What internet sites have more viewers that Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and Twitter combined every month? Pornography.1 Do you know how many suspected online sex offenders the Internet Crimes Against Children task force (ICAC) arrested in one 2019 national sting operation? One thousand seven hundred.2 Do you know how many visits PornHub alone reported in 2018? There were 33,500,000,000 visits to PornHub in 2018, which represents an increase of approximately 13.7 million more visits each day compared to 2017.3 In 2019, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that pornography was the 3rd most common form of sex trafficking, only after escort services and illegal massage parlors/businesses.4
These are not questions, and answers from a popular trivia game. These are the shocking facts. Pornography consumption is a growing problem in the United States. In just the United States it is estimated that pornography generates 12 to 13 billion dollars annually. Unsolicited pornography has a substantial presence on the internet as well. In a 2016 nationwide Barna study, which included over 3,000 interviews, “Nearly half of young adults say they come across porn at least once a week, even when they aren’t seeking it out. Nearly three-quarters of young adults (71%) and half of teens (50%) come across what they consider to be porn at least once a month, whether they are seeking it or not.”5
Pornography is becoming ubiquitous across the digital world. It is becoming impossible to protect ourselves, our families, (especially our teens), and our friends from inadvertently viewing pornography. Pornography directly or indirectly, impacts every gender, age, race, and socioeconomic groups. The trends are disturbing. In a July, 2019, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a panel of experts highlighted the predatory practices exploiting children and teens through targeting, grooming, pornography and sex trafficking on a wide range of digital platforms/websites. Mr. Christopher McKenna, from Protecting Young Eyes, reported on a survey of 2000 teens, which showed “75% of teens reported receiving pornographic direct messages from strangers on Instagram, even if they had a private account.”6 In March, 2019, CNN reported that “More children are being groomed on Instagram than on other social media platforms…”8 More children are being exploited, abused and dehumanized in the production of pornography. To those who profit from pornography, children are just a commodity for profit or pleasure.
“Buyers would ask me to act out scenes from the pornography they had just viewed and the rougher the sex was that they were viewing the more degradingly I was treated.” Anonymous Survivor (Personal communication, May 31, 20019)
“Even though I never consented to the porn that was created, it is still being sold to this day online. Which, every time I think about that, I feel like I am being raped again. I still do not get a choice about who watches me and people are still making money off of me to this day.” Anonymous Survivor (Personal communication May 31, 2019)
Pornography consumption was well adapted for the COVID pandemic as much of it had moved online. As a result of lockdowns “A growing body of evidence suggests an unprecedented increase in internet use and consumption of online pornography during the pandemic…”7
The pervasiveness and easy accessibility of pornography on mobile devises is having a negative impact on attitudes and behaviors – impacting personal relationships (private and professional), sexual violence/crime, abuse, and fueling the demand for sexual exploitation.8 Another concern is the growing body of evidence, within the neuroscience community, showing that pornography viewing can be addictive.9,10,11 Research is also beginning to link pornography to mental health issues, such as depression, and to compulsive sexual behavior.12 Pornography isn’t harmless. It is not victimless.
As the evidence showing the harmful effects of pornography mounts, so does the effort to combat pornography. In fact, 16 states have passed resolutions identifying pornography as a “public health crisis”! 13
Fight the New Drug has produced an excellent free documentary on the dangers of pornography, entitled, Brain, Heart, World. This author highly recommends it, especially for parents and teens to view together and discuss. The average age for viewing pornography is estimated to be 14-18. However, we know many as young as 9 have been exposed to it. My own brother began viewing pornography in 3rd or 4th grade. It became an addiction, which led to shame/guilt, drugs and eventually his suicide at age 40. We must address this issue before it is too late.
- Kleinman, A. Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined. Huffington Post. Dec 06, 2017.
- US Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs (2019, June 11). Nearly 1,700 Suspected Child Sex Predators Arrested During Operation “Broken Heart”.[Press Release]. Retrieved June 17, 2019 from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/nearly-1700-suspected-child-sex-predators-arrested-during-operation-broken-heart
- Fight The New Drug. 2019. Can You Guess 2018’s’ Most-viewed Categories on the Largest Porn Site? https://fightthenewdrug.org/pornhub-visitors-in-2018-and-review-of-top-searches/ Retrieved 9/15/19.
- Polaris (2020) 2019 data report. https://polarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Polaris-2019-US-National-Human-Trafficking-Hotline-Data-Report.pdf Retrieved 2/23/23.
- Kinnaman, D. 2016. The Porn Phenomenon. February, 5, 2016. https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/ Retrieved 9/15/19.
- Protecting Innocence in a Digital World: Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate, 116th Congress 7 (2019) (Testimony of Christopher McKenna, Protecting Young Eyes). July 9, 2019. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/committee-activity/hearings/protecting-innocence-in-a-digital-world
- HS Awan, et al. Internet and Pornography Use During the COVID19 Pandemic: Presumed impact and what can be done. Front Psychiatry. 2021, Mar 16;12:623508. Doi 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.623508. Retrieved from PubMed 2/23/23
- Picheta, Rob. 2019. Instagram is leading social media platform for child grooming. CNN. March 1, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/01/uk/nspcc-grooming-social-media-report-scli-gbr-intl/index.html Retrieved 9/15/19.
- Thompson, L.L. 2018. Pornography: A Public Health Harms of Pornography. National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). February 2018.
- Fight the New Drug (2017). How Porn Affects The Brain Like a Drug. Retrieved June 13, 2019 from https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-affects-the-brain-like-a-drug/
- Simone, K and Jurgen, G. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption. JAMA Psychiatry 71, no.7(2014): 827-834.
- Shane W. Kraus, et al. Examining the Psychometric Properties of the Yale-Brown-Obsessive-Compulsive Scale in a Sample of Compulsive Pornography Users. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 59(2015): 117-122. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2015.02.007.
- Fight The New Drug. 2019. These 16 U.S. States Passed Resolutions Recognizing Porn As a Public Health Issue. May 9, 2019 https://fightthenewdrug.org/here-are-the-states-that-have-passed-resolutions/ Retrieved 9/15/19.