Pornography can be defined as any sexually explicit content presented in the form of sound, images, or video that is aimed at stimulating sexual excitement. In the United States, approximately 200,000 people are addicted to pornography, and 40 million people of all ages access it on a regular basis (Tarrant 47). In past decades, it was available mainly through magazines, and it was difficult to access, especially among children and young people. However, the advent of the internet revolutionized the industry as sexually explicit content became readily available. Pornography influences the minds of young people, mainly in negative ways. It has been discussed in many fields regarding its effects on children and young people, and its distortion of the concepts of sexuality, gender, and equality. Pornography is dangerous because it affects the mind and body negatively, distorts perception of reality, causes sexual addiction, and leads to desensitization and the development of destructive habits.
Effects on the Mind and Body
The emergence of the internet through the dot-com revolution heralded a period that was characterized by increases in productivity, efficiency, and faster communication. It also introduced other technological novelties that have negative effects on the people. One of them was pornography, which has detrimental effects on the minds, bodies, and souls of children and young people who have access to it (Farre et al.). The cost of its emergence can be observed in the weakening of families and the moral fabric of society. Research has shown that pornography affects people by creating visual misrepresentations of sexuality; men learn to perceive women as sexual objects and women begin to view themselves as entities that are meant to satisfy men’s sexual desires (Camilleri et al.). These distortions affect the attitudes and behaviors of both genders, and consequently, alter the meanings of marriage, family, and the essence of sexuality.
One of the most dangerous effects of pornography is its effect on the mind. It alters people’s attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs regarding the nature and the importance of sexual intercourse (Farre et al.). For instance, research has shown that men who have a propensity to engage with pornography have altered perceptions regarding the concept of sex. They have a higher tolerance for unethical behaviors such as promiscuity, rape, aggression during sex, and abnormal behaviors such as sexual intercourse with animals (Camilleri et al.). These behaviors gradually become acceptable to consumers of pornography because exposure over prolonged periods alters personal beliefs and thinking patterns, thus presenting them as acceptable. Moreover, men begin to view women as “sex objects’ whose primary role is to gratify their sexual desires (Camilleri et al.). Sustained use over long periods erodes the dignity that is inherent in every human being. Consumption among adolescents is associated with sexual attitudes such as the permissibility of casual sex and premarital sex (Tarrant 54). Moreover, extreme sexual acts like sex with multiple partners, anal intercourse, and facial ejaculation become acceptable sexual practices.
Addiction is one of the most pervasive ways in which pornography affects people. Biologically, when a person watches sexually explicit content, a hormone called dopamine is released into the brain. This chemical facilitates the transmission of messages to the pleasure centers of the brain. Over time, users engage in more severe forms of pornography as the pleasure centers become desensitized to certain types (Farre et al.). This explains why people become attracted to films that involve sexual aggressiveness and physical violence. Other negative effects of pornography on the body include erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation. As the body becomes desensitized to softcore content, the need for hardcore forms emerge. This creates deep sexual conditioning and mental pathways that can only be aroused by hardcore forms (Farre et al.). Heavy users find it difficult to become aroused with a partner because of their brain’s desensitization to conventional sexual activities such as kissing and caressing. The increased sexual permissiveness that results from the heightened consumption of pornography increases individuals’ risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies (Farre et al.). This results from involvement in reckless behaviors such as sexual intercourse with multiple partners and the failure to use protection.
Distorted Perception of Reality
The majority of children, young people, and adult consume pornography because it is presented as a fun and pleasurable activity that does not cause any harm. Producers of sexually explicit content do not include in their productions as warnings to users the detrimental effects on emotional and mental health. The distortion of social reality is one of the most pervasive effects of pornography (Farre et al.). The films overstate the frequency of premarital and extramarital sexual activities and the level of occurrence among the general population (Tarrant 65). It presents sexual intercourse as a fun activity that everyone engages in, and that has not negative effects. Moreover, it presents activities such as sexual aggression, bestiality, group sex, anal intercourse, and sex with multiple sexual partners as common occurrences among sexually active individuals. In that regard, viewers develop perverted perceptions about sex that are misrepresentations of reality.
Heavy consumers of sexually explicit content develop three beliefs that are distortions of reality. First, they believe that the main role of sexual relationships is recreation (Camilleri et al.). Second, they hold the belief that men’s major driving force in life is sex. Third, they develop the conviction that women are merely commodities whose primary role is the satisfaction of sexual desires (Camilleri et al.). These beliefs are dangerous because they give individuals the permission to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Furthermore, they validate and encourage their behaviors because they perceive them as acceptable, conventional, and innocent. In many instances, people who consume pornography also engage in masturbation (Farre et al.). This activity reinforces the aforementioned beliefs, and deepens the effects of increased exposure on the lives of users. People who view pornography as a safe recreational pursuit are more likely to internalize abnormal sexual attitudes that manifest in perverse sexual behaviors when compared to those who avoid it.
Sexual Aggression and Abuse
Sexual aggression and abuse have been associated with the heavy consumption of pornography. These behaviors emerge from increases in sexual callousness that is initiated by exposure to violent sexual activities. A large percentage of pornographic content is violent in order to heighten sexual excitement (Farre et al.). Many violent scenes in videos, magazines, and online pornography involve nonconsensual sex that is violent in nature. Researchers have established that protracted exposure to content that depicts torture or rape increases the likelihood of engaging in sexually aggressive activities afterwards (Carrotte et al.). The effects are more intense in men with psychosis because their behaviors are usually impulse-driven. Nonviolent pornography also has a negative effect because it increases the risk of forcing compliance on unwilling partners as it is viewed as a form of heightening arousal.
