Is Porn A Prisoner’s Right?

Via the Daily Beast today comes the story of Kyle Richards, a 21-year-old prisoner being held for bank robbery at the Macomb County Jail in Michigan. Richards recently filed a lawsuit against the State of Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder, claiming his civil rights are being violated because the jailer won’t allow him to possess “adult” magazines.

In a handwritten lawsuit, Richards makes the argument that denying his request for porn subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.”

According to CBS News, the Michigan Department of Corrections does allow pornographic material, within certain guidelines, but the material is banned from the county jail where Richards is currently housed.

Mansfield Frazier, a columnist for the Daily Beast, thinks that by denying the porn, the Sheriff is imposing a policy that is indefensible in court.

I agree with him.

The American Civil Liberties Union says prisons have a lot of leeway in this area, but it seems to me that by allowing individual Sheriffs and people in power to make arbitrary decisions about what kinds of sexual materials are allowed to prisoners, we are going down a very slippery slope. Plus, I’d assume that a sexually satisfied prisoner would probably be more well-behaved in prison than a sexually frustrated one.

This is just my opinion, as someone who has never been to prison but feels passionately about sex positivity and fighting anti-sex and anti-porn moral crusades. But it’s far from a thorough legal analysis. Lawyers, corrections officers, masturbators/porn enthusiasts out there: what do you think?

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68 Comments

  1. Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you. Prison is a dangerous place and depriving the inmates something as trivial as a magazine seems petty. I would agree that these type of publications may help pacify some of the anger in the cells and prevent unnecessary violence (not to mention lawsuits) to the guards and inmates themselves. Prisoners already have a gratuitous amount of time and freedom withheld from them (some deservedly), why pile more on just cuz they can? Seems overly punitive to me.

  2. Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think any porn should be allowed in prisons. Porn is not water, it’s not food. You can’t take away someone’s right to be sexual but since when does pornography constitute a right? Ah, never.

    Should we support rapists or pediphiles in their effort to get off?

    No.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      What exactly does the question of whether to allow prisoners to have adult magazines have to do with “support[ing] rapists and pediphiles [sic] in their effort to get off”?

      (For the record, I do support the right of all prisoners to a legal defense and to appeal their convictions if they feel that they were wrongly convicted.)

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        What exactly does the question of whether to allow prisoners to have adult magazines have to do with “support[ing] rapists and pediphiles [sic] in their effort to get off”?

        I think she meant “get off sexually” as opposed to “get off from their sentence”, which would make the question relevant. Though I still have my opinions that prisoners should not necessarily be denied this material, and that not everyone in prison is there for rape or pedophilia, or even for violent crime at all.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      I think it’s very easy to make a case that sexuality is just as vital to human life as food and water. For many people at least.

      Being in an all male environment, when a straight male, etc. it seems entirely reasonable to me to say that for some porn could be considered a basic human right.

    • Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you Tyra. plus i find it surprising on a supposed feminist site that people are like “yeah prisoners should have porn” like all porn is the same-porn is a tricky issue especially with the fact it is becoming more and more violent-and you want prisoners to have this?

  3. Posted July 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    If prisons allow conjugal visits, why not pornography?

  4. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Tough call. I’m no legal scholar so I won’t pretend to make some legal argument here. While I think it may be advantageous for prisoners to have this type of material to keep things a bit calmer, do we really want folks in prison looking at material that could be violent or objectifying? Would there be some sort of guideline about what is and is not acceptable? If criminals commit crimes that dehumanize or put others in danger, should we really be offering them further ways in which to objectify/dehumanize folks, even it is just through the consumption of pornography?

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Would you extend that doctrine to include non-pornographic materials, then? There’s a whole lot of stuff that’s rated R or lower that’s also pretty violent, objectifying, and dehumanizing? Who gets to decide what’s violent, objectifying, or dehumanizing?

