Red States’ Porn Rates: You Were Surprised?

Amanda Marcotte

Everyone giggles over the "hypocrisy" of conservative porn use, but I fail to see how it's really that hypocritical. The allergy towards sex that defines cultural conservatism is about constructing women as pure and moral or sexual and bad.

A
recent study that finds that states hospitable to disapproving anti-sex scolds
are the same states in which more online porn is consumed
is the sort of link bait that editors stay up nights dreaming about. 
People guffawing about conservative hypocrites, people defending conservative
hypocrites, and dudes who want to make it clear that every other dude
looks at as much porn as they do are all sure to weigh in on something
like that.  Echidne of the Snakes had my favorite response, wondering why the
study didn’t break down by gender

when every other variable came into play.  The enormous gender
gap in who gives money over to the porn industry (which is not the same
as who watches porn) is the sort of thing that’s sure to embarrass
the men of America, and so I see why it slid off the radar as a relevant
data point.  

One aspect of this study that’s getting obscured in much of the coverage is that they didn’t actually measure who consumes online porn at all.  If they did, they’d find a much higher average than some measly 5.42 out of 1000, which is the proportion of people in the conservative, religious state of Utah who subscribe to porn sites (the highest proportion of all states).  The study merely measured these subscribers, a much different and more dedicated group of porn users than the rest of Americans, who tend to pay to play on occasion or, most likely, just use the myriad of free porn sites to get a quick fix before moving onto other things.  

Presumably, the small percentage
of the population that gives over money to have a
steady, uninterrupted flow of mountains of pornographic videos are people
that aren’t getting their needs and desires met elsewhere on a regular
enough basis to compete with what porn offers.  Having seen, like pretty
much all Americans, plenty of porn in my time and, unlike many
Americans, having tried to analyze what it means in our culture for quite a
long time, I’ve concluded that porn basically appeals to a presumably
male audience (women watch porn, but most porn is not made with a female
audience in mind) for two reasons. There’s the plain old sexual fantasy
that appeals to 100% of porn users, and for a smaller but probably more
devoted group, there’s the appeal of seeing women degraded by sex
in order to make up for the indignity of having to treat women with
respect in real life.   

It’s human nature to respond
strongly to sexual fantasy, at least portrayals of our sexual fantasies,
and so that explains the appeal of porn to men, whether they’re misogynists
or not.  Silly but relatively harmless fantasies like insatiable
women and consensual voyeurism proliferate through porn in response
to this.  Unfortunately, there’s also a large and possibly growing
market of porn that’s main selling point is its vicious misogyny. 
Websites like the infamous Bang Bus make all their money by showing
men insulting, spitting upon, and having coerced sex with women, all
with a tone of revenge fantasy for some imagined slight delivered by
women in real life.  By no means do I think that this kind of stuff
appeals to all men, but there’s a misogynist audience out there who
happily will pay to see this sort of thing. 

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Everyone giggles over the "hypocrisy"
of conservative porn use, but I fail to see how it’s really
that hypocritical.  The allergy towards sex that defines cultural
conservatism is more about judging women’s morality on what we do
with our genitals than any other factor, and a quick perusal of the horrific gender stereotyping in abstinence-only materials will prove
that in a minute.  Men, in this world view, are the ones who truly
want sex, and women are just softies who use sex to get to the romance.  Women who aggressively seek out sexual pleasure
for its own sake–a behavior designated as male-only–are sluts who
deserve to be used and tossed away by men for violating gender codes. 
In other words, the much-vaunted conservative morality is better known
as the "virgin/whore" dichotomy, where good girls you want to marry
don’t really like sex and bad girls you want to have sex with get
down and dirty and don’t deserve respect. 

This world view permeates both
purity balls and porn videos, especially the more misogynist ones that
I described.  If you’re a man who buys into the right
wing world view on gender, odds are you married a good girl and you know she’s a good girl because she’s a little hostile towards
sex, and really hostile towards sexual experimentation.  But you’re
a man, and you’re supposed to want those experimental behaviors.  You can’t do it with your good girl wife, and you don’t really
want to, either, because you know that women who do that don’t deserve
respect.  So there’s porn, mediating the conflict for you. 
You get your fun and freaky sex acts, like a man wants, and you have
porn actresses to disrespect so that you don’t have to put that on
your wife.  It’s the classic virgin/whore dichotomy, except done with a
credit card on the internet instead of down at the brothel with cash,
like in the past. 

Is it possible that a more
sexually liberated, feminist culture has less need for huge amounts
of porn, particularly of the sort that promotes objectionable views about women’s
humanity?  Seems like it.  Maybe there’s an inverse relationship
between the number of feminist sex shops in an area and the number of
subscriptions to porn websites.  It makes sense. The more sexually
liberated a culture is, the more the people in it are able to access sexual fantasies in diverse ways than
people in more repressed parts of the country.  And perhaps when
straight men aren’t crippled by virgin/whore complexes that cause
them to seek out some of the more hostile porn, they get to have more
sexual adventures for real, because they don’t give off the vibe to
partners that they’re going to call you names for experimenting with
them. 

