Last week, it was announced that Pornhub was restricting access for users in North Carolina in response to the new age verification requirement that took effect on January 1st. Since the website reportedly has more users than Netflix, this likely caused a drastic drop in the consumption of pornographic materials in North Carolina. But what if the company eventually accepts the age verification process and resumes operations here? What impact will this measure have then?
The first impact of this new law is fairly straightforward. The age verification process will help prevent children from accessing porn, accidentally or otherwise. Pornography has a host of negative side effects for adults, and these are only exacerbated in children. By requiring an ID, or some other proof of age, many children simply won’t be able to access pornographic websites, and the extra step could help prevent them from coming across harmful content accidentally.
The second impact is a bit more complicated. Since the beginning of the conversation about age verification, people were discussing how such requirements could be circumvented. This would hardly be the first situation where a minor was incentivized to get a fake ID and, with today’s technology, there’s no telling how many ways teens could bypass the ID requirement. But bear with me for a minute as we delve into some psychology.
Before the 1950s, the United Kingdom predominantly used gas derived from coal for fuel and lighting. This gas contained 10-20% carbon monoxide and is highly toxic. As a result, the average person could fairly easily commit suicide just by sticking their head and upper torso into their unlit ovens. The leading means of suicide during this time was gas inhalation. However, by the late 1950s, coal gas was starting to be replaced by natural gas, dramatically decreasing this method of suicide. While this was just one of countless options, suicide rates dropped off significantly. Researchers have estimated that by removing this means of fuel from homes, between six and seven thousand lives were saved over a ten-year period. This prompted what is now known as the idea of means reduction, which indicates that when lethal means are made less available, suicide rates fall.
Now let’s take this theory and apply it to something less intense. Are you more likely to cheat on your diet if you have a donut sitting right in front of you or if you have to drive to Krispy Kreme to get one? I would hazard a guess and say that the donut sitting right in front of you is the most likely to be eaten.
Whatever the temptation, it is a lot harder to resist our impulses when the opportunity is consistently within easy reach.
Alright, back to age verification. This second impact has the potential to be two-fold. The first is for the teens who might try to get around age verification. Yes, it is highly probable that some will find a way to still access pornographic materials. However, instead of being able to simply access a website, they will now have to take much more drastic steps, such as getting a fake ID (which is highly illegal) or gaining the technical know-how to circumvent an online security system. Only a small percentage of adolescents will be able to complete the additional steps necessary to access these materials, and an even smaller percentage will have sufficient motivation to warrant risking the consequences.
Now for the second aspect. Age verification still creates an extra step for adults who want to access pornography. Even though they won’t have to go to drastic measures to do so, it will still be harder to access. Whether it’s the inconvenience of going through the verification process, privacy concerns, or something else, this might give them enough pause to reconsider their decision.
Age verification effectively removes the donut from your kitchen, requiring a lot more effort and intention to obtain it. And the impact of this can be seen in Louisiana, where Pornhub has seen an 80% decrease in traffic since the age verification requirement was put into place.
The consumption of pornography has accurately been described as a public health epidemic. It has a host of negative side effects both for users and society as a whole, and as one author writes, “Porn is as addictive as smoking, or more, except that what smoking does to your lungs, porn does to your brain.”
We are so encouraged to see this giant step to protect children from the dangers of exposure to pornography, and we pray that this will prompt adults to limit their exposure as well.