      I don’t disagree that some kind of determination is necessary; perhaps I’d base it on a psychological or other evaluation of individual prisoners (i.e., I wouldn’t want a convicted pedophile reading Lolita, regardless of its artistic merit, but don’t think I’d have a problem with someone convicted of bank fraud reading it).

      But I think that such a standard would need to be applied across the board to all media rather than just to adult materials.

      • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        (The second sentence in my comment shouldn’t be a question, but a statement… that’s what I get for not giving the comment that final proofread…)

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Not everyone in prisoner has dehumanized someone or put them in danger.

  5. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    This is not an issue of porn being morally wrong or the prison officials being anti-”sex positive.” This is an issue of deprivation. Inmates are deprived the civil rights that law abiding citizens enjoy. Freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and so on. Prison is not a place where you get to enjoy the comforts of life. Lori, you talk of slippery slopes- if a prisoner is given porn because he deems it his civil right, what else will fall under that sexual civil right? This would open up a field of opportunity for inmates to demand what sexually satisfies them.

    Prisoners get to keep their basic human rights (food, shelter, medical care), but not their civil ones. And so, even though I think it’s a better idea if inmates are allowed porn, it is not a moral wrong nor violation of any laws to withhold a luxury item from an inmate.

  6. Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    What? Porn is a privilege, not a ‘right’. Poor standard of living? Have we forgotten that prison is supposed to be a punishment, not a holiday camp, of course standard of living should be reduced for prisoners. Hey, maybe if he doesn’t enjoy himself too much, he won’t reoffend!

    Want sexual satisfaction? Jack off.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      “Hey, maybe if he doesn’t enjoy himself too much, he won’t reoffend!”

      This has, historically, not been the track record of the prison system.

      • Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        Not even remotely. In fact, it tends to achieve the opposite results: poorer conditions increase recidivism rates.

        I’d much rather have prisoners learn art or music than learn how to better get away with crimes. This is the problem where vengeful urges tend to get in the way of progress.

        It is also worth noting that rape is at epidemic levels in prisons, and encouraging personal sexual stimulation may be a tool in decreasing the amount of rape that occurs in prison.

        • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

          I completely agree with Davenj. Since I’m fairly certain prisons won’t allow their prisoners to access actually -illegal- material (you know, rape and kiddy porn?), mainstream porn is probably a pretty safe option and should hopefully keep them from turning to dominating their fellow prisoners in order to get off.
          If they are relaxed and happy enough to not become vengeful bastards, I think the locked-up, loss-of-freedom-and-various-privileges in the long run will be enough.

          • Posted July 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

            But porn use doesn’t decrease the instances of rape or sexual domination.

            And rape porn isn’t illegal. Maybe porn depicting ‘real’ rape is, but how would one tell the difference? (not to mention the coersion that occurs in the making of so much pornography.) Mainstream pornography is getting more and more violent and degrading. So, who is it safe for?

        • Posted July 15, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

          I agree prison rape is horrible. But more porn is not going to fix that, especially not violent porn. Every meta analysis on pornography and aggression has found that the vast vast vast majority of studies found that viewing violent pornography increases aggression, decreases empathy for rape victims, increases the likelihood that someone will say they would rape someone, among many other negative things.

          The cathartic effect is brought up a lot, but there is NO evidence that this works. There is, however, substantial evidence that viewing violent pornography causes increased aggression, especially among risk groups (people already prone to aggression, such as those who would be committing said prison rapes).

          Pornography had such a significantly negative effect on viewers when these aggression studies were performed that researchers have largely been banned from showing pornography to people because it’s been shown to be so harmful.

          I don’t have space to go through citing all of these studies, but look for studies done by Donnerstein, Zillman, Bryant, Malamuth, and Violato if you want to see them.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      What if this were a woman making the request? Should female prisoners be allowed vibrators?

  7. Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m not touching the “rights” issue, but if prisoners can be banned from playing D&D, they can probably be banned from possessing pornography.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/us/27dungeons.html

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Excellent point. Why should thingsbe banned from prison? Certainly because they can be used as weapons or for escape. That doesn’t apply in either case… Why should printed materal be censored based on content?

