The Raving Theist

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Of Conservatives and Kumquats

March 3, 2009 | 32 Comments

Is the consumption of kumquats politically driven? There’s really no way of knowing whether it’s a “red” or “blue” thing. Statistically speaking, the variation in consumption from state to state is insignficant: just 0.2% of households ate them in the lowest-consuming state and just 0.5% did in the highest consuming state. So even though it turns out that many of the biggest kumquat-eating states are technically “red” — Utah being No.1 — consumption in those states isn’t much different than in the “blue” ones.

More importantly, there are no statistics on the political leanings of the particular individuals who actually eat kumquats within each state. Thus, while Utah is 63% “red,” the 0.5% of households that ate kumquats in that state could be completely contained within the 37% “blue” population. So no scientifically-minded person would conclude from this data that “conservatives and are the biggest consumers of kumquats.”

In fact, the data cited above relates to online pornography rather than kumquats. Yet based upon it, ABC News in promoting story entitled Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers. Its source is a study by Benjamin Edelman of the Harvard Business School, who pompously concludes that “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by.”

Get Religion and Newsbusters have good take-downs of this Harvard/ABC nonsense. However, if you prefer an uncritical regurgitation of the story, go to the American Atheists blog, Professor PZ Myers of Pharyngula, Think Atheist, God is for Suckers, Luke the Atheist or skeptic Ed Brayton.

Comments

32 Responses to “Of Conservatives and Kumquats”

  1. Christina
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 7:57 am

    The most rational explanation is that conservative states have a low availability of meatspace outlets for aberrant sexuality — fewer “adult” shops, fewer brothels, fewer strip clubs, fewer meatspace outlets of pornography — and thus the perverts in those states must turn to the internet in higher numbers in order to obtain their wanted smut.

  2. Christina
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 8:00 am

    Oh — and how come they never did a study comparing the number of abortionists who turn out to be perverts with the number of doctors associated with CPCs who turn out to be perverts? I’ve never heard a single story of a woman getting molested or raped at a CPC — and you can bet the MSM would be all over it — yet we’re regularly treated to such stories taking place in abortion mills.

  3. Michael Drake
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 9:44 am

    “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by.”

    Granting there are problems with the study, I find it pretty strange that you would pick out this almost trivially true remark for special opprobrium. Were we really supposed to believe (even ex ante) that there are absolutely no “antiporn” consumers of porn in the entire United States?

  4. Joanne
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    “Were we really supposed to believe (even ex ante) that there are absolutely no “antiporn” consumers of porn in the entire United States?”

    Undoubtedly there are. That assertion however (despite that the author does write “some”) makes it sound as though this type of hypocrisy is the norm. And it’s one of the first lines in the article, where people are probably more likely to read and remember it.

    I think of the southern states as being more “religious” (however one defines that word) than the northeast, where I live, but I have noticed that strip clubs seem to be more a part of the landscape in the south, unfortunately for southerners. There are probably many things that factor into that, and besides, who’s to say that it’s those who claim to be religious that are patronizing the places?

    I have been really happy to see that the women who do outreaches to dancers and those who run nonprofits that help women transition out of stripping and prostitution pretty much all tend to be religious. That doesn’t scientifically prove anything either vis-a-vis religion and porn, but it is good to know.

  5. Lily
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    Apparently, a lot of men struggle with an attraction to pornography. I have a young friend who has confided in me about his own problems in this area. He hates that he feels so drawn to it and really has to do battle to stay away from it. It seems to cross all boundaries of class, education, religious or non-religious affiliation.

    It isn’t terribly hard for me to understand why that might be, since our sex drive is hard-wired and very powerful. I don’t consider it hypocrisy for such people to condemn pornography anymore than I consider it hypocrisy for an alcoholic to warn others of the dangers of drinking.

