Media, Children, and the Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, and Clinical Perspectives

By Dolf Zillmann; Jennings Bryant et al. | Go to book overview

17
PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS: EMPIRICAL AND CLINICAL EVIDENCE

Victor B. Cline
University of Utah

Whether pornography has any significant harmful effects on consumers continues to be a very controversial issue, not only for "average citizens" but also for behavioral scientists. This is not surprising in light of two national commissions -- in the last two decades -- coming to diametrically opposite conclusions about this matter.

Some social commentators claim that pornography is mainly a form of entertainment, possibly educational, sometimes sexually arousing -- but essentially harmless. Or at least there is no good scientific evidence of harm. Others claim more dire consequences and give as examples recent cases played up by the media of sex murderers who have claimed that pornography "made them do it."

To ascertain something about pornography's effects, we first need to define it. The word pornography is a "lay term" used in common parlance to usually mean "graphic and explicit depictions of sexual activity." Whereas obscenity is a legal term that comes to us from the U.S. Supreme Court's definition (rendered in 1973, Miller v. California). Here for something to be found legally obscene, a jury (representing a cross section of the community) must find three things wrong with it: (a) It must appeal to a prurient (sick, morbid, shameful, or lustful) interest in sex; (b) it must

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