The GOP Anti-Porn Platform

Is this really a crisis or a rightwing attempt at repression?

Posted Jul 14, 2016

That the GOP rightwingers hate porn is no surprise. They hate anything that encourages sexual desire. Until recently, vibrators were banned in a number of Southern states.

What is surprising is that the Republican rightwingers see a “crisis” in the vast new interest in porn, now that sexual images can be streamed on smartphones. Of course, children under 18 shouldn’t be downloading porn.

But for adults over 18, with a lively interest in porn, is this a crisis?

I’ve just finished a book about the history of the adult entertainment industry. The manuscript is in the hands of my agent. So I’m very clear about the role of porn in US society today. And for the designers of the Republican platform, there are three points to make:

1. Adult entertainment is not the same thing as “child porn.” In fact there is no overlap.  The adult industry has a whole agency designed to hunt down and stamp out child porn.  So this is bait-and-switch for the Republican Right: baiting us with child porn as a social evil (no debate out that), then switching us to adult porn as a related evil that also must be stamped out. Millions of people worldwide enjoy these adult images in the privacy of their living rooms. We’re going to tell them we’re banning it? This will make Prohibition look like an attempt to change the parking regulations.

2. Adult entertainment does not destroy families and communities. What it does is open up millions of people to the possibility of changing their sex lives. Cross-dressing and trans-gendering: people find out about this through downloading adult images, and they discover that they like it, that this is something they want. Agreed, this may have a corrosive effect on sex-deadened traditional marriages, but LGBT is seen now as a social plus rather than a minus, and porn guides people in these communities to the sexual space of their choosing.

The novel Fifty Shades of Grey has had a huge impact on women in the real world. Ten years ago it would have been “porn.” Now the roleplaying and sex toys of Fifty Shades have become standard in many bedrooms. Let’s say that you’re a woman and that you’ve developed a new taste for dominant sex play. How do you find out about what it is exactly that you do? There are many porn sites for newbies. 

Does encouraging women to be sexually dominant hurt the family and destroy communities?  Maybe it does. Some of those marriages are going to break up. Women making more than men has also destroyed many marriages. This is the Zeitgeist.

3. There is a nostalgia in this Republican plank that is a throwback to the 1950s, when it was in fact possible to ban porn. The local police conducted “obscenity” raids, and sending sexy images through the mail could win you a jail sentence. The only sexually arousing material available was the allusive purple prose of the adult novels: “And then he pressed his steaming otherness against her.” That was all people had to get off on, and the authorities intended to keep it that way. Repression worked.

Repression doesn’t work today. The internet has put finis to the Vice Squad. You cannot conjure away adult material by waving a magic legal wand. The Southern Baptist Convention will not be able to shut down popular porn sites such as XHamster by brandishing a sheriff’s  badge. You’ll have as much success banning teenage masturbation.

The grandees of the Republican party know that all this is true. But they’ve got to feed the Trump supporters some red meat. Porn still works in these little burgs in the borderstates that ran the last adult bookstore out of town on a rail. The grandees know that people will turn out and vote to stop “the crisis in pornography.”

We used to talk about how “the personal is political.”  But we meant abortion. We didn’t mean this.