    As far as the south is concerned, I don’t know. I have lived in Alabama now for 5 years. I haven’t seen lots of strip club or adult bookstores, at least not in numbers that make me think they exceed what I saw in my years in New England. However, there are a whole lot of loosely affiliated “Christian-lite” types here. I see a lot of religiosity that I don’t think is completely religious but, rather, cultural.

    My parish priest once made a joke about all Alabamians being Baptists, even the Catholics. What he meant is that the culture is so permeated with a certain outlook and a certain form of expression that it touches every one. So it may be that to outsiders, southerners look really, really religious while some subset merely express themselves in ways that mislead outsiders.

  6. Gary Keith Chesterton
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    Apparently, a lot of men struggle with an attraction to pornography.

    That’s putting it mildly. The problem is simple: we are absolutely awash in a sea of pornography, and I don’t even have to define it broadly. Often it feels like a fog or mist in the air, that I breathe in even if I don’t want to.

    Not only am I constantly bombarded with racy billboards, racy TV shows, racy this and that (not to mention the most depraved pornography you can imagine only a few clicks away if I want it), but I also have to endure the constant bombardment of messages that this is “okay,” “normal,” etc. It’s a real burden sometimes.

  7. Lily
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    I hear you. It is hard to stay clean when one is forced to bathe in a sewer. We live in a promiscuous age and it is hardly surprising that it makes things very difficult for a great many of us.

  8. Joanne
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

    “haven’t seen lots of strip club or adult bookstores, at least not in numbers that make me think they exceed what I saw in my years in New England.”

    That’s good to know, Lily! My view is probably skewed, since part of the reason I went to the south (Lexington KY) a few years ago was to help a former dancer who now does a weekly meal delivery to some of the clubs in her area! The “dancer ministries” that I’m aware of also tend to be in the south – Atlanta, Memphis, and Florida (as well as the Los Angeles area). There aren’t any that I know of in the Northeast…(yet?) Seems like a nonprofit that assists women transition out of the sex industry would have some customers in, for example, the Providence area.

  9. Bill B (AKA Theocoid)
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    I’m wonder just how they managed to “discern” that conservatives were the ones making those credit-card purchases.

  10. Martin T.
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    “Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by.”

    I believe Wikipedia calls this sort of statement “weaslewords”. Who can possibly disagree with, “Some people are hypocrites”.

    “Some atheists who are most outraged by religion secretly pray when frightened”.

    “Some police who are most outraged by speeders turn out to be speeders themselves”.

    In Maryland lately an offical in charge of pursueing DUI’s was caught, you guessed it, DUI.

    This is a non-story in search of a target.

  11. Joanne
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

    Lily, are you in the Birmingham area? Just wondering if you are affiliated in some way with EWTN…

    Take care :)

  12. Pikemann Urge
    March 4th, 2009 @ 12:55 am

    Lily #5: “I don’t consider it hypocrisy for such people to condemn pornography anymore than I consider it hypocrisy for an alcoholic to warn others of the dangers of drinking.”

    If that’s all it was then nobody would be calling anyone else a hypocrite. Jesus sure did and no atheist could deny that Jesus was right.

    But it isn’t merely concerned people giving out warnings. It’s obviously more than that.

    Besides, PZ Myers stated the obvious disclaimer:

    “So Republican states gobbled up more nekkid pitchers than Democratic states… but of course, one could argue that it was just the few Democrats in Utah who were slavering most obsessively over porn”

    But the patterns seem strong. The New Scientist article he quoted from:

    “Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election”

    Keep in mind the variations were not large.

    I learned nothing new, though. The point is that if you repress something that is good and natural (e.g. sex) it will definitely turn into a problem.

  13. Lily
    March 4th, 2009 @ 7:46 am

    Joanne: I am in Montgomery. Birmingham (a really beautiful city) is a mere 2 hours away, unless it is rush hour (there) and then it is more. Much more.

