The word might conjure images of coin-operated movies in closet-sized rooms. And the one movie theater Travis Bickle should NOT have taken his date to in “Taxi Driver.” Or that stack of forbidden magazines under your parents’ bed.
These days pornography is worldwide. And anyone with a computer or laptop can watch pornography easily via the Internet.
Is that a bad thing?
Does easy access to pornography change the sexual or body expectations of men and women who watch it? Does it pervert young minds? Or is pornography the very essence of misogyny and the objectification of women?
Well, there’s a new anthology that delves into much of that. It’s called “New Views on Pornography.”
It is a series of research papers edited by Shira Tarrant and Lynn Comella, a UNLV professor of gender and sexuality studies.
"I think with this book you get a real range of new, cutting edge research looking at pornography from a number of different vantage points," Lynn Comella told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Comella said she was approached by the publishers to put together this academic study of the porn industry.
"I thought it was an interesting opportunity to curate the kind of collection that I wanted to see in the world," she said.
Comella said much of what passes as academic research on pornography is not very good and comes from a moralizing or ideological stand point, instead of an objective place.
Comella said that is one of the reasons more neutral research is needed.
"If you think about the size of the porn industry, it's vast and it's diverse, much more diverse than a lot of people appreciate," she said.
According to Comella, the pornography industry is bigger than the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball combined.
"Just by virtue of its size alone, and how profitable it is, there are clearly more than just 300 men in trench coats engaging with a genre of pornography," Comella said and yet it is not the center of serious academic research.
She said there are lots of issues surrounding the industry from how it is organized to why people choose to use it; however, she believes much of those questions have not been explored because of a stigma toward adult industries.
Ironically enough, Comella said there is a lot of people talking about things connected to the porn industry like sex addiction, but they don't understand the science of it.
"The science doesn't support sex addiction as a thing," Comella said. She said scientists have looked at the brains of people experiencing sexual arousal and found they don't react the same way as an addicted brain.
Comella admits there can be compulsive porn habits that interfere with people's life, but an addiction is not the same thing. She also believes there is a lot more to why people, especially high profile people, go to treatment.
"It's been used very loosely when it comes to porn," Comella said but she also said the data isn't there to support the diagnosis.
Comella said that while the book is aimed at academics she believes people beyond universities and colleges are interested in the issue and will be engaged by the research into the popular but still taboo industry.
Lynn Comella, UNLV professor of gender and sexuality studies