      I assert that it should not; books may be prohibited if they can be weaponized, but not selectively based on content.

  8. Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Let me think it through a little…

    I used to work for an American bank, and it was drilled into us that it had a duty to ensure a hassle-free working environment (I forget the exact term). This meant no lewd remarks, no sexist or sexy comments. And no Playboy magazine in the office – even if it is left in the briefcase.

    So… a prisoner would be freer than an employee?

    Interesting concept!

    PS Could his cellmate sue him for causing an oppressive environment?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Did you live at your office 24/7?

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        Iz sometimes felt like it, yes! I did spend the night there, a couple of times.

        But I’m pretty sure Playboy Magazine was banned 24/7.

        By the way, what does ‘Word’ mean? A couple of posters insert it at the end of their message.

  9. Posted July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I have a family member who spent over ten years in prison in California. At first he could receive all types of print porn including self-portraits from private citizens exposing everything and anything. As time passed he could receive less and less because the female correctional officers (I’m not sure if it was just at this specific prison or in general) came together and asked that such things be banned as they believed it was degrading to them as women.

    I am completely against the current Prison Industrial Complex, as it is presently used to make a profit and to socially stratify huge groups of people, thus causing me to take slight offense to the ideas about “punishment” and “deprivation” expressed in this section because such a mindstate simply co-signs a brutally racist and classist justice system.

    However, I am intrigued and open-minded to the notion that female correctional officers find it as a tool that may be used to degrade them.

    • Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      As a lawyer and a feminist, I’d have to do a lot more thinking to nail down a precise opinion on the larger issue here.

      But as a correctional caseworker who works in a prison housing unit, I can attest to the fact that porn (or “fuckbooks,” as the inmates refer to it) is definitely used directly and explicitly as a tool of degradation against me. It is not uncommon for an inmate to draw crass comparisons, knowingly within earshot, between a woman featured in a porno mag and what they imagine my body (“pussy,” to be precise) looks like. Inmates have purposely covered their walls with photos from porn magazines featuring redheaded women (like me), knowing that I am going to search their cell, and shared laughs and insulting comments while I am so engaged. So on and so forth.

      Some such behavior is against the rules of conduct for prisoners at the facility where I work, and my male bosses have backed me up in the handful of instances I have reported by imposing insitutional discipline (i.e. extra duty or a couple of days of room restriction). But so much of what happens is subtle, or done anonymously (by yelling from within the cell when all the inmates are “locked down,” such that I can’t be certain who said it), or just so dishearteningly common that if I consistently documented and reported such behavior, it would engulf a huge amount of my time. To be frank, I also worry that “making an issue out of it” every time would just make it more pervasive, as it would reveal a sensitivity that may be best left unrevealed in the staff-inmate interactive context, given my fiscal reality of needing to keep this job until I find something better.

  10. Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    So porn is wrong but prisioners having access to porn is right? How does that work?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Who said porn was wrong? Certainly not feminists.

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        See Bela’s comment below before you speak for all feminists.

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Well, technically some have. But at the same time, many others have not.

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Err… we haven’t been reading the same websites!

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      Yes, most feminists had and have a strong anti-porn sentiment. Just think Alice Schwarzer.

  11. Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I am more uncomfortable with the state censoring information to prisoners then I am with them having porn. It’s a slippery slope argument, yes, but if the precedent is state officials can say what media prisoners have access too, what else can be censored? What if the prison says the only acceptable news if Fox and the only acceptable music is gospel, or the only acceptable reading material is the bible? As much as some people find porn objectionable, it’s still legally produced media. I’m not a fan of the state censoring media to anyone for any reason.

  12. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    I find it very troubling that we are willing to argue against the use of porn by prisoners on the grounds that one gives up certain civil rights when in prison, or that people who did bad things to other people deserve to lose their rights, and it serves them right in the first place!

