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.

Hate pornography? Hate the porn industry? Work on education, not eradication

I wrote something about this last year, but in the last few radio/podcast interviews I’ve done, more from a “pornography addiction expert” angle than a “here’s my story of porn addiction” this subject has been coming up. Despite my experiences with it and the obvious effect it can have on people, I’m not really all that wrapped up in hating the pornography industry.

Let me preface this. I do hate illegal pornography. I hate that people are forced into porn for fear of their life with no choice. I hate children and animals being involved. I hate when porn crosses a line from “adult entertainment” to illegal activity. That’s not a sketchy industry though, it’s just sexual assault.

I know I’m supposed to hate all porn. My addiction to the stuff led me to a place where I crossed over into the illegal territory. Had I not looked at traditional porn for two decades, I probably never could have reached a place where I was live-chatting with someone who was underage. I completely recognize this.

But is that really the porn’s fault? Aren’t I the one who has to shoulder the blame for convincing a teenager to do sexual things on her computer screen, not the industry itself? Of course.

Do I wish there was no porn industry? Sure, why not. I also wish there were no weapons of mass destruction, 24-hour news stations, racist people and fish didn’t spoil so fast. Could I fight to change any of those things? Yes. Would I win? Not a chance.

I tend to be a socially liberal person and I think even a lot of “conservative” people are secretly socially liberal. They don’t want you to dictate what they can do with their life – they just haven’t quite worked out not telling you what to do with yours. I think for the most part, people want to be able to make their own choices and live with the consequences.

My mission has been to inform people about the potential consequences of looking at too much pornography. Porn addiction isn’t fun, but neither is my alcoholism. I’m not pushing for a new wave of prohibition. It wouldn’t work anyway, we’ve proven that.

I knew drinking could be harmful. I have alcoholics in my family generations before mine. I saw what happened. Teachers made it clear in school and my parents let me know that alcohol could be bad for me. I knew the potential outcome and I did it anyway. I find it hard to believe anybody I see with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth isn’t aware that ingesting toxic smoke isn’t good for your body.

I think it sucks that the porn industry has so many unhappy people working in it, but if you’ve ever walked into a call center or big box retail store, you’ll find plenty of people just as unhappy. You’ll find those employees getting high behind the building, repressing abusive memories and wondering what the point of life is while hoping things get better. Porn stars don’t have the market on workplace unhappiness. They just do it without their clothes.

I also think that we’ve proven working conditions of employees in any industry doesn’t matter to most people. People don’t want to know about the migrant workers who harvested their food or children who made their clothing in less-than-human conditions and when they find out, how many really change? I appreciate illumination of the plight of the porn star, but that’s not a tactic that’s going to change anything, otherwise it already would have.

Is porn unrealistic? Of course. But that’s like telling people professional wrestling is fake. It’s not a revelation, even to the most ardent fan. I’ve yet to meet a porn addict who strove for that lifestyle as a realistic alternative. It’s a place of escape. Sure, you’re get the fanatics, but that exists with everything. One man’s Comic-Con is another man’s Adult Video Expo.  I don’t think most people care about the secrets of the porn industry as if what they are watching is supposed to be a documentary but they’re being conned.

The anti-porn activists who advocate for a more accurate portrayal of human sexuality don’t seem to understand nobody wants to watch people who look like themselves having realistic sex. That’s like watching the unhappy big box retail store employee fumble through explaining the differences between LCD and Plasma big-screen TVs. It’s just awkward and you’re more confused when it’s finished than when you got there.

I could do nothing but sit in front of this computer churning out blogs all day about what I wish was different in the world. Some of those things may be affected if I put effort into it and some couldn’t, even if I devoted my life to the cause. People have been fighting the porn industry for a century. They’re not gaining any ground. Much like the war on drugs, maybe we need to take a different tactic. When your message and method falls on deaf ears, it’s time to evolve.

I think a free society is one that allows people to make their own decisions when it comes to their behavior, especially in situations where potential harm could exist. I think a healthy society is one that arms people with as much information as possible to make the best decisions. Now if we can only work on having a healthy and free society.

If people armed with the knowledge of consequences still wish to engage in behavior that can lead to negative consequences – and it’s not illegal – they’ve been warned. I think if I treated porn any different than cigarettes, greasy food, not using sunscreen or 100 other potentially harmful behaviors, I’d just be a hypocrite. The world already has enough of those.

My battle is against pornography addiction ignorance. That’s a fight I still believe I can impact. Will I win them all? Nope. But a baseball player who fails 7 out of 10 times is still a Hall of Fame candidate. I’ll just keep trying to make a difference and let free will guide others with the information I provide.