CONTRARY to popular belief, I'm told, the availability of pornography seems to diminish sexual crimes rather than increase them.
can be beneficial
Figures from Japan and the U.S. confirm for Professor Milton Diamond of the University of Hawaii what was first observed in the "easy porn" countries of Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
Diamond holds the title of professor of anatomy and reproductive biology at the UH School of Medicine. To call him a professor of sexology is closer to the mark. He has been teaching and researching sexual behavior since 1967.
He has been a consultant to Hawaii public schools and in 1973 organized 30 hours of public television programming on human sexuality that has been widely reused both here and nationally. He also has taught and researched in Japan, Europe and the mainland United States. He has won dozens of awards and honors worldwide. Thus when he speaks the rest of us could do a lot worse than listen.
His paper on "The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective" is in a collection published last year by Prometheus Books under the title: "Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography and the First Amendment."
It is backed up by statistical tables that amplify his point that sex crimes have gone down in both the U.S. and Japan even as the availability of porn through rental videos, pay-for-view TV and other means has increased. He suggests masturbation or coital frequency in connection with porn could be a factor. These, he adds, do not damage health.
He defines porn as "any sexually explicit material primarily developed or produced to arouse sexual interest or provide erotic pleasure."
Its spread has been related in the United States to a Supreme Court ruling strictly limiting prosecutions for obscenity, in part because of the difficulty of defining where it crosses the boundaries of free speech.
To support his belief that porn is vastly more available in the U.S. than 20 years ago, he offers these data on technologies that were virtually nonexistent back then:
Adult video rentals or purchases were estimated at 600 million in 1997.
Hotel guests in 1997 spent some $175 million to receive porn in their rooms.
Pay-for-view adult video rentals at home were estimated at $150 million the same year.
The 1998 value of Internet porn sites was estimated at $750 million to $1 billion.
By contrast, sex-crime statistics show a 60 percent decline in the incidence of rape between 1993 and 1996. This was nationwide, in all regions of the country. It occurred even as drug-related crimes continued to rise.
DIAMOND wrote, "A massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims."
He adds: "Sex abuse of any kind is deplorable and should be eliminated...rape and sex crimes are blights on society which should be expunged. The question remains: 'How best to do this?' "
Taking wrong actions just to placate politicians or irate citizens will not help, he says. Nor will myths or misinformation. The evidence is that removing pornography from our midst won't help either.
The right answers, he believes, could lie in better porn portraying preferred role models and in focusing on the home in the first decade of life.
A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.