A pornography commission launched public hearings yesterday with a graphic slide show of violent and perverted sexual acts and testimony from a young man who said he'd tried to kill himself because of sexual abuse.
Commission members saw the slide presentation tracing the evolution of pornography after Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lois Haight Herrington challenged them to "open the public's eyes to a problem that many people have preferred not to see."
Henry E. Hudson, Arlington County commonwealth's attorney and chairman of the commission, said the commissioners "have to be exposed to pornography in its most graphic form. It was important for them to view samples as well as hear testimony."
The slide show was followed by testimony from the suicidal young man, identified only as "David," and from a woman identified as "Sharon," who said her former husband's preoccupation with pornographic materials -- obtainable, she said, from "a lot of neighborhood stores" -- led to his sexual exploitation of children.
The 11-member commission, created by the Child Protection Act of 1984, was appointed by Attorney General Edwin Meese III this month. One of its principal goals is to determine whether there is a link between pornography and sexual exploitation.
A federal pornography commission in 1970 concluded that there was no direct link, but federal law enforcement officials have said that interstate trafficking in pornography has since become much more prevalent and that pornographic materials have become widely available via videotape recorders and cable television.
In the 40-minute slide show, FBI agent Kenneth Lanning presented color and black-and-white pictures of nude children and of sexual acts involving adults, children and animals.
Lanning said some of the relatively mild pictures came from books bought in suburban shopping malls and some others were from "underground" magazines or homemade snapshots confiscated from sexual offenders.