Experience with and Attitudes toward Explicit Sexual Materials1


  • 1

    The data reported in this paper were produced under a contract between the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography and Response Analysis Corporation and the Institute for Survey Research, Temple University. The indebtedness of the present paper to two initial reports of this research (Abelson, Cohen, Heaton, & Suder, 1971; and LoSciuto, Spector, Michels, & Jenne, 1971) will be obvious to anyone familar with them. Nevertheless, the tables in this paper present somewhat different analyses of the data in most instances. The authors gratefully acknowledge the massive contribution of the staffs of Response Analysis Corporation and the Institute for Survey Research and the members and staff of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, but assume responsibility for the content of this particular report of the research.

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The data reported in this paper come from a national probability sample survey designed to provide an empirical description of the national experience with explicit sexual materials, the public's attitudes toward these types of material, and social-psychological correlates of both experience and attitudes. An overwhelming majority of adults report having been exposed at some time in their life to very explicit sexual materials that are often labeled pornography. Nevertheless, considerable variation in experience does exist. Differential exposure is related to the content of depictions, mode of depiction, and characteristics of the viewer. The data do not support a concept of a “contemporary community standard” relating to the representation of sexual matters: There does not exist anything approaching consensus in attitudes regarding the availability of sexual materials; attitudes toward availability vary greatly according to the circumstances of availability; and attitudes vary considerably among groups formed on the basis of demographic characteristics.