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Mar. 12 2010 - 11:11 am | 7,383 views | 0 recommendations | 57 comments

Is Porn Good For Us?

Anti-porn sign in Newport, Oregon.

Image via Wikipedia

Is porn good for us, as a society? Is it at least not bad — as in, neutral? I’m guessing most people who read this blog are pretty open-minded types without any major hangups about sex. But porn panic is also pretty common in our political culture (of course, find me the politician railing against porn and I’ll show you the leather fetishist with a dungeon in his basement).

While the question of free speech is philosophical, the question of whether porn does any social harm is an empirical one. And the data is pretty clear: Pornography either reduces sex crime by giving males a non-violent outlet for excess sexual impulses, or it has no effect. Milton Diamond, a professor in the department of anatomy, biochemistry and physiology at the University of Hawaii, offers a roundup of the relevant research in The Scientist:

Despite the widespread and increasing availability of sexually explicit materials, according to national FBI Department of Justice statistics, the incidence of rape declined markedly from 1975 to 1995. This was particularly seen in the age categories 20–24 and 25–34, the people most likely to use the Internet. The best known of these national studies are those of Berl Kutchinsky, who studied Denmark, Sweden, West Germany, and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. He showed 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 country examined, including Japan, Croatia, China, Poland, Finland, and the Czech Republic. In the United States there has been a consistent decline in rape over the last 2 decades, and in those countries that allowed for the possession of child pornography, child sex abuse has declined. Significantly, no community in the United States has ever voted to ban adult access to sexually explicit material. The only feature of a community standard that holds is an intolerance for materials in which minors are involved as participants or consumers.

In terms of the use of pornography by sex offenders, the police sometimes suggest that a high percentage of sex offenders are found to have used pornography. This is meaningless, since most men have at some time used pornography. Looking closer, Michael Goldstein and Harold Kant found that rapists were more likely than nonrapists in the prison population to have been punished for looking at pornography while a youngster, while other research has shown that incarcerated nonrapists had seen more pornography, and seen it at an earlier age, than rapists. What does correlate highly with sex offense is a strict, repressive religious upbringing.

I suppose the most controversial finding highlighted above would be the idea that allowing the possession of child pornography would reduce the incidence of child sex abuse. The utilitarian argument can never be enough to overcome the moral repugnance in this area (let alone the problem of child rape regarding any children abused in such a system). Though, it perhaps adds some weight to the permissive side of the “simulated child pornography” debate.

As outrageous as anyone might find the idea of simulated child pornography, think about just one child being saved from actual abuse (assuming the social science is right here). Is the trade-off worth it?


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  1. collapse expand

    Women are still raped, daily. Three women will be killed today in the U.S. by their current or former intimate partners.

    I have never watched porn. I doubt I would be able to, as its degradation of women and children is essential to a thriving, global, lucrative industry.

    Defending porn seems a sad use of your talents.

    • collapse expand

      “…the question of whether porn does any social harm is an empirical one. And the data is pretty clear: Pornography either reduces sex crime by giving males a non-violent outlet for excess sexual impulses, or it has no effect.” How is ordinary porn degrading to women? As a gay man I find the difference between the perception of pornography on the part of men and women to be facinating. In the gay community, porn stars are lionized. Most pornography is a legitimate enterprise aimed at satisfying legitimate desires.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I don’t understand why you responded this way to this article. The author is presenting evidence that a long assumed consequence of pornography, an increase in rape/sexual assaults, is not supported by scientific studies.

      Yet you throw out a irrelevant statistic, “Three women will be killed today in the U.S. by their current or former intimate partners.”
      What does that have to do with pornography and the point the author is trying to get across?

      You are certainly entitled to your distaste for porn, but that is a personal decision and shouldn’t have any bearing on the information presented by this article.

      Also, I don’t think the author is defending porn, but rather questioning some long held assumptions about it.

      No offense, but the fact that you have never even seen pornography (really?) makes me easily disregard your opinion. Calling out a fellow contributor with such poor reasoning and poorly disguised moral objections seems to be a sad use of your talents.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Caitlin-

      I’m very sensitive to your justified anger at rampant sexual violence, but in the same way video games do not make kids more violent, porn doesn’t make people more likely to rape or degrade women. As Ryan points out, we live in an age awash in porn, yet there’s no correlation with increased violence.

      One of my very first jobs was reviewing porn ( I was young and needed the money!). A lot of it is very dull (sex is a lot more fun to participate in than watch), some of it indulges in fantasies that you’d probably consider degrading, while others invert the status quo.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Women are still raped, daily. Three women will be killed today in the U.S. by their current or former intimate partners.

