The best of non-profit advertising and marketing for social causes

Is porn a drug? Can we declare war on it, too?

Is porn a drug? Can we declare war on it, too?

Fight the New Drug: Is porn a drug? Can we declare war on it, too?

This campaign has been out for about a year, but I just stumbled upon it recently. Its sponsors are something called “Boyer Foundation”, Grassroots.org, Enough is Enough, iKeepSafe, Utah Coalition Against Pornography, the Peery Foundation, and Porn Harms — a project of the Christian group Morality in Media. However, the web site claims grassroots credibility:

We aren’t your grandma’s afternoon talkshow, nor are we a bunch of wanna-be-hip government workers trying to trick you into thinking porn is not cool. In fact, we are young people, just like you, who are passionate about making a difference in the world. We wake up every day empowered with a vision and filled with a desire to help people.
We know what it’s like, trust us. Pornography is a big deal in today’s world. Being young, we sometimes felt like we’ve been thrown into a world of chaos and it seems like no one really understands what we are going through, especially when it comes to sexuality and pornography.
To prove their authentic hipness, there’s a nifty animated video:

Now, let’s take a critical look at this cause.

There is no doubt that the pornography industry both reflects and reinforces many heinous social problems. Some pornographic films glorify violence against women, from humiliation, to rape, to murder —  creating a culture of misogyny. They can set unrealistic expectations about sexuality for young men and women, leading to anxiety, poor self-image, and ultimately bad sex. And they can exploit performers.

But is porn addictive? Well, technically anything that causes pleasure is potentially addictive: “The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal.” For this reason, addiction researchers don’t just look at externally-administered drugs; they also look at gambling, shopping, and social media. Does pornography rewire your brain? Of course it does! But so does any pleasurable or learning experience you have.

I’m not here to defend porn. I’m a social marketing guy. And when I think I see dishonesty or bad practice in social marketing, I like to get to the bottom of it. And the fact is that this campaign is the type of scare-mongering at a level of Reefer Madness.

The fact that Fight the New Drug tries to bring porn into the front lines of the War on Drugs says a lot about how the people behind it think.

Also, note the reference to “abstinence”:

Fight the New Drug: Is porn a drug? Can we declare war on it, too?

But perhaps the most perplexing thing about this campaign is that it doesn’t seem to define what pornography is. And, as any person with an interest in sexuality and the media knows, that is a very dangerous thing.

Morality in Media’s Porn Harms site, for example, lists among its success stories that they and a coalition “successfully got NBC to cancel the TV series ‘The Playboy Club’ which glorified Playboy and the sexual objectification of women.” A crappy show, but porn? Meh.

As a parent of a young boy, I am very concerned that my son grow into a man who respects women as equals and who treats sex as a positive, consensual and mutually-beneficial thing. I do my part by talking to him about sex in an honest yet age-appropriate way. I do not worry about him seeing naked people in non-sexual contexts, or even sexual nudity in an appropriate educational context. (I took him to this science exhibition.)

That’s just me. Your beliefs and parental style may vary. But whatever your boundaries are, I do not recommend endorsing campaigns that use the vague hysteria and broken strategy of “Just Say No”.

Advertiser:
Fight the New Drug

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more