T he consultation on "The Social Costs of Pornography" assembled leading experts in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, neurophysiology, philosophy, sociology, law, and political theory to present a rigorously argued overview of the problem of pornography in our society and to make recommendations. The primary purpose of the meeting was to examine the real nature of pornography in its moral and social consequences.

  • Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyperactivates the appetitive system. Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated. Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we've been sitting all day, so too do our senses hunger to be stimulated.

    Norman Doidge, M.D., Columbia University

  • I used to be much more of a “live and let live” person on this issue, years ago, in part because some of those who pushed for the censorship of pornography were so authoritarian. But the new technology has sent me in another direction.... I hope the analyses, the data, the arguments, and the images that flow forth from the pages of The Social Costs of Pornography will assist the reader in the future to avoid the pitfalls of unrestrained libertarianism, on the one hand, and unrestrained, top-down censoriousness, on the other. The “moral” need not be the cramped and cribbed “moralistic.” The point to be considered is: What sort of community is this? Is it reasonably decent and kind? Is it a fit place for human habitation, especially for the young? What happens to the most vulnerable among us? How do we ill-dignify the human body, and how do we forestall such affronts? These questions are not easy, but this learned volume helps push the debate forward in discerning ways.

    Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago
    Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom, Georgetown University

  • There is evidence that the prevalence of pornography in the lives of many children and adolescents is far more significant than most adults realize, that pornography is deforming the healthy sexual development of these young viewers, and that it is used to exploit children and adolescents.

    Mary Anne Layden, director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program,
    Center for Cognitive Therapy, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania

  • This collection of papers on The Social Costs of Pornography reveals just how multimedia pornography has become the chief means by which the emergent sex industry encourages the solicitations of the senses to overwhelm the moral and aesthetic feelings of fitness on which all civilized actions and an ordered culture depend. Pornography represents the contemporary means of making Caligulas of us all—with all that that implies in terms of violence, misogyny, and interpersonal grief. Read this collection and know your enemy.

    Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

  • Particularly on the Internet, where much of pornography today is consumed, the type of sexuality depicted often has more to do with violence, extreme fetishes and mutual degradation than with sexual or emotional connection.

    Pamela Paul, author of Pornified

  • The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers presents new evidence that even free speech libertarians should seriously consider. Responsible citizenship obligates us to face not only the harms of censorship, but also the possible consequences of free speech itself. The First Amendment correctly protects much speech that poses potential harm to society, but we properly take constitutional measures to ameliorate the effects of such expression. The Social Costs of Pornography challenges us to consider harms associated with the ubiquitous availability of pornography in the Internet Age, and to consider remedies appropriate to First Amendment principles.

    Donald A. Downs, Alexander Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism
    University of Wisconsin, Madison