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Pornography, Social Science, and Politics: When Research and Ideology Collide

NCJ Number
American Psychologist Volume: 42 Issue: 10 Dated: (October 1987) Pages: 941-943
B L Wilcox
Date Published
3 pages
This article considers issues in how the Meese Commission on Pornography used social science research in reaching its conclusions about pornography's influence on social attitudes and behavior.
The commission conducted an extensive review of the research literature on the relationship between exposure to pornography and social attitudes and behavior. The commission erred in drawing conclusions based on overgeneralizations from social psychological studies that were largely laboratory based. Such overgeneralization is particularly problematic given the broad legislative and legal remedies recommended by the commission. The definitions of pornography and obscenity are not clear in the commission report, and this definitional problem troubles both legal scholars and scientists. Legal criteria for defining pornography and obscenity are of little assistance to the researcher attempting to study the relationships among various types of sexually explicit materials and attitudes and behavior. A systematic effort to determine pornography's impact on society may require the development of a more refined taxonomy of sexually explicit materials, such as distinguishing between coercive and noncoercive sex and between violent and nonviolent sexually explicit materials. Additionally, questions on the stability of behavioral and attitudinal effects of pornography must be addressed by longitudinal studies. 14 references.


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