The GOP's Platform Draft Claims Porn Is a 'Public Health Crisis'

Porn is is just one small part of our national crisis of sex education—a crisis the Republicans are largely responsible for.

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Jul 12 2016, 3:04pm

Image: Gage Skidmore

Want another sign that the Republican Party is, shall we say, a bit out of touch with much of America? Look no further than the Republican party's latest platform draft. Among the provisions? A declaration that porn is a "public health crisis."

If that language sounds familiar to you, it's likely because you're remembering a Utah resolution that was signed this past spring. Like the GOP's party platform, it also wrung its hands over the supposed evils of the adult industry, blaming it for an assorted grab bag of sexual woes—Teen sexting! Campus sexual assault! Unhappy marriages! And so on!—and rallying the masses for a culture war.

As the RNC platform draft indicates, the national Republicans are only too happy to amplify the idea that, even if it's technically protected as free speech, porn should be derided as something destroying our hearts, minds, and genitals. Except there's just one problem: whatever issues porn might be to blame for, they're just one small part of our national crisis of sex education—a crisis the Republicans are largely responsible for.

There are a number of reasons to roll your eyes at these resolutions, even if you're not the biggest fan of porn. Most notably, the claim of porn as a "public health crisis" is specious. Thanks to our culture's squeamishness around sex, there's a dearth of quality research around the effects of porn; anyone claiming to have conclusive evidence of anything is likely relying more on a gut feeling than any scientific method. While some studies have found porn to have harmful effects on its consumers, others have found it to be neutral and sometimes even beneficial. With so little consensus on the matter, it's hard to justify hysteria.

Reminder: There's no harm in wackin' off.

Furthermore, to the extent that porn is harmful, it's often because it's the only source of sexual information and education that many people tend to get. Yes, it might be a terrible idea to get basic sex education from titles like Jizz Biz and Bound Teens. If we, as a nation, were more comfortable teaching kids about the basics of sex (and maybe offering some lessons on media literacy, to boot), we wouldn't have to worry so much about the crazy ideas that kids are getting from PornHub.

But you're unlikely to hear that harsh bit of truth from groups like Concerned Women for America, which helped to pen the anti-porn language, because the very people who fret over what porn is doing to our children are also determined to keep honest, comprehensive sex education away from them. That "public health crisis" they're lamenting? They created it, lighting a massive bonfire in celebration of sexual ignorance—and then, when it all got out of hand, placing the blame on pornographers.

Yet backwards as these resolutions might be, it would be a mistake to deem them harmless. Though the adult industry is unlikely to be toppled by the impotent rage of, well, impotent lawmakers, anti-porn language—resolutions that declare porn to be an "insidious epidemic"—still fuels stigma towards sex workers, reinforcing the erroneous idea that people who work in the adult industry are diseased, damaged, and evil.

And that stigma is often the thing that truly harms: When sex workers are despised by society, they can't always be upfront about their work, which can put them in a precarious position with friends, family, landlords, healthcare providers, and virtually every other civilian they might come into contact with. Further, stigma against the industry makes it harder to leave, even if you're tired of fucking on film. Want proof of this? Look up the numerous instances of people getting fired from straight jobs upon the discovery of their "secret" porn past.

Let's not forget that even as the RNC denounces porn, it's also preparing to nominate Donald Trump

If there's a silver lining to any of this, it's that, like the rage-filled cries of racists who realize their fight to keep America majority white was lost long ago, this may just be the rallying cry of a camp that's doomed to defeat. There's no question that pornography has won the culture war: Internet porn is everywhere, and it's unlikely to disappear anytime soon. The demand for adult content is far too great, and potential for profit still too high, for pornographers to just pack up shop and go home. Barring some China-style internet censorship, it's hard to see how, exactly, the Republicans could ever eradicate the presence of porn.

And despite the pronouncements of the national GOP, some state level politicians seem to be getting more amenable to the adult industry. In California, both Republicans and Democrats have come out against the California Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative (aka Proposition 60). After years of being attacked by groups like AHF and CalOSHA, the porn industry's finally getting political traction.

And let's not forget that even as the RNC gets ready to aggressively denounce porn, it's also preparing to nominate Donald Trump, a man who's routinely objectified, sexualized, and dehumanized women (including his own daughter), as its candidate for the presidency. Perhaps some Republicans are hoping that, just as they've shifted the blame for America's sexual woes off of bad sex education and onto porn, they'll be able to distract us from their party's full throated embrace of the oppression of women by, again, blaming it all on porn. But in the words of the last Republican to hold our country's highest office, "Fool me once, shame on...shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."