A recent article in The Economist, "Banning the Sex Industry," looks at the recent proposal in Iceland to ban online pornography:

ULTRA-LIBERAL Iceland wants to ban online pornography. It is just the latest step in its attempts to eliminate the sex industry entirely. In 2009 it introduced fines and jail terms for those who patronise prostitutes (whom it treats as victims). In 2010 it outlawed strip clubs. In February the government decided to take on the glut of smut online and floated the idea of banning violent or degrading pornography, which some Icelanders take to mean most of it. No country has yet wholly succeeded in controlling commercial sex, either through legalisation or criminalisation. But all over the world, particularly in rich democracies, policymakers are watching to see whether Iceland succeeds—and may follow in its footsteps if it does.

I must begin by saying that this trend is a positive one: morally speaking, such markets ought not to exist, chiefly due to their now well-known ties to human trafficking. For this, Iceland deserves the highest praise.

However, the article reveals a serious disconnect among Iceland policy makers between moral laws and the necessity of moral mores:

Iceland is ... pro-sex. Its supermarkets sell condoms and mini-vibrators next to checkouts. A new sex-education film informs teenagers that sex should be something they want to do again and again, and then maybe again. Some 65% of Icelandic children are born outside marriage, more than any other country in the OECD. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010 and gays and lesbians can adopt children. Icelandair ran a campaign featuring the tagline, “Fancy a dirty weekend in Iceland?”

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="355"] Luca Signorelli, The Triumph of Chastity over Cupid[/caption]

While they may have a plan to legally limit the supply side of such an immoral market, their "pro-sex" culture, encouraged in part by the same government, undermines such efforts on the demand side. So long as they remain a country where sex is promoted so aggressively, they will ultimately be a society that devalues sex by robbing it of its higher meaning and devalues the virtue of virginity by consequence.

Laws that limit or ban the sale of sex may be a step in the right direction, but where there is demand, there is a market. If Iceland is serious about fighting commercial sex, which so often does victimize its participants and distort its patrons, it needs to come to terms with the high value of virginity.

So long as Iceland cultivates lust as a virtue, weeds as if they were crops, such tragic abuse and victimization will surely continue within its shores. One cannot remove weeds by simply trimming the thorns; they must be pulled up by the roots, which are currently being watered by the flow of culture. Not surprisingly, the article goes on to note, "But the more ambitious Iceland has become in its war against the sex industry, the less success it seems to enjoy."

The roots of the sex trade are in the human heart. As Christ himself said, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19) and "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). I do not cite these passages as a matter of mere dogmatism, but rather as an empirically verifiable fact. Evil actions come from the passions within. One only needs to spend a little time in self-reflection to confirm.

A culture that values virginity, however, would begin to pull the weeds by the roots, cultivating through that culture a more just society. But that, of course, is a much harder task than merely trimming the thorns through legislation.