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.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Pornography Addiction in Yourself or Others

It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about this, and I always worry that some of the more important, educational articles get buried by ones that might be more entertaining, so I think it’s probably once again time to talk about the signs of pornography addiction.

As always, I want to mention that I am not a doctor, and this should only be considered a guide. If you see these behaviors in yourself, I urge you to do more research and schedule an appointment with a professional addiction therapist to establish your current condition and plot a recovery path.

If you see these behaviors in loved ones, remind them that they can always talk to you, that you are not there to judge them, nor shame them, but you’re concerned they may have a problem and if they ask, you’re there to assist them getting help.

These symptoms were taken from Addiction.com:

Early Warning Signs

  • Lying about, keeping secrets about and covering up the nature and extent of porn use
  • Anger or irritability if confronted about the nature or extent of porn use
  • Sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, including erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation and an inability to reach orgasm

Just because these are the early signs, it doesn’t mean that they ever go away. I was confronted by two women in I my life long before my addiction reached a critical point. One was a girlfriend when I was 20 who happen to see I had a pornographic video tape among my collection of non-porn tapes. She was very anti-porn, so I threw it away in front of her. She didn’t know about the box full of porn I had hidden elsewhere.

I gave that box of porn away before I met my wife. She discovered I looked at porn when I accidentally left it up on my computer. Because we didn’t have problems in the bedroom, she let it go, but I greatly underreported my use of porn to her and passed it off as a “boys will be boys” thing.

Ongoing Signs

  • Escalating amounts of time spent on porn use, with hours and sometimes even days lost to pornography
  • An inability to form lasting social and intimate romantic relationships
  • Intense feelings of depression, shame and isolation
  • Disintegration of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners
  • Loss of interest in non-porn activities such as work, school, socializing, family and exercise

The shame and isolation I felt was because I knew I had to keep my dependence on pornography a secret. Unlike my alcoholism, porn wasn’t something I engaged in around friends, so the feeling of isolation was certainly there. I never lost days to porn, but before I entered the critical phase, just as my life was starting to take a turn, my usage certainly increased. Instead of just looking at it late at night for 20-30 minutes, I was also starting to view it during the day, and I might look up at the clock and realize 2-3 hours had elapsed.

For as long as I can remember, I was never able to just sit and be with myself. Deep down I knew who I was – a scared little kid not built for the adult world who was faking his way through. As my world started to crash, I withdrew from so many people and activities, but porn was always there for me. Even if it was bad for me, which I knew on certain levels, it was always there and I could count on it.

Critical Signs

  • Viewing progressively more intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Escalation from two-dimensional porn viewing to use of technology for casual, anonymous or paid-for sexual encounters, whether in-person or via Webcams
  • Trouble at work or in school (including reprimands and/or dismissal) related to poor performance, misuse of company/school equipment and/or public use of porn
  • Physical injury caused by compulsive masturbation
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues (usually related to illegal porn use)

And this is where it all went bad. Thankfully, I believe I was only in this phase for 6-8 months before the police intervention served as a major wake-up call and was the impetus to turn my life around. I made that move to webcams because I needed to escalate the addiction to the point of interacting with somebody else. Could that have eventually led to meeting someone in real life? I’ll never know, and for that I’m glad.

My business was falling apart, my finances were crashing and in the end, the legal issues hit me like a ton of bricks. All because I didn’t get help in time. I wasn’t aware of porn addiction and it’s a big reason I talk about it now. The more people know, the more likely they are to get help. I implore you, if you think you may have a problem, or even if this blog entry just raises a few red flags, seek help. A place to start can be the RESOURCES page on this site.

Stories from Jail: Realizing the Role Intimacy Plays in Sex and Porn Addiction

As a man of above-average means and intelligence, I was thrust into a world very unfamiliar to me with men I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to engage with when I served six months in the local county jail in early 2016.

