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Layden discusses negative aspects of pornography

In a lecture Thursday, Mary Anne Layden said that pornography, which is a visual invasion of a person’s body, is not a victimless crime.


Layden is a psychotherapist and author based at the University of Pennsylvania, where she directs the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program as well as the Social Action Committee for Women’s Psychological Health.

According to Layden, selling the body is considered sexual exploitation and stealing the body is considered sexual violence.

"Sex is now a product, and the body is now a commodity," she said.She added that sexual exploitation and sexual violence are a seamless, interconnected continuum.

Layden said that there are many studies that provide scientific evidence of the negative consequences of porn.According to Layden, brain images of porn users look similar to those of teenagers and cocaine users, only with less gray matter.

"Internet pornography is the new crack cocaine," she said.

Moreover, according to Layden, about 58 percent of all male pornography users, with an average age of 25, had erectile dysfunction when engaging in sexual relations with women but not while viewing pornography.


Layden said that there are many false messages in pornography, including the idea that sex is adversarial or a one-way street. She said that Internet pornography results in unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction in real life — men who watch pornography are less likely to rate their partners as attractive and are less satisfied with their partner's sexual performance. These men are also more likely to engage in extramarital affairs, according to Layden.

Married men who view porn are more likely to have affairs and engage with prostitutes, she said. About 25 percent of 19- to 21-year-old males who view porn say they have already employed prostitutes or say they would do so in the future, according to Layden.

About 58 percent of divorces are a result of the male viewing too much porn during marriage, Layden also said.

Layden said that pornography also leads to lack of acceptance of a partner who might not want to engage in sex. She added tangentially that men who watch a lot of pornography may believe that a woman “deserved rape” or “got what she wanted.”

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According to Layden, pornography is also pathologically problematic, with the tendency to escalate to the point of violent snuff films.

"The more porn you get, the worse the outcome," she said.

Layden noted that men exposed to more porn became much more callous than men who were not and were also less likely to support the Female Liberation Movement.

"After one presentation of sex mixed with violence, a significant number of men said they thought about sex with violence in order to become aroused," Layden said.

In a study she conducted, porn use of a group of students was measured in the students’ freshmen and senior years of college. She found that increased porn viewing was correlated with higher psychopathy scores, she noted.

Women who are “pornified” through males’ excessive viewing of pornography also face similar negative results, according to Layden.

Layden added that pornified women were less likely to have sex and were more critical about themselves and their bodies. Young women who use porn are also more likely to be victims of nonconsensual sex by putting themselves in positions to be victimized, according to Layden.

Layden added that children in particular are vulnerable to becoming “pornified,” having sex earlier, becoming pregnant at an earlier age and being more likely to test positive for STDs.

Porn performers' average life expectancy is about 37 years, and many female performers only have a 25 percent chance of remaining in a marriage for longer than three years, according to Layden.

"This is not a victimless crime," she said.

Strip clubs, prostitution and rape are all related to pornography, according to Layden. Strippers were more likely to have customers stalk and inflict violence on them, she said.

She added that there are often bodyguards present at strip clubs, as they are sources of violence. She said that further problems may arise when men are sent home to vulnerable women without bodyguards.

About 84 percent of sex workers have been homeless or remain homeless, and their death rate is more than 40 times higher than that of the general population, Layden said. About 87 percent of sex workers hope to leave the industry, she added.

This is the price of society turning a blind eye on this kind of behavior, especially as the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old, she added.

Women are often arrested for prostitution, but the men who engage with them are not usually arrested, she said.

According to Layden, ways to "de-pornify" society include having authorities such as the Federal Communications Commission enforce decency laws.

Layden said that it is dangerous to legalize behaviors such as prostitution, as the Netherlands did, because it gives individuals the license to engage in behaviors. According to Layden, Netherlands’ policy change resulted in an increase from 4,000 to 15,000 prostituted children within three years, with an increase in sex trafficking.

Sweden's "Nordic model" of criminalizing the purchase of sex, however, was effective, noted Layden. According to her, the policy worked effectively by labeling sex workers as victims and johns as perpetrators.

"When you arrest men and fine them, they don't want to go to prostituted women," Layden said.

She said in order to stop this cycle from continuing, the first step is to stop supporting companies that encourage porn or over-sexualized images. The next step is to teach children well and to let them understand that pornography is not equivalent to love.

"Pornography threatens the loss of love in a world where love brings happiness," she said, referencing the work of Roger Scruton.

The lecture, entitled "The Hidden Costs of Porn: Pornified Life," took place at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in McCosh 10. It was sponsored by the Anscombe Society.