Opposition to pornography

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Anti-pornography protest on Oxford Street, London Anti-pornography protest on Oxford Street in 2008.jpg
Anti-pornography protest on Oxford Street, London

Reasons for opposition to pornography include religious objections, feminist concerns, and claims of harmful effects, such as pornography addiction. Anti-pornography movements have allied disparate social activists in opposition to pornography, from social conservatives to harm reduction advocates.


The definition of "pornography" varies between countries and movements, and many make distinctions between pornography, which they oppose, and erotica, which they consider acceptable. Sometimes opposition will deem certain forms of pornography more or less harmful, while others draw no such distinctions.

A 2018 Gallup survey reported that 43% of U.S. adults believe that it is "morally acceptable," a 7% increase from 2017. [1] Historically, from 1975 to 2012, the gender gap in pornography opposition has widened, with women remaining more opposed to pornography than men and men's opposition has declined faster. [2]

Religious views

Most world religions have positions in opposition to pornography from a variety of rationales, [3] [4] [5] including concerns about modesty, human dignity, chastity and other virtues. There are numerous [6] verses in the Bible which are cited as condemning pornography or adultery, notably for Christians, Matthew 5:28 in the Sermon on the Mount which states "that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly condemns pornography because it "offends against chastity" and "does grave injury to the dignity of its participants" since "each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others". [7]

Islam also forbids adultery, and various verses of the Quran have been cited as condemning pornography, including Quran 24:31 which tells men to "restrain their eyes" from looking sexually at women. [8]

Feminist views

Some feminists are opposed to pornography, arguing that it is an industry which exploits women and is complicit in violence against women, both in its production (where they charge that abuse and exploitation of women performing in pornography is rampant) and in its consumption (where they charge that pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment). [9] They charge that pornography contributes to the male-centered objectification of women and thus to sexism. [10]

However, many other feminists are opposed to censorship, and have argued against the introduction of anti-porn legislation in the United States - among them Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Karen DeCrow, Wendy Kaminer and Jamaica Kincaid. [11] Some sex-positive feminists actively support pornography that depicts female sexuality in a positive way, without objectifying or demeaning women.

Conservative views

Religious conservatives commonly oppose pornography, along with a subset of feminists, though their reasoning may differ. [2] Many religious conservatives view pornography as a threat to children. Some conservative Protestants oppose pornography because it encourages non-procreative sex, encourages abortion, and can be connected to the rise of sexually transmitted diseases. [12]

Concerned Women For America (CWA) is a conservative organization that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. When discussing violence against women, the CWA often uses pornography to illustrate their points. The CWA asserts that pornography is a major reason why men inflict harm on women. [13] The CWA argues that pornography convinces men to disrespect their wives and neglect their marriages, thereby threatening the sanctity of traditional marriage. Unlike other issues CWA has tackled, they are less forcefully anti-feminist when it comes to the topic of pornography, as many of their points surrounding why pornography is distasteful parallels those of anti-pornography feminists. [13]

Harm-based views

Zillmann Fig 7.png Zillmann Fig 8.png Zillmann Fig 9.png
Figures 7, 8, and 9 in Zillmann, Dolf: "Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography", 1986. [14]

Dolf Zillmann argued in the 1986 publication "Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography" that extensive viewing of pornographic material produces many unfavorable sociological effects, including a decreased respect for long-term monogamous relationships, and an attenuated desire for procreation. [14] He describes the theoretical basis of these experimental findings:

The values expressed in pornography clash so obviously with the family concept, and they potentially undermine the traditional values that favor marriage, family, and children... Pornographic scripts dwell on sexual engagements of parties who have just met, who are in no way attached or committed to each other, and who will part shortly, never to meet again... Sexual gratification in pornography is not a function of emotional attachment, of kindness, of caring, and especially not of continuance of the relationship, as such continuance would translate into responsibilities, curtailments, and costs... [15]

