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credit: britannica.com

credit: britannica.com

In Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart explained the difficulty in defining obscenity:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [‘hard-core pornography’], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

credit; fox news.com

credit; fox news.com

Cultural standards change significantly over time. What was shocking and most would consider obscene is surely not so shocking and obscene today. When I was a young teenager, the controversy over the appearance of the first wisp of pubic hair in Playboy was thought by some to herald the imminent doom of civilization. Today, entire articles are written on whether allowing female pubic hair to grow as it will or shaving the area are more authentically feminine and aesthetically pleasing, often accompanied by photographs that the reader may the better judge. Video of intercourse, including explicit close ups, rather than soft-focused, dimly-lit long shots, are so common as to be unremarkable. It has been decades since one has had to consult obscure medical texts to see what a penis or vulva look like.

One can argue over whether this is a good or bad thing, and anti-porn crusaders have surely had their say since the 60s, doing their best to link pornography—whatever that might be—with all manner of social disaster. The Meese Commission on pornography published its two- volume report—I actually have a copy—in 1986, and strained mightily to link porn to nearly every social pathology one might imagine, but the Commission did and commissioned no actual science, and its anti-porn witnesses were little more than fellow anti-porn activists equating their suppositions with fact.

Dr. James Dobson of Focus On The Family was a member of the Meese Commission and noted anti-porn crusader. Just before he was executed in January of 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy gave Dobson a video taped interview subsequently marketed by Dobson under the title “Fatal Attraction,” that also tried to link Bundy’s many murders to porn. Unfortunately for Dobson, for the skeptical viewer, Bundy came off very much as the manipulative con man he was (I also have that video), and no porn/crime link was proved. In fact, during one of Bundy’s arrests, the only “porn” police found in his possession was brochures for cheerleading camps. Never, in his many interviews with police in many states, did pornography come up as an influence or causative factor, nor was any evidence of porn’s complicity or provocation in his crimes found.

Pornography is relatively low on the list for most that consider such things a societal evil, other issues having long ago supplanted it in importance. In 2014, it is, for the most part, a rarely argued First Amendment issue.

But now comes a study from Germany that approaches porn from a new angle, and that has significant male-bashing implications. Paul Bedard at The Washington Examiner reports:

Pornography is replacing the desire among young men for marriage, according to a new study that finds males are chasing ‘low-cost sexual gratification’ on the web over a wife and family.

‘Traditionally, one of the reasons to enter into a marriage was sexual gratification. But as options for sexual gratification outside of marriage have grown, the need for a marriage to serve this function is diminishing,’ said the report.

The report published by Germany’s Institute for the Study of Labor and co-authored by a West Chester University of Pennsylvania professor suggested that the government crackdown on porn access, especially as more and easier tools to tap into the Internet, such as smartphones, expand. Saving marriage, said the report, will help the economy and society.

The study is being highlighted by the group Morality in Media, which sent it to Secrets Tuesday. ‘Pornography is a marriage killer and thus it has monumental negative ramifications for society’s future,’ said Patrick A. Trueman, president of the group. ‘Research has shown for some time that porn use in marriage destroys the marital bond, but now we can see that porn use destroys even the desire to get married,’ he added.

As an aside, the study found that those who look at religious websites are pro-marriage.

I am, gentle readers, very much anxious to hear your views on this subject. I suspect that you, unlike most people, have actually read the arguments on this topic before. This one sounds very much like virtually every anti-porn argument I’ve ever read: high on moral outrage, low on valid research and actual causation rather than mere correlation and supposition.

Obviously, the research is focused on Germany as there is no “government crackdown on porn access” ongoing in America. It would be a mistake to think German society more or less identical to American society in this or any other aspect of behavior or belief. Though Germans have adopted American fashions and other outward manifestations of American popular culture, they are very different than Americans. Regarding religion alone, Americans are far more outwardly expressive in their faiths than Europeans. Throughout Europe, churches, many beautifully maintained by government, stand empty. Yet if one judged only by the numbers of churches, the idea that Europeans are as religiously expressive as Americans could easily be inferred.

I can’t imagine how a study would determine in any valid way that those that frequent or “look at” “religious” websites are “pro-marriage,” whatever that means. Surely we all understand the common definitions of such things, but where science is concerned, more specific, narrow definitions are required.

