Effects of Porn: A Critical Analysis

1890: A Journal of Undergraduate Research 3:28-40 (2019)
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The impacts of pornography are varied and complex. Performers are often thought to be victims of abuse and exploitation, while viewers are regularly accused of becoming desensitized to sexual violence. Further, porn is held by some to perpetuate damaging racial and gender stereotypes. I contend that these accusations, though not entirely baseless, are undermined for two reasons: they rest on questionable empirical evidence and ignore many of the positive consequences porn may have. In this article, I organize my analysis from the screen outward, critically examining the effects porn has on performers, viewers, and wider society, and finding that in each domain it may have both positive and negative outcomes. Following this, I evaluate porn as a form of Bakhtinian carnival and discuss how online porn may offer a mode of resisting hegemonic cultural norms. On the whole, therefore, I argue that the harms attributed to porn have often been overgeneralized and exaggerated, and that porn has a range of effects unable to be captured by a mere pro/anti dichotomy.

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Rory W Collins
University of Canterbury


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