Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Got Your Family Value Right Here

It's really not all that surprising that conservative & religious parts of the US consume more porn than other parts of the country. Although the differences in consumption between states are not huge, Utah is nonetheless the biggest consumer of online porn in the US.
"Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by," Edelman says...

The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. "The differences here are not so stark," Edelman says.

Number 10 on the list was West Virginia at 2.94 subscriptions per 1000, while number 41, Michigan, averaged 2.32.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama...

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour."

Freedom from desire as a meditative attempt to spiritually transcend bodily attachment is one thing. But it's an odd feature of human beings to attempt to repress desires broadly in a society that individuals who do so find particularly strong in themselves. One evangelical or political/religious figure after another is exposed as a sexual hypocrite. Some socio-cultural expressions of religious conservatism seem rather like auto-flagellation turned outwards so that others can be punished as well. Notice how extremist forms of religious culture are often built around a negative relationship to sexuality, among other expressions of the physical body.

In the large Western religions, sin is intimately related to body - Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness after the original sin. Why? Why that? Why not ashamed of, say, speech used to communicate with the serpent and to convince Adam to bite into the pleasurable apple? (And why is one metaphor for traditional American values the apple pie?). Why not, then, a culture that evolves over time into a speechless culture? A culture that attempts to eliminate the pre-linguistic structure of the brain by repression of anything linguistic?

When I first started this blog and was trying to gain broad readership, I intentionally titled a post with a sexual reference to see if this attracted readers. Crass, I know, but it was simply an experiment - after all, the repressed sexuality base isn't the most desirable source of readership. And it worked. In fact, wherever that post is, it still attracts googlers. (A post which I'm not going to look up or write out again). And it is crystal clear from the stats that most of them come from highly religious states or societies. Curiously, since I apparently phrased it in quasi-English, many of the sex-googlers arrive here by googling things like, "naked mens making the sex with a lady's private."

Mark Gisleson wrote about this study a couple of days ago. His conclusion is that,
When everyone is doing something but only certain types of people ever get punished, then it’s in everyone’s interest to expose ALL the sinners and then give society the choice of repealing stupid laws or paying to lock up a third of the nation. Want gay marriage legalized? Stick cable access TV cameras in every gay bar in town. Not a good strategy for hetero prostitution. For that you’d need a Craig’s List sting, but by now I’m sure you get my point.
Of course, video surveillance and sex stings are more technical instruments of a repressive society.

9 comments:

Steve Gimbel said...

I thought it bizarre when W appointed Ashcroft and he designated pornography as a major priority for the department of justice. Then on a drive out to Santa Fe, we went through Missouri and every other billboard along the highway was for a "gentlemen's club" and should have come in a plain brown wrapper. It got to the point where I didn't want my kids even looking out the windows.

Mark Gisleson said...

Actually I think it was Bruce Sterling who wrote that videotaping EVERYTHING would radically democratize the world. His point being that if all board meetings and political backroom sessions were videotaped, most of the evil would go away having been deprived of the shadows they need to hide in. Counterintuitive, but the more you think about it the more sense it makes. The police staters only want to reveal some of what goes on. Revealing everything would indeed change everything.

helmut said...

Steve - I know. Really weird. There's this libertarian streak that allows for billboards like these as a matter of free speech, but bred with that puritan strain that says we're all going to hell for such naughty things. It's bizarre, as if by keeping your dirty thoughts to yourself, God won't hear and thereby punish you.

Mark - I imagine that's true. But I don't like the tradeoffs. I don't know if this is true, but I once heard that if the opposite side of the moon had been facing Earth, it would have looked like a giant eye in the sky. I think we would have evolved into very different beings.

MT said...

It makes me think conservatives think this way because it makes for better sex--more kinky and exciting, a kind of sadomasochistic fantasy. Better sex, bigger families--looks like natural selection to me. I'm sure every critical theorist who ever went to Hollywood wrote a screenplay or two on this theme. Madonna/whore, etc, etc. Unfortunately, sex makes theories more exciting and reproductively successful too, so there's just too much signal to noise around this phenomenon for the possibly straight-forward answer to stand out.

helmut said...

Wow... conservatives offer that? I had a sneaking suspicion that there's an unnatural dearth of spanking fetishes among progressives.

MT said...

One more (old) anecdote to support my case
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5355488
When the sex she wanted to have was only a perverse fantasy, she was Republican. Now that she's free to indulge it in the open, she can be a democrat.

helmut said...

MT - it seems here that the causality runs the other way around than in your first comment. But I like the way you put it. A Democrat coming out of the closet.

Commentary elsewhere on this story and study suggests that this claim about conservatives is statistically unjustifiable. The second part of your first comment, MT, seems to have been right on the mark. Yes, it looks like conservative states are more porn-oriented, but whoever made that claim is saying something beyond what the statistics show outside of the margins.

MT said...

Which way the causality runs is exactly the question--the question that the proposed correlation begs, or at least invites. Freud was wrong in lots of details, but right that the explanations that come first and fiercestly to mind are far from necessarily the truest.

MT said...

Maybe I seemed confused about causality just because I was primarily talking about biological and cultural selection, which, when it comes down to any particular individual, predisposes outcomes but does not so obviously cause them. Of course, I could be confused too, but I think I've got ample cover.