    Pikeman: I believe RT and the others have adequately pointed out that the “study” was ridiculous. Beyond that, nobody is repressing sex, unfortunately. This is the most sex-saturated society in human history. No, the best some of us can hope for is to try to keep children from starting or to stop before they are diseased and jaded– by the end of high school. Honestly, anyone who thinks we are repressing anything hasn’t been paying attention. Sex is natural but it is not good, except in appropriate circumstances.

  14. Joe Bruce
    March 4th, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    This whole thing is a way for liberals to obscure the issue.

    Let’s assume (i tend not to believe it but let’s assume) that conservatives DO consume more porn than liberals. It’s still the right thing to do to oppose porn. Liberals assume conservatives oppose porn because we think we’re better than they are. That’s not why – but that’s the only thing they hear when you say porn is bad.

    Porn is bad for us – it serves no good end. People who think it serves as a “release” don’t understand porn’s effect – porn only makes people hornier and perpetuates a warped addiction to unreal imaginary sexual fantasies. Not only is it warped but it warps you if you immerse yourself in it. But people who are immersed in it simply cannot perceive this – they think they are seeing reality as it really is.

    That’s why we shouldn’t have expectations that are too high of atheists/liberals. When they start out with the irrational assumption that there is no God, they are bound to misperceive other aspects of reality as well.

    We need to continue to win rational arguments with them, but also realize that this alone will never bring them to an appreciation of reality. We need to also continually confidently assert that certain things are true fundamentally because God is real and He has made them so. If they can grasp that it’s not a matter of US being better than THEM, but a matter of HIM being infinitely better than all of US, then they may begin to see the light.

  15. Joanne
    March 4th, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    “porn…perpetuates a warped addiction to unreal imaginary sexual fantasies”

    Not trying to challenge you, just asking a sincere question (I know sometimes the vein in which we make a remark or ask a question doesn’t come through on message boards!) But my question is: Is porn really addictive? Don’t alot of people consume porn and not become addicted? I’ve never been a big defender of porn, and I truly detest it now that I know more about the backgrounds of many girls and women who appear in it, and realize that those most enriched financially by it are predators, but to be honest, I’ve never been quite sold on the idea that it is addictive.

    And I guess more to the point, it seems to me that porn’s “addictive” qualities, if they actually exist, are not what makes porn intrinsically wrong…

  16. Lily
    March 4th, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    Joanne:
    I don’t imagine that we can apply the medical definition of “addiction” to pornography. I am speaking strictly as a layperson with absolutely no expertise of any sort, as I take a stab at your question.

    We speak of addiction as a shorthand for habits that have their origin in our wills. So I am addicted to “salt”, i.e. I love pretzels (not the abominations made of oats with no salt.) We speak of addiction to the internet and to gambling, sports, etc. I think pornography falls into this category of “addiction”.

    I don’t think, however, that it is harmless. Anytime we become dependent on anything, even things that are in themselves neutral, to fill some need that should be satisfied differently, we create problems for ourselves. In the case of pornography, as you noted earlier (I think), it is scarcely harmless. It exploits women and children. I am sure, I suppose, that some women participate willingly, but I doubt it can be very many.

    At the same time, like alcohol abuse or like food abuse, the consuming of it can alter our ability to relate to people in the way we should, just as abuse of food or drink impairs our ability to eat and drink moderately, even when we know we should.

    Beyond saying that, I don’t think I want to make any further comments because I really am speaking from a distance– it isn’t a problem that touches me. I also suspect that women and men react to it in completely different ways. In fact, I remember when Playgirl was first published (the first issue made Burt Reynolds a star because he posed nude for it). It also didn’t last long, while Playboy continues down to the present day. My recollection is that we girls (at the time) laughed our heads off but didn’t really find it interesting or compelling. But now I am really going out on a limb and I think I better not!

  17. Melissa
    March 4th, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    Don’t worry, “It’s Perfectly Normal”. Right Planned Parenthood?? :P

    I’m currently reading “Wild at Heart.” It’s a book that every man should read (and women if they want to understand the men in their lives better). It even touches on this issue. It’s based on the three things that is a part of every man: A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. The author describes how porn can enable a guy to feel like a man without actually requiring anything of him.

