site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of January 23, 2023

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

"Oi, Bruv, Can I See Your Porn Loisence"

I've made this joke a lot in relation to the serially-delayed and maybe abandoned UK age verification mandate, so it's probably worth talking about Louisiana doing it for real:

Act 440 took effect on Jan. 1 to create a cause of civil action for Louisiana parents whose children access pornographic websites that do not utilize an age verification process. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Jefferson, passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature in June with little debate and only a single nay vote — from Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans...

Last week, Schlegel took to Twitter to defend the law, which has faced criticism for restricting personal freedoms, as well as questions about legality and enforcement.

"This law had bipartisan support and passed almost unanimously in both the House & Senate with close to 50 co-authors, including Democrats and Republicans. It was not a Republican win but a win for children in Louisiana. This bill is about protecting children not limiting adults," she posted. "And thankfully, the technology today allows us to not only protect children from the dangers of online pornography but also protect the privacy of those adults who want to view this material."

Text of law here: it requires porn sites -- or at least most sites with more than 33% of their content matching the law's definition of 'harmful to minors', based around a modified Miller obscenity test -- to use 'reasonable age verification methods', or be liable for unspecified damages and court costs.

In its defense, the law does prohibit age verification companies from retaining "identifying information" (with again unspecified civil damages) after allowing access. For a variety of technical reasons such enforcement would be incredibly impractical, though: it's not clear how a person would find out, would find out who actually did it, and then show damages, without getting any complaint dismissed to early for meaningful discovery, or even with enough certainty to justify starting a lawsuit.

There's a pretty clear and wide potential for harm. Yes, yes, getting your porn tastes revealed to the general world isn't as embarrassing as it might once have been, even as the potential for Implications remains. And while I might trust the average incredibly-sketchy-porn-site or age verification company to secure my personal data that they're totally not supposed to be storing better than, say, Home Depot or EquiFax, that's kinda damning with faint praise. For someone that wants to host material -- increasingly, a necessity to speak in any meaningful sense -- this is a pretty tremendous landmine: not only do I get to wager what a Louisiana court might consider prurient or how it might do math, or what the risks of a teenager even finding my material might be, but also such fun imponderables such as "what impact might an unsuccessful lawsuit have on my job or position in the community".

It's... also not clear how this is going to work, at a pretty fundamental level. There are some deep constitutional questions regarding compelled and anonymous speech, and some annoying legalistic ones like the dormant commerce clause, and this is the sort of thing that's had SCOTUS involved before. And then there's annoying problems like grammar issues, whether the exceptions meant for exclude CDNs or avoid supremacy clause problems with CDA230 would also exclude booru or tube-style sites that do not create content, or how ads get handled period. Nevermind how much of a clusterfuck that "33%" threshold is going to be for all but the most overtly and specifically porn-focused sites: do courts have the infrastructure to handle this when even specialty sites can have millions of files in content? What happens if it changes, and how quickly does a site need to track changes? If a site decides to host a million pages of lorem ipsum or an old copy of wikipedia to pad their SFW side?

((Example: e621 has 3.3 million uploaded images, with 26% of them "Safe" and 20% "Questionable" ratings, though this goes by different definitions than what the law here would involve, or even what non-furries would necessarily define them to be. Do I want to make bets on how the law would go there? No, because the answer is 'don't get in an incredibly humiliating interstate civil suit if you can avoid it'.))

Some is just that none of the authors of the law nor the people promoting it can agree on what, exactly, the harms or scales of damages are. Peter Gheil points to Aella as the prototype of the 'who-cares' side of the progressive and libertarian perspective, and there's a lot of Culture War in that position existing, but there's a lot of positions outside of it (sfw meme). At the other end, there's people who want the extremely unsexy nudity excised from Maus, or object to Gender Queer over one comic panel out of hundreds of pages having portraying someone performing 'oral sex' on a dildo. Presumably Heinlein's later works fall somewhere in this spectrum, or outside of it.

But there's a slightly awkward situation where, in addition to the Baptist-and-Bootlegger coalitions, there's a separate compromise where this sort of law (Utah is considering a similar one, and California's regulatory apparatus might accidentally invent it by parallel means) is vague enough to marry people who simply don't want their ten-year-olds stumbling across the weirdest porn possible after typoing a web search, those who think a seventeen-year-old seeing a nipple will immediately and irrevocably twist his or her sexual orientation, the TradCaths who think showing ankles can lead someone down the path of temptation, the feminists that think showing PIV or bondage will push men to rape or domestic violence, and the feminists that think maybe sadomasochism should start in the late teens, along with every possible or plausible position in-between. Actual policy implementations are going to get a little rougher when practice comes about.

On that bootlegger side, some sites have voluntarily complied: MindGeek-related sites (such as PornHub) have begun requesting Louisiana clients to provide driver's licenses to the third-party LAWallet (which is its own weird mess). MindGeek had been an early adopter for that currently-mothballed UK version and has done some technology work on the verification side, along with being a pretty high-profile target, so it's not a huge surprise, though in turn it's far from clear how many other companies would want to work with them. Or comply at all.

In turn, though, it's hard to not think about where this might go down the road. Many of the objections to porn here generalize beyond it, even if a number of the advocates of restrictions don't (currently) want to expand them. China has recently pushed 'video game addiction' as a concept to the point of restricting gameplay hours, and a general 'social media addiction' is a pretty common political talking point (and tbf, may not even be wrong), and there's been an increasing (and tbf, not even wrong) push to talk about how the human brain doesn't really finish maturing until whatever age the immature-brained speaker wants a matter to add restrictions to.

And a tool to bring identity to a wide swath of internet activity is a pretty nice weapon to leave around waiting for someone to be tempted by it.

You raise some interesting points, but I don't know if any of them are really enough to torpedo this law. Constitutional questions are intriguing and omnipresent, but do they really apply here? It's already illegal in a lot of places to provide minors access to obscene material, and requiring ID to by a porno magazine isn't much different, constitutionally speaking, than requiring ID to view internet pornography. Dormant commerce clause doesn't really apply since sites can target Louisiana IPs. I don't know that the Ashcroft decision really applies here since that case was about a blanket ban on online pornography, not an ID requirement. Your argument about the percentages is more compelling, but even then I doubt a site could get around it; courts don't look too kindly on bad-faith attempts to get around the law through various "gotchas".

That all being said, I still agree with you that the law is stupid and inevitably doomed to failure. The reason? Practicality. One of the notable failings of the legislation is the inability to provide for statutory damages. This means that any award of damages would have to be related to the harm caused in the same way that a personal injury award is related to things like medical bills and missed work. If a woman came into my office and told me she wanted to sue XHamster because her 14 year old son saw a naked boob, I'd have no idea what to even ask for. Nominal damages? How does one quantify that? How much more would it be worth if the kid was traumatized by a rape fantasy or S&M video?