A study by Zillman in 1982 also indicated that prolonged exposure to pornography desensitized both men and women toward victims of sexual violence. After being shown pornographic movies, test subjects were asked to judge an appropriate punishment for a rapist. The test subjects recommended incarceration terms that were significantly more lenient than those recommended by control subjects who had not watched pornography. [14]

Some researchers like Zillman believe that pornography causes unequivocal harm to society by increasing rates of sexual assault. [14] [16] Other researchers believe that there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes. [17] [18] [19]

Pornography is often criticized for presenting an inaccurate picture of human sexuality.[ citation needed ]

The appropriation of the sexually explicit in American culture is part of what has been called "the pornification of America". [20] [21]

Rape culture is often discussed when it comes to pornography, and is defined by society victim-blaming women because of their rape. It is known as society making rape less substantial. Some of the most searched titles on pornography websites is rape scenes. [22]

Allegations of pornophobia

Pornophobia, from Greek roots pornē, "whore" and phobia , literally means fear of prostitutes. It may also refer to fear of sexual expression, in particular, fear of pornography. [23]

Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, uses the coinages "pornophobia" and "pornophobes" when referring to attitudes of pro-censorship and conservatives to the imagery of nudity, which they often refer to as "pornography". [24] [25] Strossen states that incidents have occurred at several colleges such as the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan Law School where feminist students have physically attacked exhibits of photographic self-portraits claiming that they must be taken down because these exhibits had sexual themes. [24]

See also

Related Research Articles

Radical feminism is a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts, while recognizing that women's experiences are also affected by other social divisions such as in race, class, and sexual orientation.

Concerned Women for America Socially conservative Christian American nonprofit womens activist group

Concerned Women for America (CWA) is a socially conservative, evangelical Christian non-profit women's activist group in the United States. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the CWA is involved in social and political movements, through which it aims to incorporate Christian ideology. The group is primarily led by women for women, but it welcomes men who support its beliefs and efforts.

Sex-positive feminism is a movement that began in the early 1980s centering on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women's freedom. Some feminists became involved in the sex-positive feminist movement in response to efforts by anti-pornography feminists to put pornography at the center of a feminist explanation of women's oppression.

Catharine A. MacKinnon American feminist and legal activist

Catharine Alice MacKinnon is an American radical feminist legal scholar, activist, and author. She is the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, where she has been tenured since 1990, and the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. From 2008 to 2012, she was the special gender adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

John Stoltenberg is an American radical feminist activist, author, and magazine editor. He is the former managing editor of AARP The Magazine, a bimonthly publication of the United States-based advocacy group AARP, a position he held from 2004 until 2012.

Women Against Pornography (WAP) was a radical feminist activist group based out of New York City that had an influential force in the anti-pornography movement of the late 1970s and the 1980s.

The Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance is a name for several proposed local ordinances in the United States and that was closely associated with the anti-pornography radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon. It proposed to treat pornography as a violation of women's civil rights and to allow women harmed by pornography to seek damages through lawsuits in civil courts. The approach was distinguished from traditional obscenity law, which attempts to suppress pornography through the use of prior restraint and criminal penalties.

Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media (WAVPM) was a feminist anti-pornography activist group based in San Francisco and an influential force in the larger feminist anti-pornography movement of the late 1970s and 1980s.

The feminist sex wars, also known as the lesbian sex wars, or simply the sex wars or porn wars, are terms used to refer to collective debates amongst feminists regarding a number of issues broadly relating to sexuality and sexual activity. Differences of opinion on matters of sexuality deeply polarized the feminist movement, particularly leading feminist thinkers, in the late 1970s and early 1980s and continue to influence debate amongst feminists to this day.

Pornography Explicit portrayal of sexual acts and intercourse

Pornography is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal. Pornography may be presented in a variety of media, including magazines, animation, writing, film, video, and video games. The term does not include live exhibitions like sex shows and striptease. The primary subjects of present-day pornographic depictions are pornographic models, who pose for still photographs, and pornographic actors who engage in filmed sex acts.

