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As Internet access and literacy increases, pornography has become highly accessible, cheap and diverse. Online pornography use is common in the USA, with nearly 9 out of 10 men and 1 out of 3 women aged 18–26 reporting accessing pornography online.1 In June 2013, legal pornographic websites received more UK-based traffic than social networks, shopping, news and media, email, finance, gaming and travel websites.2 For example, popular pornography website ‘pornhub’ received 79 billion video views in 2014.3
Increased access to pornography online has been accompanied by rising concerns that it negatively impacts health and well-being, particularly with regard to young people. These concerns include that viewing any sexually explicit material erodes morals and that specific types of pornography, such as that depicting violence against women, leads to increased violence against women in real life. Even in the case of non-violent pornography, there is anxiety that people view pornography as ‘real’ rather than fantasy and that this negatively influences attitudes and real-life sexual behaviour, particularly when people's sexual experience is limited such as in adolescence.4 Other concerns include the scarcity of condom use in pornography (both for diminishing condom use as a social norm and for the risks to the health of performers), impacts on body image (including trends in pubic hair removal and labiaplasty), and the harms of pornography addiction.
Despite the myriad of fears about online pornography, questions remain over its actual harm. Do viewers really imitate pornography in their own lives and does this negatively influence their health and well-being? Does watching violence in pornography lead to misogyny and gender-based violence? Are young people at greater risk of the negative effects of viewing pornography (if they exist) than older adults? In this paper, we explore the most commonly cited concerns over online pornography by …
Contributors MSCL and ERC conducted the literature review; all authors contributed to writing and editing the manuscript.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.