What is Pornography?

Pornography is any material that is designed to sexually arouse the viewer.

Exposure to pornography starts with casual curiosity (usually with soft-core porn, such as Playboy & Penthouse, or R-rated films) and then escalates to hard-core pornography. Once a person's early curiosity is satisfied, then an interest in more extreme images becomes desirable. This escalating pattern continues up through behavior which often is acted out on others.

Hard-Core Pornography (Obscenity)

In simple terms, a film, video, magazine, or other work may be "obscene" if it graphically depicts sexual conduct such as vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, masturbation, bondage torture or other forms of sexual violence substantially throughout the material, such that it is obviously offensive to the average person in the community and lacks any serious value. Acquiring to the 1986 Pornography Commission and a Harvard Medical School content study, the pornography of the 1980s on the open market was virtually called "obscenity," is basically crime-scene photos of "exploitation, prostitution and rape in pictures." Obscenity is declared "obscene" by a judge or jury. Nothing is legally obscene unless determined so in a court of law.

Child Pornography

Child Pornography is ILLEGAL by federal standards in all states.

Any visual pornography featuring a subject who is under 18 years of age. Child pornography became a separate and distinct crime from obscenity in 1982, when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the special harm to children being photographed while engaging in sexual conduct. It outlawed all visual depictions of minors engaged in any sexually explicit conduct. Child pornography is nothing more than the "permanent record of child sexual abuse" circulated throughout the molesters' and pedophiles' network. It is used for sexual stimulation, blackmail, as a teaching tool and/or to break down the natural inhibitions/conscience of child victims to convince them to participate in the abnormal sexual conduct. While some child pornography is legally obscene, much of it may not contain the explicit sexual conduct necessary to meet the high obscenity standards.

Material Harmful to Minors

Material Harmful to Minors encompasses most pornography and can be legally regulated to keep sexually explicit films, magazines, or videos out of the hands and view of children under 18. Magazines such as Penthouse, Hustler, R-rated videos and many sexually explicit programs on satellite, cable or broadcast television, may fall into this category. Most states regulate this material to prevent access to minors through blinder racks at news stands, "adults only rooms" or "under 18 not permitted" signs. Unfortunately, these laws have not been enforced and children (ages 12-17) continue to be among the largest consumers of pornography in the U.S. While such material is illegal to minors, adults may legally possess this non-obscene, yet pornographic, material regardless of how strongly people feel about its offensive content and potential harm to society.

Pornography Related Terms

Adultery: Sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage.

Bestiality: Sexual relations with animals.

Child Pornography: Any visual pornography featuring a subject who is under 18 years of age. Child Pornography is illegal, and a permanent record of child sexual abuse.

Exhibitionism: Taking off one's clothes in front of other people.

Lascivious: Lustful, or driven by sexual desire.

Monogamous Marriage: Having a sexual relationship only with one's spouse.

Pornography: Sexually explicit material (pictures, words, or acts) designed to sexually arouse.

Promiscuity: Having sexual relationships with many individuals.

Prurient: Inordinate or unhealthy sexual desire.

Sadomasochism: When someone gets sexual pleasure from inflicting pain on someone else.

Virginity: Having never had a sexual relationship with another.

Voyeurism: Secretly spying on people as they're undressing. Dwelling on mental sexual images.

What the Law Says...

Obscenity (hard-core pornography) is illegal and is not protected by the First Amendment.

  • This was reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Miller v. California. The effort to eliminate hard-core pornography is not censorship as it is not protected "speech" under the First Amendment. 

    The U.S. Supreme Court has said that to be obscene, the material must meet the following criteria:
  1. the average person, applying contemporary community standards, most find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  2. the work must depict or describe sexual conduct in a patently offensive way;
  3. the work, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, scientific value.
  • Upholding the federal and state laws prohibiting obscenity is everyone's right in a democratic society.
  • Child Pornography is illegal by federal standards in all states. Possession of child pornography is illegal in most states.
  • Many states have Harmful to Minors laws, which prohibit the sale, rental, or display of pornography to minors.

Did you know?

  • A study conducted by Michigan State Police showed that of 38,000 sexual assault cases, 41% involved pornography "just prior to or during the act."
  • Children are molesting other children. In Oklahoma, seven boys gang raped a 15 year-old girl and forced her to engage in unnatural sexual acts. Four confessed that viewing pornography inspired the rape.
  • There are numerous cases of this kind of behavior. Studies consistently show that people who are shown pornography are less likely to consider rape and child sexual abuse wrong.
  • More statistics...

Research on How Pornography Harms

  • "The Evidence of Harm" website contains detailed research on the relationships between Pornography with:
    • Rape and Agression Toward Women
    • Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
    • Perceptual and Dispositional Consequences
  • Mary Anne Layden, Ph D has documented many of the extensive harms of pornography exposure. Download the Research Findings Summaries.

Did you know?

  • A study conducted by Michigan State Police showed that of 38,000 sexual assault cases, 41% involved pornography "just prior to or during the act."
  • Children are molesting other children. In Oklahoma, seven boys gang raped a 15 year-old girl and forced her to engage in unnatural sexual acts. Four confessed that viewing pornography inspired the rape.
  • There are numerous cases of this kind of behavior. Studies consistently show that people who are shown pornography are less likely to consider rape and child sexual abuse wrong.