Researchers analyzed data from 1,512 surveys completed by American men aged 18-35 between 2000-2004. What they found is that porn use makes marriage unappealing. The study is titled: ‘Are Pornography and Marriage Substitutes for Young Men?’

The researchers were interested in how declining marriage rates impact society and the economy. They said that ‘stable marriages create substantial welfare improvements for society, especially to the degree that marital stability produces high-quality children.’

Porn use, they said, can be credited with cutting the marriage rate. They cited statistics showing that men 25-34 are six times less likely to be married than the same age group was in 1970. They also found that divorce rates are twice what they were in 1950.

I suspect all can agree that divorce is more prevalent now than in 1950. Most can also likely agree that stable marriages are a general benefit to society.

Where I take exception is in the general premise that one can have a happy, stable marriage–apparently having no exposure to porn–or essentially substitute porn for marriage. That is a false choice, like the many false choices Mr. Obama constantly poses in trying to define his enemies, most frequently, the American people. In the same way, it seems to me that the idea that men would consciously substitute porn for actual personal intimacy, including sex, is nonsensical. Surely, there may be a few such people in the world, but surveys get the results they ask for, whether those results are intentional or a by-product of questioning bias.

This is one of the perennial weaknesses of conservative arguments on this topic. Men are expected to be strong, moral and stalwart leaders of their families and communities, but merely looking at images of naked women reduce them to simpering moral weaklings unable to function normally, and prone to all manner of pathology. I just don’t buy the argument that men cannot control their sexual urges, or that they are so weak-minded.

Sure, some people give in to the meaner angels of human nature, but if porn actually had the effects some claim for it, we’d have no doubt of it—all manner of horrors would be our daily companions–and there would be no need for research to prove it.

‘Given the rapid decline in marital formation and stability in western countries, a natural question is how quickly this trend will proliferate in developing countries as their standards of living rise. Nowadays, widely available Internet access almost always accompanies rising living standards. Thus, the results in this paper suggest that technological proliferation and access to pornography specifically can be a causative factor that underlies these rapid demographic changes that occur concurrent to economic growth,’ said the report.”

There are far more compelling arguments for lower marriage rates. Currently, men are being depicted as rapists, particularly young men in college. This is hardly a cultural compulsion for relationships and marriage. Economic and social trends are causing young men and women to return to the womb and live with their parents, postponing marriage. High rates of unemployment, which journalists don’t like to mention, or at the least, minimize, also make marriage less likely, and contribute to higher divorce rates. Divorce also no longer bears any real social stigma or consequences, nor does living together outside of marriage, and where welfare, Obamacare, and other governmental programs are concerned, there are actually tax advantages to avoiding marriage.

The Internet does indeed make porn access easier, but the question remains whether this is a good or bad thing. It has surely made life far more difficult for those that wish to crusade against porn, and it has also made it far more difficult to obtain accurate statistical information about the issue. There is little doubt that Conservatives tend to be less forthcoming on surveys, including exit polls at polling places; no one knows precisely why.

Porn is also an issue that crosses ideological lines. Progresses “use” porn, as do conservatives. Even the connotations of “use” in this context are interesting. I have “used” porn, but never used drugs, and I also use soap, deodorant and Coca Cola (actually, Coke Zero without caffeine). With the Internet, I dropped my subscription to Playboy. I actually did read the articles, but the pictures were pleasant too. With the Internet, I could get the intellectual content I craved, and on my schedule rather than monthly. What does any of that say about me?  Even as a child I understood the difference between two-dimensional images on paper and my girlfriends, and very much preferred their company.  I, a male, actually understood that photographs are not human company and do not return affection and caring.

Conservatives tend to be less outwardly expressive about any interest in porn and sexuality, while some Progressives tend to see it as a badge of honor and evidence of intellectual superiority, or at least their writings on their interests, preferences and adventures surely give that impression. How do I know this? I’ve talked about these issues with Conservatives and Progressives. While they have differing views on many things, they’re all human beings.

What do you think, gentle readers? Are men really so two-dimensional? Are they unable to view porn while married lest two- dimensional images of people they’ll never know cause them to lose sexual interest in their spouses and their marriages? Are they so shallow they would actually make a conscious decision to prefer porn–images on a computer screen or on paper, to a lifelong commitment to a woman? Are these things actually an either/or choice?

I find this line of thinking sells men short, trivializes the complexity of human relationships, and I find this kind of “science,” to be quite unscientific, a conclusion in search of a justification. But that’s just me…