Sunday, January 20, 2008

Empty anti-Porn arguments: The Matt Barber addition

Matt Barber hates porn, and he is hopping mad that the government is not doing more to crack down on porn on the internet. The problem with Matt's arguments, as is typical with Christian-based anti-porn arguments, is that they are circular, devoid of evidence, and logically conflict with the facts. Here they are:

Barber: Many say pornography is victimless, but we know that's a lie. It is extremely destructive to all parties involved. It reduces women and even children to mere sex objects and destroys individuals, families and communities.

OK, we see lots of assertions here, but where is the evidence? What, exactly, is the destruction it supposedly does? As Ed Brayton points out, if porn is super destructive, and has become far more popular, then we should be seeing a dramatic increase in divorce, sexual assault, and child abuse, and we aren't.

What is the evidence that it reduces people to mere sex objects? What is the evidence that doing so, in a temporary fashion, is damaging? When we watch athletes play we reduce them to athletic objcts. The same with models. They don't seem to be suffering. What is the evidence that doing so becomes a permanent state of mind? We never see any. All Barber is doing here is revealing how sexually repressed he is. People watch porn for a variety of reasons. Many couples watch porn for stimulation, or even ideas. For them, it becomes a healthy addition to their life, not the fictional destruction Barber imagines.

The constant references to children is a bit of intellectual dishonesty from Barber. Those of us who defend people's right to watch whatever consensual adult content they wish, do not support the pornographic exploitation of children. This is just an attempt by people like Barber to poison the well of rational discourse.

Barber: Adult pornography creates a trap that is difficult to escape. It entices viewers to consume more and more smut and to delve deeper and deeper into more graphic and obscene material.

Here we see the circular nature of Barber's arguments. Why is it a problem to want to view more porn? Well, because Barber assumes porn is bad in and of itself. But that is the position he is supposed to be supporting with this claim, so the argument is circular. To illustrate further, recast his claim to be about something good, like exercise, or sex itself. Should we argue against exercise because it might entice one to exercise even more?

Americans are very sexually repressed. Few in the world outside Islamic countries are more uptight about their bodies and their sexuality. That is why we have this hysteria about porn in the first place. We could use a little enticement to delve deeper and deeper into our sexual nature.

Barber: During a 2004 hearing held by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, several experts testified as to the highly addictive nature of pornography. Those experts further testified that regular consumption of adult pornography can breed sex offenders who prey on women and children. It provides a gateway to child pornography and eventually to child sexual assault.

Yes, and allowing sex at all CAN breed an Adolf Hitler. So what? That statement says nothing. It is the same flawed reasoning that proclaims marijuana a "gateway drug". This is MSU on parade, not a shred of evidence to be found supporting any of it. In every conceivable way, the plain observable facts of our society show that arguments like Barber's are more obscene than the targets of his attacks.

6 comments:

NoPornNorthampton said...

NoPornNorthampton has several rebuttals to Brayton's well-worn argument. First, from our article, "United Kingdom: A Glaring Counter-Example to the Theory that Internet Porn is Cathartic"...

Law professor Anthony D'Amato, and more recently Todd Kendall of Clemson University, have attempted to correlate increased Internet penetration with decreasing rates of rape. Since the Internet is a major vector for porn, they suggest that more porn in the home means fewer people will rape. In short, they claim that porn is cathartic.

We have already discussed some of the flaws in this argument, the origins of which go back over 30 years. A new counter-example has recently come to our attention. Between 2000-2005, the number of Internet users in the United Kingdom increased from 15.4 million to 35.8 million (InternetWorldStats). During this time, the overall population only grew from 58.8 million to 59.9 million, so the proportion of Internet users in the population grew from 26% to 60%.

If the D'Amato/Kendall theory was correct, you would expect a measurable decrease in the number of reported rapes. However, the opposite trend was seen. In the period 1999-2000, just under 8,000 rapes of a female were reported in England and Wales. This level then increased every year until by the 2005-2006 period, over 13,000 rapes of a female were reported (Home Office Crime Statistics). This was during a time when the overall population increased by just 2%...

We note that not only has the presumed volume of porn consumed in the UK has increased since 2000, but that the nature of the porn consumed is becoming more hardcore. The Guardian reports in "Men and porn", 11/8/03:

"In its hardcore form, pornography is now accessed in the UK by an estimated 33% of all internet users. Since the British Board of Film Classification relaxed its guidelines in 2000, hardcore video pornography now makes up between 13% and 17% of censors' viewing, compared with just 1% three years ago..."

