Mary Eberstadt's must-read essay in this month's First Things, "The Weight of Smut," covers the far-reaching effects that pornography has on American life:

The notion for starters that those in the industry itself are not being harmed by what they do cannot survive even the briefest reading of testimonials to the contrary by those who have turned their backs on it, among them Playboy bunnies (including Izabella St. James, author of Bunny Tales). It is a world rife with everything one would want any genuinely loved one to avoid like the plague: drugs, exploitation, physical harm, AIDS.

Nor can that defense survive the extremely troublingor what ought to be extremely troublingconnections between pornography and prostitution. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has notably taken the lead in investigating and throwing light on the sordid phenomenon of sex trafficking, both here and abroad. Yet trafficking, as the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have both noted, is often associated with pornographyfor example, via cameras and film equipment found when trafficking circles are broken up. Plainly, the reality of the human beings behind many of those images on the Internet is poorer, dirtier, druggierand youngerthan pious appeals to consenting adults can withstand. Is this world really what the libertarian defenders of pornography want to subsidize?

Once again, who even needs all that social science? Perhaps the most telling response to the pictures defense is rhetorical. Ask even the most committed user whether he wants his own daughter or son in that line of workand then ask why its all right to have other peoples daughters and sons making it instead.

Read the whole thing for a good perspective on just how burdensome the porn epidemic has become. Eberstadt quotes my colleague Cathy Ruse on the vitriol that defenders of pornography have against its critics.

For more, read the report of another colleague, Patrick Fagan, who has studied in-depth the effects of pornography on individuals, marriage, family, community.