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.

Fascinating Stats: Does Watching More Porn Make You Realize You’re Bisexual?

Note from Josh: Let me preface this article by saying that I think the following data is fascinating. I do not want any conclusion drawn that it somehow shows I have any negative feelings toward anybody’s sexual orientation. I have no problem with any gender or sexual identification. I say be who you are, not who others tell you to be. I do, however, think that any data we can gather that further illuminates who is watching pornography can do nothing but help us understand the grip it has on people. I draw no value judgment on this data, but I thought it important to share. If any disparaging remarks are left in the comments section about gender or orientation fluidity, they will be deleted.

While I think their product is garbage, I have always been complimentary toward Pornhub’s annual release of their analytics, which give us a better understanding of how more people are using porn, exactly who those people are, where they’re from and what kind of material they are looking at. Recently, another very popular site released data that was compelling about the sexuality of their viewers.

While PornHub is the nation’s 7th most popular visited site, xHamster, the creator of this new report, is the 27th. For statistical purposes, their content, like PornHub, is all over the place, not catering to any particular demographic. xHamster claims that it polled around 11,000 of its users to get this data. If true, that’s an amazingly large sample group and since their site is one of the most popular in the US, should paint a relatively clear picture of who is using their site.

I’m taking the screen captures directly from their blog. It’s completely SFW and there is no nudity at all. It goes more in-depth than I do here. Obviously trigger warning, but if you’re interested in seeing the other stats, the link is: https://xhamster.com/blog/posts/934387

Here’s the first slide…

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.41.53 PM

Their site reports:

“…while women who watch porn were more than twice as likely as men to identify as bisexual, nearly one-fifth of men in the study identified so as well. These are much higher numbers than have been previously reported.”

Consider the 11K interviewed, I have no doubt this is accurate, but it is surprising to me. When given the luxury of anonymity, over 32% of porn users do not identify as heterosexual. Personally, I would have thought the straight and gay numbers would have been higher.

On to the next slide:

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.42.07 PM

Now, we have to remember that this is a pornographic website, not a site that interprets the Bible. While you can’t really stereotype a porn user into any specific demographic these days, those who use the Internet tend to be younger and more liberal than the generations prior.

It’s hard to get a real statistic on how many people overall in the US are gay or bisexual, with figures ranging from the low single digits to the high teens depending on which study you look at.  I think these numbers are much higher than the overall national average, but it is telling that they are tied to porn viewing.

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.42.18 PM

For me, this is the most fascinating slide in the entire study. There is no correlation between homosexuality and frequency of porn usage, and it clearly drops in frequency among heterosexuals, but it grows among bisexuals.

This leaves a lot of unanswered questions: Does this graphic speak to a bisexual person’s tendency to watch more porn or a person who watches a lot of porn’s tendency to identify as bisexual — and how many of these people who are identifying as bisexual have acted on those feelings in real life?

The site attempts to analyze some of the data by getting even deeper:

We also wondered if there was some way that women porn fans — 38% of whom in our study identified as bisexual — might be somehow skewing the data. So we repeated the calculations with just men. The results were even more dramatic.

Just 10.8% of men who watched porn once a week identified as bisexual, but 27.2% of men who watch porn multiple times a day identify as bisexual. (After all, if you’re looking at naked men all day — even if there’s a woman in the picture — maybe it opens you up to a broader ideas about human sexuality.)

I think it’s absolutely fascinating that more than one-out-of-four men who view porn on a daily basis through this particular site identify as bisexual. It again brings up a lot of interesting questions and I mostly wonder if these men have engaged in a bisexual physical relationship away from the computer.