Second, we would argue that porn has redefined what is considered to be acceptable treatment of intimate partners. Abusive behavior that would have triggered protests in the past now goes unreported because porn convinces many victims that it's normal and they shouldn't expect better.

Third, the influence of porn doesn't have to rise to the level of an official "sexual assault" to be harmful. As Hugo Schwyzer writes,

"A great many men look at porn and don’t rape women. But 'not-raping' is hardly proof that porn is harmless. There are many ways in which pornography can damage our sexuality short of turning men into rapists. The discomfort and bewilderment of the girl who sent me that note, wondering why her boyfriend (who, in her own words, was otherwise a 'good guy') would even want to come on her face, makes this case with heartbreaking and stomach-churning effectiveness. The answer to the 'why' is that he’s seen facials in porn. He might accept 'no' for an answer, or he might just keep nagging until she gives in and lets him ejaculate on her face. She won’t be raped in the legal sense, of course, but she’ll be learning a bitter lesson about male sexuality and her own value that she didn’t have to learn."

At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said Internet porn contributed to more than half of the divorce cases they handled.

The evidence of the harmful influences of porn and adult enterprises is overwhelming. If you'd like more, please see http://nopornnorthampton.org/categories/Impact%20of%20Porn.aspx

ScienceAvenger said...

Your arguments here are not encouraging. It is full of all the flaws I've come to expect from people pursuing an agenda and trying to put a scientific face on conclusions that were drawn long before any study was done.

Your analysis of porn use in the UK is classic question-begging that confuses correlation with causality. One might argue that greater use of cell phones causes rape by your reasoning. Without controlling for mitigating factors and alternate causes, it is worthless.

It is also inconsistent. According to you, hardcore porn viewing has increased between 1300% and 1700% in the last 3 years, yet reported rapes have increased less by an order of magnitude. This is "Ozzy causes drug use" irrationality all over again.

Your unscientific approach comes through loud and clear with your retort to that argument:

"A great many men look at porn and don’t rape women. But 'not-raping' is hardly proof that porn is harmless."

The hell it isn't. The fact that 99+% of men who view porn don't rape women is STRONG evidence that watching porn does not cause rape. Only someone hell-bent on making that case would even attempt such a lame argument.

The rest of your post gives away what is really going on with so many anti-porn activists: you simply have a very repressed and stilted view of human sexuality, and anything that goes beyond those bounds makes you very uncomfortable, causing you to condemn it, and anything that encourages it. Not one of you has ever presented any evidence of your claims that activities like facials are harmful. Anecdotes of someone being upset about it begs the question: who put it in her mind that such a thing is bad in the first place. After all, lots of women enjoy such activities.

The same argument rises with the divorce statistic. What's causing the divorces, the one spouse watching porn, or the other spouse being insecure and undeveloped in his/her sexuality? Again, it's a circular argument: one has to assume porn is harmful in the first place for this argument to flow.

You've got your cause and effect bass-ackwards. Porn films aren't causing people to like these activities. Porn is showing them because people like those activities, which are pretty harmlss, and there is not a shred of evidence that can pass scientific muster that says otherwise.

Tsuki said...

I think there is still evidence in some of what he is saying. Evidence itself can be presented in a variety of ways. Many famous theories for examples are created through applying the theory with statistics (not much else you can use is there?)

I must be honest though, I don't support Porn. If that gets to you Science Avenger I deeply apologize but do respect your view on liberalism.

However, if we do take a look in some Philosophical sense and with statistical evidence and explanations to some lack of results (such as if you'd recieve some error in a Chemistry Lab and produce an explanation before trying again), (a little off topic) control and regulation is needed in our society for everyone. When it comes to legality this is where it takes the hit, you have to think for everyone, we have rules for that. We watch out for each other, and try to ensure regulation so that something can be significantly lessened in producing a harmful effect.

In my opinion, I believe there is bound to be quite a bit evidence, I know I'd have to do into some Psychological research files for them, that there is a correlation with Watching Porn and engaging in higher sexual activity aside from the addictiveness factor, which MAY lead to (I know you'll cleverly rebuttal this argument) a more perverse and a little over-the-top view of sex in general.

When did people start to forget that sex is a special sense of bond between two individuals for the dual-purpose of keeping their desires in check and to produce children and reach a higher sense of maturity.

