Other Effects of Sexually Explicit Materials

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
3

If we take the entire potential range of "effects" which could occur as a result of exposure to sexually explicit materials, and if we take the commission of sex offenses to be one extreme of that continuum, then the other end might be represented by beneficial effects. Many have made an argument for such benefits (Tripp, 1985; Wilson, 1978).

Public opinion data both in 1970 and in 1985 show that a majority believe use of sexually explicit materials "provide entertainment," relieve people of the impulse to commit crimes, and improve marital relations.

If they are any indication, the popularity of "How-To" articles on sex in the popular media and in best-sellers such as The Joy of Sex, The Sensuous Woman, and others like them are also testament to the learning that might occur from these materials.

There are also two areas in which sexually explicit materials have been used for positive ends: the treatment of sexual dysfunctions and the diagnosis and treatment of some paraphilias.

In the area of sexual dysfunctions, a common conceptual model views a particular goal as a new response to be learned. The reduction of sexual anxieties or the attainment of orgasm for nonorgasmic individuals might be examples of such objectives. In the process of learning a new response, two steps are implicated: the weakening of response inhibitions and facilitation of the acquisition of new behavior patterns that comprise the steps toward the final objective.

For instance, in teaching nonorgasmic females to achieve orgasm, therapeutic procedures might include desensitization techniques, followed by the modeling of a hierarchy of behaviors such as body exploration, genital manipulation, self-stimulation to orgasm, and the generalization of the response to a partner (Caird and Wincze, 1977; LoPiccolo and Lobitz, 1972; Heiman, LoPiccolo and LoPiccolo, 1976).

A number of controlled experimental studies have demonstrated the efficacy of therapeutic treatments involving video taped modeling, written instructions which implicate principles of observational learning, and information processing. Such procedures have been successful in changing both attitudes and behaviors (Anderson, 1983; Heiby and Becker, 1980; Nemetz, Craig and Reith, 1978; Wincze and Caird, 1976; Wish, 1975).

In the case of diagnosis and treatment of sex offenders, the identification of arousal patterns and the subsequent therapy program (which might involve the inhibition of inappropriate arousal responses such as arousal to a photograph of a child) have involved the use of sexually explicit materials. As part of some treatment methods, the use of aversive techniques might be directed at extinguishing deviant arousal, or they might be combined with positive reinforcement for more appropriate sexual responses. In some treatment programs, the combination of these procedures with social skills training has been found to be effective (Abel, Becker and Skinner, 1985; Whitman and Quinsey, 1981). However, the results have been less conclusive for narrower approaches to treatment (see Quinsey and Marshall, 1983).

On the whole, the learning principles that include vicarious learning, reinforcement, disinhibition principles that are used in these therapeutic controlled settings are no different from those which have been employed to explain the acquisition of negative attitudes and behaviors.