Newton Blog

« Study: Vision Training Improves Batting Average | Blog Home Page | Female Genitalia Are Cool, Too! »

The Positive Side of Pornography

In the preceding decades, there have been few social issues as contentiously debated as pornography.

Opponents provide a plethora of justifiable arguments against pornography. For example, they say that it objectifies women and fosters a market that allows for the victimization of innocent children and women. Porn has also been labeled as an "enemy of the family" and as a contributor to the "demise of guys." Many opponents sum up their assertions by insisting that the human body is a temple, and porn is its unparalleled desecrator.

Whether or not smut actually does this is a matter that is at least partially subjective, and we all harbor our own opinions. Over the years, scientists have attempted to bring objectivity to the topic by studying porn's effects, and many studies indicate that it definitely has an upside. Writing for Reason last week, Ronald Bailey presented two interesting correlations:

As it turns out, the more prevalent

pornography has become the longer teens wait to have sex and the

lower the teen pregnancy rate. In fact, teen pregnancy is down

more than 40

percent from its peak in 1990. In addition, as access to

pornography has increased, the forcible rape rate in the United

States has fallen by 85 percent since 1980.

This correlative evidence is somewhat reinforced by laboratory research. Two studies conducted in 1986 and 1994 found that exposing males to violent or nonviolent pornography essentially produced no aggression towards females. Many psychologists theorize that pornography allows viewers to express any entrenched deviant sexual desires, reducing the inclination to carry out these lusts through criminal action.

In turn, a Queensland University of Technology study published in the Australian Journal of Communication supported these laboratory results. Researchers anonymously surveyed 1023 consumers of pornography and found that 58.8% of respondents thought, "pornography had a positive or very positive effect on their attitudes towards sexuality." Some of the most wholesome benefits listed by consumers were "increasing tolerance of other people's sexualities," "sustaining sexual interest in long-term relationships," and "helping them talk to their partners about sex."

There's no denying it: plenty of porn out there is perverted and lewd, but -- as some scientists have shown -- that doesn't necessarily entail that it will incite indecent behavior. To the contrary, salacious content may actually produce edifying outcomes.