Thursday, April 05, 2018

It Is NOT a Public Health Crisis

The latest tactic (or, at least, the latest that I've noticed) of "anti-porn" activists is claiming it is a "public health crisis" and seeking to have it declared as such by governments. Doing things like this might rile up the people who already agree with them, but it makes them look extremely foolish and lessens their credibility. It's also feeds a problematic trend, as David Boaz of the Cato Institute points out so well here.

Tactics matter. The tactics used  to get what you want can also be used by others to get what they want. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Hmm, here have I heard that expression before?

Boaz leads off with what prompted him to write:
A Republican National Convention platform committee has declared pornography “a public health crisis.” Committee members don’t seem to know what “public health” means.
Lately it’s been liberal Democrats who have applied the “public health” label to everything they don’t like — smoking, obesity, venereal disease, motorcycle accidents, and more. They see “public health” as a blank check for government action.
Exactly. By claiming it is a "public health crisis" the people who pushed for this to be in the party platform are hoping they can make this an exception to the desire for smaller government. Here's the danger to the party: Millions of people view porn and then don't perceive there to be any problem as a result, so when a party platform calls it a public health crisis, they think the party leaders are being stupid.

Once, it referred to the project of securing health benefits that were public: clean water, improved sanitation, and the control of epidemics through treatment, quarantine, and immunization. Public health officials worked to drain swamps that might breed mosquitoes and thus spread malaria.
And if not draining or filling them, they applied pesticides to them.
They strove to ensure that water supplies were not contaminated with cholera, typhoid, or other diseases. The U.S. Public Health Service began as the Marine Hospital Service, and one of its primary functions was ensuring that sailors didn’t expose domestic populations to new and virulent illnesses from overseas.
Notice that was controlling what was coming into the country, not what was coming in to your home.
Those were legitimate public health issues because they involved consumption of a collective good (air or water) and/or the communication of disease to parties who had not consented to put themselves at risk. It is difficult for individuals to protect themselves against illnesses found in air, water, or food. A breeding ground for disease-carrying insects poses a risk to entire communities.
Ah ha! says the anti-porn activist. Porn does pose risk to entire communities! Well, read on,
But bureaucracies notoriously want to expand. So, true to form, the public health authorities have broadened their mandate and kept on going. They launched informational and regulatory crusades against such health problems as smoking, venereal disease, AIDS, and obesity.
Notice how these things are different from contaminated air and water, or easily-transmitted viruses? You can choose not to start smoking. You can choose not to fornicate. You can choose not to shoot up heroin. You can choose not to eat too much.
The GOP platform draft says, “Pornography, with his harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions.” But it offers no evidence.
Of curse no evidence was offered. I list and address many of the arguments here, but briefly, in many cases, women who've been told pornography will turn their husbands into child-molesting mass murderers are all too eager to believe that because they're jealous of pixels, and so they argue with their husbands over his viewing of porn, and sometimes this (along with other things, including all-too-often rejection by the wife which prompted the husband to view the porn to begin with) leads to divorce, "destroying"  lives. And there are guys who are neglectful of their wives and view porn, and of course it is easy to blame porn even though it is a symptom, not a root cause. There are also guys who access porn when they should be working, misusing time and equipment that belong to their employer, and they lose their jobs, and it is easy to blame porn, when again, it is the symptom and not the actual problem. That's the kind of stuff being talking about here. They might also be dishonestly slipping in child abuse, as in material made by abusing children, but that's as ridiculous as saying pools are public health problems because some people toss their children into them to drown them. It would have nothing to do with an adult choosing to swim.
Advocates often claim that pornography promotes sexual violence against women.
But in a 2009 review of the literature, psychologists Christopher Ferguson and Richard Hartley concluded: “it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior.” Indeed, as pornography has become ever easier to find on the internet, rape rates in the United States have steadily fallen. Rape is a crime and should be prosecuted vigorously, but there’s little evidence that pornography is causing the incidence to increase.
It is always interesting to see the studies that are thrown back and forth.
Language matters. Calling something a “public health problem” suggests that it is different from a personal health problem in ways that demand collective action.
Like I said, tactics matter. Anti-porn activists are fighting a losing battle (in that nothing but the end of history will stop porn from being easy to access anywhere at any time) and so they are desperate to get people who are indifferent to care.

If someone tries to convince you that porn is a "public health crisis" ask them these questions:

1) "What is porn?" Are they talking about the Victoria's Secret catalogue? Romance novels? Would video of the statue "David" be porn? How do they objectively determine what is porn and what isn't?

2) "What are the harms inflicted on people who didn't choose to participate?" If they talk about how it makes a wife feel that her husband enjoys pixels and sounds depicting other women and sex, point out that women choose whether or not to marry a man and whether or not to stay married to that man; this is a private matter within the home. If they cite workplace problems, again, an employer chooses whether or not to hire and fire employees. If they cite rape and other forms of sexual assault, point out that the statistics do not support them, as attacks have decreased with the rise of ubiquitous porn availability.

3) "What are you proposing be done about porn?" While commerce can be regulated, there is an endless amount of "amateur" or "home made" porn, and that can't be stopped without totalitarian control over our lives. It is not the federal government's (or state or local government's) role to stop consenting adults from making videos and consenting adults from viewing them. When it comes to commerce, SCOTUS has often ruled in defense of commercial porn production/distribution on First Amendment grounds. With technology and human nature (fallen as it is) being what they are, there is no stopping other people from making or watching porn.

If people are trying to persuade others to voluntarily avoid making or viewing porn, that's fine, even commendable. If they are asking businesses not to sell porn, again, that's fine. It's up to the owners of a business to decide what they want to sell. If they want preachers to preach even more against porn (taking up time that is desperately needed to preach against envy, greed, sloth, gluttony), they can certainly try to convince preachers to do so. Trying to get governments to treat porn as a public health crisis, which it is NOT, is not the way to go.

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