And then there's the question of proof. If the mother walks in on the kid, fine, she can testify. But what if the kid just forgot to open a private browsing session, and dad sees it in his history, and the kid admits it to him? Well, now we need the kid to testify that he was, in fact the one who accessed the website. Actually, the kid is probably going to have to testify anyway, since such testimony will probably be necessary to determine what effect this premature exposure actually had and thus what damages are warranted. I doubt many parents are going to want to subject their teenage children to being grilled by hostile attorneys about their masturbation habits in public. The law itself will probably be upheld even in the absence of an easy way of having it litigated, but does it really matter? In light of what happened in Texas, I think the LA legislature got a little too cute here. Simply having the AG enforce an ID requirement would have been relatively easy, and while there would have been a court challenge, there isn't any obvious constitutional problem. Now they've simple created a law that, by deputizing the public to enforce it, ensures that it won't be enforced.

You raise some interesting points, but I don't know if any of them are really enough to torpedo this law. Constitutional questions are intriguing and omnipresent, but do they really apply here?

That's fair, and trying to predict how courts will take First Amendment reasoning is always a little bit of a guessing game. It's possible that the justices would consider criminal penalties as implicating free speech in ways that civil penalties do not. If they do at all, though, I think Ashcroft is pretty on-point for requiring strict scrutiny and for the 'least restrictive means' testing, at least:

"Filters are less restrictive than COPA. They impose selective restrictions on speech at the receiving end, not universal restrictions at the source. Under a filtering regime, adults without children may gain access to speech they have a right to see without having to identify themselves or provide their credit card information. Even adults with children may obtain access to the same speech on the same terms simply by turning off the filter on their home computers. Above all, promoting the use of filters does not condemn as criminal any category of speech, and so the potential chilling effect is eliminated, or at least much diminished. All of these things are true, moreover, regardless of how broadly or narrowly the definitions in COPA are construed.

Filters also may well be more effective than COPA. First, a filter can prevent minors from seeing all pornography, not just pornography posted to the Web from America. The District Court noted in its factfindings that one witness estimated that 40% of harmful-to-minors content comes from overseas. Id., at 484. COPA does not prevent minors from having access to those foreign harmful materials. That alone makes it possible that filtering software might be more effective in serving Congress' goals. Effectiveness is likely to diminish even further if COPA is upheld, because the providers of the materials that would be covered by the statute simply can move their operations overseas. It is not an answer to say that COPA reaches some amount of materials that are harmful to minors; the question is whether it would reach more of them than less restrictive alternatives."

Now, that was partially a fact-based evaluation: the state did not provide and at that time could not provide evidence that criminal penalties were particularly effective compared to filtering options. But while the calculus has changed a little since -- the "family computer" is far less standard a concept today -- I don't think most of these have changed enough.

I think that's why you don't see a simple statute that could be enforced by the AG as a criminal law or regulatory matter.

This means that any award of damages would have to be related to the harm caused in the same way that a personal injury award is related to things like medical bills and missed work. If a woman came into my office and told me she wanted to sue XHamster because her 14 year old son saw a naked boob, I'd have no idea what to even ask for. Nominal damages?

I'd expect that the typical 'lawsuit' involves a parent bringing a laptop to the legal office, the lawyer's tech getting a list of every site in its history, sending a glorified shakedown letter to every business with offices in the United States but not, actually issuing service to those who don't respond, and then dismissing anyone who actually shows up to the court, which 'solves' a lot of this. A lot of the protections the adversarial system provides depend pretty heavily on being able to get a lawyer half-way across the country on short notice, and for smaller shops that probably won't be in the cards.

That said, for actual cases, I agree this is the most immediate limitation. The intended test case-for-actual-courtrooms might have some trivial-but-uncontestable damages, like where the kid used a credit card without the parent's consent, and then tries to mug as much at the jury or judge as possible on anything else, then exploit the legal fees mandate a la the Westboro approach (note that it's specifically shall for both new actions) as hard as possible. Louisiana does have odd rules for punitive damages where not specified by the statute for annoying historical reasons, though I don't know enough on it to say if it matters here.

Alternatively, the intellectual sponsors of the bill may look for the worst cases -- where a minor ends up groomed, abused, or tricked into uploading unlawful and humiliating content. Damages and fault are still a mess to estimate, especially given that a lot of the most anti-porn people will find 'ended up trans' was 'because' of porn, but revenge porn cases have sketched out a number of related test cases for simple matters, and it's far more likely to make the defendant as unsympathetic as possible.

On its own, I don't think that's unusual; there's too many statutes that allow random shakedowns. But add in a regulatory and financial infrastructure that's very vulnerable to pressure, and a lot of very valid reasons for people to be risk-averse themselves, and it can have pretty broad effects if popularized.

I doubt many parents are going to want to subject their teenage children to being grilled by hostile attorneys about their masturbation habits in public.

Unfortunately, I don't think you need a huge number. While not an exact parallel, the Americans with Disabilities Act had (and has) quite a number of people making pretty similar defenses, where a lot of hypothetical abuse would be limited because making court pleadings and testimony would often be humiliating. And for the median person, that's true! But on the tail end, you have people producing thousands of filed suits (in addition to whatever number of complaints and unfiled threats-of-suit), sometimes involving pretty humiliating avowances and courtroom testimony. Nor is it some special exception: there are multiple state laws informally named after and immortalizing (what I hope was) a 14-year-old's most humiliating day so far.

It's also unenforceable -- if there's one group that I would trust to figure out which shady sites (likely ones who are out of reach of US civil courts) aren't enforcing the ID requirement (and/or deploy VPNs to present themselves to the site as residents of a 'safe' jurisdiction), it would be porn-hungry teenage boys.

Easy to enforce if the state has the will to do it, unless you think other things (like CP bans) are also unenforceable.

Pretty much every country in the world is on board with CP bans, and there's major international infrastructure for the location and prosecution of offenders -- if regular porn were subject to the same sort of campaign, maybe -- but that is not the world in which we live.

MindGeek-related sites (such as PornHub) have begun requesting Louisiana clients to provide driver's licenses to the third-party LAWallet

When (note, I'm not saying "if") it will be hacked and leaked to darknet, a lot of people would be very surprised. I guess that'll teach them what happens when you vote for idiots.

