Reaction to A Drug Called Pornography

Assignment 6, by Zach Tomaszewski

for LIS 693, Summer 2001, taught by Dr. Rebecca Knuth

I thought the video, A Drug Called Pornography, was rather biased and sensational in its presentation. It portrayed pornography users as equivalent to the most desperate criminal drug users (as with the image of the porn addict tearing fiercely through the contents of a garbage dumpster in desperate need of a "porn fix"; this was interspersed with images of a coke fiend robbing a convenience store). If there really does exist a drug-like, downward spiral of excitment-then-shame-then-excitement, the shame must in a large part be due to this kind of vilification of pornography users.

Secondly, nearly all the men interviewed were young, athletic, and energetic; this group of men (perhaps to the point of a "jock" stereotype) is recognized as being one of the most aggressive group of possible interviewees. The fact that most of them were in groups of friends likely contributed to their need for cockiness and bravado.

Third, as an occasional pornography "user" and as an observer of a number of college male "users," my experience has not led me to believe there is an overly addictive side to pornography. I would guess that, depending on the person's preferences and temperament, pornography is about as addictive as TV, video games, sex, beer, marijuana, or late night card games. All of these activities, in excess, can ruin one's social life, consume a lot of time, or introduce a skewed vision of reality. But these effects, when it comes to the average person, do not seem sufficiently detrimental to warrant censorship or legislation.

Finally, though the movie strongly suggested there was a correlation between pornography use and violent crime or degrading views of women, I am not entirely convinced it is a causal relationship. It seems more likely that those men who are aroused by violent pornography are simply more inclined to violence towards women. Of course, the desensitization from the pornography certainly doesn't help matters. Yet I was skeptical of the vague implication that "normal" young men will encounter pornography, become hopeless addicts rarely leaving their rooms, until they burst upon the female world as enraged rapists and child molesters.

All of this criticism said, I do agree that pornography can have an effect on the people who view it. Besides the physiological, it can be desensitizing and does often (though certainly not always) portray women as objects. (It should be noted, however, that, though a minority, a noticeable portion of pornography does show women in dominate roles.) Also, there is difference between violent pornography and primarily sexual pornography; luckily, it is the latter that seems to form the bulk of available material. I will also agree that it as habit-forming as TV or video games. It seems that certain people do have problems with certain medium or activities, such as alcohol, gambling, TV, or online chatting. But I would not imply that these activities or mediums are themselves a danger to the general public, nor would I want them prohibited. Education for all and counseling for some, perhaps; but not restrictions for everyone.

I thought the video was rather sensational, but the makers may have seen this justifiable in that they are trying to shake loose the growing (since 1953) idea that pornography is acceptable and harmless. Yet on the basis of what I have seen, I would not censor pornography. Every idea affects people, and changed people may act differently. But the problem is the action, not the thought.