It is becoming easier to get access to pornographic material, primarily due to the widespread implementation of information technology in virtually all sectors. Admission to computers and cell phones with Internet access is no longer a luxury for adults alone, and cases of children consuming pornographic material are on the rise. Watching pornographic material is not a new phenomenon, and scholars have studied its effect on children and culture. Internet use is advantageous to society because it improves the rapid distribution of critical data. Watching internet pornography, however, is harmful for society as it leads to ethical and moral decay.
The growing accessibility to internet pornography is currently an important topic of concern to policymakers and society. This has created intense debate on controlling the accessibility of the content, particularly to young children. A contentious problem continues to be the legality of giving adults access to pornographic content. Several research findings on pornography, however, indicate that viewing the material is harmful to all individuals regardless of age. Watching pornographic content, mainly through the internet, contributes to the creation of sex addiction or obsession that motivates people to commit crimes, according to Bailey. The habit often loses valuable time that could be used to establish jobs and strengthen family relationships. (Bailey, 37)
Diamond motivates people to commit sexual offences by viewing pornographic videos (310). The positive association between viewing internet pornography and committing sexual crimes such as rape and sex with minors is demonstrated by numerous research on sexual offenders. In a study conducted by Allen, et al. (140) among convicted rapists to create the link between watching pornography and committing rape, 86 percent of convicted rapists admitted that they were a frequent audience of internet pornographic content and more than 60 percent admitted that they imitated the scenes of their victims’ pornographic content while committing the offensive pornographic content A separate Bailey study (67) found that rapists are fifteen times more likely in their adolescence to have been exposed to explicit pornographic material. Similarly, consuming internet pornography leads to antisocial and deviant behaviour, sexual crimes and personality disorders. (Bailey, 76).
Globally, child pornography is a serious concern, and many research studies have been carried out to examine its effect on children and culture. The possession of child pornographic material by a person is a clear predictor of paedophilia, according to McCarthy (183). Allen et al. (147) noted that paedophiles are commonly used in child pornography to “sexually eradicate themselves, to undermine resistance, ruin awareness, and minimise inhibitions of potential victims of child sexual intercourse with an adult.” Sexual predators to instruct minors on how to act while having sex with an adult also use children’s pornographic content.
Online pornography increases people’s susceptibility to deviant sexual behaviour. These habits include, among others, voyeurism, paedophilia, group sexual relations and exhibitionism (McCarthy, 186). Bailey (86) conducted a report on child pornographic perpetrators and found that 23% of them had paedophilia, a psychiatric illness.
A total of 11% of the offenders in the study suffered from voyeurism and exhibitionism, while 49% had paraphilia (Bailey, 89-96). Watching pornographic material thus leads to the creation of deviant sexual habits and suggests the prevalence of disorders in culture.
Considerable empirical results have been derived from the effects of viewing child pornography and sexual exploitation on minors. The perception that viewing child pornography encourages child sexual exploitation forms the basis for protecting the existing laws for children (Christensen, 53). Research findings on the link between child pornography and the tendency of minors to commit sexual assault remain highly controversial and restricted. However, there is a clear indication that watching child pornography encourages them to experiment in early sexual experiences with adults and age mates, especially young adults and teenagers.
The large numbers of young viewers watching the internet’s content can demonstrate the tremendous impact pornography has on children and young adults.
According to Allen et al. (160), the largest group of viewers on internet pornography is children aged 12 to 17. Due to the large number of children using the internet and accessing pornographic sites, they are vulnerable to adult sexual molesters, who use the sites as a safer method of meeting the children. A research conducted by Diamond( 93), established that 33 per cent of young people aged from eight to eighteen years admitted to having physically met someone they had initially been in contact through the internet. Children usually trust in nature and paedophiles exploit this weakness to obtain personal information of the minors buy establishing online relationships to abuse them sexually. Moreover, child molesters request children to supply them with sexually explicit photographs online, which encourages children to produce their pornographic content (Christensen, 105).
