Sen. Hatch Wants More Porn Prosecutions

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding more federal obscenity prosecutions. The letter was co-signed by more than 100 other senators and congressmen. Here’s an excerpt:

Last June, an important briefing in the Capitol outlined how pornography has changed, becoming more harmful, addictive, and available, and linked to other crimes.  Researchers, scholars, and other experts explained, for example, how today’s hardcore pornography is typified by extreme violence against women and how pornography consumption can contribute to sexual harassment and sexual violence.  Another expert warned that Internet adult pornography normalizes sexual harm to children, while another addressed the growing connection between pornography and sex trafficking…

Simply put, we know more than ever how illegal adult obscenity contributes to violence against women, addiction, harm to children, and sex trafficking.  This material harms individuals, families, and communities and the problems are only getting worse.

Hatch is full of crap. We don’t “know” any of these things. In fact, every conceivable social trend over the last 20 years obliterates the idea that porn is causing widespread societal harm.

The rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s made porn increasingly accessible to the point that today, just about everyone can watch people have sex damn-near any time of day, in every conceivable manner, in in every possible vareity. If Hatch and his colleagues are right, over the last 15-20 years, we should have seen a massive increase in the social ills listed in Hatch’s letter.

And in fact, every single one of these problems are trending in the opposite direction. And it isn’t even close:

  • Sex crimes against children: Down 53 percent between 1992 and 2006.
  • Abortion: The abortion rate has dropped by about 25 percent since 1993.
  • Teen pregnancy: In 2009, teen pregnancy hit its lowest rate in the 70 years that the federal government has been tracking the statistic.
  • Divorce: The U.S. divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970.
  • Domestic violence: The rate of reported domestic violence in the U.S. dropped by more than half between 1993 and 2004.
  • Rape: The forcible rape rate in the U.S. has dropped from 41.1 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 28.7 in 2009. That latter figure is also an all-time low.

These numbers are overwhelming. What’s more, there are at least a couple of studies suggesting that the widespread availability of pornography is partially responsible for some of these trends, especially the drop in reported rapes.

Of course, like the activists pushing bullshit sex trafficking figures to shut down online escort ads, Hatch and his colleagues aren’t interested in actual data. This much is certainly true: There are substantially more people masturbating to pornography in America today than 20 years ago. And that’s really the only figure that matters to people like Hatch. (My favorite example of this line of thought: Concerned Women for America’s amusing attack on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue a couple years ago. Note that the article is titled “Do the Math”, yet doesn’t contain any actual math.)

Expect no one to actually challenge Hatch or his co-signers on any of the letter’s claims.

In other porn news, fallen CNN anchor Rick Sanchez—remember him?—is outraged that some politicians have received campaign contributions from a pornographer. He’s demanding they return the money. Clearly Rich Sanchez hates pornography. Given the figures above, I think there’s a much bigger story here: Why does Rick Sanchez want more women to be raped?

Here’s Reason.tv’s interview with porn maven (and Reason Foundation contributor) John Stagliano, discussing Stagliano’s federal obscenity trial:

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

48 Responses to “Sen. Hatch Wants More Porn Prosecutions”

  1. #1 |  M | 

    Legalizing and regulating prostitution would probably do a lot more to destroy the sex trafficking market than attacking porn.

  2. #2 |  Chris | 

    M,
    You had me at legalize. And lost me at regulate.

  3. #3 |  Danny | 

    Hatch urges Holder to target “major commercial distributors of hardcore adult pornography.” In other words, a dinosaur hunt. Exactly how much porn would get wiped from the World Wide Web by the government taking another run at Larry Flynt or Bob Guccione?

  4. #4 |  MassHole | 

    Who needs stats when you already know it’s bad, ummkay.

  5. #5 |  Justin | 

    I’d be interested in seeing the history on Sen Hatch’s browser.

  6. #6 |  Big A | 

    It would also be interesting to look at prevalence of porn compared to violence against women in different countries.

