The War on Porn | March Editor’s Choice

By SEMRAN THAMER | Senior Editor

Illustration by: Leana King

The Internet has made porn more accessible than ever before. Millions of Americans consume some sort of pornographic material on a regular basis through the internet. It is no secret that there are various health issues associated with the overconsumption of pornography. Yet, it is unclear whether porn consumption is a personal or public health issue. Many countries throughout the world recognize the potentially harmful effects of porn and have regulated or even banned its production. In some nations such as those in the Middle East, Indonesia, and Russia, the spread and consumption of internet porn is strictly illegal (Ang).
 

In the United States, a nation with one of the highest legal consumption of pornography per capita, there has been increasing discourse revolving around the public health concerns associated with porn. For decades, many public health experts and politicians have argued that pornography could be connected to sexual exploitation associated with sex trafficking, prostitution and sexual violence. Last year, a Republican National Convention platform committee shared their views on the issue and declared porn a “public health crisis” (Kopan). Donald Trump-who despite having appeared in various porn videos-signed the “Children’s Safety Presidential Pledge” during his campaign, ironically positioning himself in favor of the war on porn (D’Angelo). Recently, South Dakota and Virginia both proposed various anti-porn measures, joining Utah with the view that porn should be considered a public health concern. The war on porn has just begun and will continue to do so as more officials and politicians advocate against porn consumption.
 

Those who support labeling porn as a public health issue argue that its harmful effects are destroying millions of lives by alienating users and promoting sexual violence against women. Yet, the availability and accessibility of pornography has tremendously increased over the past few decades while rates of sexual offenses have steadily fallen but research has still shown that porn may have negative health consequences by affecting an individual’s motivation and decision-making processes (Davies). Yet, given that evidence linking porn with sexual violence is lacking, it is clear that porn must be recognized not as a public health hazard but rather as a private problem. While various courts decided long ago that porn consumption was constitutional, anti-porn advocates and state governments have challenged porn’s legality, proposing that public health officials restrict and regulate porn.
 

In her Fall 2015 article, “Does Pornography Have a Place in Public Health,” Samantha Cunningham offers a different approach to addressing public health concerns associated with pornography by suggesting that public health officials could actually utilize pornography to promote safer sexual practices. This practice has been enforced for decades in Brazil, where all pornographic actors are strictly required to wear condoms. Instead of unconstitutionally banning or regulating porn, public health officials could instead propose measures that take advantage of pornography and its actors to promote favorable sexual practices. By doing so, the constitutional right to consume porn would continue to be protected while better sexual behaviors could be simultaneously promoted and directly targeted to a captive audience.
 

References:
1. D’Angelo, Chris. “Donald Trump Vows To Crack Down On Pornography (Yes, Really!).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 02 Aug. 2016. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
2. Davies, Madlen. “Revealed… How Watching Porn Really Affects Your BRAIN.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
3. Kopan, Tal. “GOP Platform Draft Declares Pornography ‘public Health Crisis’.” CNN. Cable News Network, 11 July 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
4. Ang, Peng. “How Countries Are Regulating Internet Content.” Nanyang Technological University, 31 Jan. 2001. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.

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