The eighth annual conference of Canadians for Decency, held in Toronto on April 28, opened with tributes to Nancy Pollock, the organizations founder and recently deceased president.  Noreen Marshall compared her to a little tugboat hooked up to a big ship and determined to pull it straight.

With her in mind, the conference chose as its theme “The Power of One.”  Single-handedly, Mrs. Marshall pointed out, Nancy objected to the display of pornography in stores, made complaints to the police, wrote to the papers, took her objections to municipal councils, and in many other ways showed what one single individual could do to attack a social problem.  The source of her power and determination, Mrs. Marshall added, was her Presbyterian faith; she acted out of love for her Lord and her conviction of what her life ought to be dedicated to.

“Thank God,” this eulogy concluded, “for the power of one little lady.”

Among the shorter talks, Victor Knox, president of the Major Video chain of stores, described a corporate decision to label and classify videos, remove the more offensive ones, and keep those containing explicit material out of the hands of juveniles.  He emphasized the need for support for such decisions – especially for the support which organizations like Canadians for Decency could give, only on a much larger scale; the Canadian public in general needs to be convinced that pornography does indeed cause harm.

William Marshall, professor or psychology at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and director of a Sex Behaviour Clinic there, did his best to demonstrate the harmful effects, in a very broad survey of research by others and by himself.  Whenever he makes a statement to the papers, he says, one or more of his colleagues are bound to come into his office and complain that he is attacking freedom of speech.  When he shows them some of the material he has collected, they are shocked.  He himself maintains that the effects of pornography on children last a lifetime; that dreadful things happen to the women who participate in it; and that its effects on men are far more harmful than is generally realized.  He stressed three points:

  1. Those most affected seem to be men in vulnerable positions in society.  In their case it does not lead to boredom, but to increased appetite.  Pornography is addictive.
  2. Lengthy exposure to what he calls “impersonal sex” – in which women are degraded and used as servants of men’s sexual shims – changes its viewers attitudes to women: they view rape as less serious than they considered it before, and they may become hostile and aggressive to women.
  3. Pornography does not act as a safety valve; there is nothing redeeming about it whatsoever.

In his native Australia, he noted, there was virtually a controlled experiment illustrating the effect of pornography.  South Australia removed its restrictions on such material, and within two years the incidence of rape, which had been lower than that in Canada, rose above Canada’s.  When restrictions were put back on, the rate declined.  Queensland, which had not changed its regulations, did not experience a rise in the incidence of rape.