Sex industry Field of business

The sex industry consists of businesses that either directly or indirectly provide sex-related products and services or adult entertainment. The industry includes activities involving direct provision of sex-related services, such as prostitution, strip clubs, host and hostess clubs and sex-related pastimes, such as pornography, sex-oriented men's magazines, sex movies, sex toys and fetish and BDSM paraphernalia. Sex channels for television and pre-paid sex movies for video on demand, are part of the sex industry, as are adult movie theaters, sex shops, peep shows, and strip clubs.

Andrea Dworkin American feminist writer

Andrea Rita Dworkin was a U.S. American radical feminist activist and writer. She is best known for her analysis of pornography, although her feminist writings, beginning in 1974, span 40 years. They are found in a dozen solo works: nine books of non-fiction, two novels, and a collection of short stories. Another three volumes were co-written or co-edited with US Constitutional law professor and feminist activist, Catharine A. MacKinnon.

Feminist views on pornography range from condemnation of all of it as a form of violence against women, to an embracing of some forms as a medium of feminist expression. This debate reflects larger concerns surrounding feminist views on sexuality, and is closely related to those on prostitution, on BDSM, and other issues. Pornography has been one of the most divisive issues in feminism, particularly in anglophone (English-speaking) countries. This deep division was exemplified in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s, which pitted anti-pornography activists against sex-positive ones.

An anti-pornography movement in the United States has existed since before the 1969 Supreme Court decision of Stanley v. Georgia, which held that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes, by establishing an implied "right to privacy" in U.S. law. This led President Lyndon B. Johnson, with the backing of Congress, to appoint a commission to study pornography. The anti-pornography movement seeks to maintain or restore restrictions and to increase or create restrictions on the production, sale or distribution of pornography.

The anti-pornography movement in the United Kingdom is a social movement that seeks to reduce the availability of pornography in the country. The movement originates from two distinct perspectives: some feminists oppose pornography because they regard it as a means of degrading women, while some conservatives view it as immoral. The movement has had some influence over legislation, resulting in a number of laws intended to restrict the availability of certain genres of pornography which are legal in a number of other countries. Feminists Against Censorship have described the movement as more concerted and better organised than similar movements in other Western liberal democracies.

Feminists Fighting Pornography was a political activist organization against pornography. It advocated for United States Federal legislation to allow lawsuits against the porn industry by women whose attackers were inspired by pornography. FFP was based in New York, N.Y., was founded in 1983 or 1984, and dissolved in 1997.

Feminism has affected culture in many ways, and has famously been theorized in relation to culture by Angela McRobbie, Laura Mulvey and others. Timothy Laurie and Jessica Kean have argued that "one of [feminism's] most important innovations has been to seriously examine the ways women receive popular culture, given that so much pop culture is made by and for men." This is reflected in a variety of forms, including literature, music, film and other screen cultures.

Gail Dines Anti-pornography campaigner

Gail Dines is professor emerita of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Feminist views on sexuality widely vary. Many feminists, particularly radical feminists, are highly critical of what they see as sexual objectification and sexual exploitation in the media and society. Radical feminists are often opposed to the sex industry, including opposition to prostitution and pornography. Other feminists define themselves as sex-positive feminists and believe that a wide variety of expressions of female sexuality can be empowering to women when they are freely chosen. Some feminists support efforts to reform the sex industry to become less sexist, such as the feminist pornography movement.

Women's pornography, sometimes referred to as sex-positive pornography, is pornography often produced by women and aimed specifically at the female market – rejecting the view that pornography is only for men.


