Note: This post is incredibly long-winded. To keep it from being such an eye-sore, view the full text here. What follows below is only the summary of my post, the details of the individual studies are at the link. Please comment on Female Impersonator, not my personal blog, to get a healthy thread going.
I promised in the comments section of my last post that I would cover some of the factual supports to the preposition that porn is damaging to its viewers. The book I am reading, Pornified, devotes an entire forty page chapter to the subject. I wanted to cover a couple of things from the chapter, particularly the factual studies done on porn with interesting results.
1. Violence in Porn
According to a study done by Barron and Kimmel called Sexual Violence in Three Pornographic Media, one in four pornographic magazines and 27% of videos depict some kind of violence. Internet Usenet groups link to and distribute material that depicted violence 42% of the time.
2. Porn and Perceptions of Sexuality
Paul takes a lot of time to consider the very methodical and balanced research that Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann did 25 years ago to test how the viewing of pornography impacted the viewer's opinions of various social phenomenons. Modern studies this extensive are not available because most universities will not approve studies that cause any sort of psychological harm to the testing subjects that cannot be cured. Since the effects could not be proven reversible, their studies are probably the most reliable statistical scientific examinations of pornography to date:
The study featured 80 test subjects divided into four groups. One was the control, one group watched nothing but tame movies, the next watched a little softcore porn, and the final group watched 36 complete pornographic videos. Without exception, those that watched more pornography believed that more Americans were sexually active, had engaged in group sex, oral sex, anal sex, bestiality, and S&M than the other groups.
3. Porn and Objectification, Misogyny
The Zillmann-Bryant studies also found that porn viewers are less likely to want a daughter than non-viewers. A 1994 report summarizing 81 peer-reviewed studies found that 70% of the studies conclude that even exposure to nonaggressive pornography has clear negative effects.
In the study done for the book, Paul found that half of all Americans think porn is demeaning towards women. The group least likely to think so was Gen-X males and most likely was anyone over the age of 59.
In a study done in 2002 by a professor at Texas Christian University on heterosexual men who distributed porn via Internet newsgroups found that the more porn men use, the more likely they are to describe women in sexualized and stereotypically feminine terms. They were also more likely to approve of women in traditionally female occupations and to value men who are more submissive and subordinate to men.
4. Porn and Diminishing Returns
Paul also postulates that viewing porn, especially for prolonged periods of time, facilitates the need to view more explicit and demeaning porn to get the same thrill. This is supported in the study by James Howard, Myron Reifler, and Clifford Liptzin which is cited in the 1970 federal report on pornography that found that men that viewed pornographic material for 90 minutes a day 5 times a week experienced less sexual arousal over time to similar material.
5. Porn and Acceptance of Sexual Violence, Diminishing of Sympathy
Paul cannot provide any sort of evidence that those that view porn are more likely to be rapists or become a rapist (the problem of causation). However, the Zillmann-Bryant study does show that increased exposure to non-violent pornography demonstrably affects how men and women perceive men who rape. Male participants that viewed the most porn would assign the shortest sentence to a rapist. They were also less likely to support women's causes in general and were about three times less likely to favor the expansion of women's rights.
Pauls says that:
Pornography leaves men desensitized to both outrage and exicitment, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dissatisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life. Men find themselves upgraded to the most intense forms of porn, glutting themselves on extreme imagery and outrageous orgasms. Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of supersized expectations about sex and numbed emotions about women. (Paul 90)
For one, many have argued that they can separate fiction from fantasy when looking at porn, and that attitudes and expectations portrayed there are not carried over to real women. This supposition is in direct opposition to the entire premise of the multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns running constantly. If humanity was impervious to images and advertising, why would businesses spend so much on it?
The answer is that humanity is not impervious to images and sights, as seen above in various studies. Pornography is much more subtle than advertising. It does not prey upon an unnatural urge for a Mercedes, but the appreciation of human beauty and sexuality. It does not enforce itself with the rush of new purchases, but with the ecstasy of orgasm. Advertising must convince us that we want or need a new car. Pornography just asks that we submit to human sexuality. It taunts us with sexual release without vulnerability. It preys upon cultural stereotypes of women and men and then reinforces them.
And then it succeeds: horribly, subtly, orgasmically, addictively.