A good part of our society is filled with people who don’t see the big deal with watching pornography, and don’t consider it to be an unhealthy habit at all.

This may be because many might not know or don’t generally care about the research showing its proven harmful effects. They might say that porn is natural and that it’s a simple, free expression of sexuality. Other porn defenders say that porn can help “spice up a relationship” and that it’s a great thing for “couples to watch together.”

And then there are the porn producers and companies who will say just about anything to get you to watch their content. They’ll tell you that porn is hot entertainment and that there’s zero harm in it. They’ll even go so far as one major porn website did when it vowed to help save the whales by donating for every 2,000 videos watched, trying to convince consumers that charity is a focus of theirs. And they’ll do this, all while hosting porn genres like “teen crying,” and “painal.”

Related: Debunking The Popular Myth That Porn Can Be Healthy

The point is, these generally uninformed people and shady companies try to make it seem like watching porn is healthy or a generally acceptable habit, and that porn and real, deep love can comfortably coexist in the long run. Their reasoning is that since sex and love are natural human experiences, that must mean porn is healthy too, right?

With all these differing perspectives, it is easy to get mixed up and fall into the trap of believing that a porn habit won’t hurt anyone, or that watching only a certain type or amount of porn is no big deal.

We’re here to shed light on the existing research that shows how porn really can harm the consumer, their relationships, and the world. Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as a healthy “type” or dosage of pornography.

Not all porn is consensual

One of the most common arguments we hear in support of porn is that all parties participate consensually to create explicit content, and to advocate against it is to advocate against performers’ sexual freedom and individual choice of what to do with their bodies.

But what if they didn’t? Do we know for sure that anyone in any porn content gave their consent? Defenders of pornography make this argument all the time, that no matter how a woman is treated in porn, it’s okay because she gave her consent. [1] But what if she didn’t? What if she really didn’t want to be painfully dominated, humiliated, and sexually used for the world to see? The truth is, there’s often much more going on than what you see on the screen. That is, perhaps, the porn industry’s biggest, darkest secret: it’s not all consensual.

Related3 Lies Most People Believe About Porn And The Brain

The truth is, sex trafficking is officially defined as a “modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.” [2] That means any instance in which the individual on screen was forced, tricked, or pressured. By that definition, human trafficking is everywhere. [3] (See How Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking.)

In porn, the question of consent can be tricky (and the growing phenomenon of amateur porn makes it even trickier). For example, if one of the participants doesn’t know there’s a camera running, then the porn is not consensual, even if the sex is. Right? What if a person consented to be filmed, but not to have the film shown to anyone else? What if someone manipulated their partner into being filmed in the first place, like making him or her worry that they’d blackmail them if they didn’t cooperate? Or what if a person agreed to have sex, but in the middle, their partner suddenly started doing something that the person who initially gave consent didn’t expect? Did he or she still give consent?

The point is, when you consume porn, there’s no way to know what kind of “consent” the actors have given. You can’t assume, just because someone appears in a porn video, that they knew beforehand exactly what would happen or that they had a real choice or the ability to safely stop what was being done.

Consider how a couple well-known, popular porn performers came forward just a couple months ago and talked about the brutal on-set abuse they suffered through from an up and coming production company. Both of these performers signed contracts, both of them made “consent videos”—videos where porn producers ask if they were raped or abused after a scene is finished being filmed, and if they say yes, they legally can’t use the footage from the shoot—and said they weren’t abused. And yet, days after a shoot with an abusive production company, they stepped forward and made a video that detailed the nonconsensual abuse that happened during filming even though there are images of them smiling on set during that day with the production company.

Related: Pain Porn: Why Half Of Adults Think Violent Porn Is Okay

But what about those consent videos? Well, they weren’t truthful. Too much was at stake—they wouldn’t be paid if the shoot had to be scrapped because they admitted abuse, or they’d be blacklisted from being hired by companies if they “caused a scene”—and they were in shock and in the presence of their abuser.

“I just don’t want any of this to happen to any other girl,” one of the performers says in the confessional video. She continues, “We are performers and we are human and we agree to things when we are terrified.”

Their honesty has caused other performers to come forward and admit that they’ve lied in consent videos, too, to help back up these performers who courageously stepped forward and named their alleged abusers. So, how can consumers ever know if something is truly consensual if not even consent videos can be fully reliable?

The short answer: they can’t know.

