December 30, 2016

New Year, New Resolution: Pledge to Turn Off Pornography in 2017

The number of self-improvement blogs and articles always skyrocket around New Years Eve. In fact, they can become pretty overwhelming.

So what resolution should you focus on for 2017? If you’re looking to improve your health, your relationships, and culture at large all at the same time…We’ve got the goal for you.

New Years Resolution: Pledge to turn off pornography in 2017.

Turning off sexually explicit media might seem passive at first. But this resolution has the potential to create expansive, active, improvements in your life and the lives around you.

Why turn off pornography?

1. Improve your health

Pornography is a public health hazard.

Like smoking or using tobacco, not everyone who uses pornography has the same reaction. However, for many, repeated or habitual pornography use is linked to serious personal harms.

The brain and the body of individual porn users seem to face the biggest health threats.

One 2014 study found that increased pornography use is linked to decreased brain matter in the areas of motivation and decision-making, impaired impulse control, and desensitization to sexual reward.

In laymen’s terms: pornography literally shrinks your brain. In all the wrong places.

In addition to neurological changes, young men are experiencing increased rates of porn induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). In the early 2000s, the PIED rate among European men was approximately 13%. In 2011 young Europeans (18-40) had ED rates of 14-28%. This dramatic increase in ED rates among young men coincides with the sharp increase in the availability and pervasiveness of Internet pornography.

It doesn’t take a physician to recognize that these side effects are harmful. These reasons alone are worth getting rid of pornography in 2017.

2. Improve your relationships

Lots of people argue that pornography helps “spice things up.” But turns out, pornography has more in common with hemlock than it does with hot chili powder.

Research has demonstrated that the more pornography a man watches, the more likely he is to deliberately conjure images of pornography during sex to maintain arousal, and to experienced decreased enjoyment intimate behaviors with a partner.

In laymen’s terms: pornography kills your sex life. It also damages emotional intimacy.

Earlier this year, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the founders of the Gottman Institute wrote an open letter on pornography recognizing how it harms relationships:

“First, intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people.  But when one person becomes accustomed to [using] to porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse. . . This is unrealistic as well. Worse still, many porn sites include violence toward women, the antithesis of intimate connection.”

Whether it comes to actual sexual encounters—or basic building blocks of intimacy, sharing, and mutual connection—it is clear that pornography has a negative influence on relationships.

Removing this influence, and instead focusing on building sustainable and fulfilling connections, will certainly improve the quality of existing or future relationships.

3. Improve society

Society is determined by hundreds of millions of choices.

Little every day habits add up to create cultural trends. In a free market economy, consumer choices act as “votes” for the kind of material they want available, and the kind of culture they want to perpetuate.

What kind of world does watching pornography “vote” for? One that encourages violence against women.

Analysis of the 50 most popular pornographic videos (those bought and rented most often) found that 88% of scenes contained physical violence, and 49% contained verbal aggression. Eighty-seven percent of aggressive acts were perpetrated against women, and 95% of their responses were either neutral or expressions of pleasure.

In laymen’s terms: pornography teaches that women enjoy sexual violence.

Not only is this a harmful message (underlined by the brain thanks to the rush of chemicals following sexual release) for the individual user, but it is also a harmful message on a societal level.

While one person may watch these videos and move on to never harm a fly, another person may escalate to a point of taking those thoughts and turning them into actions. Research confirms that pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike.

Even if you never abuse or mistreat someone, watching pornography perpetuates and supports an industry that not only thrives on depicting violence against women, but that can also actively encourage it.

Turning off pornography is more than a resolution of personal abstinence.  It is a choice to improve your life, the lives of loved ones, and the culture at large.

As far as New Years resolutions go, that isn’t too shabby.

Haley McNamara (Halverson)

Vice President and Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation

Haley McNamara (formerly Halverson) is the Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation in the UK, and a Vice President at the U.S. based National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She leads international efforts and joint campaigns to improve policies and education among global governing bodies, citizenry, and corporations regarding the full web of sexual exploitation issues. Her advocacy work has contributed to policy improvements in social media, online advertising, retail, and hotel industries. She has advocated at the United Nations, led international coalition campaigns, presented to Danish, Croatian, Colombian and Rwandan government officials, and more

She is a former member of the Washington DC Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. This Committee advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on the multi-faceted continuum of the District of Columbia’s child welfare services, including prevention, early intervention, treatment, and sources of permanency.

Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, the exploitation of males, and more. She has presented before officials at the United Nations, as well as at several national symposia before influencers from the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Croatian government officials. She has provided training to Arlington County Child & Family Services on the social media grooming, recruitment, and advertising for sex trafficking. She has a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University where she received honors for her thesis regarding the online commercial sexual exploitation marketplace.

Previously, Haley served for two years as Director of Communications for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation where she oversaw strategic messaging development, press outreach, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Prior to working at NCOSE, Haley wrote for a cultural media outlet. Haley graduated from Hillsdale College (summa cum laude) with a double major, and conducted a senior thesis on the abolitionist argument regarding prostitution. During her studies, she studied abroad at Oxford University and established a background in policy research through several internships in the DC area.

Haley has appeared on, or been quoted in, several outlets including the New York Times, NBC’s The Today Show, BBC News, New York Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Fox News, San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, Voice of America, Dr. Drew Midday Live, The DeMaio Report, the New York Daily News, the Washington Examiner, USA Radio Network, the Washington Times, CBC News, The Rod Arquette Show, The Detroit News, Lifezette, The Christian Post, Lifeline with Neil Boron, EWTN News Nightly, KCBS San Francisco Radio, LifeSiteNews, The Drew Mariano Show on Relevant Radio, News Talk KGVO, and American Family News.

She has written op-eds for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post,, Washington Examiner,, Darling Magazine, the Daytona-Beach News Journal, and has been published in the Journal of Internet Law and the journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and ViolenceShe has also contributed to a digital middle school curriculum regarding the links between sex trafficking and pornography as well as the public health impacts of sex trafficking.

Further Reading