To be filed under “duh”
I saw this one a while back and never got around to posting it. Christianity today writes up a blog post on a study by Mark Regnerus, suggesting that “Porn Predicts Same-Sex Marriage Support”. As they quote Regnerus from another article he posted:
But of the men who view pornographic material “every day or almost every day,” 54 percent “strongly agreed” that gay and lesbian marriage should be legal, compared with around 13 percent of those whose porn-use patterns were either monthly or less often than that. Statistical tests confirmed that porn use is a (very) significant predictor of men’s support for same-sex marriage, even after controlling for other obvious factors that might influence one’s perspective, such as political affiliation, religiosity, marital status, age, education, and sexual orientation.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t this seem to belong in the category we might label “duh”? Or, in other words, shouldn’t we expect that people who have no problem defying Biblical morality in one area would be more likely to defy it in others? Regnerus wants to have it both ways:
“Of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, and I’m not suggesting causation here,” wrote Regnerus. “But I’m also pretty confident the “causal arrow” wouldn’t run in the other direction.”
Of course, that’s just a convenient way of saying, “I know correlation doesn’t imply causality, but in this case I’m strongly suggesting it does.”
That’s a bad move in two ways. First, it’s just not good science. If Regnerus wants to come at this as a sociologist, then he needs to do his sociology well. Noting a correlation is one thing; unless he has some evidence, he should stick to the correlation. Second, it’s theologically shortsighted in precisely the way I highlighted above. By and large, anyone who’s a regular consumer of pornography on that level fits into one of two categories: the guilty Christian who is wrestling with his conscience, and the people (Christian and not) whose consciences are seared and have given themselves over to the sin, excusing it or simply calling it good.
Especially for those among this latter category – the people who call pornography good – there is little reason to see homosexuality as bad. They have clearly detached themselves from a Biblical account of virtue (or, for that matter Jewish or Islamic views of virtue). Secular humanism in a post-feminist era has no grounds for distinguishing between sorts of sexual pleasures. Homosexuality, orgies, non-monogamous heterosexuality, and marital sexuality are all of a piece in this framework – mutual consent is generally the only sacred boundary here.
It is therefore unsurprising that regular viewing of pornography and support for homosexual marriage would correlate. Most likely, you could track almost any indicator of a person’s entanglement with late modern views of sexuality and find them to correlate with their views on homosexual marriage. Pornography consumption is vile and debasing and degrading; it certainly contributes to our culture’s confusion on sexual mores. More than that, however, it is a marker: it signals where the culture is. Of course it tracks with cultural views on homosexuality; both are indicators of the extent to which American society has embraced sexual libertinism.
Wrapping up, then: the correlation Regnerus identifies is unsurprising, and the conclusions he draws from it are likely inaccurate. Watching porn isn’t making people support homosexual marriage, any more than the opposite would be true. Embracing unbiblical approaches to sexual ethics is the cause of both.
Christians need to think more carefully about these issues. We need to be particularly wise about the “science” we embrace and to think through the arguments people on “our side” are using. We need to avoid fallacious arguments; if our faith is true then we need not try to buttress it with spurious data and bad science. (Even a little careful thought will show such an approach to be counterproductive in any case.) Good science and well-researched data will serve much better.
Most important of all, of course, is that we come at this from a different angle entirely. As I’ve written before, part of our problem is our capitulation to the terms secular humanism has set for the discussion. We need to approach the questions of sexuality from the perspective of Christ’s supremacy – of the ways that he is better than all sexuality, including the good varieties we encourage and the sorts we find Scripture to condemn – rather than on the terms of utility or anthropocentric hedonism. Until we do, we’re going to lose this argument every time.