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Treat porn ‘epidemic’ in U.S. as public health crisis, activists urge

AFP-JIJI

Pornography now is so widespread in the U.S. that it deserves to be addressed seriously as a major public health crisis, a panel of activists said Thursday, recommending it be tackled in the same way as teenage smoking or drunk driving.

“There’s an untreated pandemic of harm from pornography,” Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Morality in Media, which has campaigned against pornography since 1962, told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. “There’s a lot of science now proving that pornography is harmful. We know now that almost every family in America has been touched by the harm of pornography.”

The two-day Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation summit that opens Friday in the Washington suburb of Tysons Corner aims to look at pornography as a complex social problem that needs to be framed as a public health issue. Participants include health professionals, social workers, academics, feminists, faith leaders and campaigners against human trafficking, as well as former members of the multibillion-dollar adult entertainment industry.

“This is a business with considerable political clout,” said Gail Dines, a sociology and women’s studies professor at Wheelock College in Boston and author of “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.”

The current 4.2 million porn sites on the Internet get more visitors per month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, and a third of all downloads on the Web contain porn, said Dines, who is also president of the international feminist group Stop Porn Culture.

“Porn is without doubt the most powerful form of sex education today, with studies showing that the average age of first viewing porn is between 11 and 14 — and let me tell you, this is not your father’s Playboy,” she said. “These degrading misogynist images have become the wallpaper of our lives and they are robbing young people of an authentic healthy sexuality that is a basic right of every human being.”

Donny Pauling, a former adult film producer for Playboy who helped to run a network of adult websites before quitting the business in 2006, said he has personally seen the ill effects of the porn business on the women who appear in front of the camera.

He doubted that Miriam Weeks — a 19-year-old women’s studies student at elite Duke University who caused a national stir recently when she came out as moonlighting Internet porn star Belle Knox — feels as “empowered” as she has claimed.

“I don’t buy her story,” Pauling said. “I recruited more than 500 first-timers into the business and there’s never been one that came back and thanked me.”

Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania, who specializes in sexual trauma, said pornography has been a factor in every case of sexual violence she has treated as a psychotherapist. “The earlier males are exposed to pornography, the more likely they are to engage in nonconsensual sex — and for females, the more pornography they use, the more likely they are to be victims of nonconsensual sex,” she said.

In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this month, Weeks, the Duke University student, revealed that she started watching pornography at the age of 12, and that she was once raped at a high school house party. “There is going to have to be programs out there that get kids to understand how porn is manipulating them,” Dines said.

Layden suggested that if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got “interested in this as a public health issue, we can have success in the way that we had success with the issue of cigarette smoking.”

  • DeSwiss

    Won’t help anything. They’re aiming at the wrong ”epidemic.”

  • TimWebb

    Just see which ethnic group controls all the pornography in America, and then send them all to Antarctica. This is a cancerous virus that needs to be cut out of decent society, which it is intentionally degrading, and morally and economically destroying.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    But I like looking at it. It’s great!

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    I’ll wager a theory: Assuming all countries are equally free, the greater the number of ball-busting females, the higher the prevalence of porn.