April 1, 2019

STATEMENT: Pornography’s Public Health Harms Addressed During National Public Health Awareness Week

Statement by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE

As the National Public Health Awareness Week begins, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation raises awareness about the public health impacts of pornography.

It’s time to recognize the public health harms of pornography this year during National Public Health Awareness Week,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). “Modern pornography—with its limitless quantity, speed, and violent or degrading themes—is a jarring new variable in human evolution. It’s not surprising that such a variable would have negative effects on brains and bodies built for person-to-person sexual contact. Medical professionals, elected officials, therapists and more are beginning to acknowledge the public health harms of pornography.”

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has created a Research Summary highlighting findings from over 90 peer-reviewed studies on the harms of pornography. Some findings include:

  • Pornography Has Detrimental Impacts on the Brain: There are over 40 neurological studies which reveal pornography use has negative and detrimental impacts on the brain.
  • Pornography Teaches Users that Women Enjoy Sexual Violence and Degradation: A recent study of PornHub videos found that 43% of videos included what the researchers categorized as “visible aggression” and 15% included “nonconsensual aggression.” This violence was almost ubiquitously portrayed against women, and women responded to that violence with pleasure. In response to these findings, the researcher noted that the prevalence of aggressive and demeaning acts in videos featuring teenagers, “may signal to viewers of all ages that these acts are not only normative and legitimate, but perhaps even expected,” thus creating social pressure on both young women and men to re-enact them with their sexual partners.
  • Pornography is Linked to Depressive Symptoms: A study of young adults leaving college found that higher pornography use was significantly associated with less self-worth and more depressive symptoms. This was consistent after controlling for age, religiosity, impulsivity, race, and parent’s marital status.


The CDC recently told CNN that “Pornography can be connected to other public health issues like sexual violence and occupational HIV transmission.”

“The national movement to address pornography’s public health harms includes 11 states who recognize the harmful effects of pornography and aim to curb the demand for this form of sexual exploitation through legislation,” said Dawn Hawkins, NCOSE. “These states include Utah, South Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Idaho, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and most recently have passed resolutions recognizing the public health harms of pornography. Arizona, the 12th state where it has already passed the House, is expected to pass the resolution in the Senate this week.”

Learn more about the public health harms of pornography at EndSexualExploitation.org/publichealth

Further Reading