A “Winnable War?"

Quentin Boyer
It is often said that there is an ongoing “war” against the adult entertainment industry, one being fought on the antiporn side largely by right-leaning Christian groups. Whether you call it a “Decency War” as attorney and author Fred Lane termed it, a war to preserve “traditional values,” or an assault on the 1st Amendment, one thing on which pornographers and antiporn groups can agree is that they are indeed at war.

With the exponential increase in the amount of adult content being produced, distributed and consumed since the rise of the Internet, one would assume that there would also be general agreement as to which side is ‘winning’ this war — the adult industry, right?

Not so fast, says Focus on the Family’s Daniel Weiss. In a recent article on CitizenLink.com, Weiss echoes the words of James Dobson in calling his organization’s efforts part of a “winnable war” against pornography. As examples of recent successes, Weiss cites the following:

* “The state of Ohio recently passed a law banning lap dances and requiring sex shops to close by midnight. The strip clubs sued in federal court because, if the law stands, it will put many of them out of business. “

* “This year, an appeals court in Kentucky found a law regulating sexually oriented businesses in Louisville to be constitutional, clearing the path to clean up the more than 200 sex shops in the city. Similar laws have been upheld this year in Michigan, Florida and Texas.”

* “Churches in the Kansas City area have circulated petitions to convene grand juries to investigate porn shops over violations of obscenity law.”

Fair enough. The ‘decency’ side has had a few recent ‘victories’ in the brick and mortar space. How did the battle go for their side on other fronts? Well….

* In October, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found 2257 unconstitutional

* Also in October, a jury found only one of the four JM Productions DVDs at issue in a major obscenity case to be legally obscene, determining that neither “Filthy Things 6,” nor “American Bukkake 13” was obscene under the community standards of Phoenix, AZ.

* This month, Brigham Young University reported the results of their survey indicating that 49 percent of female college students surveyed find pornography acceptable.

With all due respect to the voices on either side of the issue, I’m not so sure this back-and-forth over adult entertainment and adult businesses is a “war,” or that if it is a war, that it can be “won.”

Adult entertainment will continue to be in high demand, regardless of how many white ribbons Focus on the Family and their peers string up in protest of porn’s popularity. On the flip side, adult businesses will continue to be subject to regulation and restriction under the law, no matter how loudly we proclaim such regulations to be unconstitutional, unfair or unnecessary.

In my view, this tussle between decency crusaders and adult entertainment advocates isn’t a war so much as it is a tug-of-war, with each side occasionally pulling a few inches of the slack in one direction, and then losing some portion of that rope back — and back and forth it goes, over years, decades, even centuries.

The overall trend of recent decades is a winning one for the adult industry, but in my opinion there will never be a decisive "tug;" one last pull that shields adult businesses from the prospects of obscenity prosecution and zoning restrictions, or that results in porn being banned, outright.

The good news here for both sides of the conflict, I think, is that "victory" is in the fight itself.

So long as both porn’s adversaries and its advocates are permitted to put their free speech rights to full use, firing rhetorical, legal and political guns at each other in pursuit of their own vision, society wins in the bargain. We get to hear from passionate people on both sides of the issue, and then - in classic, free market fashion - we let the chips fall where they may.

Where I come from, that’s not a “war,” it’s “democracy.”