In a well-received film from 2007, Superbad, the lead character Seth states, “I’m what? I’m disgusting? You’re the weird one, man. Don’t make me feel weird because I like porn. You’re the weird one for not liking porn.” The popularity of this film seems to be revelatory of the fact that porn has become a part of our everyday life. Porn has become widely accepted through alterations in the public’s views on sexuality. Sigmund Freud, Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Playboy, and the Free Love movement are some of the tumbling dominos in a long chain of influences that have shaped some of the perverse perspectives on sexuality.
Pornography has been around throughout history. Some people point to this as proof that pornography is somehow natural and healthy. History itself tells another story. A new view on sexuality started to emerge. Ever heard of a guy named Freud? In the early part of the century, Sigmund Frued began teaching that sexual urges should not be resisted. According to him, that was one of the worst things somebody could do... and if you tried, you'd be unhealthy. For Freud, sex was emphasized as the source of "all happiness."
Because Freud was a respected psychologist, many came to believe him. Suddenly, there was scientific sounding reason to follow whatever sexual urges arose: "Hey man, this is just who I am! Just ask that Freud dude." But for many this was too extreme- too out there. Then along came the Kinsey Report.
The founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, zoologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey published his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953. Changes in the public’s attitude toward sexuality are strongly associated with the Kinsey Reports. Some consider this to be part of the most triumphant and significant scientific publications of the 20th century. However, questionable methods were used to obtain data in some of the research conducted in the Kinsey Reports. Some of the volunteers might as well have been luring daycare children into their Volkswagen vans with a teddy bear and some fruit roll-ups.
Along with the interviewing of pedophiles, Dr. Kinsey did not consider self-selection or volunteer bias in his research (Maslow, 1952). Additionally, prostitutes and prisoners were over represented in the sample of the surveys (Jones, 1997). Dr. Kinsey’s investigation on sex went beyond interviewing. Kinsey observed, encouraged, and even filmed coworkers participating in sexual activity in the attic of his house (Goodman, 2008). Kinsey’s documents have reports of pre-adolescent orgasms with over 300 children between the ages of five months and 14 years old (Kinsey, 1948).
Under today’s laws some of the volunteers in the research would be on the sex offender’s website for the remainder of their lives, bunking up on a thin mat in a cold prison cell for up to 25 years. They would have used sub-par generic brand toothpaste, gambled away their breakfast trays in heated games of Texas Hold-em and had been uncomfortably watched by cellmates while defecating. This is a hollow repercussion for child molestation. Fortuitously for Kinsey, he died on Aug. 25, 1956, before any charges were resolved after U.S. customs seized some of his pornographic films.
Kinsey’s research normalized perverse attitudes by performing research as a reputable scientist, paving the way for pornography. In December of 1953, the same year that Dr. Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Marilyn Monroe was featured in the first issue of what is now one of the world’s most recognized brands: Playboy- a company founded by Hugh Hefner and others. Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s book was sequentially convenient for the publication of Playboy and the pioneers of pornography. It is ironic that a zoologist with an animalistic perspective on human behavior (as opposed to an anthropologist, sociologist, or psychologist who actually study humans) was such a noteworthy pioneer in altering our culture’s viewpoint on human sexuality. Kinsey seemed to feel that human sexuality was not only repressed but also sculpted by social forces. Some of those social forces are what separate us from other animals.
Soon after Kinsey’s research, a counter-culture developed that actively questioned those social forces. Back in the 60's when the best way to say “excuse my poor hygiene” was by putting a flower in your hair, the Free Love Movement was birthed out of society’s melting pot of a womb. Free Love was a social movement that believed in removing legal influence from birth control, marriage, and adultery (McElroy, 1996). One of the Free Love Movement’s primary goals was to liberate women from the current zeitgeist and to break away from traditional views on morality, stereotypes and defined gender roles that followers felt oppressed the female gender (Spurlock, 1988).
As social perceptions transformed, getting nude in front of a camera and being published in a magazine for anyone with 50 cents to see became an artistic way of “expressing” one’s self. Pornography was no longer viewed as amoral, under its new definition it was “liberating.” Suddenly, purchasing a magazine with nude women in it didn’t make you a pervert. It made you a “playboy” or a “ladies man.” Porn suppliers like to think they are artists as they cash in by presenting women to the world as simple sexual objects, desensitizing their consumers to what is and isn’t natural.
With advances in modern technology, namely the Internet, porn has become excessively available. The vast demand for pornography is more than sufficiently supplied- a demand justified and kick-started by the conglomerate particles of the Kinsey Reports, Playboy, and the Free Love Movement that joined the rolling snowball back in the 50's and 60's.
When a scientist endorses perverse forms of sexuality, it opens the door for cultural change. Perceptions on sexuality have been funneled by the face validity of a scientist with a highly questionable bias. Through this distorted scope, the media continues to communicate to our population that watching porn is normal and acceptable. It is important to understand where social perceptions that influence society today come from and to question the validity, chronology and the morality of events that are the current ammunition in the 50-caliber gun that is unloading rounds on the naive in our population.
- Goodman, B. (Writer, Director & Producer), & Maggio, J. (Director & Producer). (2008). Kinsey Establishes the Institute for Sex Research. American Experience: Kinsey. Saint Paul Minneapolis, MN: Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. and Ark Media for American Experience.
- Jones, J. H. (1997). Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life. New York: Norton
- Kinsey, A. C., & Martin, C. E. (1998[reprint of 1948 original]). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Pg: 178-180.
- Maslow, A. H., & Skoda, J. (1952). Volunteer Error in the Kinsey Study, Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- McElroy, W. (1996). The Free Love Movement and Radical Individualism. Libertarian Enterprise. Number 19. Retrieved from HYPERLINK "http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle1996/le961210.html" http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle1996/le961210.html
- Spurlock, J. C. (1988). Free Love Marriage and Middle-Class Radicalism in America. New York, NY: New York University Press