Opposition to pornography

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Anti-pornography protest on Oxford Street, London

Reasons for opposition to pornography include religious objections, feminist concerns, and evidence of harmful effects, such as pornography addiction. Anti-pornography movements have allied disparate social activists in opposition to pornography, from social conservatives to harm reduction advocates.

The definition of "pornography" varies between countries and movements, and many make distinctions between pornography, which they oppose, and erotica, which they consider acceptable. Sometimes opposition will deem certain forms of pornography more or less harmful, while others draw no such distinctions.

A 2018 Gallup survey reported that 43% of U.S. adults believe that pornography is "morally acceptable," a 7% increase from 2017.[1] Historically, from 1975 to 2012, the gender gap in pornography opposition has widened, with women remaining more opposed to pornography than men and men's opposition has declined faster.[2]

Religious views[edit]

Most world religions have positions in opposition to pornography from a variety of rationales,[3][4][5] including concerns about modesty, human dignity, chastity and other virtues. There are numerous[6] verses in the Bible which are cited as condemning pornography or adultery, notably for Christians, Matthew 5:28 in the Sermon on the Mount which states "that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly condemns pornography because it "offends against chastity" and "does grave injury to the dignity of its participants" since "each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others".[7]

Islam also forbids adultery, and various verses of the Quran have been cited as condemning pornography, including Quran 24:31 which tells men to "restrain their eyes" from looking sexually at women.[8]

Feminist views[edit]

Some feminists are opposed to pornography, arguing that it is an industry which exploits women and is complicit in violence against women, both in its production (where they present evidence that abuse and exploitation of women performing in pornography is rampant) and in its consumption (where pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment).[9] They charge that pornography contributes to the male-centered objectification of women and thus to sexism.[10] Andrea Dworkin was a feminist famously opposed to the pornography industry, and proposed the Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance in several American cities in the 1980s. In modern day, feminist Gail Dines founded Culture Reframed, which responds to the growing pornography industry by providing education and support for healthy child and youth development.[11]

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.[12] Some sex-positive feminists actively support pornography that depicts female sexuality in a positive way, without objectifying or demeaning women.

Conservative views[edit]

Religious conservatives commonly oppose pornography, along with a subset of feminists, though their reasoning may differ.[2] Many religious conservatives view pornography as a threat to children. Some conservative Catholics and Protestants oppose pornography because it encourages non-procreative sex, encourages abortion, and can be connected to the rise of sexually transmitted diseases.[13][14]

Concerned Women For America (CWA) is a conservative organization that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. When discussing violence against women, the CWA often uses pornography to illustrate their points. The CWA asserts that pornography is a major reason why men inflict harm on women.[15] The CWA argues that pornography convinces men to disrespect their wives and neglect their marriages, thereby threatening the sanctity of traditional marriage. Unlike other issues CWA has tackled, they are less forcefully anti-feminist when it comes to the topic of pornography, as many of their points surrounding why pornography is distasteful parallels those of anti-pornography feminists.[15]

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", 1986.[16]

Dolf Zillmann argued in the 1986 publication "Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography" 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.[16] 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...[17]

A study by Zillman in 1982 also indicated 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 who had not watched pornography.[16]

Some researchers like Zillman believe that pornography causes unequivocal harm to society by increasing rates of sexual assault.[16][18] Other researchers believe that there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes.[19][20][21]

The appropriation of the sexually explicit in American culture is part of what has been called "the pornification of America".[22][23]

Rape culture is often discussed when it comes to pornography, and is defined by society victim-blaming women because of their rape. It is known as society making rape less substantial. Some of the most searched titles on pornography websites is rape scenes.[24]

In 2016, model and actress Pamela Anderson and Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach co-authored a viral Wall Street Journal opinion piece, in which they called online pornography a "public hazard of unprecedented seriousness."[25][26][27][28] The two called for a "sensual revolution" to replace "pornography with eroticism, the alloying of sex with love, of physicality with personality, of the body’s mechanics with imagination, of orgasmic release with binding relationships."[27] They later gave a joint lecture at Oxford University to over 1,000 people.[29] The two also wrote a book together, Lust for Love (2018), about how meaningful, passionate sex has been declining, and calling for a new sensual revolution that emphasizes partners connecting in the bedroom.[29][30]

The role pornography watching plays in the development of children and youth is basically unknown, due to a lack of empirical studies.[31] This basically confirms the thesis from Not in Front of the Children: harmful to minors is an often heard claim which completely lacks evidence.[32][33] There are considerable ethical problems with performing such research.[34] Since those problems are a huge obstacle, it is likely that such research will not be allowed, so we will never know.[35][36] Rory Reid (UCLA) declared "Universities don't want their name on the front page of a newspaper for an unethical study exposing minors to porn."[35][36]

Allegations of pornophobia[edit]

Pornophobia, from Greek roots pornē, "whore" and phobia, literally means fear of prostitutes. It may also refer to fear of sexual expression, in particular, fear of pornography.[37]

Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, uses the coinages "pornophobia" and "pornophobes" when referring to attitudes of pro-censorship and conservatives to the imagery of nudity, which they often refer to as "pornography".[38][39] Strossen states that incidents have occurred at several colleges such as the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan Law School where feminist students have physically attacked exhibits of photographic self-portraits claiming that they must be taken down because these exhibits had sexual themes.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Inc, Gallup (2018-06-05). "More Americans Say Pornography Is Morally Acceptable". Gallup.com. Retrieved 2020-03-12.
  2. ^ a b Lykke, Lucia; Cohen, Philip (2015). "The Widening Gender Gap in Opposition to Pornography, 1975–2012". Social Currents. 2 (4): 307–323. doi:10.1177/2329496515604170. S2CID 44232681.
  3. ^ Slick, Matt (2008-12-11). "What does the Bible say about pornography? Is it wrong?". Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  4. ^ Freeman, Tzvi. "What's Wrong With Pornography?". Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  5. ^ Mujahid, Abdul Malik. "Islam on Pornography: A Definite No-No". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Bible Verses about Pornography". biblestudytools.com.
  7. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church. 1997. pp. CCC 2354.
  8. ^ Rashid, Qasim. "Muslim men need to understand that the Quran says they should observe hijab first, not women".
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ MacKinnon, Catharine (1987). Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 146–150.
  11. ^ https://www.culturereframed.org/
  12. ^ Avedon Carol, "The Harm of Porn: Just Another Excuse to Censor". www.fiawol.demon.co.uk. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  13. ^ Sherkat, Darren; Ellison, Christopher (1997). "The Cognitive Structure of a Moral Crusade: Conservative Protestantism and Opposition to Pornography". Social Forces. 75 (3): 957–980. doi:10.1093/sf/75.3.957. JSTOR 2580526.
  14. ^ Nzwili, Fredrick (23 June 2020). "As underage pregnancies rise, Kenyan bishops warn against sex ed, abortion". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  15. ^ a b Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism. New York: Oxford University Press.
  16. ^ a b c d Dolf, Zillmann (4 August 1986). "Report of the Surgeon General's Workshop on Pornography and Public Health: Background Papers: 'Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography'". profiles.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  17. ^ Zillmann, pages 16-17
  18. ^ Simmons, Catherine A.; Lehmann, Peter; Collier-Tenison, Shannon (April 2008). "Linking male use of the sex industry to controlling behaviors in violent relationships: an exploratory analysis". Violence Against Women. 14 (4): 406–417. doi:10.1177/1077801208315066. PMID 18359877. S2CID 19294687.
  19. ^ Diamond, Milton. "The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective". Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment, University of Hawaii. Archived from the original on 15 January 2008.
  20. ^ Kendall, Todd. "Pornography, rape and the internet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2006. Retrieved 25 October 2006.
  21. ^ D'Amato, Anthony (June 23, 2006). "Porn Up, Rape Down". Northwestern Public Law Research Paper. doi:10.2139/ssrn.913013. SSRN 913013. id: 913013.
  22. ^ Whitehead, John W. "Miley Cyrus and the Pornification of America". rutherford.org. The Rutherford Institute. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  23. ^ Aucoin, Don (January 24, 2006). "The pornification of America. From music to fashion to celebrity culture, mainstream entertainment reflects an X-rated attitude like never before". Boston Globe. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  24. ^ Makin, David A.; Morczek, Amber L. (June 2015). "The dark side of internet searches: a macro level assessment of rape culture" (PDF). International Journal of Cyber Criminology. 9 (1): 1–23. doi:10.5281/zenodo.22057.
  25. ^ Shmuley Boteach and Pamela Anderson (August 31, 2016). "Take the Pledge: No More Indulging Porn". The Wall Street Journal.
  26. ^ Ken Kurson (September 20, 2016). "Talking Porn With Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley". The Observer.
  27. ^ a b Daniel Sugarman. "Shmuley Boteach and Pamela Anderson in joint warning on dangers of pornography," The Jewish Chronicle.
  28. ^ Emine Saner (October 14, 2016). "The playmate and the rabbi: unlikely bedfellows fighting internet porn". The Guardian. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  29. ^ a b Lewak, Doree (April 18, 2018). "Sex tips from Pamela Anderson and an Orthodox rabbi". The New York Post.
  30. ^ Shmuley Boteach (August 13, 2018). "Porn is ravishing a generation of good men". The Jerusalem Post.
  31. ^ Brown, Jennifer A.; Wisco, Jonathan J. (2019). "The components of the adolescent brain and its unique sensitivity to sexually explicit material". Journal of Adolescence. Elsevier BV. 72: 10–13. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.01.006. ISSN 0140-1971. PMID 30754014.
  32. ^ Blumner, Robyn E. (13 May 2001). "Moralists wrongfully punish youth for being curious about sex". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida. Archived from the original on 16 June 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  33. ^ Heins, Marjorie (11 September 2007). Not in Front of the Children: 'Indecency,' Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth. Rutgers University Press. pp. 80, 86. ISBN 978-0-8135-4388-8.
  34. ^ Binik, Yitzchak M.; Mah, Kenneth; Kiesler, Sara (1999). "Ethical issues in conducting sex research on the internet". Journal of Sex Research. Informa UK Limited. 36 (1): 82–90. doi:10.1080/00224499909551971. ISSN 0022-4499.
  35. ^ a b Segal, David (4 April 2014). "Does porn harm children?". Dallas News. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  36. ^ a b Segal, David (28 March 2014). "Opinion - Does Porn Hurt Children?". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  37. ^ Leigh, Carol (Scarlot Harlot) (1994). "Thanks, ma". In Sappington, Rodney; Stallings, Tyler (eds.). Uncontrollable Bodies: Testimonies of Identity and Culture. Seattle: Bay Press. p. 261. ISBN 9780941920278. footnote 1
  38. ^ a b Strossen, Nadine (May 1, 1995). "The perils of pornophobia". The Humanist.
    Adapted from: Strossen, Nadine (2000). Defending pornography: free speech, sex, and the fight for women's rights. New York London: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814781494.
  39. ^ Strossen, Nadine (16 January 1995). "Against pornophobia". New York Magazine.

