General Question

delirium's avatar

Is pornography inherently immoral?

Asked by delirium (13718points) August 5th, 2008

An interesting quote on the functionality of pornography from a feminist perspective: “Pornography breaks cultural and political stereotypes, so that each woman can interpret sex for herself. Anti-feminists tell women to be ashamed of their appetites and urges. Pornography tells them to accept and enjoy them. Pornography can be good therapy. Pornography provides a sexual outlet for those who – for whatever reason – have no sexual partner. Perhaps they are away from home, recently widowed, isolated because of infirmity. Perhaps they simply choose to be alone. Couples also use pornography to enhance their relationship. Sometimes they do so on their own, watching videos and exploring their reactions together. Sometimes, the couples go to a sex therapist who advises them to use pornography as a way of opening up communication on sex. By sharing pornography, the couples are able to experience variety in their sex lives without having to commit adultery.”

If not, what do we have to blame for these perceptions?
If so, how is this idea being popularized.

I’m uncomfortable with the declarations that pornographic material automatically creates rapists and abusers. When it comes to those kinds of things do you think it is sating potentially dangerous lusts for people who automatically have violent urges, or is it just forcing those desires to manifest?

Those of you who think that pornography is inherently immoral… is liberated sexuality an unnatural and negative thing to be avoided? Does it harm or help a relationship. (To avoid the no-sex-before-marriage debate, assume that the individuals are married… to each other.

Please, lets lay off of the simplistic religious debate (its wrong because so-and-so said) and copy-pasting. Citations are fine as long as you explain them and your use of them.
I’d rather have this be a question of human sexuality and not divine doctrine.

Also, there’s really not that much reliable research about this stuff. Most of it comes out of very biased organizations. If you decide to list this and that study, they’re expected to at least be somewhat unbiased.

This will be 25% of your grade. Spelling counts. (Ha. Ha. Kidding! Kinda.)

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68 Answers

iwamoto's avatar

well, i remember i said this before, i watch pornography as an outlet, it’s also a facination to me, i watch it just like a regular movie, in a way that i pay attention to the details, camera angels, lightning, coloring (which can make or break a good scene). and because of that it’s hard for me to understand what people don’t like about pornography

and even though i watch a lot of it, it has not changed my opinion on women, even stranger, i feel that i have a broader vision on the emancipation (did i get that right?) of women then my friends, and that’s not because of watching porn or not, it’s just simply on how i was raised….and that’s a very simple factor some people tend to forget :)

drhat77's avatar

“things” are NEVER inherently immoral. as always it is what we DO with them that makes them moral or otherwise. my wife would probably be PISSED if i got into porn, and thus, since i love her, it is probably immoral for me to support pornography.

Breefield's avatar

@drhat77, I regress, I’m not one to say porn is immoral I’m just don’t think your point holds true. That argument works for guns and cars (it’s the people who use them wrong, otherwise they’re good) but porn it’s quite like that. If you tried to use that argument with someone who claimed that pornography was immoral they could easily rip it to shreds by saying that the sole purpose pornography is immoral, unlike cars and guns.

poofandmook's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with porn unless the subjects in it are being abused.

nikipedia's avatar

1. Hate to say it, but if you want to talk about inherent immorality, we’re going to have to define “moral” and “immoral” first. (Ball’s in your court!)

2. As you point out, not a lot of reliable research exists on the subject—so I feel like anything we try to say about it is really no more than idle speculation. You can construct an argument for either side: Does pornography decrease rape by giving people an outlet? Maybe. Does pornography increase rape by objectifying women? Maybe. Does pornography cause cancer? Maybe. (Okay, some of these are more dubious than others.) But I’d rather not hazard a guess without some hard facts, and I don’t see a lot of those floating around.

3. My personal, completely uninformed opinion is that pornography seems to be morally pretty much neutral, but functionally sort of empty. I don’t really like the way sexuality is viewed through the lens of pornography. I think for the majority of people who have sex with a partner, it is not really healthy to divorce your sexuality from your partner.

Whether we like it or not, our beliefs and behaviors are influenced very subtly by things we’re not always aware of. So even if we can say the words “pornography doesn’t make me see my girlfriend differently” how can we know, in an absolute sense, that it really doesn’t make you see her differently? Or treat her differently? (Well—we can know—we need good data on it—but if it’s out there, I can’t find it.)

