As a researcher who has studied the link between pornography and sex crime, I read John Hughes's Aug. 16 Opinion column, "Pornography: the social ill behind some dangerous crimes," with interest. While I agree heartily with his obvious distaste for pornography, I must depart from his conclusions. Much of the research Mr. Hughes cites is unconvincing. For instance, several studies show that many sex criminals use pornography, and therefore argue that pornography causes sex crimes. This is a bit like saying that many Mexicans like tacos, and so the way to solve our country's illegal immigration problem is to abolish Mexican food. Some of the most recent research, which looks at actual crimes committed instead of surveys, finds that, if anything, pornography and violence in media reduce crime.
Legislation regulating adult pornography prevents the opportunity to take personal responsibility for the cleanliness and purity of one's own thoughts. Such efforts are likely to be ham-handed, and are probably counterproductive in the sense that the violent tendencies remain latent, and may eventually find their outlet in violent behavior. Such regulations are "peace, peace, where there is no peace."
Todd D. Kendall
I very much appreciated John Hughes's commentary about pornography as a social ill. It is about time that civic leaders, politicians, parents, and educators begin to address this issue again. Thanks to the Internet, pornography has become so much more invasive in our lives. And with its role in the life of the possible killer in the JonBenet Ramsey case, we should all renew our attention to addressing this problem. Pornography would seem to be a subject that is endured, or in some cases excused, by our society as a personal choice that an individual has a right to make and suffer his or her own consequences. But evidence suggests (as cited in Mr. Hughes's column) that it is much more of a dangerous and degenerating problem, like gambling or drug abuse. While our leaders and media have been focused on terrorism and crises in the Middle East, we cannot forget the social ills that may be terrorizing our moral character here at home.
I read John Hughes's piece about how sexually laden entertainment is the root cause of sexual and violent crime. This column, like others, puts blame on producers, ignoring the responsibility of buyers. There's little doubt that what we see and hear influences behavior. Producers shouldn't get all of the blame, however. Demand is as responsible as supply. Tough questions such as "Why do people buy pornography in such large amounts?" should be addressed fully.
In response to the opening sentence of the Aug. 15 article, "Origins of a reluctant genius," about Charles Darwin, I would just like to mention that Mr. Darwin does indeed appear on paper currency. In 2005 Darwin's face was put on the £10 English note. As an American growing up in a staunchly conservative Southern Baptist city, I was surprised to witness this.
But I was even more surprised to find out that my mother, a Scottish Catholic educated in convent schools until the age of 16, was not surprised. Darwin's literature was assigned and taught by nuns, and Darwin was presented as a kind of national hero. What a strange dichotomy!
Sugar Land, Texas
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