Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Being a Bookworm: Part Three - what are the effects of porn on men?

I promised in the comments section of my last post that I would cover some of the factual supports to the preposition that porn is damaging to its viewers. The book I am reading, Pornified, devotes an entire forty page chapter to the subject. I wanted to cover a couple of things from the chapter, particularly the factual studies done on porn with interesting results.

1. Violence in Porn

According to a study done by Barron and Kimmel called Sexual Violence in Three Pornographic Media:

25 percent of pornographic magazines showed some form of violence, ranging from verbal aggression to torture and mutilation, compared with 27 percent of pornographic videos. Usenet groups on the Internet depicted violence 42 percent of the time. "We might expect that just as individual consumers of pornography tend to tire of a certain level of explicitness and need more, so, too, would the market, acting as an individual," noted the study's authors. "The more pornography is consumed at one level, the less arousing this material becomes, as the consumer becomes used to the material"... The authors then concluded that as new pornographic technologies emerged, porn would become increasingly violent. That research was conducted in the late 1990s, still the early days of the Internet. (Paul 58-59)

2. Porn and Perceptions of Sexuality

Paul takes a lot of time to consider the very methodical and balanced research that Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann did 25 years ago to test how the viewing of pornography impacted the viewer's opinions of various social phenomenons. Modern studies this extensive are not available because most universities will not approve studies that cause any sort of psychological harm to the testing subjects that cannot be cured. Since the effects could not be proven reversible, their studies are probably the most reliable statistical scientific examinations of pornography to date:

80 college students were divided into four test groups. Three groups were shown a variety of short films over a six-week period. The "massive exposure" group was shown six explicitly sexual films per session, about 48 minutes per week or 36 films total. The "intermediate exposure" group was shown three erotic movies and three non-erotic films in all, or about 3 hours of porn over a six-week period. The "no-exposure" group was limited to non-pornographic fare, 36 regular movies with no sexual undertones or content. Finally, the fourth group, the control, was shown no films during the six weeks.

Because the study took place between 1979 and 1980, the films were far tamer than much of today's hardcore fare. All sexual acts were heterosexual and consensual. The acts were confined to oral, anal, and vaginal sex, and none involved coercion or deliberate infliction or reception of pain.

The members of all four groups were asked to estimate the prevalance of certain sexual behaviors in America. Their opinions were solicited on everything from the percentage of sexually active adults to the percentage of Americans performing particular sexual acts. Without exception, the more pornography the subjects had viewed over the six-week period, the more likely they were to believe others to be sexually active and adventurous. For example, the "massive exposure" group believed on average that 67 percent of Americans engaged in oral sex, compared with 34 percent of those who had not been shown any porn. They also believed that more than twice as many adults had anal intercourse than did those who viewed no porn (29 percent verses 12 percent)... they also believed that three in ten Americans engaged in group sex, compared with the one in ten estimated by the no exposure group. Porn viewers also estimated that roughly twice as many people engaged in sadomasochism and bestiality (15% and 12% of all Americans), gross overestimations of actual sexual practices, according to all available data. (Paul 77-78)

3. Porn and Objectification, Misogyny

Paul covers more of the Zillmann-Bryant studies and a modern one at Texas A&M Unversity: and women who were exposed to large amounts of pornography were significantly less likely to want daughters than those who had not. It's not just hardcore porn either. According to a large-scale 1994 report summarizing 81 peer-reviewed studies, most studies (70 percent) on nonaggressive pornography find that exposure to porn has clear negative effects. Gary Brooks, a psychologist who studies pornography at Texas A&M University explains that "softcore porn has a very negative effect on men as well. The problem with it is that it's voyeurism--it teaches men to view women as objects rather than to be in relationships with human beings." According to Brooks, pornography gives men the false impression that sex and pleasure are entirely divorced from relationships. In other words, porn is inherently self-centered--something a man does by himself, for himself--by using other women as the means to pleasure, as yet another product to consume. (Paul 80)

In the study done for the book:

