Is Porn the New Tobacco?

I just finished reading a long article from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution comparing the current societal view of pornography today to the societal view of tobacco in the 1950s. It was really quite an interesting read, and I recommend if you have the time to sit down a read it, do so. I have included the opening paragraphs of the article after the jump, but that is literally only a snippet.

Imagine a substance that is relatively new in the public square, but by now so ubiquitous in your society that a great many people find its presence unremarkable. Day in and day out, your own encounters with this substance, whether direct or indirect, are legion. Your exposure is so constant that it rarely even occurs to you to wonder what life might be like without it.

In fact, so common is this substance that you take the status quo for granted, though you’re aware that certain people disagree. A noisy minority of Americans firmly opposes its consumption, and these neo-Puritans try routinely to alert the public to what they claim to be its dangers and risks. Despite this occasional resistance, however, you — like many other people of your time — continue to regard this substance with relative equanimity. You may or may not consume the thing yourself, but even if you don’t, you can’t much see the point of interfering with anyone else’s doing it. Why bother? After all, that particular genie’s out of the bottle.

The scenario sketched in these paragraphs captures two very different moments in recent American history. One is the early 1960s, exactly the moment when tobacco is ubiquitous, roundly defended by interested parties, and widely accepted as an inevitable social fact — and is about to be propelled over the cliff of respectability and down the other side by the surgeon general’s famous 1964 “Report on Smoking and Health.” The resulting social turnaround, though taking decades and unfolding still, has nevertheless been nothing short of remarkable. In 1950, almost half the adult American population smoked; by 2004, just over a fifth did. Though still in common use and still legally available, cigarettes somehow went from being widely consumed and accepted throughout the Western world to nearly universally discouraged and stigmatized — all in the course of a few decades.

The other moment in time captured by the opening description is our own, except that the substance under discussion this time around is not tobacco, but pornography — especially internet pornography, which today is just about as ubiquitous, as roundly defended by interested parties, and as widely accepted as an inevitable social fact as smoking was 50-odd years ago.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: