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STATE OF AFFAIRS

The Science of Porn

by Jackie Herrick

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On Thursday, April 28th, Off the Hook at James Madison University invited Dr. William Struthers to share his research with a packed room of students and visitors. The ambiguity of our event title, “The Science of Porn,” brought in an audience with mixed expectations. Leading up to the event, several of our posters were torn down, and others moved to less prominent places on campus, but this didn’t seem to hinder event attendance!

With the combination of a good sense of humor and authoritative expertise, Struthers engaged the audience and truly enlightened everyone in an unexpected way. He opened his presentation with, “So what I’d like to do is start off by showing you a little bit of porn, if that’s ok.” He then displayed a photo of the “black and blue” or “white and gold” dress. His point was that, while pornography always used to be viewed as “black and blue” by the generation before us, it is now colored by a different lens—“white and gold.” Struthers explained further by saying there are now “three A’s” of internet pornography: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. While once taboo, pornography is perceived as “normal,” “ubiquitous,” “a good thing,” something that “doesn’t hurt,” and something that “everyone does.” Struthers even pointed out how the fact that pornography is abbreviated to “porn” only shows just how common and casual it has become.

Struthers went on to further explain how viewers of pornography neurologically participate in the scenarios they are watching with brain mapping. The good news is that human brains have another mechanism that prevents viewers from actually carrying out the actions they are viewing. What is dangerous and neurologically harmful about porn, however, is that the more it’s viewed, the less the viewer is able to regulate this restriction of action. At a certain point, they’ll start mimicking the often very violent and degrading things they have seen. This concept helps explain the pernicious spillover effects of pornography.

Dr. Struthers closed his lecture with some valuable questions for us to think about. Can we re-train our brains once they’ve been “taught” to behave a certain way? Can we write a different cultural narrative by understanding and speaking up about the neurological harms of porn? This is our call to action.

Jackie Herrick is a rising Senior at James Madison University studying Hospitality Management. She is the President of JMU Off the Hook.

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