Use of Pornography in Traditional Media and on the Internet in Norway

Article excerpt

In contemporary Western societies, pornography is becoming part of fashion, art, advertisements, music videos, and youth culture. Pornography is easily available on the internet or in ordinary kiosks. At the same time, Norwegian legislation about pornography is very strict. For instance, pornographic pictures must black out all contact between mucous membranes and genitals. As described by Rolness (2003), the public debate is dominated by a view of pornography as something immoral and harmful to people. The fear is that one (bad) thing will lead to another. However, the attitude toward use of pornography in Norway may be changing in a more positive direction (Traeen, Spitznogle, & Beverfjord, 2004). Norwegian activists oppose the view of pornography as something "evil" and are working to change the legislation so pictures and films are allowed without blackouts. The Court of Appeal is currently adjudicating one lawsuit challenging the pornography laws. In this climate of change, it is of interest to gain scientific information about the use of pornography in various subgroups of the population. Another issue to consider is that pornography is likely to determine the perception of what is normal and natural sexual behavior, particularly among young people. It therefore important to study how widespread the use is.

The definition of pornography has varied over time, and it varies between different social and cultural contexts (Haavio-Mannila & Kontula, 2003; Kutchinsky, 1988). The term pornography is often negatively loaded, and associated with the socially unacceptable, the deviant, the censured, or the shameful (Beggan & Allison, 2003; Haavio-Mannila & Kontula; Traeen et al., 2004). It is difficult to give a universal definition of pornography (Gossett & Byrne, 2002). The perception of what is pornography is connected to individual preferences and opinions (Kutchinsky). The most prominent characteristic of pornography is the description of, or pictures of, naked or nearly naked bodies in genital contact. Pornography functions as means of entertainment, sexual arousal and stimulation, and as an information source about sexuality, particularly for young people (Trostle, 2003; Zillmann & Bryant, 1982).

Western societies have been sexually liberated over the past three decades, resulting in a dramatic change of the availability of pornography to larger segments of the population (Haavio-Mannila & Kontula, 2003). Public opinion regarding what is considered to be pornography has also changed significantly over the past 30 years (Haavio-Mannila & Kontula; Lewin, 1997a). The availability of pornography in mass media (newspapers, magazines, films, television, internet) has increased at the same rate as the technological development has made production and distribution of pornography simpler (Lewin, 1997a). Books and magazines were the most common media prior to 1970, and the 8-mm film was the medium of the 1970s. Pornographic films became more available in the 1980s as the VCR became more common in private homes. Also, cable and satellite TV have brought pornography into people's living rooms. According Lewin (1997a), the internet was the medium of the 1990s, and this tendency seems to continue.

Previous Research

In a 2002 survey, 90% of Norwegians older than 15 years of age reported exposure to pornography at some point in their life. Among those exposed, 76% reported that they had read pornographic magazines, and 67% reported having seen pornographic films (Traeen et al., 2004). In Sweden and Finland, attitudes toward pornography have become more positive over the past three decades, and the consumption of pornography has increased (Haavio-Mannila & Kontula, 2003; Lewin, 1997a). From 1967 to 1996, the use of pornographic magazines was reduced in Sweden, while the use of porn films increased (Lewin, 1997a). Haavio-Mannila and Kontula found that the use of pornography in Finland decreased from 1971 to 1992 and then increased from 1992 to 1999. …