Half of all Americans think porn is demeaning towards women. Women are far more likely to believe this--58% compared with 37% of men. Only 20% of women, and 34% of men--think porn is not demeaning. (Paul 80)

...while 60 percent of adults aged 59+ believe porn is demeaning towards women, only 35% of Gen-Xers--the most tolerant and often heaviest users--agree. (Paul, p81)

In a study done in 2002 by a professor at Texas Christian University:

...involved heterosexual men who used porn via Internet newsgroups. On average, the respondents looked at five hours and 22 minutes of porn per week. They were divided into three groups: high consumption (6+ hours per week), average (2-5 hours per week) and low (2> hours per week). The study found that the more porn men use, the more likely they are to describe women in sexualized and stereotypically feminine terms. They were also more likely to approve of women in traditionally female occupations and to value men who are more submissive and subordinate to men.(Paul 92)

4. Porn and Diminishing Returns

Paul also postulates that viewing porn, especially for prolonged periods of time, facilitates the need to view more explicit and demeaning porn to get the same thrill. This is supported in the study by James Howard, Myron Reifler, and Clifford Liptzin which is cited in the 1970 federal report on pornography: who were shown pornographic films for 90 minutes a day, five days a week, experienced less sexual arosual and interest in similar materials with the passage of time. What initially thrills eventually titillates, what excites eventually pleases, what pleases eventually satisfies. And satisfaction sooner or later yields to boredom. (Paul 83)

5. Porn and Acceptance of Sexual Violence, Diminishing of Sympathy

Paul cannot provide any sort of evidence that those that view porn are more likely to be rapists or become a rapist (the problem of causation). However, the Zillmann-Bryant study does show that increased exposure to non-violent pornography demonstrably affects how men and women perceive men who rape:

...participants were asked to read a newspaper report about the recent rape of a hitchhiker. The crime was described in the report, but the criminal sentence was not revealed. Students were then asked to recommend a sentence for the convicted rapist. Men who had viewed massive amounts of porn recommended significantly shorter sentences for the man who committed the crime. Men in the "massive exposure" group recommended an average of 50 months' imprisonment for the rapist while while who had not viewed the films recommended 95 months. (By comparison, women suggested 77 months in the massive exposure group and 143 months in the no exposure group). Men who viewed porn were also less likely to support women's causes in general and were about three times less likely to favor the expansion of women's rights.(Paul 89-90)

Pauls says that:

Pornography leaves men desensitized to both outrage and exicitment, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dissatisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life. Men find themselves upgraded to the most intense forms of porn, glutting themselves on extreme imagery and outrageous orgasms. Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of supersized expectations about sex and numbed emotions about women. (Paul 90)

Zillmann himself calls this phenonmenon the "satisfaction dilemma of pornography":

What has been labeled "pornotopia" tells [men] what joys they might, could and should experience. As pornography features beautiful bodies in youthful, at times acrobatic, sexual interactions during which nothing short of ecstasy is continually expressed, consumers of such entertainment are readily left with the impression that "others get more" and that whatever they themselves have in their intimate relationships is less than what is should be. This comparison, of which pornography consumers may or may not be fully aware, is bound to foster sexual dissatisfaction or greatly enhance already existing dissatisfaction.

So what?

For one, many have argued that they can separate fiction from fantasy when looking at porn, and that attitudes and expectations portrayed there are not carried over to real women. This supposition is in direct opposition to the entire premise of the multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns running constantly. If humanity was impervious to images and advertising, why would businesses spend so much on it?

The answer is that humanity is not impervious to images and sights, as seen above in various studies. Pornography is much more subtle than advertising. It does not prey upon an unnatural urge for a Mercedes, but the appreciation of human beauty and sexuality. It does not enforce itself with the rush of new purchases, but with the ecstasy of orgasm. Advertising must convince us that we want or need a new car. Pornography just asks that we submit to human sexuality. It taunts us with sexual release without vulnerability. It preys upon cultural stereotypes of women and men and then reinforces them.

And then it succeeds: horribly, subtly, orgasmically, addictively.

Previous parts of this series: Part One, Part Two

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