I had trouble reading Pamela Paul’s article The Cost of Growing Up on Porn in the Outlook section of the Washington Post blasting the evils of pornography. Just like Paul’s book, Pornified, the anecdotal one-sided stories presented as fact don’t convince me pornography damages relationships. We simply just don’t know whether or not it’s harmful. I was incredulous about the lack of available research on both sides of this issue. I agree with Paul that researching the relationship between men and pornography isn’t easy and also that the University of Montreal’s School of Social Work study with only 20 subjects was hardly enough of a representative sample to prove pornography is not damaging.
I believe pornography is not damaging because of my personal family experience. But this is just my opinion and I would not assert this as fact. I can only provide the same subjective information that Paul offers from the emails she received from porn users and interviews she conducted about its influence. So as Paul offers her opinion, here are a few of my own for whatever its worth.
We need to broaden the type of pornography users that are referenced in these discussions. The Montreal University study appears to attempt this by including people in their research that were not pathological in their use of pornography. Only engaging those who have an underlying addiction problem will not provide us answers about the effects of pornography. There are many happily married, faithful and respectful men that view pornography. Let’s not make general characterizations about pornography users to malign them. Also there are many women who enjoy pornography and several that have leadership roles in the adult industry. We need to engage their perspectives too. Check out Carly Milne’s book Naked Ambition. To continue to portray women as victims of pornography is just wrong.
We should understand there is good porn and bad porn in the world. The bad porn that teeters on the edge of just too much, like the type Max Hardcore peddles, just shouldn’t exist in my opinion. The high quality, good pornography that is out there should be left for consenting adults to decide on its use.
Its tough living in a free country and we have lots of choices and decisions about how we conduct our everyday lives. The availability of pornography is a consequence of the liberties we all enjoy. We should be able to handle this.
I was raised during the 1970s and 80s when pornography was not as readily accessible as it is today, so I say bring on the studies. Let’s just agree for now that we don’t have enough information to decide if pornography is good or bad.