#3 – The controversies surrounding porn | Liz Walker Presents

Pornography is a ‘hot button’ and controversial topic. I often refer to it as the ‘naked elephant in the room’. Everyone knows it’s there, but no one really wants to acknowledge it.

Porn is controversial because it’s divisive. There’s ‘Pro-Porn’ and ‘Anti-Porn’ sides. It’s as oppositional, if not more, as any other ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ discussion. If we dig a little deeper than ‘pro’ and ‘anti’, the work of Malumuth offers 3 main ideological / theoretical perspectives.

  1. The Moralist Perspective
  2. The Liberal Perspective
  3. The Radical Feminist Perspective

Quoting directly from Malumuth’s paper on Pornography, here’s an expansion on these perspectives that could shed some light on why it’s so difficult to see eye-to-eye.

  1. According the moralist perspective, sex is a private act engaged in by consenting married adults, primarily for the purpose of procreation. Pornography, therefore, is viewed by moralists as offensive as well as a negative influence on society. Not only does it encourage sexual acts outside the boundaries of private behaviour among married adults, but it also publicly displays sex. Through these public displays of sex, pornography sexually arouses consumers in ways that might encourage unacceptable behaviour. Some pornography communicates positive messages about adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality, which according to the moralist perspective are unacceptable and undesirable behaviours. Through its emphasis on the importance of sex and sexual gratification, pornography encourages illicit fantasies and acts, degrading sex and marriage.
    [Side note: Not all people who oppose porn are moralists; not all Christians appreciate being labelled as such; and calling all opposers to porn ‘moralists’ is a worn-out bullying tactic that attempts to shut down conversation.]
  2. In the liberal perspective, the concepts of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ are viewed as culturally defined and therefore arbitrary. Human adults who are given free access to the full range of messages and information are able to make rational choices about what is appropriate behaviour in their culture. Four assertions made by supporters of the liberal theory help to understand pornography research guided by this perspective:
    1. Most pornography merely triggers sexual thoughts that are not acted out. Unless these thoughts result in harmful actions against others, pornography should be considered harmless.
    2. Pornography may even be a socially beneficial form of communication that allows for self-expression of sexual interests.
    3. The state should not restrict individuals’ basic human right to free expression of ideas. As long as the recipient restricts his behaviour to private actions such as sexual arousal, fantasy or use of pornography with consenting partners, society has no right to interfere.
    4. While pornography is generally not harmful, consumers who are particularly susceptible to it and cannot behave rationally may require some form of message restriction once they have acted illegally.
      [Side note: This perspective seems to only cover that of adults, not considering the impact of pornography availability to children.]
  3. Radical feminists view social relations in terms of power dynamics. In our society, men hold considerable power over women. Sex, these feminists contend, is the primary means by which men exert power over women. Through this unequal distribution of power, men have been able to force their notions of appropriate sexual relations between men and women as well as shape how women perceive themselves. Men ‘possess’ and use women through the sexualisation of intimate intrusion. Sexual access to women is a central feature of women’s definition of inferior and of feminine. According to this feminist perspective, pornography is a form of ‘hate literature’. It is visual and verbal intrusion, access, and possession of women by men.
    [Side note: Whilst within the feminist movement there are a variety of perspectives, only the radical feminist position is discussed in the Malumuth article.]

You may or may not identify with these viewpoints; you may resonate with parts of each perspective; and there may well be other approaches to consider. And then of course there are the gender differences that influence perspectives. More men than women view pornography on a regular basis. Someone who is happy with their porn use will find it incredibly offensive to have their ‘love of porn’ viewpoint challenged. People of all sexual diversities use porn solo, as well as in monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.

Add to controversies the often overlooked voice of children in this conversation. I once asked a peak sexology body to explain what their position was on child protection policies and procedures regarding minors’ access to pornography. Their response was liberal: “although ‘we’ are pragmatic about the use of pornographic material within the adult population, as an organisation we are against the consumption of said material by minors.

Against consumption… but not willing to act on the right’s of children. For instance, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states in Article 17: Children have the right to reliable information from the media. Mass media such as television, radio and newspapers should provide information that children can understand and should not promote materials that could harm children.

