The World

It’s Time to Admit the Reasons We Tell People to Stay Away From Porn Aren’t Working

I use Einstein’s definition of insanity too many times on this blog because it explain the frustration I feel with a lot of people’s attitudes and actions toward pornography and pornography addiction. I’ve never made my fight against pornography itself because I think it diverts attention from education, but it seems a correlation could be made if people were effectively dissuaded from using pornography, there would be less pornography addicts.

The problem is that our current list of reasons for urging people to stay away from pornography are ineffective. I’m not saying that they aren’t valid reasons – they almost always are. They aren’t scare tactics, which don’t play well with most, but well-reasoned rationalizations for putting down the porn. And none of them work.

I recall about 15 years ago, fast food restaurants were forced to put the calorie content on all of their menus by the FDA, with the belief if we only knew how bad it was for us, we’d stop. Yeah, that didn’t work. People knew fast food wasn’t quality food. In fact, fast food revenues exploded with the invention of the value menus with popular items for $1 or $2. People didn’t want healthy, they wanted cheap. It’s the same story with porn. If you’re paying money for porn these days, you’re doing it wrong. I think most people see it as junk food for the brain. It’s not healthy, but it’s not going to create lasting damage. Our standards reasons to stay away don’t combat that attitude effectively.

Why don’t our go-to reasons for staying away from porn work? I think I’ve figured most of them out:

The actors and actresses are exploited, don’t want to be there and had bad childhoods – All of this may be true, but has it stopped a single person from watching pornography? I think on some level everybody who watches porn understands its very essence is about the exploitation of the human body. As for not wanting to be there, I recently wrote a blog for a freelance client where I had to dig up statistics on job dissatisfaction in white-collar corporate America. Depending on the study, it ranged from 70% to 85%, so nobody likes their job.  As for having bad childhoods and still needing to seek out work, that isn’t a porn-exclusive thing either. I think when most people look at porn, they’re just not thinking about the poor professional conditions because they have to live with those conditions themselves and most would rather be having sex with beautiful people in pretty places than washing dishes at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It’s not realistic and doesn’t depict love – There have been a million and one studies on why people look at porn and one of the top two or three reasons, usually the top reason, is that it is an escape. People understand it’s not realistic because they only have to look to their own lives to reach that conclusion. I don’t think pizza guys and tennis instructors get into those vocations because they see a lot of sex in porno movies for guys in those industries. How many people would want to watch porn if it was people who looked like them doing things that they do? When it comes to love, I don’t think people turn to porn. If they want to see love, there’s a whole Hallmark Channel showing a slightly different version of the same Christmas movie for the next two months.

It’s going to rot your brain – For addicts, it actually does change the brain chemistry, but by that point, any standard reason to not use doesn’t work. I think that we’re told that so many things in this world are going to rot our brains and it simply doesn’t, and most people know that. First, you had people claiming rock music would make us all miscreants and Satanists. Didn’t happen. Then, kids raised on video games would all be prone to violent outbursts. Proven untrue. Porn certainly isn’t good for your brain, but enough people walk away without permanent scarring – or we’re still not talking about that scarring – that this argument falls on deaf ears for lack of proof.

Looking at porn brings you further away from God – I’m guessing this might work on some very devout people, but data would suggest otherwise. Two of the four fastest growing consumer groups of porn are members of the Roman Catholic Church and LDS Church and those who work in service of god (rabbis, priests, reverends) all report higher-than-average porn usage rates. This doesn’t even take into account that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in God or that he doesn’t play an active role in the consequences of their decision making. I have no hard statistics other than my own experience, but I bet 75% of the blogs I find on WordPress that talk about recovery from porn addiction give a lot of credit to God, but threats of the almighty fall on deaf ears prior.

I wish I had some great new techniques and solutions. I think most of the solutions are going to come from talking to our kids while they are young and informing them about the potential physical and mental dangers of taking porn use too far. We can argue whether that has or hasn’t worked with drugs and alcohol, but I think everybody who has a kid that is clean is thankful they said something.

