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Debate: Pornography

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Does pornography offer a valuable public service?

Background and context

Pornographic material, depicting the sexual activities of individuals usually over 16 or 18, is legal in most countries.
Child pornography is entirely illegal at the moment, and it is not considered in this debate article. The debate over adult pornography - and the choice to watch, offer, or simply appreciate it - focuses on whether it has social, individual, and/or artistic qualities. The debate surrounds a number of questions: Is pornography demeaning to women [and perhaps men as well]? Does it devalue marriage and romantic relationships or add value to them in one way or another? Is porn a healthy "release valve" for men and possibly even a means of remaining abstinent or reducing risky sexual behavior? Does porn disproportionately involve the human trafficking of women, or simply the abuse and repression of them? Does it do some kind of harm to the watcher, indulging their prurient desires? Does porn qualify as art? And, if prostitution is banned, should it be legal to pay people for sex [that is filmed]? Does this create a strange loophole to legitimize acts of prostitution? The decision to watch or offer porn is considered by individuals, couples, and companies alike. Marriott Hotels, for example, chose to stop offering in-room porn in January of 2011, and some towns and counties have forbid public workers from staying in hotels that offer porn.[1] The arguments involved in these choices are considered below.
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Sexual role: Does pornography play a constructive role in sex?

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Yes

  • Porn can inspire and educate for better sex. Pornography can be seen as a mean to improving one's sexual life, as an inspiring source of visual stimuli. Certain actions may be used as creative games or vivid instructions that can enliven one's sexual life. Pornography keeps relationships healthy. Monique Alexander, a 25 year old porn star says she approached by couples thanking her for "spicing" up their relationships.[2]
  • Porn along with controlled masturbation improves performance. Sex therapists often recommend using masturbation as practise for sex. Adding porn into the mix can help make it more realistic, improving the ability of man or women to repond and perform during the real thing.
  • Porn improves self-control with distance from sex. Watching other people performing a sexual act can help one to fully perceive and realize the actual absurdity and emptiness of sex (from the conscious point of view), hereby enabling one to build-up a healthy distance from the whole issue. By watching pornography one can train sexual self-control, which can come handy either during the sexual act or in the process of consciously avoiding it (resisting seduction, respecting partner's mind).
  • Porn can serve as a (partial) substitute for sex life. For people that (for various reasons) doesn't have a sexual life, pornography can (partially) serve as its substitute. This holds especially well for men, who are much more visually oriented (with regard to sex) than women are, as can be seen from the fact that the clear majority of pornographic material focuses on the female form.



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No

  • Ordinary sex can rarely live up to pornography Porn "deadens Our Erotic Senses" according to Will at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen in 2010. "Today, real naked women are just bad porn." In a sexual arms race, "simple lovemaking" and nakedness are no longer sufficient.[3]
  • Porn leaves men feeling empty and upset with themselves. David McLeod, a marketing executive, said to the Guardian in a 2003: "You can easily get too much of it. It's deadening, nullifying, gratuitous, unsatisfying. At one point I was single for three years and I used a lot of porn then. After a while, it made me feel worse. I'd feel disgusted with myself and have a huge purge.'"[4]


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Relationships: Does pornography add/subtract from relationships?

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Pro

  • Pornography does not count as adultery. Julian Sanchez. "Porndultery." June 19th, 2008: "What counts as adultery is a function of the understanding, explicit or implicit, a particular couple has. Some couples, after all, go in for “voyeuristic gratification” together. So what we’re really talking about is what we think a reasonable modal implicit contract is about. One obvious reason adultery is typically ruled out is the risk of contracting a disease from or impregnating (or becoming pregnant by) another partner, which obviously isn’t an issue here. [...] If we don’t stand strong in defending the traditional definition of adultery as the union of one man and one woman, we risk rendering the institution meaningless. After all, if adultery can mean anything, then it ultimately means nothing."
  • Porn is no substitute for gratification of relationships. Julian Sanchez. "Porndultery." June 19th, 2008: "The more relevant problem is what we might call, loosely, betrayal of exclusive initimacy. But this is where mediation makes all the difference. You don’t have a “relationship” with Aurora Snow by dint of watching one of her movies; you’re certainly not at any great risk of running off with her. All of which is to say, porn is not really a substitute for the sort of gratification that comes from real intimacy with a partner. I’m going to suppose that nobody’s implicit understanding involves an agreement not to get 'gratification' from any other source—a nice glass of wine, a good novel, a game of pickup basketball."


