József Mészáros has posted to SSRN a working draft of his paper The New Pornographers: Neuroscience Justifies a Robust Regulatory Response to Young People Raping and Taping. Here is the abstract:
An increase in the occurrence of young men participating in and recording violent gang rapes has been documented not only in the United States, but in at least eight other developed nations. Members of the communities affected, politicians, and researchers all express bemusement at the heinous nature of these acts. In what some have described as a mimetic act, the perpetrators imitate the sexual violence they witness in increasingly debasing pornographies. Yet, little has been done in the past two decades to curtail the uncanny expansion of hardcore pornography’s influence on the nation’s youth. Aside from the occasional obscenity prosecution or the toothless disclaimers that stand between adolescence and the visual world of sexual violence, the United States has been remarkably passive in its treatment of hardcore pornography. Laws governing pornography have primarily addressed the impact, on adults, of pornographic portrayals of children. How pornographic portrayals of adults affect children, on the other hand, has been largely overlooked.
This article argues for the necessity, and plausibility, of internet pornography regulation sensitive to the realities of modern life, feminism, and developments in neuroscience. That Congress has untapped police power in this space is plainly clear. At the same time, as such a dynamic and ubiquitous form of media, internet pornography poses numerous challenges for legislators tailoring regulation respectful of Constitutional norms. That young people are imitating sexual violence—filmed and consumed for adult pleasure – is a claim that can be supported using psychology, sociology and most convincingly, neurobiology. To support the claim that such imitation is traceable to the viewing of hardcore pornography, this article provides a synthesis of emerging work on mirror neurons, described by the prominent neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran as the single most important “unreported” story of the decade. If the externalities of a pervasive and well-funded hardcore pornography industry are to be redirected onto the producer, a sensible regulatory framework is needed that understands exactly how pornography operates on its consumers, including children. Obscenity statutes, feckless for their reliance on reluctant and often overburdened prosecutors, have never shown themselves to be adequate. Rather than adopting an obstinate prohibitionist stance, this article suggests incorporating lessons from various regulatory frameworks that have both shaped and have been shaped by social behavior.
The author welcomes comments and input. Mr. Mészáros is a PhD candidate in Neurobiology and Behavior at the Columbia University School of Medicine. He received his JD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010.