Monday, August 01, 2011

The sunny side of smut.

Coming across an article with the same title as this post gave me an immediate flashback to my days at Harvard, when as a graduate student and resident tutor in Winthrop House I would invite down various campus notables to have dinner in the dining hall at a table with my students (coats and ties were still required then), after which we retired to the common room for a chat over sherry (sigh....the good old days). The guest I'm remembering was the famous psychologist B.F. Skinner, whose immediate response, when he was asked how he managed to remain so vital at his advanced age, was "I read pornography." Here are a few clips from the article in the Scientific American on this topics by Moyer:
...Now pornography is just one Google search away, and much of it is free. Age restrictions have become meaningless, too, with the advent of social media—one teenager in five has sent or posted naked pictures of themselves online...Certainly pornography addiction or overconsumption seems to cause relationship problems...But what about the more casual exposure typical of most porn users?...“There’s absolutely no evidence that pornography does anything negative,” says Milton Diamond​, director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “It’s a moral issue, not a factual issue.”...Perhaps the most serious accusation against pornography is that it incites sexual aggression. But not only do rape statistics suggest otherwise, some experts believe the consumption of pornography may actually reduce the desire to rape by offering a safe, private outlet for deviant sexual desires...as access to pornography grew in once restrictive Japan, China and Denmark in the past 40 years, rape statistics plummeted. Within the U.S., the states with the least Internet access between 1980 and 2000—and therefore the least access to Internet pornography—experienced a 53 percent increase in rape incidence, whereas the states with the most access experienced a 27 percent drop in the number of reported rapes .

It is important to note that these associations are just that—associations. They do not prove that pornography is the cause of the observed crime reductions. Nevertheless, the trends just don’t fit with the theory that rape and sexual assault are in part influenced by pornography...patients requesting treatment in clinics for sex offenders commonly say that pornography helps them keep their abnormal sexuality within the confines of their imagination. Pornography seems to be protective...perhaps because exposure correlates with lower levels of sexual repression, a potential rape risk factor.

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