So I don’t mean to sound puritanical and suggest no one should look at porn—but that we should be cautious and gentle and not overdo it, at least.

Breefield's avatar

You can’t define “moral” and “immoral” because what’s “moral” for one person might be “immoral” for another. Christians would say that they have a rock, a base, a foundation to put their morality in (the bible) and that because they all have the same morals they’re then good, better morals. they’re not going to change. But I digress, things need to evolve to maintain relevancy, just as creatures evolve over time to adapt, and stances change to adapt to new information, thought processes change, I don’t believe morality is an exception. But I’m running off on a tangent I’ll never be able to finish, all I’m trying to say is that people can’t claim their morality is more correct than another person’s because morality is all relative.
On the topic of pornography being inherently immoral. I do not believe it’s immoral within itself, there are a lot of beneficial aspects to it. But there are also negative side effects, mainly related with watching it.
Objectifying women, lusting ,etc. Could, as nikipedia put it so well, potentially cause you to see women differently, even if you claim it doesn’t. Since there is no good data on this, and now that I think of it, no unbiased data either. We can track metrics of a couple’s interaction before and after watching porn for half a year or something, but all those metrics add up to a worthless if you don’t skew them by throwing morality into the picture.
All in all, I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with pornography.

On another, more defensive note. In relation to all the negative, and bad things surrounding us, it’s rather tame compared to the more subtle, but far more detrimental things in life.

tinyfaery's avatar

There are so many things I have to say about this, but I just do not know where to begin.

Forget defining immoral or pornography, or discussing if anything is inherently anything. (wow, what a sentence).

Feminists are conflicted on the topic of porn. Many contemporary feminists view sex-work as a vehicle by which a woman might own her sexuality, and thus be able do with it what she will. More traditional feminists view porn as another vehicle by which women are exploited. I honestly don’t know what I think anymore. I can see the reasons behind each view.

The problems I have with porn are numerous. For one, most sex-workers were sexually abused as children. This brings up a quagmire of issues surrounding victimization.

Would women actively choose sex-work if other, non-sexualized, options were readily available? I always ask myself this question when discussing porn and other sex-work. I honestly feel the answer to this question would be no.

And despite what Iwamoto says, studies have been done that correlates sexual violence against women with heavy porn use, especially porn of a violent nature. This is not to say that all porn will make all men abusers, but I cannot summarily dismiss the connection between porn and violence against women.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think it’s immoral, as long as all parties are willing – both those being filmed, and those watching. I also don’t think a woman (or man) using sex organs to make a living is any different than, say, a typist or bricklayer using hands to make a living. That said, would I want my daughters to choose this career? Um, no. I’m such a hypocrite

girlofscience's avatar

@nikipedia: Can you explain this further: “I think for the majority of people who have sex with a partner, it is not really healthy to divorce your sexuality from your partner.”

Mitsu_Neko's avatar

I think that porn is fine within a relationship provided both partners consent and that a man can explain that it is for noncheating issues he may use it without his partner present.

ninjaxmarc's avatar

it’s a business just like the tobacco industry. Need I say more?

drhat77's avatar

@breefield – what is the sole purpose of pornography? sexual arrousal? why would THAT be immoral? any NOUN, whether tangible (like Jugs magazine) or intangible (like sexual arrousal) cannot be inherently moral or immoral – it all comes down to the motivation of the person who uses it – are they using it for something they perceive as moral, or are they using it for something they perceive as immoral,

Mitsu_Neko's avatar

in vegas prostitution is an industry but some debate its morality

stevenb's avatar

I think its morality can be like driving a car. If you use the car to see the sights and enjoy the beauty of the world, cool, and morally ok. If you drive the car through a high school pep rally trying to hurt or kill as many as you can, then NOT morally ok and not cool. Porn is a vehicle and you have the choice of where it is going and if you are driving safely or like a maniac. Intent determines morality in this case.

Bri_L's avatar

nice explanation stevenb!

Mitsu_Neko's avatar

well exampled Steve

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I really can’t answer this in detail, because I don’t fully know how I feel about it yet, but I think that some porn is absolutely, unequivocally wrong. Any porn which tries to depict the act of having sex with an underage person (usually girls) is disgusting in my mind. I do not care if the actors are both the legal age of consent, I think even depicting it should be outlawed. People will scream out, “It’s just a fantasy! What’s wrong with that?!”. What’s wrong with it? A lot. It encourages pedophilia, for one. Stops people from actually going out and doing it? Bull. More like eggs them on and says it’s completely acceptable to even want to do something like that.

stratman37's avatar

Job 31:1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes, not to look at a maid lustfully”

Breefield's avatar

Ohkay, so Job did that. Cool, cool…that’s between him and himself. Does that make it immoral for the rest of us? Honestly, just because it’s “in the bible” means nothing when it’s in that context, sure.

stratman37's avatar

Bree, what do you mean by “when it’s in that context”?

Breefield's avatar

In the context of out of context. I’m saying that when you rip out that one sentence, it means very little. Anyhow….all I’m saying is that just because that’s in the bible doesn’t mean it’s a good reason not to look at porn. There are much better verses to pull from the bible that speak out against porn / lustful eyes. But you can’t logically argue about porn when religion is involved.

Bri_L's avatar

I am a christian but don’t believe the bible should be used in the verse quoting way it is by some.

I agree with Breefield, in that you can’t logically argue about porn when your dealing with morals. Everyone gets their morals from a different base. I don’t see how, if statman37 is going to make his point based on a quote from job, mr. jones can counter with the quote of an ancient saying. that removes the discussion of the pornography and takes it to who’s source is more valid.

stratman37's avatar

OK, I’m beginning to see your point. So, where would you get “morals” that say it’s alright to indulge in porn?

Bri_L's avatar

I guess that is where you do apply your qoute. Your moral beliefs stem from scripture (or it seem so to some degree). My moral beliefs stem from the way I have chosen to interpret my beliefs.

I would need clarification as to what you mean by Indulge.

stratman37's avatar

of course indulge means to view porn. But when you say “interpret my beliefs”, isn’t it important to have a standard that is NOT open to arbitrary interpretation?

I know that sounds limiting, but imagine the chaos if we didn’t have to standard of time, whereas we have quartz that vibrates x amount of times per second.

Bri_L's avatar

I guess the morals that say if what you are doing isn’t hurting anyone else. If I choose to view a certain type of video that is labeled “pornography” in the privacy of my own home because my wife and I are having troubles in the area and that is all I have, that would be my moral choice and I am ok.

I do see what you mean about a standard. I have always sort of battled with labeling myself and acting a christian but not climbing on board with the bible interpretation or historical beliefs. It is not to say I don’t believe there are lessons as there are with ancient saying etc.

Very good point though stratman37

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Morals that say it’s alright to indulge in porn? That’s an easy answer: Morals that don’t come from the bible. ‘Cause believe it or not, in order for someone to have morals, they don’t have to believe in the bible.

stratman37's avatar

Drastic, true, we can all learn to do good from sources other than the Word of God. But isn’t the Bible one of the best places to learn about good v evil?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

It’s only one of the best places to learn about good vs evil depending on the perspective you have of the bible. I will say the bible has some good morals, but I will also say the bible says certain things are good or okay that I personally find morally reprehensible.

augustlan's avatar

slavery, maybe?

delirium's avatar

The bible? The best place to learn about good and evil?
Ahahaha, no.
Its, perhaps, the best place to learn about doing evil and pretending that its okay. I know of nothing more violence-causing than the bible.

stevenb's avatar

Not just the Christian bible though. Look at any religious book and you will see people who will use it as an excuse to kill in the name of their god or gods. Some will use it for good, but they get overshadowed by the evildoers. Very sad.

delirium's avatar

I agree. I only specifically mentioned the bible because that was what strat used as his example.

Vincentt's avatar

@delirium – it’s not the bible that’s causing violence, but the person that interprets it and the way he’s interpreting it. But we’re getting off-topic…

Bri_L's avatar

back to porn

its not the porn its how its created and how its used.

if it is created with coked out young kids who don’t know any better and used by people with problems they are avoiding. check the bad box.

if it is made by consenting adults and used in healthy ways, smile darn ya smile.

XrayGirl's avatar

Porn: immoral, pathetic, hurtful, wrong, disgusting, unnecessary. It breeds drug addiction, greed, adultery, rape, prostitution, murder, broken marriages, illegitimate children, hate, destroyed self esteem, addiction, and disease….to name a few.

Sex is majestic and not just something that should be traded, bought, sold, mocked, or abused as if it is just another “hobby:” Porn is an example of abusing something great, that when not practised properly with love, respect, care, dignity, privacy and maturity, it becomes a cheap, quick and selfish thrill as a means to get self satisfaction. If sex were for simple self satisfaction, then why does it require 2 people?