      Is it you contention that this is caused by pornography? Despite the above mentioned evidence to the contrary. OK – you don’t like porn…that’s fine. Some people do and that is fine also.

      I find your comment indicative of a ‘holier than thou’ attitude and completely self serving.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    The average time a boy spends watching porn is now 10 hours a week. The result is that he expects his girlfriend to dress and behave in the same way. Young girls are being sexual assaulted, beaten and raped as a direct result of porn. For more information and statistics please go to: http://pornharms.com/

  3. collapse expand

    Mr. Sager,

    You wrote:”Pornography …reduces sex crime by giving males a non-violent outlet for excess sexual impulses…” (or has no impact at all). Sex crime has nothing to do with excess sexual impulses. Rape is about power and violence. In “Street Car Named Desire” Stanley Kowalski did not rape Blanche DuBois because he was not getting enough sex from his wife Stella or even finds Blanche attractive. Rather, he did it to express his hatred for Blanche and his own cruelty. Tennessee Williams rightly identifies the fact that rape is about power and cruelty, not sex.

    It would then seem that the availability of pornography probably has no impact on the incidence of sex crimes. I think the stronger argument would be two fold, one is that rape is now reported much more frequently and the rapist caught and punished much more frequently and other is that the social status of women has climb dramatically over the last 30 years.

  4. collapse expand

    Is Michelangelo’s David porn? Is the novel Lolita porn? Are Ruben’s paintings of women porn?

    Before discussing this issue, we need to define exactly what porn is. And that’s a serious problem, because nobody seems to have defined it properly in the first place.

    That said, it seems to me that the incidence of sexual assault may have nothing to do with porn, and everything to do with DNA testing becoming more common. It wasn’t so long ago that people used to think they’d never get caught (“that’s not my kid”). But with DNA testing we now know exactly who the mommy AND the daddy had to be.

    That knowledge has put a lot of men who might not have had any moral objections on notice that regardless of morality, the law will catch up.

  5. collapse expand
    deleted account

    Interesting article Ryan

    And a very interesting discussion.

    What struck me about the discussion is the female take on this.

    Without exception all of the female commentators have either out right denied the validity of the research or at best try to diminish it with an out pouring of misguided and counter productive feminism.

    Sex, the fantasizing of, watching and participating in, is an human obsession. But obsession with sex in not just a human characteristic. The matriarchal Bonobos have sex as often as humans shake hands.

    “Bonobos use sex as greetings, a mean of solving disputes, making up for fights, and as a favors in exchange for food. They tongue kiss, engage in oral sex, mutual masturbations, have face-to-face genital sex and even have a strange “penis fencing” ritual!”

    http://www.neatorama.com/2007/04/30/30-strangest-animal-mating-habits/

    Bonobos also share the characteristic of “always in heat” females with humans. (Most females in other species only come into heat once a year)

    “Bonobo sex life is divorced from reproduction and also serves the functions of pleasure and conflict resolution. Females are in a sexually attractive state most of the time, and almost continuously sexually active. Sexual activity is very frequent. Males, females and juveniles all engage in erotic activity.”

    [...]

    But, “Unlike Bonobos, sexual control is evidenced in humans. Marriage typically serves as a sexual control mechanism. Human males participate in child rearing and, due to monogamous marriages, have some assurance of paternity. In most cultures men honor proprietary rights of husbands over their wife or wives. Marriage typically involves exclusion and control over a female’s sexual life. Humans also demonstrate sexual coercion and jealousy between intimates.”

    http://www.jqjacobs.net/anthro/paleo/primates.html

    mmmmm …. I won’t comment here on the meaning of that last sentence!

    Many women (and couples) enjoy, and are willing participants in pornography. But outdated Victorian moralizing forbid women from admitting this. At least in “polite” company.

    Much to the detriment of society.

    This “modern” denial of human nature http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blank_Slate is counter productive.

    It’s time for women to “come out of the closet”, grab your partners by the hand, and go watch some porn together. You may have some fun, and break through a few limiting stereotypes in the process …

  6. collapse expand

    Give me a break.

    If gay men really have no idea why or how “ordinary” porn degrades women, fine. But don’t assume it doesn’t when gay porn makes gay porn stars objects of veneration. Yes, literally, different strokes and different attitudes.

    One reason I’ve never watched porn — and forgive my graphic language here, it is not my goal to be offensive but deliberate ignorance offends me — is that watching some woman have a man piss in her face or come all over her is not, per se, many women’s idea of a really good time.

    Much of pornography is focused on the use — and that is the correct word — of every part of a woman’s anatomy as a receptacle for a man or woman’s or animal’s aggression and ejaculation/use of bodily fluids.

    My co-relation of male aggression, violence and death may come as a terrible shock to men who think women really love porn, and those of us who don’t are frigid, uptight prudes.

    Women dislike being used. Porn uses women. Women dislike being objectified as nothing more than a way for man to have an orgasm; that’s what porn is and does.

    Sorry if this is a surprise to some of you.

    • collapse expand
      deleted account

      “One reason I’ve never watched porn — and forgive my graphic language here, it is not my goal to be offensive but deliberate ignorance offends me — is that watching some woman have a man piss in her face or come all over her is not, per se, many women’s idea of a really good time.”

      And willful ignorance offends me Caitlin.

      Without having watch porn, how can you conclude that all of it is about degrading women?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      In re: Caitlin Kelly

      There is a spectrum of pornography. Some of it is especially offensive and degrading. Other pornography attempts to be “sex-positive” or even feminist, like the work of Swedish filmmaker Mia Engberg.

      Your categorical descriptions of pornography by appeal to a subset thereof misrepresents the spectrum of pornography and erotica. For an industry as intractable as pornography, perhaps an attitude of trying to change the prevalent modes of the medium would be more successful than railing against it in toto. Pornography and erotica are not without examples of aesthetic success and validation of both men and women. Conscientious people should support the positive, criticize the negative, and refrain from censuring people for trying to have an open, honest discussion.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      My issue with your comments Caitlin is not your dislike for porn, its that you are not responding to, adding to, or refuting the article’s content. The author is questioning the well held and well assumed idea that an increase in porn will lead to an increase in rape and sexual assaults. He is presenting evidence that this may not be true.

      Yet your response to this is to ignore the article’s content and essentially say “Porn is bad!” “Porn is degrading to women!” What does this have to do with the article’s content? If you feel this way, how about providing some evidence that supports this?

      I’d like to see a contributor on this site provide more substantial responses than just the usual well worn, knee-jerk reactions.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      This is a straw man argument. First of all let it be clearly stated that there should never be any tolerance of child pornography in any kind of form. For the record I believe any person 18 and older and with complete control of their facilities should be able to engage in most forms of consensual behavior. Reminds me of the argument against legalizing drugs. The one size fits all. Don’t legalize pot because then you have to legalize all the other illegal drugs. No you don’t. I don’t equate pot with meth or cocaine or heroin. Ms. Kelly you definitely display deliberate ignorance about porn. One person’s interpretation of something that is pornographic is someone else’s interpretation of erotica. Ms. Kelly I suggest you seek out Violet Blue blogger of tinynibbles.com. I think you have a very narrow perception of what porn is. If you could elaborate because I don’t understand some of your statements.
      ” Much of pornography is focused on the use — and that is the correct word — of every part of a woman’s anatomy as a receptacle for a man or woman’s or animal’s aggression and ejaculation/use of bodily fluids.

      My co-relation of male aggression, violence and death may come as a terrible shock to men who think women really love porn, and those of us who don’t are frigid, uptight prudes.”

      Excluding the part about women who don’t like porn being accused of being frigid, uptight prudes (I get that) what the heck are you talking about. Animal’s aggression? Excuse me but WTF?

      I understand that you don’t have to do drugs to understand that the use of them can be bad but then you might feel different about pot if you had to go through chemo. Same with porn and sexuality.

      And just for the record since you acknowledge you have never seen any porn the fantasy is not for the man to piss in the woman’s face but for the woman to piss on the man. The term is Golden Shower. And no, I don’t find Golden Showers to be erotic. But who am I judge what other consensual adults do behind closed doors.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Caitlin Kelly,

      You are truly ignorant, to criticize porn, having never watched it yourself. To assume that just because you don’t want a man to cum on you, that another women doesn’t want me to cum on her. To assume that because you aren’t interested in using ever part of your anatomy (are you talking about oral/anal?), that that’s what other women feel too. To assume that because porn makes you feel uncomfortable, that other women are prudes like you.

      Don’t call this an “ad hominem” attack. You’ve never watched porn, so by definition you are ignorant. You presume offense at the mention of cum and piss, so by definition you are a prude.

      I’ve had girlfriends who enjoyed anal (and girlfriends who didn’t). I’ve had girlfriends who wanted me to cum in their mouth (and girlfriends who didn’t). I’ve never had a girlfriend who didn’t like porn. But not all porn, of course: like everything else, some of it is stupid, some of it is boring, some of it is gross, and some of it is good. What I find to be gross, someone else will consider good, and vice-versa.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  7. collapse expand

    Sorry Caitlin, but your posts make you seem pinched, uptight and narrow. I wish an actual porn actress would join this thread. I’m confident that they enjoy what they do and I’m glad because they provide wholesome entertainment for American men!

