Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Can Meta-Analysis Find a Link?
Christopher J. Ferguson, Department of Psychology, Stetson University
Richard D. Hartley, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio
Whether pornography contributes to sexual aggression in real life has been the subject of dozens of studies over multiple decades. Nevertheless, scholars have not come to a consensus about whether effects are
The current meta-analysis examined experimental, correlational, and population studies of the pornography/sexual aggression link dating back from the 1970s to the current time.
weaknesses were very common in this field of research. Nonetheless, evidence did not suggest that nonviolent pornography was associated with sexual aggression. Evidence was particularly weak for longitudinal studies, suggesting an absence of long-term
effects. Violent pornography was weakly correlated with sexual aggression, although the current evidence was unable to distinguish between a selection effect as compared to a socialization effect.
Studies that employed more best
practices tended to provide less evidence for relationships whereas studies with citation bias, an indication of researcher expectancy effects, tended to have higher effect sizes. Population studies suggested that increased availability of pornography is
associated with reduced sexual aggression at the population level.
The most immediately interesting point is that the BBFC has elected not to promote the research that they commissioned and not to publish it on their website. Maybe this simply reflects that the BBFC no longer has the job of internet porn censor. The
job looks set to be handed over to Ofcom as part of the government's upcoming online harms bill.
The study by Revealing Reality combined a statistically representative survey of secondary school-age children with in-depth interviews and focus groups
with parents. It found that adult material was a prominent feature in British childhood. Almost half of teenagers aged 16 and 17 said they had recently seen pornography, with the researchers believing this figure is substantially lower than the true
figure because of respondents' awkwardness when faced with the question.
While 75% of parents did not believe their children would have watched pornography, the majority of these parents' children told the researchers that they had viewed adult
The report also found that while parents thought their sons would watch pornography for sexual pleasure, many erroneously believed their daughters would primarily see pornography by accident. It said: This is contrary to the qualitative
research findings showing that many girls were also using pornography for sexual pleasure.
The researchers said that one side effect of early exposure to online pornography is that gay, lesbian or bisexual respondents often understood their
sexuality at a younger age. It was common for these respondents to start by watching heterosexual pornography, only to realise that they did not find this sexually gratifying and then gradually move to homosexual pornography.
The research very
much affirms the government campaign to seek restrictions on porn access for children and notes that such measures as age verification requirements are unsurprisingly supported by parents.
However the research includes a very interesting section
on the thoughts of 16 and 17 year olds who have passed the age of consent and unsurprisingly use porn on just about the same way as adults who have nominally passed the official, but not the biological and hormonal, age of maturity.
uses the term 'young people' to mean 16 - 18 year olds (included in the survey as speaking about their views and experiences as 16 and 17 year olds). The report notes:
While recognising the benefits of preventing
younger children accessing pornography, young people had some concerns about age-verification restrictions. For example, some young people were worried that, in the absence of other adequate sources of sex education, they would struggle to find ways to
learn about sex without pornography.
This was felt particularly strongly by LGB respondents in the qualitative research, who believed that pornography had helped them to understand their sexuality and learn about different types
of sexual behaviours that they weren't taught in school.
Some young people also felt that the difference in the age of consent for having sex20416204and the age at which age-verification is targeted20418204was contradictory. They
also struggled to understand why, for instance, they could serve in the armed forces and have a family and yet be blocked from watching pornography.
Young people also seemed well versed in knowing methods of working around age
verification and website blocking:
The majority of parents and young people (aged 16 to 18) interviewed in the qualitative research felt that older children would be able to circumvent age-verification by a range of
potential online workarounds. Additionally, many 16- to 18-year-olds interviewed in the qualitative work who could not identify a workaround at present felt they would be able to find a potential method for circumventing age-verification if required.
Some of the most commonly known workarounds that older children thought may potentially negate age-verification included:
Using a VPN to appear as if you are accessing adult content from elsewhere in the world
Torrenting files by downloading the data in chunks
(the ‘onion’ router) to disguise the user’s location
By accessing the dark web
By using proxy websites
Maybe the missed another obvious workaround, sharing porn amongst themselves via internet messaging or memory sticks.
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such
a claim actually endangers the health of the public.
The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt,
not reflective of best available evidence, write Dr. Kimberly M. Nelson and Dr. Emily F. Rothman, both faculty in the Department of Community Health Sciences at BUSPH.
While 17 U.S. states have introduced nonbinding resolutions
declaring pornography a public health crisis, the authors write that pornography does not fulfill the public health field's definition of one. Pornography use has increased steadily over time rather than spiking or reaching a tipping point; it does not
directly or imminently lead to death, disease, property destruction, or population displacement; and it does not overwhelm local health systems.
Instead, Nelson and Rothman write, the existing evidence suggests that there may be
negative health consequences for some people who use pornography, no substantial consequences for the majority, and even positive effects for some (for example, through safer sexual behaviors such as solo masturbation). Motivating people to use less
extreme pornography, and less frequently, are reasonable harm reduction goals, the authors write, instead of trying to end all use. Increasing pornography literacy would also be useful, they write; Dr. Rothman and colleagues outline their pornography
literacy program for Boston area adolescents in a paper in the same journal issue.
What is the harm of calling pornography a public health crisis? Nelson and Rothman argue that this mischaracterization can lead to unwarranted
policy or funding shifts, rather than saving the power to mobilize the public health workforce for real crises. Moreover, pathologizing any form of sexual behavior, including pornography use, has the potential to restrict sexual freedom and to
stigmatize, which is antithetical to public health, they write.
article from theconversation.com By Paul J. Maginn,
Associate Professor of Urban/Regional Planning, University of Western Australia Aleta Baldwin, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, Health and Nutrition , The University of Texas at San Antonio Barbara Brents, Professor of Sociology, University of
Nevada, Las Vegas Crystal A. Jackson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
In 2007, the pornography website Pornhub averaged 1 million visits per day. By 2018 this had increased to 92 million visits per day -- or 33.5 billion views over the course of a year.
As an interdisciplinary group of sexademics,
we're interested in porn's cultural role and impact. A common question we hear is whether this growth in porn consumption is good or bad for society.
Of course, the honest-but-unsatisfying answer is: It depends. But sometimes
studying various aspects of porn consumption can change the way we think about it.
You might have heard, for example, that porn fuels misogynistic attitudes and sexual violence.
If this were the case, you
would think that people who consumed a lot of porn would hold particularly negative views towards women.
So we decided to study a group of men whom we've dubbed porn superfans -- those who are so enthusiastic about porn that
they'll attend the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. We wanted to compare their attitudes about gender equality to those of everyday Americans. Profiling the superfans
Our study was inspired, in part, by the journalists
and politicians who have said that porn consumption is at epidemic levels -- so much so that it constitutes a public health crisis. They write and speak of the perils of porn addiction and objectification, how porn encourages hatred of women and sexual
Would this play out in the results of our study?
The 294 expo attendees we surveyed certainly differed from the general population in a number of ways.
Their average age
was 44 years old. Almost half -- 47.3% -- indicated that they watched porn less than once a day, but more than once a week. Over one-third -- 36.1% - indicated they watch porn every day. In other words, over 80% of the attendees in our sample watched
porn multiple times a week. Only 34.1% of them were married, but they were highly educated: 60.5% had a college degree or higher. A scene from the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Paul Maginn, Author
We compared these results to the results from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted every couple of years that charts social trends.
This survey only asks whether
people have seen an X-rated movie in the last year, and 37.6% of the men indicated that they had. Just over half of the men in the General Social Survey sample were married, while just 28.7% of them had a college degree or higher. Misogyny unmasked?
But we were most interested in comparing the gender attitudes of each group. So we asked the expo attendees the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with four statements from the General Social Survey:
A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.
Most men are better suited emotionally for politics than are most women.
It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.
Because of past discrimination, employers should make special efforts to
hire and promote qualified women.
After parsing the results, we discovered that male porn superfans actually expressed more progressive attitudes towards gender equality on two of the questions. For two others, they indicated just as progressive -- or, said another
way, just as sexist -- attitudes as the general population.
Over 90% of porn superfans -- compared to just over 70% of the GSS sample -- agreed that working mothers can have just as warm and secure relationships with their
children than non-working mothers.
For the statement that men and women should hold traditional gender roles within a family, 80% of porn superfans disagreed. Nationally, 73% percent of respondents disagree with this statement.
A similar proportion -- 80% -- of AVN Expo attendees and General Social Survey respondents disagreed with the statement that men, rather than women, were more emotionally suited for politics.
majority of porn superfans and General Social Survey respondents -- 72.4% and 74.5%, respectively -- agreed that women, due to past discrimination, should get special preference in the workplace, this was the least supported statement we tested. Notably,
however, this level of support is higher than a recent national poll indicating that 65% of Americans support affirmative action for women. Porn crisis or moral panic?
These findings challenge what porn scholars call the negative
effects paradigm, which sees porn as an inherently bad thing that cultivates harmful attitudes.
Our survey isn't the only one that upends this way of thinking. A 2016 study based on General Social Survey data found that male porn
consumers held more egalitarian views on women in position of power, women working outside the home, and abortion than those who didn't view porn.
And while most porn is produced and consumed by men, a growing number of women --
straight and LGBTQ -- are producing porn and consuming different genres of porn, a trend that's largely been ignored.
For now, it's probably best to pump the brakes on the idea that pornography causes negative attitudes toward
women. The evidence just isn't there, and much of today's rhetoric about pornography seems to be more of a moral panic than public health crisis.
In our newly published study that examined a large representative sample of highly watched pornographic videos from a leading online
streaming website, we found no evidence for the claim that pornography has become more violent over the last decade.
We also found no evidence for often-heard claims that viewers increasingly prefer aggressive content.
