How to ban porn

"Let's Ban Porn," writes Ross Douthat in the Op-Ed pages of the NY Times. Good luck with that, writes Peter Suderman of Reason, who says "Douthat's core worry is effectively the same fear that drove socially conservative criticisms of video games, action movies, and Dungeons & Dragons — that teenagers will be unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and will reenact what they see on screen in real life."

Here's what would have to happen to ban porn, says Suderman:

Stop the porn industry from producing porn, "forcing, at minimum, every person who has ever attended the Adult Video News Awards in a professional capacity to immediately find a new line of work." Stop websites from distributing porn. Stop everyday people who videotape themselves having sex.

To be at all effective, you would also need to enforce criminal penalties against former professionals who continued to produce porn for the black market. And you'd need to penalize thrill-seeking amateurs as well, which would mean going after, and perhaps locking up, a wide array of sympathetic and otherwise law-abiding individuals from all walks of life whose only crime was to record and distribute consensual sexual activity. You'd also need to punish illicit viewers, whose numbers could easily reach into the tens of millions.

This project would be difficult, unpopular, and there would be no guarantee that it would work at all. Many of the most popular domestic hubs for porn would probably move to protected locations overseas. But it is at least plausible that if you devoted sufficient public resources and effort on the part of law-enforcement, you might—might—be able to reduce, if not eliminate, porn consumption.

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