Dr. Judith Reisman completes her study, “Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler,” over significant obstacles. The research is successfully used at the US Supreme Court level as well as in lower courts. The NY Times had the following report:
A Justice Department study has found that three popular adult magazines have frequently depicted sexual images of children, and the chief researcher said today that the depictions might be linked to child abuse.
The researcher, Judith A. Reisman, said her study should cause lawmakers and the public to rethink their attitude toward the magazines, Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler, and other adult publications.
Publishers of the magazines and civil libertarians immediately attacked the study, which has been under criticism since the department issued a $734,000 grant to American University and Dr. Reisman for the project.
The critics have charged that the report was unscientific and was also part of a Justice Department campaign against sexually explicit material.
Portrayal of Children Studied
The report, which studied the portrayal of children in photographs and cartoons, was delivered to the Justice Department today but has not been made public. The department has not indicated how it might use the findings.
In an interview, Dr. Reisman said her research team conducted a page-by-page review of virtually every issue of the three magazines published since 1953 and found more than 6,000 images of children, many implying sexual activity.
”We have to conclude that some people can see this as supporting their tendency to be interested in children as sex objects,” Dr. Reisman said of the magazines.
Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, described Dr. Reisman’s effort as ”a joke.” He added: ”She is not a social scientist. She has no credibility whatsoever.”
He said the report was typical of the ”Reagan Administration’s ham-fisted attitude with regards to pornography – they are trying to prove something which has no scientific basis.”
A spokesman for Playboy, Robyn L. Radomski, said that Dr. Reisman ”has absolutely no credible evidence that in any way links Playboy to the vile imagery of child pornography.”
Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, was not available for comment today. Critics Charge Bias
Dr. Reisman said Playboy and Penthouse had reduced their use of images of children in recent years. But she warned that the treatment of children in what she called ”mainstream” pornography was still a concern.
Critics have charged that Dr. Reisman, who once compared Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, to Hitler, was biased against sexually explicit publications and that she lacked a research background in social science. She has a doctorate in communications from Case Western Reserve University but has limited research experience.
Dr. Reisman said that a review of 683 issues of the three magazines had found 6,004 images of children in photographs, cartoons, advertisements and other pictorial material.
More than a third of the images, she said, associated children with nudity or sex, citing as an example the fact that all three magazines had presented photographs of adult women scantily clad in what appeared to be childrens’ clothing, sometimes holding teddy bears and other toys. Reisman’s Conclusion Not Firm
Dr. Reisman said she had resisted stating a firm conclusion that the magazines had caused sexual abuse, but she said there were indications that they might have contributed to abuse.
”We know that the material has been used to coerce children into sexual activities,” she said.
Dr. Riesman said she was concerned that depictions of children in some sexual situations could, ”for vulnerable readers,” lead to sex fantasies about children and possible abuse.
Dr. Judith V. Becker, a Columbia University psychologist who was a member of the Attorney General’s Commssion on Pornography, which issued a report linking pornography to violence in July, said, ”I think it’s important for our society to know how frequently and where this material is appearing.”
She added, ”But I’ve not seen anything in the research indicating that this kind of material would lead a person to be sexually abusive.” Dr. Becker had dissented from the pornography commission’s finding of a link between pornography and violence.
Several prominent scientists have criticized the commission’s report, saying there is no reliable evidence linking sexually explicit material to antisocial behavior, including child abuse. University Altered Presentation
Dr. Reisman turned in her findings last year, and American University prepared the final draft. She said she had not seen the final draft and would not comment on reports of disputes with the university.
A Justice Department official who asked not to be named said that the university had made alterations to the presentation of the report but ”the basic methodology was not changed.”
Her study has come under attack by legislators, who charged that it was too expensive. Dr. Reisman said today that she had not used the bulk of the Justice Department grant.
She acknowledged that she had been seen as a foe of pornography, but that, she said, had led to her to special efforts to guarantee objective research.
Critics of her study have also said that Dr. Reisman, who once worked in public television and is a former song writer for the ”Captain Kangaroo” television show, had participated in relatively few major research projects.