  8. collapse expand

    By equating sinful thoughts with sinful deeds the religions of the book, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, have permanently warped our societies view of human sexuality…A lot of 70’s era feminists also proscribe this view although some dissent…Fundamentalist religions and repressive political movements are always enthusiastic about prosecuting thought crimes, one way or another…These types of humans are just as seriously disturbed as the real rapist are…”Take away my internet porn and your messing with lady liberty herself,” David Cross.

  9. collapse expand

    @Caitlin Kelly,

    Most women dislike being used in real life, but porn is not real life, it is sexual fantasy. Many many many women love being used in sexual fantasy. My wife is one.

    You might make the counter argument that many people don’t understand the difference and violence against women is the result. I think any violence resulting from porn is the result of not understanding that difference. And I would put you into that category.

    So lighten up. Porn has always been with us and it will always be. It is a fact of life. We can either deal with it openly or repress it in a panic.

  10. collapse expand

    “Sorry Caitlin, but your posts make you seem pinched, uptight and narrow.”

    Ad hominem attacks are a waste of energy and basically disrespectful. Feel free to disagree with me, but try to do it civilly. That is how I run my site and I ask all my commenters to do the same and accord this courtesy to one another.

    • collapse expand

      Ya know, there are 6 separate commentators that posted a response to your comments here. Yet you only responded to the one that personally attacked you. I’m sorry if you were offended by that comment, but I’m sure you have seen worse.

      Every other commentator responded to you with a thoughtful challenge to your thinking and posed ideas and questions that you could respond to. Yet you chose to ignore them and only show your offense to someone who leveled a personal attack.

      What’s your problem? I realize you may be busy but why respond to some of the comments, but not others? Is it because you have nothing of value to say here other than you think all porn is bad, all porn is degrading to women and “Women are still raped, daily. Three women will be killed today in the U.S. by their current or former intimate partners.”?

      I’ve read some of your posts and you seem to be able to put forth an idea and intelligently discuss it. Why can’t you do that here? Are you so uncomfortable with the idea that pornography isn’t as bad you seem to believe it is? Again, you have added nothing of substance to the discussion and have only added inflammatory comments. I’d expect more from a contributor to this site.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  11. collapse expand

    “The question of whether porn does any social harm is an empirical one. And the data is pretty clear.”

    What’s clear is that this article looks at a very narrow set of data indeed to make its argument.

    Do you genuinely believe that the potential social damage caused by porn can be seen as limited to rape and abuse? Certainly those are the headline-grabbing elements, but what of sexual addiction, divorce and estrangement due to compulsive pornography use, what of the growing sexualization of popular culture and by extension of teenage and childhood life?

    While not wanting to dismiss the import of the data you have presented, I have to ask how you can jump from there to the possible conclusion that porn might be good for us, or even just “not bad for us”. It’s far too complicated and profound an issue to trivialize. And one of the complications is just how attractive that proposition, that “porn is good”, is to men.

    A convincingly objective assessment of the question will need a much broader set of data, I’m afraid.

    • collapse expand

      Agreed. The article only addresses the theory that porn leads to rape and sexual assaults. Empirical data presented by the article is calling that theory into question. It’s worth exploring the data because this has been a well worn and widely believed consequence of porn. The fact that this idea is not supported by available data is worth exploring and should be disseminated to all.

      But you are absolutely right. What about other negative effects of porn? It’s not just limited to sexual violence. I think you hit all the obvious ones. What research is available to either refute or confirm some of these theories?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Why do you assume porn causes social damage. Where’s the research that says it leads to divorce and estrangement. Why is it porn’s fault that popular culture is increasingly sexualized? Why is a sexualized culture necessarily bad, for that matter? Why don’t you assume that repression of natural sexual drive is to blame for all of these problems?

      At any rate, I think you’re making quite a number of unsupported leaps there and if I may say I think that is the overarching point of the original post. Pornography is a default bogeyman in our culture but perhaps it’s our demonization and repression of sexuality that causes all these ills?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Au contraire, I’m not assuming the result, only that the spectrum of potential (note that word in the original post) social damage is surely wider than simply rape and abuse. I think it’s at least within the bounds of probability that there are going to be marriages in which one partner is less than keen on the other partner’s porn use. And that the results may then lead to divorce or estrangement. If so, then data from that area will be germane to any discussion of “porn, good or bad for us?”. As will data that can shine light on how the easy availability of porn is affecting juveniles in their relationships with each other and themselves, as they come to terms with the sexual side of their being. Is porn indisputably a “good thing” in that scenario?

