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Not Your Grandfather’s Pornography: the Problem, the Harm, and a Policy Response

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As the country wrestles with the widespread problem of sexual assault (as embodied in the recent “#MeToo” phenomena) and how to respond to it, we must consider the multiple factors that lie at the root of the issue. The rapid spread of online pornography, with its decisive sexual objectification of women, is one area that should be explored and prioritized among policymakers.

The violent, sexual subjugation of women is not an unfortunate byproduct of pornography but one of its main selling points. Physical and mental abuse of women is not uncommon — both on and off camera — in the porn industry. It is an industry that rewards risky sexual behavior and preys on the minds of both young men and women by appealing to their prurient instincts and feeding their most debased desires.

Pornography, taken as a whole, lacks any serious societal value, and whatever value it may have is greatly outweighed by the numerous unintended consequences it continues to produce in our society.

This paper discusses the problem of online pornography, the numerous harms that make it a public health hazard, and suggests a three-pronged approach (three “E”s) to tackle the issue going forward: education, enforcement, and empathy.