Auckland researchers have been awarded almost $800,000 to study pornography. The $790,000 study by Auckland University staff will look at how it affects viewers and its impact on society. The research will include studies on young men and women, an art exhibition, an interactive website and a public symposium. The project is one of 88 nationwide to receive a slice of $53.8 million handed out in Marsden Fund Grants last month. Marsden Fund Council chairman Professor Peter Hunter said a scientific study of the impact of pornography on vulnerable members of society “in the age of easy availability” was extremely important.
Comment: One of the objects for which the Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc., (“SPCS”) was established was to focus public attention on the harmful nature of pornography. For the purposes of section 3 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (“the Act”), “a publication is objectionable if it descibes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters of sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availabliity of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good.”
The Act recognises that children and young persons, in particular, are vulnerable to the harmful effects of exposure to pornography – hence age restrictions are imposed by the censors on poronographic publications and others are banned. The “extent and degree to which, and the manner in which the publication depicts… sexual conduct of a degrading or dehumanising or demeaning sexual conduct” is one criterion used to determine whether or not it is to be classified objectionable.
Family First NZ, a charity registered with the Charities Commission, has also been at the forefront of highlighting the offensive nature of hardcore pornograhy and documenting how it is injurious to the public good.
Denise Richie, director of Stop the Demand Foundation, another charity registered with the Charities Commission, put it this way, in her submission to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) , as part of her complaint against a “mobile billboard” displayed prominently in a public place – promoting the Erotica Lifestyles Expo:
“The image is designed to simulate a woman with her fingers in her [******] It is standard Steve Crow fare, with its focus on dehumanising women and reducing them to their genitalia”. (ASA decision dated 14/09/2010 concerning complaint 10/448).
(Eden Digital Ltd, directed up until recently by John Malcolm Carr, which owned the license for Erotica Lifestyles Expo, was put into liquidation on 22 November 2011).
The Society (SPCS), as part of its objects, seeks “to support freedom of expression which does not injure the public good by degrading, dehumanising or demeaning individuals or classes of people.” Hardcore pornography has the effect degrading, dehumanising and demeaning women. Its negative impact on viewers of such material has been well-documented in the literature.