Banning porn will require a pervasive sexual re-norming. This is a democracy, and we’re going to have to figure out how to get people on board with it. Even if we did convince people of the public health case, where would that leave us? With erectile dysfunction-type warnings in the first five seconds of every porno? We need something better than that.
For a path forward, look to an unlikely model: the gay rights movement. In 2008, my home state of California voted in favor of a statewide constitutional amendment to enshrine marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Yes, that was California. Remember? In less than ten years, the Supreme Court declared the amendment illegal—in large part because such legislation had become unthinkable for many Americans (including the ones who themselves had voted for it just eight years previous).
So how did they do it? Gay rights activists repeatedly and publicly shamed us, saying that if you oppose gay marriage, you hate gay people. That line, repeated and modified and transposed in a million different ways, sexually re-normed America in the space of a decade. Now, it’s our turn for a sexual re-norming of America. Conservatives can turn Americans against porn. How?
But the trouble, really, is that trying to shame people who actually do hate women by calling them misogynists won’t work. They like hating women. This is part of what makes porn so addicting. (Sidenote: The “you hate gays” line worked because people generally did not hate gays, and did not want to hate gays. They just weren’t woke enough to realize that not-hating-gays required being-for-gay-marriage. They were quick to comply once shamed.) I still believe the shaming route can work, but we have to try something a little bit different. Let’s try calling porn supporters despicable perverts instead. After all, it is true.