    These are all arguments that function to support any number of abuses within the prison system. Want to take away prisoners’ books? Well, they gave up that right by committing crimes. Want to make prisoners all get the same haircut? Well, they’re being punished in prison, aren’t they?

    What we need to interrogate here is the following question: “what do we as a society gain from making the effort needed to remove porn from prisons?” We already know that making prisoners unpleasant places to be DOES NOT make prisoners lead straight and narrow lives afterward. If anything, it does the opposite. There is also no solid evidence that removing porn would reduce violence (see Mary Elizabeth Williams’ article on Slate.com). So what benefit is there for us as a society? If we are going to go to the trouble of removing this ubiquitous form of contraband from prisons, we need to answer that question.

    I also particularly resent the notion that by taking away porn, we are preventing “murderers and pedophiles” from getting off. Come on! This line of argument is buying the ethos of the prison industrial complex hook, line and sinker. Hell, haven’t you smoked pot before? There, but for the grace of God and White privilege, go I.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention most pedophiles wouldn’t be getting off on mainstream porn anyways… (Like, hello? Remember the definition of the fun word?)

  13. Posted July 7, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    I think to answer this question we need to answer the question “what is the purpose of judicial punishment”, a question that is not often carefully and thoughtfully addressed by U.S. citizens.

    There are, as I understand it, three four and competing theories about why we have judicial punishment:

    1) Isolating. We put convicted criminals in prison because, while located there, they are physically unable to commit further crimes against non-criminal members of the public. If this is our purpose, then presumably there is no reason to deny prisoners access to pornography.

    2) Rehabilitative. We put convicted criminals in prison in order to have a process they travel through to become non-criminal citizens. Our system seems set up very poorly to achieve this goal, but if this is our intention, again there seems to be no reason to deny prisoners access to pornography.

    3) Deterrent. We put convicted criminals in prison so that citizens who are not yet criminals will avoid committing crimes so that they will not be punished, and the harsher the punishment the stronger the deterring effect. We could definitely deny prisoners access to pornography under this theory in order to make their lives worse. This theory has the unfortunate downside that it does not appear to be factually correct; increased punishment does not appear, scientifically, to have any measurable deterring effect.

    4) Retribution. We put convicted criminals in prison because, after they have made others’ lives worse, we want to make their lives worse in turn out of a desire for revenge. This certainly justifies denying prisoners access to pornography, along with any other thing that might make their lives happier (education, reading materials, freedom from corporal punishment, etc.).

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure 4) is actually true at all, and your argument around is extremely dangerous, as others above have shown.

      I think you need to re-evaluate it. Besides if we take this too far how is 2) going to be possible?

      • Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        It’s not an argument for any of the four theories per se but an outline of the different theories. His premise is that the US as a society needs to decide which theory(ies) we are subscribing to before deciding on issues related to prison.

        My view is a combination of 1&2 so I don’t see a problem with prisoners having porn unless, as a poster above noted, they use it to harass female prison officials. In that case, perhaps a temporary ban could be imposed.

  14. Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    prisoners are already already to read other books, work out , watch tv etc.

    this seems to be more about the prison/government being anti-sex then it is about depriving prisoners (even though, essentially that is what they are doing)

    i’m sure there are prison all across the country that allow their prisoners to have varying degrees of privileges but if you going to allow prisoners to read books and watch tv and do other recreational activities then i dont see why you want to be anti-porn but okay to everything else

    this reminds me of the supreme court case about violent video games saying, kids should be allowed to by violent video games, but anything about sex can be legally prohibited

