This month, The Scientist did a scientific examination of porn, asking the question, is porn good for us? It's an interesting question because, in a democratic society, I believe unquestionably that the answer is YES.
The Scientist article points out that our social myths about porn simply don't prove out. In fact, in many cases, reality is exactly opposite of the myths we've been told.
For example, a common view of porn is that it causes violent behavior towards women. However, in societies where there is increased access to porn, there has been either a decrease, or leveling off of rape.
To me this makes total sense. Humans are lazy. It's easier to browse the web when we are feeling aroused, than it is to actually get dressed, go out, and try to get laid.
For exactly this reason, there is little question in my mind that access to porn decreases the acting out of sexually predatory behavior.
I have a client who is a would-be rapist who, fortunately for us, has access to alternative porn sites that act out his violent fantasies for him. Instead of him spending time hunting down actual victims, he hunts down fantasy rape scenes on the internet, lazily satisfying his sexual needs in the privacy of his own home.
This being said, culturally, we have to change the religious and moral stigmas associated with sex and porn. When you tell a teenager that they can't do something - immediately, that's exactly what they want to do.
I recently lead a workshop on the facilities of a catholic retreat center. What most noticeably struck me, was that when I used the wireless internet, and tried to log onto my favorite porn sites - I was blocked by filtering software. However, there was 24 hour a day, unlimited access to free alcohol. Repressed priests. No porn. Free alcohol. You do the math.
In a sexually repressed society, we look at sex through the windows of blame, shame, sin. The internet, and porn specifically, takes the fall. But we are looking at it backwards. Porn is a reflection of our diverse sexual needs, not the cause.
Our full sexual expression is our empowerment. And, whether we like it or not, porn is expanding our minds, and expanding the view we have of our unique bodies and diverse sexual tastes.