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10 Ways Pornography Shapes The World

by Chris Jenkins
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Pornography is often associated with deviant behavior and sexual violence. Many people at least assume it has a negative effect on those who view it, especially young people. These individuals, then, may be surprised to hear that pornography has helped guard the Constitution, redefine art, and even keep young women safe.

10Pornography Protects The First Amendment


Photo credit: Hustler

Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine is known for its ribald sense of humor along with its explicit photos. However, one person thought they took the former too far in 1983. The magazine created a parody ad in which the minister Jerry Falwell describes his first time having sex—in an outhouse, with his own mother.

Falwell slung lawsuits at both Flynt and his magazine and was initially awarded $150,000 in damages for emotional distress. Flynt appealed this decision, which led to a historic ruling in 1988 by the Supreme Court. The court unanimously ruled that public figures are never entitled to compensation for emotional distress from satirical depictions. Holding writers liable for such damages would create a chilling effect on speech.

Therefore, the robust protections that writers, artists, and filmmakers enjoy regarding their parodies of popular figures is largely due to a man who got rich selling porn to the masses.

9Art And Pornography


Photo credit: MGM

One alarming legal decision for purveyors of pornography came from 1973’s Miller v California. The Supreme Court decision definitively ruled that the First Amendment does not protect obscenity. Legally speaking, though, this created a new batch of problems. What is obscenity? How should it be prosecuted? And where is the line between obscenity and art?

These questions were partially answered in 1974, when a theater owner named Jenkins was arrested in Albany, Georgia for screening Carnal Knowledge, an Oscar-nominated film featuring sex and nudity. The state court assumed that this fell under the definition of obscenity. The Supreme Court disagreed, stating that nudity alone did not constitute pornography, nor did it constitute obscenity.

While imperfect, this ruling would help to protect countless films, photographs, and paintings featuring nudity, helping to ensure that art could flourish without being trampled by the zealous righteousness of the law.

8Video Birth Control

Perhaps the oldest assumption about pornography is that it encourages sex among young people. However, according to research presented by Ronald Bailey to Reason magazine, the exact opposite is true. With the increased prevalence of porn has come an increase in the amount of time that teens delay having sex. Teen pregnancy has dropped by over 40 percent compared to its peak rate in 1990.

Some psychologists believe that porn may demystify sex, allowing individuals to understand sex in a way that their education and upbringing may not. In that sense, pornography helps ensure that teenagers don’t rush into sex simply to see what it’s like. It’s also possible that viewing realistic, unsimulated sex shows teens the importance of using protection.

7Sex Education

Obviously, anyone whose entire idea of sex comes from pornography will end up with some odd ideas on the subject. However, due to the spotty quality of sex education in certain parts of the world, pornography may very well be one of the only ways some people can learn about sex. Those whose knowledge comes primarily from a textbook or a chaste talk with parents may learn something valuable from watching porn.

Research supports this. Martin Hald and Neil Malamuth surveyed over 600 Danish men and women aged 18–30 and found something surprising. The majority of participants claimed that hardcore pornography had helped them with everything from sexual knowledge to attitudes toward the opposite sex to their overall quality of life. The majority reported little to no negative effects from their consumption of pornography.

There you have it: Porn may very well make you happier and more understanding.

6It Fights Rape

One of the most common claims leveled against pornography is that it engenders negative views of woman. Pornographic actresses act as sexual objects for the gratification of men. Men consume so much pornography that they perhaps internalize this objectification and therefore treat women disrespectfully or even violently.

However, Clemson professor Todd Kendall disagrees with that assessment. He notes that areas with more Internet access have less rape—a 10-percent increase in Internet access yields a 7.3-percent decrease in the number of reported rapes.

We can suggest various explanations for this correlation, but Professor Kendall believes that young, would-be rapists—those aged 15–19, whose rape rates drop most with Internet access—benefit from having easy access to pornography online. They are much less likely to rape someone as a result.

5It Combats Repression


Some countries, most notably America, present a kind of paradox to their citizens. While sex is seemingly everywhere—computers, movie screens, magazines, and TV—older religious and moral traditions force a public view of pornography as shameful or harmful. Hence, the old stereotype of the lonely smut consumer who is repressed and alone.

However, research by Utah State University psychologist Michael Twohig suggests we have been looking at the situation the wrong way. His survey of nearly 300 students revealed that those who tried hardest to avoid pornography actually both experienced an increased desire for it and suffered exacerbated sexual problems.

He found that porn itself is harmless—the individual’s mentality matters more than the material. In fact, his research highlights potential positive aspects of porn. Those who freely enjoy it not only desire it less than those suppressing the urge but have healthier and less-repressed sex lives.

4It Liberates Women

Over the years, many feminists have decried pornography as misogynistic and demeaning to women. Much of it is created for men, and it promotes male interests, including the male climax as the be-all and end-all of sex. However, according to sex blogger Dr. Anne Sabo, pornography offers a medium through which women can change the cultural conversation about sex.

Part of her argument is something rather fundamental. Pornography is not inherently degrading, sexist, or otherwise misogynistic. It is simply whatever its makers want it to be. She believes porn can be (and, in limited amounts, already has been) “re-visioned” by women into something that lets them explore their own sexuality with realism and honesty.

Sabo concedes that misogynistic porn will always exist, but re-visioned porn can counterweigh it. It lets women speak in the predominately sexual language of the world while changing the focus. Ultimately, Sabo sees pornography as a way women can portray a world of sexual equality and pleasurable intimacy—the kind of feminist tool that Andrea Dworkin could never have imagined.

3It Breeds Acceptance Of Homosexuality

One of the other prevalent myths about pornography is that it fosters intolerance among straight men toward gay men. Pornography feeds a sense of ultra-masculinity, making viewers less likely to tolerate those unlike themselves.

A 2014 Communication Research article by Paul Wright and Ashley Randall, however, asserts that porn makes men more tolerant of homosexuality and other so-called alternative lifestyles. Even the most casual viewer of pornography will be exposed to sexual ideas, activities, and props they would not otherwise think of. This person eventually internalizes the normalcy of others’ attraction to things the viewer doesn’t understand. Viewers can acknowledge this without diminishing themselves in any way.

That, combined with men’s unabashed fascination with lesbian pornography, helps make purveyors of porn a part of men’s growing acceptance of homosexuality.

2It Reduces Abortions And STDs

Along with assuming porn encourages sex, people assume it leads to abortions for unwanted pregnancies and disease for those having unsafe sex. However, these are two more arenas where pornography may be making the world a safer place.

Mass access to pornography, which came with the rise of the Internet, may have reduced the amount of abortions and STDs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, abortion has fallen by 41 percent since 1990, gonorrhea has fallen by 57 percent, and syphilis has plunged by a staggering 74 percent.

The explanations for this vary, but one thought is that by increasing masturbation, pornography has reduced the number of people seeking sex with others as their primary avenue of pleasure.

1It Makes Sex Better

On face, most mainstream pornography does not represent the realities of intimate intercourse between human beings. However, the prevalence and availability of pornography helps start conversations between couples about sex, and the clips themselves can assist in foreplay.

According to New Scientist magazine, pornographic clips can help both men and women reach their peak levels of arousal within 10 minutes. This is perhaps especially surprising because of the prevalent stereotype of women needing more foreplay. Porn can not only assist in this area, but it makes foreplay quicker and more efficient.

Furthermore, Colorado psychologist David Snarch claims that sharing fantasies fosters emotional connections between couples. Those emotional connections can lead to better physical connections as well.

All in all, porn is good for both mind and body and helps unify those aspects in the lives of couples.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater