March 10, 2009

Mormon porn


Over at the Gene Expression blog, Razib points to a study by Benjamin Edelman (Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School) that examines subscriptions to online adult entertainment sites on a per thousand people, per thousand home Internet users, and per thousand home broadband users basis.

Utah tops every list.

There are several more variables that Edelman hints at but doesn't consider directly. First is the "private" (or "secret") nature of online subscriptions, making them easier to hide from a spouse or parents than a magazine or DVD. In other words, morality should always be considered in the context of propriety when analyzing religious behavior.

The more Mormons in one's general vicinity, the greater the incentive for a Mormon seeking out-of-the-mainstream diversions to practice discretion. I'll bet that the only Mormons who ever bought one of those glossy sex books at the Orem Barnes & Noble were from Salt Lake City (if they ever sold any).

Equally important is the extent to which local anti-porn laws are enforced. Even though these cases rarely prevail in court, the willingness to charge brick & mortar rental outfits creates a powerful economic disincentive. Greencine, for example, won't ship porn DVDs to Utah zip codes. This increases the attractiveness of online offerings.

As James Taranto notes:

Local laws and mores make retail porn less available in conservative areas--which might also account for their greater consumption of porn online, which gives at least the illusion of privacy.

And a commenter at Gene Expression observes:

I drive through Oklahoma to Texas often and have noticed that there are no porn outfits on I-35 or I-44. This contrasts Texas where porn stores on highways are relatively common. In this study, Oklahoma has higher porn subscription than Texas.

As a general rule, squeezing the balloon in one place makes it blow up elsewhere. But from Edelman's analysis, we don't know how big the total balloon (rental + cable/satellite + periodicals + live entertainment) is. Small behavioral movements among sinners seeking legal alternatives would bias the tiny sample sizes.

To start with, I'd suggest that Edelman regress Greencine's list of restricted zip codes against his data.

The fact that the Idaho ranks near the bottom in Edelman's study confirms this. Idaho is basically Utah with fewer blue laws and polygamists (but more survivalist nutjobs waiting for the coming apocalypse). And Alaska? Hardly any Mormons there, but a big retail supply and demand problem.

However, the popular perception that Edelman is onto something might explain why Mormon church leaders are so obsessed with the subject. Though this obsession has also made online porn the current "sin of choice" among Mormons, the confession of which being used (as a moral "theory of everything") to absolve all others.

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Comments:

# posted by Blogger Joe
Silly Mormons, they don't know how to get quality FREE porn.
3/10/2009 10:20 AM
 

# posted by Blogger Joe
Less snarky; this supports my theory that people have strong practical sense of what's right and wrong and it's less conservative than what most religions preach. Most religious proscriptions are quite arbitrary--they generally rise out of a minorities dislike of something. People know this and draw their own lines. What amazes me is that people are actually pretty good at this form of self-regulation.

Porn is an interesting case since the prohibition isn't absolute--a couple can have sex and can even video themselves having sex and can watch that video.

Were the [Mormon] Word of Wisdom comparable to porn, it would be okay to grow and smoke your own tobacco and make and drink your own beer and wine.

It becomes obvious that the porn prohibition doesn't really make sense and Mormons adjust accordingly.

The structure of the church itself allows women to completely control the sex life of their marriage and in all cultures that will result in a reduction of sex and, I believe more importantly, intimacy important to males. This isn't merely theory in Mormonism--almost all discussions of intimacy in Mormon circles is about what the female wants; what the male wants is derided as perverse. In any highly structured culture, the least interested party will generally have the most control (if divorce is taboo, the spouse with the least sexual interest will control sex in a marriage.) However, in such cultures, people will find an outlet. Ironically, it will generally by more objectively perverse had the culture been not so controlling, though I think it will still be self-limiting.

This is a very long-winded way of saying; "No, duh."
3/10/2009 10:54 AM