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Hentoff, however, is a First Amendment absolutist. Many would consider censoring a movie if harm could be proved, either to the user, or to the larger society. Though the two main concerns about pornography—its effect on the user, its impingement on the rest of society—often merge, they need to be considered separately.
On the first issue, porn's impact on the user, students divide. To many, porn is innocent escapism, a healthy device for fantasizing, a safety valve for dangerous impulses, a useful antidote to Puritan attitudes. Alan Dundes, professor of folklore at Berkeley, argues that it is an informal part of the nation's sex-education program, "the way American culture prepares people for sexuality." To Social Psychologist Douglas Wallace of the University of California Medical Center, porn is needed to bring sexual pleasure to the losers in the sexual game—the shy, the unattractive, the crippled. "Are you," he asks, "to deny these victims of our socialization process the satisfaction they might enjoy from looking at these kinds of stimuli?"
Sex researchers and therapists routinely use porn films to prod troubled couples into overcoming their sexual inhibitions. Says Dr. Zev Wanderer of the Center for Behavior Therapy in Beverly Hills: "Watching explicit sex makes the patient willing to try in his own life what he has seen on film."
To opponents of porn, that is one of the problems. Will porn's power to lessen inhibitions, which has perhaps already won some acceptance for practices long regarded as aberrant, do the same for rape and sadomasochism, both now part of the usual repertoire of film and printed porn? Writer Irving Kristol complains porn is considered harmless "by the very same people who seem convinced that advertisements in magazines or displays of violence on television do indeed have the power to corrupt."
Manhattan Psychoanalyst Natalie Shainess fears the new acceptability of pornography has convinced many of her young male patients that their perverse compulsions are not really problems at all. Result: they do nothing to deal with their compulsions. Claims Shainess: "That is happening everywhere today." Anthropologist Edgar Gregersen makes a similar point about sadomasochists: "A great many people with S-M tendencies now conceptualize themselves as S-M people. This has a very great consequence. They are not so willing to change."
U.C.L.A. Psychiatrist Robert J. Stoller, author of Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred, argues that hostility is the essential dynamic of all pornography. In his eyes, even the mildest porn is tinged with aggressive voyeurism and the sadomasochistic search for a sexual victim. Says he: "Societies fear pornography as they fear sexuality, but perhaps there is a less sick reason: