Santorum & Porn

by Andrew Stuttaford

Hilary, Rick Santorum is, of course, perfectly entitled to argue that more taxpayer money and more law-enforcement resources should be devoted to the fight against porn. He should not, however, be surprised that he is receiving some pushback, not least from those who believe that there is a better use of government time and taxpayer dollars than expanding the fight against dirty pictures.

Essentially you are arguing that pornography (and we are, of course, only talking about porn involving consenting adults) poses enough of a threat to society to justify a further expansion of the government’s reach. So far as I could, I followed the links provided in your post (unfortunately one was, uh, blocked by my office filter). To take just one point, I was struck by your claim that pornography was responsible for a “loss of interest in sex” (the survey establishing this polled 94 people) but also led (in a survey of Swedish adolescents) to “greater sexual desire” (that’s the wording in the abstract), raising the inevitable, if regrettably snarky, question whether there is anything that pornography cannot do.

Looking at much of the rest of what you cite, I’d merely comment that correlation is not the same as causation, and that at least some of data on which you were relying appeared to be a bit of a stretch. The work cited on the connection between pornography and divorce used “state-level panel data on the divorce rate and sales of Playboy magazine” and arrived at the conclusion that “sales of Playboy caused between 10 and 25 percent of all divorces in the United States between 1962 and 1979,” a truly remarkable finding that, I’d argue, only reinforces the importance of applying common sense to statistical analysis.

I’m not going to spend any time either attacking or defending pornography. It is what it is, but what it ought not to be (when involving consenting adults) is a preoccupation of government. It is a symbol of the degree to which we are, I am afraid, losing all sight of any notion of the proper limits of the state that the alleged threat posed by “obsessive masturbation” can be included in the list of justifications for censorship.

As for the idea that “NIH should fund a comprehensive, long-term research project devoted to the impact of pornography use on marriage and the family,” what was the deficit again?

The Corner

The one and only.