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Would Porn Be Harmful if it Didn’t Have Habit-Forming Potential?

Let’s pretend for a moment that porn doesn’t have compulsion-forming potential. Would there still be risks and harms? Would it still be unhealthy?

By November 12, 2021No Comments

This article contains affiliate links. Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

Let’s say for a moment that a compulsive porn habit or even a porn addiction isn’t a real thing.

(Just to be clear: according to research and personal accounts, it can be very real. Check out this article and these neuroscience studies showcasing some of the science behind it.)

But let’s put all of that aside for a moment, and imagine we are in a world where porn is not addictive and has no addictive potential. This might be the world you believe you’re already living in. Would there still be an issue with consuming it?

Is pornography’s harm limited only by its addiction potential?

Unfortunately, if this were the case, pornography’s harms would be on par with over-consumption of junk food or social media. Though they may not always be the healthiest, they can be a part of your life in small or healthy doses and not have a devastating effect.

Related: Gabe’s Story: How One Man’s Struggle Helped to Destigmatize Porn Addiction (VIDEO)

Instead, what science and research find is that pornography does not appear to be something that can be a part of your life in a small or healthy way without having negative effects.

So what is it that sets pornography apart from social media, junk food, or other substances/behaviors that can be enjoyed in moderation?

Let’s take a look at three reasons why even if pornography wasn’t addictive, it can still be harmful to individuals and our society.

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1. Porn normalizes and capitalizes off of problematic issues such as racism, misogyny, and violence.

Some of the most popular porn categories revolve around sexual assault (rape porn, teen porn) and incest (stepmom and mom porn). Take a look at these popular porn categories on the world’s largest free porn site for some examples.

In real life, sexual violence and incest are not only seen as unacceptable, but are straight-up illegal. So why is it acceptable to romanticize these things?

Consider this scenario: if you fantasized about being openly racist or being violent against someone specifically because of their race, would that be a healthy or acceptable simply because you weren’t doing it in real life?

Related: Why Does The Porn Industry Get Away With Racist Portrayals Of Black People?

Of course, thinking about something and doing something are very different, but thoughts and beliefs influence attitudes, and attitudes influence actions. This doesn’t mean anyone who fantasizes about rape or violence will absolutely commit those crimes, while it is to say that filling your mind with content that fantasizes acts of violence and incest can normalize those kinds of attitudes and behavior.

Consider that porn often depicts and profits from blatantly racist narratives. For example, a 2021 content analysis of more than 1,700 scenes from two of the world’s most popular porn sites found that videos featuring Black people disproportionately emphasize violence and aggression, perpetuate harmful racist stereotypes, and often depict Black people as “worse than objects.”Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2021). Worse than objects: The depiction of black women and men and their sexual relationship in pornography. Gender Issues, 38(1), 100-120. doi:10.1007/s12147-020-09255-2COPY  The porn industry often fetishizes race, reducing people of color to sexual categories that often focus on damaging stereotypes.xHamster. (2018). xHamster trend report 2018. Retrieved from https://xhamster.com/blog/posts/745297COPY 

In any other situation, the content and category of these films would be shut down immediately, so why give porn a free pass simply in the name of fantasy?

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Lastly, the inherent misogyny present in pornography cannot be ignored.

Research indicates that as few as 1 in 3 and as many as 9 in 10 porn scenes contain physical violence or aggression.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C. & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065–1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866COPY 

That same research also shows that women are almost always the targets of that violence or aggression in porn—approximately 97% of the time.Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2020). A Descriptive Analysis of the Types, Targets, and Relative Frequency of Aggression in Mainstream Pornography. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(8), 3041–3053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01773-0COPY Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C. & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065–1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866COPY  Even more concerning is that 95% of the time, the targets of violence and aggression in porn appear to respond either neutrally or with pleasure, sending the message that sexual aggression is normal or even desirable.Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C. & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065–1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866COPY 

Violence against women is unfortunately common in pornography, and research also suggests that it can have an effect on people’s sexual attitudes and behaviors.Ezzell, M. B., Johnson, J. A., Bridges, A. J., & Sun, C. F. (2020). I (dis)like it like that: Gender, pornography, and liking sex. J.Sex Marital Ther., 46(5), 460-473. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2020.1758860COPY 

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2. Porn is linked to human trafficking.

