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The Bible Belt's Love Affair With (Gay and Straight) Porn

The GOP presidential hopefuls keep vilifying porn. Odd that the very people they're trying to pander to consume massive amounts of it.

The adult entertainment industry has long been one of the favorite whipping boys of social conservatives, who have argued that porn and other forms of adult entertainment (including strip clubs, swing clubs, phone sex and BDSM) are incompatible with the moral values of the Heartland and the Bible Belt. Porn, social conservatives claim, is for “godless liberals” in San Francisco, Greenwich Village and West Hollywood, not right-of-center voters in Republican-dominated “red states.” But the reality is that porn isn’t any less popular in so-called “red states” than it is in so-called “blue states,” and ironically, the places where the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls are the most likely to be railing against porn are also places where an abundance of voters are likely to be consuming it.

GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have not only been playing the abortion and gay marriage cards—they have also assured the Christian Right organization Morality in Media (MIM) that they would be tough on porn if elected president. Former Massachusetts governor Romney, in a written statement, told MIM he favors “strict enforcement of our nation’s obscenity laws”; serial adulterer and former House of Representatives speaker Gingrich met with MIM president Patrick Truemann in person and assured him that if elected president, he would appoint an attorney general who would make federal obscenity prosecutions a high priority.

Meanwhile, in Laurens County, South Carolina, the local Republican Party is asking possible candidates to swear off all porn consumption. In late February, the Laurens County GOP unanimously adopted a resolution asking local Republicans who want to get on the primary ballot to sign a 28-point pledge that includes opposition to abortion, gay marriage and same-sex civil unions as well as vows to abstain from premarital sex and not view any porn. The pledge states: “You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.”

Of all the GOP presidential hopefuls, Santorum has been the most stridently anti-porn; the former Pennsylvania senator (who was voted out of office in 2006) has an entire page on his Web site that is devoted to his opposition to porn, and that attacks President Barack Obama for not being sufficiently anti-porn. Santorum writes: “The Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws. While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration.”

Actually, Obama has never said anything in favor of adult entertainment. Very few Democratic politicians will openly embrace the adult entertainment industry in any way. And the more one examines the data, the more evident it becomes that Republican-dominated states with a heavy concentration of far-right culture warriors are also states where erotic entertainment is very much in demand. Adult industry advocate Bill Margold, who was one of the top adult film stars of the 1970s, has often described the United States as a place where people hypocritically condemn adult entertainment with one hand while pleasuring themselves to it with the other hand; recent data bears that out.

In 2009, Benjamin G. Edelman of the Harvard Business School published the results of a state-by-state study on the number of people who were subscribing to adult membership Web sites; Edelman found that eight of the 10 states that had the highest per capita consumption of online porn were states that Republican John McCain won in 2008’s presidential election. Utah topped the list, and other red states in Edelman’s top 10 included Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota and West Virginia. The only states in Edelman’s top 10 that Obama won in 2008 were Florida and Hawaii.

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