Nick Ut / AP file
Hustler magazine magnate Larry Flynt says there's no evidence porn is harmful.
The porn industry has an X-rated reaction to Rick Santorum’s vow to crack down on pornography if he’s elected president: Butt out.
Two giants in the industry contacted by msnbc.com scoff at the Republican presidential candidate's claims that porn is causing “a pandemic of harm” in America and contributing to violence against women.
Nonsense, says Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. Absolutely no proof, says Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of Los Angeles-based Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest makers of erotic movies.
Flynt notes that a 1969 commission set up by President Lyndon Johnson spent millions of dollars studying the impact of porn and concluded there was no evidence such materials were harmful.
“You have guys like Santorum come along and they bring out the bogeyman every chance they get,” Flynt said. "You will be hard-pressed to find anyone that can point out to you a study that shows harm is caused to anyone exposed to porn materials."
“I find it ironic that Republicans (like Santorum) are out there wanting less government and government intruding into our lives, but when it comes to moral issues they want government to legislate morality," says Hirsch. "It doesn’t work. It will never work.”
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who is trying to woo social conservatives, says on his presidential campaign website that if elected he will hire an attorney general who will “vigorously” enforce federal obscenity laws curtailing distribution of hardcore porn.
He also says that studies have shown porn causes brain changes in adults and children, and that every family should be concerned about its harmful effects.
The little-discussed position paper made the Internet rounds after The Daily Caller published a column this week calling attention to it.
Though Santorum rattles off a list of social harms that he says is caused by porn, he doesn’t specifically call for a ban on all porn in his website statement. Instead, he says, he’s most concerned about exposure to “hardcore” porn.
“While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration,” he writes.
Hirsch says a crackdown by the attorney general won’t work.
“We’ve seen that before. John Ashcroft was that guy. Edwin Meese was that guy. They can prosecute but ultimately it’s juries that decide what is and isn’t obscene,” Hirsch says. “Over last 20 years there have been very, very few obscenity convictions.”
Hirsch suggests making a deal with Santorum: “We will stay out of his church, and he will stay out of our bedrooms."
Santorum says he backs the efforts of the War on Illegal Pornography coalition, which is lobbying Congress, 2012 political candidates and the government to crack down on what it describes as "the growing amount of hardcore pornography available in America."
Santorum isn’t the first presidential candidate to vow to target porn.
Former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann went further than Santorum. She signed a pledge vowing to support a constitutional amendment to ban all pornography and same-sex marriage.
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