Friday, March 16, 2012

The Bible Belt's Love Affair With (Gay and Straight) Porn

From AlterNet:

Actually, Obama has never said anything in favor of adult entertainment. Very few Democratic politicians will openly embrace the adult entertainment industry in any way. And the more one examines the data, the more evident it becomes that Republican-dominated states with a heavy concentration of far-right culture warriors are also states where erotic entertainment is very much in demand. Adult industry advocate Bill Margold, who was one of the top adult film stars of the 1970s, has often described the United States as a place where people hypocritically condemn adult entertainment with one hand while pleasuring themselves to it with the other hand; recent data bears that out.

In 2009, Benjamin G. Edelman of the Harvard Business School published the results of a state-by-state study on the number of people who were subscribing to adult membership Web sites; Edelman found that eight of the 10 states that had the highest per capita consumption of online porn were states that Republican John McCain won in 2008’s presidential election. Utah topped the list, and other red states in Edelman’s top 10 included Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota and West Virginia. The only states in Edelman’s top 10 that Obama won in 2008 were Florida and Hawaii.

More recently, in December 2011, Rutgers University researcher/blogger Omar Haq published the results of his study on Google searches for gay porn. Haq found that between 2004-2011, the top 10 states that had the most Google searches for gay porn included five states that McCain won in 2008 (Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia) and five states that Obama won (New York, Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida). “People subscribe to a lot of porn in the southern Bible Belt states,” Haq noted. “I really believe it is suppression. Freud himself said that the more you suppress people, the more they are going to want to do something. It might be due to conservatism; I think that definitely plays a role."

More here.

So, of course, I have my own issues with the porn industry, from a leftist perspective, but it's about how the industry is structured, how it depicts and treats women, not at all, however, with the notion of visual depictions of people having sex in and of itself. That is, I'm all for porn; let's just keep in mind that the actors, or models, whatever you want to call them, are workers just like all other workers, and must be treated by their employers with decency and respect. Let's also keep in mind that, with the shoddy state of sex education being what it is, teenagers see this stuff and take it seriously as a guide for how men and women ought to treat each other in the bedroom. Porn ought to be responsible.

Indeed, a lot of it is responsible, and I have no quarrel with it.

But that's all beside the point for this post: no, we're talking about conservatives who, on the one hand, support politicians who are blatantly anti-sex, anti-woman, and anti-porn, but, on the other hand consume pornography at similar or higher rates than voters in more liberal states. Needless to say, there is more than a wee bit of hypocrisy going on here. And that's pretty easy to figure out.

We have been living for the last few decades in a culture where sexuality is omnipresent. Yes, this has something to do with the rise of Freud as a pop icon, and the invention of the birth control pill, but what's most powerful on this cultural front has been advertising. Yeah, that's right, advertising. From the moment advertisers figured out that sex sells all kinds of products, when television producers and film makers discovered that sexual imagery increases audience numbers, America crossed a threshold from which there could be no return. The sexual revolution became serious economics, and now sexual imagery and capitalism walk hand in hand.

So there's no going back. Not unless you want to regulate the sex right out of the market, and that's just not going to happen.

So these anti-sex politicians are appealing to a point of view that only excites a very small minority, even though many voters give lip service to this nostalgia driven Puritanism. Call it bizarre tribalism, or hypocrisy, whatever, but the fact is that these conservatives who vote for anti-porn politicians live every day within our culture. And that culture is a sexual culture. It is no surprise at all that people in red states like porn as much as, or more, than people in blue states. They are, after all, twenty first century Americans.