Pornography and sexually explicit materials have long been a matter of intense debate. Since the so-called
sex wars of the 1970s, activists and academics have been embroiled in disputes concerning the production conditions, future directions and long-term consequences of pornography.
Since the rise of online porn along with social media, discussions about pornography have taken on a life of their own, largely unhinged from a credible
or systematic evidence base.
Debates about aggression in porn
Our interest in the topic of violence and aggression in pornography came out of reading and hearing claims both in the popular media and
in academic circles that pornography is becoming "worse and worse."
Part of this argument has been the result of scientifically dubious claims
about pornography being addictive and users needing to constantly "up the stakes" in order to be satisfied.
According to this logic, porn viewers -- who are mostly men -- become desensitized to "soft"
pornography. This forces producers to increasingly generate videos that are more hard-core, creating a growing demand for and supply of violent and degrading acts against women in mainstream pornographic videos.
However, we found
no evidence to support these claims, and most of the existing evidence for the idea that porn is more hard-core than before was anecdotal.
Studies on the presence of aggression in pornographic videos have produced wildly diverging
estimates, ranging from about two per cent to 90 per cent
. Differences in the way porn is studied can cause this wide gap in results: Researchers who have looked at aggression in porn have looked at different forms of media and have used various methods to both study and choose their samples.
They have even used various definitions of aggression. Aggression can be strictly defined as a purposeful act resulting in harm in which the target of aggression
attempts to avoid the harm , or more broadly defined as a purposeful act that
results in harm to either the self or another . The choice of definition can have an impact on what is considered aggression, creating the potential to
either under- or over-estimate prevalence.
Previous studies have not examined systematically changes in depictions of aggression over time, nor the relationship between aggressive contents and the popularity of videos.
Testing the claims porn is more violent
We set out to test the accepted wisdom of the "harder and harder" argument.
We also tested the assumption that viewers prefer
increasingly hard-core pornography by analyzing 269 videos uploaded to PornHub over the past decade.
PornHub is one of the world's top
adult websites and, according to Alexa Internet, the 36th most visited site on the Internet as of 2017, with more than 80 million daily visits. PornHub is a freely accessible video-sharing website similar to YouTube.
the videos we analyzed were frequently watched, but we also analyzed a smaller random sample of less frequently watched videos so that we could compare the highly popular videos versus the less popular ones.
We tested two related
claims: One, that aggressive content in videos is on the rise and two, that viewers prefer such content. We used both the number of views as well as the rankings ("based on likes") for videos containing aggression to help us assess popularity.
We used multiple definitions and measures of aggression (including visible, verbal, non-verbal and non-consensual aggression). Our results offered no support for either of these two claims. Viewers did not show a preference for
Visible aggression was present in slightly less than 40 per cent of the videos, non-consensual aggression appeared in about 12 per cent of the videos, and nearly 10 per cent of video titles clearly suggested
None of these showed an upward trend.
In fact, while in 2008, nearly 13 per cent of the average videos portrayed non-consensual aggression, by 2016, this figure had dropped to less than three
per cent. This decline in non-consensual aggression and a similar decline in aggressive video titles suggest that aggression has become less frequent in pornography over the last decade.
We also found that videos containing
aggressive acts were both less likely to receive views and less likely to be ranked favourably by viewers, who preferred videos where women clearly demonstrated pleasure.
Whether the women are actually experiencing pleasure is
another matter altogether, which our study cannot assess. Nevertheless, videos where women respond with pleasure are more likely to be watched and be "liked" (given a thumb's up by viewers).
These findings clearly
challenge the assumption about the popularity of aggression, at least among those viewers who choose to share their preferences.
Indeed, it seems like the majority of mainstream viewers are gradually
moving away from depictions of aggression and degradation, particularly non-consensual aggression.
This shift away from non-consensual aggression may signify lower demand and, depending on the responsiveness of producers to the
preferences of most consumers, might result in reduced distribution of material featuring non-consensual aggression.
That said, surveys and interviews with porn viewers are needed to further explore preferences for aggression-free
Our research suggests that those making the "harder and harder" argument may be confusing supply (what a substantial portion of mainstream porn still looks like) and demand (what most viewers actually want
By Eran Shor and Kimberly Seida of Montreal's McGill University
It is a common notion among many scholars and pundits that the pornography industry becomes harder and harder with every
passing year. Some have suggested that porn viewers, who are mostly men, become desensitized to soft pornography, and producers are happy to generate videos that are more hard core, resulting in a growing demand for and supply of violent and degrading
acts against women in mainstream pornographic videos.
We examined this accepted wisdom by utilizing a sample of 269 popular videos uploaded to PornHub over the past decade. More specifically, we tested two related claims,
reflected in both the number of views and the rankings for videos containing aggression:
(1) aggressive content in videos is on the rise and
(2) viewers prefer such content,
Our results offer no support for these contentions. First, we did not find any consistent uptick in aggressive content over the past decade; in fact, the average video today contains shorter segments showing aggression. Second, videos
containing aggressive acts are both less likely to receive views and less likely to be ranked favorably by viewers, who prefer videos where women clearly perform pleasure.
Unlike many previous
studies claiming to quantify aggressive behavior in porn, the McGill researchers defined several different categories of aggressive behavior in porn scenes. The researchers counted acts which simply appear intended to cause harm, pain or discomfort, and
created a separate category for video which depicted those acts as clearly non-consensual, as determined by verbal or visual cues.
Conversely, anti-porn groups that claim excessive violence in porn usually count such acts as
playful slaps on the ass, a hand on the throat, and the use of such terms as bitch or slut, no matter in what context, as violent acts.
While they found that depictions of visible aggression fluctuate but show no steady upward or
downward trend, with between 30 and 50 percent all videos uploaded each year depicting some visible aggression, the duration of aggressive scenes has shown a sharp drop over the past decade.
In 2008, nearly 13% of the average
video portrayed visible aggression, the researchers write. But in 2016, the average video contained aggressive content lasting only three percent of the total video running time.
Researchers Sophie Daniels and Dr Simon Duff from the University of Nottingham are presenting a paper to annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Forensic Psychology. The researchers claim that:
Frequent viewers of soft-core pornography, such as photographs of naked and semi-naked female models, are unlikely to think positively about women and are likely to have become desensitised to soft-core pornography common in
newspapers, advertising and the media.
Daniels and Duff examined the relationship between frequency of exposure to soft-core pornographic images of women and attitudes towards women, rape myths and level of sensitivity or
desensitisation to the images.
The results indicated that people who frequently viewed soft-core pornographic images were less likely to describe these as pornographic than people who had low levels of exposure to these images. People who were
desensitised to these images were more likely than others to endorse rape myths. Furthermore, people who frequently viewed these images were less likely to have positive attitudes to women.
The researchers claim that an argument could be made
for greater media regulation and censorship of soft-core pornographic images of women.
[Melon Farmers have been doing their own bleedin' obvious research, and have found that people who frequently viewed feminist writings are less likely to
describe them as politically correct feminist gobbledygook than people who had low levels of exposure to such nonsense].
A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies
Paul J. Wright, Robert S. Tokunaga, Ashley Kraus
First published: 29 December 2015
Whether pornography consumption is a reliable correlate of sexually aggressive behavior continues to be debated. Meta-analyses of experimental studies have found effects on aggressive behavior
and attitudes. That pornography consumption correlates with aggressive attitudes in naturalistic studies has also been found. Yet, no meta-analysis has addressed the question motivating this body of work: Is pornography consumption correlated with
committing actual acts of sexual aggression? 22 studies from 7 different countries were analyzed. Consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal
studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor.
The average porn user may have more egalitarian views towards women than non-users, a contentious new study has suggested.
Researchers at Western University in Canada have even argued that many pornography fans might be useful allies in
women's struggles for equality in the workplace and in public office.
Taylor Kohut, the study leader and a post-doctoral fellow in psychology, analysed data from 35 years of the General Social Survey, a US government-funded project that interviews
around 24,000 men and women a year about a variety of issues.
They reported in the Journal of Sex Research that the 23% of people who said they had watched an X-rated film during the previous year were no more or less likely to identify as
feminists than those who did not watch porn.
They also found that, on average, porn-watchers expressed more positive attitudes towards women in positions of power, as well as less negative attitudes towards abortion and women in the workforce.
Kohut said: I'd rather not live in a culture where our government decide to regulate [or] outlaw behaviour or material because they assume it's harmful. I'd rather they demonstrate it is, first.
Supporting the study Christopher Ferguson,
a psychology professor at Texas A&M International University, said that gauges of male aggression such as rape and domestic violence have actually been decreasing throughout the Internet era, the National Post reported. Dr Ferguson said:
I think if porn were going to ruin society, it's already had 20 years to do it ... And it's not happened.
Kohut said that the results may partly be explained by the fact that porn users are more likely
to be liberal people, where as non-users are more likely to be conservative or religious.
Watching porn is not an addiction like substance abuse and viewers do not elicit the same neurological responses as other addicts, a study has revealed. Sexual psycho-physiologist and lead researcher Nicole Prause said:
The findings provide clear evidence that porn does not look like other addictions.
Prause and her colleagues examined 122 men and women, 55 of whom reported a porn problem .
The volunteers viewed
photos categorised as pleasant, neutral and unpleasant. Half of the pleasant photos were erotic. The team focused on late positive potential (LPP), a common measure for the intensity of the brain's emotional response at a given moment.
found that porn addicts showed a lower -- and not higher -- late positive potential when viewing sexually explicit images.
Those who said they had experienced major problems with porn usage showed decreased brain reactions
when shown the sexual images .
