly suspect that nothing but the Gospel will save us from the technological genies that will let loose.


Thoughtful
January 27, 2011

Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I’ve read several discussions of this topic and appreciate seeing one suggesting solutions aimed at the societal level.

Adam, I agree that in general “Boys don’t look at porn because its forbidden. They look at porn because it has naked lady parts.” However, I know based on conversations with a family member that, at least in some cases, the perceived forbidden nature of porn can greatly increase the emotional anxiety associated with viewing it. Hence viewing porn can create a rush of both pleasure and guilt/anxiety, followed by subsequent self-loathing. For this individual, the heightened emotions of this cycle contributed to developing an addiction (negative emotions–>search for relief–>view porn–> negative emotions). This is likely not the case for most porn users, but I do think it applies to some.

And Bookslinger, as a high school educator I find the suggestion that we don’t have “grown-ups…in charge of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education in this country” to be both unhelpful and untrue. In fact, it is precisely this type of dismissive generalization of an opposing group that I hope my students will avoid.


Adam Greenwood
January 28, 2011

“However, I know based on conversations with a family member that, at least in some cases, the perceived forbidden nature of porn can greatly increase the emotional anxiety associated with viewing it.”

How does this relate back to proposal? Are you suggesting based on your anecdotes that having an internet where porn was an opt-in instead of an opt-out would be a bad idea because it would increase porn-users emotional anxiety?

Zen,
there may be technological difficulties, and they may be insuperable, but technological romanticism about the Information Revolution and Information Wants to Be Free does not persuade me. One thing to remember is that an effort does not have to be perfect to be worthwhile.


Vader
January 28, 2011

The “naked lady parts” phrase is memorable enough that it somehow reached His Majesty.

Who snorted that maybe I should spend less time with people who are so confused about what a lady is.

His Majesty is not known for his chivalry, and has never subscribed to the view that every woman should be treated as if she was a lady. In fairness, he has never subscribed to the view that every man should be treated like a gentleman, either.


Jonovitch
January 28, 2011

Adam, of all the things you’ve ever written, I think I agree more with this post than anything. Hear, hear!

BTW, technology and line-drawing might be the two major issues (I don’t think 1st Amendment has an issue here), but I say you start somewhere and then redraw the line as necessary. In this case, blocking some is better than blocking none.

As for the “underground/secret/anxiety” argument: malarky. There’s plenty of that already with the flood gates wide open. Slowing the source to a trickle wouldn’t add to the effect, it would only make it a lot more difficult for people to get pulled into the undercurrent.

Jon


Stephanie
January 28, 2011

Great post. I think this idea of protecting children extends to many topics. It concerns me that our society is more concerned with making sure adults have access to anything and everything than protecting children from those things. The UK proposal sounds like good common sense.


Lyle
January 28, 2011

Note: the debate is centered around whether or not there exist scientific evidence to indicate that pornography harms children.

The key is: Evidence.

This is a great example of the entire issue re: moral values and creating/maintaining religious freedom amidst a secular world and society.

Adam’s call to action is well meant and where folks can make a real impact is in creating evidence, accepted by non-believers (i.e. scientific) that will prove the presence of harm towards minors.

Bring out your individual narrative stories and quantitative and/or survey skills, because that is what is needed to drive change.


Patricia K.
January 28, 2011

A society by definition is about rich and multi-textured connections between people.

Achieving this will work better than censorship or regulation, though it comes with its own challenging terrain.


Adam Greenwood
January 28, 2011

Achieving this will work better than censorship or regulation, though it comes with its own challenging terrain

Its not either/or. Without boundary maintenance, the core dissipates.


Vader
January 28, 2011

Perhaps the real root problem is this:

We are no longer a child-centered society. Children are now viewed as incidental and often inconvenient.

And that is a recipe for civilizational collapse.


Stephanie
January 28, 2011

Amen to that, Vader.

Note: the debate is centered around whether or not there exist scientific evidence to indicate that pornography harms children.

I fear for our children in a society where “scientific evidence” would be required to prove that porn harms children.


Adam Greenwood
January 28, 2011

Great point, Stephanie. Like Dr. Johnson and the Declaration of Independence, I think we can just appeal to the universal civilized moral sense on this one.


sth
January 28, 2011

There are a whole host of legal and technological reasons why, for as “devastating” as pornography is, having the US federal government mandate that ISPs block it is an even worse idea. But one reason that I haven’t seen mentioned above is that blocking porn on your own home network is really, really easy and doesn’t have to cost anything. Just use OpenDNS, or any other equally good, already-set-up, non-government-mandated blocking services.

Knowing how to implement a technological solution for preventing porn from coming into your family’s home network is a parenting skill that didn’t exist a generation ago, but is essential now. And just because many parents are failing to keep up, doesn’t mean that we should go running to the government to take over our jobs.


Bookslinger
January 28, 2011

Adam: If there could be a specific spigot just for porn and only porn, I’d support the proposal. But the problem with giving the government a tool, is that they’ll figure out how to use it in ways it wasn’t intended, such as RICO forfeitures.

