• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 6:05am

Pornography poses serious threat to public health, panel of activists says

Campaigner says there is an 'untreated pandemic of harm from pornography' in advance of summit conference on public health effects

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 11:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 11:49am

Pornography now is so widespread in the United States that it deserves to be addressed seriously as a major public health crisis, a panel of activists said on Thursday.

On the eve of a two-day conference on sexual exploitation, they suggested that porn be tackled in the same manner as teenage smoking or drunk driving.

“There’s an untreated pandemic of harm from pornography,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality in Media, which has campaigned against pornography since 1962.

“We know now that almost every family in America has been touched by the harm of pornography.”
Dawn Hawkins

“There’s a lot of science now proving that pornography is harmful,” Hawkins told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. “We know now that almost every family in America has been touched by the harm of pornography.”

The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation summit at opens on Friday in the Washington suburb of Tysons Corner aims to look at pornography as a complex social problem that needs to be framed as a public health issue.

Participants include health professionals, social workers, academics, feminists, faith leaders, campaigners against human trafficking and former members of the multibillion-dollar adult entertainment industry.

“This is a business with considerable political clout,” said Gail Dines, a sociology and women’s studies professor at Wheelock College in Boston and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.

Porn sites get more visitors per month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, a third of all downloads contain porn and the internet now hosts 4.2 million porn websites, said Dines, who is also president of the international feminist group Stop Porn Culture.

“Porn is without doubt the most powerful form of sex education today, with studies showing that the average age of first viewing porn is between 11 and 14 – and let me tell you, this is not your father’s Playboy,” she said.

“These degrading misogynist images have become the wallpaper of our lives and they are robbing young people of an authentic healthy sexuality that is a basic right of ever human being.”

Donny Pauling, a former adult film producer for Playboy and others who also ran a network of adult websites before quitting the business in 2006, said he has personally seen the ill effects of the porn business on the women who appear in front of the camera.

He doubted that Miriam Weeks – a 19-year-old women’s studies student at the elite Duke University in North Carolina who caused a national stir recently when she came out as moonlighting internet porn star Belle Knox – feels as “empowered” as she has claimed.

I don’t buy her story,” Pauling said. “I recruited more than 500 first-timers into the business and there’s never been one that came back and thanked me.”

Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania, who specialises in sexual trauma, said pornography has been a factor in every case of sexual violence that she has treated as a psychotherapist.

“The earlier males are exposed to pornography, the more likely they are to engage in non-consensual sex – and for females, the more pornography they use, the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex,” she said.

In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this month, Weeks revealed that she started watching pornography at the age of 12 – and that she was once raped at a high school house party.

“There is going to have to be programmes out there that get kids to understand how porn is manipulating them,” Dines said.

And Layden suggested that if the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention got “interested in this as a public health issue, we can have success in the way that we had success with the issue of cigarette smoking.”



For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

What a badly researched article, it reads just like a press release for Morality in Media!
Amazing how all of these "studies" they keep referencing have no names, link or data to them. Shame on the reporter who let that fly without questioning it! What's the point of being a journalist when you don't report both sides?
Since SCMP can't do their job, and has to regurgitate bad anonymous stories from the AFP wire, here's a link to a story on an actual study from US News & World Report that is the other side of the story: that pornography has no significant deleterious effects on human behaviour. ****tinyurl.com/o6eo9nu
Ooooh look! Actual data! *rolls eyes*
Morality in Media, while certainly an established institution, doesn't represent mainstream American thought on erotica, as might be discerned by the market share of erotica over the Internet.
The cure for bad speech is good speech. It's not to give any organization such as Morality in Media the opportunity to suppress speech of any sort to which it objects. They have their place in the public square. It'd be nice if they respected other people's reciprocal right to speak freely.
A serious subject, and no comments !
mhhh, maybe quite a lot of people concerned here, as the article says, and maybe this is too close to home ?
How revealing about fhte usual hordes of blabla comenters...
Well, Catherine, this conversation between the would-be censors such as Morality in Media, who call sexually-explicit speech "pornography," and other people, who call it other things - such as "erotica" - has proceeded for decades with no resolution.
Those who object to erotica don't have to see it or download it. It's a self-correcting problem, viewed that way. But the censor organizations demand the right to determine what others may see for them, which is impermissible here in America, because free speech may not be regulated by government (under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America). We've reached the point here where Constitutional rights take precedence over religious and cultural groups's demands to limit the applicability of those rights.
I'm just saying that if you don't see a lot of comment from American readers of the SCMP, it's because many of us see this as a settled issue and aren't interested in allowing Morality in Media to reopen it.


SCMP.com Account