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- October 21, 2016
Does it pose a public health crisis?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
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Featured Report

Pornography websites attract millions of users each month, reportedly more than either CNN, Amazon or Twitter. A recent phenomenon, “tube” sites, is competing with the traditional porn industry by providing large amounts of free pornographic content from amateur or pirated videos. Because the sites are easy to access through computers or cell phones, children can view hard-core, often violent, content that gives them a warped view of sex, say parents and some social scientists. Critics describe a porn-induced public health crisis that is contributing to divorce and normalizing sexual violence against women. But with rape, divorce and teen pregnancy at historic lows, other social scientists and porn defenders say these concerns are overblown and lack evidence of harm to society. Meanwhile, civil liberties activists criticize some child advocates' solutions, such as requiring websites to verify the age of users, as violating adult users' free-speech and privacy rights. So far, the Supreme Court has agreed, striking down previous congressional efforts to restrict internet access.

State Laws

Legislatures are requiring schools and libraries to block pornography on public computers.

Other Efforts

The presidential candidates have vowed to protect young people from pornography.

1700s–1800sPornographic novels become popular; new technology broadens pornography's distribution.
1900s–1980sPornography evolves from print to movies to video; female audience expands.
1990s–PresentInternet expands audience for online porn — and eventually for free pirated porn — and spurs legislative efforts to control consumption.

Is pornography a public health crisis?


Gail Dines
Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies, Wheelock College; Author, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.


Ronald Weitzer
Professor of Sociology, George Washington University.
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