Sex trafficking, though it only makes up 22% of human trafficking, generates 66% of global trafficking profits.International Labour Organization. (2014). Profits And Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_243391.pdfCOPY 

The unfortunate fact is that, in the porn industry, there is virtually no way to guarantee that any piece of pornographic content is truly consensual, ethical, or even legal. The unfortunate truth is that the porn industry has an extensive history of profiting from nonconsensual content and abuse, even ignoring victims’ pleas to remove abusive content.Kristof, N. (2021). Why do we let corporations profit from rape videos? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/opinion/sunday/companies-online-rape-videos.htmlCOPY Kristof, N. (2020). The children of Pornhub. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/opinion/sunday/pornhub-rape-trafficking.htmlCOPY  Virtually every major porn site has had issues with nonconsensual content, abuse, or child sexual abuse material (aka “child porn”). Kristof, N. (2021). Why do we let corporations profit from rape videos? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/opinion/sunday/companies-online-rape-videos.htmlCOPY Burgess, M. (2020). Deepfake porn is now mainstream. and major sites are cashing in. Retrieved from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/deepfake-porn-websites-videos-lawCOPY Kristof, N. (2020). The children of Pornhub. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/opinion/sunday/pornhub-rape-trafficking.htmlCOPY Meineck, S., & Alfering, Y. (2020). We went undercover in xHamster's unpaid content moderation team. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCOPY Titheradge, N., & Croxford, R. (2021). The children selling explicit videos on OnlyFans. BBC News Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-57255983COPY 

Sex trafficking shares a variety of symbiotic connections to pornography. Even in the production of mainstream porn, sex trafficking can still occur—and it happens more often than most people think.Cole, S., & Maiberg, E. (2020). Pornhub doesn't care. Vice. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/9393zp/how-pornhub-moderation-works-girls-do-pornCOPY BBC News. (2020). GirlsDoPorn: Young women win legal battle over video con. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50982051COPY  Trafficking is legally defined as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCOPY 

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Manipulation and coercion are unfortunately common in the porn industry, which legally qualifies as sex trafficking. Again, there’s no viable way for a consumer to guarantee that the porn they’re watching is truly consensual and free of abuse or coercion. As long as there’s a demand for porn—especially porn that is extreme, abusive, or degrading—the porn industry will continue to exploit vulnerable people to meet that demand.

Consider the GirlsDoPorn case where reportedly hundreds of different women were lured to San Diego by the porn company that was an official content partner of Pornhub, not knowing they were recruited for porn videos that would be uploaded to the mainstream site.

They were reportedly raped on camera for hours, and those videos were uploaded to multiple free porn sites with the survivors’ full names and social media information. The porn producers were federally charged with sex trafficking, and 22 of the women sued for copyrights to the videos and won—but their lives will never be the same.

Trafficking is just one of the many reasons why porn is toxic, even aside from its habit-forming potential.

3. Consuming porn supports the industry as a whole, including exploitative producers.

Maybe you’ve seen what porn is linked to and you decide to avoid abusive and misogynistic pornography, and only porn that comes from professional studios. Maybe you do your best to cross your t’s and dot your i’s, to be an ethical porn consumer.

Though that might make you feel better about what you’re seeing, the more research is coming out about the industry, the more society is learning that there truly is no completely ethical way to consume pornography.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—there’s no viable way to guarantee that the porn you’re watching is truly consensual, ethical, or even legal. For those who have been abused, manipulated, or coerced in porn, contributing to the viewership of that trauma can feel like re-victimization to survivors. As one former performer told us, “I hate that ten years later, people are still watching my most humiliating and traumatizing moments out of the consent I gave in my teens and twenties as an addicted, alcoholic, traumatized young woman running from her dangerous off-porn life. I wish ‘consent’ had an expiration.”

As seen before, it’s not just amateur pornography that can be linked to trafficking, it can be well-known distributors and producers. Likewise, there is no actual way to know if a performer, no matter how famed, truly wants to be there and why they ended up there.

Related: What Causes People To Choose To Go Into The Porn Industry?

Even if every performer you see does, in fact, want to be there, and loves their job, pornography still sexualizes and objectifies people, gives unrealistic expectations for sex, and harms relationships, and lastly, can absolutely lead to a very real compulsion.

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Try giving up porn for a month

Now more than ever, porn sites are  They want to offer you free premium to their sites, but we want to offer you a porn-free life that chooses not to fuel exploitation.

Are you ready to take up the challenge? See here why trying out quitting porn will be worth your while. Try it for a month, and then see about ditching it for good.

Trying to be selective about the pornography you consume, though it seems to be a step in a healthier direction, might prove to be a fruitless effort, especially since porn consumption is found to be an escalating behavior and many companies profit off of misogyny, racism, and exploitation, even if they claim they’re “ethical.”

Instead of cutting back or trying to filter your consumption, stand with us to raise awareness on the harms of porn and ditch porn for good.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

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Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.