        I think my point is that while I’m delighted for your clearly modern and unrepressed relationship with your wife, to offer it up as a prescription for everyone else is comparable, perhaps, to suggesting Mid-East peace could be easily achieved if only everyone would be reasonable like us.

        I’m very interested in the question of whether a sexualized culture is necessarily bad, and I think the question of the effects of porn is a big part of that discussion. Hence my desire to see it approached with the widest set of data possible, rather than any assumptions in EITHER direction, especially simplistic ones.

        I’d be fascinated to hear what you think an ideal highly sexualized society would look like…. where would monogamy fit in, how would families be transformed, what would sex education look like, how well would people be able to differentiate fantasy from reality, what effects on self-image and self-esteem it would have, especially in girls, what kind of values such a society would imply. I say this because I’m genuinely interested in the question before us.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          “I think it’s at least within the bounds of probability that there are going to be marriages in which one partner is less than keen on the other partner’s porn use. And that the results may then lead to divorce or estrangement.”

          If one person loved to go running and one person liked to sit around and eat potato chips and there was conflict in the marriage because of it we wouldn’t question the utility or morality of potato chips. We might question the difference in activity levels, we might wonder whether the partners were a good match, we might want to examine if the chip eater is perhaps using chips to avoid intimacy, but the chips themselves would be pretty much blameless. And so why not the same way with porn? Why is the basic morality and utility of porn questioned in a way that other things are not. Your comparison of porn to Middle East I think makes my point entirely. Because porn is just pictures or videos. That’s all it is. It doesn’t have some deep meaning beyond that except what we construct, and we have constructed a negative story that is actually not beneficial, I think. I think it’s damaging.

          Anyway…highly sexualized society…what would it look like? It would really depend on the underlieing values of that society. That said, not being repressed I think tends to lead towards good things. Please note that the opposite of repression is not a libertarian free-for-all where people do whatever they want and damn the consequences. On the contrary, it means honesty and clarity and embracing the consequences and dealing with them like an adult.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            “Because porn is just pictures or videos.” Indeed, if that’s all it is to you and your wife then there’s no cause for concern from your perspective, and I’m delighted for you.

            However, at the risk of repeating myself, I think that it’s pretty unrealistic, and perhaps also rather smugly lacking in empathy, to assert that because it works that way for you, so should it work for everyone IF THEY WOULD JUST LOOK AT IT YOUR WAY.

            Porn, as a depiction of the sexual act, seems to me to be inseparable from the act itself, and all the potential connections, (both positive and negative depending on the person), to how we relate to others, intimacy, connection, isolation, self-esteem, spirituality, and a whole host of things that make sex the profound multi-faceted part of the human experience that it is.

            I’m not for a second denying that there may well be folk for whom porn, or sex itself, has none of these connections or complexities. “It’s just sex”. But I think it’s realistic to also recognize that there are many people for whom sexuality is complex, not in necessarily a bad way but in a rich way, and thus can never be reduced to “oh, it’s just sex” or “oh, it’s just porn”. Such an appreciation of the complexities of sexuality as it relates to the human experience is not, I would posit, a sign of sexual repression, but rather an acceptance and celebration of the wide-ranging, pivotal and core role sexuality plays in our lives.

            In my first post, I theorized that one of the things that makes this discussion so interesting and yet complicated is that for many men (most, probably) there is a visceral desire to believe that “porn is good”, for obvious reasons. And I think that can lead to taking that assumption as a starting point, rather than really demanding a wide set of data before even remotely moving to any kind of conclusion.

            And I suspect that the answer will never be entirely black and white anyway. Of course sexual repression has negative consequences. Of course truth and information is better than obfuscation. Of course being honest about one’s nature is important. And of course freely available depictions of the sexual act, designed to fulfill (mostly) male fantasies, to be emotionless and simply about self-gratification in the sexual act, are going to have a profound effect, quite possibly negative, when they’re informing the sexual culture of a society so strongly, and when they’re informing the sexual development of younger members of that society.

            So I think to simply argue that ending sexual repression is the cure-all is, shall we say, hopeful.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  12. collapse expand

    “…according to national FBI Department of Justice statistics, the incidence of rape declined markedly from 1975 to 1995. This was particularly seen in the age categories 20–24 and 25–34, the people most likely to use the Internet.”

    I don’t see those sentences fit together. Incidents of rape declined particularly for these two age groups, but the internet wasn’t exactly popular (or widely available) in the time frame of 1975-95. There’s also no indication of how the researchers segregated the effects of porn availability from other kinds of social/economic changes.

