Culture Reframed is solving the public health crisis of the digital age. What then, is a public health crisis?

Pornography affects individuals, families, communities and the culture. Drawing from over forty years of peer reviewed research, we have culled the following data on pornography:

1)     It has multiple harmful effects.

    • Limited capacity for intimacy
    • More likely to use coercive tactics
    • Increased engagement in risky sexual behaviours
    • Increased likelihood of perpetuating sexual harassment and rape
    • Decreased empathy for rape victims
    • Increased anxiety/depression
    • Habitual/addictive use

2)     It adversely affects all dimensions of health.

    • Social
    • Emotional
    • Intellectual
    • Spiritual
    • Physical

3)     It is getting worse.

    • Mainstream content is sexist, racist, and increasingly cruel, brutal, and degrading.

4)     It acts as a fast-spreading vehicle for other major public health problems:

    • sexual violence
    • depression/anxiety/low self-esteem
    • substance abuse
    • disease

5)     It is how most youth learn about and experience sex.

Relevant Research to support these statements may be found on our Journal Articles page.

Understanding A Public Health Approach

The following information has been authored by an expert consultant of Culture Reframed, Cordelia Anderson. Cordelia is the Founder of Sensibilities Prevention Services; has a Masters in Human Development with a focus on sexuality and prevention of sexual violence; and has over 40 years’ experience working to promote sexual health and prevent sexual harm.

Many speak to the importance of prevention efforts using a “public health” approach, but it is not always clear that those using both the term “prevention” and “public health” are defining them in the same way, or really understand what the terms actually means.

The basic approach used in public health seeks to: define and monitor/surveillance the problem (use data to inform practice); identify risk and protective factors; pilot and evaluate effective prevention programs; and assure broad-base dissemination. Because of the health equity principles inherent in public health, many argue it’s also a social justice approach, while some see public health as more of a “medical model.”

Some keys concepts used in public health involve thinking about systemic change as well as an individual focus and developing programs on data/research.  Public health recognizes the impact of the broader environment on the behaviour, health and choices of individuals who live within it. Public health approaches point out the impact of the environment on behaviours and the way the environment shapes or perpetuates social norms which again effect behaviours. John Briere, PhD researcher and clinician points out that “Toxic decisions seem rational in toxic environments.”

Social issues from public health perspective involve problems that affect individuals or groups beyond their capacity to correct.  That means once something is recognized as a social issue – responsibility shifts from individuals to holding external social causes or influences accountable.

Public health involves different intensities of efforts to different tiers:

  1. Universal – efforts addressed to the whole population
  2. Selective – efforts focused on a specific sub-group with risk factors
  3. Indicated – efforts focused on identified groups already showing signs of a problem

Culture Reframed responds to the pornography crisis by providing education and support to promote healthy child and youth development, relationships, and sexuality.

Our focus is on universal education addressed to the whole population; and selective education, focused on a specific sub-group with risk factors – primarily, young people and the ones who support them; those who provide protective factors for their development.

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.

Given that pornography is a social problem, it cannot be simply addressed by focusing on an individual level.  The paper Health education’s role in framing pornography as a public health issue: local and national strategies with international implications (2008), states:

Social issues from the public health perspective involve problems that affect individuals or groups beyond their capacity to correct. Social issues are detectable when responsibility is shifted from individuals being able to adequately make changes themselves, toward holding external social causes or influences accountable. It is clear that many aspects of pornography meet this definition of social issue, and warrant public health advocacy efforts.

To respond to this through education, Culture Reframed has developed Critical Porn Analysis: an educational response to the researched harms of pornography as a public health crisis. Critical Porn Analysis moves beyond the micro focus of how the individual interacts with pornographic content, to consider a more holistic approach on how porn’s proliferation and ease of access impacts the health & wellbeing of individuals, relationships, families, communities and cultures.

Learn more about Critical Porn Analysis here

References for Cordelia Anderson’s explanation of Public Health

Koop, C. E. (1986). Report of the Surgeon General’s Workshop on Pornography and Public Health. United States. Public Health Service. Office of the Surgeon General, 4 August 1986. Official Report. Available from URL: https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/NN/B/C/K/H/

Perrin, P.C., Madanat, H.N., Barnes, M.D., Carolan, A., Clark, R.B., Ivins, N., Tuttle, S.R., Vogeler, H.A, Williams, P.N. (2008). Health education’s role in framing pornography as a public health issue: local and national strategies with international implications. Journal of Promotion & Education, XV, No. 1. 2008;15(1):11-8. DOI: 10.1177/1025382307088093.

Wallack, L., Woodruff, K., Dorfman, L., Diaz, I. (1999). News for a change: and advocates guide to working with the media. SAGE Publications, California. ISBN: 9780761919247