Can Pleasure and Pornography Improve Public Health?

Can Pleasure and Pornography Improve Public Health?
Can Pleasure and Pornography Improve Public Health?

“Public health” brings to mind preventing the flu or better dental hygiene. It often incorporates current events like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan or the ongoing controversy over “vaping.” That is not what you will find in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).

The articles in this issue provide a glimpse of what AJPH’s healthcare professionals have in mind for the future of America’s children. It is a repulsive picture that does not promote healthy but that which is harmful to well-being of countless young people who will be influenced by public health decisions.

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Corrupting the Sense of Pleasure

This time, perhaps, you can tell a book (or a magazine) by its cover. Two people are lying in a field of tall grass, one with his arm around the other. In the lower-left corner of the cover, it says, “Role of Pleasure in Public Health.” The description of the cover image illustrates the point. “In this image, 2 young men relax in a beautiful field enjoying each other’s company. Moving away from narrowly defined definitions, this issue of AJPH explores the relationship, the benefits, and the role of pleasure.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas says that pleasures can either be good or evil. “[I]n the moral order, there is a good pleasure, whereby the higher or lower appetite rests in that which is in accord with reason; and an evil pleasure, whereby the appetite rests in that which is discordant from reason and the law of God…. Wherefore, since the desires of good actions are good, and of evil actions, evil; much more are the pleasures of good actions good, and those of evil actions evil.”

However, the AJPH is trying to convince its readers that all pleasure is good. This concept is not new. It has long been promoted by those who promote hedonism. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines that term as “The name given to the group of ethical systems that hold, with various modifications, that feelings of pleasure or happiness are the highest and final aim of conduct; that, consequently those actions which increase the sum of pleasure are thereby constituted right, and, conversely, what increases pain is wrong.”

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The AJPH is discussing only one form of pleasure, as can be seen in the titles of the articles in this issue.

  • Pleasure and Sex Education: The Need for Broadening Both Content and Measurement
  • Should Public Health Professionals Consider Pornography a Public Health Crisis?
  • A Pornography Literacy Program for Adolescents
  • A Call for (Renewed) Commitment to Sexual Health, Sexual Rights, and Sexual Pleasure

How can the AJPH discuss ideas that are antithetic to public health in such a positive light?

Spirit of the Sixties

The roots of the AJPH’s position goes back to the “do your own thing” attitude of the late sixties and early seventies. Cohabitation gained social approval. Many people saw “trial marriages” as a way to test compatibility. Soon activity once been reserved for marriage became a recreational activity like any other.

During the sixties, pseudo-intellectuals argued that all morality was “personal,” and that standards of behavior were up to the individual. They repeated the phrases “You can’t legislate morality” and “I don’t care what you do in your bedroom” until the general public accepted them. That, in turn, gave rise to the superficial “Who am I to judge?” attitude that is so common today.

Underlying this attitude was an even more profound shift was at work. The worship of youth replaced respect for the experience of elders. A permissive culture sough to convince people to discard the Church’s moral system. In the process, moral protection for the young disappeared. Indeed, too many people old enough to know better looked enviously on their children’s immoral lives and imitated them. Divorce, adultery, abortion, and child abandonment proliferated.

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The AJPH’s remedy for these ills is “Pornography Literacy.” They assert that such a program will “improve knowledge about sexually explicit media and sexual behavior, to increase attitudes consistent with valuing sexual consent and nonaggression in dating relationships… some adolescent knowledge, beliefs, and behavioral intentions will change.”

A Public Health Crisis

Pushing back against this attitude is the laudable stand taken by seventeen states since 2016 that pornography is a public health crisis. For the AJPH, a public health crisis requires three conditions. First, it must require immediate action. Second, it must cause serious harm like death, disease, and the displacement or destruction of property. Third, the capacity of “local systems” to meet the situation must be overwhelmed.

AJPH argues that pornography does not meet these criteria. “Should Public Health Professionals Consider Pornography a Public Health Crisis?” concludes, “Although research suggests that pornography use likely influences some people negatively, and it merits further research, pornography itself is not a crisis. The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt, not reflective of best available evidence.”

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This statement reflects willful ignorance. Public health “professionals” won’t gather the data, but it is hard to refute that pornography is the introduction to sexual immorality. By turning women into objects, it kills the respect that God implants in men for women. Evidence of the damage to relationships is everywhere.


According to the AJPH, all forms of sexual activity are equal and desirable.

A Call for (Renewed) Commitment to Sexual Health…” states their view explicitly. “We need to ensure in our own research, programming, service delivery, and activism in sexual health that we pay attention to pleasure and sexual rights for all people, including adolescents; sex workers; those living with HIV; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; refugees or internally displaced persons; persons with disabilities; religious or ethnic minorities; or any combination thereof.”

This egalitarian attitude not only violates the tenets of the Church, but also the standards of every civilized society. Such cultures have followed natural law by preferring monogamous and fertile unions. Different tribes and nations tolerated other practices while forbidding others. However, no culture has ever accorded equality to the variety of acts suggested by the AJPH. Not only do the public health “experts” want to make them equal – they wish to accord “rights” to any sexual practice.

What is the AJPH Commitment?

The AJPH’s primary commitment is not to public health. Many of the acts promoted in these articles are intensely harmful, both mentally and physically. Even the most basic standard of public health would exclude prostitution (“sex workers’) and the potential of spreading HIV.

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To these people, sexual pleasure comes before health. Their vocabulary may be scholarly, but the ideas promulgated by these so-called experts are radical and detrimental.

However, the harm is real. Both the organization and the journal present themselves as authoritative. As such, they can be cited by those in a position to do great harm to young people. Health teachers in Anytown, U.S.A. could institute their own “Pornography Literacy Programs.” After all, the public health intelligentsia has provided their stamp of approval.

This attitude infected your local schools years ago. It must be turned back. Children’s lives and morals are at stake.