  18. Joanne
    March 4th, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

    Hi, Lily:

    Thanks for your response! I guess I react to the word, “addiction,” when used re: porn, because it just doesn’t strike me as a true addiction in the sense that cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or even gambling are. (I don’t know, COULD there be people out there who have lost jobs and families because they can’t stop looking at porn or hanging out in strip clubs? Probably, but they certainly don’t constitute any critical mass of people as far as I know. Most American adults have probably seen some porn in their lifetimes without it turning into an unbreakable habit.) And tactically, for those of us who are prolife, profamily, etc and therefore object to porn, I don’t see how we strengthen our case by saying things that are kind of easily dismissed, ie, “porn is addictive.”

    As far as I understand about the girls/women who populate the sex industry, most have a history of sexual abuse. People say, “Well, no one is holding a gun to their heads to be involved in it.” (I know YOU are not saying that!) True, but the threat of physical violence is not the only kind of duress we can be under. I have started to think about the women who do stripping/porn etc in the same way I think about all the girls who get pregnant at 14, 15, 16 yr old – the neglect/inappropriate attention/violence that they got from the adult males in their lives as children results in a *pathological* emotional need for male affirmation. I don’t know any woman who doesn’t like being admired by men, but to take your clothes off to get male approval demonstrates something gone really wrong. And many girls/women in the industry are single mothers, so financial duress plays a role, too. I have a friend who is now a priest and as he said, “No one enters freely into it,” “it” being the sex industry.

    Other than all that, though, I have no strong feelings on this issue ;)

  19. Gary Keith Chesterton
    March 4th, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    Joanne @ 15:
    Is porn really addictive?

    Yes.

  20. Lily
    March 4th, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

    Thanks for your response! I guess I react to the word, “addiction,” when used re: porn, because it just doesn’t strike me as a true addiction in the sense that cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or even gambling are. (I don’t know, COULD there be people out there who have lost jobs and families because they can’t stop looking at porn or hanging out in strip clubs?

    You had me up until “gambling”. The others all have a chemical basis for addiction which is what I call the “medical” definition of addiction.

    Gambling originates in the will even if it does become compulsive. The thing is that pornography does the same thing. Its consumption can become compulsive and it can and does ruin marriages, from what little I have heard. The friend I alluded to earlier is a happily married man but he still has to exercise iron control over his will to stay away from it.

    Despite all attempts over the last two decades to paint men and women alike in their drives and their reactions and responses to sex, I think we are handicapped in our ability to understand how huge the problem is for some men because we are not, usually, attracted to it. I think most of us either find it laughable or ugly (sometimes appallingly so) or plain ridiculous.

    I could, of course, be completely wrong.

  21. Joanne
    March 4th, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

    LOL at “plain ridiculous.”

    You’re right to make that distinction re: gambling vs substances. Perhaps now *I’m* the one weakening my case…I’m willing to delete “gambling” from what I said. Thanks!

  22. Ophelia
    March 4th, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

    I tend to believe the findings. And I am religious.

    It would not surprise me if predominantly religious states were also the biggest porn consumers. The sheer ease of accessing porn online is HUGELY tempting for devout men (and even women). It’s private, it’s secret and you don’t run the risk of seeing anyone you know like when you’re at a public strip club.

    And while the findings may have been extrapolated incorrectly, it may still be true.

    Which is devastating because porn is destructive. Recent studies have shown that exposure to porn at a young age actually rewires the brain.

    This is cause for concern whether you’re religious or not.

  23. Michael Drake
    March 4th, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

    “This whole thing is a way for liberals to obscure the issue.”

    Well, that depends on what the issue is. It’s quite on point of course if the issue is whether one needs religious belief to hew to the normative standard being propounded — a claim frequently made by conservative religious folks.

