What can one person really do about pornography?

No doubt, our culture is sex saturated. It seems every place you look there is some depiction of sensual or erotic activity to capture the thoughts and minds of people. That is a fact that is hard to deny. Hopefully by now you’re convinced that something needs to be done about pornography in America. But what can one person really do about it?

AFA believes you really can make a difference and that’s why we have prepared this booklet. Let’s look at what one person can do about pornography in his/her community. Later in this booklet we will address the issue of forming an organization to fight pornography and the benefits that can be derived from such action.

Video and convenience stores

Local video and convenience stores pose one of the greatest risks to communities across America. Statistics gathered by AFA show the average age of first time exposure to pornography to be around 8 years old. It’s tragic, and very often that first exposure comes from a pornographic magazine or video from a local store. This is what makes local stores such a key battleground in the fight for decency and high community standards. Stores that distribute hardcore or sexually explicit magazines or video tapes have been known to sell or rent such material to children but most often children are exposed by accidentally and innocently stumbling across it. In addition, the infiltration of obscene videotapes into general rental stores weakens the community standards and permits the same message to be disseminated in a more acceptable environment. These stores are where young minds are first told that pornography is OK and thus, should be a focus of significant efforts in the fight for decency.

Ridding your community of sex videos and magazines

Many general video rental stores contain a section with "adult" material. If the store rents or sells material that is obscene under a state statute, the store can be prosecuted in the same manner as an "adult only" outlet is prosecuted. Prosecutors should be encouraged to be aware of the types of "adult" material these stores make available just as they are aware of the material in the "adults only" porn stores.

The average person may never know a video store rents these tapes unless he or she is looking for them. Different stores use various methods to avoid detection by citizens. Often the customers must look through an "adult tape book" where the plots of the adult tapes are described, for example, group sex, homosexuality, gang rape. After choosing a tape, the customer then requests the tape by number where the tape is retrieved from a hidden area. Stores that sell openly displayed adult material feel there is no reason to worry about citizens or law enforcement.

Video tapes that are harmful to minors, but not illegal for adults, may be the subject of additional regulation. State or local communities may enact legislation to protect minors from material deemed harmful. This legislation, known as "display laws," may require that the material be placed out of the reach of minors, placed behind opaque covers or made available to adults upon request only. These regulations, while permitting such material to be made available to adults who request it, protect children from its content. Display laws have been known to reduce pornography sales up to 75% because it’s out of sight. Customers may not know it’s available or they’re too ashamed to ask for it.

Aside from encouraging the active enforcement of obscenity laws and harmful to minor laws, citizens can also encourage local store owners to discontinue the sale or rental of such material. Local stores are a part of the community and should be responsive to community needs and standards. Informed citizens presenting the concerns of the community can often be effective in maintaining a high quality of life in the area.

The first thing you should always do is ask the manager or owner to discontinue the sale of pornographic material.

Many are surprised that it often takes just one nice request to get a store to remove its pornography. One effective tool is the DEAR STORE OWNER/MANAGER letter/card. You may want to write a letter to the store owner/manager or print business cards to leave with the manager or clerk when asking that the pornography be removed.

Steps to use when contacting the store owner/manager

1. Contact owner/manager. Once you have discovered that a store is selling or renting sexually oriented material, make a personal and polite request that the material not be sold in your community. Tell him or her of your concern about the effects of pornography. You should ask your family and friends to contact the store.

Sample Letter to store owners/managers

Dear Manager,

While shopping in your store recently, I could not help but notice that you sell (rent) pornographic magazines (videos). Perhaps you have not considered the potential harm such materials have on our community. In Norman, Oklahoma, a young boy was sexually mutilated by a man copying an act he had read about in "Hustler" magazine. Sadly, that magazine could have been purchased at any number of convenience stores in America. Pornography is repeatedly implicated in such lurid sex crimes against women, children and men. The fact that such materials may be legal is not the issue. Evidence that such materials have the potential for causing harm to innocent women and children should be enough. How would you feel if a child molester used magazines (videos) purchased (rented) at your store in a sex crime in our community. I hope you would feel very bad about it. And whatever profit was derived from the sale of pornography would pale against such a crime.You have no obligation to sell pornography. It is not a matter of censorship. It is a matter of citizenship. As a businessperson, within the confines of the law, you have the right to sell whatever you want. We trust, however, that you will make the socially and morally responsible decision to not carry such materials. Our community will be much better off.Though I have nothing personally against you, should you decide to continue to sell (rent) pornographic magazines (videos), I cannot in good conscience patronize your store. The issue is so important that I must also encourage my friends, acquaintances and fellow church members not to shop here. Should you decide to remove the pornography, I will be happy to resume shopping in your store and encourage others to do so.

