I am writing this essay in support of the recent petition to make porn an “opt-in” service for internet providers, further regulating the extent of porn found on the internet. Here is a link to the petition.
A few of my friends on Facebook have chosen not to sign the petition, which is totally fine, but have expressed reasons for doing so that I see as either faulty or misapplied, namely: the increased regulation on the free market and the importance of using self-control and free will.
My response is one that I hastily typed into a comment box of someone’s status, and later realized that its length was becoming too much of an explosion to post there. And so, with some minor editing for clarity, I post it for the first time here. I use a few examples that are known within Mormon circles (captain Moroni and Shiblon, the son of Alma) but I tried to frame them into a context that is meaningful to all readers.
First of all, the argument about the need to use our free will to ignore pornography. People addicted to pornography are just that–addicted. They no longer have control over their actions when they are presented with a certain dilemma. Someone I know said this: “10 times out of 10, in those circumstances I will always choose it.” Yes, we are supposed to develop a sense of self-control, but the Lord also wants us to put up barriers between us and Satan. Think of the fortifications that Captain Moroni placed upon his cities, seeking to prevent deaths from the future attacks of the enemies of his people, think about how you try to avoid your own temptations to help you make correct choices.
Putting up barriers between yourself and temptation does not take away from the validity of self-control, and it is foolish to enter dangerous situations thinking to yourself: “I’m just going to be really careful and not get hurt.” Think about our admonishment to put on the whole armor of God. This would include taking necessary precautions to avoid unnecessary danger in the fight against Satan. But it’s not just about people who are currently addicts. Just like addictions to drugs, people can “use” pornography only once and become addicted, so accidental pornography views (the kind that this petition is trying to prevent) can be harmful in impactful ways.
As for the government regulation of the free market, I think that it is important to understand the role of government. Now, I love small government as much as the next guy (let me decide how I want to use my money, thank you very much), but we do have government for a reason. What that reason is constantly being debated, but I believe that government exists to regulate human behavior to an extent. If there were no law say thou shalt not kill, why would any man fear to kill? We are protecting our rights, privileges, and property. That said, having a democratic government (well, democratic republic) means that we can choose to an extent how we want that regulation to work. I subscribe to the idea that the free market for the free market’s sake isn’t as important as protecting individuals and families from the harm that science acknowledges that pornography does. I believe that it is more important to have protection against the harms of pornography than to have a completely unregulated free market.
But it’s a slippery slope, you say. First we ban pornography, then we ban revealing clothing, then we ban freedom of expression. Nobody said it had to go that far though. We shouldn’t be so naive to think that the government is going to take away freedom of expression in many forms because we ask them to protect us from an evil in the free market. Where should the line be drawn? How much control should government take? Sure, these are questions that will need to be brought up and decided, but that’s what we’re trying to do right now.
You see, we are trying to participate actively in our government by signing a petition that says, in different words: We think that the line between what the government does and does not regulate should include pornography in the regulation category. We see this as an issue that is important to us and we are willing to give a little bit of our freedom (easy access to porn, or easy marketing of porn) in order to be protected from this evil. We do this willingly and ask our representatives to keep the ideals of individuals and families in mind as they make these decisions, instead of billion dollar porn companies that could afford to lose a few bucks. Sure the porn companies are going to get the short end of the stick (frankly, we don’t’ care), and sure we are surrendering a bit of our freedom to our government so that they can regulate this issue. But we don’t’ care. We value greater protection against pornography above these things and are petitioning for a change. We actively and knowingly make this decision.
If that is something that you don’t align with, that’s okay. You don’t have to sign the petition. But I hope that you can understand people who place protection from pornography above having a completely free market (which it isn’t, by the way, the government already regulates it, we are just petitioning a change in how and what it regulates– we have that right). And I hope that you can understand the importance of avoiding evil and not falling into the trap of believing that we can just “use self-control” to avoid falling into temptation. My Mormon friends out there will recognize the name Shiblon, who thought he could just “use self-control,” visited the harlot Isabel, and fell into fornication. If he had been humble enough to admit that he needs to protect himself to temptation, that he is not impervious to it, then perhaps he could have had the sense to add the idea of placing barriers between him and temptation to his valiant attempts to use self-control. It certainly would have saved him a lot of heart-ache.
I support increased regulation of pornography, and accept its consequences on the free-market economy, and I believe increasing barriers between my family and harmful and aggressively addictive temptation that has been proven to destroy family stability is a wise choice to take in additions to our precautions of self-control.