First it will be porn, then it will be “hate speech”, and then Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity will be put in the “hate speech” column.

Youtube videos of people using legal and legally-owned large caliber firearms to blow up watermelons will be classified as “violent”.

Even some trailers of “Glee” in Internet news stories indicate that what I would consider pornography appear on that show. But apparently, if it passes for network prime-time, the majority don’t consider it porn.


Bookslinger
January 28, 2011

Thoughtful: Of course there are many (if not most) classroom teachers who are grown-ups (clear-thinking mature people), and there’s the occasional school principal or superintendent who has their head screwed on straight.

But we have too many in education who consider themselves “educators” and “educationalists” who are not teachers, who are PC-liberal-progressive pinheads who’ve now churned out more than a generation of pc-liberal-progressive pinheads since 1980.

The system mainly consists of educated idiots (the administrators) who’ve churned out UN-educated idiots who only THINK they’re educated, when in fact they’ve only been indoctrinated and trained. And of the actual _educated_ graduates that they’ve churned out, their education is tainted with the pc-progressive world-view and baggage.

Due to the idiots who are in positions of administration and ‘curriculum development’ and all that, I have to conclude that the inmates are running the asylum, and that most public schools and public school boards are part of the problem.

I’ve dealt with a big-city public school. I been exposed to the “educationalist” mind-set that has in effect ‘dumbed down’ both the scholastic education of students (patronizingly lower expectations), worked to lower societal values (tolerating antisocial behavior), and worked to destroy families (forced cross-district busing which keeps parents from being involved with the school).

Here in Indianapolis they ought to totally deconstruct the system and rebuild it from scratch.

But the problem is that the school boards (which control the school administation/administrators) are publicly elected. And the electorate is now PC-progressive-brainwashed, meaning the board will be PC-progressive, meaning the school system administration will be PC-progressive, and meaning both the curriculum and the societal microcosm in the school will be PC-progressive.

And the news media and entertainment industry do their best to keep the post-school electorate pc-progressive-brainwashed, so I don’t see a solution to the “cycles of stupidity” (that we’ve suffered with Carter, Clinton, and Obama) until clear-thinking and socially responsible people (ie, “grown ups”) who can analyze the trends of the past generations, learn from the mistakes, and extrapolate it to the future generation, can take back the educational establishment (ie, the thousands of school boards/administrations and college/university trustees/administrations).

From what I’ve seen since I graduated high school in the 1970′s, I’d call the overall trend “margin creep”.

Although the header is about gay marriage, read this essay on “Margin Creep”,
http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html

Look at the specific sub-topic of teenage pregnancy in that essay, and think how that relates to the changes in how teenage pregnancy has been dealt with in high schools over the page 30 years.

Don’t look at the present _snapshot_ of how things are in schools now. Look at the slow _changes_, the “deltas” of the last 30 years. Compare 1980 with 2010.

Actually, you can trace current trends of PC-progressivism back to the early 1960′s, the pre-hippie “Beat Generation”. It took about a generation to ramp up and sink in, and now it’s been a 2nd generation with it in full effect. How’s it doing? How has the percentage of drug-use, premarital sex, pornography consumption, abortion, illegitimate births, divorce, family stability, etc, etc, trended since then?

We’re much more compassionate towards the poor unwed mother these days than in the early 1960′s. But while being rightly compassionate to individuals, we’ve taken our sight off of and lost the battle against illegitimacy in the aggregate. (Which harkens to the referenced essay on margin creep. Instead of being warned off of premarital sex, the next ‘marginal’ girl – and boy – look forward to getting their ration of “compassion.”)

While having compassion for those who’ve made bad choices, we’ve taken our eyes off of and ignored the bigger picture, and overall trends, and have effectively declared that the bad choices are no longer bad.

Isn’t one of President Monson’s refrains “first pity, then endure, then embrace”? Man, how prophetic! Pick any of the social or societal ills that have skyrocketed since the 1960′s, and that is exactly what has happened. (pre-marital sex, abortion, divorce, infidelity, pornography, homosexuality, etc.)


Tiffany W.
January 30, 2011

“But while that is all true, its just a little abstract. The UK initiative highlights a more common-sense reason why kids and pornography don’t mix. Put the ethos and all that to one side. Sing a sick paean to the joys of privacy, porn, and a bottle of pump hand lotion. Tell yourself that watching Black Girls S**k C**k III is an awesome part of your marital intimacy. Pathetic and wrong, but whatever. You still don’t want children and young teenagers being exposed to porn and neither does anybody else. We have a widespread consensus that kids and porn don’t mix. So our default internet access to pornography therefore means that, online, in our culture children and childrearing are secondary to even hollow adult pleasures. An afterthought. A sideshow. In perhaps the important arena of modern life, we are agreeing that kids are a nuisance that if you insist on having, you’ll have to protect them yourself.”

This statement is precisely why arguments for porn appall me. I’ve seen several discussions on other LDS blogs really debating if porn is all that bad. And I just want to scream at them because they are totally missing the point.


agellius
February 1, 2011

Agreed. Absolutely. Free speech is not implicated because adults would have the option of removing the filter.

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