Thank you for any consideration you give this important issue. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely, (Your name)

Activist Tip

Print a shorter version of the owner/manager letter on a business or index card. Keep them handy to give store owners and managers when you notice pornography being sold.

Dear Manager,

While shopping in your store recently, I could not help but notice that you sell (rent) pornographic magazines (videos). Perhaps you have not considered the potential harm such materials have on our community.Pornography fuels sexual crimes against women and children. Rapists regularly admit to this fact. Statistics also show the largest consumers of pornography are children between the ages of 12 and 17 – some of the most important and formative years of a young person’s emotional and sexual development. Pornography is certainly not an appropriate textbook.Please consider replacing these materials with something more decent and responsible. Until then, my family and I will do business elsewhere and will encourage others to do the same.

2. Check Laws. Approach your city police department concerning any laws that apply to the material in question. They should be able to provide you with your state obscenity or harmful to minors laws and any local sexual oriented business ordinances. Ask them to investigate and enforce the applicable laws. See page 13 for procedures on getting obscenity laws enforced.

3. Encourage elected officials. Simultaneously, approach your local officials such as mayor, councilmen, and supervisors at a public meeting. Ask them to support the enforcement of these codes. Ask that the proper officers be instructed to investigate and enforce the existing laws in your local area. This should be done in a tactful, well-prepared and factual presentation.

4. Build Support. Get as many people as possible to write and call the officials from their voting area prior to the meeting. It is always best to fill the room with people when this request is made and inform the news media prior to the appearance. People equals votes and politicians understand votes.

5. Boycott. If all attempts to get a store to remove the pornography fail, then organize a boycott of the business. Start with your church group/members and share your experience with your pastor and church leaders asking for their support. Provide material concerning the harm of pornography and accurate information about its availability in your community and any applicable laws. Do not assume because they are leaders that they are informed about pornography and its effects. Arrange for someone to share in other churches and organizations concerning the pornography problem and solicit their support in the boycott and continue to encourage it for however long it takes to obtain a positive response from the business. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if you receive little support. Remember, it only takes a few to get the job done!

6. Organize a Public rally for decency. This forces the public to think about the fact that pornography is being sold at a particular business in their community. It will serve as an educational and motivational tool for others to join in pressuring the business to stop selling the material.

Case in point... 

An estimated 70% of all pornography (magazines and videos) ends up in the hands of children, with potential adverse long term effects on their sexual development according to Henry Boatwright, Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Board for Social Concerns. Dallas Morning News 5/5/84

86% of all rapists admit to regular use of pornography, with 57% admitting actual imitation of pornographic scenes in commission of sex crimes. W. Marshall, 1985T

he Final Report of the 1986 Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography lists a full chapter of testimony (pp. 197-223) from victims whose assailants had previously viewed pornographic materials. The adverse effects range from physical harm (rape, torture, murder, sexually transmitted diseases) to psychological harm (suicidal thoughts, fear, shame, nightmares).

Psychologist Edward Donnerstein (University of Wisconsin) found that brief exposure to violent forms of pornography can lead to anti-social attitudes and behavior. Male viewers tend to be more aggressive toward women, less responsive to pain and suffering of rape victims, and more willing to accept various myths about rape. Pornography and Violence Against Women, 1980. 

Peep show booths, which sometimes have holes built in their walls to allow men to perform anonymous sexual acts with one another, play a significant role in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

A study by FBI researchers of 36 serial killers revealed that 29 were attracted to pornography and incorporated it into their sexual activity, which included serial rape-murder. In a study of 43 pedophiles, the Los Angeles Police Department found adult or child pornography (magazines, photos, or videos) involved in 100% of the cases investigated.

Porn crushed in Big D

The drive to run pornography out of Dallas, Texas, and its suburbs is rolling, literally. A Grand Prairie, Texas businessman did the honors by mounting a 13-ton drum roller and crushing $50,000 worth of porn films. Jim Ryfell had received the smut as part of a settlement between his realty management company and a video chain which had gone bankrupt. Ryfell said when he got the $50,000 worth of illicit tapes instead of his money, he never considered selling them to try and recoup some of his losses.

"We need to take a stand against pornography," said Ryfell. "We need to take a stand for decency. It starts with the person in the mirror." Ryfell is also taking steps to make sure he doesn’t face anything like this again. He refuses now to lease space to "any business that has a service or product that dishonors our Lord." Fort Worth Star Telegram, 11/21/96