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Debunking the “Porn is Harmless” Myth

Strange as it may seem, advocating for the protection of children from being exposed to violent porn upsets certain people. Some respond as if they’re being personally attacked when we share statistics, stories, and information showing how dangerous porn can be to a developing mind. But this is to be expected in a porn-saturated society. Throughout our Protect Children Not Porn campaign, some have tried to downplay, ignore, or deny the rock solid research, personal stories, and science which affirms our message.

We want to lay out some of the biggest myths we hear about porn and the nature of the porn industry, and set the record straight.

Myth #1: Porn is just a fantasy and doesn’t affect real life.

The idea that porn is harmless and just a fantasy is an all too popular argument, and one riddled with flaws. One survey showed that over half of 11 to 16-year-old boys (53%) and over a third of 11 to 16-year-old girls (39%) believe that pornography is a realistic depiction of sex.

Many pro-porn advocates claim porn has no effect on the attitudes or actions of viewers. This is often followed by the suggestion that porn can be a useful tool for sex education or for inspiring a more “liberating” sex life (see our rebuttle against this claim here).

Both statements assert an inconsistent belief that porn in fact can have an effect, but only when the outcome is deemed positive by the pro-porn community. All other effects, like on mental health, body image and relationships, are completely left out of the conversation. It is upon this deeply flawed line of thinking that all other myths are built.

No matter how hard the porn industry and its advocates try to suggest otherwise, frequent porn use can affect every aspect of the consumer’s life. Researchers widely agree that porn use carries significant implications on mental health and relationships, including shame, guilt, anxiety, suicidal ideation, confusion, poor social bonds, addictions, sexual anxiety, and feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s body.

RELATED: Big Porn Profits Off Stolen Childhood Innocence

Porn also carries significant consequences for relationships. It has become increasingly normalized to watch porn with your significant other. In fact, that’s often the suggested solution to a sexual “dry spell” or marital problems.

While some research suggests that watching porn with a partner can provide an initial spark in a relationship, several longitudinal studies found the opposite to be true. In one study, researchers found that porn consumption was the second strongest predictor that a relationship would suffer.

In response to Raised on Porn, Sam Tielemans, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said “90% of my practice is working with men who struggle with an addiction to pornography. In almost every single case, my clients were exposed to pornography as a kid, which began a lifelong struggle for them. The movie is such an important reminder about how necessary it is to protect kids from the evil influence of the porn industry.”

Furthermore, according to research presented before the U.S. Senate in 2004, 56% of divorce cases involved one person with an obsessive interest in pornography. And a study in 2016 revealed married couples who watched porn increased their divorce risk rate by 200 percent while another study concluded that pornography use increases marital infidelity by 300 percent.

The statistics speak for themselves. If porn carries such detrimental effects on adults who have the framework to understand what they are watching, how much more devastating is it for a child who does not have the capacity to make sense of the graphic sexual and violent images they are watching?

A 2011 longitudinal study found that 10-15 year-olds consuming violent pornography are five times more likely to be sexually aggressive than non-viewers of violent porn. With extremely violent porn becoming the industry norm, it is no surprise that many kids are acting out this abuse on one another.

Myth #2: Porn is sexually liberating.

Many advocates suggest porn inspires and encourages a more “liberating” sexual experience, but the truth is, the only thing porn liberates is the pursuit of self-gratification at the dehumanizing expense of another person.

RELATED: KinkTok: How Porn Culture & TikTok Are Grooming Children

Like many other forms of media, porn both represents and creates culture. Porn creates a cycle of violence, and with each completion of a cycle, the next is increasingly aggressive and extreme. You see, porn creates an ever unquenchable deviant appetite. Eventually, what once satisfied is no longer enough and the viewer is thrown into more extreme forms of porn to find the same sense of satisfaction.

Many pro-porn advocates claim porn has no effect on the attitudes or actions of viewers. This is often followed by the suggestion that porn can be a useful tool for sex education or for inspiring a more “liberating” sex life. Both statements assert an inconsistent belief that porn in fact can have an effect, but only when the outcome is deemed positive by the pro-porn community.

Consistent with other studies, research showed that 46.9% of respondents became more interested in more extreme porn that had previously disinterested or even disgusted them. And contrary to the highly circulated idea that porn consumption increases sexual satisfaction and liberation, many researchers found that it is more widely associated with sexual dissatisfaction.

There has also been a growing conversation surrounding porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) as more and more young men are struggling with the issue. PIED occurs when excessive pornography use combined with masturbation causes an inability to achieve and maintain an erection without the use of pornography as a stimulant. In other words, a man with PIED may find himself struggling when it comes to having sex with a real partner but has no problem staying erect and having an orgasm while masturbating to porn. As a result, men with PIED might choose porn over real sex.

In the 1990’s, only 7% of men under 30 experienced erectile dysfunction (ED). Now, several studies show that number has increased to 30%, and if a man’s porn habit reaches the level of addiction, he is 60% more likely to have ED.