  7. #7 |  KrisV | 

    Sen. Hatch wants more porn prosecution – I just want more porn…

  8. #8 |  EH | 

    Holder must be getting ready to try Bradley Manning if these cheap page-eating cases are being promoted.

  9. #9 |  Mattocracy | 

    I’d like Eric Holder to his fucking job and increase the number of prosecutions for violating the constitution and civil liberties, particularly when is sends black Americans such as himself to prison.

  10. #10 |  CyniCAl | 

    “Why does Rick Sanchez want more women to be raped?” — Question of the Year nominee.

  11. #11 |  perlhaqr | 

    Rick Sanchez and Rosie O’Donnell, crusading for more women raped and left for dead in alleys everywhere.

  12. #12 |  The Ginchiest Snork Ever! | 

    Hatch is just upset that his web searches for ‘nekkid pitchers’ brings up photos of Japanese baseball players.

  13. #13 |  shawn | 

    “All American families owe Senator Hatch and his colleagues a great debt of gratitude for their outstanding leadership against the floodtide of pornography and particularly for this effort to get federal laws against illegal adult pornography vigorously enforced,” said Patrick Trueman, CEO of Morality in Media

    Sorry, Pat I don’t owe those assholes anything.

  14. #14 |  Mannie | 

    And in fact, every single one of these problems are trending in the opposite direction. And it isn’t even close:

    Based on that, the Federal Government should subsidize porn. Boy, would that screw it up!

  15. #15 |  Dakota | 

    “Concerned Women for America’s amusing attack on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue a couple years ago. Note that the article is titled “Do the Math”, yet doesn’t contain any actual math.”

    Women don’t know what math is duh.

  16. #16 |  Sen. Hatch (R-UT) Wants More Porn Prosecutions « Working for Liberty | 

    [...] Radley Balko corrects him on the facts. [...]

  17. #17 |  Mark Z. | 

    Seriously, Dakota? That’s not funny, it’s just stupid.

  18. #18 |  Pai | 

    “The forcible rape rate”

    As opposed to some -other- kind of rape?

  19. #19 |  Highway | 

    No, Hatch is exactly right that “We know more than ever how [porn] contributes to violence against women, addiction, harm to children, and sex trafficking.” Unfortunately for him, we know more than ever that ‘how it contributes’ is that, if it does anything, it reduces all of those things. So how does he deal with this inconvenient fact? Well, by never saying anything but vague menacing allusions, with some high emotional quotient words like ‘illegal’ and ‘obscenity’ thrown in .

    I wonder how many of the other people who signed onto this actually believe know the data that Hatch is talking about, or how many of them are just dupes who signed on because a big – name ‘conservative’ asked them to.

  20. #20 |  André | 

    I didn’t think there could be anything dumber than the drug war.

  21. #21 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Pai,

    As opposed to “he got her drunk and they screwed, but she didn’t want to”, or the various forms of statutory rape.

    KrisV,

    Hatch wants more porn brought before his sub-committee, so he can enjoy it while telling himself it’s work.

    I’ve often wondered how well it would work to have local rules about what you could display in public? Like the lady who sets up a creche on the capitol steps, you’d be allowed to display pretty much anything if you are willing to stand with it and make it a personal statement. You could also charge a small entrance fee, on the understanding that people would know that what was on the other side of a turnstile was strong stuff. Lastly, photographs of illegal acts would be treated as evidence of a crime. You could SELL anything, but would be limited as to what you could display. It would allow a community to have some control of what was in general view, without interfering with the first amendment, the internet, or mail-order.

    Busybodies would hate it, of course, since what they object to is not immorality but people not listening to their ‘betters’.

    Comments?

  22. #22 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Chris,

    If prostitution were legal I would like to see some minimal regulation. Maybe a requirement to have some sort of doctor’s certificate to be shown on request? And legal ID, for proof of age of consent?

  23. #23 |  RWW | 

    1. If you want your prostitute to have a doctor’s certificate, then you should only do business with prositutes who have them. Stay out of the business of others.

    2. It is generally not difficult to determine whether a woman is truly consenting. Her age has nothing to do with it.

  24. #24 |  SOB | 

    Senator Hatch is so old, he can’t get it up anymore. That’s why he hates porn. Nevermind him being a Mormon and all.

  25. #25 |  v ~ | 

    so true “rww”. age has nothing to do w/ it. if a person, be they male or female consents to sex for purposes of money, pleasure, or whatever their motivation, what business is it of anyone else’s- no matter what their age. we need to take responsibility for our choices and not blame them on others. i consented to sex at the not so ripe age of 13 for the first time w/ someone who was 21. no one forced me. i wanted it. it makes absolutely no sense to me, why our legal system needs to waste it’s resources and utilize our tax dollars, sending people to jail/prison for engaging in the natural desire to have sex…

  26. #26 |  Jeff | 

    Radley,

    I agree with you that Orrin Hatch’s linkage between pornography and these societal harms is overstated, and I also don’t discredit the hypothesis that porn may even be a partial cause for some of these declining trends. I’m fine with your criticism if you want to say that there are other things the federal government should be worrying about besides this.

    Here’s what I don’t understand, however. Why does Reason have to take it a step further and glamorize pornography, by interviewing a pornographer as though he were some kind of hero and even showing pornography in the video you attached here? I consider myself a libertarian, but this is a good example of what I consider to be the biggest problem with the party. I can agree with you on the principle of civil rights above government regulation, but not because I embrace pornography. I think pornography is offensive, and I see it as an unfortunate price we have to pay in order to have freedoms in America. I don’t see why I can’t hold these personal beliefs and still be your ally, but the rhetoric in your posting makes me feel like I’m on the opposite side.

    A lot of people find pornography offensive, and it is not hard to find marriages that have been ruined, and men who say they have lost everything because of crippling addictions to it. All of these men on Dateline NBC–where do you think their problems started? I’m willing to bet most of them became addicted to pornography before the greater abnormality developed. And even if most of these men are not committing crimes, they are living with a problem that is probably causing misery, shame, and a loss of normality in their lives and relationships. There are many harms caused by pornography that don’t show up in crime and social statistics.

    Why can’t Reason and other Libertarians organizations argue against regulation based on civil liberties and leave it at that without trying to glamorize and embrace porn? I really think you are alienating a large base of potential allies to the cause of freedom.

  27. #27 |  Guido | 

    You are missing the obvious point. Election season is upon us. Got to score points with your base.

  28. #28 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Jeff,

    You may well have a point, but I think you missed Mr. Balko’s. Which was that Hatch has trotted out the usual litany of anti-porn accusations and there is cause to believe that they are not only untrue, but that the evidence runs the other direction.

    There are grounds to oppose the widespread dissemination of sexually explicit images, but real world evidence strongly suggests that sex crimes, divorce, unwanted and teenage pregnancy, and violence against women are dropping at the same time that porn became ubiquitous.

    As I suggested in my earlier post, I believe that what society should do now is formulate some way to limit what is acceptable for public display, while refraining from actual censorship. I believe this because sexually suggestive or explicit images stir up the male of the species in ways he can only imperfectly control, consequently having them plastered on every bus-stop and billboard constitutes throwing sand into the machinery of polite discourse – which is cranky enough as it is.

    Discussion?

  29. #29 |  derfel cadarn | 

    The truth is that if most of these tight assed banners actually did the things they wish to ban the world would be a much mellower and content place. Take a look at Hatch does he look like he might need a good dose of nookie,DAMN STRAIGHT HE DOES!!!

  30. #30 |  random_guy | 

    Jeff, I respectfully disagree.

    Part of the reason Hatch and his cronies get away with this kind of stuff is because of the extreme degree to which our society vilifies porn. It won’t become more mundane and accepted until it is more widespread. I would love for this country to get to a point where a female nipple can be bared on network television and everyone considers it no big deal, you know the exact same attitude they currently have for extreme violence and Jack Bauer torturing people. The consequence of freedom is occasionally running into things you find personally objectionable.

