In 1981 the British Government commissioned Bernard Williams to report on Obscenity and Film Censorship
Most of the report was predictably shelved by Margaret Thatcher's Government but the analysis of harm is surely still relevant today
I: EFFECTS ON SEX CRIMES AND VIOLENCE
6.1 We start our review of the harms possibly caused by pornography and violent material with the area where the harms alleged are of the most definitely identifiable kind, and where it is suggested that the effects of the material are kinds of
behaviour which tend to be noticed particularly because they conflict with the law.
6.2 The arguments here are that certain kinds of behaviour. particularly in the form of criminal offences of violence and of a sexual nature, are either directly provoked by exposure to particular stimuli-such as the reading of a sex magazine
producing a state of arousal which is manifested in rape or sexual assault, or the viewing of a film producing imitative violence are at least more likely to occur in an atmosphere created by pornography and violent material. The arguments suggest.
therefore, that the proliferation of porno- graphy results in increasing sexual offences and that violence in the media leads to an increase in offences of violence.
6.3 Submissions made to us on this subject, where they considered it neces- sary to support simple assertions by some kind of evidence, rested on three different classes of information. One kind may be called (without disrespect)
"anecdotal", and is drawn from particular instances in which an association between, crime and pornographic material has been observed, and a causal con- nection, it is claimed, can plausibly be supposed. We consider in this context also
considerations put to us by psychiatrists on the basis of clinical experience. A second kind of evidence is drawn from research, involving experiments or guided observations, into human responses to particular kinds of material. Such research,
obviously enough, does not itself involve the subjects committing crimes (or at least none that does has been drawn to our attention). What it rather does is to enquire whether reactions in the experimental set-up are of a kind-for instance, of an
aggressive kind-which would lead one to expect crime or other anti-social behaviour as a response to that material in ordinary life. The third kind of evidence-the kind that has commanded a great deal of attention and aroused a great deal of
controversy in this subject-is that drawn from statistical analysis of trends in known crime relative to the varying availability of pornography.
6.4 The relations between the last two kinds of evidence we take to be the following. A positive result in the second, experimental, kind of enquiry might be expected to show up in the statistical enquiry, if that is reliable, since if greater
availability of pornography in real life is not connected with more crime, then the experimental results cannot have the significance for real life that is ascribed to them. On the other hand, a positive result from the statistical enquiry would be
compatible with negative results from the experimental enquiry, since it might be that crime and pornography were linked in real life, but not by any mechanism which was revealed under those experimental conditions.
6.5 We will consider these kinds of evidence in turn.
Anecdotal and clinical evidence
6.6 A number of cases was drawn to our attention, and our own enquiries brought others to light, in which particular publications or films or a general interest *m pornography, had been connected with the commission of offences We saw a number of
press reports in which the defence had alleged on behalf of a man charged with sexual offences that the commission of the crime could be ascribed to the influence of pornography. To lay weight simply what is said by the defence would be rather naive:
offenders or their counsel are not slow to proffer an excuse which mitigates the seriousness of the offence or reduces the individual's responsibility for having committed it, and it was noticeable that there were fewer cases in which the trial judge
offered his own comment on the influence of pornography. Two notable cases mentioned to Us were those of the Moors Murderers and the Cambridge Rapist, in both of which it has been alleged (not by the trial judge in either case) that the corrupt- ing
effect of pornography played a role.
6.7 In the case of the Cambridge Rapist, the defence tried to emphasise the influence of pornographic films and magazines and the local Chief Constable stated at the end of the trial that the case had "proved the real danger of pornography"
. We do not believe that a study of the case permits such a simple conclusion. The offender was a man with a long history of mental dis- turbance and criminal activity, with psychopathic tendencies evident from an early age. He had shown an interest
in pornography but there was nothing to suggest that the particular methods which he had chosen to use in committing his offences owed anything to the pornography he had seen or that he would not have committed the offences had it not been for the
influence of pornog- raphy. Somewhat similar considerations applied in the case of the Moors Murderers, though in that case less emphasis was placed on the influence of the publications in the possession of the offenders, both during the trial and in
subsequent comment. Both these cases seem to be more consistent with the pre- existing traits being reflected both in a choice of reading matter and in the committed against others. It would be extremely unsafe, in our view. to con- crude, even
tentatively. that exposure to pornography was a cause of the offences committed in those particular cases.
6.8 The same point applied to the other cases which came to our attention (and indeed, the indications from research, as Yaff6 has pointed out, are that sex offenders have had less recent exposure to sexual material than other groups). Although there
was on occasion some evidence of a link between an offence committed and a previous exposure-in the form of some common feature, for example-even this is no evidence that the link is a causal one: as one of our witnesses put it to us. to give a.
person who is predisposed to commit crime an idea of a particular way in which to do it is really very different from instilling the disposition in the first place. We discussed these matters with a number of psychiatrists and psychologists,
including some with special experience of the treatment of offenders, but we were struck by the fact that none of them was able to tell us of a case of which they had experience in which there was evidence of a causal link between pornography and a
,violent sexual crime. None of our psychiatric or psychological witnesses in fact saw very great harm in straightforward sexual pornography, and some, indeed felt that cases more frequently occurred in which the effects of pornog- raphy were
beneficial rather than harmful. Dr P L G Gallwey of the Portman Clinic was one of these, stressing the sense of security that was sometimes generated, particularly through a lessening of the sense of exclusion and by assuaging the violent feelings
associated with exclusion. Professor H J Eysenck of the Institute of Psychiatry, despite his serious reservations. which we will consider later, about violent matter, agreed that, depending on how it was portrayed, sexual material could reduce
violent activity. Dr A Hyatt Williams of the Tavistock Clinic told us that his experience was that the outlet provided by pornography could prevent the commission of offences and that an offence could result if a person dependent on that kind of
satisfaction were deprived of it. It was also widely agreed that if published pornography was not avail- able, some people would simply produce it for themselves: Dr Gallwey, for example, showed us a highly pornographic and very disturbing story
written by a young offender he had treated and cited to us another instance of a man using what materials were available to him in prison-even The Farmers' Weekly-to construct pornographic pictures.
6.9 This does not mean that no harm was seen in pornography. Dr Hyatt Williams, for example, was less concerned about the possibility of initial cor- ruption than about the way in which certain patients might have their recovery impeded if they were
again exposed to pornography and he made the point that dependence on pornography, even when it had a cathartic effect on those otherwise disposed to commit offences, masked the need for the person con- cerned to seek treatment which might provide a
cure. Dr Gallwey, too, made the point that for some people on the edge of psychosis pornography served to weaken their grip on reality. Our witnesses emphasised to us, however, that it was only a very small minority of people who were likely to be
affected in this way and there was a general reluctance to suggest that the balance of advantage lay in attempting to place more severe restrictions on pornography in order to safeguard them.
6.10 Clinical opinion and our impression of the anecdotal evidence cohere: the cases in which a link between pornography and crime has even been sug- gested are remarkably few. Given the amount of explicit sexual material in circulation and the
allegations often made about its effects. it is striking that One can study case after case of sex crimes and murder without finding any hint at all that pornography was present in the background. What is also striking is that if one tried to
eliminate the stimuli in published material which may have some relation to sexual deviation or the commission of offences, the net must be cast impossibly wide. As an illustration of this point, Dr Gallwey Mentioned to us a patient who had killed
himself in the course of his masochistic practices which had started when, as a disturbed child of only 8 or 9 years, he had been excited by coming across a picture of a woman bound to a stake. The protection of the young raises special
considerations Which we shall come to later, but even so it is clearly impossible to suppress Pictures of Joan of Arc. A glance at the list of books found in the home of Ian Brady, the Moors murderer, makes the same point. There are people who will
gain a perverted satisfaction from reading accounts of Nazi atrocities or of other historical happenings, or even passages in the Bible, but publications cannot be suppressed on that account. All kinds of literature can have a destructive effect. The
case of Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, which was said to have made suicide fashionable. is famous, but equally we heard of a romantic novel linked to the drowning of a teenage girl and of an Agatha Christie story linked to a real-life poisoning.
There can be no question of suppressing such works. Art galleries cannot be closed to those who find. excitement in paintings of barbarous acts or semi-clad women; nor can such people be kept away from beaches or be prevented from reading daily news.
papers. For those who are susceptible to them, the stimuli are all around us; but the main point we wish to make from our study of the anecdotal and clinical evidence is that there is very little indication that pornography figures very significantly
among these stimuli.
6.11 Our expert witnesses had more reservations about violent material, though again we heard no direct evidence of cases in which it was considered that crime had resulted from a particular stimulus. But both Professor Sir Martin Roth and Professor
Trevor Gibbens told us that it was pornography with a violent content which concerned them most. Some cases were brought to our attention by other witnesses in which such effects were alleged to have, occurred, and perhaps the chief object of such
allegations was the film A Clock- work Orange which after its release early in 1972 was cited in a few court cases as the cause of real-life violence perpetrated by young men. The film. was undoubtedly a powerful one and it seems clear that aspects
of the were deliberately copied by some youths who engaged in violence. Whether that violence occurred only because they had seen the film is of course more difficult to say and Mrs Mary Whitehouse, in the evidence submitted to us by the National
Viewers' and Listeners' Association, was perhaps not on the strongest ground when she attacked the film principally on the basis of a case in which a 16 year old youth had brutally murdered a tramp: the youth con- cerned, though certainly fascinated
by the story, had not in fact seen the film. (Since the film was classified as unsuitable for persons under 18 years. if he had seen it, he would not have done so legally.) We came across just three other cases in which A Clockwork Orange had been
mentioned. Another film mentioned for its disturbing and anti-social effects was The Exorcist, and we read about two cases in which young men took their own lives (in only one of these was the link with the film very strong), and three other cases in
which sexual offences or murder were associated with the film. The case involving murder, which was brought to our notice by the Nationwide Festival of Light, illustrates what we said earlier in this chapter about such films being made an excuse. The
young man concerned had said that he had committed the offence while possessed by an evil spirit, after seeing the film The Exorcist; but it seems, from the press reports. that he admitted on the last day of his trial that he had simply made up this
story after seeing a copy of the book in the police car. In the two other cases the film did not, even superficially, appear to be the dominant influence in the offences.
