The pornography cancer that continues to consume our nation reared its ugly head again as the sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar concluded this week. The former USA Gymnastics doctor was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who told him, “I’ve just signed your death warrant.”
Nassar abused more than 150 girls over the past two decades. He got less than what he deserves.
But those getting acquainted with the case now might miss that, just like virtually every other predator in the history of sexual assault, Nassar fed, groomed, and rotted his brain on pornography before and after abusing girls for years.
It was pornography that did him in. At first, he pleaded “not guilty” on the charges against him. His procedures were just misconstrued, he argued. But as the FBI investigated him, they found over 37,000 images and videos of child pornography on various devices at his home. He had even taped himself committing assaults.
How can someone access that much illegal pornography and not get caught until after abusing more than 150 girls? It boggles the mind. Nassar is just 54. Given the amount of porn found, he must have been watching this smut for hours every day of his adult life.
And that’s just what they deemed illegal. Law enforcement focuses only on child pornography, but a lot of adult porn available online would meet the definition of “obscene” set up by the Supreme Court and would, therefore, be illegal, too. It’s just not prosecuted at all. A lot of it promotes violence and the degradation of women as a form of “harmless” pleasure. All of it — all of it, illegal or not — is harmful for the individuals involved and for our society.
Yet, while the scientific understanding of the harmful effects of pornography continues to grow, our society continues to ignore the problem. Nassar’s years of abuse is just the latest example that we are not taking this problem seriously enough.
This is by design. When you consider the millions floating around in the pornography industry, it is no surprise that they are considerably invested in suppressing any efforts to bring attention to their hideous racket. They have been successful in many ways. Most of what we considered shameful in years past is unfortunately commonplace now in some of our most popular TV shows. And no one has been able to grasp the extent of the problem online.
It is time we confront our porn problem. Its harmful effects must be part of the conversation as we discuss the sexual assault problem that has been in the news lately. And yet, the silence is deafening.
Some states are trying to do something. In the past couple of years, six states (Utah, South Dakota, Arkansas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana) have deemed pornography a public health crisis. Both Florida and my home state of Maryland are considering measures right now. The preamble in our Maryland resolution sets the situation we face compellingly with the following findings:
“During a 1-year period, 42% of Internet users who are minors reported being exposed to pornography, and 66% of Internet users who are minors exposed to pornography reported that the exposure was unintentional;
“The exposure of minors to pornography increases as Internet saturation rates increase;
“A minor is more likely to be exposed to pornography if the minor possesses risk factors including a high risk of depression or delinquency or if the minor is a victim of harassment;
“The exposure of minors to pornography detrimentally affects the health and safety of State residents, including increasing the risk for illegal sexual behavior and sexual violence;
“Minors exposed to pornography are more involved in sexual activities;
“Exposure to pornography results in higher incidences of sexually risky behavior among young adults;
“The exposure of minors to pornography is significantly associated with minor–to–minor production and distribution of child pornography and with sexting;
“Of the minor males exposed to pornography, 42% viewed pornography that depicted violence against women;
“The exposure to and use of pornography by minors is a risk factor for adolescent sexual offenses and sexually aggressive behavior by minors, particularly among males;
“Young males exposed to pornography are more likely to engage in aggressive and antisocial behavior;
“According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped;
“Men who view pornography are significantly less likely to intervene as a bystander, and report an increased behavioral intent to commit rape.”
The outrage from pornographers to these efforts has been loud, no doubt, but these legislatures are merely coming to terms with the reality in which we are living. Taking the porn problem as a serious societal development allows them to increase education for our young people of the damages they might experience by going down this path. Its addictive qualities are especially problematic.
Recognition of the harm is the first step. It’s a small step, but a vital one.
Mario Díaz, Esq., serves as Concerned Women for America's (CWA) Legal Counsel and leads CWA's Legal Studies Department. Mr. Diaz is a Constitutional Law scholar who focuses on cases and legislation dealing with CWA's core issues: religious liberty, sanctity of human life, defense of the family, sexual exploitation, education, national sovereignty, and support for Israel.