Porn is for people who have run out of options and/or who don’t know any better, OR people who don’t care about anyone but themselves. I find people who enjoy porn are desperate for an increased level of stimulation to achieve pleasure and it has a snowball effect; the more one watches, the more one wants. It also shines a light on people who are too lazy, ignorant or impatient on devising methods to improve their sex life. Porn defeats self-respect and respect for others and most assuredly respect to sex

I have NEVER read or heard of someone DYING from lack of sex, or lack of porn, and I know that MILLIONS have died because of irresponsible SEX (disease, adultery-jealous murder, pedophilia, prostitution, etc)....and I am SURE porn causes more damage, heartache and destruction than it does any good for anyone.

poofandmook's avatar

@Xray: Thank you for passing such terrible judgment on all the people in this thread who have expressed their enjoyment of porn. I’m sure they’re all going to be greedy, drug addicted, murdering rapists if they keep their present course.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Xray: Some porn is absolutely disgusting, you get no argument from me there. But, I have to agree with poof in saying that categorizing everyone in this thread – and people outside of it – that enjoy it have all or even some, of the negative attributes you applied to people who enjoy it.

Porn is like money. People say money is evil, when in fact, that is far from the truth. By your argument, Xray, are you saying that money shouldn’t exist then, too? After all… People become extremely greedy, selfish and so driven by money that it becomes their entire life. No. Money is a good thing, in actuality. It is not the money itself, but the individuals who let themselves become something less than desirable because of money. There are disgusting rich people and there are normal rich people.

Same goes for porn. Some porn is disgusting, some is not. Some people let sex rule their lives, others do not. It is all about the individual – whether or not producing or simply watching.

And, to some people, sex is a hobby. Does it have to be that way for you or me? Absolutely not. I personally can’t view sex that way myself, but if other people are responsible when they choose to have it – casually or otherwise – who am I to judge them? The only time I will, is if I think what they’re doing is hurtful to anyone outside of themselves. Which is why I mentioned earlier in this post the porn depicting anyone underage. Regardless of how old the actors are, I think that kind of porn is damaging to society as a whole. But not all porn is that way.

nikipedia's avatar

@XrayGirl: I’m glad you had the courage to present a dissenting opinion. I think you can see why some people might be put off by the manner in which you chose to do it, though.

I am intrigued by this statement:

“I find people who enjoy porn are desperate for an increased level of stimulation to achieve pleasure and it has a snowball effect; the more one watches, the more one wants.”

Do you have any data to back that statement up? I am not disagreeing with it and in fact would not be surprised if it happened to be true, but it would be helpful to qualify that kind of claim (in general) with a research study or two.

I think that a lot of the points you have raised are true for the current state of porn. Most people do get into it out of desperation, it is permeated by abuse and corruption and addiction etc—but that’s not the question @delirium was asking. Are those things inherent to pornography or are they a side-effect of the niche it fills in society?

augustlan's avatar

@Xray: “If sex were for simple self satisfaction, then why does it require 2 people?”

Um, it doesn’t. Intercourse requires two people, but not all forms of sex do.

XrayGirl's avatar

==yawn==...comparing sex to “money”???? I never said money or sex were evil…it is the person who cannot control themselves with it….whoa

sex by oneself? whoa , again…pimply faced hormonal teenage boy at best….

passing judgement on all people in this thread? if the shoe fits…...
back up data? all one has to do is read I don’t have to present documentation for it to be true…..

not the question asked?....I answered: YES, IT IS…IMMORAL
casual sex is being responsible?? don’t think so

look, pervs, all I did was answer the question, it’s pretty lame how so many of you latched onto my “judgemental” and “undocumented” OPINION…. AHHHH isn’t it so great that we can have differences of opinion…..

You all can carry on all you want here….what a waste. You dont’ know who I am or where I have been or what I have seen….see ya out in the fluther…..............................

Yes, I can see by the intelligence here, that there is more time spent glued to a screen, watching junkies do what you dream of doing, and perpetually spiraling towards depravity. see ya later…..ejaculator.

poofandmook's avatar

Xray: I may even get banned for this, but you are a goddamn bitch. I’d rather be a perv than a bitch.

