How Popular Movies, TV Shows Have Exposed Your Child to Pornography

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How Popular Movies, TV Shows Have Exposed Your Child to Pornography

By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher

*Editor’s note: This is an updated excerpt from Dr. Ted Baehr’s book, “The Media-Wise Family. This article is part of our parenting series. For similar stories, click here.

Under President Ronald Reagan, pornography replaced violence as the hot political issue.

In 1987, the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography found that adolescents reported the most frequent exposure to pornography, not mature adults![i] Researchers at the University of California projected that “depictions of pornography and violence. . . have the greatest impact on persons already predisposed to favorable attitudes about sexual violence, or who have very poorly formed attitudes, such as adolescents or school-age children.”[ii] An FBI study of 36 sexual murderers (sadomasochists) reveals that 82% of them reported “daydreaming and compulsive masturbation” in childhood and adolescence. [iii] These behaviors are obviously encouraged by pornography, which was their highest sexual interest.

A 1988 report revealed that:

91% of male and 82% of female teenagers under 18 years old have seen extreme, X-rated, hard-core, pornographic sex-and-violence.

66% of the males and 40% of the females want to copy what they see.

More than 25% of the males and 15% of the females admitted to actually copying some of the things sexually they had seen in the pornography within a few days after the exposure.[iv]

This data strongly suggests the “modeling effect” or “imitative learning” effect that even non-violent pornography has on human behavior.


Prurient interest

The word “pornography” is used in everyday speech to usually mean “graphic and explicit depictions of sexual activity.” The word “obscenity” is a legal term defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1973 case, Miller vs. California. In that landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that for something to be legally obscene a jury must find three things wrong with it:

“(1) It must appeal to a prurient (sick, morbid, shameful, or lustful) interest in sex.

“(2) It must be patently offensive (e.g., go beyond contemporary community standards with regards to depictions of sexual content or activity).

“(3) Taken as a whole it must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”[v]

The communication, speech or entertainment in question has to fail all three tests before it can be found legally obscene and any penalties proscribed. Therefore, something can be regarded as “pornographic” but still not be legally obscene, such as explicit sex films used to teach students about human sexuality or even a movie or book with some artistic and/or literary value which had explicit sexual content.


Essentially harmless?

While objecting to violence in the media has become politically correct, concern about pornography and obscenity in the mass media is much more pronounced among moral conservatives, particularly Christians. In response to those few people who hold to the myth that pornography is essentially harmless, Dr. Victor B. Cline has said:

“For someone to suggest that pornography cannot have an effect on you is to deny not only its unique educative impact but to deny the whole notion of the educative process itself. . . . If you say that a pornographic book can’t affect you, then you also have to say that Karl Marx’s DAS KAPITAL or the Bible or the Koran also have had no effects on their readers. And that’s nonsense. . . .

“Or consider also the spread of sex education instruction throughout schools in the U.S. The assumption is that you can change attitudes and behavior about sex through some form of teaching and instruction. If you assume that this is so, then you have to admit to the possibility that films, magazines and books which model rape and the dehumanization of females in sexual scenes are another powerful form of sex education. And, thus, educate too.

“Many of the educated commentators or even ‘experts’ that I know who suggest that pornography has no effects − really don’t believe what they are saying, or they will reluctantly admit to the possibility of harm from just ‘violent pornography.’ In many cases they are pretending ‘not to know’ because of their concern about censorship, and loss of First Amendment rights. Thus, for some of them, the issue is really political. It also has to do with their personal values – and much less with what the objective truth is. They fear the tyranny of a moralist minority who might take away their rights to view pornography, then, later maybe, free speech and expression.”[vi]


Strip tease

As a clinical psychologist who treated over 240 sex offenders or individuals (95% male) with sexual illnesses, Dr. Victor Cline has found that there’s a universal four factor syndrome common to nearly all sex offenders with almost no exceptions:

First was an addiction effect. Once involved in obscene materials they kept coming back for more and still more. The material provided a powerful sexual stimulant followed by sexual release, most often through masturbation. The pornography provided exciting fantasies which they recalled in their fantasies.

Secondly, there was an escalation effect. With the passage of time, they required more explicit, rougher, more deviant sexual material to get their “highs”. It was reminiscent of those individuals afflicted with drug addictions.

Third was desensitization. Material that were originally perceived as shocking, taboo breaking, repulsive, or immoral became acceptable and commonplace. The sexual activity they witnessed (no matter how gross or deviant) in time became legitimized.

