Pornography Damages the Physical and Mental Health of Girls and Young Women

 Dr. Neill Neill, Registered Psychologist

healthy normally-developing teensTelus, a major telephone company, announced recently that it was going to sell [tag-tec]pornography[/tag-tec] to its cell phone subscribers. If it had proceeded, it would be the first in North America. There was a huge backlash and they canceled their plan. Other big telephone companies quickly distanced themselves from any move to sell [tag-ice]porn[/tag-ice] to their cell phone customers.

Regardless of their rationale for backpedaling, Telus did the right thing.

A task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) released a major report called "The Sexualization of Girls" on February 19. They reported wide evidence that the proliferation in media and advertising of sexualized images of young women and girls is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development. It’s damaging to the physical health of our children. It’s damaging to their mental health.

A woman is sexually objectified, that is, made into a thing for another’s sexual use, when her value is portrayed as coming only from her sexual appeal or behavior. Pornography carries this to the extreme.

The sexualization of girls and women, already widespread, is increasing in the "new media." The new media include the internet and all the new hand-held display devices, including cell phones.

The evidence clearly shows that the sexualization and objectification of girls has wide-ranging negative effects. Quoting from a summary by psychologist Dr. Ken Pope:

  • Cognitive and emotional consequences: the sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
  • Mental and physical health: research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women — eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
  • Sexual development: research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

"As a society, we need to replace all of these sexualized images with one showing girls in positive settings — ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls," states Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen, chair of the APA task force. "The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents — boys and girls — that lead to healthy sexual development."

Selling porn to cell phone users, many of whom are children, would extend the damage done to girls and young women by further sexualizing and objectifying them.

In a society that struggles to create sexual equality and fights sexism in the workplace, we should not encourage, condone or in any way support commercial activities that explicitly counter these societal goals by damaging our children.

Psychologist Dr. Neill Neill maintains an active practice on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. He focuses on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic – A Woman’s Survival Guide.

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

3 thoughts on “Pornography Damages the Physical and Mental Health of Girls and Young Women

  1. I meet Dr. Neill Neill through a coaching program that we both belong to, and we have a been good friends ever since. He has a very special way of presenting a topic and giving solutions for mental health problems. And, on this subject he has opened my eyes to a grave situation that is probably more of an epidemic than we realize.

    We should do every thing possible to help our children especially our young women and not to take for granted that our kids would not do something like this. Because, your child’s innocence is not for sale and you make it worthless, if you don’t explain why they would not want to behave in such a manner.

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  3. Hi Dr. Neill I am happy to hear that the APA is so concerned about the sexualization of girls and women. I have a lot of personal experience in this area. It seems that once the birth control pill came out in the mid ’60s, the morals "went to hell". I was a first-year student at UBC in 1969, and almost all the males I dated expected sex on the first date. When I refused, they called me "too proud". Many men asked me to move in with them and "go on the pill". A whole group of fellow hikers from the International Club threatened me in this way: "You should be thrown in a haystack and gang raped to be shown what it is to be a woman". Some men actually told me they hated me because I walked straight, looked proud, and was too cute and too smart. They also told me that they wished they could kill me. (Whatever happened to Prince Charming? How can one fix those kinds of deep insecurities that lead to that kind of hatred?) This problem is obviously very complex, and may take superhuman effort to fix. Crissa

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