Issue Report: Pornography

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.

Sexual role: Does pornography play a constructive role in sex?

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.

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.

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.

Porn weakens libido and contributes to impotency

Naomi Wolf. "The Porn Myth." The Atlantic. 2010

“For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn[…] A whole generation of men are less able to connect erotically to women—and ultimately less libidinous.”

Porn makes women seem less attractive to men

Naomi Wolf. "The Porn Myth." The Atlantic. 2010

“The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.”

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.'”

Relationships: Does pornography add/subtract from relationships?

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.”

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.”

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 normalizes aberrant sexual behavior

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.”

Modern porn increasingly crosses fantasy-reality boundary

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

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.”

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.”

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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