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Con

  • Watching pornography can amount to adultery Porn is a "continuum of betrayal." By sharing that private, sexual experience with someone other than one's partner, it is infidelity. In the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth says: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”[5]
  • Porn degrades human romance to mere sex. It debases human interactions by eliminating love, laughter and all other emotions, and reducing them to the crudely sexual. While this is not always the case with porn, it is generally true, thus sending the wrong message to men and women about how they should prioritize sex in their lives.
  • Pornography increases likelihood of breakup/divorce Pornography is known to be highly addictive. Because a real girl/wife can hardly live up to the fantasy on screen, porn addicts are constantly unsatisfied. This usually means that a porn addict is unable to find a real-life mate. Or, worse yet, this form of addiction is sometimes associated with marital break up, which is especially hard on children and has an economic impact on the well-being of the family. The attitude in society that encourages degradation and violence against women, promotes marital unhappiness and divorce and makes possible modern day slavery should be rejected.
  • Pornography encourages promiscuity and shallow relationships. Ray Wyre, a specialist in sexual crime, said to the Guardian in 2003 that pornography "encourages transience, experimentation and moving between partners. Pornography does damage because it encourages people to make their home in shallow relationships."[6]


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Viewer esteem: Is pornography good for viewer self-esteem?

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Pro

  • Porn strokes the ego of the viewer. Azrael Sky. "5 reasons why pornography is good for society." Associated Content. May 21st, 2007: "1. Porn strokes the ego. Now we get into the core pshcyological issue at hand. Believe it or not, society today is burdened by a countless number of people who feel lonely, depressed, and downright insufficient. Pornography gives those people the opportunity to release their innermost desires and feel whole again. In short, it strokes their ego. This reduces crime, increases work productivity, and most important of all- it makes people feel better about themselves."
  • Porn provides knowledge that builds confidence. Many porn watchers enjoy learning new positions and moves, ways to hold their partners, and things that they can say to turn on their partner when having sex. This is important to confidence and self-esteem building.
  • Pornography is good for economic mobility. Pornography is arguably bigger than any of the major league sports, with $10 billion to 14 billion in sales,according to Frank Rich. Porn is a huge sector that supplies jobs to actors, directors and the in-betweens. No white collar skill set is necessary to enter into the porn industry. Unlike the typical white collar job that requires a four year education, pornography is an industry that allows for no college education."[7]


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Con

  • Porn only serves to fill a void in people's hearts. Psychoanalyst Estela Welldon, author of the classic text Mother, Madonna: "People who use pornography feel dead inside, and they are trying to avoid being aware of that pain. There is a sense of liberation, which is temporary: that's why pornography is so repetitive - you have to go back again and again."[8]
  • Porn is akin to a drug addiction "Getting Serious About Pornography." The National Review, Anonymous Op-Ed. March 31, 2010: "Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue — $97 billion worldwide in 2006 — than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment. According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn’t come in pill form. It can’t be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. Indeed, two authorities on the neurochemistry of addiction, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, claim it is the ability of this drug to influence all three pleasure systems in the brain — arousal, satiation, and fantasy — that makes it 'the pièce de résistance among the addictions.'"


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Female empowerment: Does porn empower women?

