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I wonder if anyone's done a study of the effects of Danish legalization of bestiality (and gay marriage and porn). Or for that matter legal polygamy (though that seems to mostly be tied up with an Islamic-state polygyny-only thing, there are surely some more neutral examples).

My guess would be the answer is "pretty much none", moral outrage notwithstanding. It'd be an interesting counterpoint to the slippery slope argument in the US about gay marriage…
David “Q the Platypus” Formosa's profile photoVincent Tijms's profile photoBen Li's profile photoSai (saizai)'s profile photo
Ben Li
An important difference: The US and Scandinavian countries have different relationships with church as a source of morality.

The US was founded significantly on the idea that religious competition and resulting extended region-wide multi-state wars is less desirable than economic competition (which ended up with extended, region-wide multi-state wars anyway). Hence, all the fuss about separation between church and state.

The Scandinavian countries had (until the last decade or so) some variety of official Lutheran state church, to which some 80% of the populations still claim allegiance (but with substantially lower prevalence of practice). Marriage in those countries for urbanites is largely a more intimate and personal, less produced affair than in the US, I speculate, due in part to the reality that the church stuff is treated as a (government) formality, rather than a source of personal and group differentiation.

I suspect that, in the US, the conflicts could be resolved by clearly separating the economic logics around taxes, household constitution and workforce sustainability; from the religious logics around the substance and concept of marriage. If the US state removed itself from the role of recognizing marriages, and did (workforce) policy based on sustainable households, much of the frictions could be removed.
+Ben Li Curious; I've heard almost the exact same dismissed-formality argument from someone else, regarding the lack of strong religiosity in the UK.

I wonder what kind of policy you envision. I find it hard to see one that wouldn't be framed in religious terms here.
If the US would legalize porn (I thought they already did so), prostitution and (some) drugs, U.S. citizens would stop flocking to my country to get their kicks! If there's one downside to our tolerance and liberalism it is the scale problem that occurs given the laws in other countries.

Perhaps you are looking for a less anecdotal answer, but it is a point that is often overlooked when judging progressive countries: things can go out of hand if a small country is suddenly serving half the world. This would not occur if more countries joined the tolerance game.

As for marriage, I'm with Ben. As far as the state is concerned, the relevant dimensions are economical and organizational. Morality is a factor, but should be watered down: let gay people marry for the State, but not necessarily for the Church. Happens here all the time, and we're way less obsessed with economical thinking than the U.S. is. I do recognize that introducing some secular variant to marriage in a country that apparently reifies religious marriage may be hard.
Ben Li
+Sai I've not thought through a porn policy. A key question to ask is for what social purposes (broadly defined) do we need a policy on porn, and what parts of that purpose are (not) being served by existing legislation.

In post-WW II Japan, an anti-porn policy (no public hair or genitals) was enacted to minimize sexual exploitation during reconstruction while the country was unusually vulnerable to foreign influence. Of consequence, Japan now has a monopoly on fiction depicting tentacle rape monsters and pre-pubescent participants. Good arguments could be made several ways about the relevance and value of such older legislation to contemporary society.

In the broader context, humanity seems to have survived for most of its history without formal policies on porn, despite a great number of the world's cultures having produced sexually explicit art and objects. It remains an open and largely unexplored question whether formal policy is the best way to address differences among the plethora of local attitudes among cultures being brought into rapid and repeated contact through global ICTs.

My intuition is that it would be more sustainable to pursue whatever social objectives we want porn policy to accomplish via social means, than to retrofit technical policy onto a communications network designed to resist such interference. As +Vincent Tijms points out, there is always a path of lesser resistance, and we can choose to deal with that sustainably, or not.
+Vincent Tijms FWIW, in the US only secular marriage is formally speaking the subject of public policy; churches can recognize 'em or not however they feel like. But many people want to treat that policy as beholden to their religious views.

Technically, "obscenity" is federally illegal in the US. It's just not prosecuted much, and some states (eg CA — Los Angeles is a porn capital) are OK with it. There's a standing loophole permitting things with "artistic merit". But it's basically up to the prosecutor — or post office, or customs agent — to decide what they want to crack down on.

This is also why most sex toys in the US are sold as "novelties" rather than as things that have to meet some reasonable standards for insertable safety eg. Pfft.
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