Porn isn’t a public health crisis

Porn is the root of all evil.

At least that is the thinking politicians appear to be taking. With state legislators already trying to restrict pornography, the war against porn is very real. There are parts of the country that look down on porn and anyone that views it. Now we’re trying to take that morality and sense of judgment and transform it into legislation.

How do we view porn and those who watch it?

Let someone find out you’ve seen porn and watch their entire thinking on you change in one facial expression. The biggest struggle society has with porn isn’t necessarily with porn itself, rather what porn says about us as a society. Anyone that gets satisfaction out of watching gangbangs, rough sex, or anal play must be quite the pervert, a strong word we only use for the sexually sickest of people.

This includes those who watch child pornography, engage in rape, or are involved with sex trafficking. Consider what this means: to some, watching porn is along the same levels as sexual predation. The goal of the war on porn is to break that connection, thinking that limiting porn will limit sexual crime and preserve old notions of American morality.

One way to do this is to label porn as a health crisis or epidemic, no different than drugs. The presented philosophy behind the war on drugs was that people needed to be saved from themselves, and the way to do that was to limit the ability for drugs to be distributed and use punishment as a form of incentivizing not dealing or buying drugs. So the claim would be that porn has a public health impact on children, families, and American culture.

But making that claim shields us from the real possibility that the issue lies within societal constructs, not explicit media. Porn cannot have an impact on children and families (and note the stress on families as opposed to single individuals) unless there is already an issue that gives porn that level of power. And that doesn’t even dive into defining what American culture is, or understanding why it should be protected.

This isn’t to say that porn can’t be harmful as a tool. Addiction to porn does have the potential to drive emotional and psychological damage, primarily in the form of lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and misunderstanding how sex and relationships work. If porn serves as someone’s only form of sex education, the lessons an inexperienced person can take from porn are admittedly not good.

But porn isn’t meant to serve as a device for sex education anyway (although it one day could be). It is meant for entertainment purposes. That anyone would look to porn to learn something says more about that person and an environment concealing insight on the thing that grabs their curiosity.

And porn is only addictive if allowed to be. As someone who was addicted to porn, change only happened once I made changes within myself. Getting rid of porn didn’t help me with the issues fueling my addiction. It just led to me finding new ways to get a release.

porn button
If legislators have it their way, porn won’t be as accessible as being at the tip of our fingers, and there could be less freedom in how adult films are presented.

Misconceptions on the cause and effect of porn

It is hard to break porn addiction alone. But that is where help in the form of education, counseling, and tools to keep addicts accountable kick in. The confusion in why or how porn can affect people is a chicken or egg dilemma: those against porn would argue that people get addicted to porn after watching it and develop issues, but I would argue that people develop issues and run to porn, creating an addiction.

We treat porn as the “cause” in cause and effect, thinking from the position that porn is the cause of society’s problems. So we allege that porn lessens the desire for men to get married, or that it lowers sexual satisfaction, or that women will start letting dudes run trains on them or something ridiculous. But this thinking is backwards on a number of levels.

It takes away accountability from people who allow porn to take hold of their lives. It places judgment on people who lead sexual lives our culture doesn’t find normal. But even more, it places morality on others who aren’t asking for it, and trying to pose it off as science or fact.

Yes, porn consumption does have the capability to fuel the very things we fear. But being capable isn’t the same as having direct influence, and we shouldn’t overlook how the cause and effect can be reversed. It’s easier to treat us as if we are powerless than to provide us with help that gets at the core of our problems.

Here’s a thought: maybe watching porn is the result of not finding appeal in marriage. Maybe watching porn is the result of not having much of any sexual gratification in life. Maybe watching porn is the result of people being cast aside for their sexuality, so they want a feeling of acceptance.

And what’s so wrong about being any of these things? Why do men HAVE to be interested in getting married, and why do we HAVE to keep our sexuality within certain borders? Why are we trying to control sexual behavior and views towards relationships?

Porn serving as a scapegoat

Limiting porn won’t “fix” our culture or families. Pushing for an idealized culture through limiting porn won’t eliminate the criminal element of sexuality. Whatever “problems” our culture and families apparently have are problems deep within us, with or without the presence of porn.

Porn, as with a number of things we have sought to stifle, is a scapegoat for social ills we cannot explain. We don’t understand why there is sexual crime, we don’t understand why marriages are in trouble, we don’t understand why men are lacking interest in sex. But rather than try and find out, rather than try to dig up the root, we just want to keep cutting branches until we no longer have anything to blame but ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with wanting people to find satisfaction in relationships and sex. There is nothing wrong in wanting to preserve the value of marriage. There is especially nothing wrong in wanting to stop sexually-based crime. I just don’t see how limiting porn is supposed to change that.

The end game for politicians is noble, but the road toward the end doesn’t make sense. Porn isn’t a public health crisis or an epidemic. The the real problem is a culture that has been closed to sexuality for so long that we are finding more advanced ways to act out against what we deem moral and see what has been branded ‘taboo’.

I’m not saying porn is the bee’s knees because it certainly has its faults. While porn has no moral obligation to its consumers, it is very misleading. There are problems, and the hope is that porn will evolve to match the needs of a changing sexual culture.

Continue to take a hard stance on child pornography. Continue to do what you can to keep porn out of the hands of those who aren’t adults. But limiting it and its freedom of speech isn’t the solution to the things that genuinely damage society and the things that are damaging what we believe should be presiding sensibilities.

Change starts with us as a people. Instead of being so quick to say ‘let’s get rid of porn’, let’s take a step back and ask ‘why and how has porn become so prevalent in society’.

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