Is this really a huge deal, though? I'm looking at my driver's license right now. It has my name, address, and date of birth, which I assume every respectable data farmer already has, and can at least already get from public records. It also has some PennDOT specific stuff on it, most notably my DL number, which they could theoretically use to get a copy of my driving record if they're willing to forge my signature and pay $11, which I guess could be embarrassing for people with lousy records but won't cause any real harm. Meanwhile we regularly hand our credit cards over to restaurant servers and various online retailers (including porn sites) without a second thought. I agree that the law is stupid but I don't think that privacy or security concerns is really a great argument against it.

Well, having a full copy of your DL may allow an identity thief to impersonate you against many financial institutions that do KYC using it (they used only to ask for SSN, but by now pretty much everybody's SSNs are stolen already) and maybe also register for voting in your stead if you weren't registered. But I agree that most of this info is already stolen, except maybe the picture of your ID itself.

Or you could just be smarter about which vices you indulge.

I think the assumption that it's the legislators who are the idiots and not the people uploading their data points to a deep cultural divide.

Well, when people are horny and want to see porn, they're not exactly thinking with their upper head. That's not something that one can ever change, I think - at least for some people. Of course, one can always question whether people electing politicians that do such things to them aren't worse idiots themselves, and that'd be a valid question too.

Well, when people are horny and want to see porn, they're not exactly thinking with their upper head.

You're not wrong but the underlying assumption justifying yours and a lot of other people's replies here, namely that people should not be punished for "thinking with the thinking with wrong head" and anyone who suggests or suggests otherwise is an idiot is in itself very secular progressive blue-tribe academic, and not nearly as universal as you're making it out to be.

I think that's the first time somebody called me a "secular progressive blue-tribe academic". Over my many years on the internets (and before internets) I've been called many things, but not that. Funny thing that every single word in this description is wrong :)

Are you working on or have a degree? Are you an Atheist? Do you believe that there is a "right" and a "wrong" side of history to be on?

If you answered 2 or more of those questions in the affirmative I'd say the description is accurate given your prior responses here.

Are you working on or have a degree?

Yes, but I don't think "academic" means that. I have a degree because learning for my craft is done (or has been done when I learned it, things changed a bit now) in institutions that give you a degree when you're done learning. That's pretty much all the use I ever had of me having a degree.

Are you an Atheist?


Do you believe that there is a "right" and a "wrong" side of history to be on?

Err... maybe? But probably not in a way you mean it. I believe there's good and evil, if that's what you mean (which is kind of mandated by the previous answer I guess?) so I guess somebody that does a lot of evil and not a lot of good can be defined as "wrong side of history", but I do not believe the history has a goal or is moving towards any definable goal, or that there is a political movement that is always correct and infallible.

I'd say the description is accurate given your prior responses here.

I guess I have to submit to your authority. A guy who knows me from a handful of random posts on the internet is definitely a better expert on me than me.

Or you could just be smarter about which vices you indulge.

What vices or 'vices' do you think won't be future targets by our Betters? I've spoken at length before about how gun or political donation databases -- meant with the best of intentions and sworn to privacy, everyone swears -- keep getting leaked. And it's not like things have stopped there.

All of them? None of them? The apparent assumption that you are somehow entitled to live in a permissive environment is a major component of the "cultural divide" that I am referring to. The assumption that vices must not only be tolerated, but affirmed and protected is not one that I share.

My assumption is a little closer to "people who I don't trust are building very dangerous tools, and have a long history of pointing at me and mine, and I shouldn't need to ignore it". The question of what deserves to be 'affirmed' or 'protected' isn't particularly interesting or even very meaningful compared to the question of what, exactly, you're willing to do about your own interests. The paranoid libertarian perspective is a bit less than the left-'liberal'tarian one.

Neither do I share your perspective, fair!

But at the same time, "you could just be smarter about which vices you indulge" sounds less like a normative description and more a tactical plan. And it's a tactical one that I think is very badly devised. You may intend to avoid being ruled in some philosophical sense, and that's might Christian of you, but I'm a bit more interested in planning before the "someone might someday put a gun to my head for refusing to play their tune" point.

You can also be smarter about how you indulge in them. If slamming the banhammer on pornhub means people rediscover the Pirate Bay, I say it's worth it!

Both can be stupid, this isn't an either/or choice here.

And a tool to bring identity to a wide swath of internet activity is a pretty nice weapon to leave around waiting for someone to be tempted by it.

A wide swath of internet activity we could really do without entirely without suffering any harmful effects whatsoever, in all likelihood.

People and teens especially had more sex when porn wasn't really available that much.

Are you in favor of more promiscuity now?

It's far less harmful than what Japan has - a large culture of people who have never been and never will be in a relationship.

It's unclear why heavy pornography use makes people less social, it's clear why it makes them less likely to seek out potential mates.

it's clear why it makes them less likely to seek out potential mates.

It's not even clear that this happens at all, much less why.

It's not even clear that this happens at all, much less why.

The rise in sexlessness among young people, entirely due down to them not being horny / obesity /whatever.

Sure, whether someone jerks off 4x a day has no impact whatsoever on their willingness to spend a lot of time and effort on dating.

Your sarcasm is noted but misplaced. Yes, that actually is a possibility and you need to account for it.

Also, people aren't jerking off 4x a day. That's a crazy high number.

Also, people aren't jerking off 4x a day. That's a crazy high number.

You just have a low sex drive, is all.

It's age dependent. At 35 that's crazy high, at 15 it's not really unusual

More comments

A wide swath of internet activity we could really do without entirely without suffering any harmful effects whatsoever, in all likelihood.

There's all sorts of things I would like not to exist, but I don't trust politicians to use their powers to only ban them, and it's useful to form coalitions of the "sinners" (including you, in the eyes of many politicians) in favour of a wider private sphere.

People like looking at porn. We can quibble about the meaning of harm, but "People's desires going less fulfilled" is at least some kind of downside, and I think "without any harmful effects" overreaches. The absence is the harmful effect.

The absence is the harmful effect.

-People got along fine without it. Also, the ban would only affect digital porn, not physical or other hard to copy porn.

-it has potential of ruining the lives of 10-30% of population due to addictive behaviors.

Are you seriously claiming 60-80% of people having slightly more enjoyable masturbation sessions twice a week is worth ruining the lives of cca 10% of population ? No, really, you are saying that ?

-if you think porn is bad now, what do you think it's going to be like when people will be able to get whatever sexual fantasy they have generated within a few hours in high resolution by NNs ?

I'm exceptionally skeptical that 10% of the population are 'ruining' their lives over porn. Even groups promoting the concept give closer to ~6% as the upper edge for the entire class of porn addiction (not endorsed), which in turn is more built around self-identification than serious personal impact, which in turn isn't the same as actually going from correlation to causation, nevermind all the way to 'ruining their lives'. More mainstream analysis gives significantly smaller numbers.

