Study: Call for ‘national conversation on porn’ resulted in irrational debate

Study: Call for ‘national conversation on porn’ resulted in irrational debate

A call for a “national conversation on porn” resulted in an irrational debate fuelled by sensationalist and negative media coverage. The claim is made in a new study on current attitudes and media commentary around pornography.

Carried out by researchers at Dublin City University’s (DCU) School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies, the study found the 2016 call by then taoiseach Enda Kenny for a national debate was met with commentary that was far from “calm and rational”.

Media reporting on the issue was focused on sensationalist and negative elements of pornography in Ireland, while the report also hit out at the fact that national attitudinal surveys on pornography did not reveal details such as religious beliefs, sex education history, or the kind of porn consumed.

The study also found a lack of thorough research on porn. It said nuanced research is needed to address universalistic statements positioning porn solely as a source of harm in society.

Newspapers, glossy magazines, and TV talk shows are cited as having treated the issue more “salaciously and irresponsibly” than others.

The study cited specific interviews and incidents on The Late Late Show, which was accused of “fear-mongering” about the dangers of pornography, and Pat Kenny Tonight, which featured an interview with Irish porn performer Amanda Norton.

The research highlighted how both TV shows featured panellists from the Iona Institute which, it said, showed “Ireland has not yet broken away from the dominance of religion on Irish life”.

Caroline West, a doctoral scholar in sexuality studies at the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies, called for more nuanced research into porn.

Numbers wise, we do know that there is a large Irish appetite for porn. However, there remains a chasm between official reports and in-depth knowledge of public use and attitudes to porn,” she said.

“Additionally, proving that a rise in sexual assault is linked to porn would be especially difficult in this country, as Ireland has a historically bad record in recording sexual assault.

“We know that Ireland is a changing society on so many levels, and yet information gaps in this space leave a lot to be desired.”

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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