For the fourth consecutive year, the National WRAP campaign kicked off on the last Sunday in October, and supporters loudly began expressing their anti-pornography cries with the symbolic white ribbon (for decency) and plenty of unfounded evidence.
WRAP (White Ribbon Against Pornography) claims pornography is dangerous and addictive; it leads to violence, sexual abuse and exploitation; and it damages relationships and healthy sexual development in young people. I've even read this: "Pornography is a plague of the worst kind, silently destroying families from the inside out, ensnaring good men and women, and brutally enslaving teens and children in more than one way."
A British psychologist shares those sentiments, reporting that pornography "desensitizes young people to violence and rape."
And in 2016, Utah filed a resolution to declare pornography a public health crisis, believing it to be addictive, and that exposure to X-rated material has led to sex trafficking, infidelity and a whole generation of young men who do not want to get married.
In addition, many sex addiction therapists and religions are in agreement that porn is unhealthy.
Here is the problem: the science just isn't there. Existing research cannot prove that pornography is an epidemic or a health crisis.
According to researchers, pornography is not biologically addictive, exposure to it does not lead to increased sex risk in teens or an increase in rape or sexual violence, and it does not create a generation of men who aren't going to get married.
It is true that more and more people are using the internet to watch pornography, but, the overwhelming majority of these individuals do not become addicts. In fact, fewer than 1 percent of porn watchers experience negative effects from their watching.
As a sex therapist who has worked with hundreds of couples for the past 30 years, I have found that pornography watching needs to be approached thoughtfully, openly and honestly. Couples need to understand each other's beliefs and attitudes regarding pornography. A couple can have a happy, healthy sexual relationship that includes watching pornography.
And when it comes to pornography's impact on youth, The New York Times reported that some Massachusetts high school students as young as 15 have been taking "porn literacy" classes. The Times said the class “aims to make them savvier, more critical consumers of porn by examining how gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, queer sex, relationship and body images are portrayed … in porn.” The goal is to teach students how to view pornography in a healthy, more responsible way, rather than declaring war on its use.
Pornography has been a relatively accepted outlet for sexual pleasure and it should remain that way. Yes, a lot of pornography demeans women as well as men, and much of it is not appropriate for young people; and it is certainly not a realistic way for adolescents and teens to learn about sex. But, it is not an epidemic and it is not harmful for the majority of users. Blaming porn for the serious issues facing some of youth today distracts us from what is really going on with our kids.
I would like to reiterate that pornography is not an epidemic, it is not a public health crisis, and it is not a biological addiction that leads to an increase in risky sexual behaviors, violence or sexual abuse. It can add another dimension to sexual enjoyment and open the lines of communication with your partner. We need pornography literacy and understanding of what is really going on.
If you don't approve of porn and don't want to be exposed to it, there is nothing wrong with that, but don't take that personal preference away from others.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with sexual health issues, The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health in Royal Oak has a full team of qualified and highly trained mental health therapists who can help you. Call the center at 248.399.7447 for an appointment.
Joe Kort, PhD, LMSW, is a psychotherapist, board certified sexologist, and founding director of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health.
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