Opposition to pornography

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Anti-pornography protest on Oxford Street, London

Opposition to pornography comes from many sources:

  • Social conservative opposition to pornography, in that it offends traditional social values
  • Religious opposition to pornography, in that it is against traditional religious values
  • Feminist opposition to pornography, in that it demeans and/or harms women in particular
  • Harm-reduction based opposition to pornography, on the basis that it causes objective, measurable social harm (of which the feminist harm arguments above form a subset) or psychological harm to users such as pornography addiction or pornography-induced erectile dysfunction

Anti-pornography movements coming from these various viewpoints find themselves allied in common opposition to pornography, even when their underlying views on other issues are in opposition. The definition of "pornography" that these groups oppose also varies from country to country and group to group, and many make distinctions between pornography, which they are opposed to, and erotica, which they consider acceptable, or consider some forms of pornography more or less harmful. Others draw no such distinctions.

On the other hand, support for, or at least lack of opposition to, pornography can come from:

  • Social liberal and libertarian support, on the basis that the ability to produce or consume pornography is a form of freedom
  • Feminist support, on the basis that the ability to produce or consume pornography is one aspect of general freedom for women (see sex-positive feminism)
  • Harm-reduction based support for pornography, on the basis that it, overall, causes more good than harm, for example by the overall reduction of sexual assaults

Note that a single person may hold more than one of these positions, and even different positions, pro and con, for different kinds of pornography, simultaneously.

A 2013 Gallup survey reported that, of U.S. adults, 66% believe that pornography is "morally wrong" while 31% believe that it is "morally acceptable".[1]

Religious views[edit]

Most world religions have positions in opposition to pornography from a variety of rationales.[2][3][4]

Feminist views[edit]

Some feminists are opposed to pornography, arguing that it is an industry which exploits women and which is complicit in violence against women, both in its production (where they charge that abuse and exploitation of women performing in pornography is rampant) and in its consumption (where they charge that pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment).[5] They charge that pornography contributes to the male-centered objectification of women and thus to sexism.[6]

However, many other feminists are opposed to censorship, and have argued against the introduction of anti-porn legislation in the United States - among them Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Karen DeCrow, Wendy Kaminer and Jamaica Kincaid.[7] Some "sex-positive" feminists actively support pornography that depicts female sexuality in a positive way, without objectifying or demeaning women.

Harm-based views[edit]

Zillmann Fig 7.png Zillmann Fig 8.png Zillmann Fig 9.png
Figures 7, 8, and 9 in Zillmann, Dolf: "Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography"[8]

Dolf Zillmann asserts that extensive viewing of pornographic material produces many unfavorable sociological effects, including a decreased respect for long-term, monogamous relationships, and an attenuated desire for procreation.[9] He describes the theoretical basis of these experimental findings:

The values expressed in pornography clash so obviously with the family concept, and they potentially undermine the traditional values that favor marriage, family, and children... Pornographic scripts dwell on sexual engagements of parties who have just met, who are in no way attached or committed to each other, and who will part shortly, never to meet again... Sexual gratification in pornography is not a function of emotional attachment, of kindness, of caring, and especially not of continuance of the relationship, as such continuance would translate into responsibilities, curtailments, and costs...[10]

Zillman's research also showed that prolonged exposure to pornography desensitized both men and women toward victims of sexual violence. After being shown pornographic movies, test subjects were asked to judge an appropriate punishment for a rapist. The test subjects recommended incarceration terms that were significantly more lenient than those recommended by control subjects that did not watch pornography.[9]

Some researchers claim that pornography causes unequivocal harm to society by increasing rates of sexual assault,[9][11] a line of research which has been critiqued in "The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective".[12] In contradiction to this, other researchers claim that there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes.[13][14][15]

Ran Gavrieli argues against watching porn because it takes away communication in the relationship and because it creates real world demand for product.[16]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Anti-pornography advocacy[edit]