((And, uh, 'motions to the entirety of alcoholism discourse, or football stuff' for the sort of tradeoffs we're demonstrably willing to make as a culture.))

-if you think porn is bad now, what do you think it's going to be like when people will be able to get whatever sexual fantasy they have generated within a few hours in high resolution by NNs ?

I'm pretty skeptical.

More critically, I think this points to broader problems. You don't have a toggle of 'people masturbate/don't'. You're openly talking about situations that would require limiting access to pretty generic ML tools, and that's honestly just the starting point. Even fairly 'limited' laws like this will discourage a lot of not-solely-porn speech, and anything broad enough to seriously slow porn 'usage' will unavoidably touch on broader works.

around self-identification than serious personal impact,

A serious amount of addicts are completely in denial about being addicted.

Number of people 'self identifying' is almost totally irrelevant. In addition, you have religious nutters who think they're addicted for no reason at all.

Look at behaviors - e.g. the number of 30-40 yr old Japanese who are virgins and have never been in a relationship.

I'm pretty skeptical.

Being skeptical because of samey still images now, when there's no reason to think NNs won't eventually be able to translate narratives into film or 3d environments is kind of weird.

You're openly talking about situations that would require limiting access to pretty generic ML tools

What ? No, I'm saying that tools that'd enable people to create endless sexual fantasy by prompting are going to be possibly even worse than just kids having access to endless porn.

These won't be basic tools, but probably something customized and specialised.

Look at behaviors - e.g. the number of 30-40 yr old Japanese who are virgins and have never been in a relationship.

This is an interesting measure, and a growing one (at least where virginity = het virgin), but I don't think it gives the numbers you'd need -- the numbers only jumped six and four percent for women and men respectively from 1987 to 2015. I've not seen good information from the 2020 survey, but it doesn't look from google translate like a dramatic increase.

((And that six-and-four percent is from every cause, when there's a pretty wide number of separate social issues in Japan pretty strongly discouraging interaction between the sexes that's a far more plausible cause.))

Being skeptical because of samey still images now, when there's no reason to think NNs won't eventually be able to translate narratives into film or 3d environments is kind of weird.

Oh, I absolutely think it will translate to new spheres, and to some extent already is in the process of doing so. But at least for furries, film and 3d environments are not especially prevalent even today (and those that do exist often suck: there's a few dozen VR furry projects, each more forgettable than the last), and the overwhelming majority of that e621 scrape would have been mostly flat media, too. The bar for furry-interesting content is lower: the majority of interactions with the sexuality-side of the fandom are still images or short fiction already. But even if the quality can be more consistent and variety greater, it's not more interesting, and I think that problem will continue (and probably be augmented, due to less available and more samey material to train on) even as tools expand to different media forms.

This has historically been the failure mode for a lot of procedurally-generated or programatically-varied content in the fandom (and, to my knowledge, outside of it). You can pretty easily toggle species or background or orifice or clothing lingerie accessories (and there's a small industry of games like Lilith's Throne built around doing just that)... but there's a reason Lilith's Throne has a configuration system that borders on the obnoxious even to an overwhelmingly tech and nerdy playerbase, and even using it to the hilt can still run into some content you aren't really interested in. Yet it can as quickly become samey, not just in that there's a limit to the available human-written content that surrounds the procedurally-generated stuff, but even 'new' stuff repeats the same themes and the same phrases, as a rut of over-optimizing smut, and the more heavily you (have to) tune the configurations to your interest the faster that happens.

What separates 'samey' pieces from novelty and interest is at least the potential for surprise. Now, it's porn. I don't want to overstate the artistic themes presented by the typical piece: someone invites a plumber, there's a joke about a lemon tree, money shot, yada yada. But there's a reason even tumblr adult gif fandom at its worst didn't turn into people just resplicing the same handful of images with slightly different subtitles. Tautologically, this could eventually be done through ML, but it's not clear how you'd do or define that, without going past the bounds of interested topics: either the consumer is taking a directorial role to some extent in the initial creation, or they get surprise cuckolding at best.

These won't be basic tools, but probably something customized and specialised.

For an example, the furry porn-specialized fine-tunes of StableDiffusion took about 200GB of porn and a few days on commercially-accessible (if high-end) gaming hardware now, which could be fairly said to be outside of the realm of the typical user. But that's now, with people making random guesses and erring on the side of caution (and trying to make overinclusive sets so other people can use them). Specific concepts have been taught or identified from less than 100 source images, sometimes incredibly bizarre ones. ((And, conversely, a furry-non-porn-specialized fine-tune could still output racy images, mostly due to the limits of the SD2.x safety checker.)) I think the likely threshold is going to end up closer to a few gigs than to a few hundred. To the extent that a typical small porn stash can't be used to train a model, that's mostly because people don't tag downloaded images.

I don't think you can prevent pretty widespread access short of banning the entire models, or heavily restricting access to model training.

People also like taking drugs, beating their family members, torturing animals and other fun activities. We accept some limitations on "you can't fulfil your desires in the way you wish to do and/or to the full".

A wide swath of internet activity we could really do without entirely without suffering any harmful effects whatsoever, in all likelihood.

There's a reason I left a pretty open-ended potential series of other spheres I think it's plausible that this could and eventually will go after, even if you accept blanket prohibitions on porn as costless in themselves. I can think of one in particular that might be both of interest to you and I, specifically, and are also very popular punching bags by the powers that be.

Excellent post. And I think you’re right that we’re seeing a wave of age restrictions getting added to existing technologies; Texas is toying with banning minors from using social media(although it’ll be a few cycles before they actually do it, at least for anything other than TikTok).

About this specific case, I think the context has to be pointed out- porn is an incredibly unsympathetic defendant, for obvious reasons, and that very much affects the amount of fanfare about this law.

I don't have much to add except to say this is an excellent post. Well researched and showcases the different facets of this topic with commendable agility.

This is why SCOTUS should have taken the opportunity to craft a remedy for pre-enforcement challenges of laws that create civil liability. As it is now even if MindGeek thought the law was unconstitutional (I think they'd have a good case) they can't do anything about it until someone attempts to bring an enforcement action. Post SB-8 legislatures can just create these legal Swords of Damocles to hold over the heads of people engaged in constitutionally protected activity that they have no way to proactively remove.

I think it's tempting and generally hate the modern standing jurisprudence anyway (and even adjacent procedural stuff: Younger reflected far more immediately dangerous conditions to the plaintiff, does not leave near an acceptable escape valve, and is more generally a complete abomination to justice), but I'm not sure this is a driver here.