  24. Pikemann Urge
    March 5th, 2009 @ 1:07 am

    Lilly #13: “nobody is repressing sex”

    We have, on the one hand, splatterings of it in the media. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. OTOH we have many, many groups, individuals and parents who do have somewhat repressive views on it.

    And I suppose we could argue forever on what ‘appropriate circumstances’ should mean!

  25. Louise
    March 5th, 2009 @ 6:49 am

    The only people who are not attracted to porn are the ones who can’t see.

    I suppose those who think porn is bad are more likely, in general, to try and avoid it, but given how “in your face” sex is these days, it’s very difficult to do so.

  26. Louise
    March 5th, 2009 @ 6:53 am

    We have, on the one hand, splatterings of it in the media. This is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    PU, are you serious? Are you talking about hard core stuff, because highly sexualised imagery has been all around us and in our faces for decades now.

  27. Joe Bruce
    March 5th, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

    Hi Joanne. Porn is a form of sex addiction. Will everyone who consumes porn become addicted? Will everyone who uses cocaine become addicted? Will everyone who gets drunk become an alcoholic? No. But do a little research and you will find that there are many many people – mostly all men – who are addicted and whose marriages and personal lives have suffered very much because of it.

    The fact (it is a fact) that it is addictive for many people is not the reason it is wrong. It is simply one of the illustrations of its destructiveness.

  28. Joanne
    March 6th, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    “The fact (it is a fact) that it is addictive”

    I just can’t say for sure this IS a fact, that’s my point. I realize that many people say it is. It’s true that lots of marriages and lives are affected by porn. I tend to think that those marriages had problems to begin with, such as a lack of emotional connectedness between the partners; the porn is not the source of disconnect, it just makes the disconnect more obvious. Thanks for your response!

  29. Skeptimal
    March 6th, 2009 @ 9:50 am

    I’d have to read the original study to see if it “fleshes out” its findings, but on the surface of it, I’d agree with RA/RT/RW(hatever he is this week). The fact that there is greater consumption of porn in Red States doesn’t provide enough information to know the religious affiliation of people who view porn.

  30. Joe Bruce
    March 6th, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

    You’re welcome Joanne – I see you’re unconvinced, but not, I hope, unconcerned. If I’m reading your post right you aren’t sure that men can become addicted to porn, and if they do, any marriage that breaks up as a result of porn addiction had other problems to begin with, meaning it wasn’t the porn that did it. I figure you must have some basis for that belief but the way I look at it, problems can either be overcome or they can lead to something even worse. I think we disagree but I sincerely hope that you continue some honest research on this non-trivial matter.

  31. Joanne
    March 7th, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

    Hi, Joe:

    That’s a good way to put it – unconvinced. I am prolife (and for me btw, it’s obvious that that has to include opposing, or at the very least, not patronizing, the sex industry), and it has long seemed to me that prolifers aren’t always the best tacticians (or strategists for that matter). I guess what I try to do is ask myself what arguments and behaviors on the part of prolifers would cause ME, if I were still not quite in the prolife camp, to rethink my beliefs on prolife issues, and if an argument fails that test, I don’t use it.

    Talking about porn addiction seems to me a bit like focusing on the negative mental health effects of abortion on women – women might have a new onset of depression or an aggravation of an existing depression after an abortion, but the mental health reprecussions of abortion, whatever they are, are not why abortion is wrong. (I should say, before someone takes exception to this analogy, that I find the idea of negative aftereffects of abortion to be far more credible than claims of porn addiction. This is not a perfect analogy, I realize.)

    “problems can either be overcome or they can lead to something even worse”

    True, but as you’re saying here, the problems already existed; they are not caused by the porn.

    And as far as I can tell, research I do into any topic is “honest.”

    Take care, Joe!

  32. нeжнaянoчь
    May 25th, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

    Решил Вам помочь и разослал ссылку на этот пост в соц. закладки. Надеюсь поднимется популярность ;)

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