• Andrea Waling

Can porn have negative health consequences?

Our research officer Dr Alexandra James recently had a think-piece published with Le Drench, a french magazine. In this piece Dr James considers the potential health consequences of pornographic material and offers a rich and nuanced insight into this issue.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

For the original french version of the article, please click below:


Le porno peut-il avoir des conséquences négatives sur la santé ?

[English Translation]


Can porn have negative health consequences?

By Dr Alexandra James


Porn comes in many forms. From ancient carvings, to classical texts by Anais Nin, or home-made videos for private viewing; pornography has had a role in the erotic imagination throughout human history. However, the contemporary consumption of porn has changed due to technological advances in filming, options for private consumption, and global reach made possible by the internet.


Some have pointed to the ways that these changes have caused an increased range of issues, including unrealistic expectations for sex, relationships and bodies, as well as links to gender-based violence, and mental health concerns.


However, for many, porn has also become one of the main avenues to learn about their bodies and sexual desires. This is particularly important for those who are under-represented in traditional relationships and sex education programs, which often do not address women’s pleasure or external anatomy, or LGBTIQ+ people more broadly.


A demand for ethically-produced porn, and increased options for home-made production, have expanded the diversity of bodies seen on screen. This has the potential to increase sexual confidence and sexual positivity in a range of people traditionally excluded from sexual representation, leading to better sexual experiences. For couples that watch porn together, or decide to make their own porn, this creates the possibility to enhance emotional intimacy and explore sexual fantasies.


Watching porn can also assist with providing sexual release for people who are either unable, or choose not to, physically engage with others. Porn can provide a positive sexual outlet for people who engage in solo sex activities; with masturbation proven to have the positive health benefits of relieving stress and anxiety.


Negative representations in some pornographic productions are a product of existing inequalities in social attitudes, practices, and beliefs. Porn that incorporates positive and diverse representations of gender, sex, and sexuality, and does not promote violence and abuse has an important role in combatting traditional harmful sexual inequalities. A strong educational foundation is necessary to ensure that people engage with porn in a way that is healthy, respectful, and informed about unrealistic and harmful representations. We know from history that porn is here to stay; education is the key to helping people make informed choices about it.