  13. collapse expand

    I enjoyed sevenhours reply. I think what interest me about the question is that it associates causality with a commodity. So, much like alcohol consumption, you can answer the question about whether or not it’s good for us in every possible way.

    Where I take issue with something like this is that causality is not about porn, it’s about personal choice. Along the spectrum of men and women out there you will certainly find those that exploit and denigrate themselves and each other, but the great majority do not, and I think that is probably shown by the data.

    As a man, I resent the causality argument that goes (porn = denigration of women) because it seems to reduce men to amphibian brained dolts. As if all you need to do is sprinkle some porn on us and we’ll turn into a hord of drooling misogynistic wife beaters. At the same time, I cannot deny that there are genuinely bad men out there who are capable of doing horrible things to women with or without porn. And for that subset of men, is porn good? No, I cannot imagine that it is. And even for the larger subset of us, I don’t think one can honestly say (porn = good) in the same way you can say (exercise = good). Masturbation may be natural and healthy at times, but there isn’t a man reading this who hasn’t loathed himself for over indulging at one time or another.

    • collapse expand

      “Masturbation may be natural and healthy at times, but there isn’t a man reading this who hasn’t loathed himself for over indulging at one time or another.”

      But that has nothing to do with masturbation itself. That loathing is your own construction.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I didn’t mean to imply that it did. The point was that even if you enjoy pornography and the obvious activity that goes along with it, most men will get fed up with themselves at some point for wasting too much time when they could otherwise be doing something better. This is because most men are unfulfilled whacking their time away and become aware of an opportunity cost of doing so. My point had nothing whatever to do with morality.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          Well, I see your point, but I wonder then about this:
          “And for that subset of men, is porn good? No, I cannot imagine that it is. And even for the larger subset of us, I don’t think one can honestly say (porn = good) in the same way you can say (exercise = good).”

          I guess I’m confused. Is there something about masturbation itself that creates an opportunity cost? Or is it using masturbation as a substitute for the work of doing something more fulfilling,etc? I don’t see the fact that you can waste your time doing it as a strike against masturbating, I guess. I can waste plenty of time reading but I would never argue that that is the fault of the act of reading. It honestly sounds to me like you are conflating the act with the shame around the act imposed on it by the repressive culture. If there’s nothing bad about masturbating then there’s nothing bad about masturbating. Maybe it doesn’t build muscle like exercise, or promote weight loss, but it does promote relaxation and fun and give an outlet to a drive which when repressed can turn into compulsions.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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    masodark, here’s my answer.

    I don’t appreciate ad hominem attacks — they’re weak and insulting. As for endlessly “debating” with everyone here in this thread whether porn is a great idea or wonderful for women, I actually have other more urgent and competing demands for my time, including serious, acute and debilitating medical issues requiring multiple MD vists; writing a book on deadline; writing my paid assignments and writing my paid blog.

    I don’t write for free and so, with very limited time, and right now extremely limited physical and emotional energy, I won’t expend it on “arguments” that don’t make sense to me.

    And, no, I have NOT seen worse; those who visit my site and make comments there are able to refrain from personal attacks. If they like my stuff, they stay. If they don’t, they leave — or ignore me.

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      Caitlin,

      I don’t write for free and so, with very limited time, and right now extremely limited physical and emotional energy, I won’t expend it on “arguments” that don’t make sense to me.

      You obviously do write ‘for free’ – you commented on the post. And apparently you had enough time and energy to read the article in the first place. And to comment about it in another post by Kashmir.

      Apparently the only thing you lack is the evidence and intestinal fortitude to intelligently defend your position.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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      Caitlin:

      Thanks for the reply. Of course I wouldn’t expect you to appreciate being attacked, who would? It’s pointless, cruel and unnecessary. But this is part of putting your voice out there and taking a stand. If you are not ready to be personally insulted, maybe you should keep your comments bland and inoffensive or not post at all.

      However, my opinion is that your replies and comments to this article have shown ignorance on your part and in my opinion they deserve to be challenged. If we can’t openly and rationally discuss issues that are controversial what is the point of this site? I don’t expect you to suddenly love porn but maybe you should open your mind a little and consider that porn is not all bad. It’s not all about degrading women. Many others on this site have posted a defense of porn and some of these thoughts have merit in my opinion. Maybe you should read them again.

      I feel that porn fits somewhere along the lines of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, junk food, professional wrestling, and reality tv. It’s pretty much junk. It doesn’t really add value to your life. And sure, if you get obsessed with these things they can ruin your life. But a little indulgence doesn’t cause undue harm.

