Donna Rice Hughes Warns About Obscenity Crisis

(ilkercelik/Getty Images)

I have launched a new podcast through the Discovery Institute called Humanize“where human rights meet human responsibilities” in which I converse with thinkers and activists about issues germane to human dignity and our moral duties to each other, animals, and the environment.

So far, I have been privileged to converse with Ambassador Sam Brownback on the importance of religious liberty; bioethicist Charles C. Camosy on the threat against the equality of people with dementia posed by bioethical advocacy; Jennifer Lahl on the ethical quandaries and threats posed by the fertility industry; and Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, on her death by dehydration and protecting the medically vulnerable.

In this week’s episode, I interview Donna Rice Hughes — president of the Internet-safety advocacy organization Enough is Enough — who campaigns against obscenity and child pornography. She convinced me that the obscenity scourge — we are not just talking nude photos — has reached crisis proportions.

Hughes discusses the impact porn has on children — both as victims of child pornographers and as consumers of adult content that they access on the Internet. She describes how pornography is a major cause of social dislocation, leading to divorce, abuse, rape, and a breakdown in healthy sexual relationships. She shows how the obscenity industry is a major driver of human trafficking and how “free” online Internet sites lure people into viewing ever more dark and violent images.

We also discussed ways to keep children safe from pornography on the Internet. I was shocked to learn that children younger than ten access hard-core porn — including images of rape and bestiality — and sometimes act out on the graphic images to which they have been exposed.

Obscenity and child pornography are out of control and need remediation. But while authorities do energetically enforce the law involving under-age sex exploitation, there are almost no efforts to enforce existing laws against obscenity, which the Supreme Court has ruled can be prohibited consistent with the First Amendment. President Trump signed a pledge to do so, but his DOJ didn’t. President Biden didn’t even sign the pledge.

But here’s a problem. To be actionable, obscenity has to “violate community standards.” What with the Internet and the pornification of the culture, the question has to be posed: Is there such a thing as “community standards” anymore?

I hope you will listen to Hughes. She said a lot that is worth hearing — including compassionate advice about how the porn-addicted can escape their bondage. The obscenity crisis is an important cultural issue too little discussed for fear of seeming prudish. The time has come for that reticence to end.