  1. Inc, Gallup (2018-06-05). "More Americans Say Pornography Is Morally Acceptable". Gallup.com. Retrieved 2020-03-12.
  2. 1 2 Lykke, Lucia; Cohen, Philip (2015). "The Widening Gender Gap in Opposition to Pornography, 1975–2012". Social Currents. 2 (4): 307–323. doi:10.1177/2329496515604170. S2CID   44232681.
  3. Slick, Matt (2008-12-11). "What does the Bible say about pornography? Is it wrong?" . Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  4. Freeman, Tzvi. "What's Wrong With Pornography?" . Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  5. Mujahid, Abdul Malik. "Islam on Pornography: A Definite No-No". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  6. "Bible Verses about Pornography".
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 1997. pp. CCC 2354.
  8. Rashid, Qasim. "Muslim men need to understand that the Quran says they should observe hijab first, not women".
  9. Morgan, Robin (1974). "Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape". In: Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist. Random House. ISBN   0-394-48227-1.
  10. MacKinnon, Catharine (1987). Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 146–150.
  11. "fiawol.demon.co.uk". www.fiawol.demon.co.uk. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  12. Sherkat, Darren; Ellison, Christopher (1997). "The Cognitive Structure of a Moral Crusade: Conservative Protestantism and Opposition to Pornography". Social Forces. 75 (3): 957–980. doi:10.1093/sf/75.3.957. JSTOR   2580526.
  13. 1 2 Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism. New York: Oxford University Press.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Dolf, Zillmann (4 August 1986). "Report of the Surgeon General's Workshop on Pornography and Public Health: Background Papers: 'Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography'". profiles.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  15. Zillmann, pages 16-17
  16. Simmons, Catherine A.; Lehmann, Peter; Collier-Tenison, Shannon (April 2008). "Linking male use of the sex industry to controlling behaviors in violent relationships: an exploratory analysis". Violence Against Women . 14 (4): 406–417. doi:10.1177/1077801208315066. PMID   18359877. S2CID   19294687.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  17. Diamond, Milton. "The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective". Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment, University of Hawaii. Archived from the original on 15 January 2008.
  18. Kendall, Todd. "Pornography, rape and the internet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2006. Retrieved 25 October 2006.
  19. D'Amato, Anthony (June 23, 2006). "Porn Up, Rape Down". Northwestern Public Law Research Paper. doi:10.2139/ssrn.913013. SSRN   913013 . id: 913013.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  20. Whitehead, John W. "Miley Cyrus and the Pornification of America". rutherford.org. The Rutherford Institute. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  21. Aucoin, Don (January 24, 2006). "The pornification of America. From music to fashion to celebrity culture, mainstream entertainment reflects an X-rated attitude like never before". Boston Globe. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  22. Makin, David A.; Morczek, Amber L. (June 2015). "The dark side of internet searches: a macro level assessment of rape culture" (PDF). International Journal of Cyber Criminology. 9 (1): 1–23. doi:10.5281/zenodo.22057.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  23. Leigh, Carol (Scarlot Harlot) (1994). "Thanks, ma". In Sappington, Rodney; Stallings, Tyler (eds.). Uncontrollable Bodies: Testimonies of Identity and Culture . Seattle: Bay Press. p.  261. ISBN   9780941920278. footnote 1
  24. 1 2 Strossen, Nadine (May 1, 1995). "The perils of pornophobia". The Humanist.
    Adapted from: Strossen, Nadine (2000). Defending pornography: free speech, sex, and the fight for women's rights. New York London: New York University Press. ISBN   9780814781494.
  25. Strossen, Nadine (16 January 1995). "Against pornophobia". New York Magazine .

Further reading

Anti-pornography advocacy

Criticism of anti-pornography


  1. "Shelley Lubben - My Blog, Thoughts, and Life". www.shelleylubben.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  2. "Out of Pornography and Into the Light". CBN. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2002-08-09. Retrieved 2011-07-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. McElroy, Wendy. "A Feminist Overview of Pornography". www.wendymcelroy.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  5. A Feminist Defense of Pornography Archived 1998-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Ley, David; Prause, Nicole; Finn, Peter (2014). "The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the 'Pornography Addiction' Model". Current Sexual Health Reports. 6 (2): 94–105. doi:10.1007/s11930-014-0016-8. S2CID   55374203.
  7. "sfbg.com". sfbg.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  8. Nadine Strossen (November 1995). "Pornography Must Be Tolerated". The Ethical Spectacle.
  9. Gross, Larry P.; Woods, James D. (8 April 1999). The Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics. Columbia University Press. ISBN   9780231104463 . Retrieved 8 April 2018 via Google Books.