Essentially, internet porn addictions are creating an unhealthy bond between consumers and their porn, to the point of making it nearly impossible to connect and perform intimately in real life situations.

Victor, a childhood victim of porn exposure, shared “Because of pornography and other issues in my life, I nearly had 3 suicide attempts in the past year… Pornography has stolen and dominated my entire life. It still rules my life entirely to this day, over 13 years after I initially viewed porn as a curious 6-year-old boy.

For a child, underage exposure to porn is a prison sentence not sexual liberation.

Myth #3: Porn is empowering for women.

The mainstream media frequently peddles the idea that porn is empowering for women. In an article for the Daily Beast, porn actress Aurora Snow wrote, “Porn offers a wide range of ‘sexy,’ standing in stark contrast to the narrow range presented in mainstream Hollywood. In this unique way, porn teaches its audience to see beauty in diversity, empowering the women who work in it to embrace their differences.”

While various body types might be featured in particular fetishes, porn inherently teaches that women are sexual objects. But according to the porn industry, objectification is the goal and actually boosts confidence.

However, finding your value in your sexual objectification is not empowering; it is dangerous. Women are consistently degraded and exploited in porn while the industry tries to convince them that this is somehow empowering. Porn sets the precedent for how women are treated in the bedroom, and in relationships in general, and it perpetuates the narrative that women enjoy being sexually dominated and abused.

Women are portrayed in porn as being ready at any time for anything sexual the man may want, and with no human or sexual needs of her own. This is the very definition of exploitation. She is neither given, nor worthy of, basic human dignity and respect; rather, she is objectified and used for man’s gratification. Porn desensitizes the user to her humanity. She is never referred to as a woman, but an array of derogatory names such as slut, whore, b*tch, and much worse.

In what way would this content be uplifting to women? This industry claims to be the champion of women while at the same time exploiting and profiting off depictions of sexual assault, abuse, and rape.

One team of researchers analyzed hundreds of the most popular porn scenes and found that 88.2% contained physical violence or aggression while 48.7% contained verbal aggression, almost always targeted towards women. According to a 2020 study, it is estimated that one out of every three porn videos contains sexual violence and aggression. Furthermore, women were the target of nearly 97% of all physically aggressive acts.

RELATED: Violent Porn Is Shaping Children Everywhere

Not only does this directly affect the women involved in the porn industry, but also carries significant implications for women outside of porn. According to BBC research, 38% of women under the age of 40 have experienced unwanted slapping, choking, gagging, or spitting during consensual intercourse. Why? Because this is how sex “should be” according to the porn industry which directly affects the real sex lives of millions of women.

A Swedish study found that 70% of high school boys who were frequent viewers of porn, including that which features violence and the sexual abuse of children and animals, reported that porn made them want to try out what they had seen.

Additionally, it is not just men who are objectifying women, but women are self-objectifying. One study found that “the script of aggression against women has become so normalized that women hit and spank themselves,” partaking in and further perpetuating the sexual script of aggression against women. Comparatively, there were almost no acts of men aggressing against themselves or other men.

Women are portrayed in porn as being ready at any time for anything sexual the man may want, and with no human or sexual needs of her own. This is the very definition of exploitation.

While we can’t solely blame porn for a culture where violence against women is prevelant, the high rates of violence and aggression in porn have added jet fuel to this fire.

As is now typical, what happens in the “adult” industry radiates into the lives of children. One girl told Exodus Cry, “Porn taught me it was okay for others to use my body without my permission.” According to Culture Reframed, girls exposed to hypersexualized media will have an increased tendency to develop eating disorders, practice self-harm, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and are at a greater risk for sexting and sexual victimization.

Porn doesn’t empower women. It empowers their oppression.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The porn industry and its advocates bank on oversimplification to convince the general public that its products create a sex positive, more ‘liberated’ society. But, once you poke at the initial claims, their defenses quickly crumble. It would be challenging to find a single good thing that has come from a culture deeply entrenched in porn. As porn use becomes more normalized and more rampant among kids and young teens, its dangerous consequences are only becoming more cemented among the most vulnerable members of our society.

Still, there is hope.

With millions of social engagements and views, the widespread visibility of our Protect Children Not Porn campaign is proving that culture is ripe for change. It’s time to speak out against the myths peddled by the porn industry and its advocates as they attempt to capture the minds of young kids, getting them hooked on the devastating drug that is porn.

With your help, we can build a formidable movement that demands ID-based age verification on porn sites and challenges the predatory porn giants that are harvesting the innocence of children everywhere.

Here are three very practical ways you can help protect children:

1. SIGN the petition, now with 60,000+ signatures, demanding age verification, with ID, on every single porn site. Then share it.
2. WATCH our documentary Raised on Porn, free on YouTube, then like, comment, and share it with 5 friends.
3. GIVE and help us protect 1 million children from porn.

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