Critical Porn Analysis moves beyond ‘porn literacy’ to critique its effect on individuals’ safety, health and wellbeing, relationships, families, communities, and cultures.
Critical Porn Analysis
Critical Porn Analysis is an educational framework that responds to the researched harms of porn as a public health crisis. Critical Porn Analysis moves beyond the micro focus of how individuals interact with porn, to comprehensively consider its effect on individuals’ safety, health and wellbeing, relationships, families, communities, and cultures.
Critical Porn Analysis provides critique through seven interconnected lenses: sexual desires and perceptions; sex, gender, power and relationships; sexual exploitation and oppression; child sexual exploitation and development; mental health, addiction and spirituality; physical health and function, and global industry. Critical Porn Analysis provides educators, decision-makers, and community with a greater understanding of the scope of impacts, and frames the discussion to respond to pornography as the public health crisis of the digital age.
Critical Porn Analysis provides a reflective opportunity to consider how personal porn consumption—facilitated and promoted by the porn industry—contributes to public health outcomes for society.
Pornography is a social problem and cannot be addressed by placing the burden on parents and educators alone. It requires a multisectoral, collaborative, coordinated, integrative response. It calls upon government & community leaders; mental health, medical & legal professions; educators; parents; child, youth, women, men & family advocates; activists & survivors; and digital technology experts to engage in preventative and proactive responses. Public health focuses on safeguarding and improving the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the community as a whole.
Critical Porn Analysis is authored by Liz Walker and builds upon the work of Natalie Collins, a UK-based Gender Justice Specialist. This inquiry begins a difficult, but necessary conversation. Questions are by no means exhaustive. To find journal articles and statistics, access our Supporting Research.
SEXUAL DESIRES AND PERCEPTIONS
- How do the sexual scripts in porn (the stories that porn portrays about sex), influence people’s perceptions of sexual relationships?
- What is the difference between porn and sexual intimacy?
- How may porn affect a person’s understanding and expectation of love?
- How may porn shape people’s sexual fantasies and desires?
- How may porn affect a person’s ability to have and to hold a healthy love relationship?
- How may porn impact a person’s understanding of themselves—likes and dislikes, desirability, social-standing, attitudes, expressed language and behaviours, etc.?
- How may porn impact body image and performance anxieties?
- How may porn affect a person’s values and personality?
- How may porn affect a person’s ability to set personal safety boundaries and respect/accept another’s boundaries?
- How may porn affect a person’s ability to feel and to regulate emotions healthily?
SEX, GENDER, POWER & RELATIONSHIPS
- How does porn influence relationship expectations, behaviours, boundary setting, and treatment of others?
- How does porn influence a person’s perception of gender, gender roles and gender stereotypes?
- How does porn normalise gender power imbalances and violence?
- How does porn impact women’s and men’s sexuality? (e.g. body image issues, performance anxiety, feelings of inadequacies, preferences etc.)
- How does porn create or reinforce hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity?
- How does porn link to increasing levels of sexual violence in relationships?
- How does porn link to increasing levels of eroticised rage in relationships?
- What messages do same-sex attracted & gender diverse people receive from porn?
- Why does porn consumption often trigger insecurity, attachment, trauma, rejection, betrayal and broken trust for partners?
- How may porn impact commitment and relationship satisfaction?
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION & OPPRESSION
- How does porn impact the objectification and notion of women as a commodity?
- How does porn normalise the perpetuation of sexual exploitation and bystander behaviour?
- How does porn normalise predatory and illegal behaviours (such as rape, child sexual exploitation and incest)?
- How does porn promote messages which normalise and groom viewers into being potentially subject to exploitation?
- How does porn promote and reinforce oppression through racism?
- How does porn promote the oppression of same-sex attracted and gender diverse people?
- How does porn consumption fuel the sexual trafficking of women and children?
- How does porn contribute to the violent and extreme behaviours and other harms endured by women in the sex trade?
- How does porn normalise physical assault (for example, strangulation during sex), rape, sexual harassment, hate slurs and ‘revenge porn’?
- How does porn undermine the World Association for Sexual Health Declaration of Sexual Rights to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, and sexuality-related violence and coercion?
CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION & DEVELOPMENT
- How does porn impact a child’s body image, sexuality and healthy sexual development?
- How does porn undermine sexual health education?
- How does early exposure to porn contribute to trauma and premature sexualisation—a form of child sexual abuse?
- How does early porn exposure affect the age of sexual behaviour initiation and sensation seeking?
- How does porn groom children and teens to be at risk for online and offline exploitation, grooming from others, and trafficking and abuse?
- How is porn being used as a ‘how-to’ manual for engaging in (and filming) sexually abusive behaviours among children & teens?
- How does porn culture normalise exploitation—sexting and “revenge porn” (image-based abuse)—amongst young people?
- What messages does porn provide to youth who are exploring their sense of self and sexuality?