      Thanks again for replying. It takes guts to make a stand and stick up for yourself. I appreciate it.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  15. collapse expand

    *Disclaimer* I didn’t read every comment, but
    It would seem we’re overlooking the obvious fact that PEOPLE are USED to make Porn, it doesn’t materialize out of nowhere!! and CHILD PORN? Where do you think that comes from? Children who are abused and used and will likely have a VERY difficult time being functional healthy adults.

    Also, in the eighties, there was at least one book I read that found evidence UP TO THAT POINT that there was a causal link between porn and rape. I understand this study is countering that, the statistics have changed; but I don’t think we can sweep under the rug the fact that mental violence causes at least some people to act out physical violence. Also true of people who abuse animals — they are much more likely to abuse and harm people.

  16. collapse expand

    Wow! I walked away from this thread a long time ago and did not realize the terrible harm I caused by asserting that people who blame pornography for all kinds of sex crimes and proclaim that it is inherently denigrating to women appear to be “pinched, narrow and uptight.” I actually paraphrased that statement from one made by the editor of the Progressive Magazine on the MacNeil-Lehrer Report. He was using it to describe Marilyn Quayle and Pat Buchanans’ speeches to the 1992 Republican Convention. I’m sorry but I still can’t think of a better way to describe what I was reading!

  17. collapse expand

    One last thing, and then I’m done with this. There are many people in this world for whom sex is not an option. This happens for a wide variety of reasons too numerous to contemplate in this thread. Why should anyone’s personal discomfort with pornography deny someone else the option of the escape they can enjoy by paying for pornography produced by professionals for that purpose?

  18. collapse expand

    i believe caitlin is correct in certain types of porn does degrade women, no doubt about it…but some porn to me is nothing more than 2 people have sex on film, and i see nothing to bad about that, unless i am missing something. is it good to look at it or not,,not sure…i know some people can look at it and not be bothered by it. i know someone that does look at it, and feels very quilty after looking at it…if you take the religious view on it,,its probably not recommended and considered not clean….so make you personal choice, and got to remember the menatal asspect to watching porn..

  19. collapse expand

    Before you decide to make outlandish statements backed by ONE guy who didn’t do his own study, maybe you should do your research. The studies on this subject are very clear that porn directly increases violence and aggression towards women and that any correlation studies on internet availability versus violence are speculation at best. We could just as easily say the new amounts of knowledge, or wikipedia had the same effect.

    According to a 1973 study by Goldstein, Kant and Harmon, incarcerated rapists are 15 times more likely to have had early exposure (before age 10) to hard-core porn. In 1980 Malamuth and Check showed that men who were exposed to violent pornography were significantly more likely to believe rape myths (like that all women want to be raped). In 1981, and with a different study in 1982, Zillman and Bryant showed the same thing more conclusively, that these men believed rape was a small crime, and that men who watched this kind of porn were not supportive of women’s rights. In 1985, Donnerstein and Linz showed that Zillman and Bryant were wrong. It wasn’t just violent porn, non-violent porn provoked the same negative responses. In 1998, Cramer and MacFarlane talked to 198 abused women. Their study showed that use of violent pornography was significantly associated with violent acts against the women (such as rape, or being forced to pose for pornography). In 2002 Violato showed that even non-violent porn caused an increase in aggression towards women among other negative views and had this to say,

    “There has been some debate among researchers about the degree of negative consequences of habitual use of pornography, but we feel confident in our findings that pornography is harmful,” researcher Dr Claudio Violato noted. “Our study involved more than 12,000 participants and very rigorous analyses. I can think of no beneficial effects of pornography whatsoever.”

    “The relationship between particularly sexually violent images in the media and subsequent aggression…is much stronger statistically than the relationship between smoking and lung cancer.”
    Researcher Edward Donnerstein

    In The Price we Pay by Michelle Anderson, she cites surveys of teen boys and girls, over 90% of whom have recently and/or frequently viewed pornography. The findings? “Forty-three percent of boys and 16 percent of girls think it is okay or are not sure if it is okay for a boy to hold down a girl and force her to have sex if she sexually excites him.”

    And “In a 1988 study of 114 undergraduate men, 91.3 percent admitted they ‘liked’ to dominate a woman; 86.1 percent said they ‘enjoyed’ the conquest part of sex; 83.5 percent agreed that ’some women look like they’re just asking to be raped’; 63.5 percent said they ‘get excited when a woman struggles over sex’; and 61.7 percent decided that ‘it would be exciting to use force to subdue a woman.’ In a 1988 survey of young teenage males, 25 percent deemed rape justified if a boy spent ten to fifteen dollars on a girl and two-thirds of them deemed rape justified if he dated her for more than six months.”

