Wendy Kaminer wants fewer guns, more pornography


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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26 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    so how does that work in practice. if i can go over the state/county/town line to buy a gun/porn can i bring it back to my place? What if i am traveling, how do i know the laws in every state/county/town about what caliber of porn i can have?

    doesn’t the glorious intertoobs makes a lot of arguments about what kind of porn people can have sort of moot?Report

  2. Sam M says:

    Is dallying in porn really such a risky proposition? Right now, I can go type “two girls and a cup” into my search engine and… presto, offensive porn. I am not aware that I run any real risk of being arrested for doing so. I can buy a Playboy or Hustler with impunity. I can go to leagally sanctioned strip clubs and, in at least one state, brothels. And did I mention the Internet? There’s lots of porn on the Internet. Free and legal.Report

  3. I don’t get the anti-porn laws either in light of the internet. I remember driving between Louisville and Ft.Knox when I was a kid and seeing at least a dozen stores that said XXX on their signs. Now there’s one. I assume the GI’s are just using their laptops now.

    As for guns – there are certain rights that I believe should exist at the national level i.e. ownership, rules about who can purchase, etc. If certain jurisdictions want to restrict concealed carry or gun stores, I’m okay with that.Report

  4. Mr. Prosser says:

    The internet has made Kaminer’s concerns moot. Frankly, I think her porn arguement is a straw man. Unless some local jurisdiction tries to execute a search of your laptop (which they can’t do unless there is probable cause for child porn thanks to our national constitution) then local enforcement is a waste. What can they do except try and shut down the local Hooter’s? Real porn does harm, mostly to the participants. Snuffers, child porn and having unwilling sex in return for drugs is disgusting and tragic. Then again, accidental firearms deaths, stolen weapons used in crimes and the wholesale delivery of guns from questionable dealers in open states to states with tighter controls using front buyers is also dangerous and tragic. There is a requirement for both local and national controls and a real emphasis on personal responsibility. You can own a Howitzer for all I care, but if it’s stolen and used in a crime or your child somehow uses it to blow up the neighborhood, then woe unto you.Report

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    Swimming pools are much more dangerous for families/children than guns. And I think legal prostitution would be a more interesting debate than porn given, as the other commenters note, the internet. I also think that the Naomi Wolf piece you linked to has been fairly well debunked. I mean, it’s kind of a silly argument when you think about it.Report

  6. Sam M says:

    It’s worth stressing that Kaminer’s concerns regarding the availability of porn were wrong prior to the Internet, too. Most cities of any size had a XXX theater or two. (Baltimore still had one operating there in the late 1990s. Apparently for atavistic perverts.) Not to mention a district with strip clubs. (Baltmore still has The Block, a stone’s throw from the Inner Harbor.) Plus there was mail order. Porn mags. Etc.

    Seriously. I managed to see pictures of boobies (and worse!) when I was a lowly teenage hillbilly. (I remember a lowly porn flic called Trampira with particular horror/nostalgia.) Apart from not being of age to view it, I am not aware that I was breaking any laws.

    Yes. OK. I am sure there is some jursidiction in backwoods Mississippi that has imprisoned people for watching porn. But come on. Is that really a serious problem in most of America? Pornography is a booming business. And it was a booming business long before anybody heard of Google. For serious… I know you whippersnappers might not be able to believe this, but people used to watch porn on VHS!Report

  7. Will says:

    Guys –

    I think you’re underestimating the impact of local policy on the availability of porn. Granted, the Internet has made some of these concerns moot, but zoning restrictions and regulations on public display and distribution are still pretty relevant.

    E.D. –

    Who “debunked” the Naomi Wolf article? I think it remains persuasive.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Will says:

      Will – does looking at pictures of food make you not want the real thing? Why would looking at pictures (or videos) of sex make you not want the real thing? I’m sorry, but I think Wolf is just playing to the emotional fears behind pornography. I think most people other than real porn addicts can probably survive just fine in their sex lives if they’ve seen a porn or two. Or whatever. It’s just the same sort of argument that says porn leads to child porn, or that being gay leads to molesting people. This slippery slope argument that entirely misunderstands sexuality. Not that porn is a “good thing” mind you. I suppose there are many problems with it, but I think the real problem is that culturally we’re very immature about sex in general. It’s not porns fault. If anything, porn is just a symptom.Report

      • I’ve been having an ongoing debate with some friends over whether or not the ease of access to porn is actually saving marriages. I have a remarkable number of married friends whose sex lives are, well, nearly non-existant. It’s amazing to me how many of them are in marriages where intimacy happens about as frequently as a trip to the dentist. Sad but true, porn may be the only thing keeping them from infidelity. They love their wives, they don’t want to cheat, but they are men with real needs that aren’t being met. I don’t know what anecdotal info says about some modern women and their lack of concern over this important part of their marriages…but I’ve also heard frome these men that their wives are happy to ‘look the other way’ if it keeps their husbands from hounding them for sex every night.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        “does looking at pictures of food make you not want the real thing?”

        Would rubbing my belly result in my hunger going away?Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

          True, Jaybird – but uhm – the sexual drive only “goes away” temporarily. It’s not like masturbation leads to people no longer wanting to procreate any more than it causes you to grow hair on your palms.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            I ate breakfast this morning and now I’m fixing to eat lunch.

