destructionThe Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations, is the fruit of an inquiry begun at a consultation held in Princeton, New Jersey, in December 2008, sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute and cosponsored by the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.

This consultation which sought to estimate the social costs of pornography, was the first multifaceted, multidisciplinary, scholarly exploration in the internet age of a subject that is critically important to the health and well-being of many Americans: the hidden but real social toll of the current consumption of pornography–especially internet pornography–on an unprecedented scale.  The basic findings of the inquiry were:

Finding One:  Unlike at any other time in history, pornography is now available and consumed widely in our society, due in large part to the internet.  No one remains untouched by it.

Finding Two:  There is abundant empirical evidence that this pornography is qualitatively different from any that has gone before, in several ways: its ubiquity, the use of increasingly realistic streaming images, and the increasingly  “hard-core” character of what is consumed.

Finding Three:  Today’s consumption of internet pornography can harm women in particular.

Finding Four:  Today’s consumption of internet pornography can harm children in particular.

Finding Five: Today’s consumption of internet pornography can harm people not immediately connected to consumers of pornography.

Finding Six: The consumption of internet pornography can harm its consumers.

Finding Seven:  Pornography consumption is philosophically and morally problematic.

Finding Eight:  the fact that not everyone is harmed by pornography does not entail that pornography should not be regulated.

Conclusions:  …The consumption of internet pornography on today’s scale is a social and personal health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action…

The triad of pornography consumption, dependency and addiction is clearly not the only problem facing our society.  However, it is a serious problem as well as an under-recognized one, which is why the signatories urge readers of all beliefs and political persuasions to attend to the empirical record of its harms.  Those who would ignore that record do so to the detriment of the society it is shaping, not only for the adults among us, but for those others who surely deserve to become adults in a world less glutted by pornographic imagery.

To learn more about this report: