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Americans Are Rapidly Warming Up to Porn, a New Gallup Poll Shows. Here's Why.

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According to a new Gallup poll, 43 percent of Americans now see pornography as "morally acceptable."

This is a 7-point increase from the previous year and a 13-point increase since 2011, the year Gallup first began measuring public perceptions of porn.

Gallup Poll Shows Americans Increasingly See Porn as Moral

Gallup says the change corresponds with a larger shift in morals that began in 2011 that includes greater support for (or at least a reluctance to define as “morally unacceptable”) actions such as euthanasia, gay sexual relations, premarital sex, and out-of-wedlock births.

The revelation that more Americans see porn as morally acceptable probably doesn’t surprise many people. It’s no secret that humans today—not just Americans—consume a lot of porn. Some estimates suggest that 30 percent of all content streamed on the internet is pornographic.

If you asked consumers of pornography if their behavior was “morally acceptable,” many, I suspect, would likely respond with a simple question: Who am I hurting?

The question stems from the rise of Utilitarianism, a philosophy advocated by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) that is based on the assumption that an action is right if (and only if) it results in the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

In practical terms, Utilitarianism is the prevailing philosophy for most people today, especially in terms of public policy. For example, intellectuals today are far likelier to oppose pornography on Utilitarian grounds (it’s harmful) than Aristotelian or religious ones.

Aristotle would have argued that pornography is a self-indulgence, an akratic behavior (from the word Akrasia (/?'kre?zi?/; Greek ???as?a, meaning "lacking command") that runs counter to man’s purpose and nature. The Christian likely would say porn is immoral because it separates us from God and weakens the “one-flesh” bond of marriage. Many Muslims and Jews would cite similar religious teachings as reasons to steer clear of porn.

[RELATED: 20 Porn Facts That Will Shock You]

The Utilitarian approach works pretty well as a governing philosophy for the state. If people are not directly harming one another, there should be few legitimate or compelling reasons to prohibit their behavior, many would say. Yet Unilateralism—Who am I hurting?—is a terribly weak philosophy for self-governing. Philosophers have long seen a It doesn't hurt anyone mindset as one of the primary obstacles to ethical living.

Utilitarianism is certainly not the only reason Americans increasingly see porn as morally acceptable. Moral relativism, non-judgmentalism, the ubiquity of contraception (which some predicted would reduce people to “mere instruments” of desire), and the rise of new moral codes—all play prominent roles.

What’s clear is that worldviews that once saw temperance as a virtue in harmony with man’s nature are being replaced by philosophies that tend to de-emphasize, ignore, or reject this cardinal virtue.

Today we often witness a total lack of self-control—in government and movie directors, on social media and college campuses, and perhaps in ourselves. But can we really expect to see anything but appetite in a culture that no longer believes in virtue?

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By Toglenn [CC BY-SA 3.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.

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