“HOW PORN IS HARMING OUR SEXUAL WELL-BEING”

“IS PORNOGRAPHY IMMORAL? THAT DOESN’T MATTER: IT’S NOW A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS”


Okay, so my first reaction to this headline and sub-headline in the Washington Post last Sunday, went something like this: “What?  Porn a public heath crisis?  What about the more than 12,200 folks killed by guns last year?  What’s this?  An existential crease in the universe that we can do nothing about?”

After my initial – admittedly emotional – reaction, I did calm down after a few minutes.  To read the article.  And what it says is that the Utah State Legislature (Republican led, if you had to ask) passed a resolution declaring pornography “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”  The Daily Beast called it hypocritical and short-sighted and the resolution had been criticized as conservative moralizing.   

For years now, if not a couple of decades, porn viewing on the internet has been second only to e-mail usage.  So there is no dispute that we watch a lot of porn, mainly men as it turns out and as you certainly could have guessed.  (No big surprise there.)  But women are also joining in, in increasing numbers.  The idea, however, that this is some sort of national health crisis is a bit much, at least in my, perhaps, whacked way of thinking. But, as the article points out, there is scientific evidence that shows that porn viewing is harmful.  For example:

“Using a wide range of methodologies, researchers from a number of disciplines have shown that viewing pornography is associated with damaging outcomes. In a study of U.S. college men, researchers found that 83 percent reported seeing mainstream pornography, and that those who did were more likely to say they would commit rape or sexual assault (if they knew they wouldn’t be caught) than men who hadn’t seen porn in the past 12 months. The same study found that porn consumers were less likely to intervene if they observed a sexual assault taking place. In a study of young teens throughout the southeastern United States, 66 percent of boys reported porn consumption in the past year; this early porn exposure was correlated with perpetration of sexual harassment two years later. A recent meta-analysis of 22 studies between 1978 and 2014 from seven different countries concluded that pornography consumption is associated with an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal or physical sexual aggression, regardless of age. A 2010 meta-analysis of several studies found “an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women.”


And this:  “The size of the adjusted intercourse effect was such that youths in the 90th percentile of TV sex viewing had a predicted probability of intercourse initiation [in the subsequent year] that was approximately double that of youths in the 10th percentile,” the study’s authors wrote. All of these studies were published in peer-reviewed journals.”
Note:  I could point out that there is probably a marked difference in a whole raft of social habits between those “boys” in the 90th percentile of television watching, as the article states, compared to those in the 10th percentile.  That’s sort of like saying that there is 90% less oxygen in the atmosphere at 60,000 feet than at sea level.  But this is probably quibbling. 
 Those of you who are regular readers here, know that I am a bug about facts, data and statistics unlike that slice of the American public who think that Obamacare is wrecking the country and that it’s we “libruls” who have destroyed America which is why Donald Trump wants to “Make America Great Again” and Ted Cruz wants to “Take America Back.”  So I found this news personally disturbing since I’m a member of the camp that views porn watching as pretty harmless and benign, at least compared to the kinds of activities Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris and Dylann Roof engaged in. 

