Doctors Speak Out: Is Online Pornography Cause for Alarm?

Sandra Levy

Disclosures

September 26, 2017

In This Article

Is Online Porn a Real Addiction?

The age at which a boy is first exposed to pornography is significantly associated with certain sexist attitudes later in life, according to research recently presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.[1]

The study surveyed 330 undergraduate men, aged 17-54 years, at a large Midwestern university. Participants were 85% white and primarily heterosexual (93%).[1] The researchers found that the younger a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he was to want power over women, and the older a man was when he first viewed pornography, the more likely he would want to engage in playboy behavior.[1]

A recent Medscape video, which raised the question of whether online pornography is a public health problem that physicians should address, generated more than 130 lively comments from physicians.

A general practitioner who doesn't believe that pornography addiction exists noted, "This is a fringe diagnosis. The 'overuse' of pornography is related to other psychiatric issues that may require treatment. Sexual abuse, human trafficking, and child pornography are wrong, and should be prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law. But society and physicians have much, much more serious problems to tackle than the online surfing habits of people...."

More research is needed to explore potential associations between pornographic exposure and negative outcomes, said an oncologist, who continued: "Examples of hypothetical negative outcomes might include high-risk personal behaviors (sexual promiscuity, unhealthy relationships, etc.), abhorrent behaviors that directly impact on others (child pornography, sex trafficking, rape, violence, etc.), and societal impact (breakdown of families, impact of exposure to children, impact on women, etc)."

Pointing out that some people are reluctant to interfere with the rights of free speech for those in the pornographic industries, one healthcare provider was still adamant about imposing restrictions on the pornography trade:

What about the rights of the individuals (adults and children), who are constantly bombarded by unwanted exposure? Basically, the industry has become so bold and irresponsible that they need more severe restrictions. There is certainly precedent. For example, we limit how, where, when, and even specific messaging for alcohol and tobacco ads.

For example, in this study, 66% of all youth exposures [to pornography] were unwanted. This is a filthy industry preying on the population for financial gain, with no qualms or accountability whatsoever about who is exposed or the impact on individuals, families, and society.

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