Updated 7/2012
Eliminating Porn
Would Not Reduce Sex Crimes


      Censors who want to ban materials which depict adult nudity or explicit but nonviolent sex between consenting adults claim that banning these materials will reduce sex crimes and/or discrimination against women. But research, overall, does not support these claims. The following is a review of this research.


        Censors (typically the extremist factions of religious or feminist groups) cite statistics that show a correlation between the circulation of sexual materials and sex offense rates. However, statistics do not consistently show such a correlation.
       A study by
Joseph Scott in 1982 checked to see if there was a correlation between rape rates of states in the US and the number of XXX sex bookstores and theaters in each state. No significant correlation was found. In the former West Germany, data from 1959-1989 showed no increase in rape rates after laws against porn were repealed in 1973. In the years between 1995-2011, Internet access at home became common in the US and drastically increased the availability and accessibility of porn. This was also a time during which US porn production and distribution in general increased significantly. However, during this same time period the FBI Uniform Crime Reports show that there was an overall decrease in the US national rape rate (as measured per 100,000 residents). Although some censors may claim that this decrease in the US rape rate is just the result of fewer rape victims deciding to report the rape, research indicates the opposite. Research indicates that, during some of this time period, rape victims in the US were probably more likely to report the rape than in previous years.[1]     
      But censors cite statistics which show that states in the US that had the highest subscription rates of porn magazines also had the highest rates of rape. However, it is a mistake to assume that the higher rates of porn magazine subscriptions caused the higher rates of rape. Both of these rates could have increased as the result of an independent third factor. A study by
Cynthia Gentry found that areas in the US that had high rates of porn magazine subscriptions and high rates of rape also had a high population of people aged 18-34, which was likely the independent factor that caused both rates to increase. (When the number of people aged 18-34 was factored in, the correlation between porn magazine circulation rates and rape rates disappeared.) 
     Some censors cite a study by John Court which claims that Hawaii, after putting restrictions on porn in 1974, had a decrease in rape, then an increase in rape after restrictions were removed in 1976. But as it turns out, the restrictions during that 2 year period had little effect on the availability of porn, making those statistics rather meaningless.[2]

          Censors also cite studies which seem to indicate that neighborhoods in the immediate area of sexually oriented businesses (such as strip clubs or adult video stores) have higher crime rates. These censors claim that the higher crime rates are caused by those businesses. But researchers point out that there are very serious problems with these studies.
           As noted by these researchers, in order for these studies to truly demonstrate a correlation between sexually oriented businesses and  increased crime, the crime rates of the area with the sexually oriented businesses must be compared over time with the crime rates of a very similar "control area" in the same locality without any sexually oriented businesses. These two areas being compared need to be very similar in statistics such as the median income of the residents, median home value, population, zoning mix, and the presence of any non-sexual businesses that serve alcohol. This is necessary to eliminate other factors unrelated to sexually oriented businesses which could account for the differences in crime rates between the two areas. Researchers found that the studies most commonly cited by censors that claim to find a correlation between crime and sexually oriented businesses failed to compare the sexually oriented business area(s) with properly matched control area(s) lacking a sexually oriented business.[3]
          There are other serious problems with some of these studies as well. A study commonly cited by censors is a 1977 Los Angeles study that claimed to find that areas around sexually oriented businesses experienced larger increases in crime. But this study admitted that there was increased police presence in the sexually oriented business areas. The police found more crime in the sexually oriented business areas simply because there was more enforcement in those areas.[3] 
         Studies in which most of the above mentioned factors were taken into account did not find higher crime rates around sexually oriented businesses.[3]


