If the idea of sparking a movement in favor of prohibiting pornography was quixotic in these earlier eras, today it is downright ludicrous. Of course Douthat is too smart to deny the fanciful character of his proposal, which is why the whole column is written in a tone of “I know you think I’m crazy, but just hear me out for a minute.” Yet there he is, arguing that feminists appalled by the misogyny and abuse exposed by the #MeToo movement should recognize that “ubiquitous pornography [is] an obstacle” to making men behave better. Once that has been acknowledged, it’s supposedly just another step or two to the realization that we have it within our power to regulate and restrict it — for the good of women, yes, but also for the good of men, children, and the culture as a whole.
The problem with the proposal is not that we lack the power to regulate and restrict porn. Douthat is right about that: We absolutely do have the power. The problem is that Americans don’t want to regulate and restrict porn — and recognizing that fact is the first step toward acknowledging just how dramatically the culture has shifted in the years since proposals like this were regularly floated by the religious right.