    Basically to sum it all up for you:
    All kinds of porn decrease men’s empathy for rape victims and the severity of the crime of rape, decreases empathy for female victims of domestic violence and the severity of the crime, increases acceptance of rape myths, increases aggression towards women, makes men more likely to agree that they would rape a woman if they would get away with it, increases acceptance of violence against women (things like agreeing that it’s an inevitability that we should live with), decreases support for women’s rights, and alters the perceptions of what’s normal sexually.

    As well, as for your rape decrease, it’s not true at all. According to almost all rape crisis centers, surverys, polls, interviews, etc… rape rates have stayed pretty much the same, with many reporting an increase. The only thing that has decreased is the number of reported rapes. So all we can conclude is that porn has made women less inclined to report rapes to the police. Not to mention several college campus nurses have reported an increase in anal rape since 1994 (when the age of internet porn really exploded). I can also point you to several high profile cases that are directly linked to porn (such as Ted Bundy, who himself said porn was his most important form of sexual outlet and it influenced his choices to murder women).

    Oh and let’s not forget the studies (three prominent including Paul and Donnerstein) all showing conclusively that porn viewing directly correlates to a decrease in satisfaction with their partner’s attractiveness, their partner’s sexual curiosity, and the amount of sex they are having. And these were not correlation studies like the ones “you” used above, which are usually bogus (like that global warming caused an increase in sea pirates), these were cause and effect studies performed over months and months, consisting of every kind of data gathering (interviews, surveys, etc…) and showing a very clear cause and effect relationship.

    Also in 2004, in a study by Pamela Paul, the figure that over 50% of divorces were directly influenced by online activities (mostly porn, also online affairs). Seeing as divorce has been going way up, I’d say porn is pretty detrimental to a lot of relationships. Just try googling porn and relationships and hundreds of thousands of posts from men and women who’ve had their relationships and sometimes even lives destroyed by porn and porn addiction will show up. Did you know that nowadays between 8-15% of the total population is considered to have a compulsive porn habit that disrupts their lives? Even the NY Times cites pornography as a very likely factor in the rising infidelity rates, due to it warping what’s considered normal sexual behavior. Even if porn doesn’t directly cause rape, you’d really have to have your head in the sand to not see it’s having an absolutely hideous effect on relationships, especially women in relationships. I also have interviews with men talking about how porn completely destroyed their relationship because they lost their attraction to their partners. Also with men who said that when they stopped looking at porn, every aspect of their relationship improved dramatically. The anecdotal evidence on this alone is absolutely enormous, combined with all the research, the evidence is completely overwhelming that porn is without a doubt, harmful to almost everyone.

    Not to steal this from someone else who said it brilliantly, but not only did you bring a knife to a gunfight, you stabbed yourself with it.

  20. collapse expand

    “allowed for the possession of child pornography, child sex abuse has declined”

    I wonder how the children used in that pornography feel about that?

  21. collapse expand

    Like many other things that give people pleasure, porn can be misused. And yes a person can be addicted to it. However I believe that non-violent porn depicting consenting adults can enhance a persons sex life. Be it with their partners or alone. As long s it doesn’t control a person’s life, It can actually be a pretty nice diversion.

  22. collapse expand

    I am new to this site,followed this sting might be able to shed some light.I am a sex therapist ,couples councilor and work with clients unconsciousness via deep trance hypnosis .May I suggest Nancy Fridays groundbreaking and life long work on women’s range of attitudes regarding sex and fantasy . The Erotic vs. Porn is a tough issue.I have seen many marriages saved by the wife releasing her ” Inner Goddess” getting in touch with her true sexuality and thereby( she) bringing the couple to a new healthy level ( really!).Sometimes it is hard porn and/ or soft porn and fantasy / sharing that provides the breakthrough .Most attitudes,I have found formed between the age of “0″ to 14 years. It is quite true ( regarding sex) the more suppressed,severely religious,or abused a child is the more twisted their view of what should be one of the most sacred acts two (or more ) people can experience

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    About Me

    I'm a freelance writer and blogger based in Brooklyn, NY. My background is mostly in politics. I've worked on the editorial boards of the New York Sun and New York Post. In 2006, I wrote a book, "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party" (Wiley). I've also done my share of freelancing, for places like the Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Reason, and RealClearPolitics.

    These days, I'm interested in humanity's ever-expanding understanding of its own irrationality. Hence, this blog.

    Comments, questions, news tips, creative verbal abuse, etc. can be sent to: editor-at-ryansager.com.

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