Is pornography harmful?

Even though pornography is just one click away for those internet users, one swipe away from our phones, and one step away from the shelf where you left your Hustler magazine, people still feel guilty every time they think about accessing it. Pornography has always been a sensitive topic. Perhaps as sensitive as how we view our bodily image, continuously covering it with clothing. This “guilty pleasure” of watching porn is becoming more and more available to the public as technology advances. Some people say it is beneficial because it acts as an outlet of sexual urges while others allow it to take over their lives. Seeing or even thinking about it can lead to quick arousal in individuals. No wonder grown-ups, whether for or against pornography, continue to watch it as a form of entertainment. After all, pornographic material involving consenting adults is legal in Canada (Robertson, J., & Casavant, L. 2007).

Pornography has many beneficial aspects such as reducing abuse by relieving stress. It has been found to decrease the rates of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse (Horn 2010). Abuse usually originates from stress and frustration that have not been released by the individual. Mentally, porn can help with exploring and virtually experiencing the taboos that otherwise are not accepted in today’s society (Tinker, 2015). For instance, certain fetishes can be relieved through porn if one does not have a partner or if the partner is unwilling to perform the act. The relief of stress from porn can control the urge to abuse others for pleasure. Physically, porn can lead to the release of dopamine which makes the individual feels good, increasing the overall mood of the individual and decreasing the tendency of abusive acts. In fact, pornography can potentially strengthen intimate relationships through the introduction of new “kinks” that couples did not know they shared and enjoyed. It was discussed in the human sexuality course that finding an activity, which couples can enjoy together play an important role in building, continuing, and can help the relationship from deteriorating (Rathus, Nevid, Fichner-Rathus, Herold, & McKay, 2004, p.172). If pornography is viewed and enjoyed by the couple together it can account to being a “shared experience”, thus investing in the longevity of the relationship (Nelkin, 2013). As pornography is an easy way to discover an individual’s wildest sexual fantasy, it can lead to an increase in excitement and passion in the bedroom, which often decreases as the relationship period lengthens. Furthermore, if sexual fantasies are not disclosed, the individual may become sexually unsatisfied, and as a result, he or she may look for other resources to satisfy their needs (Nelkin, 2013). In other words, infidelity may occur.

Although pornography is an increasingly complicated and personal topic, for single individuals, it can, potentially, “under the right circumstances,… be a learning experience” (LaMorgese, 2015). After all, the only way to find out what an individual likes or dislikes is through the exploration of his or her sexuality. In a world that is filled with labels and pressure on sexuality, discovering turn-ons and turn-offs is a necessity. These factors are important aspects to an individual’s intimate relationship with himself or herself, and with his or her partner(s). Porn can help individuals find ways to better please themselves and their partners. A Danish study in 2008 found that, both men and women who admitted to watching porn had more satisfying sex lives, had healthier attitudes towards sex and the opposite gender (LaMorgese, 2015). Interestingly, the more hardcore the porn is, the more positive the person’s view on sex tends to be (LaMorgese, 2015).

According to Psychology today, pornography causes no measurable harm – from a social welfare perspective (Castleman, 2009). Just like how video games does not make a player violent, porn does not turn an avid watcher into a sexual predator, rapist, or pedophile. In fact, ever since the arrival of internet porn, rape has declined. According to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, since 1995, sexual assault rate has fallen about 44 percent. The rates of sexually transmitted infections has also significantly decreased – 74 percent for syphilis and 57 percent for gonorrhea (Castleman, 2009). However, this may also be due to easier access to medication and advancement in the distribution of sex education.

Given there are many good reasons to view porn, there are also numerous downsides when exposed to it. One of these downfalls is that it degrades humans. The pornography industry presents images and videos for the purpose of arousing its viewers. This dangerous intention degrades humans of all genders and sexualities. According to Willard (2016), although pornography varies on how it is presented and perceived, ultimately, it is used to excite viewers and generate lust. The vast sub-genres of pornography include gay porn as well as straight porn. Individuals participating in these genres range from different backgrounds, genders and sexuality. Pornography is not the same as sexual intercourse. It does not involve love or the intention of bearing a child. Rather, it is used to stimulate the viewer’s sexual desires and satisfy their own arousal. This violates human sanctity and degrades not only the human body, but also the individual as a whole. Individuals that participate in creating these explicit videos become objectified. Whether it is the male or female being penetrated, they are viewed simply as sex objects to satisfy the viewer’s desires. In brief, pornography is harmful because it degrades humans by objectifying them.

In addition, repeated viewing of pornography decreases libido and objective measures of sexual arousal also decline. For example, a study at the Kinsey Institute revealed that, “high exposure to pornography videos apparently resulted in lower responses and an increased need for more extreme, specialized or ‘kinky’ material to become aroused,” and that after a redesigned experiment, “A quarter of the participants’ genitals still did not respond normally.”(Janssen & Bancroft, as cited in Park, et al., 2016). The brain becomes desensitized to a particular stimulus after repeated exposure with the same effects. In this case, the seemingly obvious method to mitigating the sensitization is to expose oneself to new scenarios and situations. However, upon a return to the original, already-desensitized stimuli, no arousal would be elicited. Therefore, the effective method to reduce sexual dysfunction related to pornography is to eliminate the pornography itself. It is because pornography inhibits sexual function that it is harmful to viewers.

Pornography causes characteristics of addiction in that it hinges on introducing novel situations to viewers. According to Norman Doidge, libido is “easily altered by our psychology and the history of our sexual encounters ,” (Doidge, p. 2). “Because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them—the reason, I believe, they began to find their girlfriends less of a turn-on.” (Doidge, p.17). The weakened dopamine release and increased tolerance for it occurs while watching previously-viewed content. This decrease is compensated for by viewing new scenarios to elicit a higher release of dopamine. Because this action appears to enhance pleasure, viewers continue searching for new content. However, in personal relationships where the situation does not change sexually, no such increases in dopamine occur as frequently, and decline with experience. This decline therefore decreases the level of subjective arousal felt towards the other person during sex. A potential consequence is lowered feelings of intimacy toward the partner, thus distancing them from the other partner. Distance in the relationship can weaken or terminate the relationship entirely. The act of viewing pornography is harmful to intimate relationships as it introduces lack of interest and distance between partners. To avoid this strain, each partner should avoid viewing pornography and instead create their own novel situations to keep dopamine levels constant. By doing so, feelings of intimacy and interest are not diminished, effectively strengthening the relationship.

Pornography influences addiction in many ages, including children. In 2012, a gang rape of a young girl by boys aged 14 and 15 were summoned to take part using BlackBerry messages, as in ‘sexting’. In addition to this, girls as young as 11 are being coaxed by teenage boys into taking part in intimate webcam sessions on social networking sites without their parents’ knowledge (Bingham 2012). These incidents are were reported to be influenced by online porn, where kids first learned about this explicit material. Children, like adults, experience automatic sexual arousal response from. Clearly, early exposure to porn proves to affect behaviour.

Pornography crosses a fine line between what is acceptable and unacceptable due to its adverse effects on its viewers and starlets. It is argued that pornography is harmful because it negatively influences individuals, including children and adolescents. But it is beneficial to singles and couples trying to explore themselves. The rapidly expanding and growing industry of pornography has been opening doors to arguments on whether accepting pornography as a form of entertainment is reasonable.


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Willard, D. (2016). Beyond pornography: spiritual formation studied in a particular case. Journal Of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 9(1), 5-17.


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