The Time Has Come to Ban Campus Porn

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Throughout April, universities across the nation held events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. These initiatives are intended to shed light on an incredibly troubling issue and encourage students to look out for each other. Such events are clearly well-intentioned efforts to address a grave societal ill; however, the approach fostered by such events is not new, and it is not effective either.

When I entered college at Arizona State University in the fall of 2015, I was told 1 in 4 college women are sexually assaulted. During that fall, The New York Times published an op-ed with this exact assertion. Four years later, some schools have reported a sexual assault rate slightly greater than 1 in 4, while other sources say the statistic has dropped to 1 in 5. If these reports are accurate, the universities’ collective progress in addressing the problem is marginal at best, and possibly nonexistent.

However, this picture is more complicated. Many have argued that the 1 in 4 statistic reported by The Times is false. In fact, the authors of the original study anticipated and warned against the misrepresentation of their findings. As a result, even some left-leaning outlets such as The Daily Beast have labeled it as “misleading,” stating, “…the new ‘one in four’ figure from the AAU survey may mislead readers, many of whom will interpret ‘sexual assault’ as rape or other strictly criminal offenses. A closer look at the survey reveals that 11 percent of female undergraduates said they were assaulted in a way that is consistent with criminal definitions of rape or sodomy.”

The Daily Beast clarified that for the purposes of this famous AAU study, the definition of sexual assault included “sexual touching: touching someone’s breast, chest, crotch, groin, or buttocks—grabbing, groping or rubbing against the other in a sexual way, even if the touching is over the other’s clothes.”

 

All of those behaviors are clearly immoral—but it is important to clarify that the 1 in 4 sexual assault rate is not a 1 in 4 rape rate. Far from it. We can strongly denounce all of these actions while recognizing that some acts are worse than others.

There is one thing universities can do to improve relations between the sexes that is supported by sound social science research. The scientific literature confirming the harms of pornography has grown, and opposition to pornography is gaining wide support. Last year, the conservative columnist for The New York Times wrote an op-ed titled “Let’s Ban Porn.” Fight the New Drug, a secular anti-porn organization, has cited various studies linking porn to sexual violence, stating, “Study after study has shown that consumers of violent and nonviolent porn are more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to coerce individuals into sex.” And several years ago, The Daily Beast ran an article arguing that “to be anti-porn is a progressive principle” because “porn absolutely feeds into sexual inequality.”

The article also noted that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has voted in favor of more regulations on porn—and Feinstein is anything but a friend of the religious right. Many might remember Feinstein from the Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett which went viral after Feinstein alleged that Barrett would be unable to perform her judicial duties because of her Catholic faith.

If universities are serious about protecting women and reducing sexual assault, they should oppose porn as a health and safety issue, and they should block porn on their wifi networks. Would this completely stop students from viewing porn? Obviously not. Between 4G and private routers, students who really wanted to view porn would still be able to. But it would certainly decrease usage and raise awareness for the various harms of pornography.

The universities may be reluctant to take this position against pornography because of backlash from the students; however, this is not a good reason to remain silent. Furthermore, it is not a forgone conclusion that most students would oppose a ban given recent news reports.

The universities have clearly demonstrated that they have no issue taking a stand on controversial issues, including immigration, gun control, LGBT topics, and more. This being so, they should certainly be willing to take a stance on pornography, as there are objective and scientific reasons to oppose porn, while many of these other issues are complex matters involving subjective opinion.

Additionally, many universities ban smoking on campus for public health purposes. The universities are clearly willing to upset certain groups of people in defending the public good. Banning porn from university wifi would simply be a logical extension of this logic.

Another concern university administrators may have is that fewer students will want to attend a school that discourages porn usage. But are these really the kinds of people administrators want at their schools? I think not. Universities should want students of high moral character who will make positive contributions to their campus community. If a student doesn’t want to attend their school because it addresses the scientifically proven harms of porn, so be it. The school will be better off without that student on their campus.

If the universities are serious about addressing sexual assault and the objectification of women, they will recognize porn as a health and safety issue. And if they’re more concerned with people-pleasing and making money from a higher quantity of students, they’ll continue with the same old song and dance that has failed to yield any tangible progress in addressing this grave evil.

Ryan Everson

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Ryan Everson is a pro-life policy intern for the Equal Rights Institute and a political journalism intern for the Washington Examiner. He is also an editor for Lone Conservative and a contributor to Live Action News, The Catholic Sun, and Catholic Link.

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