- How are the messages within porn contributing to the normalisation of online and offline sexual abuse?
- What influence can porn and other online exploitive materials have on brain development, mental health, addictive patterns, sexual development (scripts) and current & future behaviours?
MENTAL HEALTH, ADDICTION & SPIRITUALITY
- How does porn influence one’s sense of purpose, motivation, inspiration, vision and goals?
- Given child and adolescent brains are still in development, what long-term mental health impacts does ease-of-access to porn generate?
- What factors may make someone more or less likely to develop compulsive sexual behaviour disorder from viewing porn?
- How does porn consumption link to mental health conditions? (depression, social anxiety, difficulty concentrating, distress, social isolation, lethargy, lack of focus, etc.)
- How does porn contribute to sexual offending and criminality? For example, paraphilic disorders such as paedophilia, voyeurism and exhibitionism.
- Can porn traumatise a person, and if so, how?
- Can a person be re-traumatised via the roles, the messages, and the portrayal of human sexuality and communication/interactions in porn?
- How may porn influence one’s spiritual growth and self-reflection?
- What is the relationship between religion and pornography?
- What are the impacts of porn and positive or negative sexual energy? (Sexual energy is a benign, natural force which can be channelled in either positive or negative directions).
PHYSICAL HEALTH & FUNCTIONING
- How does porn consumption link to physical health conditions? (bed wedding, bowel issues, stomach pains, migraines, lethargy, etc.)
- How does porn consumption link to sexual conditions? (less interest in real sex, erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, arousal disorders, etc.)
- What improvements to sexual function and wellbeing occur after porn consumption stops?
- How does porn desensitise feelings, mindset and body sensations?
- How does porn influence the perpetration of injuries? For example, anal fissures, vaginal tears, bruises, strangulation, and other physical injuries?
- What vulnerabilities to porn harms exist for those with special needs (physical disabilities, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, etc.)?
- How does porn normalise unsafe sexual practices, earlier sexual activity, or the number of sexual partners?
- What role does porn have in the rates of sexually transmitted infections?
- How does porn affect the consumer’s social, emotional and physical functioning?
- How does being pressured to engage in porn-style sex impact sexual enjoyment and mental wellbeing?
- How has the porn industry normalised consumption of its product—content that is increasingly abusive, racist, incestual and exploitive?
- How has the industry commodified human sexuality and desires, and shaped sexual attitudes and behaviours?
- How does the industry use PR and media to promote its product and manage its image, including silencing those who are concerned or critical? What role does the Free Speech Coalition play in this?
- What support is there for performers exploited by the industry, who go on to live with post-traumatic stress disorder, permanent injury or disease?
- Why haven’t porn industry representatives been prosecuted for their role in hosting child sexual exploitation, rape, revenge porn and sex trafficking videos?
- Why does such a lucrative and far-reaching industry remain unregulated, despite extensively researched harms?
- How does the porn industry interface with non-porn industries? For example, “save the environment” campaigns or sponsorship of sports teams.
- With no reliable systems to verify the age and consent of those filmed, why is the porn industry not criminally prosecuted for profiting from child sexual exploitation, rape, revenge/non-consenting porn, and sex trafficking hosted on their sites?
- Why does the porn industry avoid willing implementation of robust age verification to protect minors, and age and consent verification of those filmed in porn videos?
- Relating to porn harms, why are the laws that are in place to protect children from sexual abuses not enacted?
Ways porn harms children & young people
Porn is controversial because it’s divisive. There’s ‘Pro-Porn’ and ‘Anti-Porn’ sides. It’s as oppositional, if not more, as any other ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ discussion. – Liz Walker
Pornography is accessible, affordable, anonymous and addictive. A growing number of neuroscience studies show how an overactive reward system can result in addiction.
“Pornography is not just fantasy on a screen. It is shaping reality in unprecedented ways. For young people growing up online, porn has become a kind of default sex educator.” – Maree Crabbe
Research suggests that adolescents who use Internet porn have lower degrees of social integration, increases in conduct problems, higher levels of delinquent behaviour, higher incidence of depressive symptoms, and decreased emotional bonding with caregivers.
As the porn industry continues to grow, clinicians report that an increasing number of individuals are seeking out help to deal with sexual and relational difficulties associated with pornography use.
Pornography is linked to increases in negative attitude to women, decreases in empathy for victims of sexual violence, and increases in dominating and sexually-imposing behaviour.
Significant relationships have been detected between early pornographic exposure and early engagement in sexual activities.
A study on the consequences of exposure to Internet pornography for early adolescent boys’ academic performance indicates that increased use of Internet pornography decreased boys’ academic performance six months later.
Numerous studies reveal links between porn use and sexual dysfunctions, including porn-induced erectile dysfunction, low desire, and sexual & relationship dissatisfaction. Negative effects are often reversed by stopping Internet porn use.