  15. Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    It’s very important to remember that there is a difference between pornography and erotica–the latter of which is respective of both parties (or however many multiple parties are) involved. Erotica should be allowed in prisons, pornography should not be. Pornography is extremely debasing to women and would not help the prisoners properly rehabilitate and prepare to rejoin society. In fact, watching copious amounts of sexual abuse enacted on women while in an unhealthy and stressful prison environment might make the sexual behavior of the prisoners and their treatment of women worse upon their release. Erotica, which shows BOTH parties receiving pleasure in non-debasing ways, should be allowed. Anything else should be tossed away like a feminist would toss away patriarchy. Word.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      This is a silly argument, framed as though there was a simple, quantifiable, a not b distinction between what is “debasing to women” and what is not. How would you go about putting magazines/pictures/writing/videos whatever in category a or b? And on what legal grounds would you restrict the one and not the other. Your comment also seems to assume that there is a simple relationship between exposure to ostensibly degrading porn and subsequent treatment of women. No such simple if/then relationship has ever been demonstrated.

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        … and should gay pornography be allowed? It doesn’t degrade women. We would logically arrive at a situation where heterosexuls will not be allowed porn, buts gays would.

        A lawyer’s wet dream! (Sorry about that.

  16. Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Hmm, when I said Books Behind Bars was a good idea I hadn’t considered this angle! My gut feeling is that I don’t like the idea of adult magazines being denied to prisoners, at the very least they are a means to a bit of release in what is an extremely tense situation. But Krista also makes a good point–there should be some mechanism in place to insure they don’t use personal material like this to make female correctional officers feel harassed or degraded on the job. Would this be an issue if the inmate should happen to request gay porn? It could open up a whole other lawsuit if material for one orientation were allowed but not the other.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      There’s a simple way to make sure CO’s aren’t harassed. Treat the prisoners with respect, and sanction those who harass the CO’s. I’d even go so far as to promote a communal responsibility ethic: If harassing catcalls happen such that the prisoner responsible cannot be identified, then the TV stays off for a day.

  17. Posted July 8, 2011 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    I think Richards probably shouldn’t have committed armed robbery because he wouldn’t have to even argue about this in the first place. Funny how being in prison sucks.

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      “Funny how being in prison sucks.”

      Funny how our recidivism rates suck, too.

  18. Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I think saying ” a sexually satisfied prisoner would probably be more well-behaved in prison than a sexually frustrated one.” suggests that male aggression and sexuality is linked, and aren’t we beyond this already? I think its misandrist to assume a man will become more aggressive if he can’t have access to porn. A prisoner has far more better reasons to act out than whether he was able to jack off the night before or not. Aggression is about power, not sex, isn’t it?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      This makes no sense.

      I sure as heck get very agitated and aggressive if I haven’t gotten off in awhile. Anyone with a reasonable sex drive does. So I don’t get what you mean.

  19. Posted July 8, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Should an incarcerated rapist be allowed to access porn; porn that reinforces their attitudes towards women as objects that exist for their pleasure? What about porn that portrays young girls (that are hopefully 18+) but look like they’re 12? What about violent porn? I believe there are some types of porn that are negative for women as a whole and I also believe there are some types of porn that can be empowering and portray equality. But who gets to decide that in the prison system? Should certain inmates, such as rapists, batterers and child molestors, not be allowed that “privilege” and would that cause violence in the prisons? And should there be regulations on porn in prison or should inmates be permitted to use porn that portrays women who look dead or roleplaying rape?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      As a person who knows many fetishists and paraphilics, I’ve learned that teaching people to use pornography and fantasy as a part of therapy can be essential to teaching them the difference between their urges and healthy relationships. Most paraphilics I know specifically use role-played porn so they don’t have an urge to do those things in real life. I do think it’s reasonable to restrict porn where the fantasy isn’t obviously fantasy, though.

      • Posted July 15, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        The cathartic argument in relation to porn has been shown again and again and again to be false through hundreds of studies. Viewing porn, especially violent porn has been conclusively shown to increase aggression, increase the likelihood a man will say he would rape someone, and decrease empathy for rape victims.

        Try looking up Donnerstein, Zillman, Bryant, Malamuth, or Violato.

  20. Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I hope that everyone understands, when I used the term “get off” I meant sexually, not in the judicial sense…..

