Is pornography harmful to the human psyche? Interpretations of recent studies on violence and pornography have yielded a wide range of theories on this subject. Victor Cline asserts that there is plenty of evidence showing pornography to be harmful. He believes that it “degrades women and desensitizes males to sexual violence” (Slife, 270). On the other side of the spectrum, F. M. Christensen states that pornography has little effect on a person’s perception of reality and that it has become a “scapegoat for the conflicts between men and women” (Slife, 271). After reading both of the passages, I believe that a case has been established for the harmfulness of pornography.
In order to consider the harmfulness of pornography, we must first define both “harm” and “pornography” because both of these terms can be defined in a variety of ways. Causing “harm” is defined as causing physical or mental damage. In this case, it could also be the increase in the sexual callousness of men toward women. “Pornography” is any type material that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement. There are two aspects of pornography, the sexual component and the aggressive component. The aggressive component deals with the violent sexual assaults on women (i.e. rape or torture). The sexual component deals with just that sex. It is my
belief that both of them can cause harm to a person. But, I feel that the aggressive component is more harmful because it not only desensitizes a person to the sexual aspect but also the more harmful aggressive component. Freud noted that “sex and aggression are subject to more complex and ambiguous social controls” (Weiten, 351). He also said that people often get inconsistent messages on what is appropriate and therefore they (sex and aggression) are the source of much confusion and conflcit. The degree of harm that is caused by pornography is related to the amount of exposure. To set a point (i.e. exposure) on where pornography becomes harmful cannot be done. People vary greatly from person to person and I think there are several confounding variables (i.e. how impressionable that viewer is, and the observer’s current perspective on sexuality and women). Therefore it is unrealistic to define a set measurement to determine the whether pornography is harmful or not. After a study they conducted, Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant concluded, “the more they saw, the less offensive and objectionable it [pornography] become to them” (Slife, 278). The people that watched a large amount of pornography tended to see rape as a trivial offense and showed less compassion for the rape victims (women). The occurrence of callousness can be attributed to the erosion of inhibition. In which, a person becomes desensitized to certain events by constantly observing them. Albert Bandura also showed through research how models “influence the development of aggressiveness, sex roles, and moral standards.” With continued exposure to pornography, the observer’s behavior might begin to change as his inhibitions grow.
In conclusion, I believe a case has been established for the harmful effects of pornography. I am convinced that the degree of harm caused by pornography is related in some degree to the amount of exposure to it.
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