Fourth was an increasing tendency to ACT OUT SEXUALLY the behaviors viewed in the pornography they viewed and read − including compulsive promiscuity, exhibitionism, group sex, voyeurism, having sex with children, rape, and inflicting pain on themselves or a partner during sex. This behavior quickly grew into a sexual addiction which they found themselves hooked on and unable to change or reverse − no matter what the consequences in their life.[vii]



It is very important for families to understand that destructive sexual content is not just found in sleazy sex shops. Research has shown that the exposure of randomly selected male college students to sexually suggestive R-rated theatrical movies increases their aggressive behavior toward women and decreases both male and female sensitivity to rape and the plight of the victim. After viewing this type of material, both males and females judge a female rape victim to be less injured, less worthy and more responsible for her own plight.[viii]

Extensive research has been conducted on the aggressive pornography to be found in R-rated films. These movies are easily accessible to teenagers. Many of these movies are broadcast on cable TV. Many such movies show scantily clothed or nude females in sexually arousing situations being attacked, raped, tortured, etc. The research shows that male viewers can be conditioned by watching these movies into associating sexual arousal with inflicting injury, rape, humiliation, or torture on females. As Dr. Cline has noted, “Where these films are available on videotapes (which most are), these can be repeatedly viewed in the privacy of one’s residence and masturbated to with the associated risks of negative or antisocial conditioning noted above.”[ix]

This study, of course, has been made all the more frightening by the growth of internet pornography. As the internet grew from being merely a service for sending text data by modem into the primary video delivery method for the mass media of entertainment, its use for spreading pornography has become ubiquitous. The quantity, and high definition quality of, pornography has exploded and one of the results has been a growth in human sex slave trafficking. As the number of men driven to the depths of pornography soars, so too does the demand for “something more.”


Devil in a blue dress

Some observers and behavioral scientists have contended that if we would just eliminate the violence, the sex would be okay. Not so, for it is very clear that there are several types of non-violent pornography which almost no one would regard as healthy models of sexual behavior, such as:  (1) child pornography; (2) incest pornography  (e.g. mother seducing son, daughter seducing father, older brother seducing young sister, etc.); (3) sex with animals; (4) group sex; (5) sex which humiliates and denigrates women or men without overt violence; (6) pornography involving eager teenage girls having 2 on 1 sex with an adult male; or, (7) obscene films which present a massive amount of misinformation about human sexuality.[x]

In 1965, McGuire’s investigations found that exposure to special sexual experiences, including pornography, combined with masturbating could later lead to participation in deviant sexual acts.[xi]

In 1968, Dr. Stanley Rachman[xii] demonstrated in his conditioning laboratory that sexual deviations could be created in individuals through the use of highly erotic pictures. He noted that he was on the verge of conditioning 100% of his male subjects into sex deviancy through repeated exposure to pornography.[xiii]

The 1970 Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography financed a sophisticated study of seven different populations of subjects. [xiv] That study analyzed the relationship between exposure to pornography and moral character, deviance in the home and neighborhood and statistical treatment. It concluded that “exposure to pornography is the strongest predictor of sexual deviance among the early age of exposure subjects.”[xv] The research also indicated a “positive relationship between sexual deviance and exposure to pornography at all ages of exposure levels:  In the early age of exposure (to pornography) subgroup, the amount of exposure was significantly correlated with a willingness to engage in group sexual relations, frequency of homosexual intercourse and ‘serious’ sexual deviance; and, there were trends for the number of both high school heterosexual partners and total homosexual partners to be positively related to (pornographic) exposure.”[xvi] Because this study took into account and isolated as much as possible the contribution of other key variables, the possibility of harm as a result of exposure to pornography was highly probable.

From the research, Dr. Cline has concluded that:

“The best evidence to date suggests that all sexual deviations are learned. None are inherited. As. . . a man repeatedly masturbates to a vivid sexual fantasy. . ., the pleasurable experiences endow the deviant fantasy (rape, molesting children, injuring one’s partner while having sex, etc.) with increasing erotic value. The orgasm experienced then provides the critical reinforcing event for the conditioning of the fantasy preceding or accompanying the act.”[xvii]


Boy toys

Dr. Judith A. Reisman has found that when teenage boys view pornography it leads them to a pattern of same sex experience – sex with themselves, conditioning them physiologically to male sexual touch.[xviii] Dr. Reisman notes that most pornography teaches the viewer that women enjoy engaging in what were once understood to be deviant homosexual practices.

