5.1.6 The Need to Subdivide

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
5

Taking into account all of the foregoing methodological factors, it has become clear to all of us that excessively broad terms like "pornography" or "sexually explicit materials" are just too encompassing to reflect the results of our inquiry. That should come as no surprise. There are different varieties of sexually explicit materials, and it is hardly astonishing that some varieties may cause consequences different from those caused by other varieties.

Our views about subdivision as a process, if not about the actual divisions themselves, reflect much of the scientific evidence, and we consider the willingness of scientists to subdivide to be an important methodological advance over the efforts of earlier eras. So too with our own subdivision. We have unanimously agreed that looking at all sexually explicit materials, or even all pornographic materials, as one undifferentiated whole is unjustified by common sense, unwarranted on the evidence, and an altogether oversimplifying way of looking at a complex phenomenon. In many respects we consider this one of our most important conclusions. Our subdivisions are not intended to be definitive, and particularly with respect to the subdivision between non-violent but degrading materials and materials that are neither violent nor degrading, we recognize that some researchers and others have usually employed broader or different groupings. Further research or-thinking, or just changes in the world-may suggest finer or different divisions. To us it is embarking on the process of subdivision that is most important, and we strongly urge that further research and thinking about the question of pornography recognize initially the way in which different varieties of material may produce different consequences.

We cannot stress strongly enough that our conclusions regarding the consequences of material within a given subdivision are not a statement about all of the material within a subdivision. We are talking about classes, or categories, and our statements about categories are general statements designed to cover most but not all of what might be within a given category. Some items within a category might produce no effects, or even the opposite effects from those identified. Were we drafting laws or legal distinctions, this might be a problem, but we are not engaged in such a process here. We are identifying characteristics of classes, and looking for harms by classes, without saying that everything that is harmful should be regulated, and without saying that everything that is harmful may be regulated consistent with the Constitution.