The research was published in the journal Biological Psychology:
Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with porn
Excessive viewing of visual sexual stimuli (VSS) is the most commonly reported hypersexual behavior problem and is especially amenable to laboratory study. A pattern
of enhanced sexual cue responsiveness is expected in this sample if hypersexuality shares features of other addiction models. Participants (N = 122) who either reported or denied problematic VSS use were presented with emotional, including explicit
sexual, images while their evoked response potentials were recorded. An interaction of hypersexual problem group and the level of desire for sex with a partner predicted LPP amplitude. Specifically, those reporting problems regulating their VSS use who
also reported higher sexual desire had lower LPP in response to VSS. This pattern appears different from substance addiction models. These are the first functional physiological data of persons reporting VSS regulation problems.
University professor notes: 'There is no evidence that today's generation of young people are behaving any differently in relation to sex, marriage, pregnancy, children or STDs than previous generations'
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Professor Brian McNair is one of the world's foremost academic experts on pornography.
The subject matter of his work is often seen as peculiar or taboo, yet he believes pornography should be
studied in the same way as Hollywood movies and the pop industry. Professor McNair told ABC Brisbane's Spencer Howson that the growing acceptance of pornography had made it a fascinating subject of academia:
1990s many scholars have taken the topic of pornography seriously and tried to apply to it the same methods that we use for mainstream cinema, advertising and so on, he said. There is a growing acceptance and tolerance of pornography as something
ordinary people do or use.
There is no evidence that today's generation of young people are behaving any differently in relation to sex, marriage, pregnancy, children or STDs. Professor Brian Mc Nair. He said the ease and degree of
access had led to more people viewing pornographic material:
Children as young as 8, 9 or 10 have access to pornography, hard-core explicit images of a type that could not be purchased legally, or even in sex shops in
Sydney, he said.
That is a qualitatively different environment than existed pre-internet, so it creates justified anxieties amongst parents about what their children are watching in their bedrooms at night.
That said, there is no evidence that today's generation of young people are behaving any differently in relation to sex, marriage, pregnancy, children or STDs than previous generations.
The statistics in all of these elements are
He believes parents must take responsibility for policing the media consumption of their children. He said:
Apart from the very clear and unambiguously bad forms of pornography, I do not
think it is helpful for the state to intervene and try to censor the internet for everyone
Whether or not you attribute broader social harms to pornography, there is no evidence that increasing access to pornography is somehow
generating more sexual abuse or violence ... or the other things that sometimes pornography is accused of.
There is evidence of greater tolerance of gay marriage, reduced tolerance of domestic violence and sexism. All of this has
happened despite the face that we have this hugely sexualised culture.
Are Pornography and Marriage Substitutes for Young Men? by Michael Malcolm, George S Naufal (November 2014) forthcoming in: Eastern Economic Journal, 2015
Substitutes for marital sexual gratification may impact the decision
to marry. Proliferation of the Internet has made pornography an increasingly low-cost substitute. We investigate the effect of Internet usage, and of pornography consumption specifically, on the marital status of young men. We show that increased
Internet usage is negatively associated with marriage formation. Pornography consumption specifically has an even stronger effect. Instrumental variables and a number of robustness checks suggest that the effect is causal.
Research published in
the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany claims that the rise of free porn on the internet is both correlated with the decline in the amount of young adult men who are married and might actually play a role in the decline. Researchers
surveyed more than 1500 men between 18 and 35, analyzing how they used the internet between 2000 and 2004. The researchers took a look at how many hours each participant spent and how many looked at porn versus religious sites, adjusting for variables
like age, income, education, religiosity, and employment. Roberto A. Ferman at Washington Post writes :
Broadly, higher Internet usage was associated with lower marriage rates. But pornography use in particular was
more closely linked to those participants who were not married than any other form of Internet use, including regular use of financial websites, news websites, sports websites, and several others. The opposite, for comparison, was true for religious
website use, which was positively correlated with marriage.
One of the study's authors, professor at University of West Chester, Pennsylvania Dr. Michael Malcolm explains that the study could point to marriage and sexual
gratification. Ferman continues:
If pornography is viewed as a means of alternative sexual gratification, then it could be undercutting the need for marriages to serve this function, at the very least during a younger
age. Think of it as a milder form of premarital sex.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin found that a part of the brain which activates when people feel motivated or rewarded is smaller for porn users.
However the researchers don't know whether this is a correlation or causal link.
Dr Simone Kuhn said:
It's not clear, for example, whether watching porn leads to brain changes or whether people born with certain brain types watch more porn.
The abstract for the paper is as
Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption
By Simone Kuhn, Jurgen Gallinat
Importance Since pornography appeared on
the Internet, the accessibility, affordability, and anonymity of consuming visual sexual stimuli have increased and attracted millions of users. Based on the assumption that pornography consumption bears resemblance with reward-seeking behavior,
novelty-seeking behavior, and addictive behavior, we hypothesized alterations of the frontostriatal network in frequent users.
Objective To determine whether frequent pornography consumption is associated with the
Design, Setting, and Participants Sixty-four healthy male adults with a broad range of pornography consumption at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, reported hours of
pornography consumption per week. Pornography consumption was associated with neural structure, task-related activation, and functional resting-state connectivity.
Main Outcomes and Measures Gray matter volume of the brain
was measured by voxel-based morphometry and resting state functional connectivity was measured on 3-T magnetic resonance imaging scans.
Results We found a significant negative association between reported pornography hours
per week and gray matter volume in the right caudate (P < .001, corrected for multiple comparisons) as well as with functional activity during a sexual cue--reactivity paradigm in the left putamen (P < .001). Functional connectivity of the right
caudate to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was negatively associated with hours of pornography consumption.
Conclusions and Relevance The negative association of self-reported pornography consumption with the right
striatum (caudate) volume, left striatum (putamen) activation during cue reactivity, and lower functional connectivity of the right caudate to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex could reflect change in neural plasticity as a consequence of an
intense stimulation of the reward system, together with a lower top-down modulation of prefrontal cortical areas. Alternatively, it could be a precondition that makes pornography consumption more rewarding.
It has been an assumption of most anti-pornography discourse that porn damages women (and children) in a variety of ways. In Porno? Chic!, the author interrogated this assumption by
examining the correlation between the incidence of sexual violence and other indicators of misogyny, and the availability and accessibility of pornography within a number of societies. This article develops that work with a specific focus on the
regulatory environment as it relates to pornography and sexual representation. Does a liberal regulatory regime in sexual culture correlate with a relatively advanced state of sexual politics in a given country? Conversely, does an illiberal regime,
where pornography and other forms of sexual culture are banned or severely restricted, correlate with relatively strong patriarchal structures? A comparative cross-country analysis seeks to explain the correlations identified, and to assess the extent to
which the availability of porn can be viewed as a causal or a consequential characteristic of those societies where feminism has achieved significant advances.
Brian McNaira. Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology,
Brisbane, Australia Published online: 21 Mar 2014.
Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith introduce their Porn Studies journal as follows:
This journal has been more than two years in its planning, followed by the exciting, though time-intense and anxiety-making, work of bringing
together the content for a launch issue. Porn Studies has been a labour of love. Our interests in bringing the journal to fruition were born out of our personal and professional fascinations with the ways in which pornography matters and is discussed.
Clearly pornography is a significant topic across a whole range of academic, public and policy domains, and yet the spaces in which it is discussed and debated are not always conducive to the sharing of research and the development of meaningful
dialogue. Just as there are specialist journals, conferences, book series and collections enabling consideration of other areas of media and cultural production, so pornography needs a dedicated space for research and debate.
Researching pornography can be particularly complicated and challenging. Newspaper articles examine the proliferations of sexually explicit materials as evidence of changing mores, of other peoples' weaknesses and excesses; pornography as an industry is characterized as a
big business whose sheer size means it ought to be condemned. It (and pornography is almost always characterized as singular) is portrayed as an industry that succeeds by pandering to ever-more extreme interests and one that pulls everything, even
the most innocent of people, into its orbit so that anything which hints at sexuality -- dress, topographies of body hair, musical tastes, dancing, and so on -- is marked by and marks pornography's influence . With such 'overhead noise' about
pornography, uncovering the histories and contemporary forms of sexually explicit representation, their production and consumption, their circulation and distribution, their importance and insignificances can be daunting.
is too easy to focus on the problems of researching pornography, and we also ought to be able to celebrate successes. Research on pornography has found a home in journals and a presence at seminars and conferences across various disciplines. However, as
important as these have been, they have not provided the dedicated space that allows for the development of a research tradition and for discussions about the kinds of approaches and methods which will produce good research. We need a dedicated space to
explore the complexities and potentials of research into pornography. This is the right time for a journal for porn studies. We need to develop our methods and theories, and to talk about the importance of different technologies, their particular
employment as platforms for distribution, and the contributions these make to the kinds of pornographies that are available. We need to be able to engage with and examine the variety of legislative moves against pornography and how those might be tied to
concerns about the spread and accessibility of other forms of information, and we need to recognize where regulation is being lessened or loosened and why this is so.
The addiction model is rarely used to describe high-frequency use of visual sexual stimuli (VSS) in research, yet common in media and clinical practice.
The theory and
research behind pornography addiction is hindered by poor experimental designs, limited methodological rigor, and lack of model specification.
The history and limitations of addiction models are reviewed, including how VSS
fails to meet standards of addiction. These include how VSS use can reduce health-risk behaviors. Proposed negative effects, including erectile problems, difficulty regulating sexual feelings, and neuroadaptations are discussed as non-pathological
evidence of learning.
Individuals reporting addictive use of VSS could be better conceptualized by considering issues such as gender, sexual orientation, libido, desire for sensation, with internal and external conflicts
influenced by religiosity and desire discrepancy.
Since a large, lucrative industry has promised treatments for pornography addiction despite this poor evidence, scientific psychologists are called to declare the emperor
(treatment industry) has no clothes (supporting evidence). When faced with such complaints, clinicians are encouraged to address behaviors without conjuring addiction labels.
Nerve reports further
Dr. David Ley, author of a new study in the Current Sexual Health Reports, says that slapping the label of porn addict on net smut enthusiasts is not only missing the point, but ignoring the benefits of watching porn. Ley contends that fewer than two in every five research articles about high frequency sexual behavior describe it as being an addiction, and furthermore, a limiting 27 percent of articles on porn addiction actually contain any empirical data. In fact, in studies, there's been no evidence of any of the commonly hyped life-crushing negative effects of porn addiction, like erectile dysfunction and brain rewiring.
When we pathologize common sexual behaviors, even if they seem compulsive, we're also stigmatizing them. Frequently watching porn, even up to five hours a week, maybe could cause a mean case of carpal tunnel and near-sightedness,
but it also increases positive attitudes towards sex, increases frequency of sex, decreases rates of sex crimes, and fosters open dialogues of sexuality between couples.
Statistically, people most likely to hop on the porn addict
train are usually male, have a non-heterosexual orientation, have high libidos, and have religious values that conflict with their compulsions. Meaning: we like to diagnose things that run counter to our carefully constructed social and family values,
when maybe, masturbating frequently is perfectly normal. Watching porn isn't accepted in every circle, so it became quite easy to call the behaviors of everyone --- from the helpless, to the hyper horny, to the completely ordinary --- an illness.
Porn addiction is also a business. The highly profitable conversation surrounding porn addiction is worrisome to Dr. Ley, who claims, we need better methods to help people who struggle with the high frequency use of visual sexual
stimuli, without pathologizing them or their use thereof...Rather than helping patients who may struggle to control viewing images of a sexual nature, the 'porn addiction' concept instead seems to feed an industry with secondary gain from the acceptance
of the idea.
Should women receive preferential treatment in the workplace? Newly published research suggests attitudes toward this issue may correlate in part to whether people are porn viewers.
Writing in the Psychology of Women Quarterly , Indiana
University researchers Paul Wright and Michelle Funk report people who admitted to watching pornography were less likely to support affirmative action for women in a subsequent interview.
That equation held true once a variety of factors that
could shape one's view of the issue (including political ideology and religiosity) were removed from the equation. Furthermore, it applied to women as well as men.
The researchers claim: these results suggest that pornography may be a social
influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women. ( But on the other hand it may just mean that if feminists were a little less strident in wanting to ban adult entertainment, they may get a little more support in more
In interviews in 2008, nearly 24% of the men and 13% of the women said they had watched a pornographic film during the previous year. Two years later, as part of a follow-up session, the same people were asked, Are you for
or against preferential hiring and promotion of women?
The results: Prior pornographic viewing predicted subsequent opposition to affirmative action for women. While women in the study (like those in previous research) were more
supportive of such programs than men, they, too, were less likely to express approval if they had watched porn.
According to the researchers, this suggests sexual media activate abstract social scripts, which may then be used to inform opinions
about social issues ---particularly issues dealing with gender equality. But really it just means that porn viewers aren't awfully keen on those who want to take their fun away.
From Pacific Center for Sex and Society, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, 1960 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
By Diamond M, Jozifkova E, Weiss
Pornography continues to be a contentious matter with those on the one side arguing it detrimental to society while others argue it is pleasurable to many and a feature of free speech. The advent of the Internet with the ready
availability of sexually explicit materials thereon particularly has seemed to raise questions of its influence. Following the effects of a new law in the Czech Republic that allowed pornography to a society previously having forbidden it allowed us to
monitor the change in sex related crime that followed the change.
As found in all other countries in which the phenomenon has been studied, rape and other sex crimes did not increase. Of particular note is that this country, like
Denmark and Japan, had a prolonged interval during which possession of child pornography was not illegal and, like those other countries, showed a significant decrease in the incidence of child sex abuse.
Fifty Shades of Grey , the best-selling tale of erotic romance, perpetuates the problem of violence against women, according to a new genderist study.
Reporting in the Journal of Women's Health , Dr Amy Bonomi concluded that
emotional and sexual abuse is pervasive in the novel, with the main female character, Anastasia, suffering harm as a result:
This book is perpetuating dangerous abuse standards and yet it's being cast as this romantic,
erotic book for women. The erotic content could have been accomplished without the theme of abuse.
The researchers, at Ohio State University, conducted an analysis of the novel and found patterns consistent with Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention definitions of intimate partner violence, and associated reactions known to occur in abused women.
The negative effect of pornography on a teenager's sexuality has been greatly exaggerated, according to a new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Parents have long had reasons to intervene when they catch their teens looking
at pornography. There are arguments to be made against pornography on almost every level: Most films, especially from the mainstream, at best give very unrealistic depictions of men, women, and various sex acts, and it has long been thought that exposure
to pornography has a negative effect on a teen's sexual development.
But at least one new study argues the contrary: That pornography might not have as big an effect on teen sexual behavior as thought.
For the new study, 4,600 young people
between the ages of 15 and 25 in The Netherlands were surveyed about their sex lives and their use of pornography. The survey asked whether they used pornography, how many sexual partners they have had, and whether or not they've had one-night stands or
exchanged money for sex.
Gert Martin Hald, the lead author of the study and associate professor in the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen, said that previous studies on the subject focused too much on the contraction of
sexually transmitted diseases and the consumption of pornography. This means that previous studies had already overestimated the link between porn and sexual behavior without laying any proper groundwork. Their study, therefore, focused on sexual
self-esteem, sexual assertiveness, sensation seeking, and the extent to which young people sought out sexual excitement and physical pleasure.
The study found that ultimately, there does exist a statistically significant relationship
between the subjects' pornography use and their sexual behavior, [but] that link turned out to be a modest one. Hald also argues that more attention should be paid to other influences outside of pornography. Hald said:
There has been a sort of moral panic -- sometimes in Britain and in the U.S. especially -- about the influence of pornography on sexual behaviours. And although this study can't claim to investigate cause and effect, it can still say
that there are a lot of other factors that determine sexual behaviours, so maybe we should put the debate into a larger perspective instead of being just one-sided.
Perhaps he is trying to suggest that unemployment and a lack of
prospects may be doing far more harm to kids than viewing porn.
Watching porn and posting nude photos of oneself may be good for young people according to a Swedish researcher.
Pernilla Nigard, a doctoral candidate at Malmo University studied men and women 18-25 and found that young people's online porn habits
can enrich their lives. She even believes the practices may help shape their identities. Nigard told The Local: A lot of it is about the need to be seen, to get affirmation, and to get attention,
When asked why they posted sexualized
images of themselves online, the women Nigard interviewed said that they feel stronger when they receive positive comments.
But it's not all good news. If women receive negative comments, they're likely to strike back at their critics.
Nigard found that it's OK to be seen as sexy, but if women are labeled sluts or whores it can become problematic for those who post their photos, especially when they're spread across the internet.
Men on the other hand use porn in the pursuit of independence.
Nigard said: It's sort of like uncomplicated sex. There aren't any demands like in a real relationship because there is a lack of intimacy.
Nigard's research also indicated that it's not really clear why young people feel good about
exposing their sexuality online when it's those who comment who have the real power. She said that perhaps it's the simple fact that our image-heavy culture helps shape young people's identities regardless of the consequences.
A new study investigates the link between a country's relative gender equality and the degree of female "empowerment" in the X-rated entertainment it consumes.
Researchers at the
University of Hawaii focused on three countries in particular: Norway, the United States and Japan, which are respectively ranked 1st, 15th and (yikes) 54th on the United Nations Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM).
simplify their analysis, their library of smut was limited to explicit photographs of women from mainstream pornographic magazines and Internet websites, as well as from the portfolios of the most popular porn stars from each nation. Then they set out to
evaluate each image on both a disempowerment and an empowerment scale, using respective measures like whether the woman is bound and dominated by leashes, collars, gags, or handcuffs or whether she has a natural looking body.
Their hypothesis was that societies with greater gender equity will consume pornography that has more representations of empowered women and less of disempowered women.
It turned out the
former was true, but, contradictory as it may sound, the latter was not. While Norwegian pornography offers a wider variety of body types -- conforming less to a societal ideal that is disempowering to the average woman -- there are still many images
that do not promote a healthy respect for women, the researchers explain.
In other words, Norwegian porn showed more signs of female empowerment, but X-rated images in all three countries equally depicted women in
demeaning positions and scenarios. This, the researchers surmise, suggests that empowerment and disempowerment within pornography are potentially different constructs.
Newspapers pick up on obscure research about people selecting their own community to seek acceptance of their views, be they right, wrong, good or evil
7th May 2011. See
dailymail.co.uk (note also the small, but full frontal, image used to illustrate the story)
One of a collection of papers published in 2008
The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have picked up an on 2008 research papers written by Tim Jones. & David Wilson
In my own world: A case study of a paedophile's thinking and doing and his use of the Internet published in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice
Thinking & Doing; Fantasy & Reality: An Analysis of Convicted Paedophiles
published in a collection of papers titled: The Assessment, Treatment and Management of Violent and Sexual Offenders , (London: Willan)
The Daily Mail writes:
Extreme sexual fantasies are being normalised because of the rise in deviant pornography on the internet, psychologists have warned.
believe there is a causal link [corrected from casual!] between the rise in explicit images available online and an increase extreme illegal behaviour in real life.
experts, the internet is allowing like-minded people to share explicit and violent sexual fantasies, therefore making them more acceptable.
Hardly rocket science, all sorts of frowned up on group chat amongst themselves and
hence finding community affirmation of their slant on life. Seems to apply equally to melon farmers, Daily Mail readers and religious nutters.
The findings are based on research conducted by Dr Tim Jones, senior
lecturer in cognitive psychology at Worcester University as well as top psychologists such as criminologist Professor David Wilson from Birmingham City University. Their research is based around a series of interviews with a convicted paedophile named
They also point to the rise images of child pornography available on the internet. The Greater Manchester police obscene publications unit has seen a staggering leap in the number of illicit images seized.
In 1995, they seized around dozen images of child pornography, rising to over 41,000 in 1999, and by 2001, the unit was so overwhelmed with the number of images that they stopped counting.
Hardly a revelation, no doubt the same
escalation applies to any other category of image that circulates on the internet.
Viewing violent x-rated material may contribute to sexually aggressive behavior among 10-17 year olds. X-rated material without violent content does not appear to have the same impact, finds a new study conducted by Internet Solutions for Kids and funded
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Published in Aggressive Behavior , the study is expected to be highly influential. Because of the obvious ethical problems of purposefully exposing kids to pornography, Dr. Michele
Ybarra, the primary author of the study, explains, little was known before about how viewing x-rated material may be related to sexual aggression in children. We asked kids whether they had looked at x-rated material before, and then looked to see if
the kids who said 'yes' were more likely to also say that they were sexually aggressive. The study finds that youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person
versus kids not exposed to x-rated material. Watching violent pornography does not always lead to sexual aggression and not all sexual aggressors have been exposed to pornography, Ybarra cautions; nor does the study prove that violent x-rated material
causes sexual aggression.
Exposure to Internet pornography is relatively common. Findings from the Youth Internet Safety Survey – 2 indicate that 15% of 12-17 year olds have purposefully looked at x-rated material online. Data from the Pew
Internet and American Life Project suggest that 70% of 15-17 year-old Internet users accidentally view pornography very or somewhat often. Nevertheless, Ybarra's study also finds that the Internet is not the most common source of x-rated
material – even violent x-rated material. Fourteen percent looked at x-rated material in movies, 12% in magazines, and 11% online. There's an assumption out there that the Internet has somehow increased kids' exposures to deviant content. Our
data don't support this. We're learning that just because content that we find disturbing is accessible online, doesn't mean kids will seek it out, Ybarra explains. She agrees that blocking and filtering software will likely prevent exposure to
violent x-rated material online. But, these things won't do anything to prevent exposure through magazines and movies. That's why it's important to talk to your kids also.
The concern that countries allowing pornography and liberal anti-obscenity laws would show increased sex crime rates due to modeling or that children or adolescents in particular would be negatively vulnerable to and receptive to such models or that
society would be otherwise adversely effected is not supported by evidence. It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere
has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims. Even in this area of concern no clear and present danger exists for the suppression of sexually explicit material. There is no
evidence that pornography is intended or likely to produce imminent lawless action (see Brandenberg v. Ohio, 1969). It is reasonable that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently rejected the principal that speech or expression can be punished
because it offends some people's sensibilities or beliefs. Compared with hate speech or commercial speech there seems even less justification for banning sex speech.
Sex abuse of any kind is deplorable and should be
eliminated. Rape and sex crimes, like any criminal activities are blights on society which should be expunged. The question remains How best to do this? Most assuredly, focusing energy in the wrong direction, or taking actions just to placate
victims, politicians or irate citizens will not solve the problem or help. Nor will spreading myths or misinformation. Removing pornography from our midst will, according to the evidence, only hurt rather than help society.
I think it is
better to expend our energies in two directions. 1) Make better pornography so that preferred role models are portrayed and more segments of society can come to appreciate or at least understand and tolerate its value; and 2) turn our research to other
directions to eliminate or reduce the social ills of rape and other sex crimes. The best place to look is probably in the home during the first decade of life. But it is only by research that we can continue to understand how to most effectively meet
this social challenge. Governments as well as the pornography industry itself would do well to finance and encourage such research.
Watching pornographic videos does not impact the sexual habits of a man and there is no ill-effect on his sexual relationships with his partner.
Allaying the fears of negative impact on men watching pornographic videos, a report conducted by a
Canadian researcher over a period of two years says that there is nothing harmful in the practice.
Simon Louis Lajeunesse, a Montreal University associate professor, has asserted that his research discards the common view that pornography
enthusiasts seek out in life what they see in X-rated videos, that ultimately leads to sexual abuse or denigration of women.
Denying the common apprehension of negative impact of porn videos, Simon said: It would be like saying that vodka ads
lead to alcoholism.
His research proves that a majority of men watch movies containing explicit pornographic content to satisfy their fringe fantasy and it is wrong to assume that it leads to criminal behavior.
Simon said that he
face a lot of problems while conducting his research, as adult video stores and sex shops refused to allow him to post notices inviting men to participate. However, a handful of universities permitted him to address their campuses, and after appealing to
some 2,000 mostly women students to take part, 20 heterosexual men agreed to come out to talk on the issue of sex in their lives.
Among the many discoveries that Simon derived during his course of the study, he reached a conclusion that all the
respondents watched adult videos online and almost all searched alone for online erotica, whether in a committed relationship or not.
The study also revealed that men tend to fast-forward through scenes that do not interest them, often involving
sexual violence or group ejaculation which they found disgusting.
Clinical research journal Behavioral Therapy has published results of the first-ever study conducted to address problematic internet pornography viewing.
Though it is common for many anti-pornography campaigners to refer to
issues related to the excessive use of internet porn as addiction, the authors of the study, Utah State University psychologist Michael Twohig and graduate student Jess Crosby, approached the problem rather as an obsessive compulsive disorder
Despite the prevalence of problematic internet pornography viewing and the breadth of intervention approaches to potentially address it, no studies to address this problem have been reported to date, reads an abstract of the study.
An emerging treatment approach, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) , holds promise as a treatment for internet pornography viewing because of its focus on processes hypothesized to underlie this maladaptive behavior.
according to Psychology Today blogger Stephen C. Hayes, teaches people to walk in the exact opposite direction than that suggested by the problem-solving organ between our ears. Instead of controlling urges, ACT teaches acceptance and mindful
awareness of them. Instead of self-loathing and criticism, ACT teaches self-compassion. Instead of avoidance, ACT instigates approaching ones' values.
This is counter-intuitive. Suppressive avoidance is what the mind knows how to do. A
highly religious young man struggling with pornography viewing is likely to criticize himself horribly, and then try to eliminate the urge and suppress all thoughts about it. It almost looks as though that is the moral thing to do, but instead this
research suggests that it is a route toward more struggle, more suffering, and ironically toward more obsessive viewing.
The study, which appears in the September issue of Behavioral Therapy , reports that the outcome was successful:
In the first experiment on the treatment of problematic internet pornography viewing, the abstract continues, 6 adult males who reported that their internet pornography viewing was affecting their quality of life were treated in eight
1.5-hour sessions of ACT for problematic pornography viewing. The effects of the intervention were assessed in a multiple-baseline-across-participants design with time viewing pornography as the dependent variable. Treatment resulted in an 85 percent
reduction in viewing at post treatment with results being maintained at 3-month follow-up (83 percent reduction).
In other words, says Hayes, Religious obsessions went down but positive commitments went up. Obsessive thinking was relieved
and with it worry that unbidden thoughts alone cause harm. People became more accepting of their emotions and less entangled with their thoughts. And they were more able to act in accord with their values as a positive goal, carrying difficult thoughts
and feelings with them in a more compassionate way.
Milton Diamond, a professor of anatomy and reproductive biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has authored a study titled Pornography, Public Acceptance and Sex Related Crime: A Review.
Published in 2009 in the International Journal
of Law and Psychiatry, the study takes a comprehensive, cross-cultural look at research conducted over the years on the subject of porn's influence on individuals as well as societies.
Diamond's conclusion, which he readily admits flies in the
face of common assumptions held by many today, is that there is no objective, verifiable evidence that exposure to pornography causes any of the societal ills ascribed to it, including sex crimes, the abuse or disempowerment of women, and a host of
negative effects on individuals or families.
With these data from a wide variety of communities, cultures and countries we can better evaluate the thesis that an abundance of sexual explicit material
invariably leads to an increase of illegal sexual activity and eventually rape. Similarly we can now better reconsider the conclusion of the Meese Commission and others that there exists 'a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and …
unlawful acts of sexual violence' (Meese, 1986, page 326). Indeed, the data reported and reviewed suggests that the thesis is myth and, if anything, there is an inverse causal relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes.
Further, considering the findings of studies of community standards and wide spread usage of SEM (sexually explicit material), it is obvious that in local communities as nationally and internationally, porn is available, widely used
and felt appropriate for voluntary adult consumption. If there is a consensus against pornography it is in regard to any SEM that involves children or minors in its production or consumption.
Lastly, we see that
objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence. It is relevant to mention here that a temporal correlation between
pornography and any effect is a necessary condition before one can rationally entertain the idea that there is a positive statistical correlation between pornography and any negative effect. Nowhere has such a temporal association been found.
His findings are a severe blow to those who claim that porn leads to crime.
In every region investigated, he writes, researchers have found that as pornography has increased in availability, sex crimes have either
decreased or not increased.
The notion that hardcore pornography is addictive and, even worse, a corrosive hazard to individuals, families and society is running headlong into studies conducted by noted researchers that show precisely the opposite—that hardcore pornography is
good for you.
A blog post by Dr. Gad Saad on the Psychology Today website makes just that argument, citing two recent studies, including one conducted by Gert Martin Hald and Neil M. Malamuth.
I should mention, writes Saad, that
Neil Malamuth is a highly regarded scholar of pornography who has often argued for its supposed ill effects. Hence, if there exists a possibility of an a priori bias here, it would be in hoping to find that pornography yields negative consequences.
But that is not what the researchers found in their survey of 688 young Danish adults (men = 316; women = 372). Instead, Hald and Malamuth
found that respondents construed the viewing of hardcover pornography as beneficial to their sex lives, their attitudes towards sex, their perceptions and attitudes towards members of the opposite sex, toward life in general, and over all. The obtained
beneficial effects were statistically significant for all but one measure across both sexes. Now here is the kicker: A positive correlation was obtained between the amount of hardcover pornography that was viewed and the impact of the benefits reaped.
This positive correlation was found for both sexes. In other words, the more that one watched porn, the stronger the benefits (for both sexes)!
The second study yielded similar results. In a paper published in 2009 in the International
Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Milton Diamond reviewed a very broad number of studies that have explored the supposed ill effects of pornography, writes Saad.
Diamond concludes, Indeed, the data reported and reviewed suggests that the
thesis is myth and, if anything, there is an inverse causal relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes. Further, considering the findings of studies of community standards and wide spread usage of SEM [sexually explicit material], it
is obvious that in local communities as nationally and internationally, porn is available, widely used and felt appropriate for voluntary adult consumption. If there is a consensus against pornography it is in regard to any SEM that involves children or
minors in its production or consumption. Lastly we see that objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence.
Dr Collen Bryant of the Australian Institute of Criminology said research showed males reported more positive attitudes to pornography from an early age than did females who were generally extremely negative.
But by their mid-20s, both males and
females might report similarly positive attitudes.For that reason, seeking to minimise exposure to pornography was not the whole answer.
Though restricting exposure will remain a priority, an over-reliance on this approach to protect against
the perceived harms of pornography is problematic as it fails to recognise the realities of ready availability and the high acceptance of pornography among young people, she said.
The probability that a young person will have exposure to pornography prior to the age of 18 - the legal age in
Australia at which it is permissible to view and purchase such materials - is very high.
Concern exists, among both parents and policymakers, that widespread, premature exposure to pornography is changing the nature of sexual attitudes,
behaviours, and intimate relationships and potentially contributing to sexual violence in society. The extent to which it is difficult to determine, owing to the scarcity of adolescent-based research and differing conceptions about harm.
paper examines the many factors that underpin pornography exposure, and stresses how the risk factors for exposure and problematic sexual behaviours intersect to contribute to harm. An understanding of the complex interplay of factors such as gender,
age, attitude, personal characteristics and social context of use is important in the development of strategies that will assist young people to avoid any potential adverse outcomes.
The available evidence remains highly incomplete, and its
interpretation is highly contested, so the paper highlights the need for longitudinal studies of use and of actual behaviour, and for studies that focus on cultural contexts and emerging media.
Evidence that non-violent porn is good for society escapes notice of officials bent on crackdown
1st January 2003
By John C. Boseman, Ph.D., at Nude Women of Bojiggly.
Various governments around the world, from the West to the Middle East, have launched or threaten to launch new attacks on pornography,
especially on the internet. In the US, for example, for the first time in more than 10 years, the Justice Department has begun investigating, raiding, filing charges, and arresting people for porn.
porn use various theories as justifications - it causes violence, oppresses women, undermines the family, or threatens the health of society as a whole. The weight of evidence shows these charges are no more true than old claims against masturbation,
that it makes you go blind or grow hair on your palms.
In fact, attackers are ignoring mounting evidence that porn is good for the lives and health of most of its users and increases the well-being and
progress of societies that allow it. (For research references, see the link near the bottom of this article.)
Porn and violence
Some years ago, for example, several countries that had restricted pornography finally relented and made it legal. The result was a rapid, major reduction in sexual violence and rape in those countries, according to a number of
studies. One study showed the most dramatic decline occurred in rapes where the victims were under 13 years old. So the availability of porn helped protect some of the most vulnerable members of society from becoming rape victims.
On the other hand, studies suggest that some violent pornography may indeed lead to violence, not because it is porn, but because it is violent. But there is much more violence in mainstream media than in porn. In fact,
researchers had a hard time finding violent porn for their tests of effects on viewer's attitudes. They ended up using R-rated movies.
It is ironic that repression of adult media is part of both Christian and
Muslim fundamentalisms, which, through the crusades and terrorism, have fomented far more deadly violence than was ever attributed to media.
Interestingly, a survey found that among users of porn, most had
never seen any showing violence, and those who had said it was a turnoff.
Porn and the status of women
world, wherever there is harsh censorship of porn, there is also harsh oppression of women. Who can forget TV images of a Taliban vigilante beating a defenseless Afghan woman with a stick for allowing a tiny bit of her leg to show under a head-to-toe
Women have reached the greatest degree of freedom and equality in countries where porn has become widely available, primarily Western Europe and the English-speaking countries. In fact, the adult
industry has empowered many women, including performers and entrepreneurs, some with very high incomes. Women are among the most successful business people in the adult industry. A new round of repression would force many women in the sex business back
into a life of degradation and abuse.
Existing western law already strictly prohibits forcing anyone into porn, as it does using minors in porn, because most civilized people find such practices intolerable.
Protection of adults and minors against force and abuse doesn't require a crackdown on pornography, just enforcement of existing law.
Some porn does indeed portray degradation or domination of women. Some
even portrays the same of men. Some mainstream entertainment does, too. Evidence of harm from such porn is elusive, however, and it may actually help some disturbed viewers get their jollies through fantasy, rather than seeking them in reality.
Porn and the family
Men and women are only human, even when they have a family. It is natural for their eyes to wander,
whether they are married or not. Husbands often long to see the neighbor lady or a female co-worker naked.
Given human nature, extramarital lust is inevitable. Wishing it away is as useful as asking the wind
not to blow. Of the three main ways one can satisfy extramarital lust - porn, prostitution, or adultery - porn runs the least risk of ruining a marriage or bringing home a disease. Handled properly, it can provide a safety valve that relieves pressure
without causing damage and thereby tames the natural wanderlust and strengthens the family.
At the same time, parents do have a right to try to restrict minors' access to adult material. Doing so is
difficult, however. Minors have always been able to get porn almost as easily as adults. Software can be somewhat effective in blocking internet porn, but most teenagers can readily buy skin magazines or enter adult theaters instead.
Laws have never been very effective in this area. Requiring a credit card does not work, since cards are now heavily promoted to minors, and many minors have access to their parents' cards or card numbers.
The biggest concern about the effect of porn on minors is the unrealistic portrayal of sex in many X-rated movies. The sex shown is often between people who just met. The women are always willing and eager. Love,
affection, and caring are ignored. This can create unrealistic expectations and examples for minors, the same way mainstream action movies do, where the hero never gets hurt despite fights, falls, car wrecks, and flying bullets. Ever notice how bad guys
always seem to have such terrible aim?
Fortunately, there is no clear evidence that non-violent porn hurts minors. Nevertheless, efforts to give parents more control can help alleviate concerns.
Porn and health
There is abundant evidence that orgasms contribute to health and longevity by bolstering the immune system,
boosting beneficial hormones, reducing cancer risk, providing exercise, aiding sleep, and enhancing the ability to handle stress. People who have frequent orgasms even look younger, according to research.
These good effects are strongest when orgasms are part of a loving relationship, and nearly as strong when they result from solo masturbation. The beneficial effects seem not to apply, however, to orgasms resulting from stressful liaisons such as adultery, where the fear of discovery is high.
So here again porn can make a valuable contribution. Few people achieve a permanent loving relationship at an early age that satisfies all their sexual desires the rest of their lives. In the real world
masturbation is at times the only safe and available way to gain the health benefits of orgasm. Porn is a useful and enjoyable aid to masturbation for many people.
Historical evidence is clear - porn and progress go together. The 1500 years of Greco-Roman civilization, in which porn was plentiful, brought great advances in science, technology, art,
literature, health, literacy, and general standards of living. There is a common misconception that sexual liberty caused the fall of the Roman Empire, but historians say this is false.
The Roman Empire fell
when corrupt politicians allowed religious fanatics to take over the government. The Dark Ages ensued, a 1000 year period of severe repression of porn, along with increased war, famine, and plague, declining health and literacy, and the loss of much
learning in science, art, and literature.
The Renaissance and the Enlightenment eventually brought forth a reawakening of learning and progress, along with renewed freedom of sexual expression and a new
proliferation of porn. Today we see much higher living standards in countries with such basic freedoms, in contrast to the poverty and backwardness of countries still under repressive regimes.
How porn helps progress
Is porn just a side effect of a free and progressive society, or is it part of the causes of progress? A growing
understanding of the function of porn suggests the latter.
The primary function of porn is to assist in sexual arousal and the achievement of orgasm. People who have frequent orgasms are healthier and
happier, and so are less likely to rob, steal, rape, kill, make war, or smash things up. Sexual satisfaction awakens creativity and gets the mind off sex for a while. Sexually satisfied people are more likely to build and create and research and discover
and contribute to society. Suppression of porn adds to sexual deprivation, which leads to sexual preoccupation, and increases frustration and aggression. That is not healthy for society.
Sources of attacks on porn
Where does the impulse to crack down on porn come from? The brutal Taliban repression vividly demonstrates an extreme fear of naked women and
sex, a fear that infects the psyche of many deeply religious people. History, from the Dark Ages to today, shows that wherever such people gain political power, freedom and progress are in grave danger.
attacks on porn are rooted in religion, such as those in Moslem and Christian countries. All the attackers share a common aim - they wish to control other people. It is much easier to gain political and religious power over people if you control their
sex lives, in other words, if you have them by the balls.
Adult media are an easy target for vote-obsessed politicians because opponents of porn are outspoken, whereas users are often ashamed or too
embarrassed to speak out. Yet good citizens can always stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of the bedroom, and perhaps even spread the word that non-violent porn is actually good for society, not bad
Information herein is from sources believed reliable, but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Original with research references published at Bojiggly.com. Bojiggly is a trademark of Benala
Vista LLC. Dr. Boseman (pen name) holds an M.A. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology.
