6.2.2 Law Enforcement, Priority, and Multiple Causation

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
6

As we have discussed in Chapter 5, most of the harms that we have identified are not caused exclusively or even predominantly by pornography. In Chapter 5 we discussed this problem of multiple causation in terms of relatively abstract questions of harm. But when the phenomenon of multiple causation is applied to actual problems of laws and their enforcement, the issue gets more difficult. Even if it is the case that a certain form of sexually explicit material bears a causal relationship to harm, the question remains whether some other stimulus has an even greater causal relationship. Except peripherally, we could not be expected to delve deeply into all possible other causes of sexual violence, sex discrimination, and extreme sexual aggression. To the extent that we make recommendations about law enforcement, we make them from a presupposition that others from a larger perspective must make the ultimate determinations about allocation of scarce financial and other societal resources. This task includes not only the allocation of resources among various causes of the harms we have identified, but also involves the even more difficult question of allocating resources among these harms and others. These are difficult questions, and we do not claim that either simple formulas or easy platitudes can answer questions about, for example, apportioning money among countermeasures against poverty, racism, terrorism, and sexual violence. None of us would say that any of these is unimportant, but we recognize that in a world of scarce resources the long term commitment of resources to combat one evil inevitably draws resources away from those available to combat another evil. Even if one assumes that there are currently under-utilized resources that could be allocated to the harms we discuss here, such an allocation still involves a decision to allocate the currently underutilized resources to combat these harms rather than some others. We have no solutions to these intractable problems of priority in a world in which there is more to do than there are resources with which to do it. Nevertheless, we feel it important to note here that we have not ignored these problems, and we urge that everything we say be considered in light of these considerations.

Although we are sensitive to the difficulty of problems of priority, we still feel confident in concluding that, at the very least, the problems of sexual violence, sexual aggression short of actual violence, and sex discrimination are serious societal problems that have traditionally received a disproportionately small allocation of societal resources. To the extent that we would be asked the question whether resources should be expended on alleviating these problems rather than dealing with others, we assert strongly that these problems have received less resources than we think desirable, and that remedying that imbalance by a possibly disproportionate allocation in the opposite direction is appropriate.

The conclusion in the previous paragraph does not address the question of priorities of approach once we have decided to treat these problems as high priority matters. With respect to priorities in dealing with the problems of sexual violence, sexual aggression not involving violence, and sex discrimination, people disagree about the optimal priority that dealing in some way with sexually violent pornography and sexually degrading pornography ought to have. But images are significant determinants of attitudes, and attitudes are significant determinants of human behavior. To the extent constitutionally permissible, dealing with the messages all around us seems an important way of dealing with the behavior. We have concluded that the images we deal with here seem to be at the least a substantial cause of the harms we have identified. But common sense leads us to go further, and to suppose that the images are a significant cause even when compared with all of the other likely causes of these same harms. To the extent that this substantial causal relationship has not been reflected in the realities of law enforcement, we have little hesitation in making recommendations about increased priority.