Cover Photo By BDEngler – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. 6-minute read.
It’s been directly linked to physical problems like early erectile dysfunction, depression, relationship issues, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. There’s a huge amount of information—you can find a lot of it in our blog—detailing the problems associated with porn, all of which are worth our attention.
These are all issues that have arisen alongside the internet, which has made porn both more available and affordable than ever, and opened the physical and mental pathways to ever more degrading, extreme content.
Understanding the real-world negative effects of the global porn industry on individuals and society is important, but it requires some expertise and detailed explanation of some pretty complicated issues. That’s not too hard for most of us, but if understanding the problems with porn requires a mostly-developed brain, how can we teach kids that porn has unavoidable downsides before they’ve already been exposed to some of the worst of what the internet has to offer?
(After all, the average age of first exposure is 9-12 years old, and getting younger all the time.)
What should you say to kids who find porn?
That was the problem Adam Savage struggled with.
Savage, who you might know from the popular science-based TV show “Mythbusters,” discovered not long ago that his twin sons, whom he called “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” had been searching for internet porn. He describes the ordeal in a story-telling for the viral “The Moth” podcast, titled, “Talking To My Kids About Sex In The Internet Age.” In an awesome turn of events, Savage used this opportunity to talk to his sons about why he believes porn is harmful to society.
In explaining the approach he took with being open about sex with his sons from young ages, Savage said, “We have a bunch more sex talks over the next few years, and they go fine!…I think I’m really getting to them. But the whole time, what I’m really thinking about, is how to approach this aspect of their lives that I didn’t have to deal with when I was a kid: the internet. We didn’t have the 24/7 delivery of porn to every device strapped to our bodies.”
Ever the analytical thinker, Savage approached one son (Thing 2) with what he called the “bad cop” approach after discovering he’d been searching for porn, forbidding his son from watching it, and went to the other with a softer take.
“What you did is totally reasonable,” said Savage to his son (Thing 1). “Being curious about what people look like naked is a rational and normal response to the world and it is a reasonable curiosity for you to have. No one’s in trouble and I’m not mad. Now, is there something you want to tell me?”
At that moment, his son (Thing 1) confessed, and they talked through his experience of what he’d been looking at. “I started to talk to him about what he saw, and how he felt about what he saw,” Savage said. “But again, all I’m thinking about really is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Not what he saw, but about what he’s going to see. So I tell him, ‘You’ve got to be careful out there.'”
Instead of focusing on why porn itself is “bad” and unhealthy, and expecting his young son to simply listen to him and never think of porn again, Savage tried a great idea: putting porn in a broader context, and giving his son the tools to understand just why porn is so hurtful. He started off this way:
“The thing you’ve got to understand, bud, is the internet hates women.”
How does the internet “hate women?”
If that seems like a bold statement, it’s because it is. And while we as an organization can’t speak for the entire internet, while we can definitely speak to what we know about the online porn industry and its proven, deeply harmful effects in society and deeply disturbing portrayals of women.
It might seem a little crazy at first to think about, but read this: a few years ago, a team of researchers looked at 50 of the most popular porn films—the ones bought and rented most often.  Of the 304 scenes the movies contained, 88% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal aggression. On average, only one scene in 10 didn’t contain any aggression, and the typical scene averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks. The amount of violence shown in porn is astonishing, but equally disturbing is the reaction of the victims. In the study, 95% of the victims (almost all of them women) either were neutral to the abuse or appeared to respond with pleasure. 
The vast majority of porn—violent or not—portrays men as powerful and in charge; while women are submissive and obedient.  Watching scene after scene of dehumanizing submission makes it start to seem normal.  It sets the stage for lopsided power dynamics in couple relationships and the gradual acceptance of verbal and physical aggression against women.  Research has confirmed that those who watch porn (even if it’s nonviolent) are more likely to support statements that promote abuse and sexual aggression toward women and girls. 
And don’t forget that, right now, 70% of child sex trafficking takes place online. The internet has become the hub of global sex trafficking, which primarily exploits women and children, and is the platform that allows the buying and selling of people, the abuse of children, and other atrocities to real people too numerous to count and too disturbing to describe.
Savage described the vast darkness of the internet this way, telling his story about talking to his kids: “If you could look into someone’s brain the way you search the internet, and the internet was a dude, that dude has a problem with women.”
He ended his story by saying about his sons, “If he is not part of the solution, he might very well be part of the problem. And I want him thinking, when he talks to women, ‘I’m one of the good ones.’”
You can listen to the whole 11-minute podcast on “The Moth'” website.
Putting porn in context
Now, we’re not trying to say that the internet is terrible. It’s done untold good for the world, and the fact is, it is inescapably linked with the global porn industry.
Ultimately, Savage teaching his sons about the problems with porn wasn’t about teaching him about sex or porn; it was about putting porn into context as something huge, complex, hurtful, and potentially dangerous. If the internet were, in fact, someone’s brain, it would be easy to say that person had a problem with women and objectifying, degrading, and humiliating them. Being aware of this—fighting against the normalization of hate, abuse, and exploitation—is a central part of the fight against porn.
Being aware of the way that the internet makes porn possible is just a step in the fight for a safer society. If we can all work to understand that creating that world starts with respect for everybody, and that porn makes achieving that respect nearly impossible, we can make a difference around the globe.