Research Paper: Pornography There Are a Number of Issues

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¶ … Pornography

There are a number of issues surrounding the issue of pornography. First and foremost, though, is the definition of obscenity and/or pornography and how it has evolved over the years. Legally, obscene is a term that describes the expression of actions, words or images that tend to offend the prevalent sexual morality of the standards within the respective community and time period. This complexity is multidimensional in scope -- what is pornography in one community may be art in another (e.g. Robert Mapplethorpe, etc.). Too, technological improvements have changed the manner in which pornography is viewed and delivered, making it a more private and accessible issue via laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Too, there is no such thing as "typical pornography." Materials may range from illegal child exploitation or extremely violent acts to various fetishes and sexual proclivities to simply the expression of sexual activity on screen or print (Huston, 2005). There are actually a number of complex sociological, legal, political, religious, moral, ethical, and psychological issues surrounding the issue of pornography. Too, it is important to distinguish pornography from erotica -- which is portraying sexuality using high-art and focusing on feelings and emotions; while pornography focuses on the physical act in order to arouse intense reactions. Within the genre of pornography, soft-core pornography focuses on nude or partially nude modelling that is suggestive but no explicit; hard-core shows explicit penetrative intercourse (What is Erotic? 2004). For our purposes, we will review a more focused approach: the manner in which pornography affects men, women and couples from a pscyho-social perspective.

Since the mid-1990s, pornography has become primarily Internet based. Recent research shows that the advent of more memory, faster connections and greater access to the Internet have caused the Internet pornography industry to increase drastically. The effects are both positive and negative and depend on a wide variety of factors: usage, addiction, type of pornography, and action-oriented responses to pornographic stimuli. On one hand, negative responses include relationship and interpersonal distress, objectification of individuals as sexual objects and the support of an industry that is considered exploitive. From the opposite viewpoint, greater access to pornography in late adolescence and adulthood increases sexual knowledge and attitudes towards sexual activity, and tends to liberalize individual acceptance of the continuum of human sexuality. To date, the is no consistent scholarly agreement on whether one side or the other is most pervasive, but rather remains oriented towards a number of variables and personality factors (Short, et al., 2012).

One side of the research question focuses on the social effects of pornography and the potential outcomes of use. Again, this is a sliding scale since individual use varies, tastes vary, and personal proclivities vary dramatically. Much of this research focuses on the potential influence pornography might have on rape, domestic violence, sexual dysfunction, difficulty with intimacy or sexual relationships and even child or spousal sexual abuse. The difficulty with this research is the number of variables and the nature of a causal relationship -- it is very difficult to prove that viewing certain types of pornography for a certain amount of time has a specific cause and effect relationship to negative behaviors (Zillmann, 1986).

In general, scholarly literature from the period of 1960 to the mid-1980s (at least in the United States) tended to see that pornography caused harm to society by increasing the rate of sexual assault and that in particular cases of violent pornography, serve as a "vivid fantasy" that sometimes turns into a psychological need. One study showed that in a prison environment, within six months of viewing hard-core child pornography even those who had been horrified at the idea, now found rape of a prepubescent child an acceptable form of sexual behavior (Dines, 1998).

European researchers argued, however, that the effects of exposure are different when individuals self-regulate their consumption of pornography than when they are exposed to certain types of pornography in a controlled experiment. This view holds that laboratory experiments or controlled exposure to certain types of pornography are not relevant to the real world because in real life, "individuals can elect to experience some pornography for minutes or hours, at a single session, or over years. In real life, individuals are free to satisfy different sexual urges in ways unavailable to students in classrooms or subjects in laboratory situations" (Diamond, 1999).

Since the late 1980s there has been a number of meta-analysis on the subject of linkage between pornography and sexual aggression. The results tend to be quite confusing because one study will find that there is not a causal linkage between pornography and rape supportive attitudes, while others suggest that there is a link between violent pornography and rape-supportive situations in certain populations of men. For example, in nonexperimental studies, there is a stronger relationship between violent pornography and attitudes supporting violence against women than in non-violent pornography (Kingston, et al., 2008). In this study, the population under scrutiny was a special population, that of the convicted sexual offender, leading one to believe that any causality was already built into these selected personality types.

In contrast, a meta-analysis review in 2009 found that one of the problems between linkage and causality focused on four criteria that must be met in order to extrapolate the data to the general population:

1. The definition of pornography held that it was sexually explicit materials that were specifically intended to create sexual arousal.

2. The study included at least one measure of attitudes supporting violence against women.

3. The study included enough statistical information on the male participants to estimate the association between pornography consumption and attitudes supporting violence against women.

4. The study used non-offender samples (Hald, et al., 2009, p. 3).

When the researchers critically looked at most of the studies done, they found that most were lacking in at least one, and usually more, of the basic criteria above. The results actually contradict many of the previous studies showing a clear relationship in the general population between pornography and violence. The researchers also note that there is a robust difference between violent pornography and non-violent pornography, and that it is impossible to lump the two together. The 2009 study suggests that the relationship between a man's pornography consumption and their attitudes supporting violence against women in nonexperimental studies is not always linked, nor does consumption of pornography result in a clear association to acceptable violence against women (Hald, pp. 5-6).

Other studies that use data from both global and U.S. sources find that the effects of pornography on violence have been exaggerated by political and special-interest groups. In fact, a 2009 study suggests that as the availability of Internet pornography increased, the level of rape and violent crime against women decreased substantially. The data suggests that pornography may have a cathartic effect and may provide a means to alleviate, or at least control, violence and sexually aggression (Ferguson and Hartley, 2009).

Too, there are clear differences in the consumption, subject matter, prevalence, and type of pornography preferred (in general) between the genders. Men tend to be exposed to pornography at a younger age, consume more pornography (time and frequency) and use pornography often by themselves or with non-sexual partners. Women, on the other hand, tend to prefer pornography as part of their sexual activities with their partners. Men prefer a larger variety of pornography, and typically focus on more fetishes and/or hard-core materials than women. Men show a higher frequency of masturbation, a lower age for beginning sexual experimentation, and a continued use of pornography and masturbation even after partnered. This study did not include materials that were common in magazines like Playboy or Penthouse, which are found to be extremely typical for men's use. Women prefer erotic stories that include foreplay, seduction and hints of sexual activity, while men prefer materials that focus on intercourse or ejaculation (Hald, 2006).

For the healthcare professional, understanding the nature and prevalence of pornography is an important tool in diagnosis and treatment of issues like self-esteem, sexual potency, or relationship issues. Some studies show that the occasional use of pornography has little or no effect upon a healthy relationship, but when there are problems in other areas, the excessive use of pornography can lead to disinterest in sexual activity with one's partner, issues of trust and perceived fidelity, views that activities depicted in pornography are objectionable, and a diminishing of trust between partners and use of pornography (Manning, 2006; Bridges, 2003).

Even the scholarly literature surrounding pornography is polarizing. One side sees pornography as a negative influence on behavior and a clear detriment towards healthy relationships. The other extreme sees pornography as a healthy expression of sexuality that helps adults discover what gives them sexual pleasure. Anything can become a negative compulsion; eating, drinking, gambling, surfing the Internet, gaming, even exercise. The healthy individual is able to find a balance between the things they enjoy and their ability to experience them. Certainly, the rise in pornographic sites and their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Pornography There Are a Number of Issues.  (2013, May 29).  Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

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"Pornography There Are a Number of Issues."  29 May 2013.  Web.  15 July 2019. <>.

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"Pornography There Are a Number of Issues."  May 29, 2013.  Accessed July 15, 2019.