6.12 With respect to violence, the same point arises as before. The net would have to be cast very wide to prevent actual events from being influenced undesirably by what people see. It was, for example, a televised version of The Brothers Karamazov
which was said to have influenced a young man to attempt to kill his parents with a meat cleaver in 1976, and it was the American television series Roots which was alleged to have prompted a Jamaican in London to rape a white. woman, saying that he
was going to treat her as white men had treated black women. While we have been preparing this report, the IRA have planted a bomb in a manner modelled on an incident in a television crime series; a 12 year boy has been reported as shooting himself
in Detroit while playing Russian roulette after seeing The Deer Hunter; and an 8 year old girl has jumped from a second-floor landing in Barcelona after telling her playmates she was Superman.
6.13 A great deal of research work-more in the United States than in this country-has been undertaken into the effects of exposure to porno- graphic or explicit sexual material or material having a violent content. Unfortunately, no very clear
impression emerges from the results of this work and, as we shall see, even those who have surveyed it cannot always agree about the conclusions which can be drawn from it. We had available to us two reviews of the relevant literature, by Mr Maurice
Yaffe on the effects of obscene material' and by Mr Stephen Brody on Screen Violence and Film Censorship 2. Besides the general evidence which was put to us on these matters, we also had the advantage of discussing the lessons of work in this field,
particularly in relation to violence, with two other authors who had made a study of it and published the results, Professor H J Eysenck 3 and Dr Guy Cumberbatch 4.
6.14 Some serious reservations inevitably attach to research in this field. There is the absolutely general point that correlation experiments in artificial conditions are regarded by many competent critics as an unilluminating and unreliable way of
investigating complex behaviour, even in many other species, let alone in human beings. But further, more specific, criticisms apply in the case of the kinds of behaviour that are in question here. Since criminal and anti-social behaviour cannot
itself, for both practical and ethical reasons, be experimentally produced or controlled. the observations must be made on some surrogate or related behaviour, often expressed on a representational object, in some fictional or "pretend"
context. This feature of the work can come close, in some cases, to simply begging the question. 'The fundamental issue in this field concerns the relations that hold between the reactions aroused in a subject by a represented, artificial. or fantasy
scene, and his behaviour in reality. Fantasy and reality, and their relations, are the basic categories of the question. We can only express surprise at the confidence that some investigators have shown in supposing that they can investigate this
problem through experimental set-ups in which reality is necessarily replaced by fantasy. Such criticisms apply. of course. to the whole investigation. not to a particular kind of result; they are equally relevant to those whose results, derived from
this kind of experiment, are supposed to deny correlations between pictorial stimuli and real-life violence, and those whose results tend in the opposite direction.
1 Appendix V to Pornography: The Longford Report, Coronet Books, 1972 as updated by
Mr Yaffe for our benefit.
2 Home Office Research Study No 40, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977.
3 Sex, Violence and the Media, by H J Eysenck and D K B Nias, Temple Smith, 1978.
4 Mass Media Violence and Society, by D Howitt and G Cumberbatch, Elek Science, 1975.
6.15 Besides observations of behaviour under experimental conditions, which particularly apply to questions of violence, the evidence considered in relation to sexual material is. as Mr Yaffe points out, basically of three kinds: retrospective
personal history studies of exposure to the material, self-reports before and after experimental exposure, and physiological and biochemical measures of change in response to experimental exposure. The reliability of studies which depend on
retrospective surveys or self-supporting is notoriously suspect and this is particularly true where they touch on highly personal and value-laden subjects such as sexual behaviour.
6.16 Survey studies have included several which have asked varying samples of people such as young male offenders, sexual offenders and various other groups in the population about their exposure to pornography and their sexual behaviour and other
factors. Many of these were undertaken for the United States Commission on Obscenity and Pornography and their inter- pretation. quite apart from the difficulty of deriving any lessons from them. has given rise to some controversy. We do not propose
to discuss these studies in detail: a summary, and a citation of the original work, appears in Mr Yaffe's survey. We noted that the American Commission. in the light of all the studies undertaken for it, concluded that "empirical research has
found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behaviour among youth or adults"; we noted also that this conclusion was criticised in a number of quarters
as having been based on a partial examination of the evidence in which ambiguities and certain contra-indications were ignored. Without our- selves entering into the controversy about the Commission's methods. we make the comment that the effect of
re-examining the original studies in the light of a hostile critique of the Commission's conclusions, such as that put forward principally by Professor Victor Cline, is simply to make one adopt rather more caution in drawing inferences from the
studies undertaken. It is still possible to say, as Mr Yaffe points out in his updated review, that there does not appear to be any strong evidence that exposure to sexually explicit material triggers off anti-social sexual behaviour. We would add
only that this is con- sistent with what we learned from the clinical experience of those experienced medical witnesses we consulted.
6.17 Studies of the effects of violent material have concentrated on laboratory. experiments, a method which has figured less in research into the anti-social effects of sexual material, though laboratory techniques have of course been used in
studying sexual arousal generally. Studies using adults have concen- trated on men but girls as well as boys have been studied in experiments using children. A considerable amount of work has been done in relation particularly to television violence,
which was not of direct relevance to our review but it was the view of our witnesses that many of the results of this work could be applied equally to films. In the case of sexual material, we encountered disagreement about the exact weight of the
evidence for different conclusions; with regard to violent material, we met flatly opposing views.
6.18 In his review of the literature, Brody concluded that "it can be stated quite simply that social research has not been able unambiguously to offer any firm assurance that the mass media in general, and films and television 'm particular,
either exercise a socially harmful effect. or that they do not". He went on:
"The most reasonable interpretation of the considerable quantity of research results so far available would suggest that some people-par- ticularly young people-may be inclined both to actual aggressiveness (however this is manifested, and not
necessarily in criminal behaviour) and to a preference for entertainment dealing with aggressive themes. for reasons which probably originate with the development of personality and character; but that watching violent action on the screen is
unlikely in itself to impel ordinary viewers to behave in ways they would otherwise not have done. Research into the causes of crime has repeatedly indicated the enormous variety of possible contributing factors, all of which overlap in complex ways
and are quite unpredictable for any one individual; in all these studies, incidentally, the mass media have war- ranted scarcely a mention. That potentially violent or anti-social persons may find their own sentiments and dispositions confirmed and
perhaps reinforced by television and films is not a consideration to be ignored. but it is in the amplification of existing tendencies that the main influence is likely to lie, not in the moulding of social behaviour.'
Howitt and Cumberbatch had fewer doubts as a result of their comprehen- sive survey of research which, they suggested, had "'shown effectively that the mass media-as far as it is possible to tell using social scientific methodologies -do not
serve to amplify the level of violence in society". Eysenck and Nias, on the other hand, though following a less thorough review of earlier studies, also showed few doubts but in the opposite sense: "the evidence is fairly unanimous that
aggressive acts new to the subjeet's repertoire of responses, as well as acts already well established, can be evoked by the viewing of violent scenes portrayed on film, TV or in the theatre".
6.19 Such contradictions between investigators present a problem. We do not have the space to discuss in detail all the studies from which such different conclusions can be derived but it may be helpful to examine just one as an illustration of how
conflicting views can arise, and of the limitations which, as we have already suggested, are inherent in these ways of investigating these questions. A common tool in studying imitative violence is the Bobo doll, an inflatable toy with a weighted
base which resumes an upright position after being knocked over, and a number of studies have observed the reactions of children towards such a doll after they have seen an adult assaulting it. For example, in the earliest such study by Bandura and
others in 1961, a number of children between 3 and 5 years were split into three groups, one of which was left in the presence of an adult model punching, kicking or striking with a mallet a Bobo doll, accompanied by aggressive cries of "Sock
him ... pow" etc. another was left in the presence of an adult who spent the time quietly assembling toys and the third group left to play by themselves, though in later experiments the children saw similar behaviour which had been filmed. When
later given a chance to play with various toys. including a Bobo doll and a mallet, the group who had seen the adult assaulting the doll displayed similar aggressive tendencies to a much greater extent than the other groups. Eysenck and Nias simply
record this result and the fact that similar studies have invari- ably found that children do tend to imitate an aggressive model when given the chance, and presumably notch it up among the "fairly unanimous" evidence to which they refer.
6.20 Both Brody and Howitt and Cumberbatch, on the hand, discuss the severe criticisms which have been made of such studies as the basis for apply- ing notions of imitated violence to the real world outside the laboratory. Bobo dolls, it is pointed
out, are designed to invite knocking about and to extra- polate to social behaviour the way in which a child plays with them is quite unwarranted. This objection relates to the point we have already made. that in studying this issue, the
investigation of violence towards a fantasy or surrogate object such as a doll comes close to begging the question. Various other argu- ments about the many differences between the laboratory situation and real life have been put forward, which in
Brody's view seriously undermine any attempts to apply research results to the claim that films promote aggressive or violent behaviour by imitation. Howitt and Cumberbatch point out in addition that Bandura's studies involve exposing children to
fairly novel kinds of toys and that if the children have prior experience of Bobo dolls the amount of imitative violence is reduced. They also draw attention to the point that the children classified by their teachers as more aggressive might have
been ex- pected to attack the doll more readily than the others, if such behaviour was adequate as a predictor of real-life aggression: this was not so, and that fact, in their view, points away from the conclusion that the findings may be
generalised to real life. Howitt and Cumberbatch, therefore, discount such experiments in considering a link between media violence and violence in society.