           What about studies of sex offenders? Research by Abel, Mittellman, and Becker found no significant relationship between child molesters' porn viewing and the frequency of their offenses, number of victims, degree of violence, or ability to control their urges. After researching sex offenders, Ron Langevin and his associates concluded that, "The impression gained from the offenders in this study was that erotica use was not a pertinent factor in their sex offenses..."  Nutter and Kearns, after investigating sex offenders' use of porn, concluded that "..this study provides no evidence that sexually explicit material is a cause of offending behavior." After his study of pedophiles, Dennis Howitt concluded, "...there is no evidence that early exposure to pornography was a cause of later offending...In many of the cases, first exposure to pornography occurred well after their pedophiliac careers began." Additional studies by Kearns and Nutter   and    Ward, Kruttschmitt and Reiss  also found that sex offenders had not been exposed to porn any more often than non-offenders.  Kant and Goldstein found that the sex offenders in their sample saw less porn while growing up and as adults than did non-offenders. Dr. Henry Giarretto, founder of the Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program in Santa Clara, California, has stated that his own experience with sex offenders does not indicate that viewing porn leads to child sexual abuse.
            Although a few sex offenders in studies claimed to have received some inspiration from porn, this does not mean that porn can be singled out as a significant cause of sex offenses. The study by Dennis Howitt found that child molesters have been inspired to commit sex offenses or have sexual fantasies of kids by looking at non-nude, non-sexual images of kids from sources such as Disney videos, scouting magazines, and mail order catalogs. In their research on pedophiles, Stephen and Ronald Holmes found that pedophiles fuel their fantasies by looking at child models shown in non-nude, non-sexual newspaper ads. After studying sex offenders, Cohen and Boucher found that, "Sexually deviant people are able to make a Sears Roebuck catalog into a pornographic collection. They simply do not need commercial pornography." Criminologists have also found that it is common for child molesters to fuel their fantasies of kids by purchasing and masturbating with new children's clothes. Sadistic rapists tend to enjoy reading law enforcement and survivalist literature, and will sometimes masturbate while holding rope to inspire sadistic fantasies about how they could use the rope on a victim.[4] Additionally, in their study of sex offenders, Goldstein, Kant, and Hartman found that, "Generally, the sex offenders denied that exposure to erotica was a significant variable in the commission of their sex crimes and, in fact, often specified what they felt were more significant stimuli." The more significant stimuli that these rapists mentioned included such things as an article from a non-pornographic magazine describing a rape victim's trauma and a psychology textbook discussing incest. If porn wasn't available, many non-pornographic and even non-sexual materials would still arouse and inspire sex offenders.
Other research has found a relationship between conservative or anti-sex attitudes and sex crimes among some sex offenders. This is important because conservative and anti-sex attitudes are, of course, promoted and encouraged when sexual materials are banned.

Kant and Goldstein found that the sex offenders in their sample typically came from sexually repressive family backgrounds where sex was not discussed. These sex offenders saw less porn while growing up (and as adults) than did non-offenders. They were far more likely than the non-offenders to have been taught by their parents that sexual materials are bad. The sex offenders in this study lacked accurate sex information,  tended to associate sex with sin or dirtiness, and were more likely than non-offenders to have been taught about sex by clergy. The majority of the sex offenders studied by Baumann, Kasper, and Alford were raised to believe that sex is bad. These offenders tended to view positive sexual responses from their wives as dirty and held more conservative attitudes toward sex than non-offenders. Research by Lawrence Simkins found that sex offenders with conservative attitudes towards sex considered physical abuse and forced sex to be more acceptable than did sex offenders with less conservative attitudes towards sex.  Saunders, Lipovsky, and Hanson found that their samples of those admitting to sex offenses were part of a family environment that placed more emphasis on moral/religious beliefs than average families. The rapists studied by Scott and Tetreault had more conservative attitudes towards sex than both noncriminals and violent but nonsexual offenders. Byers and Eno had males fill out an anonymous  survey on their dating history, sexual history, and their attitudes toward porn and sex in general. Men who admitted on the anonymous survey to past sexual aggression had the most conservative sexual attitudes and tended to like porn the least.
Wilson and Cox surveyed and interviewed pedophiles who were subscribers to a pedophile newsletter. Most of these pedophiles were raised by parents who had negative attitudes towards sex. After studying sex offenders, Bart Delin concluded that, "A lack of sex education along with a strict negative religious upbringing, e.g., homosexuality and masturbation are sinful, are common characteristics in the family training of sex offenders."   Joyce Lakey's experience with treating sex offenders indicates that it is fairly common for sex offenders to believe that masturbation is harmful, repulsive, and abnormal, and that women should be virgins when they marry. Ira Reiss also found that it is common for sex offenders to view sex as dirty and degrading. Attitudes like these are not taught by porn, but are taught by many anti-porn crusaders.
Of course, those studies can only demonstrate a correlation between conservative sexual attitudes and some sex offenders, the studies cannot prove cause and effect. However, researchers have found ways in which strong conservative or anti-sex attitudes can motivate some sex crimes.  Dr. Henry Giarretto, founder of the Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program in Santa Clara, California, states that, "In contrast to common belief, a great number of men who turn to their children for sexual purposes are highly religious or morally rigid individuals who feel that this is 'less of a sin' than masturbation..."  Researchers  Bart Delin  Ira Reiss,     Wendell Watters,  as well as   Timothy Kahn and Mary Lafond  cite similar examples from their studies of child molesters and rapists.
       Dr A. Nicholas Groth, who has worked with hundreds of rapists, notes that one type of rapist uses rape to vent anger. This type of rapist uses forced sex as the weapon of choice. Why is sex considered a suitable weapon by this type of rapist? Sex is chosen as a weapon by these rapists because these rapists view the sex acts themselves (even when consensual) to be dirty, offensive, and degrading, and therefore some of the worst things they can do to the victim. These rapists usually get little or no sexual pleasure out of the rape. They usually think the sex is disgusting. Their satisfaction comes from the venting of anger upon the victim. If these rapists didn't think that the sex acts themselves are dirty and degrading even when consensual, then maybe they wouldn't chose to use sex as a weapon by committing rape. Of course, the attitude that some consensual sex acts between adults are dirty and degrading is encouraged and promoted by censoring sexual materials, and is explicitly taught by many anti-porn crusaders (both fundamentalists and feminists). 
       Other research has found a correlation between anti-sex attitudes and being at risk for sexual abuse. In his study of child sex abuse, David Finkelhor found that, "Victimized girls were much more likely to have mothers who were very punitive about sexual matters. These mothers warned, scolded and punished their daughters for asking sex questions, for masturbating and for looking at sexual pictures much more often than usual. A girl with a sexually punitive mother was 75% more vulnerable to sexual victimization than the typical girl in the sample. It was the second most powerful predictor of victimization...This is a clear indication that sexually repressive practices backfire...if mothers have repressed all the healthier ways of satisfying sexual curiosity, these daughters may be more vulnerable to an adult or an authority figure who appears to give them permission and opportunity to explore sex, albeit in the process of exploiting them."
       A child molestation case shows how strong conservative attitudes towards sex (the attitudes promoted when porn is banned) might negatively influence the way some instances of sex abuse are handled. In Nebraska, the State Attorney General's Office received a letter from a pastor who opposed the state's prosecution of a child molester. The case involved a 22-year-old man who molested a 13-year-old and got her pregnant. Why did the pastor support this pedophile? Marriage. After getting her pregnant, the man took the girl across the state line to Kansas where (at least at the time) a loophole in Kansas law allowed a girl that young to get married (with parental permission). This pastor thinks that the marriage makes it OK for this man in his 20s to have sex with a 13-year-old. This pastor places so much importance on avoiding sex without marriage that he thinks adult pedophiles should marry the kids they have sex with. One also wonders why the girl's mother gave parental permission for the marriage. Maybe her reasons were the same as the pastor's.[5]


          Censors cite psychology experiments where participants displayed increased aggression levels after being shown porn. These censors argue that this proves that the availability of porn leads to increases in sexual aggression and violence against women. 
        These psychology experiments are typically carried out in a manner similar to this. The subjects, typically undergrad college students, arrive for the experiment not knowing that it involves studying the effects of aggression from watching sexual materials. They often are told that the experiment involves studying the effects of stress on learning. The subject is instructed to perform a task to be evaluated by another subject. The other subject really works for the experimenter, and is called a confederate. Before the subject is shown sexual materials, the experimenter deliberately angers the subject by having the confederate deliver electric shocks and/or negative comments to the subject for errors made on the task. The subject is then told that the confederate needs to take a break to study for the next task. During this free time, the subject is asked if they'd help in another unrelated study by viewing pictures or movies. The movies or pictures could be non-sexual, neutral material or nudity with or without explicit sex. After viewing the material, the subject is instructed to evaluate the confederate's performance on a task by administering electric shocks to the confederate when errors are made. Shocks are not really being administered this time around, but the subject believes they are actually shocking the confederate. The intensity level or frequency of the shocks the subject chooses to administer to the confederate are considered to measure the level of aggression in the subject. The experimenter then compares the results between the subjects who viewed the neutral material and the subjects who viewed the sexual material to see if there is a significant difference. Although methods other than shocks are often used to measure aggression, the general procedure is usually the same.[6]
        Censors cite experiments like this in which the subjects displayed increased aggression levels after being shown porn (compared to subjects who were not shown porn). However, jumping to the conclusion that those experiments prove that the viewing of porn can lead to sexual aggression or violence is a mistake. In order for the porn to have an effect on their level of aggression in these experiments, the subjects usually have to be deliberately angered prior to watching the porn.[7] This means that in the experiments where subjects did show increased aggression levels, viewing porn did not cause this aggression, it merely enhanced the aggression of already angered subjects. And it is not just porn that can cause this effect in psychology experiments. Experiments like this have also found that
exercise can enhance aggression in angered subjects! So it's not that there is something special about porn that causes anger to be enhanced, it is just the excitement porn (just like exercise) can produce. 
        Anger is not even the only emotion that can be enhanced by viewing porn. In a study by
Mueller and Donnerstein, subjects were treated positively by the confederate before being shown either porn or neutral films. They were then given the chance to reward the confederate with money. It was the subjects who were treated positively and then exposed to porn who were the most rewarding. So porn, just like other forms of non-sexual excitement such as exercise, merely enhances whatever mood the subject is already in.
       Additional research suggests that when angered subjects are given a choice after exposure to porn, they choose not to use aggression anyway. In an experiment conducted by
Fisher and Grenier, after being angered by a confederate and watching porn, the subjects were given some options. The subjects were told that they could either shock the confederate (who had just angered them) for errors on a task, speak to the confederate about errors on a task instead of delivering electric shocks, or just leave and end the experiment. Virtually all of the subjects chose to leave or to speak to the confederate non-aggressively.  The only two subjects who chose to shock the confederate for errors on a task had expressed interest in using the shock machine itself before they even saw any porn.
        (Note: Although some experiments have found an increase in angered subjects' aggression levels after exposure to porn, some experiments have not found this increase in aggression. Why did some experiments find an increase in aggression, while others did not? Researchers note that the experiments which found an increase in aggression tended to use more exciting materials (such as porn movies vs. porn still photos or sex vs. simple nudity) than did the experiments that found no increases in aggression, and that this may account for the different results. Researchers also note that how the material is perceived by different subjects (e.g. arousing, neutral, or offensive) may also be a factor.)[7] 


        Censors cite surveys which found that respondents with a history of regular porn viewing reported less sympathy towards rape victims compared to respondents with a history of little or no porn viewing. Censors also cite psychology experiments in which subjects who were shown porn and then filled out a questionnaire reported less sympathy towards rape victims compared to subjects who were not shown porn. Censors argue that these studies prove that porn increases rates of sex crimes. Before jumping to this conclusion, a few things need to be taken into account.
       First of all, consistency is not found in these studies. There are other experiments and surveys that did not find any relationship between viewing porn and having negative attitudes towards rape victims. These include studies by   Malamuth, Reisin, and Spinner;      Kutchinsky;     Davies;      Bauserman;      Barak and Fisher;     Linz, Donnerstein, and Penrod (1988);      and    Padgett, Brislin-Slutz, and Neal. 
      Second of all, there are very serious flaws in some of the studies that did find a relationship between viewing porn and having negative attitudes towards rape victims. Some of these studies used questionnaires that don't seem to accurately predict real life behavior. In an experiment by James Check, subjects filled out a questionnaire asking if they thought that they would ever be likely to commit a rape in the future. The experiment found that the subjects who were shown porn were more likely to report on the questionnaire that they would rape in the future compared to the subjects who were not shown porn. But in a study by Briere and Malamuth, 60% of male college students who filled out this type of questionnaire indicated that there was at least some likelihood that they would commit a rape in the future, and they were not shown any porn. (Although the respondents were asked on the questionnaire about their previous exposure to porn, this study found that the respondents' previous exposure to porn was not related to their answers on the likelihood to rape questionnaire.) Another survey of college students by Scot Boeringer found that 48% of the respondents indicated that there was at least some likelihood that they would commit a rape in the future, and again they weren't shown porn. Are we really supposed to believe that 48-60% of male college students are rapists?
Scores on this questionnaire do not seem to accurately predict real life behavior.
     Another survey by John Briere asked respondents if they would ever be likely to hit their wife in the future. 79% of the male college students surveyed indicated that there was at least some likelihood that they would hit their wife in the future (and they weren't shown porn either). Are we also supposed to believe that 79% of male college students beat their girlfriends or wives? Once again, scores on questionnaires asking how likely the respondents would be to assault someone in the future do not seem to accurately predict real life behavior.
        The experiment by James Check also used a questionnaire called the Mosher Sex Callousness scale to measure the effect of porn on sexually callous attitudes towards women and rape victims. An experiment by 
Zillmann and Bryant also used this same scale as one of the questionnaires. Both of these experiments found that subjects who were shown porn reported an increase in sexually callous attitudes. But, although this questionnaire does contain some questions which do measure a callous attitude towards women or rape, this same questionnaire also contains many questions that have nothing to do with callous attitudes towards women or rape. Many of the questions simply reflect a positive or adventurous attitude towards sex. 
Zillmann and Bryant later admitted that this questionnaire is so flawed that they would stop using it in future research.[8]
       Subjects in the Check experiment also filled out a questionnaire asking them if they were ever, in the past, sexually aggressive towards women. The study found that those subjects who were shown porn during the experiment reported being more sexually aggressive in the past than those subjects who were not shown any porn. Since the porn viewing obviously could not have changed the past, something appears to have gone wrong with the experiment. Either more sexually aggressive subjects ended up in the porn viewing group than the no exposure group, or something during the experiment affected subjects' accuracy in answers about themselves.[8] Perhaps exposing subjects to porn merely alters the accuracy of their questionnaire answers instead of actually changing their attitudes.
         Two other experiments which found that exposing subjects to sexual materials resulted in less sympathy towards rape victims (Malamuth and Check (1985)   and   Malamuth and Check (1980) ) asked each subject to attach a device to their penis in order to measure erections in response to the materials. This is important because this procedure obviously involves much more invasion of privacy than most other studies that simply have subjects fill out an anonymous questionnaire. The Malamuth and Check (1985) study found that the subjects who were willing to participate in the experiment when they learned of the penis measurements already had less sympathy towards rape victims before exposure to the sexual materials than did the subjects who refused to continue participation after being informed of the penis measurements. Use of the erection measurement device discouraged many otherwise willing subjects from participating, and for some reason the remaining group of subjects was biased. Although this study also found that subjects with a history of regularly reading Playboy and Penthouse type magazines had the least sympathy towards rape victims, this part of the survey was only given to the subjects who participated in the experiment involving the erection measures, which was a biased group.
        The next important thing about t
he types of porn experiments just discussed is that these experiments do not prove that porn is any more harmful than non-explicit materials with an anti-rape message. In an experiment by Wilson, Linz, Donnerstein, and Stipp, subjects watched a made for TV movie which portrayed the plight of a rape victim from the victim's perspective. The movie had an anti-rape message and was not sexually explicit. Although the movie made it obvious that a rape occurred, the actual rape was not depicted. Virtually all of the movie focused on the legal proceedings following the rape or the nonviolent, nonsexual events before the rape occurred. The majority of the viewers considered the movie to be sensitive. This study found that men aged 50+ who viewed the movie reported less sympathy towards rape victims than the men 50 and older who did not view the movie. The movie did not affect the other age groups or women in this way. Different surveys that were done prior to this experiment found that men aged 50+ were the most likely group to put some blame on the victim for rape.[9] The researchers believe that people who already have a negative attitude towards an issue can twist the meaning of almost any material to strengthen their already existing beliefs, and that this is what happened in this case.
         Another study by Gloria Fischer examined the effectiveness of a rape awareness program taught in college courses. In most cases, the rape awareness program produced the intended results: students decreased their acceptance of rape after taking the course. However, in one class, students actually increased their acceptance of rape after taking the course.
       Therefore, the experiments in which subjects reported less sympathy towards rape victims after being exposed to porn do not prove that porn is any more harmful than non-explicit material with an anti-rape message. Again, researchers believe that people with a negative attitude towards a subject can twist the meaning of almost any material to strengthen their already existing beliefs.
       There have also been studies that have found a correlation between having less sympathy for rape victims and having conservative sexual attitudes. (The types of attitudes that are promoted when sexual materials are criminalized or censored.) In a survey by Weidner and Griffitt, respondents who expressed conservative sexual attitudes and liked porn the least tended to stigmatize rape victims more than did those with more liberal attitudes towards sex and porn. A survey by D'Cruz and Kanekar found that celibate Catholic nuns and priests tended to blame the victim for rape more so than did married Catholics (who were unlikely to be celibate). Surveys finding a correlation between a history of porn viewing and less sympathy towards rape victims cannot prove that porn is any more harmful than the conservative sexual attitudes which are promoted when porn is banned.


        Censors cite surveys which found that the more porn the respondents admitted to viewing, the more they supported discrimination against women. Censors also cite experiments in which participants who were shown porn and then filled out a questionnaire reported less support for women's equality than did participants who were not shown porn. Before jumping to the conclusion that porn does increase discrimination against women, other research must be taken into account. 
        Surveys and experiments by
Barak and Fisher;       Davies;       Linz, Donnerstein, and Penrod (1988);    and     Padgett, Brislin-Slutz, and Neal  did not find any relationship between porn viewing and sexist beliefs. A survey by Ira  Reiss  found that those who watched X-rated movies were more supportive of equality between men and women than those who did not. An experiment by Robert Bauserman found that, while subjects who were shown porn depicting violence did report a very weak increase in sexist attitudes, subjects who were shown non-violent porn reported a significant decrease in sexist attitudes. Additionally, research by Larry Baron found that states in the US which had the highest circulation rates of porn magazines tended to also have the highest gender equality. In Denmark, women's equality improved in the years following the repeal of laws censoring pornography. Countries like Denmark and Sweden, where porn is widely available, tend to be the most gender equal.[10]
       But what about some of the studies cited by censors that did find a relationship between viewing porn and having sexist attitudes? An experiment by
Zillmann and Bryant found that subjects who were shown porn expressed less support for women's equality than did subjects who were not shown porn. But the question that was asked in this study was very general, simply asking subjects to rate (on a scale of 1 to 100) their degree of support for the "women's liberation movement." As noted by Ferrel Christensen, many people stereotype all feminist movements as being like the extremist feminist groups who oppose porn and advocate censoring it. In this Zillmann and Bryant study, it was found that the more porn subjects were shown, the more they rated it as being enjoyable. It is likely that, as subjects found the porn to be more enjoyable as a result of more exposure to it, the more they came to disagree with feminist movements which they stereotyped as being anti-porn. In the previously mentioned studies where subjects were asked more specific questions about their views on gender equality, no significant relationship between viewing porn and having less support for women's equality was found. In this study it is likely that anti-porn extremism is what subjects came to dislike as a result of seeing porn, not women's equality.
        Here is also something to consider. Some of the beliefs of anti-porn crusaders are sexist. Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, two extremist feminist anti-porn crusaders, stated while proposing an anti-porn law, "Children are incapable of consenting to engage in pornographic conduct, even absent physical coercion, and therefore require special protection." This, of course, makes sense. But these two anti-porn crusaders then stated that, "By the same token, the physical and psychological well-being of women ought to be afforded comparable protection." These two feminist anti-porn crusaders, who are supposed to be fighting for women's equality, compared women to children when it comes to the ability to make decisions.[11] This is anti-equality, and proposing laws based on this line of reasoning seems much more harmful to women's equality than any amount of porn.
      James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, a pro-censorship religious group which claims porn is harmful to women, teaches that the Bible dictates that men are to have authority over women. Indeed, there are some religious denominations that teach this and there have been studies which have found a correlation between conservative or strict religious beliefs and sexism.[12]  This is relevant because many anti-porn crusaders are motivated by conservative or strict religious beliefs. Surveys which found a correlation between a history of porn viewing and sexist beliefs cannot prove that porn is any more harmful to women's equality than some of the religious teachings of some anti-porn crusaders.


       Religious anti-porn crusaders also claim that porn and sex itself are both addictive like alcohol. They claim that porn “addicts” start to spend the majority of their time compulsively looking at porn, are unable to stop without counseling, and as a result ruin their marriages and/or careers. But researchers disagree with these claims and note that, at least in most cases, sex addiction is nothing more than a label applied to those whose sex lives are deemed immoral by the person(s) diagnosing them as "addicts." 
       Patrick Carnes is the psychologist who first popularized the idea of sex addiction. As noted by researcher Ira Reiss, "It seems that to Carnes it is the failure to give priority to the conservative lifestyle that is the main symptom of addiction." Therapists who believe sex is addictive even admit that it is the therapist's value judgement of what is acceptable sexual behavior that defines whether a person is a sex addict or not. Many psychiatrists and psychologists reject the idea of sex addiction, noting that it is just an excuse used by those who have cheated on their spouse to relieve themselves of responsibility or guilt. Others use the sex addiction claim as an excuse just because they enjoy a sexual activity that is against their religion. Researcher Janice Irving cites the case of a devout Catholic who claimed to be a sex addict just because he masturbated twice a month (something the Catholic church considers a sin). Sexaholics Anonymous, a religious support group for sex addicts, while claiming that sex between spouses is OK, makes the ridiculous claim that masturbation is "progressively addictive and destructive." Likewise, porn addiction seems to be just an excuse used by people who like to look at porn even though it is against their church's teachings.[13] 
        In a study by Hecker, Trepper, Wetchler, and Fontaine, therapists were asked to read a description of a person who has a lot of sex and to indicate on a questionnaire whether or not this person should be diagnosed as a sex addict. All of the descriptions were identical, except that in some descriptions the person was having a lot of sex with his/her spouse, and in others the person was not married or committed to anyone and having a lot of sex with various partners. This study found that the person described as having a lot of sex with his/her spouse was less likely to be diagnosed as a sex addict than the person described as having a lot of sex without marriage or commitment. This study also found that the therapists who were highly religious were more likely to diagnose those in the descriptions as sex addicts than were the therapists who were not very religious. Again, it is the therapist's religious or moral judgement about sex that determines the diagnosis.
        The above being said about most cases, what about the few extreme cases of addicts cited by those who claim that porn and sex are addictive? As noted by psychiatrist Dr. Frank Sommers, true excessive sex is the result of psychiatric disorders, not addiction. Even Patrick Carnes (the psychologist who first popularized the idea of sex addiction) found that sex addicts typically engage in other compulsive behaviors. These include eating disorders (such as binge eating), compulsive shopping, and compulsive workaholism. Obviously "sex addicts" are just people who take everything to extremes, not just sex or porn. Additionally, some researchers who believe porn or sex to be addictive also believe exercise is addictive in the same way. Examples of compulsive exercisers who cannot take time off from exercising to let an injury heal (therefore making the injury much worse) are cited. Sex and porn are obviously no more addictive than food, shopping, exercise, or work.[14]

         Experts in the field of sexuality sometimes even recommend porn as a way for some couples to add a little extra spice to their sexual relationship. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, probably the most well known sex therapist in the US, writes: 

    " ...I don't think, as a whole, that pornography hurts women in any significant way." 

     "...in general, I am in favor of people renting erotic films. For the single person...considering the dangers posed by..having a string of one night stands, almost makes the availability of these films a public service. And for couples, viewing such films can provide some added spice and maybe even the knowledge of some new positions or techniques." 

       "....people shouldn't take these movies all that seriously either. After all, many blockbuster films feature violence and bodies flying all over the place, and, to my mind, that is much worse than showing people having sex." 

Psychotherapist Sharna Striar and Dr. Barbara Bartlik also note that, in some cases, porn is recommended to couples to add variety to their sex lives. A study by Byrne and Lamberth found that exposing married couples to porn caused some of the couples to report an increase in feelings of love and closeness with each other.
           However, censors cite experiments in which subjects reported less satisfaction with their spouse's attractiveness after viewing porn. These censors claim that these experiments prove that porn hurts marriages and relationships. In The Question of Pornography: Research Findings and Policy Implications, researchers Edward Donnerstein, Daniel Linz, and Steven Penrod discuss some of those experiments in which subjects did rate their spouses as less attractive after watching porn. They state that, "We suggest that these effects might be expected any time we are asked to compare our own average looks or those of our mates with exceptionally attractive people. Such a comparison creates a ‘contrast effect.’......It appears that the attractiveness of women in the media, whether in sexual or nonsexual contexts, not sexual explicitness, is the critical factor.” So it is merely the viewing of people that the subject perceives as very attractive, not sexual explicitness, that accounts for those findings. Donnerstein, Linz, and Penrod cite an experiment by Kenrick and Gutierres in which male subjects saw an episode of the TV series Charlie's Angels or viewed an advertisement with an attractive woman. When asked to rate the attractiveness of a picture of a woman as a potential date, the subjects who viewed the Charlie's Angels episode or the advertisement rated the picture of the potential date as less attractive than subjects who did not view the ad or episode. Donnerstein, Linz, and Penrod also cite an experiment by Cash, Cash, and Butters, in which female subjects viewed advertisements with attractive women. These subjects rated themselves as being less attractive after viewing the ads. So, again, it is not the sexual explicitness of pornography that accounts for the lower attractiveness ratings of spouses in some experiments. The same effect occurs when subjects view any material with people they perceive as very attractive, even if the material is not sexually explicit or nude. Of course, the media is not even needed to view people who are perceived as very attractive; this can occur just by going out into public.     


       Some censors claim that most women in porn are forced into performing sexual acts in front of the camera. Evidence does not support this. Author Wendy McElroy went behind the scenes of the porn industry to interview the women and men who make up the industry. She concluded, "I saw no evidence that women are forced into performing pornographic acts. I saw overwhelming evidence of informed consent." It should be noted that Wendy McElroy is not affiliated with the porn industry. She is a freelance writer and the former president of Feminists for Free Expression/Canada. Former porn star Candida Royalle stated that, although she was never forced to do anything against her will in porn, she was in non-porn jobs. Her boss sexually assaulted her when she was a receptionist at a health club, and her boss at a ticket office always made her kiss him goodnight in order to keep her job.[15] 
           Regarding claims that all porn is degrading to women, Wendy McElroy put it best: 

        "To get upset by an image that focuses on the human body is merely to demonstrate a bad attitude toward what is physical. If I concentrated on a woman's sense of humor to the exclusion of her other characteristics, would this be degrading? Why is it degrading to focus on her sexuality?" 


        The research, overall, does not support claims that eliminating porn would reduce sex crimes or discrimination against women, despite what the extremist factions of religious or feminist groups claim.
       It should also be noted that porn isn't the only case in which religious groups have claimed that something which is simply against their religion is in another way harmful (when it really isn't harmful), in an attempt to get more people to comply with their religious beliefs. (Or, in some cases, force their religious beliefs on others.) Denver Catholic Archbishop
Charles J. Chaput states that the use of birth control (in addition to being against Catholic church teachings) has played a major role in the breakup of families and increases in spousal and child abuse. Father William Saunders, writing for The Arlington Catholic Herald, states that the availability of birth control has lead to an overall decreased morality, which has lead to increases in rape, sexual harassment, and lack of respect for women. As just discussed, some of these absurd claims are the same arguments used by anti-porn crusaders. It was this type of religious fundamentalism that pressured the US, at both federal and state levels,  to criminalize all types of contraceptives as obscene in the late 1800s. Some of the state laws banning all types of birth control (even for adults with a doctor's prescription) remained in force until they were voided by the US Supreme Court in 1965 and 1972.[16]
       In the late 1600s through the early 1900s, it was widely believed (even among doctors) that masturbation caused such things as: epilepsy, early death, impotence, sterility, birth defects in future childbirths, tuberculosis, physical weakness and debility, memory loss, loss of sight, delusions, brain damage, and insanity! Religious authors who believed masturbation to be sinful played a significant role in the spreading of these myths.[17]  In a few cases extreme measures were taken by doctors, including the removal of the clitoris to "cure" masturbation in females. Some masturbators were even referred to insane asylums, castrated against their will, or subjected to operations to sever nerves in the penis in order to reduce sensation in it.[18]  
       Old myths die hard. At least as late as 1918, the YMCA was publishing a book on the sinfulness of masturbation which also made the absurd claim that masturbation causes memory loss. In the early 1920s the founder of the Boy Scouts, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, was still warning boys that masturbating would ruin their health and damage the brain. Religious books by the Rev. Sylvanus Stall on the harmfulness of masturbation were still being reissued or updated by the publisher at least as late as 1936 (20 years after the author's death).  The 1936 edition of  Rev. Stall's What a Young Man Ought to Know claimed that a large number of insane asylum patients are insane because of masturbation.[19] The 1998 book Messenger of the Lord, published by The Seventh Day Adventist Church, makes the ridiculous claim that modern research suggests that, in some individuals, masturbation may cause insanity! And as previously discussed, the religious support group Sexaholics Anonymous makes the absurd claim that masturbation is "progressively addictive and destructive."
         Just as the claims about the harmfulness of birth control and masturbation are obviously ridiculous, so are the claims that eliminating porn would reduce sex crimes and discrimination against women.


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