As an increasing number of governments around the world wake up to what’s happening in our communities due to the impacts of porn on children and young people, the US state of Arizona (and many other US States) are treating it as a political football. Recently announced, Arizona is the latest in a growing list is that is considering calling porn a public health crisis, yet the push and pull of Democrats versus Republicans threatens to undermine efforts.
According to the CDC (US Center for Disease Control and Prevention), they don’t have an established position on pornography as a public health issue. Apparently, “Crises are described as ‘time-sensitive’ and crisis communication tends to occur when ‘an unexpected and threatening event requires an immediate response.’”
Given porn is the main sex educator for children and youth, this is a “threatening event”! Kids sexual scripts (the stories a child’s developing mind believes about themselves and their sexuality) are being written by a predatory porn industry driven by profits.
Pornography is fuelling sexually exploitative behaviours among children and teens, porn drives demand for human trafficking and rates appear to be getting worse, and most trafficking is for sexual purposes. Kids are being harmed by porn, including via grooming and trauma; child-on-child sexual abuse rates are going up with kids mimicking what they see; porn is linked to mental health implications including depression, loneliness, body image issues and addiction; girls and women are subjected to increasing rates of objectification, sexual harassment and violence – both online and offline (including receiving coercion and threats to send nudes); people are experiencing rising sexual dysfunctions and relationship dissatisfaction due to excessive porn use; partners of porn addicts are dealing with PTSD; somewhere between 20-50% of long-term relationships are breaking down with porn as a contributing factor; 1 in 5 heterosexual young adults have had anal sex, most often painful for young women due to coercion and a sense of entitlement from young men; young women are presenting to medical professionals with internal injuries due to partners expecting what they see in porn; young men (and women) are feeling helpless and at times suicidal, because they can’t quit porn and don’t know where to go for help – the list goes on and on and on. For many, the impacts have been “unexpected”. Every single one of these outcomes require an urgent and immediate response.
The latest peer-reviewed literature (an analysis of 19 studies) finds that youth consuming online porn is associated with earlier sexual debut, engaging with multiple and/or occasional partners, emulating risky sexual behaviors, assimilating distorted gender roles, dysfunctional body perception, aggressiveness, anxious or depressive symptoms, and compulsive pornography use. They warn that “the issue can no longer be neglected and must be targeted by global and multidisciplinary interventions.”
Perhaps the CDC should talk to the American Association of Public Health who state that “Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play… and promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors. Public health saves money, improves our quality of life, helps children thrive and reduces human suffering.“
The CDC – and ALL government departments who work for the people – need to stop hiding behind a definition and recognise that we are in the midst of of a crisis. How much more “time sensitive” do we need to get before all health, child and people-helping departments respond with a public health approach to the physical, psychological, relational and social fallouts from porn? For countless people, this is a disaster of mammoth proportions and they need an “immediate response”.
Yes, all young people need medically accurate sex education – but even that’s not enough unless we give young people tools to critique the harms of what a multi-billion dollar industry has forced upon them. Political agendas need to get out of the way – a public health response to pornography should always be approached as a bipartisan issue.
It’s more important now than ever to stop using porn as a political football, and adopt a deliberate and unified front to protect children.
If you or loved ones are struggling with pornography’s impacts, you need to know that you are not alone. Click through for educational information, resources and links to online support services.