6.21 Eysenck and Nias do not so much dismiss these objections, as ignore them. They leave the unsuspecting reader ignorant that such substantial reservations have been widely voiced about the implications of these experi- mental studies, and this. in
our view, diminishes the value of their work as a contribution to the scientific literature. Their book is indeed aimed more at the popular market, drawing partly on press reports to illustrate the alleged effects of media violence (including the now
celebrated Clockwork Orange murder, but again omitting the information that the young murderer had not actually seen the film); but we thought it a pity that the lay reader should be presented so incautiously with only one side of the story. It
seemed to us right to be sceptical about attempts to apply the lessons of these laboratory experiments to real life and we therefore preferred the more non-committal view taken, in particular, by Brody. We consider that the only objective verdict
must be one of "not proven".
Analysis of crime statistics
6.22 Part of the basis for the conclusion reached by the United States Com- mission, which we have already mentioned, was a preliminary assessment of the trend in reported crime in Denmark following the liberalisation of the Danish laws on
pornography in the late nineteen-sixties. The controversy surrounding the Commission prompted some people to question the thesis that the legalisation of pornography reduced the incidence of sex crimes in Denmark; and in time a contrary thesis
emerged, that there is in fact statisti- cal evidence indicating that the free availability of pornography can be linked to an increase in sexual offences. This is an argument which rests heavily on work undertaken by Dr John Court, Reader in
Psychology at the Flinders University of South Australia. and Dr Court was good enough to submit to us several papers on the subject. The Nationwide Festival of Light and the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association urged us to pay special
attention to Dr Court's work; and others with a more specialised interest in the field of human behaviour, such as Professor Sir Martin Roth and Professor H J Eysenck, made reference to Dr Court's work in the course of giving evidence to us.
6.23 It was clearly right that we should examine this evidence in some detail and we also think it right that we should discuss it in some detail here 1. It has not so far been subjected to close scrutiny and we think it important that the public
should have the opportunity to assess what it shows. The issue of whether people are more likely to be sexually assaulted as a result of the circulation of certain kinds of publication or the showing of certain kinds of film is obviously a very
important one. But we would not want to give the impression, by dealing with the issue at considerable length, that we think that it is the only or the decisive issue. We shall come in due course to other kinds of consideration. including other
concepts of harm which have been put to us, and these are also important. A special feature of the argument about porn- graphy and sex crimes is that the effects that have been suggested Here are claimed to be statistically measurable.
6.24 But are they measurable? Here there are several sets of problems. The first set concerns the number of offences. Certainly we have detailed information about the number of sexual offences reported to the police over a long period. However. this
is not the same as knowing how many offences occurred, since there is no means of telling how many victims decided not to go to the police to report what happened. It is often suggested that rape and sexual offences are peculiarly prone to
non-reporting because victims often prefer to avoid the prolongation and reinforcement of the distress they have suffered which may result from questioning by the police and the giving of evidence and cross-examination at a trial. We cannot be sure.
therefore, how many offences have been committed or what proportion never come to light. The particular difficulty in examining trends in offences is that there is no way of knowing whether the unreported proportion of offences is remaining con-
stant-in which case the trend can accurately be assessed even though the incidence of the offences is not fully known-or whether fluctuations are occurring in the proportion that are not reported: victims may at different times be more or less ready
to report offences, because of changing social attitudes. or because of changes in the law or legal procedure or police practice.
1 We received assistance in analysing the statistics and the arguments based on them from
the Home Office Research Unit, in particular in a paper prepared by Mr Stephen Brody.
6.25 It follows that even apparently detailed information about the number of offences reported to the police gives an imperfect picture of the number of such offences; it may not even reveal whether, or by how much, the number is increasing or
decreasing from year to year. The problem gets worse if one tries to make international comparisons. Legal systems vary considerably between countries and differences in what constitutes a criminal offence-and what name is given to it-often mean that
comparisons which seem straight- forward are not in fact comparing like with like. Moreover, the form and reliability of criminal statistics varies widely from country to country. Finally. it is too easy to look at statistics in isolation from the
procedures and social climate in the country concerned which may affect, for example. the readiness of victims to report offences.
6.26 The second set of difficulties concerns the other side of the correlation: the availability of pornography. The imperfections of the information about the incidence of sexual offences are insignificant compared with the lack of information about
the availability of pornography. There are two kinds of problems here. One relates simply to the quantity of pornography available, about which there is very little reliable information. The second raises the question of what kind of material we
should consider for these purposes as pornography, and whether the differences between different kinds or degrees of pornography are likely to produce different effects, and so should be taken into account in trying to make correlations with the
incidence of sexual offences.
6.27 Much of the evidence we received assumed that pornography had worse effects, the more extreme it was. Thus, mild pornography consisting of little more than "pin-up" pictures is often regarded as harmless, while the strongest and most
explicit material is commonly regarded as the most corrupting. Yet in considering a hypothesis that sexual offences are linked to the widespread availability of pornography, it is not obvious, on reflection. that hard-core pornography should lead to
the commission of offences in a way that soft pornography does not. Indeed. many people might think that if a potential sex offender were going to be triggered off by something he saw, that effect would be produced at least as well if not better by
the titillating and erotically arousing than by the clinical close-up. So how should one set about quantifying pornography? How should an index of availability reflect changes in the type of material over a period of time? How should one compare one
country where soft pornography is widely available, but hard-core material is banned, with another where hard-core pornography is available for anyone who wants it but where pornography generally appears to be less pervasive?
6.28 These difficulties seem to us very real, and it is a severe shortcoming of much of the work which has been put to us that the sometimes detailed study of criminal statistics is accompanied by only the most generalised and unsupported statements
about the availability of pornography. If no measures exist for what is supposed to be the causal factor, it is impossible to make any progress in attempting to relate cause to effect.
6.29 The relation of cause to effect brings in the third, central, and best- known, problem. Even if it is possible to provide an accurate measure of two variables. the existence of a correlation between them is certainly no proof that one is
influenced by the other. The causes of crime are undoubtedly complex and elude isolation. Many factors are at work and much stronger indications than a mere correlation between variables are necessary before the existence of a causal link can even be
suggested, let alone proved. The difficulties of proving or even plausibly arguing for, causal relationships between general or disuse social phenomena on a purely statistical basis are sufficiently well-recognised for us not to need to dwell on them
England and Wales
6.30 Having drawn attention to the general considerations which limit both the available information and the inferences which can be derived from it. we should nevertheless look at some of the information which exists and examine what our witnesses
said about it. It is natural that we should start at home.
6.31 First, in relation to the availability of pornography in England and Wales, it needs to be said that no information exists to provide any kind of index. In the papers submitted to us, Dr Court did not attempt to provide such information. He does
however treat Britain as an example of a "liberal" country in which the detrimental effects of pornography are to be seen, and he identifies two times at which, he suggests, pornography became increasingly available-first with a change in
the law introduced by the Obscene Publica- tions Act of 1964, and subsequently following the impetus of the American Commission Report on Pornography in 1970. Dr Court offers nothing to substantiate his statement and we find his explanation of the
significance of these two dates less than convincing. As we have explained earlier. the Obscene Publications Act 1964 was a minor measure designed to strengthen the existing law by plugging two loopholes which had been found in the Act of five years
previously. Dr Court cites as the only authority for his suggestion that pornography became more available after the enactment of the 1964 Act as an article by Mr Ronald Butt in The Times on 5 February 1976 which attacked what Mr Butt then found to
be the ineffectiveness of the law in controlling pornography. Mr Butt argued that the intention of the 1959 and 1964 Acts had been systematically destroyed over the years by the exploitation of their letter, but nothing in his article supports the
idea that the 1964 Act opened the way to the greater availability of pornography. Nor do we know of any authority for the suggestion that pornography became more freely available here after 1970 as a result of the influence of the Report of the US
Commission. It seems to us that the choice of the years 1964 and 1970 as crucial in the increasing availability of pornography is purely arbitrary.
6.32 Our own enquiries have not placed us in a very much better position to assess the availability of pornography over a period of time. It is the experience of all of us that for very many years there has been a steady trend towards greater
frankness in sexual matters and greater tolerance of the portrayal of nudity and sexual activity. This has been reflected in a wide variety of publications and films, including those which many people would regard as pornographic, but it does not
help us to construct any kind of index with which to compare changes in the numbers of sexual offences. The Head of the Obscene Publications Squad of the Metropolitan Police told us that police activity in the last six years or so had resulted in a
con- siderable reduction in the amount of hard-core pornography from overseas in circulation, at least in London, though the police were unable to ;quantify the amounts concerned. The same period, however, has seen a considerable increase in the
publication of British magazines with an explicit sexual content which. particularly in the years 1975 to 1977. moved very quickly to adopt a character much less restrained than had previously been acceptable. These magazines were distributed
throughout the country and clearly reached a much wider audience than the undercover trade in overseas pornography ever had; it was suggested to us by some witnesses that if sexual offences were indeed linked to pornography, a noticeable effect
should have occurred over the last five years. However, as we have described in Chapter 4, there are indications that the circulation of these magazines reached a peak in 1976 and has subsequently suffered a decline, aided by increasing police action
against publishers from early in 1977 and, in London, against retailers from early in 1978. The managing director of the largest publisher in this field stated in the trade press in June 1978, and confirmed in correspondence with u@ that the effect
of this action had been to reduce the sales of his magazines by 40 per cent. in the first quarter of 1978.
