New Legislation Aims to Protect U.S. Troops from Soft Porn

New Legislation Aims to Protect U.S. Troops from Soft Porn

ImageWith the U.S. armed forces stretched to their limits fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the debate in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the funding of these operations has stalled. Although the Democrats took control of the House in January 2007, efforts to cut off funding remain mired in intra-party disagreements. Meanwhile, one Republican Congressman has introduced legislation of grave importance to our troops deployed overseas – if passed, the “Military Honor and Decency Act” will ban the sale of Playboy and Penthouse on military bases.

It’s currently illegal under the 1997 Defense Authorization Act to sell “sexually explicit” material on military bases. Magazines like Playboy and Penthouse have thus far been permitted because they contain substantial non-sexual content. Intent on closing this so-called loophole, Rep. Paul C. Broun (R-GA) announced his bill in this April 17 press release:

“As a Marine, I am deeply concerned for the welfare of our troops and their mission,” said Broun. “Allowing the sale of pornography on military bases has harmed military men and women by: escalating the number of violent, sexual crimes; feeding a base addiction; eroding the family as the primary building block of society; and denigrating the moral standing of our troops both here and abroad. Our troops should not see their honor sullied so that the moguls behind magazines like Playboy and Penthouse can profit. The ‘Military Honor and Decency Act’ will right a bureaucratic–and moral–wrong.”

Broun is a medical doctor by profession, serving his first term in the House after being elected in a district where the previous Congressman died. One would be hard-pressed to question a former Marine’s dedication to the welfare of the troops, but Broun’s claim that pornography is responsible for sexual violence is highly dubious. Living in 2008, most Americans have had easy access to internet pornography for about a decade. There is no evidence of a correlating increase in sex crimes over that period. Even noted feminist Naomi Wolf has observed that widely-available porn has not transformed men into sexual predators – if anything, it’s turned off men’s interest in real, live women.

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But judging from Rep. Broun’s official congressional web site, he’s not so much interested in the welfare of the troops as he is in enforcing morality. Broun proclaims to have a four-point test that he applies to any legislation that comes before him: 1) Is it Moral/Right? 2) Is it Constitutional? 3) Is it Necessary? 4) Is it Affordable? Broun is certainly entitled to establish any criteria he chooses for voting on a bill, but it doesn’t inspire confidence that the constitutionality of proposed legislation isn’t his primary concern.

According to Newsweek, Broun drafted the “Military Honor and Decency Act” after receiving a complaint from a constituent who saw an officer buying a dirty magazine at a military exchange store in front of her children. Moved by this woman’s anguish, Broun immediately set about ensuring no child would ever again be subjected to this horrible vision – an adult man in uniform purchasing a magazine featuring photos of women without uniforms.

Broun’s spokesman, John Kennedy, tried to spin the bill as a matter of concern over taxpayer dollars, which are “used to pay military salaries, so taxpayer money is, in effect, being used to buy these materials.” Taxpayer dollars are frequently disbursed to private citizens in the form of unemployment benefits, disaster assistance, and student loans. If Broun truly intends to regulate individual expenditures of such funds, he’s going to have his hands full.

The main issue is whether or not U.S. troops, including those deployed overseas, should be able to purchase nudie mags on base with their own money. Obviously, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are basically celibate – their spouses aren’t deployed with them in war zones, and their dating options are severely limited. It’s worth noting that Broun, like most Republicans, is a reliable supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and believes we need to complete both missions. In other words, Broun is willing to continue funding two controversial wars, but he draws the line at allowing soldiers to buy soft porn magazines. That’s a very peculiar theory of fiscal conservatism.

But is it moral/right? According to Broun it is, and that’s the most important thing.

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