Obama is Pro Obscene Pornography.

ElliPonto 2012/07/25 16:15:16
People wake up.

The president axed a team of Feds charged with fighting adult obscenity on the Web, and it’s not just the right that’s upset. McKay Coppins on the liberal case for cracking down on porn.

If you know where to search, it doesn’t take much Googling to find photos of women having sex with farm animals, videos that graphically depict simulated rape, or actresses made to look 13 years old performing sex acts on adult men.

It’s disturbing stuff, to be sure—and it may even be illegal.

But this week, news broke that the Obama administration had quietly shuttered the only Justice Department unit that exclusively fought adult obscenity (defined as criminally offensive material that has no “serious literary, political, artistic, or medical value”). Amid a flurry of criticism, administration officials defended the move, arguing that limited resources would be better spent prosecuting cases of child exploitation. Meanwhile, conservatives such as Sen. Orrin Hatch seized the opportunity to accuse the White House of being soft on hardcore porn.

At first, it all seemed like another formulaic episode in the culture war: the religious right crusading against smut peddlers in the name of “family values”; liberals rolling their eyes at puritanical Republicans and their censorship-happy agenda. But a closer look at the events reveals a kink in the common narrative—and a potential shift in culture-war battle lines.

Earlier this month, 42 senators signed a letter urging Attorney General Eric Holder to step up enforcement of federal obscenity laws. Among the cast of mostly Republican signers, one name stood out: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a staunch liberal from California, the de-facto porn capital of America. (Feinstein wasn’t available to comment for this story.)

She wasn’t alone: five other Senate Democrats, including Minnesota’s left-wing warrior, Amy Klobuchar, also signed the letter, and they were applauded by feminists, leftist lawyers, and liberal academics. Together, this increasingly vocal segment of progressives is making the case that hardcore porn flies in the face of cherished liberal causes—and that Democrats should be leading the charge to take down its distributors.

“To be anti-porn is a progressive principle.”

The Daily Beast reached out to several liberal anti-porn advocates and asked them to explain why defending adult obscenity is incompatible with liberal principles. Here, we summarize the left’s case against hardcore porn.

It’s Anti-Feminist

“To be anti-porn is a progressive principle,” says Dr. Gail Dines, author of the 2010 book Pornland. “The progressive position is that we’re opposed to anything that produces inequality, and porn absolutely feeds into sexual inequality—creates it, amplifies it, and justifies it.”

As a professor at Wheelock College, a liberal arts school in Massachusetts, Dines is not lacking for feminist credentials. She has devoted the majority of her scholarly research to exposing sexism, and frequently lectures on how the media promote gender bias. She has no patience for the trendy argument that porn actually promotes female empowerment. On the contrary, she argues, the violent brand of smut that the Justice Department is ignoring poisons the public perception of gender relations.

“It legitimizes the idea that men have all the power over women,” she says. “In pornography, women don’t need good housing and fair pay; all they need is body-punishing sex. They’re not human beings.”

Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, says that by glorifying violent sexual fantasies, hardcore porn makers can encourage naturally violent men to act on their urges: “That combination of explicit sexual scenarios and a proclivity for violence against women is combustible.”

It Makes Sex Ed Irrelevant

Along the same lines, Dines says comprehensive sex education—long a rallying cry among liberals—is competing with hardcore porn sites to shape young boys’ attitudes toward sex.

“We know that at age 14, the vast majority of boys have looked at porn and probably masturbated to it,” says Dines. “Literally their first introduction to sex is sites like bangedbabbysitters.com. These aren’t adult men who can compare what they see to reality. They’re young and vulnerable.”

And while liberal sex ed advocates say condom-on-banana demonstrations can help prevent such tragedies as teenage pregnancy or adolescent STDs, Dines says the twisted messages that underlie violent porn can be just as dangerous as sexual naïveté.

“In hardcore porn, the more horrible and hateful you treat a woman, the better and bigger her orgasm,” Dines says. “How can a boy masturbate to women being abused, and then look at women in their lives and see them as regular people?”

It’s Racist

While racist depictions in mainstream media have dramatically declined over the years, Dines writes that contemporary pornography continues to “[get] away with a level of racism that is breathtaking in its contempt and loathing for people of color.” No stereotype is off-limits. Black women are depicted as mouthy ghetto-dwellers who need a dominant man to cure them of their “attitude.” Asian girls are subservient, obedient, and bred for male pleasure. Latinas are debased by their poverty, thus making them accessible to any man with a few bucks.

Given progressives’ historical role in the civil rights movement, Dines says, it’s absurd that the left would stand up for distributors of such racially offensive material.

It Can Actually Limit Free Speech

Traditionally, what’s drawn liberals to defend hardcore porn is a passion for the First Amendment. But John Kang, a law professor at St. Thomas University in Florida, argues that it’s precisely this commitment to civil liberties that should motivate liberals to crack down on distributors.

“It’s fashionable in the contemporary Supreme Court to justify protection of violent hardcore pornography as the ability of men to realize themselves through some artistic format,” Kang says. “But this is nothing but pure, pathological violence against women.”

He echoes Schwartz’s concern that such material can motivate abuse, assault and even rape: “If enough mentally unstable men watch this and want to recreate it, this actually represents a clear and present danger against women”—a constitutional exception to the First Amendment.

Or to put it another way, allowing the freedom of violent expression could suppress the freedom of innocent victims. As Kang wrote in a 2008 paper, this is a case where “the free speech of men silences the free speech of women.”

Of course, it’s unlikely that the White House will be moved to change its position by such a relatively small minority of liberals—especially as it gears up to fightanother potential first amendment battle involving the FEC.