6.33 With that patently inadequate basis for assessing the availability of pornography, lot us nevertheless turn to the information available about the incidence of sexual offences. Figure 1 shows the numbers of indictable sexual offences reported to
the police in every year since 1946. This gives a longer perspective than Dr Court has offered and enables the point to be made that sexual offences (or reports of such offences) were significantly increasing long before pornography is alleged to
have become more widely available and Well before the "ineffective" Acts of 1959 and 1964 had a chance to exercise their influence. Indeed, it would appear that the number of reported offences levelled off between 1959 and 1966; though if
the figures for 1964 to 1970 are taken in isolation. an increase becomes noticeable, even if it is less marked than that in the period 1946 to 1959. But what is per- haps even more significant is the trend since 1973: until the increase last year.
there had been a steady fall in the number of sexual offences known to the police. In the light of the suggestion we reported in the preceding paragraph, this should be interesting to those who are impressed by such correlations: a period of
apparently rapid increase in the availability of pornography seems to have been accompanied by a reduction in the number of sexual offences reported, which was reversed in the year in which increased police activity reportedly reduced the
availability of sex magazines.
6.34 We have also used Figure 1 to make another point of some substance, which is that it is futile to seek to examine one class of offence in isolation from the trend in crime generally. In our society. as in others throughout the world, rising
crime has been a matter of much concern for many years and it is pointless to seek a special explanation for a rising trend in sexual offences if that trend merely reflects an increase in the general level of offences. But is that the case? In fact
it is not, because sexual offences seem to have been significantly out of step with other offences. in that they have not shown anywhere near the same increase in numbers over the years. This is shown dramatically in Figure 1 by comparison with
offences against the person, which have continued to rise steeply when sexual offences have stabilised and actually fallen. The papers submitted to us by Dr Court do not face up to this point and we think it a weakness of his work that he has
concentrated on sexual offences to the extent of divorcing them from their context of crime generally. However, we note that in an article published in The Times on 7 August 1976, Dr Court put forward the proposition that the increase in serious
sexual offences is greater than the general rise in crime in countries such as the USA and Australia, but that in Britain this has been "masked in recent years by the upsurge of violent offences associated with the Irish problem". Given the
fact that the trend in violent crime. as Figure 1 shows, goes back at least a quarter of a century, and given the scale of that increase, we doubt whether Dr Court would wish to stand by that statement.
6.35 It can fairly be said that offences against the person have not been representative of crime generally because they have increased proportionately more than other offences. However, indictable offences as a whole have, in comparison with just
after the war, increased in number over five times. whereas sexual offences have rather more than doubled in number. In 1946 sexual offences accounted for 2 per cent of all indictable offences recorded by the police. This proportion rose to almost 4
per cent in 1955 but has fallen steadily since, until in 1977 and 1978 sexual offences accounted for less than 1 per cent of all indictable offences recorded by the police. Whether com- pared with thirty years ago or twenty years ago or ten years
ago, sexual offences are now relatively less common among crimes known to the police.
6.36 It can be argued, of course. that to take sexual offences as a whole produces a misleading result, since the figures reflect changes in the law or in sexual morality with regard to offences such as those involving homo- sexual activity or sexual
intercourse with under-age girls. Dr Court pays special attention to rape as an offence which may be potentially pornography- induced, and it is reasonable to regard indecent assault, among the other sexual offences, as appropriate to the same
category. Figure 2 shows the numbers of these offences reported in each year since 1946. Offences of rape have increased faster than sexual offences as a whole, there having been five times as many reported cases in 1978 (1,243) as in 1946 (251), but
this is the same rate of increase as for all indictable offences and a much smaller increase than for offences against the person, which increased over twenty- fold. Offences of indecent assault on a female, although more common, increased less
dramatically than rape, very much in line with the increase already referred to for sexual offences as a whole. A marked fall since 1973 has been reversed in the last two years. As with Figure 1, Figure 2 also shows how the trend for another offence
of the same order of frequency. robbery. is in contrast to that for the sexual offences examined.
6.37 Dr Court did not devote much attention to the situation in England and Wales. Yet he confidently observed in a published paper that "highly significant increases are apparent for rape and attempted rape for the period m question". The
period in question, in Dr Court's thesis, is presumably that between 1964 and 1974. then the latest year for which he quoted figures, when the number of reported offences of rape and attempted rape rose by 103 per cent. This period of ten years was
clearly a bad one for offences of rape, but the assertion ignores the fact that offences of violence against the person rose over the same period by 172 per cent, and it is not helped by the stabilisation of the number of rapes, despite the
unrelenting rise in other violent crime. in the three years after 1974. The "significance", moreover. in Dr Court's view. is presumably linked to his own totally unsubstantiated surmise that pornography began to be widely available after
6.38 In his papers, Dr Court has paid rather more attention to the figures for the Metropolitan Police District, on the ground that a greater concentration of pornographic publications is associated with some parts of London than with the provinces.
It is certainly not true that pornography has been confined to London but neither we nor Dr Court can offer any evidence of the relative circulation of pornography in London and in provincial centres. With that deficiency acknowledged, let us examine
the statistics of offences known to the police in London. Dr Court has concentrated on the figures for rape, and Figure 3 accordingly does the same but also shows (on a different scale) the numbers of other sexual assaults in the years since 1947.
The figures for offences of rape recorded by the police since 1947 indicate a slightly different picture from that for the country as a whole. Rapes have increased twice as fast in London as in the rest of the country and have continued to increase
when. in the years 1975 to 1977 they came nearer to remaining constant else- where. This is not because crime in London has increased faster than elsewhere -the contrary is the case-and the effect is that rape has increased much faster than
indictable offences as a whole, though still much more slowly than offences of violence. The same is not true, however, in respect of other sexual assaults, which have increased in London only by about the same extent as in the country as a whole,
and they showed a significant decline between 1970 and 1977. Moreover, what Figure 3 also shows in a longer perspective than Dr Court gives is that the rising trend in rape and sexual assaults started well before what Dr Court alleges was the first
date significant for the availability of pornography.
6.39 While we were hearing oral evidence it was reported that sexual offences known to the police in London had risen substantially in the first six months of 1978 compared with the same period of 1977 (rapes from 75 to 122 and sexual assaults from
550 to 741). These reports prompted some of our witnesses to draw the conclusion that the rise was @ed to the onset of a more active enforcement policy in the Metropolitan area, in which, from the beginning of February 1978. scores of raids on
retailers by divisional police officers had significantly reduced the amount of pornography available in London (we have already reported one publisher's statement of the effect on his sales). A reduc- tion in sexual assaults during a period when
pornography is widely available, followed by an increase when curbs are placed on the trade, hardly bears out the hypothesis that pornography stimulates sex crimes; but we do not think that the figures for one period of six months or for a year (now
that the statistics for 1978 as a whole confirm the increase apparent in the half-year figures) can be used as the basis for any conclusions. Arguments of a similar kind were put to us in relation to the rate of sex crime in Manchester, where there
has also been a policy of rigorous enforcement of the law on obscene publications. but we came to the conclusion from a more detailed examination of the statistics that the arguments were insufficiently supported.
6.40 We must at this point refer again to the problem of knowing how large the "dark area" of sexual crime is. The figures for rapes known to the police certainly underestimate the incidence of such offences. However, there may be, grounds
for thinking that there has recently been an increase in the level of reporting of cases of rape, and this could be reflected in the latest figures. There is a greater consciousness of the problem of rape, partly associated with the development of
organisations such as Rape Crisis Centres, and greater protec- tion is now afforded to complainants in rape cases under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 (which provides for their anonymity and imposing certain restrictions on their
cross-examination); because of these factors. rape victims may be more willing to go to the police, and this may have increased the official statistics.
6.41 We now attempt to summarise what has emerged from this study of the arguments linking pornography and sexual offences in England and Wales. First, there is no firm information about the availability of pornography over the years, and there is no
foundation to suggestions that have been made about particular times at which pornography became increasingly available. Second, the rising trend in sexual offences generally, including rape and sexual assault started long before it is alleged
pornography began to be widely available. Third, the increase in sexual offences generally, and in rape and sexual assaults, has been significantly slower (though in the case of rape alone the difference is less significant) in the last twenty years
than that in crime generally. Fourth, the contrast between the upward trend in crime generally and the greater stability in the numbers of rapes and sexual assaults has been most marked in the years from 1973 to 1977 (except in the case of rapes
alone reported to the police in London where the increase is consistent with that in other forms of crime), when this period appears to have been the one when pornography was most available.
6.42 So, what conclusions can be drawn? We have already referred briefly to the extreme difficulty of identifying causal factors in the incidence of crime but, in the light of the findings we have set out above, we see no need to develop that
argument. Ale case put to us by Dr Court, and by other witnesses who have looked to Dr Court's work for support. cannot on the basis of the situation in England and Wales, we believe, even survive as a plausible hypothesis. Each of the findings in
the preceding paragraph stands opposed to it. Consider Figure 4, which shows the relative importance of the numbers of rapes and sexual assaults in the totality of crime. We think it unlikely that any fair- minded person would, on the basis of the
information depicted in that graph, feel the need to construct a special hypothesis to explain the increase in sex crimes, still less that the hypothesis constructed would be that an alleged increase in the availability of pornography first after
1964 and secondly since 1970 (increases for which there is no independent evidence) provided a crucial
influence in the growth in such offences.
