Is Pornography Destructive or Benign? Depends Who You Ask: Science or College Students

Is Pornography Destructive or Benign? Depends Who You Ask: Science or College Students

This month two different researchers released two different studies on pornography asserting two totally different conclusions. The first claims that all men watch pornography without any negative effects on their sexuality, while the second asserts that pornography is destructive for individuals, marriage, families and communities. (Guess which one got more press over the past two weeks.)

So how could these studies reach diametrically opposed conclusions at the same cultural moment? From what we can tell, one used valid scientific and statistical methods while the other depended upon the opinion of college students.

This latter study, by Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal, began with the intention of comparing the sexuality of men who had never been exposed to pornography to those who were regular users. Not surprisingly, Lajeunesse was unable to find any men who had not been exposed to pornography. Lajeunesse, however, took this to indicate that all men consume pornography, without noting the important difference between exposure and regular consumption.

As a result of this finding, Lajeunesse changed his research to study the sexuality of young men who regularly consumed pornography by interviewing 20 (yes, only twenty) heterosexual males.

He discovered the following information:

  • Most of the men first watched pornography around the age of 10
  • 90 percent of pornography was consumed on the internet
  • The single men watched pornography an average of 40 minutes 3 times a week, while the number was less for men in relationships
  • Pornography had not caused any pathological sexuality in the men.

Despite being drawn from a small, unrepresentative, self-selected sample, these specious conclusions have now been promulgated as science in numerous newspapers with headlines reading, “All men watch porn, scientists find.”

Real science, however, has reached different conclusions. Contrast the above study with the 30 page study recently released by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., of the Family Research Council, which is an exhaustive review of the literature on pornography to date, including over 150 citations to peer-reviewed scientific papers. The study, entitled “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community,” catalogs the detrimental effects of pornography at every level of society. Here are some of its more critical findings:

  • About 25 percent of those who go on the Internet do so for sexual purposes.
  • Up to 90 percent of youth aged 15 to 17 reported accidentally coming across pornography online. About one quarter of these youth said this happens “somewhat or very often.”
  • The more often adolescents are exposed to sexually explicit material on the Internet, the more sexually uncertain they are.
  • Adults who steadily consume pornography are three times as likely to be unfaithful to their spouses.
  • In one study, 56 percent of divorce cases involved an obsessive interest in pornographic websites, and 33 percent involved excessive time in chat rooms (a commonly sexualized forum).
  • Repeated exposure to pornography prompted respondents to consider engaging in “recreational sex” as important, and to be very accepting of sexual permissiveness.
  • The use of Internet pornography makes participants almost four times more likely to engage in paid sex.
  • A recent study of college freshmen found that habituation to pornography led to tolerance of sexually explicit material, requiring more novel or bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal or interest.
  • Internet sexual offenders report that more than 11 hours of their week is spent viewing pornographic images of children on the Internet.
  • Pornography consumption is closely related to sexual aggression.

Fagan’s study, unfortunately, has not received the same amount of press, despite containing real evidence as to what pornography does to individuals and families. No matter how much the media wants to assert that pornography is benign, social science has proved again and again that pornography has a very real and severe impact on everyone it touches.

You can access the whole study here. Read it and pass it on. The study is pertinent reading for any parent and for anyone who dismisses the threat of pornography to society.

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