Porn is Not The Problem – You Are

 

 

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Todays post is by Dr. David Ley from the other side of the Porn/Sex Addiction fence. This post is meant to provide a different take on Porn and Sex Addiction.

 

I’ve got a startling piece of information for you – porn is not addictive. Sex is not addictive. The ideas of porn and sex addiction are pop psychology concepts that seem intuitively true, but have no legitimate scientific basis. For decades, these concepts have flourished in America, but have consistently been rejected by medicine and mental health. I can go on at length about this history, and why these aren’t real diseases or disorders, but I frankly think that kind of argument is boring. But it really does matter, if you view porn or sex as an addiction. Because when people buy into the belief that porn is addictive, it changes the argument, and all of a sudden, it seems like it’s porn and sex that are the problem. People start saying things like: “If everybody knew how dangerous porn and sex were, maybe we wouldn’t get into these problems.” But sex and porn aren’t the problems. You are.

People do have a strong response to video pornography. Porn is very good at triggering male sexuality. The economic forces of the open market have driven modern internet porn to be very, very effective at triggering male sexual buttons, to get them aroused. But women actually have a stronger physiological response than men and based upon this research, women should be more addicted to pornography than men. But the overwhelming majority of the stories we hear about are men. Why is this? Because one part of this issue is an attack on aspects of male sexuality, including masturbation and use of pornography, that society fears and doesn’t understand.
Porn can affect people, but it does not take them over or override their values. If someone watches porn showing something they find distasteful, it has no impact on their behavior or desires. But, if someone watches porn they are neutral about, then it does make it slightly more likely that they would be interested – anal sex for instance. If I find it disgusting, watching anal pornography isn’t going to change that. But, if I am neutral on it, then watching anal porn probably will slightly increase the chance that I would be willing to at least give it a try. But, there is the crux of the issue—the people who gravitate towards unhealthy, violent porn, are people who already have a disposition towards violence. So—the problem is not in the porn, but in those people. Regulating porn access really is going to make no impact on these people as they can (and do) find far more violent and graphic images in mainstream Hollywood films like “Saw.”
Here’s some often-ignored real science about porn – as societies have increased their access to porn, rates of sex crimes, including exhibitionism, rape and child abuse, have gone down. Across the world, and in America, as men have increased ability to view Internet erotica, sex crimes go down. Porn is good for society. Daily masturbation or sex is good for your health too – men who have more sex live longer, women who masturbate have healthier relationships, men who masturbate have healthier prostates and decreased cancer, and couples who watch porn together have healthier sexual relationships.

It is getting increasingly difficult to find men in our society, who’ve never viewed pornography. But, if porn were the problem – if porn were addictive, then the problems of porn would be far, far greater than they are. In fact, in a couple of recent studies, fewer than 1% of people report that they have had problems in their life due to difficulties controlling their sexual behaviors, including watching porn.

So – if you are one of that 1%, then what’s going on? If it ain’t the porn, then it must be you. Something about you (more than one thing, usually) has led you to be a person who makes bad decisions about sex. Now in that, you’re not alone – it is in fact a universal truth that people tend to make poorer decisions when they’re turned on, whether it’s choosing not to wear a condom, or choosing to masturbate to porn when you shouldn’t. Call it “sex-goggles,” and recognize that human sexual arousal affects our decision-making.

But, there’s more than that going on for you, if you’re on this site, and have decided that porn is your problem. Here’s some more real science, that suggests some of the things that are going on for you – you like sex. Wow – earth-shattering, right? But legitimate science has found that self-identified porn addicts tend to be people with high libido. Further, you might have grown up in a home (or culture) where sex and masturbation were seen as morally wrong. You are also a person who can get turned on very quickly, when you want to (when you choose to)..

Now – I’m not saying that having a high-libido is a bad thing. In fact, one of the things I argue is that men who like sex have changed this world, and made it better. Rock stars, politicians, and sports stars all tend to be men who have high libido, and a high desire to succeed. Sometimes, they want to succeed so they can have lots of sex.

But, if you are a man who likes sex, and likes porn, is that something you’ve ever really owned? I’m sad to say that our society has not taught men how to identify and negotiate their sexual desires or needs. We treat sex like a dirty secret. Then, when we get caught, we feed into that dirty secret mentality, and treat sex like it’s the problem.

Those other men, who like sex, watch porn, and don’t get in trouble with it? How do they do that? One thing is that they understand themselves, and their desires. And sometimes, they sit down with their wives and girlfriends and have a real, open discussion about their use of porn, their interest in it, and what it means, and doesn’t mean, about their attraction to and interest in their partner. That’s a hard, scary discussion (and not one for the first date, please). Because it requires a man to stand to up for himself and his sexual desires, to be willing to negotiate for those needs, to be willing to compromise, but stay true to himself, while asking for the same in return.

Another thing about those guys, who don’t get in trouble? They are paying attention to themselves, and they are doing the work that is needed to make good decisions. Some men have the internet or cable turned off in their hotel rooms, or install a net nanny on their own computer, so they have less temptation. That’s not because porn is the problem, but because these men are recognizing (when they’re not turned on), that they need to do the prepwork, in advance, to make good decisions. It’s okay to admit that you make shitty decisions when sex or porn are involved – you’re not alone that, and it’s not a sin. But, the responsibility is on you to identify why and how you make bad decisions, and take steps to make better decisions in the future. When you blame the problems on porn, you’re telling yourself “porn is more powerful than I am.” And I’m here to tell you, that’s not true – you can take responsibility for your life, your sex, your good decisions and your bad ones, and have the life you want.

Dr. David Ley is a clinical psychologist who practices in Albuquerque, NM. He is the Executive Director of a large nonprofit behavioral health agency providing mental health and substance abuse services. Dr. Ley has published two books, Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them (2009)  and The Myth of Sex Addiction (2012) . Dr. Ley is a popular speaker and writer, with guest appearances on numerous television shows, news commentaries and, radio shows. He has been interviewed in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Dr. Ley has published in both the popular and academic realms, and has provided clinical and consultative services throughout the US and internationally.

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