Since the frequency of viewing is at least once a day, it might be safe to assume that these are the problem viewers who are either addicted or close to it. That means that they have built up a tolerance to run-of-the-mill “vanilla” porn between a man and a woman. Like the alcoholic who starts with beer and moves to the harder stuff, are these viewers watching more exotic or extreme genres of porn? If they are, and they find themselves not repulsed by what they see on screen, might they make a leap that they are more open to different kinds of sexuality other than just heterosexual? One of the top guys at xHamster told the New York Post that was the conclusion they reached:

“We can only provide correlation, not prove causation, but it would seem that watching porn more frequently helps show users what sexuality can be,” xHamster vice president Alex Hawkins tells The Post. “The more porn you watch, the more you may think, ‘Hey, that’s actually somewhat of a turn-on. Maybe I’m not as totally straight, or gay, as I thought.’”

I don’t know what it all means, or if it has to mean anything, but it’s interesting. I hope that actual scientific research is done into sexual identity and porn usage in upcoming years. xHamster, despite publishing porn garbage, has provided us with an eye-opening look into its users that can be a jumping-off point for real study.

I’ll leave you with this final slide…

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That’s depressing. There’s still so much work to be done.

Q&A Time: Is it OK to Watch Porn if I Don’t Become an Addict?

QUESTION: I listened to a couple of your podcasts. Good stuff. I heard you say on two different shows that you think it’s OK for people to watch porn because most don’t become addicts. Do you really believe that?

ANSWER: If those were my words, or what you inferred, it came out a little wrong. What I believe is that people can look at pornography without becoming addicts, not that I think they should look at porn.

From a strictly scientific standpoint, just about anything can become a bad habit or an addiction. For me, it was alcohol and porn. But I also can enjoy things that others find troubling, like gambling, eating or video games. Based on statistics available, far more people are able to take part in these activities and not develop a problem than those who do. That’s moral-free math talking. So, yes, I believe that somebody can look at pornography and not become addicted.

That said, do I think people should look at pornography? No. While there are some who preach its benefits in their relationship or simply appreciate the release it provides without becoming problematic, at its core, it’s people selling their bodies. I don’t think that’s a healthy thing on either side of the transaction. The only porn that exists is porn that objectifies people. Is it OK if the person being depicted understands this? I still don’t think so.

I’ve always found it crazy that many pharmacies sell cigarettes. It seems completely counterintuitive to their mission statement, unless it’s “make money at all costs.” Selling people an instrument to give them emphysema only to turn around and sell them inhalers is a brilliant business model, but is it ethical? CVS finally recognized this a couple of years ago and pulled all cigarettes from their stores.

I see CVS ending this hypocrisy along the same lines as porn stars, producers or cam models saying that since they are doing it willingly, it’s OK. It’s nice to know that nobody has a gun to your head and you’re not being trafficked, but it’s still objectification and you don’t know whose hands your product is falling into. They say if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Where do you fall in this equation, Ms. or Mr. Porn Star?

I don’t specifically tell people not to look at porn mostly because of my philosophical leanings. I’m very much a libertarian and don’t want people telling me what I should or shouldn’t do with my life. If I have this belief, it’s hypocritical to tell people what to do. I’d rather provide them with data and let them make their own decision.

I also don’t tell people not to look at porn because I think it comes off as shaming and that’s not a good way to encourage healthy behavior. It’s manipulative. Making somebody feel worse about doing something that they likely already know is not good for them doesn’t magically make them stop. It just makes their self-loathing they already feel even worse. I don’t want to be the person to contribute to that.

Maybe I should change my answer to: “I can’t think of a reason someone MUST look at porn, but of those who do, many don’t end up addicted.”

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Is Porn Viewing Becoming a Problem? Six Questions to Ask Yourself

As a generation of people who never knew a world without the Internet become firmly entrenched in their 21st century jobs, we’re just starting to see fallout from the first couple of decades of having the world at the end of our fingertips.

Sure, we no longer need to visit a library, video store or travel agent since these services are now just a click, instead of a car ride, away. But, to obtain and view pornography, the days of sketchy XXX theaters, scuzzy adult bookstores and mail order are now just a click away.

This is not a good development. Statistics regarding the use of pornography have not only exploded in recent years, but so have the documented cases of pornography addiction.

