NPR had a story this morning on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' efforts to fight pornography (which you can listen to here). They mentioned one case earlier this year that got thrown out. It portrayed violence and rape. They lined up some sound bites from lawyers and judges who stated that there's no way to block adult porn even if it's really graphic, as long as it's between, and viewed by, consenting adults. 3rd Circuit Judge Gary Lancaster ruled in January that sodomy case Lawrence v. Texas has prevented any law making such porn illegal. "The government can no longer justify legislation with enforcement of a moral code."
Well, there go the laws against murder, theft, rape, and almost anything else that we legislate. They keep distinguishing between laws based on a moral code and laws against child porn. Why do we make child porn illegal? Because it's wrong! Why is rape illegal? Because it's wrong! Why is theft illegal? Why is murder illegal? Our laws are thoroughly based on a moral code. That's the primary justification for them. We might distinguish between different sorts of things that are wrong, enforcing some and not enforcing others, but that's not what these people are doing. They're trying to distinguish between the things we should have laws about and the the things that are moral matters. If there's no moral justification for preventing something, why bother having a law? It's just completely ridiculous to frame the debate this way.
I'm convinced that even soft porn, including what passes for advertizing on your average television show, is destructive to those who are its
victims consumers and even if you think it's immorally objectifying women and setting up unhealthy and immoral narratives about how we view women. I understand fully the arguments for allowing porn even if it is immoral in exactly the ways its critics say. What seems really stupid to me is pretending that these are moral arguments (as if that's bad), while the arguments for laws against abusing children are not based in morality. Of course they are. It's not that laws not based on morality are ok, while laws based on morality are bad. It's that certain laws based on morality are good laws to have, and others are not. The trick is figuring out which kinds of laws based on morality are good ones and which not. Dismissing something because it comes from a moral perspective is simply not the way to do that.