Rape myths refer to stereotyped and deleterious beliefs regarding violent behaviors such as rape and sexual assault that are used as excuses to sexual aggression and hostility towards victims. Pornography promotes rape myth acceptance because frequent users developed decreased sympathy for the victims (Farre et al.). Over time, they learn to trivialize rape as a criminal offence and ignore child sexual abuse (Carrotte et al.). This happens because their propensity to resort to rape when dealing with unwilling partners develops the more they consume violent content. The level of physical aggression depicted in pornographic content varies, and users graduate from one level to another as they become desensitized. For example, new consumers begin with content that includes activities such as spanking and name-calling. As their brains seek for more intense content, they graduate to watching materials that incorporate more aggressive actions such as gagging and slapping (Tarrant 67). Research has shown that prolonged exposure to pornography influences people’s unconscious response to stimuli (Carrotte et al.). In that regard, users are continuously bombarded with conscious and unconscious conditioning that influences their behavior when engaging in any form of sexual activity. The hyperactivation of the human pleasure system develops neural pathways in the brains of users that correspond to the type of content that they are subjected to (Carrotte et al.). Usage of violent content develops violent tendencies that in many cases, individuals act out unconsciously.
The main victims of sexual aggression and abuse are women because they are depicted as sexual objects whose role is sexual satisfaction. Production houses that produce pornographic content create different depictions of the sexualization of women in different settings. For example, they show women engaging in sexual activities in schools, hospitals, churches, and in workplaces. In these cases, the female participants are shown as enjoying the various acts of sexual aggression directed toward them by men. There are various genres of pornography that are dedicated to violent content. Sexual abuse in relationships also originates from women’s failure to match the new expectations of acceptable sexual behavior that are depicted in pornographic content (Carrotte et al.). For example, a young person might expect her partner to engage in group sex or anal intercourse because of its portrayal in the films as normal an acceptable sexual behavior. Failure to comply with such demands could lead to strains in relationships and even sexual coercion. Sexual abuse emanates mainly from men’s desire to seek power over women in an effort to fulfill an acquired fantasy.
Sexual addiction is one of the serious complications of pornography that provide proof of its inherent danger. Researchers have used psychological concepts to explain the relationship between the consumption of adult content and sexual addiction. People become addicted to pleasurable activities when they repeat them for prolonged periods of time. The constant consumption of pornographic content is addictive because many people use it to reduce stress, relief boredom, enjoy pleasurable sensations, and cope with negative situations (Farre et al.). The enjoyment gained from the release of dopamine after watching explicit content reduces stress, and if this cycle is repeated, it could become addictive. The addictive nature of pornography increases the risk of developing sexually compulsive behaviors that could lower people’s productivity in other areas of their lives (Farre et al.). For example, some people become addicted to cybersex as it aids in stress relief.
The compulsive use of pornography leads to the development of low self-esteem and a faded ability to carry out daily activities successfully. Addiction affects the social and work lives of victims negatively. The “out of control” feeling that is caused by addiction renders compulsive users helpless as they find it difficult to eradicate the habit from their lives (Farre et al.). Surveys conducted among such addicts have revealed that distress and an impairment in an important area of life are common symptoms that are experienced by individuals. For instance, impaired relationships and low productivity at work are common effects of addiction among compulsive users. Relationships fail because individuals cannot get sexual satisfaction from their partners, owing to the desensitization of their brains to commonplace sexual activities that characterize normal sexual interactions (Farre et al.). The feeling of helplessness linked with the difficulties of eradicating sexual addiction usually leads to clinical depression among compulsive users.
The issue of pornography consumption has been discussed for many decades, especially regarding its effects on physical, psychological, and mental wellbeing. Sufficient research has not yet been conducted for any conclusive recommendation concerning the issue. However, psychologists have shown that compulsive usages have serious effects on users. Pornography is harmful to people’s wellbeing because it affects the mind and body negatively, distorts the perception of reality, leads to desensitization and the development of destructive habits, and causes sexual addiction. The age of exposure is critical as prolonged periods of consumptions are more destructive that short periods of usage. Destructive behaviors that originate from the usage of obscene content include sexual aggression, sexual abuse, and rape. The habit desensitizes the brain and depicts behaviors such as sex with multiple partners, anal intercourse, and group sex as commonplace and acceptable. Pornography affects people by creating visual misrepresentations of sexuality, and distorts their perception of reality, altering the meanings of marriage, family, and sexual relations. Addiction originates from the obsessive use of adult content for stress relief and for the eradication of boredom. Sexually explicit content is harmful to children, young people, and adults, and should be discouraged because it has serious mental, physical, and psychological consequences.
Camilleri, Christina, et al. “Compulsive Internet Pornography Use and Mental Health: A cross- Sectional Study in a Sample of University Students in the United States.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 11.no. 1, 2020.
Carrotte, Elise R, et al. “Sexual Behaviors and Violence in Pornography: Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis of Video Content Analyses.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 22, no. 5, 2020.
Farre, Joseph M, et al. “Pornography Use in Adolescents and Its Clinical Implications.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, vol. 9, no. 11, 2020.
Tarrant, Shira. The Pornography Industry: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press, 2016.