The Corner

Politics & Policy

Porn Stars and Defective Judgment

Porn actresses line up at the opening of the “Venus” erotic fair in Berlin, Germany, in 2013. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

When Murray Rothbard died in 1995, William F. Buckley Jr. began his obituary by saying, “We extend condolences to his family, but not to the movement he inspired.”

This made sense if you had been paying even cursory attention to the battle between Buckley’s conservatism and Rothbard’s libertarianism that had played out in the previous few decades. Buckley faulted Rothbard for having “defective judgment” in his political organizing efforts.

The reason, as Kevin Williamson pointed out in a 2012 magazine piece, was that Rothbard courted a lot of cranks. Rothbard’s radical libertarianism meant he had few potential adherents in mainstream politics, so he looked to the fringes to assemble what Kevin called a “hippie-redneck coalition.” That meant support for David Duke’s runs for elected office in Louisiana in the early ’90s, the militia movement, and neo-Confederates, and even flirting with Holocaust deniers because, in Kevin’s words, they were “all fantastic on the Fed.”

A similar dynamic seems to be at play in the uproar on conservative Twitter over Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) decision to ban porn star Brandi Love from attending its Student Action Summit in Tampa over the weekend. Some conservatives saw it as cancel culture, and others found it prudish or small-minded to exclude her.

Anthony Leonardi reported on Twitter that she “was kicked out of the SAS conference as soon as the organization discovered she was a porn star, and that her VIP pass was ‘totally revoked.'” TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet told Newsweek that “Ms. Love purchased an adult VIP ticket” and that “she was not invited nor was her attendance somehow requested by the organization.”

Kolvet’s explanation to Newsweek was that “it is simply not appropriate for a porn star to be actively posting images at an event with 15- and 16-year-olds present in conjunction with graphic pornography.” (Brandi Love’s social media is full of graphic nudity.) “TPUSA makes no apology for this, a position which should not be controversial, especially when minors are involved. Parents deserve this type of assurance and TPUSA intends on giving them that confidence,” Kolvet said.

Kolvet’s words are especially important because TPUSA has a history with situations that parents would be uncomfortable with. In 2018, Philip Wegmann wrote about the 2017 Student Action Summit for the Washington Examiner:

Witnesses describe a scene reminiscent of “Animal House.” Kids weren’t just drinking in their hotel rooms. They say some wandered drunk through the lobby. Students weren’t just roughhousing by the hotel pool. They say some were wasted in the water. And while many of the young conservatives proved a temperate bunch, the vomit in the bushes served as visceral testament to the appetites of the rest.

Wegmann also wrote, “Interviews with five female students and four former staffers paint a picture of an ambitious student group that is ill-equipped to deal with underage drinking and serious, repeated allegations of sexual harassment and even sexual assault.”

So TPUSA has plenty of institutional self-interest to prohibit porn stars from attending its conferences. It has struggled with allegations of fostering a poor environment in the past, and it needs parents to be willing to send their kids to its events that are targeted, in part, to high schoolers.

The larger question of political organization, however, transcends TPUSA’s concerns. Whether the conservative movement should ally itself with anyone in favor of smaller government, as Brandi Love claims to be, is much like the question of whether Rothbard’s libertarian movement should have allied itself with anyone who opposes the Fed, no matter what else they may believe. Promoting porn stars within the movement would be defective judgment.

This isn’t an ideological purity test. People can have a wide range of views on what the government should do (or not do) about pornography while still being part of the conservative movement. Conservatives are at their best when they invite a range of views and debate it among themselves (we have a lot of fun here on the Corner doing just that).

There’s a difference between debating about pornography and promoting pornography, just as there is a difference between debating about prostitution and promoting prostitution or debating about drugs and promoting drugs. The view that being a porn star is just another career choice is from the secular Left, who also think prostitution is just another career choice. They’re wrong about that, and conservatives need to stand firm against them.

American youths are in the middle of a massive experiment: What happens if nearly every child is given unlimited, instantaneous access to free pornography (a.k.a. an Internet connection)? It’s never been tried before in human history. We don’t know how it will turn out, but there are some indicators that it won’t be good.

And no, being a movement that excludes porn stars from positions of influence is not being prudish or anti-fun. Almost every American male watches pornography, but plenty of them don’t find it fun anymore. Many want to stop and have a hard time doing so. Even if you think porn is good, there can be too much of a good thing.

Many online resources have sprung up to help people who want to stop watching porn. NoFap is a website with forums for people of all age groups and over 300,000 members based on taking a pledge to stop watching porn and masturbating for a period of time. Fight the New Drug is a group that views pornography as a public-health issue. Your Brain on Porn is a website that compiles research on porn’s neurological effects and also has a forum called Reboot Nation, similar to NoFap.

Conservatives can’t give away the whole game in an attempt to broaden their appeal. There’s a scene in Mel Brooks’s 1970 movie The Twelve Chairs, which is set in the Soviet Union in 1927, in which a Russian Orthodox priest played by Dom DeLuise expresses sympathy for communism in a fight with another character. His interlocutor asks him how he, as a priest, could be a Communist Party member since atheism is a requirement for membership. DeLuise shrugs and replies, “The church must keep up with the times.”

Giving porn stars influence in the conservative movement is precisely that kind of counterproductive “keeping up with the times,” and conservatives would display judgment as defective as Rothbard’s if they allow it to happen.

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