Opinion

The benefits of Internet porn

Editor’s note: The author of this piece was recently fired from the Chattanooga Times Free Press for running a headline harshly critical of President Obama’s economic policies during his recent visit to the city. The paper has defended its decision, saying the only other time Mr. Johnson has been denied the opportunity to freely state his views was last week, when they declined to run a piece on pornography. The following is that editorial:

A miracle product exists that is responsible for dramatically reducing the number of rapes and sexual assaults in America. This invention has even contributed to lower divorce and teen pregnancy rates.

Even though this invention has proven so beneficial, millions of Americans want to moderate and even eliminate it. Why? Because the thing reducing rape and sexual assault, and producing a safer, more family-friendly society, is really, really offensive to a lot of Americans: low or no-cost, high quality online pornography.

That’s right, Internet porn.

Some consider porn a gateway to rape and sexual abuse. Many claim that it objectifies women and riles men sexually in a way that makes society less safe. (As if only men view pornography.) Certain anecdotes may even serve to reinforce that notion. The numbers, however, tell a different story. Internet pornography has served as a firewall, satiating would-be rapists and protecting their potential victims.

This link between an increase in web porn and a decrease in rape was first noted in 2006 by Clemson economist Todd Kendall. Kendall’s study, which was supported by the National Bureau of Economic Research, concluded that “Internet access appears to be a substitute for rape; in particular, the results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in Internet access is associated with a decline in reported rape victimization of around 7.3 percent.”

Recent statistics indicate that Kendall’s research was no fluke. In fact, as Internet access — as well as the amount of cheap or free online porn — has further increased, incidences of rape and sexual assault have continued to plummet.

According to the National Crime Victimization survey, an annual report published by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rape/sexual assault rate fell from 5 per 1,000 American women over age 12 in 1995 to 1.8 per 1,000 in 2011.

“Over the past two decades, as pornography has become much more easily accessible over the Internet, the rate of rape and sexual assault has declined by about 60 percent,” according to Ronald Bailey, a science correspondent at Reason magazine.

Even one 2009 Texas A&M study that began with an assumption that easy access to porn led to more rapes found that the opposite was true. The study’s authors admitted that “the increasing availability of pornography appears to be associated with a decline in rape.”

While crime rates are on the decline for all types of offenses, “it’s only rape (and sexual assault) that appears to be pegged to online connectivity,” Bailey reports.

Besides reducing the horrendous crimes of rape and sexual assault, online porn also appears to reduce several societal ills, as well. Over the last dozen years, since Internet pornography use first became widespread in the U.S., rates of divorce and teen pregnancy have also fallen.

It might seem strange at first blush that porn, something that so many of us on the right side of the political spectrum have worked so hard to restrict, is responsible for preventing so many crimes and even appears helpful in supporting family values. But it makes sense when you think about it.

The numbers indicate that many would-be rapists are satisfied engaging in porn-assisted solitary sexual activity and are no longer as motivated to forcibly take a sexual partner. Further, some individuals who may have broken up their marriages by cheating on their spouses in the past now find sexual gratification through porn, rather than searching for intimate relationships outside their marriages.