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I understand. Again, though, my question: with rape at epidemic levels in prisons, why shouldn’t we be helping prisoners “get off” safely?

      I mean, it seems great to just say “no pron, they’re prisoners”, but if the function of this increases levels of rape then it’s not a good thing, right?

      • Posted July 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Davenj,

        Your rational and well ordered mind is letting you down here.

        That argument is lightweight, and cuts both ways. If a prisoner says ‘if I don’t have a woman in my bed every night, I’ll rape my cellmate’ what do you do? There are times when enforcing ‘the law’ has to be done, even if the shortterm consequence is increased cost, inconveniece, or more.

        In other posts, you counselled against locking up alleged rapists. Bravo. You are right. May I extrapolate? ‘… even if it means that a rapist is free to roam the streets.’

        • Posted July 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          Smiley, you might be guilty of your “mind letting you down,” too. Davenj has consistently argued that alleged rapists should be tried with the same burden of proof as any other criminal (i.e. innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt). Are you really disagreeing with this? Do you really think an allegation against a man is reason enough to lock him up? It is not clear what you are even talking about with your “extrapolation.”

          The question is whether or not, from a practical perspective, giving prisoners the opportunity to view porn will decrease the motivation to rape. I don’t know if it does or it doesn’t.

        • Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:20 am | Permalink

          “That argument is lightweight, and cuts both ways. If a prisoner says ‘if I don’t have a woman in my bed every night, I’ll rape my cellmate’ what do you do? There are times when enforcing ‘the law’ has to be done, even if the shortterm consequence is increased cost, inconveniece, or more.”

          This is nonsensical. There’s a difference between providing reading material and a human being to a prisoner. Pornography amounts to a realm of materials that can include books, magazines, movies, and a whole host of other things. Their existence, unlike locking someone up with a prisoner against their will, is legal.

          I’m not sure what the extrapolation is there for, either.

          This is an issue of policy. If helping individuals attain sexual satisfaction on their own with pornography is an option, and rape exists at epidemic levels in prison, it appears counter-productive to ban pornography in prisons.

          • Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

            Davenj and Matthew,

            Maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

            I have no problem with the burden of proof. My only quibble is with the argument that we should allow certain behaviour if the alternative is worse. I think Davenj is arguing that if porn reduces rapes in prison then let’s allow porn.

            I am unhappy with that argument. Because it means that the end justifies the means: we want to reduce rqpe therefore allow porn.

            (And this is where the extrapolation comes on.)

            I am pretty certain that if someone said: if locking up all alleged rapists reduces rapes, then let’s lock up all alleged rapists, then Davenj would disagree. (So would I.)

            I was only trying to point out that we should not automatically buy someone’s argument ‘give me porn or I’ll rape someone’. We could say: we won’t allow either.

          • Posted July 11, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink

            I am not arguing that. I am arguing that porn is legal material with insufficient scientific evidence to posit that it is dangerous on an individual level. There is also a case to be made that it can be individually beneficial, and a potential part of the solution to the gigantic problem of rape in prison.

            Even if porn did not substantially reduce the rate of rape, it ought be allowed. The potential fringe benefits are merely a greater inducement to allow prisoners to live somewhat normal lives in prison, and that includes access to a variety of legal things that aid them in rehabilitation.

            My argument is not that the ends justify the means, but rather that the “means” are in fact ends in and of themselves, but with possible fringe benefits.

  21. Posted July 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciate Lori’s posts. They tend to be thought provoking.