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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News Human Rights

What’s Driving Women’s Skyrocketing Incarceration Rates?

Michelle D. Anderson

Eighty-two percent of the women in jails nationwide find themselves there for nonviolent offenses, including property, drug, and public order offenses.

Local court and law enforcement systems in small counties throughout the United States are increasingly using jails to warehouse underserved Black and Latina women.

The Vera Institute of Justice, a national policy and research organization, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge initiative, released a study last week showing that the number of women in jails based in communities with 250,000 residents or fewer in 2014 had grown 31-fold since 1970, when most county jails lacked a single woman resident.

By comparison, the number of women in jails nationwide had jumped 14-fold since 1970. Historically, jails were designed to hold people not yet convicted of a crime or people serving terms of one year or less, but they are increasingly housing poor women who can’t afford bail.

Eighty-two percent of the women in jails nationwide find themselves there for nonviolent offenses, including property, drug, and public order offenses.

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Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform,” calls attention to jail incarceration rates for women in small counties, where rates increased from 79 per 100,000 women to 140 per 100,000 women, compared to large counties, where rates dropped from 76 to 71 per 100,000 women.

The near 50-page report further highlights that families of color, who are already disproportionately affected by economic injustice, poor access to health care, and lack of access to affordable housing, were most negatively affected by the epidemic.

An overwhelming percentage of women in jail, the study showed, were more likely to be survivors of violence and trauma, and have alarming rates of mental illness and substance use problems.

“Overlooked” concluded that jails should be used a last resort to manage women deemed dangerous to others or considered a flight risk.

Elizabeth Swavola, a co-author of “Overlooked” and a senior program associate at the Vera Institute, told Rewire that smaller regions tend to lack resources to address underlying societal factors that often lead women into the jail system.

County officials often draft budgets mainly dedicated to running local jails and law enforcement and can’t or don’t allocate funds for behavioral, employment, and educational programs that could strengthen underserved women and their families.

“Smaller counties become dependent on the jail to deal with the issues,” Swavola said, adding that current trends among women deserves far more inquiry than it has received.

Fred Patrick, director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute, said in “Overlooked” that the study underscored the need for more data that could contribute to “evidence-based analysis and policymaking.”

“Overlooked” relies on several studies and reports, including a previous Vera Institute study on jail misuse, FBI statistics, and Rewire’s investigation on incarcerated women, which examined addiction, parental rights, and reproductive issues.

“Overlooked” authors highlight the “unique” challenges and disadvantages women face in jails.

Women-specific issues include strained access to menstrual hygiene products, abortion care, and contraceptive care, postpartum separation, and shackling, which can harm the pregnant person and fetus by applying “dangerous levels of pressure, and restriction of circulation and fetal movement.”

And while women are more likely to fare better in pre-trail proceedings and receive low bail amounts, the study authors said they are more likely to leave the jail system in worse condition because they are more economically disadvantaged.

The report noted that 60 percent of women housed in jails lacked full-time employment prior to their arrest compared to 40 percent of men. Nearly half of all single Black and Latina women have zero or negative net wealth, “Overlooked” authors said.

This means that costs associated with their arrest and release—such as nonrefundable fees charged by bail bond companies and electronic monitoring fees incurred by women released on pretrial supervision—coupled with cash bail, can devastate women and their families, trapping them in jail or even leading them back to correctional institutions following their release.

For example, the authors noted that 36 percent of women detained in a pretrial unit in Massachusetts in 2012 were there because they could not afford bail amounts of less than $500.

The “Overlooked” report highlighted that women in jails are more likely to be mothers, usually leading single-parent households and ultimately facing serious threats to their parental rights.

“That stress affects the entire family and community,” Swavola said.

Citing a Corrections Today study focused on Cook County, Illinois, the authors said incarcerated women with children in foster care were less likely to be reunited with their children than non-incarcerated women with children in foster care.

The sexual abuse and mental health issues faced by women in jails often contribute to further trauma, the authors noted, because women are subjected to body searches and supervision from male prison employees.

“Their experience hurts their prospects of recovering from that,” Swavola said.

And the way survivors might respond to perceived sexual threats—by fighting or attempting to escape—can lead to punishment, especially when jail leaders cannot detect or properly respond to trauma, Swavola and her peers said.

The authors recommend jurisdictions develop gender-responsive policies and other solutions that can help keep women out of jails.

In New York City, police take people arrested for certain non-felony offenses to a precinct, where they receive a desk appearance ticket, or DAT, along with instructions “to appear in court at a later date rather than remaining in custody.”

Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice As Healing and a leader within the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, said in an interview with Rewire that solutions must go beyond allowing women to escape police custody and return home to communities that are often fragmented, unhealthy, and dangerous.

Underserved women, James said, need access to healing, transformative environments. She cited as an example the Brookview House, which helps women overcome addiction, untreated trauma, and homelessness.

James, who has advocated against the criminalization of drug use and prostitution, as well as the injustices faced by those in poverty, said the problem of jail misuse could benefit from the insight of real experts on the issue: women and girls who have been incarcerated.

These women and youth, she said, could help researchers better understand the “experiences that brought them to the bunk.”

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