'sexually repressed' is a strong term. We should have self-control don't you think? And in the model perspective, what are we portraying to the other creatures that surround us and other beings that may look to us for answers? I know this sounds bizarre but think of it for a moment. Like the question: 'What is best for the children/family?' Now I know you can apply particular fallacies to my arguments up to this point, because I haven't gotten into more concrete detail, and I could, I'm sure, but I don't have the time [lame excuse, but true =( ]. Anywho, Human Sexuality is a very delicate thing. Sure, if you want to understand your sexuality, you can, and I'm sure you will when you find the right person, and I highly HIGHLY recommend marrying because of that dual perspective, and you know as well as I how important it is for a child to have the protection and comfort of both family members (Mom and Dad, NOT Mom and Boyfriend, it's just not the same and has been shown to lead to many problems in a child's psyche---> Personal Experience with a great friend as one).

Maybe a new discussion can even stem out randomly:

When can liberalism lead to chaos?

ScienceAvenger said...

I would say your faith in there being solid statistics supporting Barber's contentions is misplaced. After all these years of people like him going on so, wouldn't one expect the good solid statistics to be there already? Yet all we get are the kinds of mistakes that would get you an "F" in an intro stat course.

My "clever rebuttal" to your "perverse and a little over-the-top view of sex in general" is that what seems perverse to YOU seems healthy and fun to a growing number of Americans, and much of the industrialized world.

I am all for keeping one's desires in check, and having self-control, but only where there is demonstrable danger in doing otherwise. You guys keep leaving out that part and insisting sexual practices outside YOUR personal comfort zone should be checked, well, just because. Sorry, that doesn't fly.

If you think sex should be restricted to marriage and in whatever way sets the example you want for kids, go right ahead. But before you start telling other people they shouldn't do what THEY think is appropriate, you should have some evidence for that, and not just ramble on with circular reasoning and conjecture as Barber does.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where moral philosophy lies on the spectrum of faith and science. Rather than focusing on empirical analysis to determine the morality of an action (thereby presupposing a utilitarian framework), why not shift focus to a more deontological paradigm? I fail to see how numbers can possibly justify a practice without an assumed net-benefit goal. Is it possible that pornography reduces any if the participators' capacity to be rational moral agents?

jake said...

It doesn't have to be science versus faith. I have an issue with porn in part because it has been shown in studies that 65% or more of women who participate in pornography have been physically and or sexually abused. Because of this they feel as though they have no value. When using people who have often suffered psychologically as well as sexual and physical abuse, I believe it is wrong to use these people for our own entertainment. I think we should look at others as humans. How would you feel if one of the women in a pornography video was your sister, or your mother or your daughter?
I borrowed much of what is said below but I believe that it is well stated. I am not a strongly religious person but I think that pornography is wrong. It does demean women, and other people as well; they aren't looked at for their intellect or any other aspect other than being used as sex.
“Adult” obscenity that helps stimulate the demand for both adult and child prostitutes. “Adult” obscenity does not depict actual children, but it does include hardcore pornographic depictions of sex with persons who look like children and with “teens,” sex with excrement, sex with dominatrix’s, rough sex, unsafe sex, fetishes, and the degradation, rape and torture of women.
By ignoring the explosion of pornography, which helps drive the demand for adult and child prostitutes, this is undermining their efforts to curb sexual trafficking. What does the existence of a multi-billion-dollar pornography industry say about us? Here is an example of a mainstream porn video; I do not see how it is not degrading.
"Blow Bang #4" is:
Eight different scenes in which a woman kneels in the middle of a group of three to eight men and performs oral sex on them. At the end of each scene, each of the men ejaculates onto the woman's face or into her mouth. To borrow from the description on the video box, the video consists of: "Dirty little bitches surrounded by hard throbbing cocks ... and they like it."
In one of these scenes, a young woman dressed as a cheerleader is surrounded by six men. For about seven minutes, "Dynamite" (the name she gives on tape) methodically moves from man to man while they offer insults that start with "you little cheerleading slut" and get uglier from there. For another minute and a half, she sits upside down on a couch, her head hanging over the edge, while men thrust into her mouth, causing her to gag. She strikes the pose of the bad girl to the end. "You like coming on my pretty little face, don't you," she says, as they ejaculate on her face and in her mouth for the final two minutes of the scene.

Five men have finished. The sixth steps up. As she waits for him to ejaculate onto her face, now covered with semen, she closes her eyes tightly and grimaces. For a moment, her face changes; it is difficult to read her emotions, but it appears she may cry. After the last man, number six, ejaculates, she regains her composure and smiles. Then the narrator off camera hands her the pom-pom she had been holding at the beginning of the tape and says, "Here's your little cum mop, sweetheart -- mop up."
She buries her face in the pom-pom. The screen fades, and she is gone.
This example wasn't exactly violent, but it contributes to women viewing themselves as valueless. Many boys have their first sexual experience with porn, this does not teach them a good or healthy way to view or interact with women. This not only affects women, but also men and families.