A study by Mills College sociologist Diana Russell found that the depiction and dissemination of the “rape myth” in pornography reduced inhibitions to the use of violence, habituating both males and females to the idea of rape and also accepting sexual aberrance as “normal” behavior.[xix] She also discovered that “once the seeds of deviant behavior were planted in the male fantasy, the men she studied were inclined to act out their fantasies.”[xx] She concluded that the acted out fantasies and the fantasies themselves led to considerable conflict and suffering on the part of both males and females particularly in their sexual relationships with intimate partners.[xxi]

In her published paper, “Pornography, a Feminist Perspective,” Russell states:

“Pornography is vicious, anti-woman propaganda. It tells lies about us. It degrades women. Pornography is not made to educate but to sell, and for the most part, what it sells is a bunch of lies about sex and women. Women are portrayed as enjoying being raped, spanked or beaten, tied up, mutilated, enslaved, or they accept it as their lot as women to be victims of such experiences. In the less sadistic films, women are portrayed as turned on and sexually satisfied by doing anything and everything men order them to do and what this involves is for the most part totally contrary to what we know about female sexuality. i.e., it is almost totally. . . devoid of foreplay, tenderness, or caring, to say nothing of love and romance.”[xxii]


In her book AGAINST OUR WILL, Susan Brownmiller sees an intense hatred of women in pornography:

“The gut distaste that a majority of women feel when we look at pornography comes from the gut knowledge that we and our bodies are being stripped, exposed and contorted for the purpose of ridicule, to bolster that ‘masculine esteem’ which gets its kicks and sense of power from viewing females as anonymous, panting playthings, adult toys, dehumanized objects to be used, abused, broken, and discarded.”[xxiii]

In a study by Dr. W. Marshall,[xxiv] almost half of the rapists he studied used consenting sex pornography to arouse themselves preparatory to seeking out a victim to rape. This research was corroborated by a study conducted by Darrell Pope with the Michigan State Police, which found that out of the 38,000 cases of sexual assault in Michigan, 41% involved pornography just prior to the act or during the act.[xxv]


Cable guy

Many physicians who treat heavy consumers of pornography, detect evidence of arrested development in the sexual maturation of these heavy users. Psychiatrist Harold Voth, from the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry at Topeka, Kansas, sees pornography as “typically depicting perverse sex, degradation through sex, transient meaningless sex, and violent sex − all of which is a reflection of incomplete and abnormal human development.”[xxvi]

Voth said some men become dissatisfied with their wives after viewing the exaggerated sexual prowess depicted in the typical pornographic movie. He reasons that society has the responsibility to protect itself from the elements within society that harm it, and since mature sexuality is so very essential to the heterosexual family life, steps must be taken to protect society against the many unhealthy risks associated with the consumption of pornography.[xxvii]

[1] The Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography, Final Report, July 1986, (Washington DC: US Department Of Justice) quoted in MOVIEGUIDE ® Volume VIII#16: 930802.

[1] Baehr, Ted, HOLLYWOOD’S REEL OF FORTUNE, (FL: 1991), p. 7.

[1] Ibid., p. 8.

[1]  Dr. Cline is citing a study by Dr. Bryant of 600 American males and females of junior high age and above were interviewed about their “out in real life involvement with pornography.” Cline, Ph.D., Victor B., PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Miller vs. California, 1973.






[1] McGuire, “Sexual deviations as Conditioned Behavior:  A Hypothesis,”  Behavior Research Therapy, 2:185, 1965, cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Rachman, Dr. Stanley, “Experimentally induced ‘sexual fetishism’  A replication and development.”  PSYCHOLOGICAL RECORD, 18: 25,  1968, cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1]  Ibid.

[1] Drs. Davis and Braucht reported in Vol. VII. of the Commission’s Technical Reports, US Govt. Printing Office, 1971, The Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography Report, 1970.

[1]   Ibid.

[1]   Ibid.


[1] Reisman, Ph.D., Judith A. ,  “All Pornography Is Homosexual

In Values & Practices” MOVIEGUIDE ®, Volume XII#1: 970114

[1] Russell, Diana, “Pornography, a Feminist Perspective,” (Berkeley, 1977) as cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Russell, Diana, “Pornography, a Feminist Perspective,” (Berkeley, 1977) as cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Russell, Diana, “Pornography, a Feminist Perspective,” (Berkeley, 1977) as cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Russell, Diana, “Pornography, a Feminist Perspective,” (Berkeley, 1977) as cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Brownmiller, Susan, AGAINST OUR WILL (New York : Simon and Schuster, 1975) as cited by. Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988.

[1] Marshall, Dr. W. “Report on the Use of Pornography by Sexual Offenders”, Federal Dept. of Justice, Ottawa, Canada, 1983 cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988

[1] Paducah Sun-Democrat, “New weapon against obscenity” 3 June 1983 cited by Cline, PORNOGRAPHY EFFECTS:  EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, 1988


[1]  Ibid.