Opposition to pornography comes generally, though not exclusively, from several sources: law, religion and feminism. Some critics from the latter two camps have expressed belief in the existence of “pornography addiction.”
Distribution of obscenity is a Federal crime in the United States, and also under most laws of the 50 states. There is no right to distribute obscene materials. The determination of what is obscene is up to a jury in a trial, which must apply the Miller test.
In explaining its decision to reject claims that obscenity should be treated as speech protected by the First Amendment, in Miller v. California, the US Supreme Court found that
The dissenting Justices sound the alarm of repression. But, in our view, to equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a “misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and free press . . . .” Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S., at 645 .
and in Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton that
In particular, we hold that there are legitimate state interests at stake in stemming the tide of commercialized obscenity, even assuming it is feasible to enforce effective safeguards against exposure to juveniles and to passersby. 7 [413 U.S. 49, 58] Rights and interests “other than those of the advocates are involved.” Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 642 (1951). These include the interest of the public in the quality of life and the total community environment, the tone of commerce in the great city centers, and, possibly, the public safety itself… As Mr. Chief Justice Warren stated, there is a “right of the Nation and of the States to maintain a decent society . . .,” [413 U.S. 49, 60] Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 199 (1964) (dissenting opinion)… The sum of experience, including that of the past two decades, affords an ample basis for legislatures to conclude that a sensitive, key relationship of human existence, central to family life, community welfare, and the development of human personality, can be debased and distorted by crass commercial exploitation of sex.
Attorney General for Ronald Reagan, Edwin Meese, also courted controversy when he appointed the “Meese Commission” to investigate pornography in the United States; their report, released in July 1986, was highly critical of pornography and itself became a target of widespread criticism. That year, Meese Commission officials contacted convenience store chains and succeeded in demanding that widespread men’s magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse be removed from shelves,a ban which spread nationally until being quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the D.C. Federal Court in Meese v. Playboy (639 F.Supp. 581).
In the United States in 2005, Attorney General Gonzales made obscenity and pornography a top prosecutorial priority of the Department of Justice.
Some religious groups often discourage their members from viewing or reading pornography, and support legislation restricting its publication. These positions derive from broader religious views about sexuality. In some religious traditions, for example, sexual intercourse is limited to the express function of procreation. Thus, sexual pleasure or sex-oriented entertainment, as well as lack of modesty, are considered immoral. Other religions do not find sexual pleasure immoral, but see sex as a sacred, godly, highly-pleasurable activity that is only to be enjoyed with one’s spouse. These traditions do not condemn sexual pleasure in and of itself, but they impose limitations on the circumstances under which sexual pleasure may be properly experienced. Pornography in this view is seen as the secularization of something sacred, and a violation of spouses’ intimate relationship.
In addition to expressing concerns about violating sexual morality, some religions take an anti-pornography stance claiming that viewing pornography is addictive, leading to self-destructive behavior. Proponents of this view compare pornography addiction to alcoholism, both in asserting the seriousness of the problem and in developing treatment methods.
Feminist critics of pornography, such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, generally consider it demeaning to women. They believe that most pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment, and contributes to the male-centered objectification of women. Some feminists distinguish between pornography and erotica, which they say does not have the same negative effects of pornography. However, many Third-wave feminists and postmodern feminists disagree with this critique of porn, claiming that appearing in or using pornography can be explained as each individual woman’s choice, and is not guided by socialization in a capitalist patriarchy.
Effect on sex crimes
A lower per capita crime rate and historically high availability of pornography in many developed European countries (e.g. Netherlands, Sweden) has led a growing majority to conclude that there is an inverse relationship between the two, such that an increased availability of pornography in a society equates to a decrease in sexual crime. Moreover, there is some evidence that states within the U.S. that have lower rates of internet access have a greater incidence of rape.
Effect on sexual aggression
In the 70’s and 80’s, feminists such as Dr. Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin criticized pornography as essentially dehumanizing women and as likely to encourage violence against them. It has been suggested that there was an alliance, tacit or explicit, between anti-porn feminists and fundamentalist Christians to help censor the use of or production of pornography.
Some researchers have found that “high pornography use is not necessarily indicative of high risk for sexual aggression,” but go on to say, “if a person has relatively aggressive sexual inclinations resulting from various personal and/or cultural factors, some pornography exposure may activate and reinforce associated coercive tendencies and behaviors”.
Pornography production and violence against women