There was the occasional outlier (I was in minimum security and in jail, not prison, so I admit I didn’t see the worst of the worst), but I would guess that 60% were there tied to drug/alcohol abuse, 25% for domestic violence and 15% for sex crimes. Maybe some were awaiting trial, while others were serving their sentence, or temporary locked up because of a probation violation, but in my non-ethnically diverse area, this is how it broke down with the 60-80 guys I got to know during my time there.

For someone on the outside who enjoys buzzwords of the day, they would have seen this group of men and immediately said, “This is the very definition of toxic masculinity.”

As somebody who, at the time of my sentencing, had just done nearly four months of inpatient rehab for alcoholism and sex/porn addiction, along with hundreds of hours of one-on-one and group therapy, I think I served as a bit of a de facto life coach/advisor for many of the men.

One of the reasons so many of these men trusted me with their stories was because they knew I sought help for my porn addiction. Despite being locked up for other reasons, the vast majority of these men had clear issues with both sex and pornography.

I recall one man (a domestic violence offender) who came to me off to the side one day and told me that he’d heard me talking to other guys. In his early 30s, he said if he did the math, he probably had slept with 1,500 women. When you break it down as two or three one-night stands per week over a little more than a decade, the number isn’t so unrealistic.

I remember his saying to me, “It sounds like a lot of these have only been with three or four women in their life. It makes me think I may have a problem.”

Another man, there for a probation violation because he was belligerently drunk in public (again), confided in me that he watched 5-6 hours of porn every day and even when he was holding down one of his rare jobs, he’d go to his car during his lunch break and watch porn on his telephone. It had never occurred to him that this could be an issue.

“Sometimes I watch with buddies, sometimes by myself and I don’t *Insert your favorite euphemism for masturbation* a lot of the time. When I’ve had girlfriends we’ve watched it together,” he said.

“Why do you watch it with other people?” I asked.

“I dunno. Cause it’s funny. Or sexy. It’s like a bonding thing I guess,” he responded.

“How else do you bond with people?” I followed up.

“It’s not like I only look porn. I meet a lot of people in bars,” he said.

“Isn’t that the reason you’re here?” I asked, motioning to nothing in particular in the room, about the same size as a doctor’s office waiting room we shared with 6 to 10 other guys.

“I’m gonna think on that,” he said.

Later that night, he came to me, asked to sit on my bunk (standard jail protocol) and said, “I feel good when I drink and I feel good when I watch porn. I don’t feel good too many other times. So maybe like you, my porn watching is just as bad as my drinking and I never knew it.”

“At least it’s not too late for you,” I thought to myself, yearning for the day in the near future I’d be released, hoping he’d get help before his porn problem ever become as critical, or depraved, as mine.

It was in that moment that I recognized while I thought I had real intimacy in my life, I wasn’t unlike many of those men.

I was surrounded by plenty of people in my real life, just like my fellow inmates were. It didn’t matter mine had better jobs, higher educations and could afford nicer things. It didn’t matter that I had two loving parents, a supportive wife and kids who thought the sun rose and set with me while they may not have been that lucky. None of us were willing to stick our neck out and create relationships that went deeper that what was on the surface.

They never felt unconditionally loved, trusted and cared for by any parent or guardian early on, or by any partner as they grew and entered into the world of adult relationships because they were unable to give what they were getting…and when I thought about it…it was my story, too.

Isn’t the physical act of sex and the visual stimulus of porn completely just on the surface? We all intuitively understand the difference between “having sex” and “making love.”

Intimacy is vulnerability, and it’s not just about being physically intimate. When those men came to me with their issues, they were being vulnerable. They shared things with me I never would have shared with anybody.

Despite being more than two years sober at that point, it dawned on me that my recovery had miles left to go and it had nothing to do with porn or sex.

Q&A Time: Is it porn addiction if I’m not actually looking at pornography?

Question: I think I know the answer to this, but want to be sure. I spend a lot of time looking at non-pornographic video clips online that involve naked women, usually from movies, but they are not pornographic. If I’m not looking at pornography, can I really be a porn addict?

Answer: You seem to have decided you’re some kind of addict, and that’s more important than anything else. Whether what you watch rises to the level of pornography is less crucial than you getting help. If you’ve done your research and believe you are an addict, I would urge you to book an appointment with a therapist very soon, or visit my RESOURCES page for more information about getting help.

