Porn addiction: what’s the problem?
13 February 2014, 10:35
Abuja - With the recent buzz around porn addiction, I decided to watch the movie Don Jon, the directorial debut of Joseph Gordan-Levitt of Mysterious Skin, Inception and Looper fame, to name a few. In the movie Gordan-Levitt plays Jon, a 20-something modern-day Don Juan whose list of priorities is pretty simple: “My body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls and my porn.”
He’s young, good-looking and financially independent, and has a very active sex life. However, Jon is more satisfied by pornography and sees no problem in this – until he meets the girl of his dreams, played by the sultry Scarlett Johansson.
She, however, is not as receptive as all his other one-night stands are to his sexual advances, which, to him, makes her all the more attractive (forbidden fruit being more alluring etc, etc).
Finally, the two have sex, but Jon is still dissatisfied, which forces him to acknowledge that he may actually have an addiction to porn – especially after his lady-love catches him masturbating to porn right after they’ve made love.
Long and hard facts
Before the dawn of the Internet, pornography was hard to come by and was only ever found in the suspicious-looking brown bags of customers leaving sex shops, under and inside the mattresses of prepubescent boys or considered a vile go-to sex aid for perverts and "ugly people who can’t get laid”.
However, as more people gain access to the Internet, the more people (under-aged kids included) are gaining access to pornography – and this previously unreached flurry of viewers are the ones who have turned the porn industry into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
With an estimated 420 million sites to choose from, there is no shortage of material and the urge for more is just a click away. Some researchers have suggested that 37% to 80% of the Internet is porn.
These figures forced a panel of experts, in 2010, to testify before a US Senate subcommittee that "a product which millions of people consume is dangerously addictive." They were, of course, talking about pornography.
The panel likened the effects of porn on the brain to cocaine, called it toxic and posited that “prolonged exposure encourages a preference for group sex, sadomasochism and sexual contact with animals and children.”
But it would seem that not everyone is convinced that it is actually addictive because, just like the outrageous sex acts in porn movies, it seems the figures are also greatly exaggerated.
According to Ogi Ogas, one of the neuroscientists who wrote Billion Wicked Thoughts, out of the million most trafficked websites in 2010, only 42 337 were sex-related sites. That’s only about 4% of sites.
So, is it addiction or compulsion?
A medical debate presently rages on as to whether excessive porn use is a compulsion or an addiction.
In a WebMD feature, sex therapist Prof Louanne Cole Weston takes issue with calling problem behaviour involving porn an addiction.
“There’s no doubt that some people’s porn consumption gets them in trouble – in the form of maxed-out credit cards, lost sleep, neglected responsibilities, or neglected loved ones. But the difference between describing the behaviour as a compulsion or an addiction is subtle, but important,” Weston argues.
According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, compulsion is “an irresistibly persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing)”, while addiction is “a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substances such as drugs and is characterised by tolerance or well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.”
People are starting to take the condition seriously
Despite porn addiction not yet being listed in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, as an official mental disorder like gambling or drug addictions, therapists and mostly religious support groups (for obvious reasons) alike are starting to take the condition seriously.
For what it’s worth, neither porn addiction nor sex addiction is presently classified as an official mental disorder. The popular opinion is that they are both compulsions that can have serious effects on an individual’s sexuality or social functioning.
However, all is not lost because any decent therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist will recognise this and provide you with tools to curb your dependency on pornography.
Essentially, it comes down to calling a spade a spade in order to treat it accordingly.