Human Nature: Catholic Thought and the Sciences/Pornography

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.
Catholic Catechism #2354 (emphasis original)

Strip clubs also fit under this definition of pornography.


Much social science research studies the effects of pornography on its consumers. For example, a recent review article concludes that "pictorial nudity reduces subsequent aggressive behavior, that consumption of material depicting nonviolent sexual activity increases aggressive behavior, and that media depictions of violent sexual activity generates more aggression than those of nonviolent sexual activity." [1] A 1987 book abstract stated that "Research findings indicate that sexually explicit material in itself does not foster negative attitudes or behavior, but when it is accompanied by images of violence, the risk of subsequent violence is significant."[2]

Research finding no negative effects of pornography should be interpreted in light of the difference between the type of effects the study is looking for and the effects that Catholic doctrine claims it has. For instance, showing that men who view pornography more frequently have, on average, the same views toward sexuality as other men says little about the Catholic teaching on pornography's negative effects. From the perspective of Catholic teaching, the ordinary societal view of sexuality is itself distorted.


In the U.S., protection of pornography as free speech is a contested legal issue.

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