Andrew — thanks for your post. I would say a few things in response.
First, I hope you (and all NRO readers) will read the Witherspoon Institute’s report on the Social Costs of Pornography in its entirety (you can read the report here). This report, signed by more than 50 scholars representing a wide array of political views and academic disciplines, is much more comprehensive in its coverage of the evidence than I could be in a one-page post.
Second, I agree with your assertion that the data we have on the long-term effects of pornography are lacking relative to other sociological phenomena. This is, in large part, because many academics (to include funders at the NIH) feel as you do — that pornography research is a waste of time and money. Some believe pornography use is innocuous. Others think government has no legitimate role in addressing pornography use, even if it is harmful.
My own view is that the chasm between these detached and rather disingenuous perspectives on pornography use and the reality of families who are suffering from the impact of pornography addiction couldn’t be greater. Isn’t it time to prove or disprove the assumptive predispositions of those who claim pornography is harmless?
It is no stretch to conclude from the Witherspoon report and related research that much of the data we have thus far point to the likelihood that regular, extended pornography use compromises one’s ability to sustain a healthy marriage, the very bedrock of our civilization. In this sense we have a legitimate public-policy issue on our hands. And for this reason, it seems a reasonable proposal that the NIH conduct a comprehensive, longitudinal analysis of the question. If indeed the social costs of pornography are real, then we should pursue with sincerity the issue of how to address this problem — both from a public-policy and a mental-health perspective.
— Hilary Towers is a psychologist and mother of five. She lives in Manassas, Va.