    I don’t think that justifying porn as a positive or negative thing is something we should be doing. It’s legal material for people to have. It’s likely that all men with access do consume porn to some extent already. It’s in no way a dangerous material. I’m sure that prisoners will be impolite to female correctional officers anyway.
    Overall though, it creeps me out when people start trying to figure out how best to control the thoughts of prisoners or start treating them like subhumans who have to have their access to material restricted. Anyone on this thread who is a resident of the US has probably broken a whole lot of laws that they were just never held accountable for. Generally people who consider themselves middle class have found ways of getting paid that pay better than crime with fewer legal risks. We’re just not that morally superior to those behind bars, yet we’re way to ready to judge whether or not they should have access to everyday things. It’s bad enough that we waste tremendous amounts of money keeping them in prison for extra long ineffective sentences, putting them in an unsafe situation for all that time, and now we’re going to look over their shoulders and police their reading material?

    • Posted July 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      It does seem naive, as you point out, to assume that without porn, prisoners won’t be able to find ways to degrade female correctional officers. As long as prisoners have access to words, their own bodily fluids, etc., a subset will find ways to degrade female COs.

    • Posted July 15, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      It’s in no way a dangerous material.

      The vast majority of scientific research would disagree with you here, strongly. Pornography has been shown to have such a profoundly negative impact on viewers that researchers are more or less banned from showing it to subjects. It is deemed unethical to expose people to harmful substances.

  22. Posted July 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I am a bit confused as to how the rights of male prisoners to have porn became a feminist issue. Are we just fighting any and all “anti-porn” policies, because we want to be “pro-sex” and not “moral crusaders”?

    I know there are women reading this (and here I thought feminism was supposed to be about *women*) who have been seriously hurt by pornography. Many women who have exited the porn industry want nothing more than to remove the photographs taken of themselves as they never know who will have seen them (Psychologists call this “realistic paranoia). If not feminists, who is going to defend their right to safety?

  23. Posted July 13, 2011 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    It’s sad that we’re still having this discussion in 2011, after all the harm that the sex trade has caused, and continues to cause, for women, children, and men. And now the products of this trade should be the “right” of incarcerated males?

    It’s also unfortunate that “sex-positive” has become a synonym for “pro-pornography,” as if the only way to be positive about sex is to advocate for the empty, exploitive, commercialized representation of sex that forms the lion’s share of consumer pornography. Notwithstanding the fact that porn destroys at least as many peoples’ sex lives as it “enhances.” Positive?

    I understand that it’s deeply unfashionable to be against the sex trade anymore, even in feminist circles. But something’s eventually got to give, especially as mainstream porn trends more and more towards the violent and the hateful, and extreme porn trends toward the murderous. Porn for prisoners? Come on. Is this really a serious moral consideration?

    I also understand that many who are inclined to high-minded academic arguments in favor of porn for prisoners enjoy the luxury of never having held a job where pornography is used to demean, intimidate, or terrorize you as a worker. Where it’s a part of your daily experience of your workplace. I can’t imagine that anyone subject to experiences like those described by Kendall, or any of the countless everyday acts of pornophied undermining and implied violence, would make a case for the idea that prisoners should be entitled to use pornography. These arguments also depend on questionable assumptions about male sexuality, and the idea that inherently degrading subject matter is somehow necessary to keep men from boiling over into actual depraved acts. From what I’ve seen and experienced, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to suggest that porn prevents rape.

    Of course prisoners should not have a “right” to consume sex-trade products. Of course convicted rapists, spouse abusers, and pedophiles shouldn’t get to gloat and jack off over spectacles of sexual degradation. You all say taking prisoners’ porn away creates a “slippery slope”. But what about the “slippery slope” created by ratifying their “right” to consume sex-trade products? Should they then be allowed to summon prostitutes? Hey, it’s their “civil liberties” and “quality of life” that’s at stake here.

    Segregating inmates into those who are allowed porn and those who aren’t wouldn’t work either in the underground economy of prison: that’s like having a pissing section in a pool. And relying on government bureaucrats to decide which porn is suitable for which populations is a recipe for disaster. Finally, implementing “exceptions” and “temporary bans” to accommodate female prison employees is beyond absurd: it would only make them more hated, and highlight their gender as an obstacle to their work.

    Best solution: go to jail, no sex trade for you. No one said prison life would be perfect!

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