It would be incredibly trivial to produce a perfectly-ideal test involving the most sympathetic case possible and nominal damages, it'd be easy to argue, and it'd defang a ton of the 'no one would do that' arguments. I'd be a little surprised if there's no such test case already in the works. That's one of the downsides to civil cases: as with big cy pres giveaways or sue-and-settle, the courts have very little defense to friendly plaintiffs.

A victory there just would a) take forever, and b) not do much.

Traditional civil claims can be stopped by sufficient precedent once a test is available; anyone bringing future cases should get slapped down and potential face significant personal liability for frivolous suit. The problem for Whole Woman's Health was that the short timelines, chilling effects of even unsuccessful cases, and statute's bias on court costs would leave any even quickly successful defenses as Pyrrhic. This is why the plaintiffs' main relief requested the federal courts to prohibit state court clerks from accepting certain classes of complaint under a complex class-action theory and enjoin anyone in Texas from filing, and the other (8-1 SCOTUS-permitted!) requests against state licensing officials were seen as a meaningless.

But those problems are not unique. Civil torts emphasizing protected speech or other constitutionally-protected actions are not new, and even where they did allow state actors to bring enforcements (and even where they do have the same thumb-on-scales re: court costs), courts have not jumped head over tail to solve them. Hell, for some topics, even when federal statutes prohibit the civil suits as a class, not only do you still see people bringing countless spurious suits without facing serious injunction or sanction, you end up finding judges willing to accept increasingly bizarre theories justifying new exceptions to those bans.

I think there's good reason to argue against that standard of practice, but I don't think it's correct to recognize it as a new practice, and as a result, it's hard to call it intolerable when a lot of people have been dealing with it for decades.

If I recall, SCOTUS didn’t say “this is fine.” They just said we want this to work up through the circuits in a less expedited manner.

They definitely ruled that there was no available pre-enforcement relief, practically if not explicitly, which is all I'm contending.

I don't think that's an accurate summary :

The Court concludes that the petitioners may pursue a pre-enforcement challenge against certain of the named defendants but not others.


Even aside from the fact that eight Members of the Court agree sovereign immunity does not bar the petitioners from bringing this pre-enforcement challenge in federal court, everyone acknowledges that other pre-enforcement challenges may be possible in state court as well. In fact, 14 such state-court cases already seek to vindicate both federal and state constitutional claims against S. B. 8—and they have met with some success at the summary judgment stage.

The crux was instead that the Court turned away the sort of response that the plaintiffs would have found sufficient, whether in a pre-enforcement context or otherwise. The plaintiffs wanted -- with reason! -- an injunction binding either all court clerks from accepting, or all individual Texans, from filing cases.

That's why I said "practically if not explicitly." The only entities SCOTUS allowed the pre-enforcement challenge to go ahead for were a set of state licensing officials. No injunction on them would actually have any impact on the civil suits that are at the core of SB8.

SCOTUS only allowed the pre-enforcement challenge against state licensing officials in that case. But even Thomas pointed to extant state pre-enforcement challenges leading to preliminary injunctions by name, and that specific case he cited (correctly, imo) resulted in a state-wide declaratory judgement before the end of the year focusing on the procedural aspects and edit: eventually got a temporary injunction against the named plaintiffs and affiliates in that case (though I can't find the current disposition).

Fair enough, I guess I'm reluctant to farm out the vindication of federal constitutional rights to state courts (though I recognize that has been common practice). I suppose state courts (at least in Texas) seem to have the benefit of issuing declaratory judgements.

Instinctively, I like this--SB8 was an affront to jurisprudence that loomed over me, personally. I want to say there was a similar preemptive ban of something in Florida, but I'm drawing a blank.

Maybe this should be handled by the existing apparatus of civil law, but does that have a solution either? One of the big fish in my industry has been handing out retention bonuses with an outrageous noncompete clause attached. Every senior engineer I've heard discuss the subject mutters how it would never stand up in court...followed by observing that no one wants to spend months of their life fighting the big boys in court. This suggests no easy remedy to a power player (like a state) drafting a giant land mine for people who might hypothetically end up taking that road. Or at least no remedy easily understood by the voting public.

Generally the way this gets equalized is that some state or federal agency is empowered to press civil claims on behalf of individuals who've been injured. The SEC, for example, has the power to bring civil actions against entities for securities fraud so that injured parties, who may not have the resources to bring such suits, don't have to. It isn't really clear who would be in this position with respect to States passing laws like SB8. The federal government argued, in United States v. Texas, that they are empowered to sue states to vindicate their citizens constitutional rights but we didn't really get a definitive ruling. A district court granted an injunction, the Fifth Circuit stayed that injunction, SCOTUS granted cert then dismissed the grant of cert as improvidently granted (so, without reaching any merits). The United States then voluntarily dismissed the case this August (presumably it was moot post-Dobbs).

Personally I think both permitting the federal government to sue states to vindicate individuals constitutional rights and expanding In Re Young to permit federal courts to enjoin state courts from hearing those suits that violate constitutional rights are good ideas.

Post SB-8 legislatures

I don't think SB-8 was the first law to try to create civil liability for third parties. The mechanism is also used (and abused) for things like ADA accomodations and IIRC some of California's civil rights laws. While some might be okay with throwing these out concurrently, the scope would need to be much larger than I think you mean to imply.

Although I would in general agree that hanging vague metaphorical swords over otherwise law-abiding citizens is an undesirable state of affairs.

I agree that SB8 was not the first law to place civil liability on some third party behavior, but I think it was one that was very blatant in going after what was (at the time) constitutionally protected behavior. It's not clear to me what similar constitutional rights one has that are violated by ADA accommodations, or civil rights laws.

I'm also not saying all such laws ought to be unconstitutional, merely that the status quo of lacking a pre-enforcement mechanism permits state legislatures to chill constitutionally protected behavior with impunity. I'm confident that ADA accommodations and civil rights laws would withstand such a pre-enforcement challenge. I'm much less confident the Louisiana law in question would.

A big can of worms. This is why we should have stuck with properly interpreted obscenity laws (no, Japan's farcical censorship code does not count) and nipped this stuff in the bud. There would be no Mindgeek, no status quo where this stuff is part of popular culture and freely accessible. Nixon said it best I think:

The Commission contends that the proliferation of filthy books and plays has no lasting harmful effect on a man's character. If that were true, it must also be true that great books, great paintings, and great plays have no ennobling effect on a man's conduct. Centuries of civilization and 10 minutes of common sense tell us otherwise.

The Commission calls for the repeal of laws controlling smut for adults, while recommending continued restrictions on smut for children. In an open society, this proposal is untenable. If the level of filth rises in the adult community, the young people in our society cannot help but also be inundated by the flood.

