Pornography: Freedom of Speech, Public Health Issue, or Just Christian Bigots?

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Pornography: Freedom of Speech, Public Health Issue, or Just Christian Bigots?

Debating Porn

Pornography: Freedom of Speech or Public Health Issue?

The Public Health Issue

In recent years, Pornography has become a target of censorship beyond just its obvious offensiveness to many people. Instead, pornography comes under fire by critics for being a public health issue. As more and more research is performed, experts are beginning to believe that watching pornography may have adverse affects on brain chemistry, having the negative impacts similar to addictive drugs.

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The research into the harmful impacts of porn have revealed some startling evidence, such as its ability to deliver short-term dopamine boosts to the brain which is similar to the effect of addictive drugs or gambling.

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Studies continue to show that men who watch internet pornography have higher incidences of erectile dysfunction, more marital and relationship problems, and lower expectations of relationships. There is also the impact of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. All of these issues amplify concerns in the case of teens watching porn since children's brains have not fully developed and the effect of porn on their minds is unknown. With increased access via the internet, kids are able to access more porn than prior generations with a simple search.

There can be no argument that there are inherent risks in pornography.

The argument against pornography has taken on a new tone as a result of the new research findings. If pornography is actually causing harm to people because of its addictive properties and biological affects on dopamine then it is no longer a freedom of speech issue exclusively.

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In this situation, pornography becomes a public health issue which the government then can regulate as it would any other addictive substance such as nicotine or drugs. More than just regulation, society must balance the negative impacts of pornography with social demand much the way tobacco is still legal because it is too difficult to stop its use.

The Debate

There are two sides to the issue of pornography which typically fall into an argument of individual freedom of choice much like tobacco use. The strong personal freedom stance of the Libertarian party reflects the freedom side of this debate. 

Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party discusses the impact of legislation and moral panic on sex workers and porn creators in the US, highlighting the erosion of civil liberties and the chilling effect on online speech.They also addresses the conflation of voluntary sex work with trafficking and the potential threats to online privacy and encryption. 

This argument extends into other areas of individual freedom, especially in terms of controlling one's body; however, does the argument for freedom to watch or participate in pornography supersede the negative impacts of pornography? And does the negative impact of pornography warrant criminalization or at the minimum health warning labels?

One of the major problems with deciding this issue is the fact that there is little consensus. When studies are compared there is so much conflicting information that a proper determination of the impacts of pornography cannot be made. There is also the effects of porn on women, which is seldom mentioned, and further confounds with conflicting media.

The media is not just conflicting, research on the impact of pornography on women yields diverse findings. For instance, a study in Psychological Medicine revealed that increased porn consumption among women correlated with "higher sexual self-competence, improved sexual functioning, and enhanced partner-reported sexual satisfaction."

If we are to go by this data, women benefit from porn while men suffer it. 

Conversely, other reports highlight harmful implications for women and society, linking pornography to abusive experiences. Furthermore, the Government Equalities Office examined the connection between pornography use and harmful sexual behaviors towards women.

So is Porn Harmful, Healthy, or Just A Bunch of Christian Bigots Making Life Miserable?

Millions of people who watch porn do not develop sexual addiction and do not have the problems suggested in the above video. This suggests that there may be a great deal of personal bias and assumption with regard to porn mainly due to personal ethics, religion, and other beliefs.

There are many problems with porn, making sex workers vulnerable due to criminalization, lack of regulation, stigmatization (especially women), and the effects on some of the population. Viewers also experience many of these same issues since it is highly unlikely that you will be standing around the water cooler on Monday morning discussing the latest porn flick on Pornhub. Considering these points, the conflicting nature of the data may likely reveal more about the circumstance of watching or making pornography than the act of viewing or creating.

In a society dominated by Christian values, sex workers and pornographers become the point of blame, yet unsurprisingly, under this patriarchy, the men of porn become heroes and the women shamed as sluts and whores. It should come as no surprise that increased viewership of pornography by women has both a positive and negative impact on them. Those sexually repressed by society may feel empowered while other women suffer pornographic-influenced abuse: all of which occurs within an industry tuned specifically to please men in a Christian-dominated country run by Christian men.

It should come as no shock, that the data and media conflict since at least half the population are women oppressed sexually by men, three quarters of the country are sexually-repressed Christians, and the entire country is either stygmatized or feels self-conscious when it comes to porn (sex in general). 

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Ultimately, pornography becomes a personal choice since testing people for negative impacts of watching porn, especially teens, who appear most vulnerable, would violate ethics. For the moment, caution may be in order but likely porn viewed in moderation by women, men, and couples holds the same risk as smoking pot or drinking from time to time. Less optimistic is outlook for sex workers who bear the brunt of Christian bigotry and hypocrisy from those who watch and enjoy porn but want to punish the creators

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