Defined as material, such as writing or pictures, designed to arose sexual desire, pornography has been in existence for centuries and found popularity across every culture Ninety percent of pornography is directed at heterosexual males, with the audience being primarily white and middle class. There has long been a social stigma, or a non-pecuniary cost, associated with the use of sexually explicit materials (Kendall, 2006). However, social mores have loosened over time and the shame or stigma associated with viewing pornography has also decreased. Pornography is also a "hot button" issue for many feminists -some of whom feel that all pornographic material depicting women degrades and objectifies women. Other opponents of pornography base their views on religious or moral grounds, and see the consumption of pornographic material as a threat to the family and society. Social scientists continue to study the effects of long term exposure to pornography on intimate relationships, as well as the relationship between exposure to pornography and sexually deviant behavior.
Keywords Child Online Protection Act (COPA):; Child Exploitation Pornography; Erotica; Internet Pornography; Miller v. California; Non-pecuniary Costs; Peer to Peer Networks; Prurient; Sexual Violence; Sexually Explicit Materials; Social Mores
Defined as material, such as writing or pictures, designed to arose sexual desire, pornography has been in existence for centuries and found popularity across every culture (Hudson, 2008). Today, 90% of pornography is directed at heterosexual males, with the audience being primarily white and middle class (Hudson, 2006).
Opponents of pornography have long argued that pornography has a corrosive effect on individuals, families, and society. Social conservatives view it as capable of undermining monogamous marriages, leading unmarried men into sexual depravity, and corrupting young, impressionable women (Pollard, 1993). Accordingly, there has long been a social stigma, or a non-pecuniary cost, associated with the use of sexually explicit materials (Kendall, 2006). However, social mores have loosened over time and the shame or stigma associated with viewing pornography has also decreased. Historically, as the financial, or pecuniary, costs of accessing pornography have decreased, there have been repeated attempts to increase the non-pecuniary costs associated with pornography (Kendall, 2006). In other words, as sexually explicit materials have become cheaper and more widely available, social forces have shifted in an attempt to control consumption through non-pecuniary means.
The Rising Demand for Pornography
Pornographic materials have been in existence for as long as man created art out of stone and clay. The production and distribution of pornography adapts easily to new media whether they be pictures, print, photography, movies, or computer files. In the US pornographic images gained popularity with GIs during WWII. Twenty years after the war, Playboy magazine was first published, and, in a short time, saw its circulation skyrocket. In 1974 the more explicit Hustler entered publication and, like Playboy, was well received in the marketplace, showing just how much demand there was for pornography. After Sony introduced the VCR in 1975, pornography began to be sold in the form of x-rated videos tapes, which allowed viewers to watch pornographic movies in the privacy of their homes instead of at public movie houses. When it was created, the Internet and the first graphical browsers represented a "quantum leap in pornography distribution" (Kendall, 2006). It is difficult to ascertain what percentage of Internet sites contain sexually explicit or sexually oriented materials, but estimates are staggering. Some estimates put the growth of sexually oriented web sites at "hundreds" per week, but, with the global reach of pornography, such estimates may be low. Today, much of the pornography exchanged in digital formats is shared over peer to peer networks. These networks allow creators, distributors, and users to share content directly without having to post it on public sites.
Some types of pornography are protected under the First Amendment. This protected content depicts adults, and, while adults are free to access it, minors' access may be restricted if the content is deemed "harmful to minors." In 1973 the US Supreme Court decision Miller v. California defined what types of sexually explicit materials are and are not excluded from protection under the First Amendment: obscenity and child pornography.
Miller v California defined basic guidelines for obscenity cases as the following:
• "Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.
• "Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law.
• "Whether the work taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value" (Hudson, 2008).
Child pornography was defined by the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act as "any visual depiction…[that] is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct" (Child Pornography Prevention Act, 1996, as quoted in Hudson, 2008, ¶ 20). When minors, including teens, are depicted in pornographic material they are considered "victims" of a crime, and anyone possessing or viewing such material is considered a criminal (Finkelhor, & Ormrod, 2004; Hudson, 2008).
Determining what constitutes pornography is both "controversial and confounding" (Hudson, 2008) and, even with the Supreme Court definition, remains the subject of much contentious debate. Pornography is also a "hot button" issue for many feminists -some of whom feel that all pornographic material depicting women degrades and objectifies women. Other opponents of pornography base their views on religious or moral grounds, and see the consumption of pornographic material as a threat to the traditional nuclear family. Social scientists continue to study the effects of long term exposure to pornography on intimate relationships, as well as the relationship between exposure to pornography and sexually deviant behavior.
Via the Internet, children and teens have unprecedented access to sexual explicit materials, and only recently have researchers begun to study what effects the accidental and purposeful viewing of pornography has on children and teens.
A long standing question asked by social scientists concerns the relationship between sexually explicit materials and anti-social behavior (Kendall, 2006). Consider the following public perceptions about exposure to pornography from a survey.
• 49% believe pornography can cause men to rape
• 56% blame it for a breakdown in morals. (Hudson, 2006)
Many researchers have explored the relationship between exposure to pornography and sexually violent behavior. The following examples reveal that research on the question has been largely inconclusive.
In 1979 Neil Malamuth and his colleagues published a study titled Exposure to Pornography and Reactions to Rape, the purpose of which was to study the effects of exposure to sexual violence as presented in the mass media on men's and women's attitudes toward rape.
Malamuth's study cited research suggesting that sexually violent depictions can, among other things, perpetuate beliefs about female subservience, lead to assault, and encourage acts of hostility against women (Malamuth, Reisin & Spinner, 1979). However, Malamuth also cited other studies which concluded that there is no evidence that exposure to pornography causes any adverse effects, including aggression towards women. His 1979 study was meant to further understanding of just what effects depictions of sexual violence have on attitudes toward rape.
Malamuth and his colleagues collected a group of 80 male and female students and randomly exposed each of them to one of three different stimuli:
• violent sexually explicit images (Playboy magazine images with violent content)
• non-violent sexually explicit images (Playboy magazine images without violent content)
• neutral images (National Geographic magazine images, primarily landscapes).
After being exposed to the stimuli, all of the students viewed the same video of an interview with a rape victim and then completed a survey about the interview, asking them about their
• "Perceptions of the victim and assailant (e.g., intelligence, attractiveness)
• Perceptions of experience of victim (e.g., pain, trauma, etc.)
• Attitudes toward rape (e.g., responsibility, possible justification, punishment merited, sexual vs. violent motive).
• Subjects' beliefs about their own behavior in such situations (e.g., the possibility of engaging in sexual assault)" (Malamuth, Reisin & Spinner, 1979, p. 5).
Because the researchers were concerned that the experimental environment might skew their results, several weeks after the initial exposure Malamuth and his...
(The entire section is 4136 words.)