Pornography: The Emergence of a Social Issue and the Beginning of Psychological Study


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Pornography has not always been a social issue. Indeed societal concern about it has waxed and waned several times in the past 200 years, and this concern seems to have been a function of accessibility, religious influences, and social manners. The emergence of pornography as a current social issue is associated with a series of Supreme Court cases beginning in the late 1950s, posing the question as to whether or not legal prohibition of obscenity violates the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The ensuing discussion was based primarily on fear and speculation because there were few empirical facts to inform the discussion. In 1967 Congress declared that obscenity and pornography were matters of national concern, raised questions about the effects of these materials, called for a thorough study, and authorized the use of funds for the collection of relevant scientific data. Thus the beginning of extensive “scientific” analysis of the social issue of pornography.