The long debate over the dangers of pornography may be over, and it appears porn has won, for now. But it's an industry that shouldn't win any debate over what is right and wrong.

Pornography deserves the same marginal status assigned to gambling addiction, drunken driving, and cigarette smoking.

Yes, pornography is legal, in some respects. It may in a few instances be harmful only to the user, if the user lives like a hermit.

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But pornography, which used to be called a vice, needs to be regulated, contained, and, in its worst forms, outlawed. Yet it's harder to contain and regulate with the internet explosion of the past 10 years.

Behind the scenes, pornography is a destroyer of marriages and young lives. It makes men look at women as objects. It turns women into sex slaves, so much so that a worldwide movement has emerged to free girls from a new kind of slavery.

To tackle the problem in Thailand, one girl at a time, Central Indiana native Rachel Sparks-Graeser has used her filmmaking skills to make documentaries on the subject. Her organization, Project SOLD, also helps rescue children sold into a life of prostitution by providing a haven in orphanages.

In California, the Pink Cross Foundation tries to rescue porn actresses from a trade that can destroy them physically and emotionally. Former porn star Shelly Lubben has documented the medical problems among her colleagues: herpes, HIV, gonorrhea and more. She called on Congress this summer to insist on better enforcement of laws against obscenity and abuse of children.

Researcher Amy Sherman of the Sagamore Institute has written about the rescue movement as an attempt to seek social justice. She puts the rescuers in the tradition of the anti-slavery movement that led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in the 19th century.

"Slave masters, pimps, and brothel owners are making big money," Sherman writes in Books & Culture magazine. "According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is the world's third largest criminal enterprise, after drugs and weapons."

Pornography may not receive the same scorn as drunken driving. That's in part because the harm is less obvious than that caused by a drunk who runs down pedestrians on a sidewalk. But addiction to pornography is a monster with similarities to gambling addiction or alcohol abuse. Under the pornographic influence, the addicted person loses normal moral faculties.

When a society also loses the capacity to tell right from wrong in this arena, the result is a quiet enslavement of men and women.

Russ Pulliam
Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.


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