XrayGirl's avatar

now see…...that is how someone DESPERATE reacts…..volatile, rude, self-centered….YEP that porn is really building character in ya, girlie. yep, um hum. working real good, yeah.

augustlan's avatar

Dammit, I hate when I don’t get to see the comments before they get removed! Someone PM them to me…please?

Bri_L's avatar

wall falling like dominos

tinyfaery's avatar

I hate that too. I bet it was good.

delirium's avatar

There are physiological reasons for the urge to masturbate. Don’t judge so quickly, xray.

poofandmook's avatar

@delirium: Don’t bother. She’s just going to say something nasty back, and then she’ll throw out her trademark “yawn” like she’s such a big shot.

delirium's avatar

Ahh. I think the good word for that behavior is “denial”. ;)

poofandmook's avatar

GA to you, delirium :)

delirium's avatar

**bows** Why, thank you, Poof!

richardhenry's avatar

[Fluther Moderator:] Please note that name calling is not acceptable on Fluther, be it “bitch”, “desperate” or “ejaculators” (a particularly silly example), and future name calling will get you in trouble. You might have an opinion of someone, but there are better ways to express it than silliness. I’ve reversed the censorship on those responses, since you were all curious about what happened. Let’s keep things grown up in the future, shall we? Good luck.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks RH!

XrayGirl's avatar

yes, thank you, richardhenry.

TheNakedHippie's avatar

Wow, xray… a bit harsh, no?

jacintomendoza's avatar

*how can we say porn is not immoral when the reason why we wouldn’t want our daughters, moms, wives to engage in it as a career is because of moral issues?

if you want to argue that porn is not immoral first you should agree that you wont mind if it were the profession of your mom, sister, or daughter, otherwise, stop your hypocrisy and your stand on a topic you can actually accept if it happens to you or someone you care for.*

Breefield's avatar

You’re assuming an awful lot there jacintomendoza. No one is saying that they would want their family to aid in the production of pornographic material. We’re simply talking about the morality of pornography, it’s creation, use, and abuse. ALTHOUGH, this question has turned into a discussion of morality in general anyhow.
The thing about…right and wrong, morality, choice, acceptance, “tolerance”, etc. Is that they are completely relative. There may be one person who wants nothing to do with pornography because they know they’re susceptible to it destructive tenancies. But there may also be someone who has no trouble controlling themselves. Yes, it’s a stretch, a hypothetical ideal, and hasn’t been expressed by anyone in this question, you can’t deny the possibility.
Now, that snarky little comment about hypocrisy was, yet again, another assumption. Not everyone agrees with you, and in that, not everyone would mind if their family were to help create porn for a living.

augustlan's avatar

I wouldn’t want my children to flip burgers for a living, either. Does that make it immoral?

Breefield's avatar


stevenb's avatar

I don’t know if I would want my kids to be politicians either, but that’s probably a bad example. I think it falls in the morally ambiguous zone.

jacintomendoza's avatar

hmmm morally ambiguous… :D

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

the final point here is that without porn, most of the internet wouldn’t even exist. Like it or hate it, porn exists. Sort of like everything else that people waste their time arguing over. Religion comes to mind. I can see no good reason for religion to exist, other than for a way for the clever few to control the fearful majority. As for the bible being a moral book, everytime I read it, I feel the need to wash my hands.

Genocide, infanticide, slavery, revenge killings, subjegation of women, wholesale slaughter, etc, yeah, that’s a real good source of morality you got there. I can do without it, thank you very much. Compared the the Bible, pornography is the lesser of two evils.

Breefield's avatar

Very well put.

ratboy's avatar

The Bible would be far more interesting if included the intimate details of all that begetting.

Coloma's avatar

IMO, morality aside, as it goes beyond morality for me.
I think that porn is a pain and shame based industry and I do not support pain and shame based ‘business.’

For every porn star that is healthy in what they choose to do, there are many who are not. I seriously doubt there are many porn stars, strippers or other sex industry ‘workers’ that truly feel secure enough and shameless enough to watch their latest film with mom & dad or grandma & grandpa. lol

I for one wouldn’t want to have a porn star for a partner, parent, child or grandchild.

Along with some other pretty serious pain and shame based issues such as the rise in sexually addicted partners, which is very common this last few decades with the endless smorgasbord of sexual outlets and material.

The sheer glut of smut has far outweighed the occasional ‘user’ from a novel standpoint, and there are probably many more unhealthy porn fans than healthy beyond a doubt.

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