Banning Porn Is a Bad Idea. There Are Other Ways To Improve the Internet | Opinion

It's 2020, and some conservatives are still hellbent on banning online porn.

Matt Walsh, a Daily Wire columnist and a culture warrior if there ever were one, wants the state to "have a role" in regulating adult content. Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor of the New York Post, insists that adult content "isn't free speech—on the web or anywhere." Newsweek's own opinion editor, Josh Hammer, has lamented at First Things that "today's self-proclaimed liberty-minded 'conservative' vanguard defends licentiousness by invoking the mantle of freedom."

And writing on the other side of today's "Debate of the Week," Terry Schilling, executive director of American Principles Project, has spent a good portion of his career discussing his concerns about adult entertainment and, more specifically, access to it.

As everyone is aware by now, I am a constitutional conservative. I am a Christian. I am an occasional columnist at The Federalist, whose pieces have been edited and/or rejected for being too conservative. I am also a multi-time, award-winning, Hall of Fame adult entertainer. I am an advocate for adult entertainment.

What may seem unusual is that I actually have more in common with people like Matt Walsh, Tucker Carlson and Terry Schilling than I have differences with them.

For some reason, however, sex—and, specifically, adult entertainment—continues to be a source of contention. It too often creates an immediate and visceral reaction that puts us at odds.

Porn isn't a menacing evil.

While I acknowledge Terry's research and his perspective, in truth his work is an assault on the Constitution's Bill of Rights. It flies in the face of freedom. Those are not positions constitutional conservatives should take. We should always seek to err on the side of liberty.

Terry and others cite the massive growth in, and consumption of, online adult content as a negative.

On the contrary, I see it as a positive. I see it as capitalism—the free market working perfectly. It is a legal product experiencing a growth trend wherein both consumer and producer benefit; isn't that what liberty is?

I can appreciate the moral position some people take, even though I disagree. But to make a moral judgment and completely bypass the principles of the free market and freedom seems mistaken.

Moreover, if we are all going to be intellectually honest, then there must be agreement on this fact: There is as much research that shows adult entertainment has neutral, or even positive, effects as there is research that shows it has negative effects.

Here are but a few examples that show neutral to positive effects:

In most instances, those who seek to link pornography to countless ills are ideologically motivated. The aggregate scientific research simply doesn't support such dire conclusions.

That said, I am also willing to accept that many of those who see no link between pornography and culturally unacceptable behavior may also be ideologically motivated. There is a vested interest on both sides.

Personally, I can say without shame or equivocation that adult entertainment—or "porn"—has been a positive experience for me both professionally and personally. My walk may be unique, but I am doing exactly what I was called to do.

Conversely, for Terry, adult entertainment is something he believes is wrong for him, personally. He believes consumption of adult material would be a stumbling block for himself and would dishonor his wonderful wife.

I respect and admire that.

The questions then become: What do we do? How do we deal with this? What is the real issue?

I believe we look for common ground and solve what is solvable.

Like it or not, adult entertainment is a settled issue. As I wrote in The Federalist, the Supreme Court has been clear. You are thankfully not going to be able to outright abolish adult entertainment.

Person typing on backlit keyboard
Person typing on backlit keyboard NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images

The truth is, much if not all of the indignation surrounding adult entertainment stems from the issue of access.

On this, Terry and I also agree. We just have to work out our differences over how to solve the issue.

A partnership between us on this issue actually makes a lot of sense. We share two common goals: preserving a fair and free market, and protecting children online. We believe our current national policies are not doing enough to promote either of those goals.

The problem, in my opinion, stems from a three-headed monster:

  1. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
  2. Websites that allow user-uploaded content
  3. A lack of laws written to actually address the issues

Under the current rules and in compliance with the law (DMCA), platforms from PornHub to Twitter, Reddit, and so forth either directly or indirectly profit from pirated content uploaded by anonymous users.

Meanwhile, these sites do nothing to prevent underage kids from accessing adult content. Why would they? They aren't required to do so. As a result, any 11-year-old with a smartphone can view hardcore material.

How is this possible? Unfortunately, up to this point, the federal government has largely avoided taking on this issue while, at the same time, providing these same sites with immunity from civil liability via a statute known as Section 230.

Our policies are failing. It's clear that we need to change them. There are many ways to square this circle and to ensure that kids can't access or upload adult material online.

One solution, which Terry and the American Principles Project advocate in favor of, would be to amend Section 230 by making the immunity from civil liability merely conditional. Adult tube sites would lose their protections if they fail to prevent kids from uploading or accessing illicit material—giving victims and parents the right to sue.

I am not in favor of that solution for three reasons. First, when you come at an industry or person and say, "my solution to the problem we agree on is opening you up to never-ending lawsuits," the conversation is over. That is not how you win over friends and influence people. Second, I hear conservatives argue rightly, and continually, that we need equal application of the law. This would single out adult tube sites and apply a law unequally. Third, it doesn't actually solve the issue: It's a penalty, but not a solution. Worse, it's short-sighted and ignores the certain, future advances in technology.

Instead, I support the implementation of a "Digital ID" system. Digital ID is basically an online version of what all adults have in their wallet, in terms of a photo ID. Its purpose would be to verify an individual's identity online for any platform that allows user-uploaded content of any type. It would also be required by any platform or website that offers products or services that are age-restricted, such as online gambling, alcohol sales, the sale of nicotine and tobacco products, and the consumption of adult entertainment.

Many websites already require age verification to access services. Why should our children be able to access hardcore adult content, but not be able to place a $5 sports bet on the Chicago Cubs to win the next World Series? Our public policy on this is insane.

Digital ID would also be helpful in addressing other problems online, such as cyber-bullying and doxxing, which are fueled by complete anonymity. Want to fix our polarized atmosphere? Make hateful trolls identify themselves and act like human beings.

As big-tent conservatives—and believe me, there are plenty of people in my world who support President Donald Trump!—we should be able to come together and make Internet policy better for everyone. We'll never agree on banning porn—that's ridiculous. But if we can work out our differences, it's time we move forward and get something done.

Brandi Love is a multi-time award-winning and Hall of Fame adult entertainer residing in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.