Poster illustrating that "pornography is modern-day slavery." (Photo courtesy of Web site)

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( - Despite six federal obscenity laws currently on the books, illegal hardcore pornography is running rampant on cable television and the Internet -- and federal prosecutions are virtually nonexistent. That needs to change, says a group of researchers and anti-porn activists.

At a briefing held at the U.S. Capitol, researchers and activists, including a former porn movie actress, highlighted the finding of leading researchers on the harm and long-term effects that hardcore pornography has on its viewers -- especially children -- and called on Congress to make the Justice Department to crack down on those who make and distribute illegal pornography.

“We are asking that the prosecution of obscenity laws, which seems to be on hold in this administration, be given a high priority because of the widespread harm we now know hardcore pornography is causing to America,” Patrick Trueman, the group’s spokesman, said. “They’re not doing much at all. So we are asking them to make it a priority.”

The group, which calls itself the Coalition for the War on Illegal Pornography, is calling on the Obama administration, Congress, and the Justice Department to elevate the enforcement of obscenity laws it says are being ignored.

"Our efforts today are not partisan because the protection of children, violence against women, addiction and sexual trafficking are not partisan issues. Nor are we here today to quarrel with Attorney General Holder," said Trueman, the former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, U.S. Department of Justice.

Trueman said laws already on the books make it illegal to distribute hardcore pornography on the Internet, by satellite or cable television and in sexually-oriented businesses.

“We are not asking for new laws. We have enough laws. What we are asking is that those laws be vigorously enforced,” Trueman said.

Trueman said the Obama administration isn’t alone – the last s have not spent much time or effort enforcing America’s obscenity laws.

“Rather than aggressively enforcing the law, the Justice Department, through the Bush years and the Clinton years before that, has been prosecuting relatively minor producers and distributors and the impact of those prosecutions is very little,” Trueman said.

Still, he said, on those rare occasions when prosecutions have been made, the government has been successful. Trueman attributes that success to the “community standard” that he said has to “come into play.”

“A jury has to decide whether hardcore material is beyond community standards and every community wants to say that their community is better than that material,” Trueman said.

Though the laws make its distribution illegal, there has been plenty of study into what constitutes “obscene material” – and researchers no longer wonder what is obscene and what isn’t.

“Obscenity is graphic material that focuses on sex or sexual violence,” professor Donna Rice Hughes, the president of Enough is Enough and a lead spokeswoman on keeping Internet safety said during the briefing.

“(Obscenity) includes lewd exhibition of the genitals, close ups of graphic sex acts and deviant activities such as group sex, bestiality and excretory functions,” Hughes said.

Hughes said that the laws do not criminalize the “soft-core” pornography found in some movies and on TV for adults, but it is not legal for children.

“For 15 years, kids have been spoon-fed easy access to Internet pornography; right in the privacy of their own homes or through any electronic device,” Hughes said. “Because obscenity laws have not been enforced, illegal adult pornography has flooded and polluted the Internet.”

Hughes said the reach of adult pornography has grown and has extended to “epidemic proportions.”

Research has proven that 40 percent of first-time Internet porn views occur unintentionally while searching the Internet through a search engine. Another 12 percent come from misspelled words in Web site names. The average age when Americans first view pornography is now between 8- and 11-years-old, Hughes said.

Despite the unlawful nature of hardcore pornography, the coalition said obscene material has a severely negative affect on consumers – and on the actresses involved.

‘Porn destroys human lives’

Former porn movie actress Shelly Luben, founder and director of an outreach group to those working in the adult film industry offering a variety of support and a transition out of the industry, said that the adult film industry is a hostile and volatile industry for its performers.

Sixty-six (66) percent of actors within the porn industry contract herpes and 70 percent of the sexually transmitted infections contracted in the industry occur in women, she said.

Luben was a pornography performer for 12 years, during which she contracted herpes, Human Papilloma Virus and battled cervical cancer. She spent eight years recovering from her time in the industry and in 2008 founded the Pink Cross Foundation to minister to others still in the industry.

“I have suffered much at the hands of the porn industry,” Luben said. “Porn destroys human lives and is destroying our nation. And I am proof of that.”

Mary Anne Layden, a psychotherapist and director of education of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the Center for Cognitive Therapy of the University of Pennsylvania has treated several patients suffering from pornography addiction.

“They would watch things being done to women that they would not want done to the women they love. It psychologically destabilizes them to violate their own innate sense of justice, fairness and the golden rule and reduces their own self-respect,” Layden said.

Layden said the American Psychiatric Association has added hypersexual disorder to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) used to diagnose psychiatric and psychological disorders.

“Pornography robs men of their masculinity, of their psychological health, of their self-respect, of their greatness. … It then robs their family, their community and their country of all that they could have offered,” she said.

The group, meanwhile, is asking every member of the House and Senate to sign a letter to be sent to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to make obscenity cases a priority for the Justice Department.

Other speakers at the briefing were: Dr. Sharon Cooper, a forensic pediatrician; Gail Dines, professor of sociology at Wheelock College in Boston; and Laura Lederer, an attorney and leading voice against human trafficking.