Lucrece wrote:You'll also need to come up with a strategy to counter emotional appeals your opponents will no doubt be making. "The data refutes this" can hold little influence on subjects like rape where the personal narratives people hold on the subject will compel them to side with what leaves that narrative intact. It doesn't matter if you prove there's no increase in rape if you fail to win over the people who might have a distaste for porn, especially hardcore, if they wish to hold their pet theories because their life experiences confirm those theories regardless of how widely applicable the theories are.
I think Lucrece is correct; you need to deal with more that just statistics when you talk with people about this issue. Arguments can be broken down into three areas: Logos (logic and reasoning -- this page's speciality), pathos (appeals to emotion) and ethos (appeal to authority - i.e. the Pope, Kinsey etc). While much ink on this thread has been spilled on logos and ethos, it will be the pathos argument that will win or lose the day for you.
Thus far in this discussion, I think we have the logos argument pretty well summed up: there is no evidence of harm of watching pornography, besides possibly mild carpal-tunnel syndrome. Keep the data in your back pocket should the argument come up.
Let us turn to the world of pathos. The first thing you should do is consider your audience which, for the most part, will be one other person. It would be a mistake to consider them your opponents. Instead, consider them to be concerned people and acknowlege their concern. The fact that they are motivated enough care passionately about this issue is, in itself, worthy of respect.
Second, acknowledge that the issue you are discussing is important and that people's attitudes toward sex and its portrayal in all its forms can dig up very strong feelings (both pleasant and unpleasant) for some people.
If you feel that you've developed sufficient rapport, ask them what their personal attitude toward sex is. Judging from what you have said, OP, perceptions of sex is the root cause of this conflict. This will inform you of the best way to proceed in the discussion. As you address their concerns, refrain from being judgemental. As Abe Lincoln famously said: "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."
Some pathos arguments you will come across (feel free to add):
1. Sex is dirty and shameful (insert other terms, i.e. sinful).
2. Sex should be in the realm of a monagmous relationship like marriage, for the express purpose of producing children.
3. Focusing too much on sex during university takes away from focus on study.
Once we have compiled a reasonably comprehensive list of Pathos arguments you are likely to encounter, we can start developing counter-arguments for them. Any counter-argument should be grounded in compassion and understanding.
Second, we should start developing some pathos arguments. If you can speak from personal experience with respect to these arguments, the stronger they will be. Some arguments you might want to try (again, feel free to add):
1. Pornography can be seen as instructional. By exploring what pleases your partner, you can build a stronger relationship with that person. By denying the instructional value of porn, you rob people of the tools one could use to build levels of intimacy.
2. Everyone wants to be proficient at sex, to not be proficient will lead to feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and damaging to one's self-worth. Porn de-mystifies the sex act and enables people to engage in the act with more confidence.
If you have time, watch the movie Kinsey. Pretty awesome.