Go Tell The Government You Watch Porn

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More than half of all Americans live in states that now (or by year’s end) will require them to prove they’re adults in order to access most legal porn sites.

How can you prove you’re a grownup? By uploading your driver’s license, passport, mortgage or employment record.

Raise your hand if you want to share that kind of data with the government—in the context of watching porn, no less.

For decades, I’ve been saying that minors should NOT watch porn. However, preventing adults from watching it in order to protect kids is, as Mark Twain said about censorship, “telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”

And let’s be honest (which censors rarely are)—the goal here is NOT protecting kids. Comprehensive sex education does that. Anti-porn activists, of course, are against that.

Besides, these age verification laws won’t protect kids anyway. For starters, half of all kids use VPNs to disguise their location when browsing the internet. (If you don’t know what a VPN is, ask your kid.)
For both minors and adults, that number will increase as these state laws multiply.

NEW LAW, NEW PROBLEMS

In addition to VPNs evading the law, there are other problems with these heavy-handed proposals of tech-deaf state legislatures.
~ They don’t cover social media platforms, where children are most likely to come across adult content accidentally. In fact, the new laws encourage the growth of free and pirated X-rated content on social media.
~ They will stimulate the use of rogue porn websites that don’t require age verification.
~ As part of a legislative power grab, these laws are deliberately vague. How is “harmful to minors” defined? Giving government the power to make subjective judgements about what’s “indecent” has been an invitation for over-reach since the beginning of time.
~ Sending sensitive data such as digitized government IDs will create a Golden Age of data breaches exploited by criminals.
~ And, of course, the Supreme Court has already struck down the Communications Decency Act of 1997 requiring age verification software as an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech.

A SOLUTION

Parental controls and device-level filters are effective tools if parents and schools are willing to use them. Most parents and schools don’t, even though they’re now quite easy to manage. There are many popular cartoons about parents asking their kids to show them how to use the filtering features on their devices.

This technology puts power where it should be—in the hands of parents and caregivers. The porn industry itself actually makes this easier by using the “Restricted to Adults” (RTA) label on its sites and platforms. Created by the nonprofit Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, it standardizes a universally recognizable digital tag for adult material that allows it to be automatically blocked by device-level parental control and filtering software.

Perfect solution? No. Better than what most parents and crusaders are doing? Absolutely.

NEWFANGLED INTERNET OF THE ’90s

In the 1990s, as the newfangled internet was conquering America, various tech-clueless state legislators tried to prevent material they deemed “harmful to minors” from being “internetted” into their states. I was involved in lawsuits in New York, Arizona, and Michigan, which ultimately overturned these new laws.

At the time, filtering software was developed to help parents, schools, and others limit what anyone could access on a given computer. The software was rudimentary, grabbing breast cancer self-exams, Congressmember Dick Armey, gay rights, and gynecology textbooks in its net. It was touted as better than nothing, but most parents, schools, and churches didn’t use it.

The software has changed dramatically. Parents, schools, and churches haven’t—many complain about porn on the internet, but can’t be bothered to block it on their kids’ devices. Of the many teens who report seeing online pornography during the school day, a shocking 44% say they’ve seen it on a school-issued device.

Age verification is the newest front in the War On Sex that’s been going on since this country’s founding. It has succeeded in criminalizing birth control (even for married couples), mixed-race marriages (only legalized in 1967), sending sex toys through the mail (only legalized in 1986), and teaching accurate sex ed information in most American schools. You may not want to watch porn, but when the government is empowered to control it, it strengthens their ability and resolve to control what you do want to do.

Some 20 states have already declared porn a public health hazard, based on a narrative of danger and harm with little basis in reality. But which porn users in their right minds are going to stand up and say “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore”?
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Like short videos about sexuality? See www.youtube.com/@Marty_Klein
Like your Sexual Intelligence in just one line? See www.instagram.com/doctormartyklein/

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