The impact of internet pornographic content is limited to committing sexual crimes and promoting gender violence. According to Diamond(300), pornographic content degrades women’s status in society because it portrays them as sexual objects. The explicit material perpetuates gender-based violence and degrades women’s overall standing in the community irrespective of whether they are compelled to consent in pornographic content voluntarily. Christensen, (122) argues that explicit pornographic content depicting women having sexual intercourse with animals or being forced into sexual acts reinforces the myth that women do not control their sexuality. This promotes gender biases, increasing vulnerability of women to rape by men in and out the confines of marriage.
The rate of sexual crimes against women has been increasing, especially in developed countries such as Sweden and the United States. The increase in sexual crimes, especially rape, has occurred in growing access to pornographic content. Addiction to pornographic content on the internet by both children and adults is a growing concern worldwide. Watching pornographic content is a passive activity, and an increasing number of children and adults spend a considerable amount of time online. In a society where incidents of obesity are increasing, spending a lot of time watching pornographic content contributes to the problem. Moreover, managing the content wastes a considerable amount of time used in productive activities such as learning, working and spending time with spouse and children. Therefore, watching pornographic content has the potential of destroying family relationships, ruining the progress of students in their education in addition to damaging career progression of the affected individuals (Christensen, 170-184)
Proponents supporting pornography argue that watching the content has no adverse effects on society. This argument is based on the supposition that pornography is merely an expression of fantasies, which create pleasurable feelings to the audience (Diamond, 305). Also, proponents argue that watching pornographic content prevents promiscuity and sexually related crimes in society (Diamond, 313). Regarding the effect of pornography on women, the proponents argue that internet pornography provides an opportunity to demonstrate their sexuality, in a male-dominated society. Proponents of pornography say that women have been bound by traditions from the liberty of expressing their sexual potential for an extended period. Therefore, pornography provides them with the chance of liberating themselves from social norms that limit their sexual freedom (Diamond, 314).
Pornography is a multibillion industry that generates vast amounts of incomes annually. The fact that the pornographic content is quickly sold and accessed through the internet makes it one of the fastest moving products globally. According to Diamond (306), the United States alone produces about 10,000- 15,000 pornographic movies in a year. The amount of money generated by renting and selling the film annually to the public is in the range of $4 to $10 billion. Also, phone sex generates over $1 billion in the United States (Diamond, 311).
Due to the industry’s significant contribution to the national economy, pornographic proponents argue that it benefits society by creating jobs and generating additional revenue. Moreover, pornographic proponents argue the large number of people accessing the content through the internet demonstrates that the industry fulfils essential human needs.
The amount of money spent by the US government and the public on trying sexual predators, holding convicts in detention institutions, and obesity-related medical expenses far exceeds the revenue generated by the pornography industry. Moreover, the psychological damage that child pornographic industry exerts on parents, child victims and the society cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Although proponents of pornographic content argue that sexually explicit material prevents sexual crimes, developed countries, including the United States, have one of the world’s highest sexual assaults. In comparison, developing countries with limited access to internet pornographic material have lower rates of sexual crimes. Some of the developing regions in the world with the lowest rate of sexual assaults include countries in the Middle East (Christensen, 251)
Internet pornographic industry generates vast amounts of revenues in the country. However, the rising incidents of child sexual molestation and other sexual crimes demonstrate the negative impacts of pornography on society.
- Allen, M., et al. “Reactions of Criminal Sexual Offenders to Pornography: A Meta-Analytic Summary.” Communication Year Book, 22(1999): 140-170.
- Bailey, J. “Confronting Collective Harm: Technology’s Transformative Impact on Child Pornography.” University of New Brunswick Law Journal 56(2007): 60-105.
- Christensen, F. Pornography: The Other Side. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1990.
- Diamond, M. “Pornography, Public Acceptance and Sex Related Crime: A Review.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 32(2009): 300-314.
- McCarthy, J. “Internet Sexual Activity: A Comparison between Contact and Non-Contact Child Pornography Offenders.” Journal of Sexual Aggression, 16.2(2010): 181-195.