But porn opponents on the left, such as Dines, are characterized by their evangelism, and they’re hopeful that the lower the porn industry sinks, the more their message will resonate. In the end, she says, the progressive case against hardcore porn has little to do with the Judeo-Christian views of sexuality espoused by the right.

“Corporate-owned media is designed to legitimize economic inequality,” says Dines. “I would argue porn does the same thing when it comes to sex. You want sex to be fun and meaningful. You want your sexual autonomy to be your own, not some corporation’s.” Spoken like a true liberal.

McKay Coppins is a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast covering politics and national affairs. His writing has also appeared in The Daily Caller and Salt Lake City's Deseret News.

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  • Roy Munson **SL, BD** 2012/11/30 11:32:22
    Roy Munson **SL, BD**
    the trouble is,if some things are censored on the net,where will it end,and i don't think it's the governments job to decide what goes on there
  • Vision of Verve 2012/07/25 22:34:36
  • john.keenan.792 2012/07/25 17:35:16
    lol nothing wrong with that
  • Rob Williams 2012/07/25 16:25:18
    Rob Williams
    Also... is there any non-obscene pornography?
  • Rob Williams 2012/07/25 16:23:56
    Rob Williams
    It's quite a big industry over there!
  • Sodahead Founders are Fascists 2012/07/25 16:21:43 (edited)
    Sodahead Founders are Fascists
    Pro freedom of speech, rather.
    But I know what you are: Pro theocratic censorship.
  • Skylaris Alanis 2012/07/25 16:20:27 (edited)
    Skylaris Alanis
    So conservatives complain about not having enough freedom when it comes to gun ownership, but want to take away the freedom of others by censoring the internet.

    I don't agree with porn either, but the internet allows us to be free, which is what you Ameri-Centric people love, right? Obama is not "pro-obscene pornography".

    Give me a - break. He's trying to preserve your so-called "freedom" moron. Quit - and make up your mind already.
  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 17:08:14
    Try again, Obama fired a group who tracked Kiddie and Animal Sex sites. Filter were in place to stop illegal porn. This type of porn is illegal by the Federal Government already. Obama and his administration is attacking Romney on his stand against pornography, and Obama thinks this will win him votes. Maybe if more understood that Obama has opened the internet for all those who want children porn. There for Obama Loves Kiddie Porn.
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 17:13:32 (edited)
    Skylaris Alanis
    I don't give a damn about what you think Obama's doing. I was talking about the fact that you are very contradicting in your beliefs; talking about freedom, then getting mad when the President gives you it. You can have things one way or the other. It's not a perfect world, and you can't always have everything you want it. You ARE not the only person who deserves to be free. And you will probably be bitter regardless of what Obama does.

    Obama likes Kiddie Porn? How the - did you come to that conclusion? If you're going to be that ridiculous and obscene, I can say that conservatives support movie massacres because they don't want to change gun ownership laws. You see how RIDICULOUS that sounds?
  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 17:22:18
    Read, this is exactly what Obama did and it is fact. Obama will go down in history as the Worst President taking the title form Carter and the Porn President taking the title from Clinton.
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 17:25:51
    Skylaris Alanis
    Lol, Obama didn't take his title from Clinton, he earned it from Bush. -___- and Clinton is a democrat, remember? He supports Obama, so now what you're saying makes even less sense.
  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 17:38:15 (edited)
    Clinton removed the requirement for pron site to require a age check. Reagan applied a morality filter based on the US residents definition.

    And yes you are right Clinton was a dumacrat. You make a great point for selective abortion, your mother should have made the right choice.
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 17:43:17 (edited)
    Skylaris Alanis
    now we're talking about abortion? stop trying to change the subject. you are obviously confused about your beliefs, so we're all just going to sit and wait until you've figured yourself out. you - conservatives (not all of you) have conditioned yourselves to only see one side of every issue, and I'm not going to bother to try and sway your selfish beliefs. have a - great day. -__-

  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 17:44:49 (edited)
    ****** of ********
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 17:46:23 (edited)
  • Skylari... Skylari... 2012/07/25 17:56:47
    Skylaris Alanis
    i reported you for violations of the TOS
  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 18:18:56
    Now as for you, edit your posting or be deactivated. The usage of Obscene language violates the TOS.
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 18:20:49
    Skylaris Alanis
    if i do, then you had better take that off.
  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 18:21:30
    check it for yourself, EDITED
  • Keoni91 Skylari... 2012/07/25 18:20:52
    You are now required to edit your posting before deactivation. Mediation will prevent a new account from being created by or used by your IP
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 18:10:10
    Skylaris Alanis
    and take that information down NOW. you will have your account banned.
  • ElliPonto Skylari... 2012/07/25 18:11:32
    Actually, your use on obscene language would have you deactivated.
  • Skylari... ElliPonto 2012/07/25 18:12:49
    Skylaris Alanis
    you could potentially HURT me by posting that!!!!! please just take it down!
  • Keoni91 Skylari... 2012/07/25 18:25:09
    Thank you.
  • Keoni91 ElliPonto 2012/07/25 18:16:52
    Please Elli edit posting
  • ElliPonto Keoni91 2012/07/25 18:17:15
    For you I have
  • Marek Skylari... 2012/07/25 17:48:09
    So young and so vulgar.
  • Marek ElliPonto 2012/07/25 17:47:05
    There was never any doubt in my mind that obama is a lowlife cuddling perverts. That Romney is standing up against child porn is great and I revised my opinion about him upward .
  • Roy Mun... ElliPonto 2012/08/16 10:14:22
    Roy Munson **SL, BD**
    no he dosen't

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