Republicans Just Made Fixing America’s Porn “Health Crisis” Part Of Their Official Platform

This week Republicans are finalizing their party platform in preparation for the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland next week, where the party will officially choose its nominee for the presidential election, which may or may not be Donald Trump.. This election season Republicans are deepening their party’s official commitment to social conservatism as a way to overshadow the rest of their platform, which is focused around funneling the money of the American middle class to the rich, sending the economy into the gutter with tax cuts, putting a gun in the hand of every child, and recklessly pillaging the environment. Their contrived moral issues of the day include opposition to gay marriage, opposition to trans individuals using bathrooms that correspond to their chosen identity, and, most recently, casting porn as “a public health crisis,” because apparently it’s still the 1970s and we have to have this argument again.

In past years, the Republican platform has emphasized prosecuting online child pornography offenses. More controversially, this season’s GOP wants to amend their platform to include the following:

“Pornography, with his harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and wellbeing.”

This is a substantial change. To break it down, child pornography is rightfully illegal because it involves actual child abuse that is captured on film. The claim that porn is a crisis that is destroying millions of lives is a weighty claim that needs to be clearly substantiated before it can be used as the foundation of public policy. Unfortunately for Republicans, we do not have any such evidence.

Regarding the claim that pornography is “especially” harmful to children, it is worth noting that porn consumption is legally only available to adults over the age of 18; decreasing child access to porn is less controversial than the overall proposal to cast porn as a public health “menace.”

Even if the patently absurd fear-mongering turns out to be true, and pornography is detrimental to health and destroys the lives of millions of adults, adults can choose to not consume porn. Adults who find it enjoyable and fulfilling, either within a relationship or without, should be allowed to make the decision to view pornographic materials that produced by consenting adults.

The public health issues surrounding cigarette use are well-documented and severe; by contrast, we do not have information to indicate that porn harms public health. And yet we allow adults to make the choice to consume cigarettes. The difference between the two seems to be that pornography is moral issue – and the religious right in the GOP loves pushing their moral agenda on sexuality in government.

The problem that the GOP keeps running into is thinking that it is entitled to defend its religious and moral commitments with the full force of the law. In the case of gay marriage, Republicans want the state to enforce a religious conception of marriage when it comes to issuing public marriage licenses and offering legal protections to married couples. When it comes to pornography, Republicans want the state to crack down on sexually explicit material – a topic that provokes a wide range of ethical opinions, but deeply offends ‘Christian values.’

The religious right also needs to own up to the fact that they are the ones who consume the most pornography in America. This is not a question of ‘values’ that need enforcing in society, this is a matter of adults taking responsibility for their own behavior. If pornography really is the menace that conservatives (and no one else) see it as, then they should take advantage of their profound realization and stop watching so much porn.

American citizens, religious or not, can make their own decisions about viewing pornography. The party platform amendment tries to distract from the full force of its message by repeatedly mentioning children. Of course children should not access adult materials. However, the amendment makes much more significant claims about the health effects of porn more generally – effects which are wholly unsubstantiated. Republicans need to own up to their own ‘moral failings’ as rampant porn consumers and stop bedroom policing the rest of us.

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Marisa Manfredo

Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.


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