Commentary

Breaking the Billion-Dollar Bondage of Pornography

Hannah Ellis
By Hannah Ellis | April 11, 2016 | 12:15 PM EDT

In this March 2, 2015 file photo, Republican Sen. Todd Weiler speaks on the senate floor at the Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City. Weiler, wants to declare pornography a public health crisis, echoing an argument being made around the U.S. by conservative religious groups as porn becomes more accessible on smartphones and tablets. Utah lawmakers are scheduled to discuss the resolution Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 in a legislative hearing. (AP File Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Pornography: it is a billion-dollar industry wreaking havoc on our men, women and children. Yet, it is rare to hear much about it. That is until recently, as more extensive research is done on the issue, all pointing to pornography’s many harms.

Today, our culture paints pornography as harmless, but researchers have found an overwhelming amount of data showing otherwise. Increased technology has made pornography accessible from almost anywhere at any time. Honestly, it’s pretty difficult not to come across it, and the content we’re talking about is not just your grandma’s idea of pornography. Today’s definition includes hardcore, explicit material that is warping reality and increasing the prevalence of divorce, rape, sexual violence, sex trafficking, and more. Much of it is illegal under U.S. obscenity laws.

It’s not just an issue for men, either; pornography is a problem amongst women as well.

Our current knowledge of the effects of pornography is extensive and without question, pornography is detrimental to minds, bodies, spirits, families, and society as a whole. Below are eight of the harms of pornography, but the examples are just a drop in the very large bucket of evidence against pornography.

Pornography is addictive. One study found 200,000 Americans admitted to having an Internet sexual addiction. Another study was done by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development on 64 male adults regarding the impact that pornography had on each of their brains. What they found was that the more hours of pornography that a subject consumed, the less gray matter they would find in the right caudate and the less functional connectivity there would be between the right striatum and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In plain terms, the disconnectedness and intense stimulation that pornography causes in the brain’s reward system can be similar to that of drug and alcohol addictions.

Pornography harms children. The average age of a person when they are first exposed to pornography is around age 11. Pornography can affect and shape a young person’s mindset regarding healthy sexuality during a time when they are most vulnerable to fallacies and unrealistic depictions of the opposite sex, especially women. What’s more, not only are children being exposed to pornography, but they are being used for pornography. Even though it is illegal, child pornography is still being produced at sickening rates. Based on a 2006 study, 100,000 websites offer illegal child pornography. What’s more, around two-thirds of offenders who committed Internet sex crimes against minors possessed child pornography.

Pornography is increasingly violent. Our culture has begun normalizing sexual violence via books like Fifty Shades of Grey and entertainment such as Rihanna’s single, “S&M” in which she says whips and chains excite her. In 2009, Rihanna was in the news for being choked and beaten by her boyfriend, Chris Brown. In her book Feisty and Feminine, Penny Nance, the CEO and President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), responded, saying that she and all women deserve better than what the culture is pushing on them. She went on to say that:

“The acceptance of pornographic representations of women and the trivialization of sexuality in our culture has led us down a precarious path. Women are valued for their appearance and ability to please men, and we’ve embraced this idea ourselves.”

Pornography ruins marriages. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers stated that 56 percent of divorce cases involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” Another study was done on a group of people who were exposed to pornography and then asked about their level of satisfaction with their current intimate partners. Overall, participants had a more elevated view of sex detached from emotional involvement. When pornography is involved in a partner’s life, there is also a general increase in the approval of extramarital affairs.

Pornography can lead to impotency. Scholars have found that when viewers are exposed to pornography multiple times over a lengthy period of time, they begin to have a lesser reaction to porn and a lower libido, which then sometimes develops into an inability to obtain an erection. Pornography overstimulates the brain and can decrease a person’s sensitivity to dopamine (the neurotransmitter involved with seeking pleasure). Thus, the more pornography is used, the more a viewer will require to achieve arousal.

Pornography objectifies women. Studies show the more sexualized media that young people see translates into an increase in their view of women as sex objects. On the other end of the spectrum, females who view pornography tend to view their body image negatively because they feel they cannot “compete” with the women in pornographic materials, further perpetuating issues with which many women already struggle.  

Pornography leads to aggressive behavior. The proof is in the pudding; viewing pornographic material increases a person’s risk of developing sexually deviant tendencies, committing sexual offenses, and accepting rape myths. One study stated that for battered women, a partner’s use of pornography increased their chance of reporting sexual assault by their partner.

Pornography is linked to sex trafficking. Pornography has been known for being used for training sex slaves on how they are to perform during sex acts. Many of these sex slaves are children who will often become desensitized to the material. In a study done on 854 women in prostitution, researchers found that 49 percent stated that pornography was made of them. More and more, traffickers and pimps are using sites like Backdoor and Craigslist to prostitute women and children.

The information is straightforward. Pornography is a distortion of something which God originally intended for our good. Society has taken sex, which is meant for a husband and wife to enjoy, and has transformed it into a commodity for self-pleasure. Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, put it well:

“In an era when sex is merely about achieving orgasm by any means necessary, we must reiterate what the Christian Church has always taught: sex is about the covenant union of one man with one woman, a union that is intended to bring about flourishing, love, happiness, and, yes, sensual pleasure.”

At least one state has taken steps to recognize the problem.  The Utah state legislature recently passed S.C.R.9 recognizing pornography as a public health hazard as well as the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change in order to address the pornography epidemic harming the citizens of Utah and the nation.

Utah has taken a big step by declaring the truth about pornography’s harms. They are an example for the nation. May we speak up for our fellow men, women, and children by working to end pornography’s destruction. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Hannah Wegman serves as a policy analyst for Concerned Women for America, the largest public policy women's organization in the nation.