Researchers: “The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt.”
BOSTON — Many believe that pornography is among the biggest problems facing modern society. Decades ago, porn was confined to sleazy movie theaters and raunchy shops lined up and down Times Square and other hot spots in major cities. The internet has changed all of that, though, and today all one really needs to find pornography is an internet connection. This wide availability has raised concerns about porn’s impact on its viewers, especially those of a younger age.
Now, researchers from Boston University say that while porn can certainly have a detrimental influence on some viewers, all existing evidence on the subject thus far does not indicate that pornography is a public health crisis. In fact, the study’s authors went so far as to say that calling pornography a major health problem will do more harm than good.
“The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt, not reflective of best available evidence,” the study, authored by Dr. Kimberly M. Nelson and Dr. Emily F. Rothman, reads.
Despite the fact that quite a few U.S. states (17) have already introduced non-binding resolutions stating that pornography is indeed a public health crisis, the study’s authors assert that porn just doesn’t meet the public health field’s criteria for a public health crisis. Researchers cited the following reasons for their conclusion: porn use has increased incrementally over time, and has never seen a sudden surge or reached a “tipping point.” Furthermore, it does not “directly or imminently” cause death, disease, property destruction, and population displacement. Porn also does not put a strain on local or national health systems.
On the contrary, the research team say that porn largely has varying effects on its users. Some will be negatively influenced by it, but the vast majority will see no real negative consequences from consuming porn. Surprisingly, they even say that some regular users even benefit from their habit; for example it’s much safer to masturbate at home than go out and get involved with a prostitute or spend tons of money at a strip club.
Many anti-porn groups ague that porn should be done away with completely, but that’s just not a realistic expectation. Instead, the study’s authors believe more attainable goals should be set, such as encouraging consumption of less extreme pornography, or viewing the content less often in general.
Calling pornography a public health crisis can lead to unnecessary policies, and money being spent in areas when it would be better suited for other, more pressing public health problems.
“Moreover, pathologizing any form of sexual behavior, including pornography use, has the potential to restrict sexual freedom and to stigmatize, which is antithetical to public health,” the study concludes.
The study is published in the American Journal of Public Health.