The World Association of Sexual Health states that people have the right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion. I argue that the above position offered by this particular peak body contradicts Declaration no. 5. It goes on to explain that everyone shall be free from sexuality related violence and coercion, including: rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, bullying, sexual exploitation and slavery, trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation, virginity testing, and violence committed because of real or perceived sexual practices, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and bodily diversity.

Look back to yesterday’s blog on Getting the Definition Right and go over the detail provided by the State of Minnesota. Then re-read Sexual Right number 5. There’s a whole pile of controversy to acknowledge right there.

The question is, who has the courage to address it?

Much love, Liz.

PS. Check out the robust online and current debate that asks: Can Porn Be Good for us? 84% have answered NO.


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For support:

Not for Kids! children’s book offers gentle and insightful guidance and is a must have for parents and professionals to prepare kids under the age of 10 for the inevitable occasion of when they will see explicit imagery.
Porn Harms Kids is a grass-roots campaign that draws attention to the issue of exposure of children and young people to pornography in Australia. It mobilises researchers, child development experts, youth welfare authorities, the medical profession, social and public policy sectors, campaigners and members of the community including schools and parents, to work toward a comprehensive solution.
Fortify Program is the perfect tool help change behaviour. Free for youth aged 13-20, the Fortify Program will walk you through more than fifty short videos that cover the science of addiction, the harms of pornography, tools to help you break free, and other helpful information so that you can be empowered to overcome your struggle with pornography. This service is also available for anyone over 21 years of age for a $39 one-time fee.
Go For Greatness is a not for profit organisation registered in the USA and Australia whose primary purpose is to educate people about the harmful effects of pornography and connect those in need to professional help. Guilty Pleasure partners with churches, universities, schools, businesses and other organisations to run events and tours and offers support and connections to both faith-based and secular individuals and organisations.
Reboot Nation helps people reboot their brains with encouragement and education. Reboot is a complete rest from artificial sexual stimulation (i.e. pornography). They are a community of people who have discovered the negative effects of pornography. Reboot Nation provides many resources and information to equip you with the tools necessary to start recovering today and become more aware of the potential harm caused by high-speed Internet porn.
No Fap: Get a new grip on life. A secular porn recovery community website for all victims of pornography. Whether you have a porn addiction yourself or just need support as a partner, parent, or loved one of somebody struggling with pornography, this community will support you.
Reddit NoFap: Partake in the ultimate challenge. This is a web community that hosts challenges in which users (“Fapstronauts”) abstain from pornography and masturbation for a period of time (“fapstinence” or “rebooting”). Whether your goal is casual participation in a monthly challenge as a test of self-control, or whether excessive masturbation or pornography has become a problem in your life and you want to quit for a longer period of time, you will find a supportive community and plenty of resources.
Your Brain Rebalanced Overcoming Pornography Addiction and Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction
Sacred Sexuality Project is about helping individual men turn their lives around, but this is also about changing the world. The mission is to increase awareness of the problems caused by an abuse of sexuality and to help men and women reconnect with a higher expression of their sexual energy.

Faith based resources:

X3Pure: 30-Day online workshops. This site is to enable men and women to conquer sexual issues like pornography addiction and sex addiction and regain control of their lives.
Dirty Girls Ministries – exists to provide women with help, hope and healing from pornography and sexual addiction.
The Grace Spot is a place to validate and raise awareness of women’s struggles with sexuality and sexual addictions of various kinds, and to provide support and resources to empower them to recovery through sharing stories, linking to resources, and through personal blogs.

THANK YOU to everyone who has been sharing these blog posts and for all your great feedback.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about, send an email me or ASK ME through Vidoyen. If you would like to enquire about my availability and professional speaking fees to present at your school, in-service, conference, community, youth or church event, enquire via email.  If you are looking for sex education support, find us at Youth Wellbeing Project and sign up to receive our newsletter.

About Liz Walker

Helping close communication & sexuality education gaps between educators, teens, parents & community. Anti-porn, whole-person centred sexuality education approach.