Pornography can corrupt a society and a civilization. The people's elected representatives have the right and obligation to prevent that corruption.

The warped and brutal portrayal of sex in books, plays, magazines, and movies, if not halted and reversed, could poison the wellsprings of American and Western culture and civilization.

I'm fairly sure if Nixon were alive today, he would fully agree that the wellsprings of Western culture have been poisoned, in part by Mindgeek and co. Nobody wants to reproduce anymore, which in itself is enough to end civilization (not accounting for AI or life extension).

Do you think that "nobody wants to reproduce anymore" because of porn?

Rather than, say, easily available contraception, increasing costs of raising a family, declining mental health, extended childhoods, any of the other bogeymen of the day? There are plenty of reasons why total fertility is down. I don't see why pornography would break the camel's back.

Porn is not oriented around vanilla sex in the missionary position leading to pregnancy and babies within wedlock. There may be breeding fetish stuff out there but that's not the same thing. Porn is part of the wider cultural shift on sex and marriage, but the model of porn is freely available sex of any and every kind, where everyone is enthusiastic, and no act is too degrading (unless the degradation is part of the whole kink). And as sexual acts become liberalised and introduced into real life (heterosexual sodomy, anyone?) then porn has to look for more and more extreme taboos to tickle the jaded palate looking for novelty. Jokes about incest aside, why else is this a category that comes up? Barely legal? Other stuff that I have no idea what it is, but it's surely out there?

Porn is not a safety valve, it's a sign of a culture that suffers like the Baudelaire poem:

I am like the king of a rainy land,

Wealthy but powerless, both young and very old,

Who contemns the fawning manners of his tutors

And is bored with his dogs and other animals.

Nothing can cheer him, neither the chase nor falcons,

Nor his people dying before his balcony.

The ludicrous ballads of his favorite clown

No longer smooth the brow of this cruel invalid;

His bed, adorned with fleurs-de-lis, becomes a grave;

The lady's maids, to whom every prince is handsome,

No longer can find gowns shameless enough

To wring a smile from this young skeleton.

The alchemist who makes his gold was never able

To extract from him the tainted element,

And in those baths of blood come down from Roman times,

And which in their old age the powerful recall,

He failed to warm this dazed cadaver in whose veins

Flows the green water of Lethe in place of blood.

Porn is a natural enough part of every culture and society, but when part of the entire package of divorcing sex, pleasure and gratification from reproduction and family formation and all the other challenges to conventional or traditional set-ups, then it also becomes corrosive, its own form of wire-heading.

Not a sole causative factor but certainly a contributing factor. That's why I said 'in part'. Porn doesn't help. It glamorizes casual sex, makes it more normal. That probably helps reduce fertility.

And there are many subtleties about culture we don't understand. There are certain high-fertility cultures that remain, usually concentrated among religious groups. Nearly all of these intensely religious groups have strong obscenity prohibitions - radical Islam, radical Jewish factions, radical Christian sects like the Mormons. China tries to suppress obscenity but has low fertility - it's not a panacea. But anti-obscenity is part of some mysterious essence of stable, sustainable civilization/culture that we lack. I think we should've preserved it since it's not exactly easy to reimpose. Plus there are all the other harms in exploitation and creating unrealistic expectations that feminists talk about.

radical Islam, radical Jewish factions, radical Christian sects like the Mormons. China tries to suppress obscenity but has low fertility - it's not a panacea

Controlling for income, isn't a potentially important difference in the cases of the predictive success or failure of your hypothesis (1) social groups where women are strongly encouraged to focus on child-rearing and (2) those where they are not and have been legally dissuaded from having large families for generations?

At this sort of level of complexity, I don't think that messy correlations are going to tell you much about causation. It's better to look at the values and incentives that people have, and analyse their probable effects. Is it possible to have a highly obscene society where women are incentivised to spend a lot of time in the home raising children? I don't know. We do know that it is possible to have the opposite, though its compatibility with modern Western income and law is dubious.

China certainly has other factors going on than just obscenity. I only brought up China to say that I didn't think banning obscenity was singlehandedly capable of making your population graph back into a pyramid. I completely agree that it's a multi-factor issue. I agree that it's very hard to go back to the old equilibrium.

But the highest fertility groups tend to be religiously conservative and anti-obscenity. I'd add pre '45 'For the glory of the Emperor' Japanese to the list of high fertility cultures. They also engaged in heavy censorship, including obscenity. Even on the 'incentives and values' level I can only see fertility-lowering effects from pornography. It encourages people to do unconventional sex acts for fun or variety. It glamorizes promiscuity, which reduces marriage. The Catholics go on about how sex should be about reproduction, not pleasure - they're known for being fecund.

Now maybe losing obscenity laws is a byproduct of being a certain kind of individualist society that has low fertility, not a contributor. But is anything so clearcut as that? Everything affects everything else, effects are also causes. I'm confident that allowing pornography has some kind of effect on culture - whether it's embarassing men or women who don't think they're up to standard or pushing weird trends like furries or incest or whatever, the effects all seem to point in one direction.

they're known for being fecund.

Are Catholic birth rates impressive, when controlling for income? The pleas of the Pope didn't seem to do much for Irish or Irish-American birth rates, once the Irish weren't poor. As Terence O'Neill (a Protestant Prime Minister of Northern Ireland) put it:

It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have eighteen children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel he will rear eighteen children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church.

Bigotry aside, he had a point. Catholic birth rates seem to be high only because of Catholics who were poor. As Catholic groups catch up with standards of living that first emerged in Protestant Northern European societies, their fertility also falls.

Now maybe losing obscenity laws is a byproduct of being a certain kind of individualist society that has low fertility

Or maybe they don't have a direct causal connection.

I'm pretty skeptical on the "people like porn too much and stopped fucking" theory; we're not the first society that's had easy access, and the variation in timeline for the TFR problem don't really line up well with any specific culture's sudden access to modern internet porn. (And, uh, pregnancy kink is common enough that The Gays sometimes get it.) It's tempting, and I can see the initial focus on it, but there's too many other potential drivers that seem more immediately connected.

I'm even more skeptical that, had humans reproduced by budding or like sqid, the philosophy of All Within The State would have not found some other problem or problems to solve first.

Well I did say 'in part'... There are lots of other poisons getting into Western culture and causing different harms.

The social sciences is one of those things where it's tempting to want to assume a direct causality "x caused y" but it's always more nuanced or multifaceted.

Are you a man? Do you have a partner? Do you watch porn? If yes to all three then I propose the following. Stop watching porn for 2 weeks and see how your relationship with sex changes.

