Pornography Is Bad For America
The following is a copy of a post that I did some time ago. I represent it here because I know that not many of those who view my current posts are likely to search back through my history of postings. I also represent it because a friend and former colleague has asked my opinion on a matter related to pornography and its effects upon culture.
My last, deep and comprehensive, analysis of the research literature on the effects of pornography was published 12 years ago. I spent two years on this project, almost exclusively and will not be able to match that effort again at this time. I am certain that there are new findings that will support and that will not support my conclusions. I am certain that, as in my previous analysis of the data available, philosophy and politics has biased many of the findings and opinions.
As a psychologist, my own assessment is not just based upon the research findings however. It was, and remains, based upon the principles/laws that underly Social Learning Theory, Operant Conditioning and Respondent Conditioning of humans and other animals. These principles, laws, and learning mechanisms predict that certain response tendencies will emerge from repeatedly pairing orgasms with a particular class of stimuli. Within this process new patterns of sexual arousal can be learned, new thoughts and images can become very frequent, new patterns of behavior can be fantasized, and new patterns of sexual behavior will become more likely. The conditionability of the consumer of pornography is especially heightened during puberty, but is present for many years.
The depictions in modern pornography include, children and young teens ( simulated or real), homosexuals, groups, aggression, torture, disfiguration, feces and urine, and animals, to name only a few categories.
Given what I have learned about human conditioning and learning over the past 47 years of study and observation (36 years as a professor and a concurrent 30 years as a psychotherapist), there is no way that flooding a population (children included) with the vivid pornographic depictions listed above will not produce an increased rate of human sexual actions that are harmful to a large number of individuals involved, in many different ways, and to their socioculture.
I have added an interesting post (following my own) from another source, to update my own post with more current observations of the many ways that problems produced by the porn industry can affect peoples lives. This posting will follow my own.
Yes, there is research and opinion to suggest no harm from the infusion of pornography into various cultures. I simply do not believe it.
My original posting follows:
It is so popular and comfortable to say that “whatever consenting adults choose to do is okay”. But there are consequences beyond what consenting adults choose to do, when they do “it” publicly. The same can also be said about some of the things that consenting adults do in private.
The hard reality is that many of our newly granted sexual freedoms (illegal less than one life-time ago) are severely damaging everyone, especially our young adults and children. These new sexual freedoms must therefore damaging our culture: How could it be otherwise?
As a psychologist, I have frequently witnessed the devastating effects of the scientifically flawed conclusions of President Johnson’s Committee on Pornography which recommended the legalization of pornography in 1970. In 1986 President Reagan’s Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography concluded that the earlier Commission’s findings of no relation between pornography and antisocial behavior was “starkly obsolete”. We now know much more about the effects of pornographic sexual stimulation upon humans than we did in 1970. What has been learned explains much of our sex-related human suffering and loss brought by a series of ignorant and irresponsible Court decisions mandating a nation-wide torrent of dramatically explicit pornography.
The following is a brief summary of scientific research findings about the effects of pornography viewing upon human thoughts, emotions, and behavior that I have previously published [Mawhinney, V.T. (1998). Behavior and Social Issues, 8, 2, 159-193].
1. Violent portrayals of sex can increase sexual aggression in the viewer. Graphic sexual violence is common in XXX and R-rated films rented by adults and teens from neighborhood video rental stores.
2. Much of pornography depicts women in grossly disrespected, exploited, and/ or sexually abused rolls. I am stunned by the absence of outrage among Women’s Liberation organizations.
3. The millions who masturbate while viewing the deviant sexual displays that flood the internet (teens and kids, urine and defecation, pain and torture, and sex with animals, etc.) are auto-erotically conditioning their own increased appetite for such portrayals. The same is true of any genre of pornography.
4. Both violent and nonviolent sexual portrayals can increase aggression in men when some other impulse-control impairing event is added such as drugs, alcohol, or frustration.
5. Commonly depicted rape scenes in which females finally acquiesce, and enjoy the sex, perpetuates the idea that female pleasure is a common outcome of forced sex.
6. Viewing rape depictions can reduce the estimated seriousness of such assaults for both men and woman and the severity of the punishment that they recommend for the rapist.
7. Viewing pornography can cause the viewer to overestimate the commonality of the sexual activities observed. It can also increase the viewers expectations that such behavior will occur in their own relationships with others and that others will probably be willing participants.
8. Viewing pornography “primes” the observer to think about sex more often and this increases the probability of sexual behavior.
9. Watching attractive male and female sexual models in pornography can reduce the viewer’s judgement of the attractiveness of their own mate, increasing dissatisfaction.
10. Pornography was a very small industry in the early 1960’s. By the mid-1990’s its revenues had grown to over 10 billion dollars per year. One recent estimate places this nation’s annual “mainstreamed” pornography earnings at about 56 billion dollars. The legalization of pornography has stimulated monumental new business growth and very substantial new revenues for our predatory government.
The longer-term consequences of our incompetent sexual experiment are unprecedented personal and financial costs for increased illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, rapes, child molestations, sexual infidelity in relationships and increased divorce rates. The flood of pornography is a significant partial determinant of all of these painful events. I submit that this is not “new found freedom”, it is a deadly form of social chaos.
And what about our local strip clubs? The mixture of sexual stimulation, tension, alcohol, and frustration in a testosterone “saturated” local strip club frequently ends in physical brutality, violence, and death. Only the naive are surprised and shocked.
Do you really think a community gains more from these sex clubs than it loses? The costs to a city’s reputation are incalculable. The financial losses will be enormous. Consider the costs to law enforcement, emergency medical services, hospitals, and to our judicial and penal system. This “little object lesson” is an example of bad behavioral contagion. It is the spread of damaging behavior patterns within our lives, in large part, caused by the drug and sex practices that are encouraged by our own socioculture.
Of course one can make the First Amendment argument. But our founding fathers could never have dreamed that the meaning of “freedom of expression” would be so distorted to inflict an avalanche of pornography upon this nation. Many of us, born and raised in the 1940’s and 1950’s, felt very free indeed: We enjoyed freedom from the culture-wide pornography related human misery that now enslaves us all.
What do our children learn from all of this? And how many of us care anymore? It saddens me to say this, but each generation appears to be breeding a next generation that is increasingly more troubled than the one before. Our addiction to pornography is a large part of this problem. If you think that this culture’s sex, drugs, violence, and other impulse-control problems are bad now—just wait. There is much worse to come.
What can be done? The mark of emotionally healthy individuals and cultures is their ability to deny immediate gratification to achieve long-term rewards. All across this great nation, good citizens and their good governments must do all that they can to reverse our cultural sexual addiction contagion— and we must do it very soon. Eliminating the recreational sex industry within your own communities is a step in the right direction.
V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 11/08/09
This is a slight revision of an article that I published in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune approximately 9 years ago.
Dr. Tom, 4/1/10