Pornography isn’t evil

Pornography might help individuals more fully express their sexuality in a healthy manner.

On Sept. 6, an article was written which reviewed a book titled, “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity,” by Robert Jensen. It summed up, in a pseudo-scientific right-wing manner, the objectionable qualities of pornography: Pornography objectifies woman and causes appreciable harm to our society.

I can’t say that I dispute that it objectifies women, except to say that it also objectifies men. It objectifies sex. Not just the person. That is what porn is. This is the issue the article should have dealt with. What happens when we objectify sex? What happens when a person often watches pornography? The article claimed to have wrestled with this issue, but lacked any research or critical thought by the author.

It turns out the answer is Ö not a whole lot (with mixed evidence). I took the time to look up a meta-analysis of the research on pornography’s effects on viewers. It might make a person like more aggressive sex (in other words – more uninhibited sex compared to passionless missionary-position making-babies sex). It might make a person enjoy their sex life more. There is also no real evidence that males who view pornography are more misogynistic.

In a survey of 97 sex offenders, it was found that pedophiles were actually less likely to view child pornography than a control group. In another survey of 561 sex offenders only 17 percent said they had used pornography and masturbated before assaulting a victim. This might show a causal relationship for these people, and that is not to diminish its importance for future research. But we are still left with 83 percent of sex offenders having some other reason for their assault; I’d say that needs some attention.

Pornography is also intimately entangled with another aspect of sex: masturbation. In a study of 305 college-aged males, 92.4 percent of them had viewed pornography sometime in their life. 43.1 percent of them viewed it regularly (1-2 times per week). These college-aged males are healthy males who have a healthy sex life, whether with themselves or with a partner. These are not all males who are sex offenders and deviants. That 92.4 percent of them have viewed pornography at some point makes it a bit odd the other 7.6 percent hasn’t (maybe because they have a very low sex drive or for religious reasons or a multitude of other reasons).

Tied in with the latter statistics is a 1996 study of German men and women. The sample was about 8,500. They found that by the time males were 17, 90 percent of them had masturbated. Of the females, about 65 percent of them had. By the age of 21, 97 percent of males and 80 percent of females had masturbated. I would imagine many of these people viewed pornography. Had there been a causal relationship between pornography and sexual assault we would have a molestation and sexual violence epidemic.

The measurable appreciable harms that coincide with pornography would be the occurrence of sexual assault with the amount of pornography viewed and types of pornography viewed. Though the religious, morally strict, (some) parents and anti-porn feminists would like to claim pornography causes appreciable harm, there is no conclusive evidence showing this is the case. Once the appreciable harms are shown to be false we are left with abstract ideas like “objectifying sex.”

If “objectifying sex” is the only argument left, we are left stranded. This argument carries no weight if no appreciable harm is seen to come from it. To go further, nearly every person has had a sexual fantasy at some point. These fantasies are sex objectified and are considered healthy to have by psychologists.

Until the research gives us strong reason to believe viewing pornography does some appreciable and measurable harm to our society, I will be unconvinced. But research must continue on the subject. It’s not an easy topic to research given that response bias can be so strong. Until then, I choose to follow this information: Pornography might help individuals more fully express their sexuality in a healthy manner, and couples might get a benefit from viewing pornography as a source for sexual spontaneity.

Will Martin is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]