Perspectives: The Sunny Side of Smut; July / August 2011; Scientific American Mind; by Melinda Wenner Moyer; 2 Page(s)
It used to be tough to get porn. Renting an X-rated movie required sneaking into a roped-off room in the back of a video store, and eyeing a centerfold meant facing down a store clerk to buy a pornographic magazine. Now pornography is just one Google search away, and much of it is free. Age restrictions have become meaningless, too, with the advent of social media—one teenager in five has sent or posted naked pictures of themselves online, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
With access to pornography easier than ever before, politicians and scientists alike have renewed their interest in deciphering its psychological effects. Certainly pornography addiction or overconsumption seems to cause relationship problems [see “Sex in Bits and Bytes,” by Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld; Scientific American Mind, July/August 2010]. But what about the more casual exposure typical of most porn users? Contrary to what many people believe, recent research shows that moderate pornography consumption does not make users more aggressive, promote sexism or harm relationships. If anything, some researchers suggest, exposure to pornography might make some people less likely to commit sexual crimes.