6.43 We are not denying the possibility that pornography could be linked to the commission of sexual offences. Nor are we suggesting, on the other hand, as the data in Figure 4 encourage some to suggest, that the availability of pornography is
associated actually with a decline (or at any rate a reduction in the rate of rise) in sexual offences. It might be. for example, that if only information were available about the amount of pornography in circulation some kind of correlation might be
possible; it might be that whatever the factors are which have given rise to the substantial increases in most other forms of crime, they do not operate in respect of sexual offences and therefore some other separate explanation of the more modest
growth in sexual crime has to be sought; it may be that there has been a substantial reduction in the willingness of victims of rape and sexual assault to complain to the police, so that the true number of offences. and the trend. is quite different
from what appears in the criminal statistics. These are, we say. possible: but we do not think they are probable. It is not possible. in our view, to reach well-based conclusions about what 'm this count has been the influence of pornography on
sexual crime. But we unhesitatingly reject the suggestion that the available, statistical information for England and Wales lends any support at all to the argument that pornography acts as a stimulus to the commission of sexual violence.
6.44 The main 'international interest in a possible link between pornography and sex crimes has centred on Denmark and on what was the result in that country of the abolition of the laws restricting pornography. A feature of the Danish situation
which is thought to make it a helpful subject for study is that the change was a quick one. with the prohibition on the obscene written word being abolished in 1967 and that on obscene pictorial matter being abolished in 1969. Although pornography,
particularly of the softer variety, had been increasingly available before the law was changed, the fairly rapid move from the restricted availability of pornography to its being widely available, is con- sidered to facilitate a "before"
and "after" study in a way that is impossible with the more gradual increase in the availability of pornography in countries such as Britain; and the fact that it has continued to be available would lead one to expect that any adverse
effects there might be would manifest themselves. Even so. the fact that pornography is freely available does not tell one how much is in circulation or is being consumed, data which might be the more appropriate measure with which to compare the
incidence of sexual offences; information suggests that sales of pornography in Denmark slumped drastically after an initial boom which accompanied the removal of legal restrictions. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that one is in a better
position in the case of Denmark to provide an index of the availability of pornography than one is in the case of England and Wales.
6.45 There has grown up something of a folk myth about the effect of the Danish liberalisation on the incidence of sexual offences. This may have resulted from the general way in which studies of the Danish situation were reported, before the studies
themselves became available, in the Report of the United States Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in 1970. It is often said. and it was said to us, that the freeing of pornography in Denmark resulted in a decline in sexual offences, but this
kind of unguarded statement is very vulnerable to attack. Authoritative claims about the Danish experience are a good deal more limited. The most detailed work has been undertaken by Dr Berl Kutchinsky of the Institute of Criminal Science at the
University of Copenhagen, a preliminary study by him having been commissioned by the United States Commission in 1969. That study permitted only first impressions to be given of the results of the changes made in 1967 and 1969. though we think it
right to make the point that even Dr Court, who has sought to detract from Dr Kutchinsky's work. made it clear to us that he regards those reports as careful, detailed and appropriately cautious about the conclusion which might be drawn. Dr
Kutchinsky has continued his work since 1970. and we had the opportunity of discussing it with him,. but the more detailed assessment he has been preparing of the effect of Denmark's legal changes on the incidence of sexual offences has not yet been
published. This means that most of the debate has so far been based either on a thorough study of statistics up to 1970 or on a more. superficial examination of statistics since that date.
6.46 It is useful first to identify some of the problems involved in making comparisons. First, various changes were made to the Danish law on sexual offences at about the same time that pornography was legalised; this has led Mrs Mary Whitehouse, to
make the point that of course sex crimes will diminish very significantly if eleven categories of sex crime are removed from the statute book. Dr Court makes a similar point in a more discreet way by suggesting that some of Kutchinsky's data
apparently were influenced by legislative changes", while admitting that "it is true to say that the reported decline does not arise from legislative change,". Dr Kutchinsky assured us that he had been most careful in excluding from
his figures any offence in respect of which any liberalisation had occurred, in order to avoid the obvious pitfall identified by Mrs Whitehouse. There are of course other disadvantages in leaving out of account offences in respect of which there have
been legal changes, since it can. be suggested (as by Dr Court) that this itself may lead to serious effects being masked; but there is really no alternative, from the methodological point of view. to omitting figures for offences where there can be
no proper compara- bility.
6.47 Second, it can be suggested that there has been an alteration in the rate of reporting of certain offences because of the different atmosphere itself partly caused by changes in *e law. Dr Kutchinsky has recognised this possibility and Dr Court
has commented that he has made a commendable attempt to measure changes in the readiness to report offences. Part of Dr Kutchinsky's study has been of public attitudes towards the criminality of certain acts, which, for example, demonstrated a
generation shift in attitude towards physical indecency with women, but no similar change in attitude towards the molesta- tion of children. A study was also made of the relative seriousness of reported offences, the detailed results of which
indicated that for such offences as physical indecency with women the less serious offences were now much less likely to be considered worth reporting, while there had been no similar change in the seriousness of the reported offences of molesting
children. Dr. Kutchinsky's conclusion from this is that a drop in the number of reported assaults on women is at least partly explained by the fact that fewer women bother to report them, but that, with regard to sexual offences against children, the
fall in the number reported to the police does in fact represent a falling-off in the number of such offences actually committed.
6.48 It seemed to us, however, that there was still a need for caution in interpreting these findings. Another factor. for example, to affect the rate of reporting of offences against children might be a growing belief that a child could be further
harmed by the court procedures involved. This factor might affect the reporting of offences of all degrees of gravity, and if so, would not be reflected in any changes in the seriousness of reported offences. Dr Kutchinsky's extensive studies do go
some way to meet this point: they include a survey of attitudes towards readiness to report, which appears to show that this factor was of some effect. but that the decrease in readiness to report offences against children was less, relatively. than
it was with other offences studied.
6.49 According to Dr Kutchinsky, the incidence of reported sex offences before the liberalisation of pornography had remained steady for twenty. years, at about 85 cases per annum per 100,000 of the population. In 1967 this dropped to 67 and
continued to fall to a level of about 40. This was very much an urban phenomenon, offences in the capital, having decreased by 75-80% compared with very little change in the already lower level in rural areas. Ordinary heterosexual crimes unaffected
by changes in the law dropped con- sistently, most noticeably after 1966, from just over 100 per 100,000 to less than 30 in 1973. and then levelled off.
6.50 This overall trend, however, conceals a variety of changes in relation to particular types of offence, and it is more instructive to examine what hap- pened to different types. Dr Court has. as in respect of other countries, concentrated on
rape. Figure 5 shows offences of rape and attempted rape reported to the police in Copenhagen, based both on figures for the years since 1965 given to us by the Police Commissioner for Copenhagen, and on figures published by Dr Kutchinsky in 1973.
Even these are not the only figures which have been quoted, and Dr Court has commented that the incidence of rape in Copenhagen over the past 15 years is more difficult to establish than might be supposed. The variation evident in Figure 5 arises
from reservations which Dr Kutchinsky has had about the recording practice of the police. His workers have examined police records to reassess against agreed criteria the nature of every reported case, including those where complaints had been
withdrawn or where the police had decided that no offence had been committed. As a result. Dr Kutchinsky has a statistical record of sexual offences which differs from that issued by the police. but which he regards as more accurate and reliable.
This explains the discrepancy 'm the figures up to 1970 which Dr Kutchinsky has already published, and which he will be bringing up to date when he publishes his forthcoming book.
6.51 Whichever set of figures is regarded as the more reliable, it is impossible to discern a significant trend in rape which could be linked in any way with the free availability of pornography since the late nineteen-sixties. Dr Kutchinsky
emphasises that he has never suggested that such a link exists, and said to us that be believed that the availability of pornography had not affected the incidence of rape, one way or the other. Dr Court sees the figures as evidence that generalised
statements about the "sudden fall-off in sex crimes" are based on an illusion., but he has gone further, and, lacking the figures for recent years which we have included in Figure 5, has stated that by 1974 at least "the trend towards
an increase in reports of rape and attempted rape was clear"-a statement which he has not supported with figures. Figures for the years since 1972 show that there is in fact no such, trend, and although Figure 5 stands as a reproof to those who
have drawn a conclusion that serious sex crimes have declined since pornography became widely available in Denmark, it certainly provides no support at all for the thesis put to us by Dr Court.
6.52 Dr Kutchinsky has made a particular study of four types of offences which were among those showing the largest decline in numbers since 1965. These are: peeping, exhibitionism, indecent assaults on women and indecent assaults on young girls. The
preliminary conclusions which Dr Kutchinsky reported to the United States Commission-which he emphasised to be only tentative-were that changes in the readiness of women to report sexual assaults were apparently large enough to account for the
decrease in reported offences of that type during the nineteen-sixties; that the reduction in reported cases of indecent exposure could also be explained by a decrease in readiness to report. but that this reduction seemed to parallel more closely
the availability of pornography, something which might possibly be explained by the effect of pornography having been that fewer women were so shocked by real-life exposure as to think it worth reporting., and that the reduction in reported cases of
peeping and of indecent assaults on children could not be explained by lower reporting rates, but reflected an actual drop in the number of such offences committed, and that this could be tentatively explained by the effect of pornography being
6.53 Since peeping does not even constitute an offence in England and Wales (those indulging in the practice are sometimes bound over to DC of good behaviour), the most significant of these tentative findings for us is that concerning offences
against children. We discussed it with Dr Kutchinsky who confirmed that his later work has supported his view that there has been a real and significant reduction in indecent assaults on female children, and that this very closely correlated with the
availability of pornography. The dramatic reduction of two-thirds in the number of sex offences against children between 1967 and 1969 was difficult to explain other than in relation to the availability of pornography. and it was also notable that
1973 was the last year in which a significant, increase occurred in the availability of child pornography. and was also the year after which the drop in offences levelled off.
6.54 In looking for an explanation of this perceived relationship, Dr Kutchinsky suggests that the literature concerning this type of offender indicates that those who interfere with children typically do so not because they are irresistibly
attracted to children, but as a substitute for a preferred relationship with a woman which they find difficult to achieve; but if there is another substitute available in the form of pornography. then that serves the purpose just as well. The fact
that the reduction was most significant in offences involving younger children and loss so in relation to more "normal" offences against older. girls supported the hypothesis.
6.55 We find it difficult to draw any firm conclusions about these more specific matters. While we were impressed by the thoroughness with which Dr Kutchinsky had studied the situation and the restraint with which he sought to derive lessons from his
findings, the fact remains that correlation studies are a weak research tool, partly because of the difficulties of measure- ment-which still exist in relation to both the availability of pornography and the incidence of offences in Denmark, in spite
of Dr Kutchinsky's considerable efforts to overcome them-and partly because of the impossibility of translating a correlation into cause and effect. A common explanation of a correlation between two sets of social data is that each is affected by
some third, possibly unknown, factor and no matter how strong a correlation, it can never, bearing in mind all the other factors and influences that are also present, "Prove" any- thing. We recognise, however, that Dr Kutchinsky has
identified a very dramatic reduction in reported offences against children which coincided with the sudden upsurge in the availability of pornography and which, in consequence of the careful studies undertaken by Dr Kutchinsky, cannot readily be
explained by any other likely factor. While Dr Kutchinsky's explanation can- not be conclusive, we have to admit that it is plausible.
6.56 Dr Court has not commented at all on this finding of Dr Kutchinsky, other than in making general criticisms of Dr Kutchinsky's work, some Of which are patently mistaken and others apparently unjust, and in stressing that a direct causal
relationship. given the nature of the problem, could never be demonstrated. It seemed to us that because the Danish experience is in Dr Court's description "counter-intuitive"', his faith in his intuition has led him to the view "that
it must be assumed to be false". In these circumstances he has sought to cast as much doubt as he can on the findings, even when that has meant attacking secondary reporting rather than the original work, Persisting in allegations of error which
we were assured he had been told were false, quoting polemicists as if they were scientific sources. and resorting to a general broadside on Dr Kutchinsky's figures as being "utterly misleading". We have examined with some care the work of
both Dr Kutchinsky and Dr Court in relation to the situation in Denmark and have to say that Dr Kutchinsky's is in every respect more impressive: it is comprehensive, detailed and scrupulously careful. Dr Court has made no pretensions to a study of
equal thoroughness and, having looked at each of the points he has made about Dr Kutchinsky's work, we find that the one to which most weight attaches concerns just the absolutely general difficulty of trying to draw conclusions from the examination
of statistics of this kind. However. the conclusion which is inevitable from reading the voluminous papers by Dr Court and Dr Kutchinsky is that it is Dr Court who has felt the less inhibited by the argument and who has based far broader conclusions
on a much more rudimentary framework of information. If Dr Court were to be bound by the restraints which he urges the reader to apply in judging Dr Kutchinsky's work, his case would collapse entirely.
6.57 We have discussed the incidence of sexual offences in England and Wales and in Denmark at greater length than Dr Court has in any of the papers he submitted to us because we think it important that more light should be thrown on the subject so
that the objective reader may reach his own conclusions about Dr Court's case. Dr Court has additionally referred to a number of other countries, such as Australia, the United States of America, New Zealand, Sweden, South Africa, Japan and Singapore,
but we do not think it necessary to deal in detail with the situation in all of these countries. This reference to Sweden, for example, appeared to be based on nothing more in the way of evidence than one sentence from an article published in 1962 in
The Spectator; and all his other references were subject to the same severe criticisms that we have already mentioned, in that he produces no evidence on which an index of the availability of pornography may be con- structed; his treatment of
statistics of criminal offences is superficial and fluctuations in the figures for rape are never viewed in the context of trends in crime as a whole; and he shows an unscientific readiness to associate any rise in rape statistics with the influence
6.58 A fellow South Australian writer who has criticised Dr Court 1 has drawn attention to the fact that although Dr Court Picks out Singapore as illustrating the association between the restriction of pornography and a stable rate of rape, in order
to contrast it with a city such as London where a permissive attitude towards pornography is coupled with an increasing incidence of rape, rapes are, on the figures quoted by Dr Court, actually more common in Singapore than in London. Dr Court may
retort that to make such a comparison ignores the difficulties in assuming a similarity of legal definition cultural attitudes, police strength etc, but it seems to us that it is equally hazardous to take the statistics of rape for an unfamiliar
country and to attempt to relate them to a vague idea of the extent to which pornography is and has been available in that country. again in total isolation from cultural traditions, the state of the law and social developments. Dr Court has made no
attempt to place the developments he briefly chronicles in their social context.
1 P Cochrane, Sex crimes and pornography revisited. International Journal of Criminology
and Penology 1978, 6, 307-317.
6.59 We are satisfied that Dr Court's publications about pornography are more successful in expressing condemnation of pornography than they are in giving the study of its effects a sound scientific basis. We discount his evidence and, to the extent
that they rely on his work, the evidence of those who quote him.
II: OTHER EFFECTS ON HUMAN BEHAVIOUR
6.60 We have so far considered whether the influence of material of a sexual or violent nature might be manifested in behaviour which is illegal. To consider the possible effects on other forms of behaviour raises problems of deciding what forms of
legal behaviour are nevertheless undesirable. bringing to bear certain values. For example, some of our witnesses were clearly concerned at the effect of pornography on sexual behaviour generally. But if sexual arousal results, this is hardly to be
condemned in itself; if more frequent sexual intercourse follows, there is no obvious need for concern. while if the result is masturbation, still many will not be alarmed; if a greater repertoire of sexual activity is learned, many people would
regard this as a benefit. The prospect of encouraging premarital or extra-marital sexual activity raises greater controversy, but the indications from research results are that sexual patterns of behaviour are fixed before reading pornography can
exercise any influence. What people do is more affected by their existing habits and values than by exposure to pornography. and the sexual attitudes of groups who have been studied do not appear to have been much affected by seeing this kind of
material. It is however true that attitudes towards pornography and its restric- tion are very much a function of other attitudes towards sex generally (see Appendix 5, paragraph 2).
6.61 Concern is expressed that readers of pornography might be led into deviant sexual practices, particularly through a progressive seeking after novelty. We have already referred in Chapter 4 to the successful publisher's philosophy of
"keeping one step ahead", but the context of that progression was straightforward sexual explicitness, and we are sceptical of the extent to which the appeal of novelty, as represented in publications, draws people into sexual deviancy.
Indeed, all the evidence points to the fact that material dealing with bizarre or perverted sexual activity appeals only to those with a pre-existing interest established by the experiences of early life, and that such material is of very little
interest to others except perhaps as an occasional or once-for-au object of curiosity. The usual reaction of those who are not pre- disposed to the, particular form of deviant behaviour portrayed is disgust and revulsion. and there is no evidence
that exposure to such material inculcates a taste for it among such people. Even among adolescents, as Yaffe points out in Appendix 5, the reaction of the individual appears to relate to his previously established sexual identity rather than
influencing the development of that identity.
6.62 We received some evidence to the effect that although exposure to deviant pornography might not induce a sexual taste in a person without a pre-existing bias in that direction, it might nevertheless bring to the surface a deviant ingredient in a
person's character which he or she did not even know existed, or make it more difficult for people with deviant tastes to deal with that aspect of their personalities. Dr Hyatt Williams was one of those who made this point to us; we also heard from a
man who said that he suffered from. and struggled against, sadomasochistic tendencies. and who made a plea for the suppression of the kind of publications which could arouse such feelings. On the other hand,' there is the view that people who possess
certain interests and tendencies should not be prevented from having material which meets those interests, when the material might in fact provide a cathartic effect. offering some means of relief for tensions that arise from those tenden- cies.
Where the balance lies as regards the control of this material is not easy to judge. We discussed with Dr Hyatt Williams. for example. whether the protection of a small susceptible minority he had identified justified restric- tions on the
availability of such material more severe than restrictions on other sexually explicit material: he was inclined to think it did not, and the view of
other psychiatric witnesses tended in the same direction.
6.63 A particular aspect of behaviour to which some of our evidence was directed was that between partners in marriage and it was put to us that pornography could be influential in damaging human relationships and in leading to marital breakdown. The
typical aspect of the argument seemed to be that pornography sometimes implanted in husbands the desire to engage in sexual experimentation which their wives found abhorrent, and which there- fore introduced tensions into the marriage. Other
ingredients of the argument were that pornography's emphasis on sex divorced from any notion of love, and the wildly exaggerated ideas which it offers of sexual fulfilment and sexual performance create dissatisfaction with existing partners and the
desire to look elsewhere. We have to say, however, that we received very little concrete evidence to this effect. The Nationwide Festival of Light expressed the belief that the problem was a very considerable one. Mrs Mary Whitehouse told us that she
had received a large number of letters about the deleterious effect of pornography on marital relationships. some of which she quoted in her book Whatever Happened to Sex?, but she said that it would not be practicable for her to produce them for us
to see. We received one letter of personal testimony of how the writer's interest in pornography had harmed his relationship with his wife; and a Methodist minister told us of two cases from his pastoral experience in which pornography had played a
part in marital breakdown. This was, however, the limit of the specific evidence we received. If there was a real problem of this kind arising from pornography we had expected to hear more of it, and we were interested to hear from Mrs Angela
Willans, who has had long experience of conducting the problems )page of the magazine Woman's Own, that she received few letters from wives complaining of the demands of their husbands installed by a reading of pornography. Many of her readers were
upset to find their husbands taking an interest in pornography. but that is a rather different point. Indeed. we also received evidence of how pornography had been of help in enabling married couples to overcome their sexual prob- lems: one
correspondent told us how his marriage had been saved when the physical relationship between him and his wife was rekindled in their looking together at sexually explicit magazines. More generally, as paragraph 6 of Appendix 5 makes clear, such
material is also used in the clinical treatment of sexual dysfunction, to alleviate the problems of those whose relationship is suffering, through impotence or frigidity. In short, the evidence in this area once again tends both ways and we came to
the conclusion that the evidence of detrimental effects was too insubstantial to suggest overall that pornography was a significant cause of harm to marriages or other personal relationships.
