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Pornography (from the Greek pornographos, the writing of harlots) is explicit sexual writing or visual materials, often considered obscene. Some members of the society have always regarded any distribution of pornography as potentially dangerous and corrupting, particularly to younger people. Both the laws and public attitudes regarding pornography are in a constant state of flux simply because no adequate definition of “obscene” has yet been established.

Until recently, no scientific studies had been published which attempted to determine whether or not pornographic materials did, in fact, have detrimental effect on those who read or viewed them. Thus, opinions were based largely on cultural traditions and ignorance. Now, at least two excellent studies are available. The first is that of the Danish Forensic Medical Council, carried out at the request of the Minister of Justice and the Danish Parliament and published in 1966. The second is the report of the United States President’s Commission on obscenity and pornography (Bantam Books), published in 1970. The findings of this commission had the “distinction” of being rejected by both the president and Congress before they were even published.

Both the Danish and the United States studies were in depth, and even included actual experiments carried out with human subjects. Their findings, which are remarkably in agreement, have at least some scientific validity. The following excerpts neatly illustrate the main findings.

An excerpt from the report of the Danish Forensic Medical Council:

“School age children will apparently often show an interest in and be able, to a large extent, to ‘understand’ pornography; but the sexual role of the child is by now so fixed that one can scarcely reckon with further means, such as pornography, changing the sexual learning of the child in any essential respect. Nor is there any reason to suppose that such further influence can cause the development of neurosis or the mental suffering in the child”.

“To sum up, the council will hereafter state that, as far as the council is aware, no scientific experiments exist which can lay a basis for the assumption that pornography or “obscene” pictures and films contribute to the community of sexual offences by normal adults or young people. On the basis of psychiatric and child-psychiatric experience it can neither be assumed that sexual learning, the development of personality and the ordinary attitude to sex and to ethical – sexual norms either in children or adults, can be detrimentally affected means in question (pornographic literature, pictures and films). This statement holds good regardless of whether the pornographic writings, pictures, etc., are of normal or sexually perverted content”.

The United States report is much longer and more diverse. An excerpt:

“Available research indicates that sex offenders have had less adolescence experience with erotica than other adults. They do not differ significantly from adults in relation to adult experience with erotica, in relation to reported arousal or in relation to the likelihood of exposure. Available evidence suggests that sex offenders’ early experience with erotic material is a reflection of their more generally deprived sexual environment. The relative absence of experience appears to constitute another indicator of a typical and inadequate sexual socialization.

In sum, empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behaviour among youth or adults. The commission concludes that exposure to erotic materials is not a factor in the causation of sex crime or sex delinquencies”.

As a result of their studies, the United States Commission made four recommendations:

  • Pornography plays a significant sex educational role in the absence of formal sex education. Therefore, there should be formal sex education on a wide scale.
  • Pornography is not dangerous to society. There should be no censorship for consenting adults.
  • Pornographic materials should be denied to children below 16, even though there is no evidence that it does them any harm.
  • There should be extensive research into effects of erotica on people’s lives.

It is clear from both the Danish and United States’ reports, and almost all behavioural scientists will agree, that sexual mores and behaviour are determined not by the sight of pornographic materials, but by intimate parental and social relations very early in childhood. There is probably not a single man, woman or child who has had at least some exposure to pornography. The vast majority will quickly find it very boring and consequently discard it. A sexually disturbed minority will perhaps find it fascinating, but there is no evidence that it will change their sexual behaviour in any way. It is also worth mentioning that sexual offenders are almost invariably sexually ignorant.

More than inciting them to indulge in criminal behaviour, pornographic material causes insecurity in people’s minds by producing distorted standards. People may believe that whatever is shown in pornography is the real thing and try to imitate them in real life. (The sexual scenes in blue films are exaggerated and edited.) When they or their partners cannot perform or behave as shown in blue films they assume that they are not up to the mark and think that something is wrong with them. This makes them lose their self-confidence and affects their otherwise normal sexual response.

Parents worry quite unnecessarily about the effects of pornography, particularly on children. Perhaps this is a reaction (conscious or unconscious) to their own inadequacies in supplying a healthy sexual environment for young children. Our aim should be to drive pornography out by good sexual education and not by trying to censor it.


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