  • Susie Bright. "Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World and Susie Bright's Sexual Reality: A Virtual Sex World Reader", San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press, 1990 and 1992. Challenges any easy equation between feminism and anti-pornography positions.
  • Betty Dodson. "Feminism and Free speech: Pornography." Feminists for Free Expression 1993. 8 May 2002
  • Kate Ellis. Caught Looking: Feminism, Pornography, and Censorship. New York: Caught Looking Incorporated, 1986.
  • Matthew Gever. "Pornography Helps Women, Society", UCLA Bruin, 1998-12-03.
  • Michele Gregory. "Pro-Sex Feminism: Redefining Pornography (or, a study in alliteration: the pro pornography position paper) "[20]
  • Andrea Juno and V. Vale. Angry Women, Re/Search # 12. San Francisco, CA: Re/Search Publications, 1991. Performance artists and literary theorists who challenge Dworkin and MacKinnon's claim to speak on behalf of all women.
    • "A Feminist Overview of Pornography,Ending in a Defense Thereof"[21]
    • "A Feminist Defense of pornography"[22]
  • Ley, David, Prause, Nicole, & Finn, Peter. (2014). The Emperor Has No Clothes: A review of the “Pornography Addiction” model. Current Sexual Health Reports, manuscript in press.[23]
  • Annalee Newitz. "Obscene Feminists: Why Women Are Leading the Battle Against Censorship." San Francisco Bay Guardian Online 8 May 2002. 9 May 2002[24]
  • Nadine Strossen:
    • "Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights" (ISBN 0-8147-8149-7)
    • "Nadine Strossen: Pornography Must Be Tolerated"[25]
  • Scott Tucker. "Gender, Fucking, and Utopia: An Essay in Response to John Stoltenberg's Refusing to Be a Man."[26] in Social Text 27 (1991): 3-34. Critique of Stoltenberg and Dworkin's positions on pornography and power.
  • Carole Vance, Editor. "Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality". Boston: Routledge, 1984. Collection of papers from 1982 conference; visible and divisive split between anti-pornography activists and lesbian S&M theorists.


  1. ^ Newport, Frank; Igor Himelfarb (May 20, 2013). "In U.S., Record-High Say Gay, Lesbian Relations Morally OK". Gallup. 
  2. ^ Slick, Matt. "What does the Bible say about pornography? Is it wrong?". Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Freeman, Tzvi. "What's Wrong With Pornography?". Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Mujahid, Abdul Malik. "Islam on Pornography: A Definite No-No". Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Morgan, Robin (1974). "Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape". In: Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist. Random House. ISBN 0-394-48227-1.
  6. ^ MacKinnon, Catharine (1987). Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 146–150.
  7. ^ http://www.fiawol.demon.co.uk/FAC/harm.htm
  8. ^ Report of the Surgeon General's Workshop on Pornography and Public Health: Background Papers: 'Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography' (August 4, 1986)
  9. ^ a b c Zillmann, Dolf: "Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography"
  10. ^ Zillmann, pages 16-17
  11. ^ Malamuth, Neil M.: "Do Sexually Violent Media Indirectly Contribute to Antisocial Behavior?", [1], page 10
  12. ^ The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective
  13. ^ "Pornography, rape and the internet". Archived from the original on 2 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-25. 
  14. ^ D'Amato, Anthony (2006-06-23). "Porn Up, Rape Down". Archived from the original on 13 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-19. 
  15. ^ The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective University of Hawaii Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment: Milton Diamond Ph.D.
  16. ^ http://blog.tedx.com/post/68988316936/watch-the-whole-talk-here-this-guy-stopped
  17. ^ http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts
  18. ^ About Shelley Former Porn Actress Shelley Lubben
  19. ^ "Out of Pornography and Into the Light". CBN. Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  20. ^ http://witsendzine.com/musings/michele/ppp.htm
  21. ^ WendyMcElroy.com: Content / Individualist Feminism - Theory / A Feminist Overview of Pornography
  22. ^ A Feminist Defense of Pornography
  23. ^ http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11930-014-0016-8
  24. ^ sfbg.com
  25. ^ Nadine Strossen (November 1995). "Pornography Must Be Tolerated". The Ethical Spectacle. 
  26. ^ The Columbia reader on lesbians and ... - Google Books

External links[edit]

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