In culture war throwback, some Republicans eye porn restrictions


Though it didn’t generate a lot of interest at the time, Senate hopeful J.D. Vance made some rather provocative comments about pornography last summer, as his statewide campaign got underway. In fact, as HuffPost noted this week, the Ohio Republican even suggested a ban on porn as a way to help families.

“I think the combination of porn, abortion have basically created a lonely, isolated generation that isn’t getting married, they’re not having families, and they’re actually not even totally sure how to interact with each other,” Vance said in a newly unearthed interview with Crisis Magazine from August 2021.

The Crisis Magazine writer added that after asking him “his thoughts on porn and birth control and their effects on familial decline, Vance admitted he wants to outright ban pornography.”

To be sure, this has not been a staple of the Republican’s candidacy, and there doesn’t appear to be a single reference to porn on Vance’s campaign website.

But the apparent fact that the Senate hopeful made the comments did not go unnoticed by others in the GOP.

In fact, Rep. Paul Gosar published a tweet yesterday, which read in part, “[Vance] is right to call for restrictions on pornography.” The Arizona Republican went on to argue that pornography is having “horrible effects” on the public, and “one who opposes any restrictions on porn is ignorant at best and malicious at worst. This should be common sense.”

A couple of hours later, the GOP congressman returned to the subject, publishing another tweet that said pornography “actually harms [people] and their brains.”

Arizona’s Wendy Rogers, a notoriously right-wing state senator, soon after endorsed Gosar’s position.

Chances are, Republicans won’t seriously pursue a series of new restrictions on porn, in part because such efforts haven’t fared well in the courts. (One of Gosar’s tweets also complained, “Liberal courts have declared porn to fall under ‘free speech.’ What a joke.”

But this struck me as notable anyway for a couple of reasons.

The first is the degree to which this seems like a blast from the past. Those who follow social conservatives and their policy wish-lists know that the culture war periodically changes its focus. There are some staples — the right’s opposition to abortion rights, for example, has been around for quite a while — but other issues come and go.

In 2022, social conservatives clearly have a problem with trans rights, but in 1982, this was hardly an issue on the right’s radar. In 2002, the public heard a fair amount about Ten Commandments displays, though such fights are less common now.

Concerns about pornography were common in decades past, and there’s apparently some fresh evidence that the topic is making a comeback.

The other angle of interest is the misplaced priorities of some conservatives. If Republicans are prepared to talk about public health threats, and “common sense” steps officials could take to prevent the public from being harmed, I’m delighted. I just wish they took assault rifles and Covid as seriously as some on the right take pornography.