            Living life is truly a sisyphean task, I tell you what.Report

            • Rufus in reply to Jaybird says:

              One mildly inappropriate thought I had while reading the Naomi Wolf piece was that, if the scenario she describes is really that common on college campuses, one solution would be to clue a few young bright men into the fact that there are all these sexually-available average women who are being overlooked by their schmucky porn-obsessed counterparts. Maybe it’s my bias- I would have been quite happy at that age to have non-porny sex with an average girl- but it’s hard to imagine that the imbalance wouldn’t right itself eventually.

              Also, wouldn’t one solution be to produce more realistic smut? It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t sell- everything else does.Report

    • Sam M in reply to Will says:

      Really? Have you ever heard of someone being completely incapable of finding porn? Or even partially incapable of finding it? From time to time, I hear of a local zoning board nixing plans for a XXX store. But that’s about all. People don’t go to jail for watching porn. At least not as a broad phemonenon.

      But you might be right. Is there a location in MAerica, today or in the recent past, that has been made pornless due to legal restrictions on porn? I am just not aware of any.Report

      • Will in reply to Sam M says:

        I don’t think outlawing porn is a) constitutionally sustainable or b) feasible. Restricting availability, on the other hand . . .Report

        • Sam M in reply to Will says:

          But again, I just don’t see the extent to which efforts to restrict availability have been successful at all. I have met an awful lot of people from an awful lot of places, and not one of them has ever said, “You know, one of the things that deserves mention about my previous home was the incredible lack of pornography there.” And believe me, the people I know would have been very open about that kind of complaint.

          So yes, you can restrict access through legal sanction. We (try to) do it with drugs on a very large scale, jailing tens of thousands of people even for non-violent, possession-type offenses. And yet… it’s pretty easy to score some weed.

          The thing is, apart from child pornography and the like, I am just not aware of any locations where people are going to jail for watching or selling copies of “Debbie Does Dallas.” Or even places where owning or selling a copy would be against the law.

          I might be wrong about this. But I am honestly unaware of any places where legal restrictions make it really hard to get porn.Report

  8. Louis B. says:

    I wish I could download free firearms off the internet. Now we’d be talking.Report

  9. Cascadian says:

    First, I’d like to agree with Will that this should be left to localities. The Bible Belt should be allowed to craft as many repressive policies as they want. Other places should be able to make policy that would be attractive to the more creative, free spirited types.

    I didn’t know that porn was a purely male pursuit. That would be quite a surprise to many women I know. I’m also skeptical that porn has a larger negative effect than the fashion industry. Perhaps it’s time to go toward the caricature of Soviet Fashion displayed in the old Apple commercials.Report

  10. “Regardless, I think Kaminer’s post is another argument in favor of radical political decentralization. People’s views on porn and guns vary so dramatically that I think it’s basically impossible to devise a one-size-fits-all firearm or obscenity policy. The irreconcilable nature of these disagreements also makes me doubt the existence of some universally acceptable middle ground between Second Amendment absolutists and the Brady Campaign (or between Larry Flint and the Family Research Council, for that matter).”

    While I think you are correct that “middle ground” on obscenity law would simply create a legal situation that is acceptable to no one, I think the unworkability of the present status quo of “local” obscenity standards is obvious. It was difficult enough in the pre-internet age to make absolutely sure that localities would not have contact with material that violated their local blue laws, and in the internet age, this is simply impossible. When combined with draconian federal laws against commerce in porn to localities who’s standards might be violated, you have a situation where the tail ends up wagging the dog. If you shoot porn in LA, you can end up being dragged before a court in small-town Pennsylvania if somebody downloads your content there. And even such a legal status quo were workable in the USA, would you expect an adult website owner in Amsterdam or Kiev to care about American laws?Report

  11. unbob says:

    I know it’s fun to just put your opinions and your passions out there. But you might want to read a little more Kaminer before going on about her essay. If only because she presents some alternatives to ordinary, everyday left-think and right-think.

    She’s against pornography, but she’s also against mangling the first amendment

    Many anti-pornography feminists supported the legislative efforts, but others—including Susan Brownmiller, Janet Gornick, and Wendy Kaminer — agreed with Dworkin and MacKinnon’s critique of pornography, but opposed the attempt to combat it through legislative campaigns, which they feared would be rendered ineffectual by the courts, would violate principles of free speech, or would harm the anti-pornography movement by taking organizing energy away from education and direct action and entangling it in political squabbles

    Her piece on the second amendment is the most clear-eyed and least partisan I’ve seen. Her opinions are in there, but she spends most of her time on the facts (such as they are):


  12. Unbob:

    Its probably a stretch to describe Wendy Kaminer as anti-pornography at this point. Its quite true that she was initially aligned with MacKinnon in the late 70s and early 80s, but, as you mentioned, broke with MacKinnon over antipornography legislation. She has since moved very far away from anti-pornography or radical feminist politics of any kind.Report

  13. unbob says:

    Fair enough. OTOH, she ain’t no Camille Paglia.Report