As far as the question about what rises to the level of pornography, I think it’s two-fold. First, we can agree that there is an industry that caters to the explicit visual sexual gratification of its customers. Whether it’s movies, magazines, strip clubs, etc., I think we can largely agree as society that this falls under the umbrella of pornography. Even this industry wears that label proudly.

The second kind of pornography, from a producer standpoint, I believe falls under the category of “unintentional pornography.” I’m guessing the kind of video clips you’re watching, if they’re from mainstream films, would fall in this column. Yes, I understand Hollywood can make things too sexy and there is almost never any nudity that is actually needed in a movie, but they are hardly making pornography. Unintentional pornography becomes pornography based on your manner of using it.

Another example would be women’s fashion/lifestyle magazines. They are created with the intent of selling advertising and sharing stories to a female audience. Can they be used for a cheap thrill by men? Absolutely. There are more sexual titillating photos in some of those magazines than things like Maxim, geared at men.

Yes, there are some materials out there that operate in a sort of gray space between intentional and unintentional pornography. You can’t tell me that Sports Illustrated is doing anything other than creating sexually visual material when their swimsuit issue comes out, especially when they just use body paint on some of the models. The same goes for some of the “independent” films made that show non-simulated intercourse or feature their actors naked through large sections of the movie. Let’s face it, sex sells. Always has, always will.

As I mentioned above, if you have to ask if you’re really a porn addict, that ship has probably sailed, even if you’re only watching National Geographic specials or looking at ESPN Magazine’s body issue.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to being labeled an addict, but you should start examining the behavior – and reasons behind the behavior – for why you need to ask in the first place.

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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.

My new book for partners of pornography addicts is now available for pre-sale!

I was very psyched earlier today when I found out that my newest book, He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions is officially for sale through the website of my publisher, MSI Press. Pre-sale will be exclusively there for the next six weeks, and then it will open up to typical retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. There’s a special to purchase the book now for 25% off at the bottom of this article that I wanted to extend to my website visitors.

Here’s the current description for the book:

Screen Shot 2019-09-10 at 2.39.49 PMIt can be a difficult time admitting you’re a drug addict or alcoholic, but when it comes to pornography addiction, the pain and feeling of betrayal can hit the addict’s partner worse than the addict himself. Those feelings can be amplified when the pornography addict won’t admit his problem, leaving a partner feeling like there is nothing she can do and nowhere to turn.

While the elite scientists and academics waste time trying to perfectly define pornography addiction, the condition has spread like wildfire throughout the world as access to porn takes little more than a click of the mouse or pulling a telephone out of one’s pocket.

Upon learning – with or without her partner’s knowledge – about a husband’s or boyfriend’s addiction, negative feelings and difficult questions usually come rushing into a woman’s life:

  • Does he look at this stuff because I’m not enough?
  • Was he like this when I first met him?
  • Is this God trying to test me?
  • What kind of help is available for him?
  • Am I just supposed to stay here and deal with this?

A sense of loss, betrayal, sadness and anger is completely normal, but there are difficult questions to answer and a rocky road ahead. The good news is that there are plenty of people who have been through this and their relationship not only survived, but it eventually thrived.

So where is a woman to turn when facing the revelation their partner is a pornography addict? Friends and family? They can offer moral support but likely have neither the experience nor the expertise to lend real help to the situation.

With He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions, you’ll get pertinent answers from both sides of the equation. Tony Overbay is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked with thousands of couples dealing with pornography addiction. Also host of the popular The Virtual Couch podcast, Tony tackles your questions from the expert side of things. Joshua Shea, a former pornography addict and author of The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About, provides answers from the point of view of someone who dealt with a critical pornography addiction, and has been sober since early 2014.

To celebrate it being available through the publisher for the next six weeks exclusively, if you click on this link to purchase and type in FF25 upon checkout, you’ll get $4.99 off the cover price!

Pre-order your book today by clicking HERE