From SI410
Jump to: navigation, search

Pornography, or porn, is the depiction of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement. Pornography is often targeted by certain groups for censorship, for feeling that pornography is immoral, offensive, and, in some cases, blasphemous. In the case of child pornography, the majority of the public supports complete censorship, thus leading to its illegality. In the world of advancing and dynamic technology, it is possible to virtually generate pornography with 3D characters, including fictional characters, "furries", or semblance of children. This raises new ethical issues for the role of censorship, as in the case of Virtual Child Pornography. No child has been involved in the making of such material, and the ethics of viewing is based on the viewer and the image rather than the process of production.


The history of pornography dates back as early as prehistoric times, but the concept of pornography as we know it today has been strongly influenced by the values of the Victorian era. Although it was not illegal for individuals to own pornographic materials, it was illegal to create and distribute such materials. Mass distributed pornography came hand in hand with the advent of the printing press.

Modern definitions of pornography and obscenity have been born out of several well-publicized court decisions. In Jacobellis v. Ohio, a case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964, the court applied new guidelines to determine the cultural significance of a work of art but highlighted the arbitrary and vague new standards for the definition of obscenity. Speaking of evaluating the cultural significance of potentially obscene material, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart proclaimed, "I know it when I see it." The case established that the definition of obscenity should come from national attitudes rather than the prevailing attitudes of a local community.[1]

In 2017, popular pornographic site Pornhub released a sex education portal on their website. The company teamed with famous sex therapist, Dr. Laurie Betito, to create the Sexual Wellness Center.[2] The portal provides advice and information on a variety of sexual topics, including information about sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex practices. Dr. Betiti hosts a weekly Q&A session, taking and answering questions from viewers.[3]

Types of Pornography

1. Visual Pornography

  • Pornographic Pictures
    • This category may include adult magazines and internet websites. Pornography that falls under this category has a wide distribution and is easily available.
  • Pornographic Videos
    • This category may include distributable video (i.e.: VHS, DVD, etc) and internet websites. Pornography that falls under this category has a lower physical availability (i.e.: physical video pornography is available at adult bookstores and similar adult themed shops), although, it has a high availability via the internet.

2. Audio Pornography

  • Phone Sex
    • This category involves services where patrons interact, over the phone, with an operator.
  • Recorded Erotic Readings
    • This category involves recorded reading of erotic texts.

3. Virtual Pornography

  • With the advancement of computer generated images, pornography can be virtually generated. In this sphere of pornography, effectively anything can be visualized.

See Virtual Child Pornography.

Child Pornography is illegal in the United States.

4. Child Pornography

  • Child Pornography, also known as kiddie porn, in the United States is pornography where at least one of the models/actors/etc is under 18 years of age.
  • Legality
    • In the United States, and many other countries, child pornography is culturally and strictly illegal. Convictions of possession have large penalties (including hefty fines and jail time), and convictions of manufacturing or distributing, or in any other way creating child pornography, lead to even more serious punishments.

For the legality, see Virtual Child Pornography.

  • In 2001 a club called the "Wonderland Club" was created by a group of pedophiles who traded images of children on the Internet.
    • The group consisted of 7 men who had very easy access to sexual images of children, a way to contact each other, and promote child pornography
    • Because these pictures are on the internet, they can remain there for a very long time, which leads to the continuation of the abuse the children are already getting from these images.
  • Can encourage new modes of sexual expression while also encouraging, negatively, abusive behavior.
  • Today, kids are able to quickly and easily share photographs of themselves, that they have personally taken, with their friends via internet and multimedia text message. The laws surrounding the prosecution of minors involved in child pornography are still being developed as they emerge in the U.S. judicial system.

Sub-categories of Pornography

  • 1. Fetish Pornography: Involves the arousal people receive from a certain idea or situation.[4]
  • 2. Amateur Pornography: Involves actors performing sexual acts without pay.[4]
  • 3. Reality Pornography: Involves staged scenes of sexual acts that are usually set up with a story line.[4]
  • 4. Softcore Pornography: Involves sexual acts that are less explicit than hardcore pornography.[4]
  • 5. Sexual Orientation based Pornography: Involves same sex members or transgendered individuals participating in sexual acts.
  • 6. Voyeurism: Involves the use of hidden cameras to capture various body parts.

Ethics of Pornography

The ethical implications of pornography, such as questions its surrounding regulation and whether or not its compatible with pornography, are gauged by many different factors. These factors include religion, morals, and societal attitudes — and each one shapes how individuals respond and interact with the subject matter. Ultimately, these factors help individuals in determining whether or not they believe pornography is ethically acceptable. Many concerns over pornography steam from its widespread availability on the World Wide Web. Certain features such as content control and parental control help to prevent the access of pornography, particularly for underage kids who want to visit adult sites. However, there are still many concerns over whether these security measures create enough protection for people.

As highlighted above with different factors that affect how one views pornography, the real debates behind pornography stem from underlying values of each citizen. Pornographic material can be accessed both publicly and privately, and this has many people concerned. Those generally in favor of keeping or strengthening regulation of pornography claim that it goes against freedom of expression, and that citizens should be allowed to do as they please. What one person finds appalling, another may find attractive or inviting. There are already controls in place, such as parental controls that limit the content their child can access, and internet users have every right to use those controls if they so please.

