The Corner

Rick Santorum Is Right about Pornography

Last week brought into focus a statement by the Santorum campaign that he would, if elected, do everything in his power to enforce federal laws on the distribution of hard-core pornography. To read the liberal blogs, one would think highly classified data had been leaked, and that our fundamental freedoms are at stake. This professed outrage over Santorum’s positions is a curiosity for those of us who have followed his career.

Anyone who stood vigil with the senator (via C-SPAN) during his fearless and gut-wrenching defense of the unborn during the partial-birth-abortion debate saw in him a politician who will not betray the core principles of his faith, no matter how unpopular. His brand of fidelity is apparently bizarre to those accustomed to politicians and movie stars who profess to be religious, but whose actions defy the teachings of their faith.

When politicians rely on secular political philosophy as a guiding force in their decision-making, rather than a faith tradition rooted in natural law, the public seems less interested. Ron Paul was one of only two Congressmen to vote against a 2002 bill which would outlaw “virtual” child pornography. These are detailed drawings or computer-generated images of children — sometimes babies — having sex with each other and adults. Paul and his supporters are content with this position, because it is consistent with his libertarian perspective: Individual rights almost always trump laws that would protect society at large from physical or moral harm. This is why Paul opposes government regulation of heroin, cocaine, gay marriage, and prostitution.

Likewise, Santorum’s views on pornography are a natural extension of his views on marriage as a public good — a sacred, lifelong bond between man and woman, designed to unify the couple and create children who, in turn, will make faithful, committed spouses one day. Interestingly, Santorum’s position is consistent with a rapidly growing body of social-science research. The older idea of pornography as a harmless rite of passage for boys, and a potential boost for the sex lives of married couples, are being challenged by data which show a potential for real and measurable harm. Studies have revealed a clear connection between regular pornography use and a host of negative consequences, including: sexual deviancy (lower first age of intercourse, obsessive masturbation), belief in the “rape myth” (that women cause rape), and loss of interest in sex. More frequent users of pornography report higher incidences of having sex for money, substance abuse, conduct problems, and having feelings of sexual desire “almost all the time.” Among young adults, pornography use correlates with higher numbers of casual-sex partners and lower relationship satisfaction. Both infidelity and divorce have been linked to the use of pornography. But there is a striking dearth of longitudinal research on the latter relationship. NIH should fund a comprehensive, long-term research project devoted to the impact of pornography use on marriage and the family.

Santorum is right: We need to do more to protect our marriages and our children from this scourge. There are countless men (and women) struggling with addiction to pornography — and countless families destroyed as a result. We owe it to them to question our long-held belief that pornography is a harmless “right” protected by the Constitution.

— Hilary Towers is a psychologist and mother of five. She lives in Manassas, Va. 

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