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viewpoint

Why the porn filter won’t work

| Monday, October 29, 2018

Today I found out, to my shock, that I am not one of the “men of Notre Dame.” This is because I cannot, in good conscience, sign the petition to put a porn filter on Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi. The reason I won’t sign the petition is not because I am an advocate for “affront[s] to human rights,” as the men so eloquently frame pornography, but because I cannot bring myself to support a proposition that is so inadequate in addressing the issues presented, sexist in its approach to chivalry, and weakly supported by misrepresented research.

I’m not here to debate the morality of interacting with pornography, but instead, explain why the response that Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) is proposing does not tackle the issues they associate with pornography. SCOP has created a petition to install a filter on Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi network that censors the “top-25 pornographic websites” that has been signed by “1,000 [Notre Dame] students, faculty and staff.” There are thousands of websites with pornographic content on them, and porn is readily available on mainstream social-networking websites such as Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram. To argue, as SCOP does, that blocking 25 websites would “significantly erode [pornography’s] presence” on campus is ridiculous, and the logic producing this conclusion is not grounded in reality. This filter does not restrict viewing of pornography on cellular data, which will inevitably take place. By arguing that the censorship of porn will be seen as an “enduring message that pornography is destructive and exploitive,” SCOP seems to be implying that Notre Dame students view pornography with absolutely no knowledge of Christianity’s sweeping condemnation of the practice. I’d proffer that ineffectual anti-porn propaganda is useless to a population that is already profoundly aware of Catholic disapproval.

The “men of Notre Dame” make a claim in their fourth paragraph, stating that, because the average age when one is first exposed to porn is between 9 and 11, “pornography is the new sex education.” This assertion fascinates me, as the only sex education I ever received in my Michigan public middle school was abstinence; condoms, birth control and the way sex actually works were never mentioned. Twenty-seven states mandate stressing the importance of abstinence, but only 18 states require education on contraceptives. It’s no wonder that kids are educated about sex through pornography! This is the deeply unfortunate consequence of policies that keep people in the dark about sex.

The most egregious point, however, is that the appeal for a filter is based on SCOP’s desire “to eliminate sexual assault and sexual abuse on … campus.” I’m sorry, but this conclusion is irrational and hyperbolic. I understand, from the source that the “women of Notre Dame” provide, that there is a demonstrated positive correlation between sexual aggression and frequent pornography consumption, but, to be cliche, correlation is not causation. To say that pornography is the “root of [a] culture of perversion and degradation” rather than a direct product of such a culture ignores the indecencies that women have suffered throughout history in the absence of porn. Pornography may be an ugly reminder of our too-often impersonal and unequal society, but it is certainly not the cause of our culture’s ailments. It is not as if rape and sexual assault only came to exist in the modern era (in the presence of pornography); in this way, its absence on campus will not end sexual assault (once again I am compelled to mention the fact that this petition will not curb pornography consumption on campus by any means). If the consumption of pornography were really the main culprit in sexual violence, then I believe more universities would be having this conversation.

This campaign, started by the “men” and followed up by the “women,” was purposefully staged to reinforce stereotypes of male chivalry and the idea that men must rescue women from the dangers of the world (oftentimes, other men). Perpetuating the stereotype that men must save women, as SCOP is doing with this porn campaign, devalues the very real contributions women can and do make toward their own agency in the world. Why divide the letters based on gender, if not to preserve these traditional roles? The onus for change in our society should not be placed on some token action of chivalry, but should be based on comprehensive, collaborative reform. This division of the sexes, as demonstrated by these two letters, is dangerous and corrupts the message of equality to which SCOP appears to subscribe.

These letters are also littered with misrepresentation of facts. The “men” make a claim that “56 percent of divorce cases involve ‘one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.’” Upon checking the source, I was directed to an informational synthesis on marripedia.org (run by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute). The claim had been taken from the transcribed 2005 senate testimony of Dr. Jill Manning. The informal survey details a polling of 350 Chicago-area marital lawyers at a conference, of which 62 percent said “the Internet had been a significant factor in divorces they had handled” in the previous year. Of that 62 percent, 56 percent said that the “obsessive” consumption of internet porn was a factor in the divorce cases they handled. With some simple math, we can calculate the actual percentage of cases involving porn, which is around 34 percent, rather than 56 percent. This adulteration of information is most certainly not SCOP’s fault, but it is worrisome that they blindly grabbed their information from such a biased source.

Instead of creating ineffectual policies against pornography, our campus should focus on the real issues that create a market for pornography and a culture that promotes rape, sexual assault and the inferiority of women. By attacking pornography, SCOP runs the risk of treating the symptoms, while allowing the disease of misogyny to fester.

Joshua De Oliveira

freshman

Oct. 28

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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