Pornography and public health | Worse than we thought

When we hear the words “public health hazard,” we tend to think about smoking, toxic spills and infectious diseases. But what about pornography?

In June, I [wrote] about the dangers of unfettered Internet use for kids over the summer. The damage to young minds from pornography is long-lasting and measurable. But a recent gathering of experts pointed out that the harms from pornography are far worse than they’ve ever been, and the damage is not just impacting children, but spilling into all of society.

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in mid-July, Dr. Gail Dines dispelled the myth that pornography today is like the pin-up of yesteryear. Rather, today’s mainstream pornography is unbelievably dehumanizing, degrading, and violent. She cited a peer-reviewed study that found that 88 percent of the scenes in the 50 most popular porn films involved violence against women. Pornography is not about sex, she said, but about “making hate to women.”

Dines shared how one pornography producer explained that the girls now arrive on the sets “porn-ready.” As she said, “We are part of a culture that hyper-sexualizes girls from a very young age and forces them into an inauthentic, formulaic, plasticized sexuality that is from the porn culture and not of their own making.”

Most of Dr. Dines’ presentation is too graphic to say here, which is important for all of us to understand. For too long, we’ve refused to look behind First Amendment smokescreens to understand pornography’s true nature.

Speaking at the same event, Cordelia Anderson called our culture’s widespread pornography use “the largest unregulated social experiment ever.” Having studied the impact of sexual abuse and pornography for decades, Anderson explained that pornography is a quantifiable public health crisis.

Anderson pointed to research indicating that nearly all young boys have been exposed to pornography. It isn’t enough to protect your own children any longer when their peers have had violent pornography normalized in their minds. The impact has become public, and its damage has seeped everywhere.

Anderson believes change requires a broad public strategy of education, law enforcement, business pressure, and a revitalized media culture. As she so aptly put it, “No mass social disorder has ever come under control just by treating the individual.”

Dines and Anderson were just two of nearly a dozen speakers discussing the public health hazards of pornography at the Capitol event. Dr. Donald Hilton explained how pornography changes brain chemistry. Dr. Melissa Farley examined the link between pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking. And Ed Smart, whose daughter Elizabeth made national news when she was abducted in 2002, explained how pornography played a role in his daughter’s enslavement and sexual torture.

Although not addressed in the Capitol symposium, I’d like to point out the role pornography has played in another recent social crisis: the acceptance of same-sex marriage. In his “Relationships in America” survey released last year, Mark Regnerus found that among church-going Christians who did not support same-sex marriage, only 4.6 percent felt that using pornography was okay. Among church-going Christians who supported same-sex marriage, however, 33 percent also agreed that viewing pornography was fine.

Although not claiming a causal link between the two, Regnerus did suggest that “our moral systems concerning sex and sexuality tend rather to resemble personalized ‘tool kits’ ” that are greatly influenced by social reference points. Looking at the sexual mores of today, there’s no doubt that pornography has become the significant social reference point doing untold damage to children, families, and all of society.

John Stonestreet


— by John Stonestreet

Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2015 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.


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