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Pro

  • Pornography lets women articulate femininity. Pornography benefits women as well as men. Anti-pornography feminists rely on a definition of pornography that victimizes women, where as pornography opens up the possible to give women the opportunity to reaffirm and explore their sexual identity. Anti-pornography campaigns rely on sexuality as a representation of patriarchy. This is not always the case. Defining pornography in this one-sided way simplifies pornography into male power, female oppression, and an over simplification of representation, desire and fantasy. The way that the anti-pornography campaign is framed in a "feminist light" is inherently dis-empowering toward females. Pornography frames the woman as weak and victimized instead of sexually equal. Pornography offers an opportunity to re-articulate femininity in a powerful and equal manner. [9]
  • Pornography does not denigrate/harm women. Melinda Wenner Moyer. "The Sunny Side of Smut." Scientific American. July 22th, 2011: "Does Porn Harm Women? The most common concern about pornography is that it indirectly hurts women by encouraging sexism, raising sexual expectations and thereby harming relationships. Some people worry that it might even incite violence against women. The data, however, do not support these claims. 'There’s absolutely no evidence that pornography does anything negative,' says Milton Diamond, director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 'It’s a moral issue, not a factual issue.'"
  • Porn creates good paying jobs for men and women. Azrael Sky. "5 Reasons Why Pornography is Good for Society." Associated Content. May 21st, 2007: "4. Porn = jobs. If pornography were to be banned and prohibited, countless people in America would be unemployed. Men and women who star in adult films would suddenly be left with few options on their next choice of a job. What company would be willing to hire a woman who used to be in pornography? Let's face it, some people are best suited to marketing their bodies rather than anything else. And who could blame them? Stupid people who are unemployed can become more than a detriment to society and can pose a threat to society if they are left unemployed."
  • Porn generates money for the economy. Azrael Sky. "Five reasons why pornography is good for the society." Associated Content. May 21st, 2007: "5. Porn = money for economy. And lots of it. According to estimates, the American porn industry rakes in more than $10 billion dollars a year. In fact, the porn business is known to completely overwhelm the box office in terms of viewership and revenue. What does this mean for society? Despite the fact that the majority of the revenue end up in the hands of the distributors, creators, and stars of the films, the money that circulates still contributes to the overall market. And that means that it actually helps increase GDP for America. That's right folks, every time you watch a pornographic film, you can tell yourself that you're doing it for the national economy."


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Con

  • Pornography degrades women. Pornography objectives women, sometimes men, by making the intimate experience of sex into a voyeuristic act of gratification. Instead of seeing women as subjects who deserve respect and worth, women are portrayed of objects to service the sexual needs of men. That degrades women and makes them less than fully human. The vast majority of pornography is a tool of male hegemony continuing the age old exploitation of women and is essentially anti-feminist.
  • Porn makes women less confident of meeting expectations A comment was cited in a 2010 Huffington Post article: "My boyfriend says he's unable to perform sexually due to his porn use. I love him so much but feel absolutely devastated that he felt he had to turn to porn. I always thought we had such a great sex life. I am 26 years old and consider myself to be quite attractive, but I now feel like sh*t. I have no confidence or self-esteem left."[10]
  • Porn-watching is one-sidedly dominated by men. Ross Douthat. "Is Pornography Adultery?" The Atlantic. October 2008: "women are more likely to look at pornography than in the past, but they remain considerably more hostile to porn than men are, and considerably less likely to make use of it. (Even among the Internet generation, the split between the sexes remains stark. A survey of American college students last year found that 70 percent of the women in the sample never looked at pornography, compared with just 14 percent of their male peers; almost half of the men surveyed looked at porn at least once a week, versus just 3 percent of the women.)"
  • Pornography is physically harmful toward female bodies. Pornography inflicts permanent harm on the woman's body. At a congressional hearing, a witness testified about the high demand from publishers for pictures of sadomasochist abuse. In one case, pornography publishers in LA put pressure on photographers to depict sadochasmic scenes which required the photographer to torture females. Because the sadomasochist scenes were then sold nationally in magazines, this profitable behavior was encouraged.[11]
  • Porn leads women down destructive/futureless path. Vivian Norris de Mantaigu. "Tiger Woods and the Problem of Porn Culture in US Celebrity Life." Huffington Post. December 18th, 2009: "Forget all the liberal talk about women choosing to become "empowered" via porn. I worked with teen moms for five years, some of whom ended up as strippers, in clubs owned by biker gangs on the West Coast. And those were the "lucky" ones. Some ended up sent to Guam (sent on a paid one way ticket) to strip (lying about their age at 16 and 17) for US military guys with no way to every earn enough to pay their way back to the mainland on wages alone. They ended up as teen moms as a way to get out of that life. But first they usually ended up on the street. And later they ended up with kids to feed, once again a temptation to turn to quick money, porn and other sad tales of a lack of empowerment for women."
  • Porn helps men "get even" with women for unfulfilled fantasies. Bill Margold, one of the industry's longest-serving film performers, was interviewed in 1991 by psychoanalyst Robert Stoller for his book "Porn: Myths For The Twentieth Century.": "My whole reason for being in this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don't care much for women and want to see the men in my industry getting even with the women they couldn't have when they were growing up. So we come on a woman's face or brutalise her sexually: we're getting even for lost dreams."[12]


