Sex & Relationships  
comments_image Comments

Is Porn Addictive? There's No Proof

The author of a new study on "porn addiction" talks about why the concept is all wrong.

Continued from previous page

 
 
Share
 
 
 

The second thread that we found, which I really think is valuable and is being missed by the porn addiction label, is that there is consistently evidence that higher levels of libido and higher levels of sensation-seeking and higher levels of sexual sensation-seeking seem to predict higher levels of porn use. Again, that is a thread that is present in some of the earliest research and writing on porn addiction, but it has been ignored. It draws us back to the person and the variables or values that they bring to their pornography use, rather than the porn itself.

What does this tell us then about how clinicians should deal with patients who complain about compulsive and excessive porn use?

It tells us first that clinicians need to be very careful at assessing that individual within the context of their life. What we find is that individuals who are reporting or being reported as having problems with excessive porn use are likely to be male, gay or bisexual, have experienced negative life events in the past, have a high libido and a relationship mismatch around sexual desires. Clinicians, when they run into these conversations, will do best by talking to the people to identify how all these variables play a role in the person’s identification of porn as the problem. The difficulty is that if you take away porn but don’t address the issues in the relationship in communication, in coping, in emotional management, the person’s higher level of libido or desire for excitement and sensation, you have other issues that are being unaddressed or will come up, because porn is not the problem.

If there is so little empirical evidence for porn addiction, why has it become such a popular and widespread concept?

We put forth three reasons. One is that it is an easy answer. It is an easy answer and an easy scapegoat in a society and a media that applies the concept of addiction to any overuse of anything. Secondly, it is a cultural control of sexuality, and particularly the forms of sexuality that are now widely available and difficult to control due to modern technology. There is the old saying “don’t give away the milk away for free because nobody will buy the cow” as a way of controlling sexuality. Well, porn, and Internet porn in particular, doesn’t just give away milk, it puts it in a high-speed faucet right in your room. That is concerning to society, to people in relationships, because it represents a significant loss of control of sexual expression and experience. Lastly, and this is one of the ones that is gonna be controversial, there is a large, lucrative industry that experiences tremendous secondary gain from the promulgation of this concept. As part of this paper we had a grad student call porn addiction facilities around the country and get an idea of the cost — and the costs were extraordinary. The average was $675 a day. These facilities were recommending or requiring stays anywhere between 15 and 90 days. Insurance doesn’t pay for this; it is cash only. The other thing that is really troubling is that there is no data to show that these very expensive programs generate positive results. There is an industry — and unfortunately I count the media in that as well, because the media makes lots and lots of hay by touting the issue of porn addiction, and even by raising the controversy of “is it real or not?” There is a lot of money to be made in keeping this thing alive.