For Immediate Release: November 28, 2016
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - 207-358-9785

Moral Panic over Universal Porn: Free Inquiry on a 16-Year Experiment

Pornography became essentially ubiquitous around the year 2000 at the dawn of the broadband Internet era, a fact that sparked a moral panic among those who simply knew that this deluge of sinful content would upend the social order and lead to huge increases in teen pregnancies, sexual assaults, broken families, and other ill effects. Sixteen years later, Free Inquiry magazine shows that these prophecies of profligacy were cynically exaggerated, and that the consequences of “universal porn” may have even been largely beneficial.

The latest issue of Free Inquiry features fascinating extended excerpts from the new book by Dr. Marty Klein, His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic with Honest Talk About Sex. Klein, a marriage and sex therapist for over 30 years, explains how the media and public figures stoked panic over the free access to porn brought on by the wide availability of high-speed Internet connections, around the year 2000. But this anxiety was based mostly on fanciful speculation, says Klein. “There’s a lot of money and power to be gained from scaring the hell out of Americans about pornography.”

There is no longer any need for speculation, however, as the advent of ubiquitous Internet porn created a “natural experiment,” and the results of the experiment are in. “Yes,” writes Klein, “the rates of rape, divorce, suicide, and child sexual exploitation have all decreased since porn flooded America.” It turns out that a great deal of effort, attention, and resources were for many years “committed to fighting the wrong thing.”

Also in this issue: Editor Tom Flynn heralds the continuing “rise of the Nones,” noting that recent surveys show that more than four-fifths of the religiously unaffiliated are effectively nontheistic. Written before the election, Flynn ominously worries over the fact that Nones, who lean liberal, are less likely to be registered to vote than those in other religious groups, which we now know could have impacted the outcome.

Plus: World-renowned paranormal investigator Joe Nickell decries the Catholic Church’s outright rejection of science in attributing miracles to Mother Teresa; Center for Inquiry CEO Robyn Blumner reviews a disappointing legacy of church-state separation for President Obama; and Free Inquiry publishes the controversial Jordanian cartoon of Allah that Christian blogger Nahed Hattar posted to social media, which led to charges of blasphemy and his murder by a radical Islamist. “Free Inquiry has done what it did twice before when cartoons with Islamic themes led to violence and death,” writes Flynn, “publish the offending image(s) so that readers and website visitors can see them for themselves.”

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Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry in association with the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Nat Hentoff, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and will soon be home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at