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Encouraging rape: Does pornography encourage rapists?

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Yes

  • Pornography does not make watchers more aggressive. Melinda Wenner Moyer. "The Sunny Side of Smut." Scientific American. July 22th, 2011: "Contrary to what many people believe, recent research shows that moderate pornography consumption does not make users more aggressive, promote sexism or harm relationships. If anything, some researchers suggest, exposure to pornography might make some people less likely to commit sexual crimes."
  • Porn helps men sublimate impulses toward rape While many argue that porn incites men to commit rape, there's also evidence in the opposite direction: that it helps men sublimate their aggressive sexual fantasies in a relatively harmless ways.
  • Rape will exist with or without pornography. It is likely that if one is subject to the feelings rapists are then one is more inclined to use pornography, not the other way round - pornography does not create rapists. The claim that pornography is rape does not hold water; our entire legal system is dependent on a distinction between thought and act that this claim seeks to blur. Pornography is a legitimate form of expression and enjoyment, and should not be censored in the interests of sexual repression and prudery.
  • Rape has existed before the invention of pornography. Rape has existed for thousands of years, well before the invention of pornography. The sheer thought that pornography births rapists is not only naive but an uneducated statement that holds no ground in the course of history. For a clearer line of reference, pornography requires electricity, and yet during the dark ages it was not uncommon for a village to be raided ant the young maidens to be raped. Under the assumption that rape is the fault of pornography, where was pornography during this era?
  • Porn watching may actually reduce rape rates Melinda Wenner Moyer. "The Sunny Side of Smut." Scientific American. July 22th, 2011: "What if it turns out that ­pornography use actually reduces the desire to rape? It is a controversial idea, but some studies support it. Work in the 1960s and 1970s reported that sexual criminals tend to be exposed to pornographic materials at a later age than noncriminals. In 1992 Richard Green, a psychiatrist at Imperial College London, disclosed in his book Sexual Science and the Law that patients requesting treatment in clinics for sex offenders commonly say that pornography helps them keep their abnormal sexuality within the confines of their imagination. “Pornography seems to be protective,” Diamond says, perhaps because exposure correlates with lower levels of sexual repression, a potential rape risk factor."