    Your argument is very similar to the people who approve of gay rights, unless they see two guys kissing in the supermarket, then they want it kept indoors. If a person support of freedom is only skin deep enough to support it when they don’t see it, then they don’t really believe in it. I understand that pornography makes you personally squimish, but the degree to which you tolerate its display, says more about your commitment to freedom than pornography itself. I’m not saying any of this as a personal attack. Its that, objectively speaking, pornography is just sounds and images and no more harmful to anyone than the thousands of other sounds and images we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

    This is a bit of a tangent but, without exception, every person I have ever encountered who claimed to be a ‘porn addict’ or ‘ex-porn addict’ was an evangelical Christian trying to demonize pornography, masturbation, and premarital sex. Theres an entire circuit of these guys running around the country doing church events and appearing at universities. The thing is they don’t actually seem to know that much about porn, they don’t understand the vocabulary of the fetishes they talk about and they can’t really name any porn stars other than ones that have bleed over into popular culture, like Ron Jeremy. This is just my personal experience speaking here, but my encounters with them have left me thinking many of them are of the “liers for Jesus” variety, the kind that claim to be terrible sinners in order to get the street cred and get converts from people who would otherwise peg them as hopelessly sheltered or naive.

  31. #31 |  Highway | 

    Jeff,

    There are a couple reasons to appreciate folks like that. First, they’re the front lines in a major fight for the First Amendment. While people pooh-pooh slippery slope and reductio arguments, the truth is that incrementalism is a primary technique for the control of something by government. One of the major personal conundrums in libertarianism is that frequently it is required that we examine as individuals whether we can appreciate and support the freedoms of people to do things that we personally find repugnant, because those actions themselves do not harm us or other people.

    Second, I have to say that while you have the freedom to hold the views you do about pornography, I think that a lot of the problems you associate with pornography are directly caused by the propagation of those same attitudes. Why do people have to live with ‘shame and misery and loss of their normal lives’ because they like to look at it? Because folks are always telling them how shameful it is. So many of those harms you reference are social ones caused by the stigma attached to it, which creates a vicious circle. Just like the prohibition of drugs causes problems with addiction to deepen because people cannot legally seek the help they need, the stigma of pornography causes people to retreat inwards when they cannot handle the self-set-up contradictions instead of seeking help to deal with them. And I believe that’s where it truly gets destructive.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that there is an innate pleasure that nearly every human gets from watching other people participate in sex. I do think that because of the prohibitionist aspects of pornography, far too large a percentage of what is produced is too skewed towards domination of women, figuratively *and* literally. And again, this contributes to some people who are overly sensitive to suggestion getting the wrong idea and perhaps taking it too far. I would really like to see more of a ‘love’ style of pornography, that exhibits more of the values that I agree with (and that many people associate with healthy relationships): Sharing, tenderness, love, commitment, people genuinely enjoying themselves in an activity that makes people happy. I think more like that would become *far* more mainstream because it wouldn’t have the somewhat anti-social undertones.

  32. #32 |  MPH | 

    It will be interesting to see what Maggie McNeil, over at the Honest Courtesan, has to say about this (she may cover it there, but she sometimes comments here). One thing I’ve read over there (since rape rate was mentioned), is that in jurisdictions where prostitution gets legalized, the rape rate plummets. Hmmmm…. Perhaps we should start using the “why do you want so many women to be raped” line in the argument for the legalization of prostitution.

    One final humorous note. I know Radley doesn’t pick his ads, but immediately below this story on his home page when I looked at it (I believe his ads rotate, so it might not be there now), was a video ad which had as its “front” image, a hot woman in a skimpy white bikini. Made me want to go right out and get sodomized by a horse. Because you know how that porn stuff affects us guys ;-)

  33. #33 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    If there’s one thing I’m an expert on it is porn. I can testify that Hatch (and his experts) are full of shit.

    Second point: How the he’ll does Pia get voted off Idol?! That show is a sausage fest now.

  34. #34 |  About Flakes – Nicely Put | Truth and Justice For All | 

    [...] Balko writes a nice little piece over at The Agitator attcking Sen. Orin Hatch’s (R-Utah) efforts to have the Obama [...]

