U.S. Public Health Service and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Presented by Theodore O. Cron at the White House Briefing for the Religious Alliance Against Pornography
November 13, 1986
This was an address that I couldn't give and it was delivered instead by my personal assistant Theodore O. Cron at the
White House Briefing for the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, in Washington, DC on November 13, 1986.
At the time that he did this, I was lying quadriplegic in the Bethesda Naval Medical Center waiting for surgery a few days
later, which restored me to complete neurologic capability - but just a little less strong than I had been before the sudden
onset of quadriplegia at the meeting of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States in San Antonio just days
I was interested enough about the effects of pornography on children and young people that I wanted Ted Cron to give this
talk, especially to that audience, even though I was not able to do so. He expressed my belief that many of us shared the
same feelings and perspectives and pointed out that at Harvard's 350 Birthday, I had reminded the Cambridge audience that
the first European settlers navigated their way across the Atlantic a full century before the invention of the quadrant and
the spring wound clock. They had no technology to sail with, but they had human intuition. I raised the question back at Harvard
whether or not we had too much technology, but less of the faith - a stern tenacious faith - that we so desperately need.
Ted made it clear that I believed that we were confronting an issue, which was a test of our faith . . . our faith as citizens
. . . our faith as clergy and public health workers . . . and our faith as human beings. That issue is pornography. He went
on to point out that whereas the public's concern formerly had been with book stores and movie theaters, but now the hucksters
of pornography had invaded cable television, popular music, telephone communications, and the whole new field of home videos.
Yet, we give pornography low priority in the overall scheme of public health concerns.
To ignore the evidence any longer would make a conscious decision not to see pornography as a clear and present danger to
American public health.
Ted Cron highlighted the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography and their report and the work I had done on Pornography
in reference to children, which culminated in testimony before the Commission in June of 1985. From that came the "Surgeon
General's Workshop on Pornography and Public Health" held in June of 1986.
The report of my findings has already been expressed in the address found in this archive for June 22, 1986 presented to the
Surgeon General's Workshop on Pornography. I would only stress some things that I don't believe were stressed enough
in that previous address.
First, the participants agreed that, "Children and adolescents who participated in the production of pornography experienced
adverse, enduring effects."
Second, "The prolonged use of pornography increases beliefs that less common sexual practices are more common." The
same conclusion occurs when we talk about violence and other acts of anti-social behavior.
The third consensus statement said, "Pornography that portrays sexual aggression as pleasurable for the victim increases
the acceptance of the use of coercion in sexual relations". This kind of pornography would appear to be the cause for
much of the rape that occurs today. Impressionable males - many of them still in adolescence - seeing this material begin
to believe that women like to be hurt - they like to be humiliated -- and forced to do thing they don't want to do.
Fourth, "Acceptance of coercive sexuality appears to be related to sexual aggression".
And finally, "In laboratory studies measuring short-term effects, exposure to violent pornography increases punitive behavior
For all of these, I quoted experts in the field who had participated in the Surgeon General's Workshop.
In short, Mr. Cron made it very clear that I believed that as the five consensus statements indicate, pornography does stimulate
attitudes and behavior that does have gravely negative consequences for individuals and for society. At least the record is
now much more clear and less ambiguous.
Ted also made it clear that our approach to pornography had nothing to do with the Citizen's Rights under the First Amendment.
Rather, we were concerned only with the scientific record regarding public speech or writing that may possibly endanger the
life or diminish the well-being of any citizens. That's the public health perspective.