Social Science Research on Pornography

Opposition to pornography has become associated with “prudish right-wing fundamentalists,” but as with many things, the growing body of social science research confirms that this debate should extend far beyond the boundaries of belief.

A recent editorial in National Review about Rick Santorum’s opposition to pornography links to several such important studies.  I’m less interested in Santorum’s desire to combat porn by government muscle than I am in bringing facts to an honest national conversation.  Follow the links if you want some truth:

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 and Obama Make the Same Awful Claim

On Monday, Rick Santorum and President Barack Obama said essentially the same thing in campaign speeches they each gave: that if the other party wins in November, the America that their supporters love will disappear forever.

Santorum said, “If Barack Obama is re-elected, then America as we know it…as we know it…will be gone. We will be a statist country.”

Obama said, “The very core of what this country stands for is on the line — the basic promise that no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, this is a place where you could make it if you try. The notion that we’re all in this together, that we look out for one another — that’s at stake in this election.”

The fear-mongering here is identical: “my opponents will destroy our way of life.”  Neither man has the respect for his supporters to be any more subtle than that.  There are no shades of gray, no agreeing to disagree, no benefit of the doubt and credit given for the values and motives of others.  The message is that those who don’t fall in line are simply evil.

This isn’t much different from what the actress Cameron Diaz said on Oprah in 2004, that if George Bush were reelected, rape could become legal: “We have a voice now, and we’re not using it, and women have so much to lose. I mean, we could lose the right to our bodies. We could lo–if you think that rape should be legal, then don’t vote. But if you think that you have a right to your body, and you have a right to say what happens to you and fight off that danger of losing that, then you should vote…”

People vying to be the leader of the free world now use language not far removed from that of hysterical starlets.  Shame on both Santorum and Obama for such cheap, shallow demagoguery.