Is Porn Really to Blame?
Morality and our many interpretations of it have long been at the center of our social wars. More often than not, these conflicts arise between different cultures or between different generations of the same culture.
Who hasn’t seen adults and the elderly chiding adolescents for their callousness and irresponsibility, so much of which is out of the youth’s hands? Stories and parables beginning with “When I was your age…” are such a well-known part of our oral history because people advanced in years are incidentally assumed to be more advanced in goodness and wiseness as well. As we grow older, however, mistakes and misgivings fall by the wayside as stories of victory and moral superiority fill our own memories and the lessons we pass on to others.
But who creates the world that our children enter and young people find themselves inundated in? Everything that exists today is a product of an earlier generation; our saving graces as well as our vices are the results of the successes and mistakes of those who came before us, but once these realities go awry, the current generation is left to deal with the blame.
Online pornography has always been stigmatized, and like many sexual taboos, moral crusaders warn of the very real dangers and implications that our private pastimes and virtual fantasies surely have. But as reports proliferate and warn that internet porn adversely affects our sex lives, it’s time to take a closer look at the facts behind the claim.
Is online porn really as dangerous as they say it is?
A History of Internet Pornography
Pornography has existed for even longer than most civilizations, with sexual images depicted even in rock art from prehistoric times. The concept of sexual imagery explicitly meant for pleasure and “corruption,” however, stems from the 19th century. The first law against such “obscene” imagery was passed in 1857, though what constituted obscene material was not clearly defined; even at that time, the intent behind the imagery determined whether it was permissible, and while the upper classes could view it for study, possession of pornography in the lower classes was criminalized.
Shortly after motion pictures were introduced in 1895, pornographic film was realized as a profit-maker, and thus began the history of risqué films that constitute porn as we know it today.
With the introduction of widespread internet access throughout the 1990s, online porn skyrocketed in availability and popularity, thus continuing the trend of an ongoing notable jump in porn consumption over the past few decades.
The Case Against Online Porn
Along with such a rise in vice, as well as the unprecedented ease of access to adult content at the fingertips of children, it was only natural that a crusade would develop against online porn. But what argument can one use against a case that was purely moral? The same tactic they’ve used for years: Fear.
In fact, those rallying against porn, whether for legal or moral means, went one step further and brought science into the midst. But is it science we can trust? Much like the long-held beliefs that masturbation can lead to hairy palms and blindness, pseudoscientific stories of how watching virtual porn causes real-life problems soon abounded.
Most of these dealt with a convincing-sounding story that someone’s obsession with online porn—which provides viewers with a boundless array of scenarios and acts—could desensitize them to in-person sexual encounters if they did not meet expectations. After all, they argued, people in porn are often treated as objects, but in real life, it simply isn’t so. Such disappointment could turn people off from safe, consensual sex for life, thus leading to an increase in sexual violence or otherwise in people turning completely away from real intercourse, favoring the virtual kind instead.