Further reading[edit]

Anti-pornography advocacy[edit]

  • Susan Brownmiller (1999). In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution. The Dial Press. ISBN 0-385-31486-8.
  • Victor Cline (1994). Pornography effects: Empirical and clinical evidence. ISBN 1136690204
  • Nikki Craft, long-time political, anti-pornography activist and prolific writer on feminist subjects
  • Andrea Dworkin (1979). Pornography: Men Possessing Women. ISBN 0-452-26793-5.
  • Susan Griffin. Pornography and Silence: Culture's Revenge Against Nature. New York: Harper, 1981.
  • Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch.com, a non-profit Christian organization that educates on the dangers of pornography use and involvement
  • Robert Jensen (2007). Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. ISBN 978-0-89608-776-7.
  • Gail Dines/Robert Jensen/Ann Russo (1998). Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-91813-8.
  • Susanne Kapeller (1986). The Pornography of Representation. Polity Press, Cambridge, UK ISBN 0-7456-0122-7.
  • Michael Kimmel (1991). Men Confront Pornography. New York: Meridian — Random House. ISBN 0-452-01077-2. (a variety of essays that try to assess ways that pornography may take influence or harm men)
  • Shelley Lubben, former porn performer and self-described "porn missionary"[1] who counsels active porn performers on how to escape the industry[2] (2010). Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn: The Greatest Illusion on Earth. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-4538-6007-6.
  • Catharine MacKinnon (1985). Pornography, Civil Rights, and Speech. 20 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 1 (arguing that pornography is one of the mechanisms of power used to maintain gender inequality)
  • Donny Pauling, former pornographic producer who currently speaks about the unseen side of porn that is damaging to the women involved; frequently worked with Craig Gross of XXXChurch, until pleading to a six-year underage sex sentencing
  • Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant (2004). Not for sale: feminists resisting prostitution and pornography. North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex Press. 2004. ISBN 9781876756499.

Criticism of anti-pornography[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) "[3]
  • Gayle Rubin, "Dangerous, Misguided, and Wrong: An Analysis of Anti-Pornograph Politics." In "Bad Girl and Dirty Pictures," ed. Carol Assuster (1993).
  • 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"[4]
    • "A Feminist Defense of pornography"[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • Annalee Newitz. "Obscene Feminists: Why Women Are Leading the Battle Against Censorship." San Francisco Bay Guardian Online 8 May 2002. 9 May 2002[7]
  • 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"[8]
  • Scott Tucker. "Gender, Fucking, and Utopia: An Essay in Response to John Stoltenberg's Refusing to Be a Man."[9] 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. ^ "Shelley Lubben - My Blog, Thoughts, and Life". www.shelleylubben.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Out of Pornography and Into the Light". CBN. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2002-08-09. Retrieved 2011-07-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ McElroy, Wendy. "A Feminist Overview of Pornography". www.wendymcelroy.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  5. ^ Kreidler, Marc (July 26, 2019). "Search | Free Inquiry". Archived from the original on December 1, 1998.
  6. ^ Ley, David; Prause, Nicole; Finn, Peter (2014). "The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the 'Pornography Addiction' Model". Current Sexual Health Reports. 6 (2): 94–105. doi:10.1007/s11930-014-0016-8. S2CID 55374203.
  7. ^ "sfbg.com". sfbg.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  8. ^ Nadine Strossen (November 1995). "Pornography Must Be Tolerated". The Ethical Spectacle.
  9. ^ Gross, Larry P.; Woods, James D. (8 April 1999). The Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231104463. Retrieved 8 April 2018 – via Google Books.