Senator and evangelical Christian Dusty Deevers (R-Okla.) proposed a bill on Feb. 5 that would make creating or viewing pornography a felony. Oklahoma Senate Bill 1976 attempts to ban all materials portraying “sexual conduct,” including not only depictions of sexual intercourse but also “deviate” sexual acts such as sodomy and “sadomasochistic abuse.” Deever’s proposed law is an abhorrent violation of privacy and another unfortunate example of American conservatism’s oppressive nature. The proposition is emblematic of a long tradition of regressive ideals that strip individuals of their freedom of sexual expression. 

The bill’s language describing “deviate” conduct echoes centuries-old reactionary concepts of social or cultural degeneration. The theory of social degeneration claimed certain groups, such as queer people and individuals who participate in kink, were inherently predisposed to perceived immoral behaviors that degraded the overall moral character of a society. The Nazis famously persecuted gay men for their perceived sexual degeneracy, which they believed would weaken an Aryan ethnostate.

Degeneracy is an arbitrary, subjective and deeply reactionary measure of morality that condemns non-conformity and creates social stigma against already oppressed groups. The concept of degeneracy does not condemn actual harmful practices, such as rape and assault. Degeneracy is a socially constructed tool used to suppress the voices of sexual minorities by labeling them as deviant and unnatural. The concept of degeneracy is further cemented in Western thought through its entanglement with the Bible’s concept of sexual sin, which condemns non-reproductive sexual acts such as anal and oral sex. There is a strong connection between the right-wing authoritarian theory of degeneracy and the Christian idea of sexual sin. Any political thinker or lawmaker who advocates for the restriction of freedoms on the grounds of limiting degenerate or deviant sexual actions is participating in a decades-long persecution of vulnerable groups. 

Alexandre Cabanel/ Wikimedia

The fear of degeneracy and deviance ripples through American conservatism, marrying Christian ideals of sin with the long tradition of authoritarian oppression. This can be seen in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case Stanley v. Georgia, in which state police arrested Robert Stanley for the possession of pornography tapes during a house search that was unrelated to these items. Stanley was convicted of violating Georgia’s obscenity statute. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Georgia, but SCOTUS overturned it, ruling that the possession of “obscene” material is protected under First Amendment rights.

Deevers’ law flagrantly violates the First Amendment and advocates for dangerous, regressive ideas that restrict individuals’ freedoms. Though Deever’s law will most likely not pass due to this violation, I am nonetheless appalled at his attempt to manifest his personal religious beliefs into law. I see this bill as a proclamation that Deevers, and by extension, Christian conservatives, will stop at nothing to regulate social behaviors. Christian conservative lawmakers are attempting to reshape society in their subjective image of righteousness. 

Unfortunately for Deevers and his supporters, Christian doctrine should have no place in American law, as per the separation of Church and state enshrined in the First Amendment. Pornography is a form of sexual expression for many, providing a space to explore sexual fantasies, especially relating to kinks. The government should not moderate how citizens safely satisfy their sexual urges and experience pleasure. If consenting adults want to view pornography or commit “deviate” sexual acts such as sodomy and sado-masochism, it is their legal and moral right. 

While pornography should not be banned, there are nonetheless tangible side effects to the over-consumption of pornography and the lack of regulation in the porn industry. Several studies have indicated pornography is easily accessible for minors from 10 to 17 years old, and there is a possible link between sexual violence and porn consumption in teenage relationships. Additionally, many have criticized the porn industry for eroticizing violent content, the abuse adult actors face in their profession and a lack of regulations. The methods in which pornography is currently produced, distributed and viewed are undeniably flawed. However, the answer to sexual violence is not sexual repression. Stronger regulations on the production of porn and stricter moderation of internet accessibility could curb some of the negative effects. Conservatives don’t want to ban porn for practical reasons. Rather, they want to ban it on account of a deeply ideological opposition to anything considered degenerate. It is heinous for these audacious conservatives to propose impractical solutions to real problems, seizing the opportunity to enforce their ideology on the masses.

There is no room in the law for reactionary moral panic. Adults deserve to have the option to legally consume pornography as an avenue of sexual expression. It is difficult for America to be populated by morally upstanding adults when citizens are stripped of their right and ability to satisfy one of their most basic desires how they choose. 

Lawmakers must recognize the legal and moral right to degeneracy, including sodomy, the consumption of pornography and the practice of kink. Any politician lobbying for the total ban of pornography is ultimately advocating for nothing less than oppressive, totalitarian state penetration into citizens’ private lives.


Alexandra Kauffman (26C) is from Phoenix.

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Alexandra Kauffman (26C) is an English & Creative Writing major from Phoenix, Arizona. At the Wheel, she is an Emory Life section editor and Arts & Entertainment campus desk. Outside of the wheel, she is a member of Alloy Literary Magazine. She is also a science fiction enthusiast and enjoyer of the bizarre.