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Sunday, November 14, 2004 

Pornography: Harmful or Harmless?

After reading about yet another violent sexual assault on a mother and her daughter, I felt compelled to write an article on the link, I feel, there is between pornography and sexual assaults.

Pornography has always been a controversial subject. The majority of men seem to justify it and the majority of women are against it and both sides produce studies, reports and statistics to cement their beliefs. Even though the majority of men believe pornography is ok, 94% of Americans (both male and female) believe that Internet pornography should be illegal. (http://www.levelbest.com/design/sites/enough/stats.htm) This leads me to believe that even though most men like to view pornography, they honestly don't believe it is a good thing, hence they feel the need to have it banned. They're already at odds with themselves over it.

In order to talk about pornography, you must define it. And again, the definition is often subjective. If you believe pornography is a good thing then the definition is just 'sexually explicit material'. If you believe pornography is a bad thing then the definition becomes much more complex including the separation of erotica.

The following is a definition written by a recognized academic expert in the field of sexual violence against women, Dr. Diana E. H. Russell who has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology. She defines Pornography is material that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with abuse or degradation in a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such behavior.
Erotica refers to sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and respectful of all human beings and animals portrayed.

These two definitions work for me since I do believe that there is nothing wrong nudity or sex when it's consensual and the parties involved are of the age to legally consent and there is no degradation involved with either party. Pornography is not just sex. It's the degradation and humiliation of one or more persons by another.

I am against pornography and many studies provide a link between pornography and the commission of a sexual crime. I don't need to requote them all here (but I will provide some links at the end of the blog for those of you interested to read them) for the simple fact that if I inundate you with all kinds of statistics, you'll only find other ones to refute it. So why can't we just use common sense and honesty to settle this issue?

In Europe and in North America there are bans on cigarette advertising because there's a direct link to it and the number of people smoking. People accept this to be a fact. I think the majority of you believe this ban to be a good thing. The message is that you don't encourage people to smoke by advertising it. So if that can be said of smoking, is the same not also true of pornography? You advertise it in magazines and movies therefore you encourage people into thinking that the scenes depicted in pornographic materials are normal. And when it becomes normal, then any inhibitions people may have to perform acts viewed in the material are undermined as well. They are more likely to act out what they see in pornographic material.

Another illustration is a recipe book. For those of us who aren't chefs and don't know how to cook, we will often refer to a recipe book in order to cook an edible meal. Even meals which I consider to be strange and would never want to eat like escargots, I could probably be encouraged to make it and even eat it if it was presented in a pleasing way with testimonials regarding its nutritional content and taste. So for people who normally wouldn't even think about a sexual assault, repeated viewing of such depictions in pornographic material will probably lead most men to think it's not such a bad idea and in the worst case scenario, lead other men to try it out.

Be truthful here men, how many of you have thought about or have tried acting out some of the acts you never thought about until you saw it depicted in a pornographic magazine with your partner? Pornography is a stimulus. Not all men will act out the violent scenes but some would. And the ones who would are the ones I'm concerned about. Why give them the encouragement which might be the catalyst for their predisposition to commit a sexual assault? It's like giving an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey for his birthday.

Pornography desensitizes people. What really is abhorrent behaviour becomes to normal behaviour if you see it often enough. I remember the first time the world saw the beheading of Nick Berg on the news. We were appalled. Horrified. We talked about it for weeks. Now, hostages are being beheaded almost weekly and it barely registers a blip on our social awareness radars. Why? Because with each murder, we become less sesitive to the act itself. I believe the same is true of pornography. We see the violence, degradation and humiliation of females often enough that soon these scenes become less shocking, less deviant and more acceptable.

What's even more interesting to me is that supporters of adult pornography seem to have no problem saying that all child pornography ought to be banned for many reasons. They will say that it does encourage pedophiles to act out their fantasies. That it puts the lives of children in direct danger. That it's just plain sick, which it is. But when it comes to adult pornography, then this rule does not apply? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Ifpeople are so willing to accept the link between child pornography and child molestation, why then, is that same link not established and accepted when it comes to adult pornography and sexual assaults or rape?

Therefore, the whole idea that pornography doesn't harm anyone and may actually keep sexual predators off our streets is rendered void. And anyone who tells me that the worst that might happen is that the sexual deviant will only act out the fantasies he sees in pornography on prostitutes is another weak argument. The prostitute is still a human being. The assault is still criminal no matter which member of our society is involved. We need to stop trying to find reasons to justify it and be honest with ourselves. We need to rely on common sense to realize just how much a negative effect it really DOES have on society.

http://crime.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=crime&zu=http://www.dianarussell.com/porntoc.html

http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/rs/rep/rr00-5.html

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