I see no point in discussing porn with people who have never seen any, If you don't want to see it, close your eyes or leave the room.
I'm opening up with
some of the controversial photos from the Robert Maplethorpe book, recently seized (and later returned) by the West Midlands Police from University of Central England , so you can see what the fuss was about.
the Oxford Union is a rather unusual place to look at sexually arousing pictures -- better be at home with a stiff dick or juicy pussy in your hand or, preferably both! Looking at porn and perhaps getting aroused in a non-sexual environment may seem
confusing and conflicting.
Women especially might find the experience difficult, especially if you've always believed porn to be bad. You may feel torn between your thoughts and your feelings in your groin, with the resulting
wetpatch on your seat. So I'll explain. The blood is flowing into your pelvic area , waking up your genitalia and moisture is seeping into your vaginal walls and down into your vulva. This is normal and nothing to be afraid of.
I would like to ask that, if you get to the stage where you are bursting to come , either just do it, but please don't get up to visit the lav until the opposition speaks!
These photographs are
by Ron Raffaelli -- hounded out of town and made bankrupt. It's still illegal -- for making beautiful images of sex!
It's already been established that Porn is not harmful. The Danish government did a ten year study which
concluded that looking at porno is not harmful to adults or children. They lifted its ban on pornography in 1965, admitting that it was a violation of human rights to prevent individuals deriving pleasure from porn . They were right: the
sex crime rate in Denmark fell by 66 per cent.
The Danes bought a lot to begin with then didn't bother much any more. It didn't really change their lives or values. It just made them feel safer because the sex crime rate had
Interestingly, they don't sell kiddy porn in Denmark because they think it's immoral (and the market so small it's no great loss) So you see -- when people are given freedom they don't go mad or become evil -- they take
responsibility for their lives and in their work.
So why, Oh why couldn't Britain follow their example? Ten years later, a British study culminated in the Williams Report which reached similar conclusions but rejected by Margaret
Thatcher in 1979. Governments know that by controlling our sexuality, they can control us. Still people go to prison for selling images such as this! But not if you get a trial by jury because juries never seem to think there's anything wrong in it --
nor is there!
15 reasons why Porn is beneficial in society:
Acting as a safety valve
Looking at porn which shows people all the wild sex they may never get, and produces orgasm to relieve tension. Thus people are less likely to commit sex crimes.
It's useful In sex therapy. I am a sex therapist and use porn to reduce sexual anxiety.
Don't get me wrong, showing a picture of a gorgeous pussy isn't going to turn a homosexual into a heterosexual. Nor
should it . But porn is used to educate and help people accept sexual activities better. Most men know that cocks vary a lot in size and shape and so don't worry about being weird, but women often go mad worrying, especially nervous that they played with
themselves and made the labia become weird shapes. So we show them photos of all the various kinds of pussies and they relax.
Showing couples how blow-jobs look helps them feel less nervous, showing pictures of masturbation helps
lessen the guilt. Once couples find out it's OK to masturbate together, sex therapy proceeds quickly and successfully.
It spices up the sex-lives of millions of couples who've been together for a long time,
They look at the porn together, get turned on and have hot sex.
Most people have fantasies about having group sex or doing wild things that are difficult to organise or realise. So porn allows you to witness the scenes of your
longings, without all the worries of jealousy, breaking friendships, -- your neighbours might not speak to you again if you invite them round for an orgy -- or breaking the law.
Porn provides spicy fantasy
lives for people without partner or are in a dull relationship. Women tend to read novels and men look at top-shelf mags, films and videos, or satellite TV.
Porno is very popular. When the photographic process was
discovered it was used to create porn before anything else. The reverend Chad Varah, founder of The Samaritans, 87 next week, and a member of Keeble college and this Union, told me that he supports my work, and told me a story last week that in the 60's Sight and Sound
magazine did a survey of West End cinemas during the afternoon and found there were four times as many viewers squashed on uncomfortable seats in tiny basement porno theatres than in the plush cinemas showing big movies! People love porn!
Porn provides more orgasms, which is beneficial for people's health, strengthening the heart and lungs, circulation and leaving them with a feeling of well-being. When I go for a medical check-up, they always say "You
must be an athlete" -- and I just say "No, I enjoy a lot of big orgasms".
Porn is beneficial to many of the people in it. You may find this hard to believe but being sexual in front of a camera can
have a profound effect -- especially on women -- they blossom sexually. Porn is a fun job for those who enjoy it. Look at these women -- in their everyday life and in porn. Do they seem harmed or unhappy? It's a myth that women are drugged and dragging
Porn is amusing and lots of people watch it at parties or show it around in the pub, which lowers inhibitions so that people feel less worried about discussing their sex lives. Laughter and sex go
together happily as both are joyful.
Porn is shocking This might be the most difficult one to accept but people love to be shocked. Seeing something shocking challenges everyday standards, helps people put things
into perspective, makes life less grey, and is cathartic -- bringing all your repressed emotions to the surface and thus refreshing you.
Porn is educational This is especially true in fetish and S/M porn, where
it's sometimes difficult to find out how to give an enema, put someone in bondage or whip them without damaging them. I wish it were more so, teaching shy people how to make sexual approaches, and educating society that disabled people can be great
lovers. People can learn about safer sex from those books and films that show it.
Porn can be enjoyed by everyone whatever their education and class (unlike the media which provides different messages to each). The
rich and sophisticated can enjoy their erotic art and when that gets taken to court, the judge is in a dilemma because it breaks the rule that the refined don't show their sexual feelings, and how can he ban a work of a great artist?
Porn is subversive It's an insult to British adults to ban us seeing hard porn. It's a way of nannying us, and controlling us. It's a very clever device -- because to control the people's sexuality, you control the people. Porno is
thus subversive, and subversion of a police state is very a important benefit to society.
Quite a lot of pornographers have political motivation -- and use it to discredit careerists, embarrass hypocrite and make political
The last three are reasons why banning porn is harmful to society:
13. Banning porn is an insult to sex -- if we can see pictures of everything else, why not sex. Sex is beautiful, not shameful.
14. Banning porn means that the authorities get to see it all, and we don't. If it depraves and corrupts that means we have depraved and corrupt authorities, and if it doesn't, then what's the point of the
15. Finally, Banning porn means society is not free to make our own choices. You are all intelligent adults here, and you don't need someone else to decide what you may and may not read and view.
Don't worry -- there is no slippery slope -- in porn, or drugs. Cannabis does not lead to heroin, and watching a beautiful blow job doesn't lead to snuff movies. This is a false argument to keep us afraid.
Nobody I have ever met has seen a snuff movie. They don't exist. They are a figment of the gutter press's imagination and food for their "double porn". The News of the World sells millions of papers every Sunday, creating scandals and exposing orgiasts so they can turn its readers on then tell them it's disgusting.
It's very important to me that the British stop being repressed, it's time to take our freedom back, and make our society a safe and happy place.
The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely
available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.
The sexy thing to do these days when it comes to internet pornography is to regulate. The Australian Federal Government is into it, with proposals to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to
tighten internet content regulation. Federal Labor has joined the party too, with Beazley screaming out that the Australian Communications and Media Authority should ban international websites which contain graphic sexual material.
It is time for
an informed debate about the influence of internet pornography in our community. Rather than regulation, what is needed is education.
If we were to stop for a moment and take the time to properly assess the community impact of internet
pornography, it would soon become clear that internet pornography is not the height of evil which do-gooder parliamentarians and parental groups profess. Indeed, it is probably one of the main factors contributing to a notable reduction in violent crime
over the last decade.
Our community is safer and more peaceful thanks to internet pornography. This may sound counter-intuitive, but there are recent figures to back up the argument.
In a paper just released in the United States titled
Porn Up, Rape Down, Northwestern University Law Professor Anthony D’amato crunches the numbers to reach the conclusion:
The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely
available to teenagers and adults. The Nixon and Reagan Commissions tried to show that exposure to pornographic materials produced social violence. The reverse may be true: that pornography has reduced social violence.
Professor D’amato explains
that the Internet is now the predominant way in which people access pornography, noting that purveyors of internet pornography in the US earn an annual income exceeding the total of the major media networks in the country.
The main point that
Professor D’amato highlights in his paper is that there is a positive correlation between the recent explosion of household internet access in the US, and a decline in incidents of rape (measured in different ways, including police reports and survey
interviews) during the same period.
According to Professor D’amato, the four US states with the lowest internet access had the highest increase in rape incidents (53% increase) between 1980 and 2004, whereas the four states with the highest
internet access, experienced the largest decrease in rape incidents (27% decrease).
Professor D’amato suggests there are two predominant reasons why an increase in the availability of pornography has led to a reduction in rape. First, using
pornographic material provides an easy avenue for the sexually desirous to “get it out of their system”.
Second, D’amato points to the so-called “Victorian effect”. This dates back to the old Victorian era where people covered up their bodies
with an immense amount of clothing, generating a greater mystery as to what they looked like naked. D’amato suggests that the free availability of pornography since the 1970s, and the recent bombardment of internet pornography, has de-mystified sex, thus
satisfying the sexually curious.
You may well ask while this positive correlation between an increase in pornography (specifically internet pornography) and a reduction in rape has been demonstrated in the United States, do the statistics in
Australia present a similar positive correlation? They certainly do.
According to the Australian Crime and Safety Survey, regularly published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there has been a significant reduction in the number of victims
of sexual assault since 1995, when the Internet first crept into our daily lives. The ABS statistics include both reported and non-reported incidents of sexual assault, which is important given that only one in five incidents of sexual assault are
reported to police.
