Listen: What We (Don’t) Talk About
When We Talk About Porn
Access to pornography is easier now than ever before. For many people, online pornography can be their first experience with sex. This conversation with adult performers, a porn director, two college students, and a professor explores how the fantasy of pornography affects our attitudes toward the reality of sex.
After listening to the NPR segment on pornography, talk about what you heard. In small groups, answer the following questions:
•What surprised you in this segment?
•What did you wish you could hear more about?
•What questions would you ask participants in this segment, if you had a chance?
•What new information did you learn?
•Do you think the government should control or limit online access to pornography? By age? Content? Genre? Other factors?
•Do you think government control or limits to online pornography access is equivalent to censorship? What issues does this raise in regard to the first amendment, free speech, and democracy?
Compile your answers and compare these with other groups in your class. Note any pronounced points of disagreement or shared perspective.
•Pornhub, an aggregate tube site, reports that online traffic steadily increased in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic spread and lockdowns were implemented around the world. On March 17, traffic to Pornhub increased by 11.6% and peaked by 24.4% on March 25, 2020.
•Researchers find that conversations about pornography tend to get stuck in binaries: For instance, porn is bad vs. porn is good; porn oppresses women vs. porn liberates women; porn is addictive vs. porn is not addictive; pornography destroys relationships vs. using porn helps relationships. When these binary arguments happen, people often feel judged and unheard. The effects research is far more nuanced than binary frameworks might suggest.
•Although women are rarely discussed as pornography viewers in their own right, recent studies indicate that women are one of the fastest growing cohorts of pornography users.
•Although there is concern about negative social effects of pornography, erectile dysfunction, or so-called porn addiction, The Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that high-frequency pornography use may not always be related to problematic experience.
•Offensive or indecent speech is protected by the First Amendment. Unpopular and controversial speech is often considered the most offensive, and yet, the most crucial for the free exchange of ideas in a democracy. Pornography is protected by the First Amendment; obscenity is not.