PSYC 101 – Dr. Nelson
Pornography & Psychological Health
Every major civilization has had its own cultural beliefs about that which is deemed sexual. Society has determined the norms and set boundaries based on that which was considered unacceptable variations. Homosexuality, for example, was commonplace among the ancient Greeks but only in our recent history has begun to pick up steam as a major issue. However, from time to time questions of sexuality arise that no previous civilization has faced. Pornography has existed in the past but never has it possessed the capacity to be so omnipresent or as easily accessible as it is today. Within seconds thousands of sites, images, and other explicit materials surge forth at the stroke of a keyboard and click of a mouse. The internet has given pornography potential to burst silently into almost every home in the world in an instant. But how does one control such a barrage? Concerns were expressed about what to do if pornographic material was unwanted and as a result of these fears, there are now certain restrictions in place to supposedly prevent such an unwanted intrusion. From these restrictions rose the inevitable conflict. The staunchest of free speech advocates maintain that porn is a harmless form of self expression and vent for releasing unhealthy sexual urges. They believe that the rules are restricting freedoms. Meanwhile, there are those who feel that the restrictions are too weak and that pornography poses a threat to our society, particularly the impressionable youths.
The first amendment of the United States Constitution is that Congress shall not interfere with the right of free speech or the press. This is the most important hurdle for proponents of further restrictions, and jumping over it requires a great deal of momentum. The only way the rights of the press and speech can be legally reined in is if there is a case of said freedoms causing harm. This means that with studies and evidence proving that pornography is harmful, the hurdle of the first amendment becomes nothing more than a small bump in the track. However, this means that collecting the required conclusive evidence is the difficult task. Studies are being done by both sides, each trying to reach a decisive victory over the other. Sex therapists, like David Schnarch have experienced success re-energizing married couples in which both partners are willing to try something to revitalize their sex lives. The claims that pornography influences the killer clowns to come out of hiding to abscond with little girls and boys are not entirely fact, nor completely fictitious. A “normal” person, meaning the psychologically stable, average Homo sapien, can easily distinguish between the fantasy of pornography and the reality of sex and not be overcome with a desire to act on deviant urges. There are also tests run to see if addiction is a valid concern. From UCSB, Daniel Linz says that there are several “unbiased” explanations, including that the so called addiction is nothing more than learned behavior which can be unlearned and that the tests that show proof of addiction are flawed.
The cause of so much defensive research is the number of focused points that the pro-restriction side is using. In one study, Dr. Victor Cline supports the four stages of pornographic addiction; aphrodisiac is the original stimulation, escalation is the desire for more explicit materials, desensitization where one has begun viewing hardcore materials as acceptable, and finally action on what the viewer has grown used to seeing. While the numbers decrease over the progression into higher levels, few seem to stop at the first stage. Also describing addiction is Dr. Judith Reisman who writes that “images trigger an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail.” Although addiction itself is very difficult to test conclusively, the facts support addiction ideas. There are approximately 72 million users that visit porn sites each year, pornography has become a multimillion dollar business, and even those without addictive personalities or psychological imbalances are shown to develop addicted characteristics over time. Research has also been done showing that pornography is harmful. Government tests and surveys show that of all the prisoners imprisoned for sexual crimes (rape, pedophilia, etc), 100% of them owned their own adult pornography. Marriage clinics doing tests have shown shocking results, such as the Center for Online Addiction which recorded that 65% of the people there were experiencing problems as a result of porn, 40% of addicts lost their spouse, 58% experienced severe financial loss, and 27-40% lost their job or profession.
Both sides certainly have strengths and weaknesses in their arguments. Having the First Amendment behind an argument is one of the biggest advantages one can ask for as a beginning. There is also the advantage of funding from companies in the industry that want to stay in business as much as possible. Basically the side arguing for fewer restrictions (Group A) begins with a large head start while the side trying to prove that pornography is harmful (Group B) has to try and catch up. However, Group B has much stronger statistics in their favor, as well as the ability to get a stronger emotional response by mentioning violence, sexual crimes, and the like. The argument for Group A is not as convincing as it would be if there were studies done that would show that “A is right” rather than ‘”B isn’t always right”. The weakness for Group B is using one of their strengths too much: the knee-jerk emotional reaction. It helps to get support but will lead to basically mud slinging like a political campaign. Group B has to be careful not to make their argument too emotionally driven or else they will distance themselves from the evidence and statistics.
Pornography desperately needs to be kept in check. It is designed specifically to be addictive, and surveys show that it creates distorted perceptions about sex, sexual dissatisfaction, unrealistic sexual expectations, and fosters doubts about the importance of the institution of marriage. As it is now, parental controls are a joke unless that parent is great with computers, or spends money on additional protection, leaving lower/lower-middle class families out of luck. The sites themselves make a mockery of the attempts to control explicit material by having big flashy buttons saying “click here if you are 18 or older or click here if you are 17 and we’ll link you out of here” as if a 14 year old is incapable of simply clicking yes to being 18. The Center for Online Addiction found that pornography is connected with the breakdown of the American family. The statistics show that pornography is both addictive and harmful, and is certainly not a victimless “crime”. Granted, the freedoms of speech and press must be protected and we should all learn to accept others for their differences, even different sexual beliefs. However, proof exists that pornography poses a genuine threat and as such it should at least be restrained in an effective way, as opposed to what is in place now. Group B wanted a guard dog to stand watch and prevent pornography from going where it wasn’t wanted. What they got was an old dog, too tired to chase away dangers, and too obsolete to do the job it needs to be doing in order to protect the people it should be serving.
Williams, Mary E., ed. Sex: Opposing Viewpoints.