6.64 We received a number of submissions, not only from women, which stressed the degradation of women which is a feature of much pornography. While it is true that if pornography degrades then it degrades also the men it portrays as well as those
who consume it, there is a special sense in which. as pornography seems to be almost exclusively designed for male consumption. it uses women as simply the objects of men's sexual needs. Many organisations considered that this was not merely
offensive to women but was demeaning in a way that could be regarded as a social harm. Some of these were those with a religious view of human dignity who saw pornography as an assault on women, and we received both Christian and Jewish views of
this. But much evidence also had a specifically feminist viewpoint, which tended to see pornog- raphy as but one form of sexism, perhaps a particularly blatant and vicious form but essentially reflecting the same view of women commonly encountered in
advertising, entertainment and other aspects of our social existence. Much of what we received from Women's Liberation groups was indeed directed as much at the world of advertising and at the general reinforcement of women's subservient role which
society was seen as pursuing than at pornography itself, which was seen as only one of the instruments of women's repression; and some radical groups specifically distinguished their views on pornography from those more traditional groups by
emphasising that, quite apart from other differences. their approach was based on a different attitude to the nature of women's sexuality. It follows from this view, of course, that pornography (at least on these grounds) should not be singled out
for special treatment under the law, since the desire is to alter fundamentally society's attitudes towards the role of women rather than to legislate against one symptom of those attitudes. Many of our women correspondents wanted the law to be
invoked against the degradation of women in pornography; but the consensus of those parts of the Women's movement from which we heard tended to attach greater importance to freedom of expression than to the need to suppress pornography.
6.65 The effects of pornography and violent material were widely seen as particularly dangerous to the young, and most of our witnesses wished to see children and young persons protected. We did hear from some of our expert witnesses a certain
caution about just how susceptible children were to such influences, for this is not a field where much is known: for obvious reasons children have not been used in experimental work on exposure to pornography, and we heard no evidence of actual harm
being caused to children. Some witnesses suspected that children would not take very much notice of pornog- raphy and that they might be more robust than was commonly assumed. but there was nevertheless a reluctance to take any risks where the young
were concerned. Dr Hanna Segal saw in particular two ways in which such influences might be harmful to children. First, children learn to overcome their own sexual fantasies by looking at behaviour in the real world, but if their view of the adult
world confirmed those fantasies. they were likely to become fixated by them; secondly. she felt that an essential element of all pornography was cruelty and that this could establish a @ between sexual activity and violence. Dr Gallwey of the Portman
Clinic thought that a particular experience of exposure to pornography at a time of stress in the child's process of growing up, particularly when trying to evolve an understanding of aspects of life. could be very confusing to a child and, if in
constellation with other disturbing factors, could tip the balance towards psychological damage. Dr Gallwey also offered the comment that it was better to avoid exposing children to the infantile conflicts of adults. The greatest harm. in the view of
Dr Hyatt Williams, might be to those on the verge of puberty, but he saw the danger more in terms of pornography being used by an adult with a view. for example, to homosexual seduction than in relation to pornography being passed around among
6.66 It was clear from our discussions with :Witnesses that no very definite answer can be given about the age at which the special protection of children is no longer necessary. Individual sexual maturation is so variable that, as Dr Segal put it to
us. some 15 year olds could quite well cope with exposure to pornography while others even in their early twenties could still be susceptible to outside influences of this kind, while Professor Sir Martin Roth also felt that a person's sexual
development might sometimes be in the balance until after the age of 20: his concern was primarily with children being subjected to propaganda, for homosexuality. Because of this lengthy period of varying maturity, some of our witnesses declined to
offer any view as to the age at which special protection should cease; the choice of others tended to hover between the ages of 16 and 18.
6.67 Rather similar considerations applied to the exposure of the young to violent material. Children have to learn what violence is and it is clearly better if they do so. and are introduced to certain potentially disturbing material, within a
secure and loving framework. There is of course no shortage of unpleasant and horrific subjects in traditional children's literature. but some of our witnesses thought that there was no reason for parents to be concerned about fairytale violence on
the one hand-including that in westerns, for ex- ample, on the other. the real-life violence of news stories. But there is con- cern in particular about the effects on those young people who have been deprived of a secure background and the normal
socialising influences which enable them to develop their own healthy personality. It was, Dr Gallwey told us, the more disturbed children who were both more frightened and more fasci- nated by violent material, and also the most vulnerable who were
the very' people likely to be exposed to violent influences. Brody makes the point from research evidence that it is those who lack firm contact with ordinary fife, with severe neurotic problems or of frankly disordered states of mind, who are likely
to be most susceptible to adverse effects from films. Ordinarily, although children may be upset or disturbed by watching films, the solid base which they have to fall back on means that the effects are only temporary; but those whose development has
already been impaired. and who have to find a substitute for reality in a fantasy world, are the minority likely to be at risk. We found a wide feeling that it was right that those still in the process of emotional development should be shielded from
some of the very powerful images Of violence, particularly material which appeared to exploit and glorify violent behaviour.
6.68 The protection of children also figured largely in the evidence we received about the harm done to those who were exploited in the production of pornography; m this connection we turn now to the question of harmful effects on participants rather
than on the consumers of published material. Even 'm relation to children, the evidence we received did not all point in the same direction Professor Trevor Gibbens, for example. told us that he .thought that young girls often had the ability to
exploit what they saw as a "good racket" and were quite capable of still growing up into well-adjusted women. This did not mean that Professor Gibbens was arguing that the use of children in pornography was anything but undesirable. but he
was suggesting that long-term damage to those involved was more doubtful than is widely assumed. Few people would be prepared to take the risk where children are concerned and just as the law recognises that children should be protected against
sexual behaviour which they are too young to properly consent to, it is almost universally agreed that this should apply to participation in porno- graphy. Participating in pornography. it ought to be said will often involve the commission of what
are anyway offence& such as unlawful sexual inter- course with girls under sixteen, indecent assault and indecency with children. and there is only a small area of pornographic activity which is not covered by the law on sexual offences., on the
evidence we received. this area is even smaller in practice than it may appear on paper. But there are strong arguments that the prevention of this harm also requires the power to suppress the pornographic product as well as the original act. so as
not to provide the incentive to pornographers to flout the sexual offence law. or to deal without inhibition in products which are imported from other legal jurisdictions. We should not be parochial about the prevention of harm to children: if
English law is to protect children against offences in this country, it is hypocritical to permit the trade in photographs and films of the same activities taken overseas. These considerations reinforce the view that the law on sexual offences is not
enough: a law dealing with the published product is required in addition.
6.69 Children are the most obvious example of a group who are capable of exploitation because they do not enjoy a fully developed right to choose. But our evidence on participants went a good deal wider, and it was submitted to us that adults were
also exploited and harmed in the production of porno- graphy. The question of consenting adults being exploited raises broader issues and merges with the kind of, argument which suggests that much employment is exploitation because people are obliged
to do what they have no desire to do in order to earn their living. A more limited view of exploitation would be that people are taken advantage of in ways that are against their best interests, and are forced to suffer harms which they themselves
are capable of recognising as harms. If there are people who willingly and even cheerfully or enthusi- astically take part in pornographic films or photographic sessions and are able lucidly to square that activity with their own values and
consciences and to decide that it is advantageous to them to do it. then it is very difficult for other members of society to impose on them a view that they are demeaning themselves or allowing themselves to be exploited in undesirable ways.
6.70 At the very least, we would suggest that a particular kind of moralism is involved in pressing the charge of exploitation with respect to participation particularly in pornography, when that participation is by ordinary criteria voluntary. It
may be that much employment which by those standards is voluntary can justly be seen as exploitation, but there is no particular reason to pick out employment in the production of pornography. Some who do specially pick out pornography in this
connection perhaps believe that no-one. knowing what was involved, and not under the direst pressure of economic or other necessity, would want to engage m it. If that is their thought. we can only report that our enquiries do not suggest that it is
6.71 We were not able to conclude that participation in these activities was a cause of harm. Allegations to this effect were sometimes made to us. but these were usually in the context of evidence that assumed pornography to be evil and any
association with it to be contaminating. We received little evidence of a more objective kind. One of our psychiatric witnesses. Dr Gallwey. sug- gested to us that there was much misery in the trade and that many of the girls in strip clubs, for
example, were disturbed and mentally ill. Mr. Raymond Blackburn suggested that the most dangerous risk to participants was of their being subjected to blackmail. However, the other evidence we received con- tained no substantiation of these
suggestions. Evidence from within the trade denied it. This is hardly surprising. but. for what it is worth, Mr David Sullivan told us that the models used by his magazines were a complete cross-section of society and that, in his view. the work had
no effect on them. He saw no reason to believe that to embark on such work was to step on a slippery slope to corruption or prostitution or. for that matter. to step on a stairway to star- dom. The vast majority of models in this field undertook the
work simply because they regarded it as an acceptable way of making money.
