fragments of an attempted writing.
So I was reading Franky Schaeffer's new book this last weekend and he mentions a Benjamin Edelman study which suggests that porn is consumed more avidly in "conservative" states.  Then I read about Rick Perry's investment in a company that did a lot of porn business and that little froth at the mouth political piece gave a link to Edelman's paper, Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?.

I find it interesting not because of the hypocrisy we may or may not point to, as I take such hypocrisy for granted.  What I find interesting is how research like this doesn't seem to mesh well with the mantra that goes: the degree of the triumph of "secularism" corresponds to the degree of sexual "perversity" noted in a given culture.  Of course one can make the argument that "Christian" "Bible Belt" red states are in reality just as secular as blue "progressive" states, culturally and politically expressing that secularism in different ways perhaps, but if that is the case it would seem to further indicate that most popular anti-secularists are not really aware of what secularism actually is.  Anti-secularism as an expression of secularism in the manner that anti-modernism is a decidedly modern phenomenon and expression of modernism?  I don't know.

This is one study.  I'd like to see more.


  1. The Rick Perry link seems to have been blanked or something.

    Edelman's map doesn't correlate well with redness; in fact, it doesn't seem to correlate well with anything. Remember, the core red states are not in the south, but rather Methodist Kansas and Nebraska. And if Mormons for instance are the people driving up the numbers in Utah, why are the numbers in Idaho so low? I just don't see a lot of meaning in this stuff.

  2. Of course you don't Wingate. Did you just look at the map or did you read the paper?

  3. I read the paper, and while a county by county breakdown would help me confirm my suspicions, it looks like the major predictors are race, age (until retirement) and being Mormon—not who you voted for in the last election. The data for Mississippi, where subscriptions are very high for the rate of broadband penetration is telling. However, plenty of reliable Rocky Mountain and Midwest "red" states show really low numbers. Religious attendance negatively correlates, and suburban/exurban correlates lower than people living in urban density—which can be used as a partial stand–in for race, where this study doesn't directly measure it. I also can't believe it leaves out people from 25-65 in age. There's a lot of data missing, there!

    Of course, the biggest problem here is the fact that it measures subscriptions. No one I knew in college paid for porn. Heck, all the open consumers of pornography I know still don't pay for it. Paying for it is something non–tech–savvy people do; it's for the old and the dim. So should we be shocked that California has somewhat lower rates? I'd love to see a more detailed demographic breakdown there.

    That said, I do think anti–secularism in the organized fashion of the Moral Majority and other Evangelical—based GOP movements is just a form of secularism. Those people are just as antinomian as anyone else, they've just chosen a different place to stake their ground than most secularists. I think a real great instance of this sort of thing down a generation are emergent Christians who vote Republican, but think it is a sin to wear a suit.

  4. Ari,

    I had wondered if people in, say, San Francisco or NYC had more access to other means of scratching the itch but it hadn't occurred to me that subscriptions would be more common in areas where there is a lower percentage of tech savvy people. Good point.

    I'd also like to see a more detailed demographic breakdown.

    I know so little of emergent Christianity - the thought of going to church with people who wear American Apparel clothing and vote Republican horrifies me.

  5. I don’t think “secularism” has much to do with it, since such a concept invokes morality in its most abstract form. Another way to look at the question is to find out why such an escape as pornography would be more popular in conservative states, where “pro-business” policies make the working class work harder, longer, for less pay, and so forth. Like any addiction or escape, it is the way the powerless deal with a bad situation. I am not saying that all users of pornography are poor and oppressed; perhaps only worn out and tired from a life that offers much (on television, the Internet, etc.) but delivers very little. Where do people escape, then?

    The problem is that capitalism makes the problem, and then bitches that we have a problem. Such is the case with legal and illegal drug abuse: what if the only way that “middle-class” mom (who seems to have it all on the surface) can make it through the day is by popping the blue pill; what if the only thing the person who bags my groceries looks forward to is the joint at the end of his shift, etc.? The same goes for porn. Conservatives on this question rob Peter to pay Paul. They are staunchly against pornography, yet they advocate for the sort of dog-eat-dog market that causes the “addiction” to porn in the first place. And apparently, they see no problems in investing in it as well. Nor should we be surprised that people make their own “cocktail” in these situations: “Bible-believing” church, drugs, porn, alcohol, sports… and often not in that order.


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