Friday 25 May 2018

Mary Kenny: The positives of porn?

Not so long ago erotic material was viewed as a force for good

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin

From about 1960 onwards, the progressive attitude to porn was, in my recollection, that it was a healthy expression of free sexuality. Societies where pornography was freely available - Denmark and Sweden were often mentioned - were seen as liberated and mature, allowing adults to follow whatever erotic fantasies they pleased through the medium of pornography.

When Lord Longford, of blessed memory, took it upon himself to examine the expanding porn industry in 1970, it was pointed out that in Denmark, where laws against obscenity had been abolished, the number of sex crimes had decreased. Easily available porn meant fewer sex crimes.

The theory was that porn worked as a "catharsis" - particularly for men who were sexually needy, dysfunctional, or had unorthodox desires. If they could just look at pornography when they chose, then they would remain safely masturbating in their bedrooms - and the "catharsis" produced by the porn safety-valve would ensure that women would rarely be raped, nor children molested. Libertarians such as the late theatre critic Kenneth Tynan, the French publisher Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press (who published books others feared might be obscene) and some of the sexologists who believed censorship created sexual dysfunction promoted the positive aspect of explicit erotica.

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