Since before the recent influx of QAnon conspiracy theorists, I’ve taken notice to a surprisingly prevalent and convincing line of reasoning that’s been permeating throughout secular western democracy. Observing their rhetoric and the way they clung to their weak, emotional, and downright unreasonable talking points was textbook.
Without getting too deep into things, the argument that child sex dolls, fictional/virtual pornography “normalize” the acts of child sex abuse isn’t new. Rather, it’s derivative of the “moral reasoning” used by conservatives and prudes to justify censorship of undesired or disliked ideas or desires and oppression of social minority groups, such as the LGBT community in the face of liberal notions and presumptions of free speech, privacy, and due process.
In my view, the prospect of legal moralism is unreasonable, unconstitutional, and downright cruel. It assumes the rights and freedoms of the populace should end where the feelings and mores of the common man start, with or without justification or reason, at the very expense of those very freedoms we all allegedly enjoy.
It makes up for and justifies the obscenity doctrine, wherein it was written solely to enable combatants in a culture war to skirt the First Amendment and cause direct harm and jeopardy to a burgeoning laissez-faire approach to matters pertaining to sex, sexuality, and sexual freedom.
Those who took strong emotional stances against pornography weren’t willing to reason with those who disagreed with them on such matters, with religion being a strong driving force in how such matters ought to be treated.
Arguments of logic and reason were dispelled by reassertions that the availability and dissemination of such material would induce a “moral decay” that, over time, would destroy the very foundation of American democracy: its virtue.
It assumes that society and culture are and should be manipulated by heavy-handed attempts at manipulation to maintain this status quo, regardless of who, or how, individuals and their rights are damaged in the process, a point of view that has been the driving force behind just about ALL “great mis-steps” throughout American history, such as slavery, prohibition, and Jim Crow.
"The distribution of obscenity creates a substantial risk of inducing immoral sexual conduct over a period of time by breaking down the concept of morality as well as moral standards." The common circulation of such material could hardly help but induce many to believe that their moral code was out of date and that they should do what, they suppose, others are doing. The conduct with which we are concerned need not be that which would immediately follow the reading of one book, the seeing of one pornographic moving picture, or the study of a set of photographs. Just as in the Dennis case, the feared conduct may be the result of repeated indoctrination. . . . Once moral standards have been cor- rupted, one's conduct is no longer guided by them. It requires little udicial notice to know that one whose morals have been corrupted is likely to engage in sex conduct which society has a right to pro- hibit. In this slower, but no less serious way, obscenity brings about immoral conduct. The collective public conscience pushes the individual in the direction of being honest, fair, law-abiding, and decent. While separate ele- ments may sometimes be singled out, public morality is really indi- visible, in the sense that one aspect of it cannot be corrupted and leave the rest unaffected. The man who finds that the Government will or can do nothing to stop the distribution of pornography to his family will be less willing to abide by society's demands on him, whether it be as to gambling, distribution of narcotics, or the candor with which he fills out his in- come tax. Similarly, the corruption of moral standards in the realm of sexual conduct cannot help but corrupt other aspects of moral life. Morality, like morale, cannot be undercut at one point with- out affecting all conduct."
By design, the above quote, taken from the US brief to the Court during Roth v. US, is very troubling. It takes on a very pessimistic, biased tone that could be reworked to convincingly undermine, or even abolish, the First Amendment as we know it by reducing what was a minority, niche interest to something that is unworthy by design. As stated before, the lack of subscription to notions of proper freedom and reason make it immune to claims against it. They are not philosophical, they are not theoretical. They’re not even hypothetical.
I’ve found the following pasta floating around on a few imageboards, which… sort of addresses the claims made
There is no objective, consequential difference between playing a violent video game, watching horror movies, or laughing at offensive, racist comedic material and masturbating to loli/shota pornography.
No victim, no crime. Period.
The assumption that it may incite someone to commit sexual abuse is not an argument.
This is because it attempts to split responsibility and culpability of any crime away from the individual who committed it, whereas no such culpability could possibly exist for the fictional pornography.
The fictional pornography does not attempt to incite abuse, either indirectly or deliberately.
And, for the sake of argument, if it could by some spurious argument be indirectly be read to do so, the individual could just as easily not act on those commands in a manner that harms a child.
The assumption that allowing such material to exist and maintain an active audience will “normalize” the acts and attitudes depicted or presented is not an argument.
Such assumptions, like the previous one, rely on the exploitation of fear and emotion. While it is true that certain subject matter or topics may become popularized, the likelihood that they be “normalized” is contingent on a variety of chaotic variables that controversial or offensive subject matter simply cannot. It also assumes that niche interests are destined to dissolve into a “communal consciousness” and be enjoined into the zeitgeist, which is also not true.
And then, even if pedophilic material could become “normalized”, there is no evidence that this will lead to otherwise sensitive individuals or communities to adopt the attitudes and ideas espoused in the fictionalized materials, nor is there any evidence that actual instances of sexual exploitation or abuse of minors will be tolerated, ignored, or go unnoticed.
The apparent distinction between reality and fiction makes this so.
The argument addresses and refutes most of the claims, but not in as succinct a way as I’d like in order to be convincing to those who agree with them.
We can’t treat these moralists like religious nutjobs or conspiracy theorists who simply refuse to see reason and just “ignore it” while people like Thomas Arthur, the administrator of an erotic fiction website, are having their rights stripped from them over “obscenity crimes”. Being offended by something isn’t a justification for censorship or suppression, regardless of whether or not it’s designed to gratify sexual feelings or impulses and lacks “serious value”.
Now the question is, where do we go from here?
The approach of Legal Moralism is obviously a broken and ineffective system at quashing “moral offenses” in this golden age of free and unbridled and secure communication, in addition to the assumptions just being wrong.
I want to see the obscenity doctrine discarded from United States jurisprudence. We can’t do that if the foundational ideology behind it continues to go unscathed.