Pornography. Most people have seen it, and have a strong opinion about it. Many of those opinions are negative. Some people argue that ready access to pornography has negative social effects including contributing to the degradation of women. Many even believe that pornography should become illegal.
Alternatively, others argue that pornography is an expression of fantasies that provide pleasure and can actually inhibit sexual activity, and act as a positive displacement for sexual aggression. Pornography offers a readily available means of satisfying sexual arousal and can serve as a substitute for dangerous, harmful and illegal activities. Some feminists even claim that pornography empowers women by loosening them from the shackles of social prudery and restrictions.
Actually there is a great deal of evidence from which to draw facts. Over the years, many scientists have investigated the link between pornography and sex crimes and attitudes towards women. In every region investigated, researchers have found that as pornography has increased in availability, sex crimes have either decreased or not increased.
Surprisingly few studies have linked the availability of porn in any society with antisocial behaviors or sex crimes. Among those studies that looked for such, none have found a causal relationship and very few have even found one positive correlation.
Despite the widespread and increasing availability of sexually explicit materials, the incidence of rape declined markedly from 1975 to 1995 and this trend continues. The best-known national studies are those of Denmark, Sweden, West Germany and the U.S., in the 1970s and 1980s. Its been seen that for the years from approximately 1964 to 1984, as the amount of pornography increasingly became available, the rate of rapes in these countries either decreased or remained relatively level. Later research has shown parallel findings in every other locale scientifically examined. Such regions include Canada, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Poland and the U.S. And in those countries that allowed for the possession of child pornography, child sex abuse has declined. Pornography provides a ready means of deterring sex crimes by offering a quick and ready substitute, masturbation, for sexual urges.
Significantly, no community in the U.S. has ever voted to ban adult access to sexually explicit material. The only feature of a community standard that holds is intolerance for materials in which minors are involved as participants or consumers.
Researchers found that rapists were more likely than non-rapists in the prison population to having been punished for looking at pornography while a youngster, while other research has shown that incarcerated non-rapists had seen more pornography, and seen it at an earlier age, than rapists; both rapists and child molesters have been found to use less pornography than a control group of males. What does correlate highly with sex offense is a strict, repressive religious upbringing.
Regarding attitudes towards women – studies of men who had seen X-rated movies found that they were significantly more tolerant and accepting of women than those men that didn’t see such movies, and studies by other investigators, female as well as male, essentially found similarly that there was no detectable relationship of the amount of exposure to pornography and any measure of anti-female attitudes. No serious scientific researcher has found that exposure to pornography has had a cause and effect relationship towards ill feelings or actions against women.
There is no doubt that some people have claimed to suffer adverse effects from exposure to pornography – consider testimony from women’s shelters, divorce courts and other venues. But there is no evidence it was the cause of the claimed abuse or harm. Ultimately, there is no freedom that can’t be and isn’t misused. Having access to porn is one such freedom that seems to provide more good than bad.