Time to Ask Legislators to Enforce Laws Against Pornography: Morality in Media

The president of a media watchdog organization says that U.S. legislators have made great strides in enacting obscenity laws to combat pornography, but when it comes to enforcing these laws, Congress has been “asleep at the switch.”

Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media, a non-profit U.S. organization working to stop the traffic in pornography constitutionally, said in the current issue of the group’s newsletter, “To summarize, when it comes to enacting legislation to combat obscene materials, whether in the media or in the marketplace, Congress has been great; and needed changes to obscenity laws have been enacted regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress.”

However, Peters observes that “instead of aggressively enforcing federal obscenity laws against large-scale distributors of obscene materials, the Justice Department targeted primarily small operations that trafficked in the most extreme hardcore pornography and prosecuted very few of them.”

“The Department seemed more afraid of losing an obscenity case than of losing the war against obscenity.”

“During the 2008 Presidential campaign,” Peters points out, “then candidate Barack Obama ignored repeated requests to state publicly whether he supported enforcement of federal obscenity laws; and since the November 2008 election, the Justice Department has not announced any new obscenity indictments involving commercial distribution of hardcore adult pornography.”

“And where was Congress when there was virtually no enforcement of federal obscenity laws (under Clinton) or far too little (under Bush)?” Peters demands. “For the most part, Congress was asleep at the switch. And where has Congress been since November 2008?  Congress has been asleep at the switch.”

Peters particularly focuses on the harm done to children by the pornography industry and the “legitimate” governmental interests at stake in “stemming the tide of commercialized obscenity” as purveyed by the Internet.

“One would think that Congress would also be very concerned about how the proliferation of hardcore adult pornography is affecting children. And make no mistake about it, large numbers of children are being exposed to hardcore adult pornography, especially on the Internet.”

According to a survey reported in CyberPsychology & Behavior, “Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth,” 72% of participants (93.2% of boys, 61.1% of girls) had seen online pornography before age 18. Most exposure began when youth were ages 14 to 17, and boys were significantly more likely to view online pornography more often and to view more types of images. Some boys had repeated exposure to pictures of sexual violence.

“Common sense should inform us that when children are exposed to graphic depictions of adultery, bestiality, bondage, excretory activities, group sex, incest, prostitution, rape, teen promiscuity, torture, and unsafe sex galore, their attitudes about sex and sexual behavior can be influenced for the worst. And there is ample evidence to support that assessment,” Peters said.

Peters concludes that with legislation in place to combat obscene materials, Congress must now do all in its constitutional power to ensure that federal obscenity laws are enforced.

“If protecting children from harm is important, then we must act not just against adults who sexually abuse children and who view, possess or distribute child pornography, but also against adults who distribute hardcore adult pornography that is damaging children morally and psychologically, contributing to sexual abuse of children and breaking up families,” Peters said.

The full text of Robert Peters’ comments is available here.

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