Deplant the Liberty Tree: The Case to Ban Porn

By: Alexander Kelly

Once upon a time, opposition to the proliferation of porn was a unifying force among self-coined conservatives. However, at some point, conservatives renounced this stance; instead taking up the position that the government should never be used to advance that which was in the interest of the common good. Not puzzling, coming from a political body which frequently claims the “common good” to be an inherently ill-defined or even incoherent abstraction. Even worse, members of this intellectually shallow and morally bankrupt political movement claim that even if this concept were to be defined in terms in which we were to reach congruence, the government would have no role in promoting it. It is shameful just how far the conservative movement has become liberalized, as our paganistic society couldn’t afford it.

It has become a movement void of answers to our ever-increasing crises of moral decadence and mass despair. What a pity. 

The ever-decreasing age at which children are introduced to sexually explicit and progressively violent content seems to not be of alarm to the “conservative” establishment in Washington. Question them on this and they’ll claim that the state exists to protect rights and not to “legislate morality” (whatever the hell that means). Of course, we legislate morality, as every single law is an expression of a moral conception. No, we don’t always get it right. In our society we’ve decided that it is morally just to allow women to deliberately take the life of their unborn children, resulting in the death of more than 60 million innocent human lives since the 1970’s alone. There is no such thing as not legislating morality. It goes without saying that in response to this we’ll certainly hear the typical libertarian rebuttal that “only things that harm others should be illegal.” To this, I ask why that is? Could it be that you’ve decided that it is wrong to harm others and hence decided to impose your morality on someone who may not think harming others is a morally detestable thing to do? This is certainly so.

Does the collective corruption of entire generations of children not warrant action by the state? What about an entire malignant industry complicit in using its power to abet human trafficking, rape, the corruption of children’s sexual development, and the destruction of the sacred institution of marriage? Even this isn’t enough for the libertines, who occult the seat of conservatism in our modern age, to use state power. “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,” they sneer, struggling to keep in their egoism as they cling to the Preamble’s promise to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” while conveniently ignoring the commitment which follows: “to promote the general Welfare.” 

So, before I lay out my argument for the prohibition of pornographic content I must first make clear what I see the role of government to be. I agree with Thomas Aquinas when he wrote that “the government exists to promote and advance the common good.” “The common good is subjective” you’re likely thinking. In fact, it’s not subjective. Let me define it for you. Thomas Aquinas frequently cited the Aristotelian formulation, “The good is what all things desire.” The common good can be more properly understood when referred to as a common end and not as a good. Take, for example, health. Health is good in and of itself, it is something we each desire to have, and something that is not diminished by another sharing in it. Then, I propose my view, like most who espouse common good governance, is in agreement with Aquinas’ definition: “The common good is a good that is one in number and is able to be shared by many without being diminished.” It is the role of the government to advance that which is naturally desired by all by virtue of us being born human. Perhaps you still aren’t in agreement with my notion of the objectivity of the common good and think I am leaving open the possibility for it to be perverted for abuse. To this I ask you to take a look at the damage that has been caused by the notion that the government exists solely to protect rights. We look around and are left in awe at the damage that has been done by this notion.

The reason pornography is bad is not that sex is bad; that’s just doltish. It’s also not the case that it is bad because sexual desire is immoral. If sex wasn’t beautiful you couldn’t make it ugly. You can’t make dirt ugly; it always exists in this state. Sexual desire is also good. In its proper context, sexual desire says “this is my body given up for you,” while lust says the opposite; it says “this is your body taken by me.”

Given this isn’t the case, what is it that makes pornography bad? Most people would claim that it’s addictive, that it advances dangerous sexual stereotypes, that it’s violent, that it can lead to marital breakdown, or that children are exposed to it at an early age. And yes, I agree with each of these claims. But these are all just consequences of pornography, not why it is bad in and of itself. I think we’d be able to agree that even if we were to somehow suppress each of these consequences to their minimal state, there would still be something intrinsically base about it. The depravity of pornography can be found in the use of others as two-dimensional objects to be used, rather than recognizing and cherishing them for their innate dignity in which we share. Pornography deprives our senses, rendering us unable to discern the personhood of the person performing the sexual act. We’re left uninterested in the others’ aspirations, fears, or hopes, instead being entirely consumed by how we can use the other as a means to an end (i.e. sexual gratification).

Reflecting on the evils of this industry makes me recall a story I heard a few months back from someone I deeply admire, Matt Fradd. He told the story of a woman who, at a young age, routinely cut herself in order to manage the traumatic experiences she had in her childhood. Before she would perform in pornographic films she would be told to cover up her scars and that this was necessary as others weren’t interested in her pain. She was merely an object for their consumption they’d remark. That’s the thing about pornography; it always constitutes the exploitation of another for the gratification of your desires through perverted means. Even more tragically, there exists an endless number of stories of women similar to this one relayed by Matt. Women who have been sex trafficked, women who have turned to porn as they feel as if it is the only avenue for an escape from the trauma they’ve suffered, women who are financially hopeless: these are just some of the stories behind the women on the screen whose personhood you dismiss to satisfy your base appetites. 

In the most metaphysical sense, we were made by love, for love, to love. You may think this sounds silly, I confess that I did as well I first heard it. I quickly dismissed it as nothing more than a Hallmark slogan. However, after giving it thought I reached the conclusion that it is theologically sound. God, who is our origin, is Love, we have love as our vocation, and love as our destiny. Without love, we’re left wholly unsatisfied. It is our obligation, as members of a society, to protect our children and provide them a path to holy virtue. If in doing so we must take a cut at the Liberty Tree, I am more than happy to do so. This as true freedom—freedom in Christ—is found not in achieving the hyper-individualized aspirations that our modern age tells us we should, but rather in living in the moral compass that is His word, knowing that something better is guaranteed for us sinners due to the price He paid. 

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