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Question of Pornography: Research Findings and Policy Implications

NCJ Number
E Donnerstein; D Linz; S Penrod
Date Published
274 pages
This book draws upon the most recent scientific research in examining whether pornography negatively affects the behavior and attitudes of those exposed to it.
Research findings indicate that sexually explicit material in itself does not foster negative attitudes or behavior, but when it is accompanied by images of violence, the risk of subsequent violence is significant. A review of media portrayals of sexual aggression reveals that the levels of violence in mainstream fiction and film often exceed the violence levels in the most graphic pornography. Laboratory findings indicate that the subtle but significant effects of violent sexual images include desensitization to others' pain, increased aggressive feelings, and a reinforcement of rape myths. Repeated exposure to such images may increase a viewer's impulse to harm others, and in addition to sexually arousing men, is a factor in changing their perceptions of women. This book also explores legal and other regulatory responses to contemporary pornography, including the advocacy of civil rights legislation, obscenity laws, and American film producers' attempts to regulate themselves to avoid State censorship. In challenging the recommendations of the 1986 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, the book rejects censorship and proposes media education programs that will provide parents, educators, and legislators with sound strategies for countering the negative effects of all violent images, from prime time television to pornography. 5 figures, 6 tables, 877-item bibliography, and author and subject indexes. (Publisher summary modified)