Bioethics Blogs

Pornography as a Public Health Issue

Jacqueline Gahagan advocates for a national sexual health promotion strategy.


Pornography is concerned with the development and the circulation of sexually explicit books, magazines, videos, art, and music aimed at creating sexual excitement. Public health is concerned with keeping people healthy and preventing illness, injury and premature death. With the growing use of internet-based pornography and the relative ease by which it can be accessed, the effects of “online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men” have become an important public health issue. This issue is best addressed through the development and introduction of a national sexual health promotion strategy – a strategy that includes current and comprehensive sexual health education in our primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.

Health promotion, in concert with public health, involves encouraging safe behaviours and improving health through healthy public policy, community-based interventions, active public participation, advocacy, and action on key determinants of health. I am confident that several of these strategies can be used to address concerns about the ready access to internet-based pornography. For example, health promotion initiatives that take a harm reduction approach to healthy sexuality include an emphasis on screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections, the use of condoms, a shared understanding of consensual sex, as well as the use of other safer sex interventions.

A review of existing sexual health education in Canadian schools, however, reveals that many Canadian youth do not receive the level of sexual health education they need to help them make informed decisions about sexual risk-taking.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.