6.72 There have been instances in which the alleged harm to participants has fallen in a very different category. It has been suggested, for example. that there is a genre of film-the so-called "snuff" movie-usually said to originate in
South America. in which sadistic pornography is taken to the extreme of having an unsuspecting model actually mutilated and murdered in front of the camera. There has been much scepticism about the existence of @s of this kind and although rumours
about their existence were indeed followed in -America by the appearance of a film called Snuff ("the film that could only be made in South America ... where life is cheap!") there appeared to be general agreement that the violence in the
film was simulated rather than real; it is possible that the rumours themselves had been engineered for the purposes of advance publicity for this film. Another film, which we saw, which purported to include actual documentary sequences of mutilation
and death. was subse- quently reported to have been, at least in part, faked. Clearly the danger of physical injury does represent an undeniable harm, even if it is potential rather than actual. As with offences against children, however, this is an
area where the criminal law already operates for the protection of the individual and the infliction of physical injury may be punishable in the courts even where the injured person consented to be so treated. Nevertheless, again as with children. we
do not think that the authorities in this country will have discharged their responsibility for discouraging such behaviour just by legislating to punish such acts which arc committed in this country. There is a strong case for taking measures
against the circulation of material which involves real cruelty or physical injury, even when it originates overseas.
6.73 The broadest arguments put to us concerned the social harms flowing from the widespread availability of pornography, in terms of cultural pollution, moral deterioration and the undermining of human compassion. social values and basic
institutions. Arguments of this kind were less concerned with the possibility of specific effects on individual behaviour than with the gradual infecting of society with a disregard for decency, a lack of respect for others. a taste for the base, a
contempt for restraint and responsibility: in short, with the weakening of our civilisation and the demoralisation of society.
6.74 A leading exponent of the view associating pornography with a cultural sickness is Mr David Holbrook and we discussed his concern with him. Mr Holbrook sees pornography and sadism as having been allowed to increase in our culture in recent
years, with the result that a stream of hate-which he sees as an essential element in pornography-and debased sexuality has been thrust into our consciousness through powerful mass media. In consequence, in his view, there is now a widespread mental
obsession with sexuality, a considerable degree of commercialisation of sex, a growing egotistical nihilism, a preoccupa- tion with satiation and a corruption of culture. Culture had been debased to the extent that it is now difficult to write about
sexual matters in an adult way because the expectations of the audience had been so corrupted. Writers wishing to appear trendy had committed intellectual treachery by praising the latest work of sex and violence. while those who attempted to raise a
debate on the serious issues involved in the spread of pornography and its effect on culture were ignored and isolated. Mr Holbrook complained that his books were no longer being reviewed because editors disagreed with the stand he had taken.
6.75 The emphasis given to the nature of the social harms naturally varied from witness to witness. Some witnesses, for example, saw violence in the media as contributing to public attitudes which regard violence as a legitimate means of achieving
desired ends or of expressing feelings; or as encouraging a callous disregard of the effects of violence. The particular question of psychological desensitisation to violence was one which we discussed with a number of witnesses, and Dr Guy
Cumberbatch sought to reassure us from the results of research on the subject. As he told us, and as Brody has also pointed out, experiments have certainly shown that the viewer may become desensi- tised by exposure to violent material. but this
appears to occur in a specific rather than a general way. For example, volunteers had repeatedly been shown an extract from a violent film. with the effect that their measured response to it declines with each showing: but when they were afterwards
shown the com- plete film, their reaction to other scenes of violence had been normal and it was only the familiar scene to which responses had been dulled. In any case. Dr Cumberbatch argued. responses to fictional and dramatic material were quite
different from those of real life, and there were no indications that a person's ability to feel pity and willingness to help the victim of an act of aggression. was lessened by watching representations of similar acts of violence.
6.76 However, the arguments range more widely than such delimited psychological effects. As we have said, many of our witnesses claimed that there were more generalised damaging effects of pornography, violent publica- tions, and films, effects which
were necessarily of a less identifiable kind. These arguments should not be discounted or ignored simply because they are not based on direct tangible effects. Long-term effects on civilisation and culture are self-evidently important and should be
considered as carefully as one can, even if they cannot be quantified and demonstrated. The arguments here do. however, involve the danger. as we have already said and is very obvious, of citing as a cause something that is itself only an effect or
part of a cultural and historical process. There is also the danger that the cultural process is itself disliked because it is new, unfamiliar, and perhaps threatening, and things that are indeed extreme and ugly cultural phenomena, but perhaps not
deeply significant ones, are seized on in order to attack social and moral developments which are indeed more significant, but less obviously to be rejected. In these reactions, an idealised image of the past often plays a part. In considering the
dangers that are sometimes seen as threatening our social fabric in the area of sexual conduct and of pornography, one needs a sense of historical perspective.
6.77 There were almost certainly more child prostitutes in London a hundred years ago than there are today. Pornography, in any case an age-old phenomenon 1, flourished then and is by no means a modern development. Of course. technological
innovations have offered new scope to the producer of pornography, but it would be a mistake to minimise the circulation of porno- graphy in earlier years, even in Victorian times. Needless to say. we are no more able to quantify the availability of
pornography a hundred years ago than we are to chart its progress in recent years, but the comments which we quote in Appendix 1 from those who were trying to combat pornography in nineteenth century England have a familiar ring today. H Montgomery
Hyde has written that the output of purely erotic pornography in England during the nineteenth century was prodigious. This was not merely the production of leather-bound limited editions for a minority of specialist collectors, as can be seen from
the results of some of the police activity against such material. In 1874, for example, one raid on a dealer led to the seizure of about 135,000 obscene photographs and slides. A raid in 1895 netted about two tons of obscene literature. The trade
must have been considerable.
1 At least in pictorial forms. Pornographic prose fiction seems. at any rate in Europe, to have first appeared in the middle of the 17th Century. The first original English prose pornography (as opposed to translations), and also the first to take
the form of a novel rather than a dialogue, was John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure ("Fanny Hill"), 1748. See David Foxon, "Libertine Literature in England, 166@1745 (The Book Collector, 1964).
6.78 What has become clear to us in the course of our discussions about the social harms of pornography and violent material was that many of our wit- nesses had in mind a class of material which included much that could not remotely be dealt with
under the kind of laws we were appointed to review. or wore considering the type of harm which certainly could not be ascribed to such material alone or even predominantly to such material. Often. the argu- ments that were put to us about damage to
culture, morality and social values were not primarily directed to the effects of pornography at all. Some of our witnesses recognised this: the Catholic Social Welfare Commission, for example, admitted that pornography and representations of
violence may be symptoms of a more general malaise and may be considered effects, or at most partial causes in particular contexts, rather than sufficient explanations; their case rested on the belief, however. that pornography and the representation
of violence in certain forms and circumstances is one of the elements which threaten some basic institutions and values. Mrs Mary Whitehouse too is well-known for her passionately held views on the erosion of standards over a wide area. The
degradation of sex figures strongly in her thinking. She did express to us very strongly the view that pornography is corrupting our society. and indeed that it is being used by the extreme Left, for this purpose, in much the same way as the Nazis
used pornography as part of their assault on the cultural life of the Poles or, she alleged, Communists, while clamping down on sex shows and prostitution in Mozambique. have been pouring pornography into South Africa. But Mrs Whitehouse has in
general concentrated her attention on television programme content-which in this country is hardly ever pornographic-and this fact illustrates her concern with the far wider aspects of media influences on the quality of life.
6.77 There was a sense, we felt. in which pornography was being used by many of our witnesses as a scapegoat. The tastelessness and depressing awful- ness of pornography generally makes it easy for its detractors to attack it without fear of
contradiction and to gain a sympathetic hearing for their description of its anti-social effects. Mr David Holbrook was one of our witnesses who made it clear that his attack was directed at a broader target. In deploring the commercialisation of
sex, he referred to the use of sexuality in advertising in order to give a wide range of products a greater appeal to a consumer society; in deploring the glamorisation of sexual aggression, he referred to what he regarded as the social evil of the
James Bond image, in which, as with Don Juan, he perceived a degree of latent fascism; in deploring an obsession with perversion and hate, he was in fact speaking in the context of the intellectual debate rather than on the effects of pornographic
6.80 While there are some serious and interesting questions about the character of pornography, what the experience of pornographic work is like and how that relates, for instance, to the experience of art, little of this, it seems to us, is very
directly connected with the causation of social harms. Conversely, Mr Holbrook's diagnosis of a cultural sickness and collapse is not very closely connected. in our view (which we put to him in discussion), with pornography and still less with the
laws on obscenity. The point goes more generally. One factor that we have not so far mentioned is that sexual matters in general are more openly discussed now than before, and the fact that pornography is less concealed in one aspect of this
development. Our witnesses recognise this development; some seemed to regret it. preferring the subject to remain a private one to be treated in public with more reticence than is often the case. even in serious discussion. Others welcomed it,
regarding the denial of an interest in this basic and integral part of the nature of all of us as something that can only obstruct understanding of ourselves and others and impede the development of true maturity. Whichever of these views is taken,
we have no doubt that this new openness is among the things that have influenced the availability of pornography. rather than the reverse. Cultural artefacts them- selves play a role in not merely reflecting but in influencing social development. but
given the multitude of factors, and from everything we know of social attitudes and have learnt in the course of our enquiries. our belief can only be that the role of pornography in influencing the state of society is a minor one. To think anything.
else, and in particular to regard pornography as having a crucial or even a significant effect on essential social values, is to get the problem of pornography out of proportion with the many other problems that face our society today.