I was lucky in that I had the resources to seek treatment at an inpatient rehabilitation facility and that was where I learned that women can also be porn addicts. Despite reading similar statistics that suggest the ratio of female-to-male porn addicts is 1-to-5, Of the 15 people in my program, only one was a woman. She told me in conversation that while it’s shameful and embarrassing for a man to seek help, it is downright unacceptable for most women to even admit to viewing porn where she came from. How can you get help if you can’t tell anybody you’ve got a problem?

Most people who view pornography neither develop an addiction nor break the law, but for many who end up with a problem, like I did, it often isn’t recognizable until it’s too late.

Have you been wondering if your porn consumption is starting to become an addiction? Here are several questions worth considering as you reach your conclusion:

 

How much time am I spending with porn? There’s nothing inherently wrong with using visual aids to enhance masturbation, but when you’re watching three, four or more hours of porn daily, it’s gone beyond a simple self-pleasuring tool. How many photos, film clips or websites must you visit to be satisfied? Has this number grown over time? Do you find that you’d rather watch porn than do other things you once found pleasurable? When your duration of use continues to escalate and that time is replacing experiences that once brought you pleasure, it should be a red flag. Porn is quickly climbing the list of priorities in your life.

Is what I’m watching different than in the past? Most people who become drug addicts don’t start with the hardest stuff possible, but end up there. The need to escalate comes from the brain’s desire for the same dopamine hit that once came easier. It explains why those with gambling addictions make increasingly larger wagers and how the marijuana user evolves to heroin. There are plenty of people into roleplaying, S&M and exploring their sexuality in extreme ways in photos and on film. Have you found that the content of the porn you watch is becoming more extreme? Does what you once watch not do it for you anymore?

Where am I viewing porn? Most people view pornography in the privacy of their own homes on their computer screen, television or in the pages of a magazine, end of story. A study that’s almost 10 years old suggest that nearly a quarter of US workers view porn at work. Do you think that number has gone down or up in the last decade? Even more than that watch it on their phone, in the bathroom at work, or while driving in the car. Are the places that you’re watching porn not considered traditional? If so, when did this begin? Why can’t you wait until you get home?

Who am I lying to about my viewing? Statistics suggest that the majority of the people who have access to a computer are watching pornography with some kind of regularity. Since self-pleasuring is usually accompanied, the entire topic is one many shy away from. But, if your use is starting to enter problem territory, the odds are good someone may have broached it with you. Did you lie? How big was the lie? Were you flustered and irritated they asked in the first place? Would you lie about your porn use to the people absolutely closest to you – those who you could otherwise tell everything?

How are my intimate relationships? If you’re in a relationship, has the frequency of physical intimacy dropped, but the use of porn increased? Many people being using porn within a relationship to enhance the experience, but if your partner is not into it, this can leave one wanting more. If you’re not in a relationship, do you find yourself paying for sex or frequenting strip clubs more than before where emotional intimacy is not a subject to be bothered with? Does the viewing of porn make you want to seek out casual sexual encounters? The idea of being intimate with only one person for the rest of their lives freaks out a lot of people. That’s natural if you’re one of them, but what is your long-term plan in lieu of lifetime commitment?

How do I feel about yourself? Addiction of any kind often brings an increase in depression, stress and anxiety. Immediately after you use porn, does a sadness wash over you that is hard to explain? Most addicts feel isolated and alone, even if they’re constantly around people and unlike some addictions, porn is the kind of addition one generally engages in privately. Are there feelings of shame when you think around your use of pornography? Do you wish you could slow down or stop, but find it impossible? Do you worry about where this is heading?

 

You probably had a good idea if you were addicted to pornography before answering these questions. A more important question is if you’re going to do anything about it. The disease of addiction is something that can be fought, and it’s easier to do the sooner an addict faces their problem.

If you can’t quit cold turkey, there are 12-step resources like Sex Addicts Anonymous available. Most private therapists can speak to the issues of addiction, if not porn addiction specifically. For the critical, there are inpatient rehab options available.

Suffering alone, in shame, is not necessary any longer. If you believe you may have a pornography addiction, or are developing one, seek help.