Advances in media technology, specifically the videotape industry, have made pornography widely available. Opponents of pornography include religious groups, law enforcement officers, some politicians, and some feminists. A distinction is made between eroticism (occurring between consenting participants) and pornography (signifying overt or covert coercion). Research on the effects of eroticism and pornography reveals that (1) observed erotic behavior may elicit sexual reactions but does not heighten aggression; (2) observed sexual aggression may evoke aggression-facilitating responses; (3) when erotica and pornography both have unpleasant or extravagant content, they are equal in their effect on the aggression levels of viewers; (4) the effects of modeled sexual assaults are strongly influenced by how the victims' reactions are portrayed; (5) massive exposure to pornography alters sexual standards and attitudes toward women, but decreases aggression; and (6) individual predispositions are a major factor in determining the effects of pornography on individuals. The First Amendment protects free speech regardless of content, yet in the 1973 "Miller vs. California" the Supreme Court decision ruled that a work is obscene based on the standard of whether the average person would find that the material appeals to prurient interest. The Miller standard has assisted local communities in applying enforcement of morality among its citizens. In 1986, the Meese Commission on Obscenity and Pornography claimed that pornography is not speech and therefore does not fall under constitutional protection. If pornography is interpreted as real action rather than expressive speech and if causality between pornography and sex crimes can be proven, pornography could be denied constitutional protection. (Fifty-two references are listed.) (SRT)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (72nd, Chicago, IL, November 13-16, 1986).
Meese Commission on Pornography; Miller v California