Friday, May 23, 2014

Verizon, Porn, and Morality



Recently, I have been hearing talk of boycotting Verizon due to their stand on pornography. Being a Verizon customer and having read multiple posts citing their proliferation of “incest” and “child” porn, I was eager to get to the bottom of this contemptible behavior. One of the posts linked to a FoxNews article titled “Verizon defends decision to offer incest and child themed porn on video-on-demand.” The article cited its source as Morality In Media (MIM), a New York based non-profit that opposes “pornography and indecency through education and the application of the law.”
Apparently, the organization issues an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the companies or individuals they consider the “12 leading contributors of sexual exploitation and facilitators of porn.” Verizon indeed made this list by offering hardcore pornography titles through pay-per-view on their home cable service FiOS. The “incest” and “child” charges stem from the report citing adult titles that utilize the word “teen” or “stepdad.”

While blended-family specific pornography isn’t my particular cup of tea, I realize that Verizon doesn’t produce the material in question they simply distribute it. I also realize that these are fantasy films not documentaries. That gentleman is no more that young woman’s legal guardian than he was a certified cable technician in the last film he made. If making such content available provides enough ethical culpability to necessitate a boycott then so be it; but let’s not pretend that the same couldn’t be said about every Cable Company, satellite provider, hotel, and ISP we give our money to.  

Pornography is, even by conservative estimates, an industry that generates Billions of dollars each year. I can only assume that these figures are made possible because people pay money to view it. The truth is that these businesses risk attracting the ire of a religious populace by allowing access to pornography because it generates revenue. If we, as a society, ceased to consume it then private companies answerable to shareholders would cease to provide it.

On the other hand, I have no reason to believe that pornography adds anything positive to our society. In fact, I believe the opposite to be true. For many people, pornography trivializes sex and provides unhealthy and unrealistic portrayals of human intimacy. It can have severe detrimental effects on relationships and in some cases become an addiction. Furthermore, I doubt that very many people find themselves lamenting on their death bed that if they had any regrets it is that they did not make more time to view explicit adult films.

That being said, our nation has an ambiguous relationship with pornography. We produce it, regulate it, and even allow for its copyright protection. Conversely, we have decency laws that rely on the fickle perception of what the current majority of Americans consider “obscene.” The indecency statutes are so ambiguous that no presidential administration since their passage has made even a token effort to enforce them.

Interestingly enough, studies on the subject have shown that the states with the highest per capita rate of pornography consumption tend to be the most religious and conservative. Case in point is a study authored by Benjamin Edelman and released in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that ranked states based on paid Internet pornography subscriptions (per capita) among broadband Internet customers. Surprisingly Utah topped the list which featured Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana in the top ten. Meanwhile, states like Michigan, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut were the lowest out of the 50 states in the same category.

I suppose there are two ways we could look studies like this. Either these areas actually consume and purchase proportionally more adult media than the rest of the United States or their inherent morality compels them to pay for it at a proportionately higher rate (as opposed to seeking out free porn like the godless cheapskates in other states).

If our country wishes to criminalize the production, filming, and distribution of adult videos then so be it, but at this point we have decided as a nation to recognize footage of carnal activity between consenting adults as a form of free speech. That can, and perhaps should, be changed but I am not convinced that a disingenuous attempt by a non-profit watchdog group to guilt Verizon customers into paying their early termination fees is going to make that happen.

Other companies who made MIM’s infamous list include Google, Facebook, Playstation, Hilton Hotels, Barnes & Noble, Tumblr, The American Library Association, and Cosmopolitan Magazine. The objective of the list is to publicly expose and shame the companies into altering their products and policies to hinder the proliferation of pornography in the United States. In a final bit of irony, you can learn more about Morality in Media’s campaign against “The Dirty Dozen” on their Facebook or Google + pages.

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