Once More On The Social Costs Of Pornography

The Social Costs of Pornography report of the Witherspoon Institute is really something to be reckoned with.

It offers staggering information and calls on society’s leaders to act boldly. Whether anyone heeds this call is another matter.

One of the opening quotes is from May Anne Layden, Director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the Center for Cognitive Therapy in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. In other words, she’s no slouch.

Layden says:

“Overall, the body of research on pornography reveals a number of negative attitudes and behaviors that are connected with its use. It functions as a teacher, a permission-giver, and a trigger of these negative behaviors and attitudes. The damage is seen in men, women, and children, and to both married and single adults. It involves pathological behaviors, illegal behaviors, and some behaviors that are both illegal and pathological.”

The report then goes on to make eight findings:

  1. Unlike at any other time in history, pornography is now available and consumed widely in our society, due in large part to the internet. No one remains untouched by it.
  2. There is abundant empirical evidence that this pornography is qualitatively diðerent from any that has gone before, in several ways: its ubiquity, the use of increasingly realistic streaming images, and the increasingly “hard-core” character of what is consumed.
  3. Today’s consumption of internet pornography can harm women in particular.
  4. Today’s consumption of internet pornography can harm children in particular.
  5. Today’s consumption of internet pornography can harm people not immediately connected to consumers of pornography.
  6. The consumption of internet pornography can harm its consumers.
  7. Pornography consumption is philosophically and morally problematic.
  8. The fact that not everyone is harmed by pornography does not entail that pornography should not be regulated.

The report also makes some bold recommendations. For one, it calls for pop culture and celebrities to use their “bully pulpit” conferred by their celebrity to discourage the gamorization of pornography.

That would be a welcome change indeed.

The boldest recommendation calls on legislatures to create a new, private civil right of action for the “negligent exposure of a minor or an unwilling adult to obscene materials.”

That would make things very interesting in our culture.

As for the thought that pornography use harms those who consume it, i can attest to that. And so can countless men i know. Pornography use undermines marital and other intimate relationships and it is for some a “slippery slope” on which users are ultimately drawn to increasingly “edgy” material.

Investigative reporter Pamela Paul of TIME Magazine, who wrote a book titled Pornified, said:

Today, the number of people looking at pornography is staggering. Americans rent upwards of 800 million pornographic videos and DVDs (about one in five of all rented movies is porn), and the 11,000 porn films shot each year far outpaces Hollywood’s yearly slate of 400. Four billion dollars a year is spent on video pornography in the United States, more than on football, baseball, and basketball. One in four internet users look at a pornography website in any given month. Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66% of 18–34-year-old men visit a pornographic site every month.

The time for us to take this seriously is long overdo.

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