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A Presidential Candidate’s Pledge to End Pornography

March 19, 2012

The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author only, and do not represent the opinion of the Florida Writers Association, its members, or its leadership. This post is not a political statement, but a commentary on censorship. It’s your right to disagree with this, and if you do, please feel free to comment.

One of the people running for President has announced that if he’s elected President, he will fight to ban “hard form” pornography. Although it’s easy to dismiss this candidate’s position as censorship or pandering to his base, he doesn’t support his opinion by saying that Jesus wouldn’t dig porn. He says that porn can increase misogyny, prostitution, and sex trafficking. Depending on how narrowly he defines “hard form” pornography, he could be right.

Or he might not. Do misogynists, johns, and sex traffickers do those things because of porn, or does the existence of porn incidental? Either answer would be almost impossible to prove.

A bigger question, though, is whether the government–and specifically a guy trying to lead its executive branch–should be in the business of deciding what types of materials Americans can consume. To be clear, this isn’t about material that’s already illegal, such as child pornography. It’s about currently legal forms of content.

This isn’t about whether there’s a need to view or read porn. In a free society, I shouldn’t have to prove a need to do something in order to do it. I don’t need to swing my fist through the air, but I’m free to do it until it hits your nose or your car or cat or plate-glass window (unless you are a hockey player).

Absent some sort of clear causal link between the existence of pornography and misogyny, prostitution, and sex trafficking, someone publishing erotica or producing porn isn’t hitting your nose.

Perhaps the existence of such materials offends you, and that’s fine. Your offense is not inappropriate, any more than it’s inappropriate for Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) to demand suppression of religious content because he contends religion is harmful to society and must be eradicated.  He can say it’s harmful and say it should be banned, but any actual banning would run afoul of the Constitution. People are offended by all kinds of things. Just yesterday, the Uni-Watch website ran a column predicated on concept that at least two professional sports teams names are offensive and require rebranding.

It is not appropriate for a President to tell me that it’s illegal for me to view or read things that offend him. No matter what you write or say, if you speak plainly, someone’s eventually going to be offended. When a serious contender for the Presidency announces that he will unilaterally fight to eliminate a specific class of content that’s been heretofore considered legal, that’s a bad thing.

In other parts of the world, filmmakers are killed for anti-religious content. Riots occur because of images in cartoons. We’re currently fighting against some of the forces who insist on laws prohibiting content that offends them. It’s the wrong move to support a shift to a similar approach here in the States.

  1. March 19, 2012 9:06 am

    This wouldn’t be the same guy who’s levelling the charge the current President wants to “micromanage” Americans lives, would it?
    What a surprise!

  2. March 19, 2012 12:58 pm

    What a thoughtful articulation of the many facets that need to be considered when discussing censorship. Pornography is such a touchy issue (sorry!), and I can imagine many ways in which it can be harmful to individuals and society–but, as Chris points out, once the legislative lid is lifted on any form of censorship, there’s no telling what devils might fly out.

    Too, I am really pleased to be part of a literary organization that counts among its active members folks who are willing to offer a well-considered opinion on a topic that, while hot (again, sorry), does have direct relevance to those of us who make language the primary mode of expression for our values and ideas.

    Thanks to you, Chris, for shedding light on this issue in such a fair-minded way.

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