Pornography’s effects

Recently, there was an article in The Economist on the effects of pornography entitled: “A user’s manual.”  In one section, they say that studies have found that there is little evidence that addiction is a real outgrowth of a daily pornography diet. I beg to differ. In my experience as an Intimacy Behavioral Therapist, I treat men (and women) of all ages who are disassociated from there bodies (in part) as the result of excessive visual stimulation. Scientific studies now show that with habitual viewing, a natural desensitization within the body often occurs. This is not a moral discussion – it is simply the acknowledgment of what happens to the body. If the goal is to become more intimate with a partner, then one’s relationship with one’s own body is the place to begin; and in order to access what is actually being experienced in the moment (sensation focus), deepened breath and inner awareness must be activated and practiced.

In particular, the younger generation is most affected, since they have been virtually brought up on pornography that functions as default sex education. The article states: “The sharpest fears concern teenagers, now likely to see a vast amount of pornography long before coming sexually active. Will they fail to understand how unrealistic it is? What are the pneumatic female stars and the ever-ready, freakishly endowed male ones doing to their viewers’ body image and self-esteem?” These stated concerns (among others) are what I witness in my patients as roadblocks to their ability to create intimacy in their lives.

Later in the article, the question of porn addiction among 12 and 13 year old children, who are just coming of age and into awareness of themselves as sexual beings, is raised. But then it states: “Better evidence suggests that porn addiction, if it exists, is very rare.” This statement comes after having admitted that there exists very little reliable evidence about porn’s effects – which is the case for most sex studies – since many of those polled are not truthful about this sensitive subject. They do say: “Various researchers have found that reported porn use is higher among those with relationships difficulties, erectile dysfunction and many other social and medical problems.” In addition the article stats: “Scans of their brains as they viewed pornography showed patterns typical of drug-takers looking at drug cues. Some displayed a classic sign of addiction: despite craving pornography, they seemed no longer to enjoy it.” Another contributing factor is upbringing: “Conservative attitudes or a religious family background may be the factors that increase the likelihood of reporting problematic use of pornography.”  From my extensive experience helping people with varying forms of social/sexual dysfunction, I find that porn addiction is very real and it’s effects can be devastating.

There is hope. Some of what is suggested in the article to resolve sexual problems triggered by porn addiction is part of what I teach every day: “…mindfulness exercises and brushing up on general knowledge…” Creating trusting relationships requires people to show up, be vulnerable and honest. This is where healing begins.