We’re not claiming that all porn is non-consensual. We’re just pointing out that some of it is and some of it isn’t, and when you watch it there’s no way to know which is which.

So, would you buy from a company if you knew that some, but not all, of their products were made with child labor? Would you support a store that abused some, but not all, of their employees?

How can it be ethical to say that “porn is okay because participants give their consent,” when we know for a fact that some—probably much more than the average porn consumer thinks—do not?

This is why saying “a little porn is totally healthy” can be like saying a little sexual exploitation is totally healthy. The truth is, one person trafficked or exploited is one too many, and there’s no true way for consumers to tell who is and who isn’t in unacceptable circumstances, and if they’re supporting that exploitation with views and clicks or not.

Porn can harm intimate connections

Aside from harm to performers, there’s real harm to consumers, too, with any amount of porn.

Studies show that exposure to pornography can lead to a decreased interest in committed relationships and less satisfaction for those who are in one. This is because porn can start to strip away the deeply emotional and selfless connection that intimacy creates, and replace it with self-focused sexual desire. It creates the perception that love isn’t really worth it if you can’t satisfy your own sexual desires. There are forums all over the internet with people saying that they can’t be sexually satisfied without porn.

What about those people who say it’s healthy to consume porn with a partner to “spice things up”? The truth is coming out in studies, which show that what really happens is that the consumer ends up trying to imitate what they’ve seen in porn and comparing their partner to it.

On the surface, porn might seem to provide an immediate spark for excitement and novelty…at least at first. That is exactly what studies presumably showing the “positive effects of porn” on relationships are measuring—initial, surface, self-reported “positives” for relationships.

But what happens to the romance of couples who consume porn long-term? The long-term studies paint a very different picture. The preponderance of evidence from a dozen or more in-depth, longer-term studies consistently show porn consumption lowering relationship satisfaction, emotional closeness, and sexual satisfaction. That doesn’t sound great, does it?

Not to mention PIED. Ever heard of porn-induced erectile dysfunction? It’s a real thing and it’s becoming more and more common amongst frequent porn consumers as young as twenty-one. Thankfully, this condition can be reversed, but it’s still nothing to mess with.

Related: My Husband Has Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction & Refuses To Have Sex With Me

Talk about taking the spice right out of your relationship.

None of this sounds healthy to us, does it sound healthy to you?

Why this matters

Those who think porn is a harmless and natural expression of sexuality can often stereotype those that think differently as radical, crazy people. That’s not who we are. We’re here to shine a light on the harmful effects of porn outside of any religious reasoning, political opinions, or anything else.

This is about science and research, and real experiences from people all over the world—and that’s it.

The bottom line is, no matter what porn defenders try and tell society, the stuff isn’t natural, it isn’t healthy, and it most definitely is not helpful for loving relationships. Just look at the facts.

Get Involved

Help spread the word about the harmful effects of pornography and raise awareness on the misinformation being sold to society. SHARE this article and be part of this movement to stop the demand for porn.

Spark Conversations

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Citations

[1] Whisnant, R. (2016). Pornography, Humiliation, And Consent. Sexualization, Media, & Society, 2(3), 1-7. Doi:10.1177/2374623816662876; Dines, G., (2010). Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston, MA: Beacon Press; Dworkin, A., (1980). Pornography: Men Possessing Women. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
[2] Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) Of 2000. Pub. L. No. 106-386, Section 103 (8) (A).
[3] Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., And Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave And The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking And Pornography. In M. Mattar & J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal Of Human Rights And Civil Society 5: 1-21. Retrieved From Http://Www.Protectionproject.Org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2012/11/TPP-J-HR-Civ-Socy_Vol-5_2012-W-Cover.Pdf; Malarek, V. (2009). The Johns: Sex For Sale And The Men Who Buy It. (Pp. 202-204) New York, NY: Arcade; Farley, M. (2007). Renting An Organ For Ten Minutes: What Tricks Tell Us About Prostitution, Pornography, And Trafficking. In D. E. Guinn & J. DiCaro (Eds.) Pornography: Driving The Demand In International Sex Trafficking, (P. 145). BLoomington, IN: Xlibris. D. M. Hughes. (2000). “Welcome To The Rape Camp”: Sexual Exploitation And The Internet In Cambodia. Journal Of Sexual Aggression, 6(1-2), 29-51. Doi:10.1080/13552600008413308

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