For me, porn absolutely reduces the desire to have sex.

For me, porn absolutely reduces the desire to have sex.

But sex is not a reliable cause of fertility in developed countries.

Sure it is. Not 100% of pregnancies are planned. In fact, it's quite possible that a majority are unplanned.

Not 100% of pregnancies are planned.

Consistent with what I said.

In fact, it's quite possible that a majority are unplanned.

What's your evidence? In places with the morning after pill and abortion on demand, why do you think that it is plausible that a majority of children are accidental?

Yes to all three (though I do try not to watch porn). Trust me, it doesn't reduce my desire to have sex. It's an outlet at those times when I can't have sex, because I can't have sex.

I genuinely have no idea why anyone would prefer porn over sex. Availability aside, it is a strictly inferior substitute for the real thing. So based on my experience, no, I don't think availability of porn is causing people to have less sex.

Because porn features different actors and my sex life features the same actors. I'm an N of 1 here sure, but it's common knowledge that the first thing men do when their wives leave the house is enjoy a good wank session.

but it's common knowledge that the first thing men do when their wives leave the house is enjoy a good wank session.

If you'd said wife and kids i might have bought it, but as is, no I don't think that's common knowledge at all.

the first thing men do when their wives leave the house is enjoy a good wank session

To the extent that is true (and I do not think it is literally true at all for most people), I would surmise that's because they aren't getting as much sex as they want and prefer to be alone to take care of their needs. I certainly have enjoyed a nice wank when my wife is out of the house, but it isn't replacing sex (and never will). Variety is cool and all, but pales in comparison to the pleasure of actually interacting with a real live woman.

I genuinely have no idea why anyone would prefer porn over sex.

Ease. No need to get your partner in the mood, no need to pleasure your partner, you get to focus solely on your own pleasure when you want to be pleasured and you're done when you want to be done.

My personal controversial belief about this is that people are often against porn for this very reason. They want actual sex to be like this, where you focus solely on your own pleasure. Porn "raises the bar" in a way that makes them uncomfortable about their own performance.

No need to get your partner in the mood, no need to pleasure your partner

These are two of the main enjoyable activities in sex, though.

It's a specific instance of the more general loving vs. being loved distinction. Being loved by someone isn't a tremendously enjoyable experience in itself, because it's passive. Loving someone, insofar as your actions tend to succeed, is about as enjoyable as life gets, because it's active and you can recognise the meaningfulness of your actions towards a valued goal.

See also being rich vs. getting rich, being famous vs. getting famous, being academically successful vs. getting academically successful etc. Most of the enjoyment comes from recognising that your actions are helping you to achieve a valued goal.

If you don't have a sexual partner, then your actions aren't meaningful for the goal of achieving intimacy with a sexual partner, and hence they lose most of their meaning. Hence "masturbatory" as a metaphor for "meaningless".

It's still more work. Like cooking a steak vs having a microwavable meal for dinner. The sex/steak's going to be better, but if you don't feel like putting in more than a lazy five minutes in, the porn/microwave is the choice people will go for.

But whether the time over five minutes is worth it is not independent of people's evaluations of the end goal.

In Love and Friendship, Allan Bloom argued that the net effect of Freud, Kinsey, and the pseudo-scientification of sexuality was to de-eroticise a lot of American culture. There was more open sexuality in the culture, but less of a sense of majesty to the sexuality, and hence a loss of eroticism. Perhaps the appeal to pornography to people is not that they have been desensitized to real-world sexual activities by pornographic experiences, but that they have lost the hope of a genuinely erotic experience in the real-world.

I did say "availability aside". Yes, sex is harder to get - but when you can get it, it blows porn out of the water. That is why the "people are having less sex because of porn" hypothesis doesn't ring true to me, because that hypothesis basically says that people are willingly forgoing a superior experience for an inferior one.

Even if your partner is happy to have sex and all you need to do is ask, the reasons I listed are reasons why someone might not want to.

I disagree. I cannot envision someone seriously citing those reasons to not have sex in favor of having a wank. I certainly never would.

More comments

I agree. Allan Bloom once said that sado-masochism was a substitute for natural eroticism when people had lost any hope for the latter, e.g. even if you are being abused and deprived by someone, or you are abusing/depriving them in various ways, that's at least some sort of connection, and humans will often prefer even painful and tormented connections to loneliness.

I think that the same dynamic appears in many other parts of life. For example, I have done volunteer work where I met many abused/formerly abused women, and they had always lost hope of a loving relationship with anyone other than their abuser.

Porn, and masturbation more generally, seems to be an instance of the same phenomenon: a substitute activity for when people don't think that they can have the alternative. Note that the alternative is not just sex, but intimacy. A lot of porn users think that they could use prostitutes, unattractive partners, and so on, but don't see that as a path to intimacy. Or they see intimate relationships as too much work, like those men who see sex as a burden of pleasing their partner, rather than as a fun and spiritual (for lack of a better word) activity.

Christian thinkers were really on to something when they said that hope was the most important virtue.

sex is much more expensive in more ways than just money

What do you mean?

false rape accusations , for one

there are so many hidden costs

I mean, that is bad. But anyone for whom that is a serious risk needs to really reevaluate their sex life. You shouldn't be banging someone you have so little trust in for that to be a realistic possibility.

More comments

I don't think appeal to personal experience is a very strong. Particularly in my case: I'm a bi furry and have a variety of circumstances where I'll not have access to porn (or any serious personal privacy) for upwards of a month, or sometimes just not watch the stuff at all for my own reasons. It doesn't seem to have much an impact on my sex drive, but I'm hesitant to generalize that to anyone else.

More broadly, though, even assuming and accepting that it reduces desire for sex, we're talking a chart that looks like this. There's ways to talk about a big decrease in sex after the 1990s, but they end up with most sex not being baby-making.

this is not a good argument, imho

i don't think it's easy to generalize a personal experience to society

I can only speak form experience, but it is very demotivating - especially if you're a marginal man and you needed to stretch a bit (or a lot) to be successful. You can easily anesthetize yourself.

I think there are a lot of trends today relative to the past that could make men more marginal which would...interact badly with porn: greater levels of anxiety, obesity, smaller social groups, fewer free communal spaces, less money, COVID -> internet dating's issues...

I don't think you can put it all on porn (putting the blame on industrialization and urbanization providees a much more parsimonious theory here), but I don't think it's good either.

And, of course, promoting total commodification of sex has its costs outside of causing our race to go extinct.

Would you say the same thing for women and romantic fiction? Could we motivate women to breed more by banning or at least discouraging the consumption of romantic novels, films, and TV programmes?