According to the ABS data, between 1995 and 2005, there was a drop from 0.6% to 0.3% of persons aged 18 years and over who were victims of at least one sexual assault. That is a 50%t reduction.
Importantly, in another
recent ABS study, it was found that in 2004-5, 56% of homes had internet access, up from approximately 20%of homes in 1998 and 40% in 2001. Thus, access to internet pornography has become much easier for a much greater number of Australians since 1998.
Accordingly, the “porn up, rape down” phenomenon also rings true in Australia.
Rather than parents and parliamentarians thinking about ways to “clean feed” households so that they become internet porn-free zones, maybe they should take the
opposite approach and make internet pornography freely available not only in homes, but also in schools and public libraries. But why stop there?
If we are ditching regulation, perhaps it is time to seriously explore whether content ratings on
pornographic films, magazines and other materials should also be removed. There should only be regulation if the benefits exceed the costs. Professor D’amato makes the important point in his paper that there is no evidence establishing a causal
connection between a student’s exposure to pornography and any tendency to commit “anti-social acts”. So, if the only effect of consuming pornography is positive rather than negative, regulation has no place and should go away.
Potter Stewart, a
former US Supreme Court Justice, once said: Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is time to be confident about the benefits of pornography, in particular internet pornography, and move forward as an open-minded, mature,
We have the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, and now, the War on Porn.
In a recent story in the Washington Post, writer Barton Gellman revealed that the FBI has signed
onto the Bush administration’s War on Porn by recruiting agents for a special anti-obscenity squad. And they won’t just be looking for child porn, either, but pornography for grown-ups, made by grown-ups, featuring grown-ups.
Critics say the
specter of 10 G-Men hunched over video screens watching porn may not be the best use of the FBI’s time. Advocates say it’s long past time the government cracked down because pornography can turn people into sexual predators.
have been tried before, of course. During the Reagan administration, for example, attorney general Edwin Meese III convened a controversial study panel to examine the effects of pornography and suggest ways to prosecute purveyors. In the end, nothing
much came of it. Certain fundamentalist religious groups and strains of feminists never gave up, however, and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, spurred by congressional legislation, has taken up the cause.
But if sources for the Post story
are any indication, FBI director Robert Mueller may have a tough time finding agents who take the job seriously. Not only are they more focused on, say, rooting out terrorists and making sure CEOs don’t run off with the shareholders’ dough, but an awful
lot of the FBI no doubt have some personal experience with porn.
Of course, if porn really is such a danger to society, the effort might be worth it. The problem is, the research doesn’t support the worry. And if recent studies by Danish
psychologist Gert Martin Hald of the University of Aarhus stand up, it’s not likely to.
Hald recently conducted a yet-to-be-published study on the usage of porn by men and women in Denmark that showed porn has become a part of the sexual lives of
In a representative sampling of 688 young people aged 18 to 30, he found that 98 percent of men and 80 percent of women had viewed porn. About half of those women used it at least once per month. Men used it much more often. About 38
percent of men used it three times per week or more, which makes you wonder what these guys do for a living.
We’re not talking Playboy, either. Hald didn’t count such images as pornography. For the purposes of the study, porn included “any kind
of material which aims to create or enhance sexual feelings or thoughts in the recipient and, at the same time, (a) contains explicit exposure and/or descriptions of the genitals and (b) clear and explicit sexual acts such as vaginal intercourse, anal
intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, bondage, sadomasochism, rape..." (Interestingly, this is pretty close to the definition used in many obscenity statutes.)
Especially we were surprised that so many women had used pornography and used
it on a regular basis , Hald told MSNBC.com. Men don’t have much room for an increase. “Ceiling effect,” Hald joked.
Men do use porn differently from women. Men tend to avoid “chick porn” that depicts deep relationships. They like porn women
fast and loose and willing to go nasty, largely because men use porn as masturbation aids more often than women, who tend to view it with a partner. In fact, only 17 percent of female viewers in Hald’s study used it alone.
So if all those people
are seeing all that porn, you'd think Denmark would be a chaos of sex crime. But it's not. In fact, in an influential 1991 study, Hald's (now deceased) compatriot Berl Kutchinsky of the University of Copenhagen concluded that in the United States,
Denmark, Sweden and West Germany more and more porn did not equal more and more rape. In none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes. This finding in itself would seem sufficient to discard the hypothesis that
pornography causes rape.
But it didn't, of course, and some lab studies did show that exposure to especially violent or degrading porn beefed up male aggressiveness toward women, though a link with actual crime was tough to prove.
Eight years later, a lengthy 1999 paper by Milton Diamond of the University of Hawaii's Pacific Center for Sex and Society and Ayako Uchiyama of Japan's National Institute of Police Science backed up Kutchinsky and found that more porn in Japan did not make for more sex crimes:
In sum, the concern that countries allowing pornography would show increased sex crime rates due to modeling or that adolescents in particular would be negatively vulnerable to and receptive to such models or the society would be otherwise adversely
affected has not been vindicated. It is certainly clear from our data and analysis that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes."
An earlier study by Hald on the
effects of porn might explain why. In this study, he exposed volunteer subjects — a representative sample larger than many other such studies — to video clips from those classics of cinema, Latex and Gigantic.
Hald's conclusions: The study
failed to confirm commonly feared adverse effects of exposure to pornography on nearly all measures. More specifically, the study failed to find any immediate main or stratified effects of exposure to pornography in regard to the following dependent
variables: Acceptance of Interpersonal Violence, Gender Stereotypes, Negative Attitudes Toward Women, Positive Emotionality, Rape Myth Acceptance [belief in the myth that women secretly want to be raped], and Sexism.
In other words, looking
at porn did not turn men into rapists. It did not make them want to become rapists.
There was one potentially important exception. In a certain subset of people, those whose personality profiles ranked low on “agreeableness,” which Hald defines
as “altruistic, modest, trusting, empathic, compliant, polite,” the porn did seem to have a moderating effect on the relationship between Agreeableness and Rape Myth Acceptance (RMAS) . After performing statistical corrections, however, all
previous significant moderating effects of exposure to pornography turned non-significant i.e. disappeared.
So what does that mean, exactly? I asked Hald if people who are not very agreeable come to accept the rape myth after viewing porn and
might be more inclined to commit a sex crime. No. It is not a causal connection. Having a high level of rape supportive attitudes does not in and of itself lead to sexual aggression such as rape. Nor can you infer a causal connection between low
agreeableness, viewing porn and having higher rape supportive attitudes. Agreeableness, he says, is but one of many factors determining the RMAS score.
So it seems adult porn consumed by adults doesn’t do much of anything other than get
people worked up and make them wish their partners looked a lot more like Lexington Steele or Cinnabunz.
Well, you might say, Hald works in Denmark. And you know the Danish, all liberal and Euro and so very different from us. But Hald is now
working at UCLA as a visiting researcher and, he says, I strongly believe social context [and] norms are factors influencing the effects of pornography and consumption rates.
But, he says, in both Denmark and the U.S. we see time and
again high prevalence rates of porn consumption, a general lack of research showing consistent adverse effects of pornography for the general consumer, and that individual differences are important mediators of effects. Research shows that this holds
true for both the American and the Danish context.
Maybe that special FBI squad should plant porn inside terrorist cells. You know, keep 'em busy.
This What if you went looking for the harmful effects of the very worst kinds of pornography -- and they weren't there?
That's what happened to Canada Customs when it paid
researchers to study customs officials who spend up to 15 hours a week reading and viewing material that goes well beyond erotica or even so-called hard-core porn.
Noted the researchers: Their work most often focuses on materials of an extreme
nature which deal with clearly unacceptable sexual activities such as incest, children in a sexual context, necrophilia, bestiality, and sex involving violence, bondage and degradation. Their study of 90 officers found:
repeated exposure to such graphic pornography had little or no measurable harmful effect on the officers, 40% of whom were female.
only half of the customs officers who regularly review graphic
pornographic books, magazines and films support banning sexual materials featuring violence and degradation -- the current Canadian law.
one in six of the customs officers use pornography in their private lives;
nearly half have in the past.
The 1992 study's key finding of no appreciable harm from heavy porn viewing contradicts the arguments accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada several years ago in widening the legal definition of obscenity. The finding also runs counter
to current social science orthodoxy -- and to the expectations of the principal researcher, Queen's psychology professor William Marshall:
There are grounds for expecting exposure to pornography to have harmful effects, even when such exposure
is part of a person's job requirements. Customs officers, then, who review pornography may be expected to experience problems or to develop anti-social inclinations, and these effects might be particularly apparent among those officers who review these
materials on a full-time basis.
Marshall and Sharon Hodkinson, now in law at Queen's, set out to identify these problems by asking customs officers voluntarily to complete a two-hour questionnaire. The survey used standard psychology
techniques (plus some new ones) to measure factors like hopelessness and depression, satisfaction with life and job, general health, empathy and marital intimacy, the desirability of various sexual practices, views on degrading sexual practices and fears
about committing aberrant sexual acts.
These results were then arranged according to the amount of time each officer spent reviewing graphic porn -- ranging from none to more than 60 hours a month. According the current theory, measurable harmful
effects should have increased with more viewing.
But they didn't. In particular, the sexual functioning of the customs officers was unaffected by repeated exposure to the worst pornography.
The study notes: They are not harmed by
deviant thoughts or desires; they are not worried by what they might do sexually; and they appear reasonably satisfied with their present level of sexual activity.
This finding is acutely embarrassing to an agency that bans porn on the
grounds that deviant sexual behavior is causally linked to exposure. But those past findings were largely based on lab research or studies of sexual offenders. The Canada Customs project is a rarity -- a real-life investigation of heavily exposed people
whose characteristics, the researchers note, do not differ significantly from the general Canadian population.