A follow-up on “Porn shaming”

My post from 12/28/14 titled “Porn shaming” has been my most-read post by far (three times that of the second most read post). In it I discuss how conservative Christianity uses “porn use” and “porn addiction” interchangeably — to them, there is no distinction (at least when it comes to any remote regularity of use). So, I was very fascinated when I came across this article by the American Sexual Health Association (HT to Shaun Miller’s Ideas for the link): 

What about the notion that some people become ensnared in an out of control online porn spiral? A Swedish study (Ross et al, 2012) found that 5% of women and 13% of men report some type of sexual problems related to online use, including the frequency and amount of time spent looking at pornographic imagery.

But does that mean most of these folks are truly addicted to porn? In the Swedish research only 2% of women and 5% of men reported having “serious” problems. Further, a number of experts don’t believe that sex or porn addiction actually exist, and say such behaviors are perhaps better described as compulsions rather than true addictions.

For insight we turn to Dr. Eli Coleman, who is a Professor and Director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Coleman, a member of ASHA’s Board of Directors, conducts psychological research in treating a variety of sexual disorders, compulsive sexual behavior, HIV prevention, transgender health, sexual identity and sex therapy.

[…] First of all, we have no idea what is excessive. The range of pornography use is quite varied. The amount of use is not necessarily correlated with problematic behavior. One has to look at the impact of the use of pornography on an individual while understanding that most of it is quite normal, fulfilling desires for erotic expression through fantasy.

[…] I don’t’ think that excesses in behaviors should be viewed as addictions. I think that term “addiction” is overused and implies that all behavioral excesses can be explained by some similar mechanism. What we know about alcohol and drug addictions cannot be simply transferred to other behavioral excesses. Sex is a basic appetite which for some people becomes dysregulated or out of balance for a variety of reasons. For some it is a problem of impulse control, for others it is more like an obsession, and for others it is like a compulsion. And for others, it is a part of personality structure and has nothing to do with impulse control, obsessions or compulsions.

Now, I don’t think the pornography industry is a great thing — we should work to improve consent and reduce exploitation as much as possible, something that simply shaming and/or banning doesn’t do. There’s a fascinating documentary called After Porn Ends that gives us a look into the difficulties women (and a few men) who leave pornography have in society and the workplace — it pointed out the hypocritical relationship we have with pornography that a male employer can get off to a woman in porn one night and then deny her a job the next morning because of her past porn career. It’s terrible the dehumanization that can come from the porn industry.

That said, conservative Christians are just factually wrong about porn. As the above article points out, the amount of porn that counts as problematic is extremely subjective and varies from person to person. But, that doesn’t fit the narrative of men as sex animals that need to be tamed by marrying a good virgin. Having a sex drive is not problematic. Managing your sex drive through (consensual) outlets is not problematic. Attempting to deny that sex drive exists doesn’t teach anyone to manage their sexuality in a healthy way. My life has been a lot better (with less porn, nonetheless) since I’ve decided to manage my sexuality in a responsible, safe, and consensual way rather than just run away from it.

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