We can keep repeating the standard “evils of pornography” list and while they certainly are valid, they are also ineffective. It’s tough to admit that, but the sooner we do, the sooner people far smarter than I can work to develop the new techniques and solutions we so desperately need.

12 comments

  1. I think the concepts of motivational interviewing are quite applicable here. If someone is ambivalent about making some sort of change and you push them to change, they’re going to push back to stay the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with what you’ve written here and I think it is an important topic to discuss. The reality is the internet introduces pretty much everyone to pornography these days. Even if we use filters for our kids, one day they will outgrow them (!) or just look at materials on their friends’ phones.

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    1. There’s a lot of money to be made in scaring people about the evils of pornography and their children, and the ineffective filters creators know it. It’s like throwing away all of the matches and lighters in your house to keep them away from your pyromaniac kid and forgetting there are plenty of fire-starting implements outside of your house.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We have the situation where many people think it’s ok to use pornography from time to time. I would say that was true in society at large (although not in every sector of society). However, attitudes change when someone admits to it becoming a problem for them. If we could somehow create a situation where there was no embarrassment or shame – and it is fine to ask for help – then maybe that would make a difference. I don’t know ….

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    1. While I don’t think it’s ever NECESSARY to use porn, I also don’t think it’s ever NECESSARY to drink. We may make our greatest strides toward pornography when we normalize it, as strange as it is to say. The United States already tried prohibition with alcohol — it didn’t work. If we can change the attitude that it’s normal, maybe we’ll be more likely to have an influence on those cases that aren’t normal. I know that seems contrary to what most people want to do, but for a net gain in the “not an addict” column, it may be what’s absolutely necessary.

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  4. Seems to me porn addiction’s a lot like video game addiction. No one’s actually getting hurt by indulging in it but studies show it tends to make a lot of people more anti-social, introverted and withdrawn than they would otherwise be. I’m with you, Joshua, there’s nothing I know of that’ll deter folks from doing what feels good but, as for me, it was a matter of becoming aware of the fact I was still as preoccupied with porn at age 60 as I was at age 14! It was time to put away childish habits and I sought the help I needed to do that. It won’t go away on its own and, as you know all too well, it can take you places you never intended to go. That’s the only message that stands a chance of working.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s great advice for anyone to hear. I still have this suspicion that if we can introduce the concept of PIED – porn induced erectile dysfunction – to boys in their early teens, we may see a great drop in those guys who make it into their early 20s as addicts. I think a lot of guys might give up porn if they were afraid they couldn’t get it up with a real life girl when that day finally came if they looked at too much porn as a 14-year-old. Porn isn’t going to turn us into a nation of rapists, just like video games didn’t make us more violent. Let’s not use theoretical scare tactics…let’s use the provable known science.

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  5. People throughout the ages have been intrigued by and have enjoyed watching strangers (getting sexual gratification in the process) having sex orgies. Roman, and Greek societies to name but 2. The same intense emotions and feelings come to the fore when watching internet porn or a Roman orgy.
    The issue is that today, we are over exposed to porn and evocative clips and movies on the internet that are free of cost Increasing the volume and the accessibility of education material about porn that is not centred around shaming and blaming, available to all ages could make a difference. Religious faiths condemnation does not help either. I do not think this will happen in my life time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Personally, I think the only way people will give up any addiction is when they really see themselves in the mirror. I don’t think there’s a way for any external entity to force that upon someone–it’s a stubbornly internal process. However, if there is an external argument to be made, I think if someone would have told me how isolated, lonely, and worthless chronic pornography consumption can make you feel, perhaps I would have made the connection between these feelings and pornography sooner. Appeals to a God unknown or to the vulnerabilities of digitized screen women is akin to trying to break a ships hull with pebbles.

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    1. Good analogy. I honestly do wonder if there was a external message at any point that could have got to me. What stopped me from being a food, gambling or heroin addict, yet not alcohol or porn? Something just clicked there for me.

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