I suppose that you could argue that romantic fiction is at least giving you a guide of how to have an intimate relationship, but I'm not convinced that's true. I suspect that reading Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, ceteris paribus, gives you a bad idea of how to have a good relationship, and the same is presumably true of a lot of trashier romantic fiction (which I haven't read). In fact, there were attempts to censor Madame Bovary exactly on these grounds: not just that it portrayed adultery and moral dissolution (in more senses than one) but that it failed to offer an alternative. Anna Karenina does offer an alternative, albeit one that I at least don't find attractive.

Would you say the same thing for women and romantic fiction?

Hm...unsure. Not really my vice. Maybe.

Though one potentially relevant difference here is that women tend to be the more selective sex and men are expected to pursue. The demotivated man harms his goals immeasurably by not pursuing, but that situation is not necessarily symmetrical for both sexes.

I suppose you could be constantly approached and just have such a distorted view of romance that you don't ever succeed. Basically this premise

that situation is not necessarily symmetrical for both sexes.

Not necessarily, but women still have standards, and these are affected by their expectations just as much as men's.

Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina are very odd choices to condemn as "romantic novels." They're both very explicitly about dysfunctional relationships, bad choices, and the misery this causes. They're certainly not aspirational - I doubt any woman reads them and wants to be Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina.

My point is that not all romantic novels could be defended as examples of how to romantically relate to others. I'm not claiming that they are representative of all romantic fiction.

For example, Pride and Prejudice does feature some misbehaviour, but it also features some useful positive lessons about relationships.

(Note: I am not conflating the literary merit of books with their didactic merit. I would rank all three book as approximately equally brilliant from a literary perspective.)

Yup, when people talk about this, I always want to be fair to both sexes.

Yes, for a man, going out to a bar, hitting on a bunch of women, and possibly after spending way too much money, going home to somebody you're moderately attracted too, only for her to either not talk to you again and/or become super clingy seems worse than playing AAAA video games for a few hours, then watching HQ porn w/ amateurs that look better than any woman you could ever have to get off.

OTOH, for a woman, getting hit on by weirdos, unattractive guys, and aggressive assholes, all to lead to a situation where you maybe go to bed to a guy who lasts for a little time in bed and/or tries to push you to do things you're uncomfortable with/dangerous, and then you have to worry about a stalker or worse seems worse than watching a Hallmark Holiday Movie marathon, then reading Amazon Kindle erotic fiction you get via Kindle Unlimited to get off via your vibrator.

The interesting thing is that both pornographic and romantic fiction fantasies seem to have large quantities of what I shall vaguely describe as "unhealthy" connections: adultery/cheating, coercion, jealousy etc.

My suspicion would be that it is desire for excitement + lack of hope. Not all exciting situations are unhealthy, but the exciting situations that are possible when people have a lack of hope in pleasant eroticism are unhealthy. It's probably unfair to compare Madame Bovary with the Song of Songs, but they represent two very different images of the possibilities of sexual experience. And I grant that what is regarded as "unhealthy" is culturally specific, e.g. Odysseus's infidelity in The Odyssey does not seem to have been regarded by its creators as a problem (morally, as opposed to prudentially - he's still missing out on the deepest satisfaction, which would be with Penelope) whereas Penelope's fidelity is clearly supposed to be admirable and her reunification with Odysseus is an example of healthy erotic fulfillment for her.

I'm pretty skeptical on the "people like porn too much and stopped fucking" theory; we're not the first society that's had easy access...

We aren't? I get that defining "easy access" (how easy? Access to what?) could conceivably be fraught, but it's difficult to imagine a sensible interpretation that doesn't currently put us a mile off the top of the chart of the baseline human experience.

Fair, this is a complex topic and it's somewhat hard to model, especially as you go back further. And it's hard to even talk about with specificity: there's a great wikipedia article on the Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and I'm also not going to link it because it starts out with a detailed picture of a satyr penetrating a goat and goes downhill from there. Not all of the 'erotic art' is pornographic, there's always a difficult line between erotica and 'fertility rite' (or even genuine fortune ritual), and the natural tendency for history to leave only the most durable artifacts leaves a lot of unanswered and probably unanswerable information, but there's pretty strong evidence that at least citizens could access imagery of nudity and sex in many different venues, and that these competed with direct prostitution or bawdy shows that are believe to at least involve full nudity and (at least in relation to 'ritual') penetrative sex for an audience. Despite all of this, Roman and Greece morals still emphasized male restraint, which doesn't seem what you'd expect from a culture made flaccid at its own hands.

Similarly, Japanese shunga probably wasn't widely available starting from the 1300s simply because of the price and low repeatability of the underlying woodblock painting technique, but by the 1600s was common enough to be commercial items. Restrictions starting in the 1700s were largely ineffective, though eventually more serious bans began to at least drive supply underground later that century. But even then Victorian traders and art-collectors were getting surprise faceful pretty late into the 1800s. And, again, live shows and outright prostitution-for-display were common-enough and tolerated-enough to be pretty well-documented.

These aren't as high-quality as 4k video, nor as easily accessible as the average smartphone; the criticism that the average homebody today has seen more vaginas and variety in vaginas than Gengis Khan or a Roman emperor is mostly true (modulo the variety of all of that goat-and-swan stuff). But in addition to being a more complex explanation than porn at all, this largely pushes matters to just the last twenty years, and for most a shorter time period. And that doesn't really match this chart.

No kidding. It's just leaps and bounds better now. In the 1970s you had to go to a theater to watch porn. By the 1980s you had videotapes which you had to buy/rent from a store. Remember the curtained-off back area of the video store? By the 1990s you could download image from the internet, where you'd sometimes wait multiple minutes as the image gradually loaded on your screen. In the late 1990s you could visit a site with a gallery of thumbnails, and then you'd click the ones that looked interesting.

We are absolutely the first society that has had easy access to porn.

in the 70s theaters existed solely for watching porn, alongside pg-friendly venues, and people by in large were fine with that. yes, let that sink in. I think the 60s and 70s were as depraved, even more so, compared to today. Drug use, of all kinds, was so common . Social media, the culture wars, and the always-on media means that everything is scrutinized. In the past, the depravity went unnoticed but it was there.

Even if we say we've had "easy" access to internet porn since...the early 2000s, things have arguably gotten worse (or better) because porn companies are - just like their social media equivalents - getting better at the algorithms.

I also feel like porn delivery has changed. It used to feel much more ad hoc to go browse something random to jack off to. If I go to a big site today I really get the "Youtube" feel where I can see how it's sucking me down rabbit holes with recommendations in a much more effective manner

The "stepsister" fad probably wouldn't have spread during the early days of my porn viewing (from like 2005 on)