Admittedly, I am a porn consumer which activity puts me in in close solidarity with my male cohorts all across America if the data on porn watching is any indication.  I’m not particularly proud of my habit, but frankly I don’t think it’s caused me a whole host of societal anomalies.  I tend not to be aggressive (except when I find myself stuck at a green traffic light behind some bozoo who is texting) and I’m considered a reasonably kind, compassionate, loving and giving individual by my family and friends.  (Except for my ex-wife.)  They see me as a “smart-ass” occasionally (and rightly so) but by and large I’m considered a pretty decent human being.  They could be and probably are biased, of course.  So all these research results are somewhat of a mystery to me.  While I don’t consider myself your typical mature, American White Guy, I don’t own a gun, I don’t hate Obama, I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, I’ve never raped anyone, and I have no record of being violent and committing assault in all my years living on Planet earth since the Eisenhower Administration.  I have, however, been mugged twice.  Both times with a knife in my aggressor’s hand laid across my throat.  But that was 30 years ago. And irrelevant.  
In contemplating my own lack of anti-social, non-pathological, non-extreme behavior towards my fellow human beings even though I am a regular pornography consumer, I couldn’t help but wonder why these scientific studies “prove” that porn watching is so damaging.   After all, while I may not fit the profile of your Average White Guy Trump Supporter, I also don’t consider myself all that unusual or unique among my peers. 
Which thought caused to me cast my mind’s eye to my friends.  Sure, they are a motley crew – Hindus, Moslems, Jews, Christians, Middle Easterners, Asian-Americans, Persians, etc. – and all are fairly intelligent, hard working professionals.  So I thought to myself: “How many of my friends are also porn watchers like me?”  “Well,” I thought, “there’s “C.”  I know he watches porn."  And then “F” came to my mind.  Yes. He watches porn too.  In fact, we’ve consumed together.  “Oh, wait.  Then there’s “M,” and “T” and………”  Well, as it turns out based on my own personal, non-scientific survey into the habits of my friends,  the final tally of people I know from a variety of scientific enquiries and first person experiences, (a couple) who watch porn came to 12.  An even dozen.  There might be more but I only mind-surveyed the folks I’m still in contact with, still friends with.  The more I thought about it, most of my friends (I can think of two individuals, “J,” and “S”, about whom I have no clue.) watch pornography.  Like me.   "But damn," I thought, "I must be hanging out with a bunch of wacked out sociopaths if porn watching is the criteria."  Then, it occurred to me.  I know women who imbibe.  How?  We’ve had discussions about the sorts of porn men prefer as opposed to women.  And guess what?  Among all my porn-watching friends, not a single, violent, deviant, anti-social, sexual pervert sociopath among them.  (Some portion of the 12 are gay so if that’s your definition of “pervert” then so be it.  It’s not mine.)  How astounding! Wow! A whole circle of close friends, every  one of whom are pornography consumers, and not a Ted Bundy, Dylann Roof or Tim McVeigh among them. 
Now, I won’t say that the author of this article (she’s a professor at Wheelock College in Boston, an institution I’ve never heard of) doesn’t know what she’s talking about and her studies have come up with some weird findings.  But I do have to say that if my own personal experience is any indication, then there’s something amiss here.  I’m wondering if, for example, our increasing penchant for solving inter-personal disputes (gun carry laws), international disputes,  (the Iraq War), political rally protests (Trump), that plays itself out not only our streets, in our neighborhoods, and at political rallies, but in our television fare, movies, and in online and off-line video games, isn’t somehow related to increased aggression, motivation to commit violence against women, and all the other examples of anti-social, pathological behavior citied in the piece?   There have been many studies that do link violent video games to increased aggressive behavior among males, but this multi-billion dollar industry does not want you to see these studies. 
Here’s what I mean.  I have three gaming aps on my IPhone:  Word Brain, Ruzzle and Solitaire.  They were free and to keep the scales tipped towards the “free side” of the scale, I refuse to pay the $2.99 to stop the ads that pop up when I have completed one game or another.  And most of the ads, by far, are all about Medieval warfare, modern warfare, killing one’s “enemies” with knives, bludgeons, blunderbusses, missiles, attack aircraft, machine guns, nunchucks, spears, howitzers, and just about every violent weapon and means imaginable to kill other human beings.  Of course, this could not possibly have any societal impact.  
And porn watching is a public health crisis?
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, have a wonderful porn-full or porn-free day.  It’s your choice! 
Here's the full article.     
 PS: I've always found it interesting - amusing, really - that Utah is consistently the leading state of our 50 states in the consumption of pornography.  Utah is one of the most conservative states in the Union.  It is also home to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints - the Mormon Church - of which 62% of Utahans are members.  It wasn't until 1978 that the Mormon Church allowed Black people to become church members and retracted the Church teachings that Black people were the descendants of Cain.  
Now if you ask me, here's is a field that seems overly ripe for study.  After all, why is it that such a conservative group of folks are also the largest consumers of pornography in the country? 

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