  35. #35 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    The topic makes Mr. Hatch feel icky in his nether regions. Tis enough for a ban, IMO.

  36. #36 |  Nemo_N | 

    It’s funny how they treat porn as a cause. As if sexual feelings (harmless or violent) are something you catch, or something that comes from outside your own person.

  37. #37 |  Well Isn’t That Interesting – Bridget Magnus Shows the World as Seen from 4'11" | 

    [...] from the past; Fox News through history; stop coddling the kids, they know better; yeah, because clearly Eric Holder has nothing important to do; it’s never been about deficit reduction (go ahead! [...]

  38. #38 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Is there any way we can get porn 100% eliminated so I can make several million € £ ¥ $ bets that rape will go up? I’d like every namby-buttinski to cover the bets. No, I will not trust the state’s numbers.

  39. #39 |  Jeff | 

    First, I’m not sure why some of you are accusing me of missing the point. I acknowledged Radley’s counter-evidence of Hatch’s claims. And I’m saying go ahead and run this article, point out the fact that false statistics are being used to support more government regulation. But the replies to my post make me feel like I am not welcome among libertarians because I happen to oppose pornography–though not anyone’s right to distribtue or consume it. My point is there are probably a lot more people like me who would take the party seriously if Reason didn’t insert porn into its videos or if commenters on this blog didn’t make me feel unwelcome here.

  40. #40 |  Highway | 

    Jeff, you’re plenty welcome, but it seems like you take the fact that Radley and reason are recognizing that *the* major area of contention with the First Amendment is in ‘obscenity’ as ‘glamorization’. Why is it not serious when reason interviews someone who is currently being prosecuted for this offense?

    As for feeling unwelcome, some may be due to the fact that the style of arguments you use, with anecdotal statements and worst cases (which as I argued may have been exacerbated by the very social stigma that you would desire) are the same type are arguments that are used by those who would go farther than perhaps you would, to banning and prosecution. So while you would stop at social shaming, people you might identify as fellow travelers, at least at the beginning, will use any momentum gained toward what you might identify as a final goal of, say, ‘legal but rare, and socially unacceptable’ as a mere stepping stone to a more full on banning, and those folks wouldn’t really care that you would not agree with the degree that they’d continue their efforts.

  41. #41 |  random_guy | 

    No offense meant, if any was taken.

  42. #42 |  Jackie Newberry | 

    Well, more pornography is accessed on line in the Mormon state of Utah than anywhere else….

  43. #43 |  VikingMoose | 

    a senator is worried about jiggle internet. you have to have something wrong if you think that’s a threat.

    to all social conservatives: sod off. it is your stupid ideas that are at the root of the problems.

  44. #44 |  Nicolas | 

    I don’t get the “forcible rape” stats quoted above. According to the DOJ website, the annual National Crime Victimization Survey shows that the incidence of rape was 2.8/thousand in 1979, and 0.3/thousand in 2009. So far as I know, this survey is considered the most reliable indicator of violent crime incidence.

    http://liten.be//gi1ek

  45. #45 |  Sen. Hatch Wants More Porn Prosecutions | 

    [...] [...]

  46. #46 |  Get real … attempting to legislate MORALITY is losing game … « Authentically Wired | 

    [...] Sen. Hatch Wants More Porn Prosecutions [...]

  47. #47 |  The Pro-Rape Coalition « The Honest Courtesan | 

    [...] decriminalization of prostitution isn’t the only such measure; as pointed out in Radley Balko’s Agitator column of last Thursday, widespread availability of porn is also associated with lower rape rates, so of [...]

  48. #48 |  Bi-Partisan | 

    It’s not just Hatch.. there are several DEM’s also named.. Sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and U.S. House Representatives Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Randy Forbes (R-VA), Included in the 9 Senate Judiciary Committee Members signing the letter are John Cornyn (R-TX), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Jon Kyl, (R-AZ).

    FEINSTEIN!!

Leave a Reply