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No

  • Many rapists are obsessed with and encouraged by pornography by letting them treat women as objects whose feelings are not relevant, or as people who are actually wanting to be raped; a very common defence case is that a woman was ‘asking for it’. Indeed, feminism has proposed that pornography is rape, by its exploitation of women’s bodies. Pornography only serves to encourage brutal sex crimes.
  • Violent pornography encourages violence against women. and fosters the normalization of rape. Rape, especially date rape, is a widespread and serious problem that significantly hurts women and thus society. Depictions of rape in pornography encourages the behavior in reality. Rape desensitizes the mainstream public in thinking that rape is a social norm. In a study of high school males, 50% of those interviewed believed it acceptable "for a guy to hold a girl down and force her to have sexual intercourse in instances such as when she 'gets him sexually excited' or 'she says she's going to have sex with him and then changes her mind'". Furthermore, rape becomes arousing. Twenty to thirty percent of males becomes substantially sexually aroused by rape depictions where men the women does not show any signs of arousal and instead only shows signs of abhorrence. Over all, 25-60% of college students admit some likelihood of rape or forcing a sex act on a woman if they could get away with it.[13]
  • Porn addiction escalates into increasingly aberrant acts Anonymous. "Getting Serious On Pornography" National Review. March 31st, 2010: "pornography addiction is a process that undergoes four phases. First, addiction, resulting from early and repeated exposure accompanied by masturbation. Second, escalation, during which the addict requires more frequent porn exposure to achieve the same “highs” and may learn to prefer porn to sexual intercourse. Third, desensitization, during which the addict views as normal what was once considered repulsive or immoral. And finally, the acting-out phase, during which the addict runs an increased risk of making the leap from screen to real life. This behavior may manifest itself in the form of promiscuity, voyeurism, exhibitionism, group sex, rape, sadomasochism, or even child molestation. The final phase may also be characterized by one or more extramarital affairs. A 2004 study published in Social Science Quarterly found that Internet users who had had an extramarital affair were 3.18 times more likely to have used online porn than Internet users who had not had an affair."
  • Pornography further victimizes sexual abuse victims. Pornography plays on sexual abuse victims' traumatic experiences. Taki's Magazine, Gavin McInnes says that porn starts take up the profession because of their past trauma. He also thinks the "odds of [a porn star] having been sexually abused as a child are about 99.99 percent."


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Free speech: Is pornography protected by free speech?

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Yes

  • Pornography is an expression falling under freedom of speech. Free speech is an ideal we cherish. Censorship is only deployed when free speech becomes offensive to others. This is not the case with pornography, as it is filmed legally by consenting adults for consenting adults, and thus offends no-one. Pornography, contrary to what the Proposition have argued, neither injures nor offends anyone, and is a legitimate tool to stimulate our feelings and emotions in much the same way as music, art or literature does.
  • Outlawing pornography infringes on minorities' free speech. By outlawing "sexist" porn, these laws hurt minority porn more than the intended sexist porn. In Canada, when they outlawed oppressive porn under the butler vs. Queen ruling, these laws resulted in prohibition of a lot of gay porn and feminist erotica. Within first two and a half years after the Butler decision, more than half of the feminist bookstores in Canada had books confiscated or detained by customs. The bookstore managers all depicted the government's targets: women, gay, and lesbian literature. Gay porn was often prohibited simply because it was dehumanizing because it did not portray "any real, meaningful human relationship." However, Canada never confiscated certain movies that depicted sexist heterosexual sex scenes like American Psycho-- depicting mutilation of women.[14]
  • Porn creates interesting/stimulating controversy. "5 reasons why porn is good for society." Associated Content. May 21, 2007: "2. Porn creates controversy. Does that sound ridiculous? Probably. But for a moment let's forget all the negative connotations associated with controversy and think about only the interesting aspects. Controversy focuses attention and sells news. Why? Because people want it, crave it, and cannot for the love of god live without it. Ok, well maybe they can live without it, but people will be bored out of their minds with the humdrum happenings of their everyday lives. Due to its core nature of being explicit and hardcore, pornography is one of the primary sources of controversy. Sex sells, and so does porn. The two go hand in hand like peas and carrots."
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No

  • Porn not victimless; limited free speech protections. Pornography encourages unhealthy, objectifying attitudes towards the opposite sex. In this way, it is naive to suppose that pornography is a victimless crime; the victim is the very fabric of society itself. By victimizing others, pornography forgoes any claim to the protection of "free speech".
  • Porn often connected with organized crime/enslavement. Pornography is a billion dollar industry that feeds human trafficking in which poor third world and eastern European women are sold against their will -- literally becoming sex slaves.
  • Debate over merits of porn usually don't relate to ban. Usually, the debate over pornography does not relate to whether it should be banned as a whole, but rather whether individuals should continue to watch it, whether it can be healthy in marriages, whether hotels should offer it, whether prisoners should be allowed access, etc. Arguing against a ban on pornography based on free speech justifications is, therefore, a bit of a red herring.


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