Research: The effects of pornography

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The harm thought to be caused to minors by pornography and other "inappropriate content" is not supported by any scientific evidence or properly controlled outcome studies. Morality and socialization of youth are instead the rationales given for policing this content. Much of the evidence commissioned by governments and NGOs is correlational in nature, does not establish cause and effect, and is plagued with negative value judgments concerning "high risk behaviors" and "permissive attitudes". This lack of evidence casts doubt upon the use of imprecise and expensive internet filters by central government, and the insistence of governments upon self-regulatory ISP models.

  • Brief Amici Curiae of Sexuality Scholars, Researchers, Educators and Therapists in Support of Appellee in United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, No. 98-1682 (Oct. Term 1998), p. 8.
    "Most scholars in the field of sexuality agree that there is no basis to believe sexually explicit words or images … in and of themselves cause psychological harm to the great majority of young people."
  • NCAC. "White Paper Submitted to the Committee on Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids From Pornography and Their Applicability to Other Inappropriate Internet Content.
    "In 1986, the Surgeon General's Workshop on Pornography and Public Health concluded that there is no scientific basis to believe that minors are adversely affected by pornography. Indeed, it noted that many psychologists believe young children are unaffected by pornography because they lack "the cognitive or emotional capacities needed to comprehend it." In the end, these experts said, "it is really rather difficult to say much definitive about the possible effects of exposure to pornography on children." The more widely publicized majority report that same year of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography (the Meese Commission) did not disagree. The Meese Commission acknowledged that its concerns about minors' access to pornography were based on morality, not science. In the Playboy Entertainment case, expert witnesses for both the government and Playboy testified at trial that there is no empirical body of evidence of harm to minors from exposure to pornography. [...] Dr. Richard Green, founding president of the International Academy of Sex Research and author of Sexual Science and the Law, testified that none of the available literature—including comparisons of the amount of erotica available in different countries, studies of sex offenders, laboratory experiments on pornography and violence, clinical experience worldwide, and research on people who as children had witnessed the "primal scene" of sexual intercourse—supports the notion that exposure to sexual explicitness is psychologically harmful to youth. In 25 years of clinical practice, Dr. Green had not encountered psychological problems stemming from pornography."
  • Smahel, D., H. Machackova, G. Mascheroni, L., Dedkova, E., Staksrud, K., Ó lafsson, S. Livingstone and U. Hasebrink (2020): EU Kids Online 2020: Survey results from 19 countries, EU Kids Online, London School of Economics, London.
    "being exposed to sexual images can be perceived both as a positive and a negative experience, depending on the context and the individual child. How sexual images are perceived can also be influenced by intentionality – the response to exposure due to seeking out sexual images could differ from unexpected exposure [...] in most of the countries, most of the children who saw some sexual image were neither upset nor happy (Ave = 44%), ranging between 27% (Switzerland) and 72% (Lithuania). In contrast, between 10% (Lithuania) and 40% (Switzerland) of the children were fairly or very upset (Ave = 22%), while feeling happy after seeing sexual images was reported by a similar number of children across the countries, ranging between 3% in Estonia and 39% in Spain."

Excerpt Graphic Library

The Excerpt Graphic Library on Youth Sexuality has some useful information related to this topic. These can be accessed, saved and uploaded into shortform social media debates where character limits are in force.

Competences are also somewhat related: