Layden_Pornography_and_Violence - Pornography and Violence...

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Pornography and Violence: A New Look at Research Mary Anne Layden, PhD Director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program Center for Cognitive Therapy Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Pornography is a potent teacher of both beliefs and behaviors, and in fact provides the ideal conditions for learning. It can teach not only specific sexual behaviors, but general attitudes toward women and children, what relationships are like, and the nature of sexuality. Certainly some important reactions are inborn and instinctual, but the great majority of our beliefs and behaviors have been learned. Once we learn them, we also learn if it is acceptable to engage in the behaviors and are sometimes stimulated to do just that. For many reasons, as we shall see, pornography is a very effective teacher of beliefs and behaviors, and one that also teaches its users that the behaviors are acceptable and stimulates them to do so. Factors Affecting Learning We learn better using images than words, because images carry more information in a more compact form. A split-second look at an image can convey more information than a split-second look at words. Words are often perceived as opinions while images are often perceived as events or facts. We argue in our head against words or opinions, but much less often against events or facts, particularly images. We also learn better when aroused. If something activates our sympathetic nervous system, we are more prepared to remember the information received at that point. The arousal may come from excitement, joy, fear, disgust, or sexual tension. We tend to remember any experience we have in those aroused states. And learning is better if it is reinforced. Behavior that is rewarded is likely to be repeated while behavior that is punished is less likely to be repeated. Sexual arousal and orgasm are extremely rewarding experiences. We may be innately predisposed to enjoy the
rewards of sexual arousal and orgasm, but we learn how and when and with whom we can experience those pleasures. If a novel sexual behavior produces an orgasm, we are more likely to repeat it and add it to our sexual template and repertoire. Learning is also better if we see role models perform a behavior. Seeing them rewarded or punished will have some of the same effects on us as if we were rewarded or punished. We don’t have to directly experience those rewards and consequences. We learn to repeat or avoid those behaviors by seeing their effect on others. Finally, we learn better when the learning is rewarded. Imagery which contains role models who are demonstrating sexual behavior, who are rewarded for it, which produces sexual arousal in the viewer, and is followed by an orgasm can be extremely effective in producing deeply learned beliefs and behaviors.

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