There are also some people who believe the pornography industry needs further regulations put into place. These people argue that the liberty of some persons — in this instance, someone who wants to view pornographic material — must be restricted in order to prevent harm to others.[5] In many cases, these are the same people who claim that the current regulations are too liberal , and the ways around the controls are easy to learn and get around, especially in our technologically advanced society. Some activists go so far as to say the dignity of humans should be respected. To those people, it appears that a society with freely accessible pornography is incompatible with one that values human dignity, and in order to save the latter we must rid ourselves of the former.

This dilemma surrounding the ethicality of pornography is beginning to take some strides to finding a solution as more governmental and private companies and organizations involve themselves in the matter. As of December 6, 2011, various news agencies, such as CNN, reported that certain domain names which carried pornographic content would be change from .com (or a similarly accepted designation) to the newly created .xxx.[6] These publications, and proponents of the move from com to .xxx, claimed this would be similar to .edu and .org sites that enlighten users to what content will be found on the site (for example, .edu websites are primarily used by colleges, universities, and other academic units). However, some of the most ardent activists argued in the opposite direction, claiming that this is a step in the wrong direction because it would encourage the production and distribution of pornography.

Ethics of Pornography rooted in Feminism

Erika Lust directing a pornographic film.

From a feminist perspective, pornography has allegedly posed great ethical dilemmas to women involved in its production and distribution as well as women in society in general (who are not involved in the pornographic process). Some feminists declare pornography, specifically pornography that involves women, to be a liberating and non-oppressive form of self-expression. In their opinion, pornography that includes women supports women's sexual rights, and is particularly empowering because it gives women agency and power to exercise how they want to control their own bodies and sexuality.[7] However, not all feminists are on the same page. Other feminists disagree with those who feel pornography is simply a liberating expression of rights. These people claim that pornography objectifies women's bodies and reduces their ability to exercise with agency because they're seen as sex objects and not human beings.[8] In other words, some groups believe that pornography is ethical in providing more power to women, while others believe the opposite.

As a response to this ethical dilemma, some women have turned towards directing and producing their own pornographic films. One example is Erika Lust, who is trying to change the current power dynamics in traditional pornographic films away from the "male gaze" or the objectification and overt sexualization of women.[9]. She recognizes the ethical dilemmas present in pornography. Instead of over-focusing on women's sexualization, she uses her films to educate women about their bodies and human sexuality, a thought process that Erika Lust feels is liberating and a more fair display of female sexuality.[10] As more female directors join the pornography industry as content creators, many are confident that this will help alleviate some of the ethical issues surrounding this issue.

Accessibility and Censorship

The shift in greater society from analog to digital media introduced the presence of the long tail in today’s online porn industry, which has contributed to the making of all derivatives of sexuality accessible from any media platform. While porn is clearly a popular commodity, there are all sorts of fetishes that consumers have (Paasonen) and they want to realize these desires through their laptops, smartphones, tablets and other computing devices. It therefore makes all too much sense for pornography distributors to offer porn catering to simply any kink imaginable on any device imaginable, because odds are someone on some device would be interested in viewing it and purchasing it. While today’s media patrons want to use the technology they have at their fingertips to get their hands on sexual content, censorship and regulating sexual content is still an aspect of net pornography. Unlike analog forms that regulated content by simply not supplying it, some digital pornography files and websites are made less accessible to users.[11]

Objections to Pornography

Anti-Pornography Feminism

Anti-Porn UK holds a successful protest outside of a newly opened Playboy store. Their campaign is called "Bin the Bunny".

Since the mid-1970s, feminist groups have voiced objections and complaints against pornography. These groups argue that pornography objectifies and degrades women who participate in these films and media. Their main points target pornography's heavy focus on participating women's sexual violence and exploitation. [8] Most viewers of this content are male,[12]. These groups argue that male viewers internalize the violent, pornographic images of women being abused and sexualized, ultimately normalizing such images, and getting the perception that it is okay to commit violence and forced sexual acts on women in real life.

Many argue that, in theory, anti-porn moments are be beneficial to the public in terms of reducing the sexualization of women, but in practice it leads to censorship, regression and anti-sex movements. [13] Current Feminists argue that, while there has always been porn, there has not always been a large, multi-billion dollar industry surrounding it. These new age Feminists say that, the way that commercial porn operates, shapes gender identity and normalizes violent treatment of women during sex. [13]

Groups organized in objection towards pornography include Women Against Violence Against Women, Women Against Violence in Pornography, and Media and Women Against Pornography etc. These groups strive and continue to organize individual and group efforts in protest of all pornography involving women.[8]

See Also


  1. SOAPBOX; 'I Know It When I See It' - The New York Times |
  2. Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center |
  3. Pornhub wants to be your one-stop shop for sex ed - USA Today |
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Pornography - Wikipedia |
  5. Pornography: Personal vs. Public Preference |
  6. On Tuesday, porn sites set to go .XXX - CNN | ""
  7. Sex-positive feminism - redpepper |
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Mission - Stop Porn Culture |
  9. Porn made for women, by women - The Guardian |
  10. Erika lust on making porn films for women - Random Red Rose |
  11. Paasonen, S. (2011). Bad taste, miasmis forces, and the ubiquity of online porn. Carnal resonance: Affect and online pornography. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  12. Pornography Statistics - Family Safe |
  13. 13.0 13.1 Without porn, the world would be a better place - The Guardian |

(back to index)

Back • ↑Top of Page