Tuesday, August 11, 2015

India Pornography Ban Gets the Shaft: Should We Ban Internet Porn?

Disclaimer: This blog entry does not contain any pornographic images or links to pornographic websites. This blog entry is merely a discussion on the merits of the arguments surrounding Internet pornography.

Last week, the Indian government banned pornography in an effort to protect public morality, which is ironic considering that India invented the Kama Sutra. Only days later did the government receive enough pressure to reverse the ban. Child pornography is still banned in India, like it is throughout the world, which it should be because children are not at an age of consent. The same goes for why pornography with non-consenting adults should also be banned.

As for the rest of pornography, the Indian people were up in arms about pornography being banned in India. This brought me to an important question: Is it the government's business to ban pornography?

The Religious Right gets anal and prudish about these hot-button issues. They sure aren't beating around the bush when they say that pornography incites sexual violence, ruins marriages, messes with the brain, and is quite addictive.  I can find some studies to the contrary. For example, pornography does not increase sexual violence. If anything, it might decrease it (Diamond, 2009). A Dutch study (Hald et al., 2013) with an ample sample size at how sexually explicit material affects the brain on adolescents and young adults; it showed that only a small percentage are affected by pornography. Additionally, the Dutch study showed a correlation between high dissatisfaction with life and pornography usage. There is also the question of whether pornography desensitizes or whether pornography is the manifestation of a high libido (Kühn and Gallinat, 2014).

This topic is so titillating for researchers that there are no shortage of studies on either side of the the argument. Pornography does not have strong enough causation for societal woes. Pornography can be a symptom of issues, whether those are symptoms of bad marital relations, culture, or personal issues. In a free society, personal responsibility is key.  While there might be a select few with legitimate addiction issues, compulsion is not the same as an addiction. Much like with marijuana, we should treat those who have legitimate addiction issues as a health one. Why compound the issue with criminal and legal issues, as well? In those cases, treat sex addiction like a health issue and move on. Also, if pornography were causing an increase in sexual violence, we would have seen the increase of sexual violence with the increased prevalence in Internet [pornography]. However, the rates of domestic violence and rape have been decreasing over the past two decades. I would postulate that much like with video games, pornography creates a substitution effect for those who would have acted upon their predilections otherwise.

As a libertarian, I believe it's none of the government's business whether someone is watching porn. If there are social costs, we treat sex addiction due to pornography as a health issue, not as a criminal one. If the social of pornography are overall negligible, then why impose costs on individuals who benefit from pornography? If there is a net benefit, all the more reason the government should not be cocksure in imposing its prudish, paternal sense of morality on those who want to enjoy pornography. As long as the actors in the pornography are acting on their own volition, and as long as the viewers of the pornography are of legal age, who cares what consenting adults do behind closed doors?