Sexually explicit and violent media material: research and policy implications


A Joint Select committee of the Federal Parliament, under the chairmanship of Dr Richard Klugman, currently is considering the effects of video material upon Australian society. The Committee received a submission from the Australian Institute of Criminology reviewing the current status of international research on the impact of sexually explicit and violent behaviour. The Institute submission contends that research presents some dilemmas for policy makers. On the one hand, there appears to be no sustainable research evidence of a causative link between media violence and violent criminal events. More particularly, a direct association between exposure to sexually violent media material and sexually aggressive behaviour has yet to be proven. Despite these findings, a significant proportion of Australians, including some researchers, believe that there is sufficient tentative evidence of the harmful effects of exposure to media violence to support official action curbing its availability to the community at large. According to that view, restricting the freedom of expression is justified by the competing value of ensuring a safe society. For other persons, protection of freedom of expression is so important that it should not be restricted on such uncertain grounds. Resolving this policy dilemma represents a major challenge to political leaders and to concerned citizens.