OTG: Public Discourse pushes back against porn

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Oct 22, 2013

Common sense alone may lead us to question whether pornography as such can really constitute speech, or if it does, whether it is a kind of speech that is or ought to be protected by the Constitution, given a proper understanding of the First Amendment. In a recent two-part series for Public Discourse, a publication of the Witherspoon Institute, Morgan Bennett marshals evidence from science on the one hand and constitutional and legal history on the other, making a strong case that pornography is more than just speech and that the First Amendment was never intended to protect such materials.

In the first part of the series, “The New Narcotic,” Bennett gathers findings from recent neurological research showing that repeated viewing of pornography actually rewires our brains in a way similar to illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. She quotes one psychologist as noting “that pornography works ‘through the same neural circuit, has the same effects with respect to tolerance and withdrawal, and has every other hallmark of an addiction.’”

In the second part, “Internet Pornography & the First Amendment,” Bennett shows that legal precedent from the Founders on clearly did not establish every kind of speech as protected by the First Amendment; rather, obscene or licentious speech was deemed an abuse of liberty, harmful to society as a whole. She then briefly surveys the history of obscenity laws, summarizes and critiques the current legal standard, and suggests some practical steps in the political and legal battle against pornography. One of her most compelling points is that pornography already ought to be prosecuted under current anti-prostitution laws, as it is essentially “prostitution with a camera.”

There are hopeful signs that some even in the secular culture are beginning to realize the destructive effects of porn addiction. In another inspiring piece for Public Discourse, Michael W. Hannon highlights NoFap, a subcommunity of the popular website reddit, where 70,000 anonymous users seek support in their efforts to give up pornography and/or masturbation. Many of them have, according to Hannon, not only discovered “the unfortunate consequences” and “moral evil” of pornography and masturbation, but have also realized them to be “aesthetically repulsive.”

On the Good (OTG) is a service of CatholicCulture.org.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist, composer, and occasional amateur comedian living in New York City. He produces and hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Oct. 23, 2013 7:38 AM ET USA

    Thanks for alerting us to this study. Porn, as I see it, has been the linchpin of 'progressive' advancement (toward nihilism) in recent decades. But porn use is never a 'victimless act'. In this area just recently, the journalistic exposure of someone's addiction to it has sullied the good name of that individual's entire family, brothers, sisters, even deceased parents! All are innocent but spattered nonetheless with the mud of shame. It's a spectacle terrible enough to make a grown man cry.