Saturday, September 3, 2011

Porn May Deter Sexual Violence and Increase Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction


A new study (July, 2011) reviewed in Scientific American and Scientific American Mind - as well as a host of other sites, including Huffington Post - suggests the viewing porn may decrease sexual violence. The distinction must made between "normal" porn and violent or humiliating porn - this is from the SA post in the Stream of Consciousness blog by :
in a 2007 survey of 650 young men, scientists found that users of mainstream, nonviolent pornography were neither more nor less sexually satisfied than nonusers. Both groups felt the same degree of intimacy in their relationships and had similar sexual experiences. 

The men with a penchant for violent or fetishist porn did have a few quirks: they masturbated more frequently, had more sexual partners in their lives, and were not as close to their partners as the average, non-porn-watching male (whoever that is). 
I think what all of these studies are leaving out, and which I see in a couple of men I am working with, is that porn - especially the ease of access to internet porn - can become a very powerful addiction. Patrick Carnes (the first person to talk openly about sex addiction, because he suffered with it himself) offers stories of seemingly normal men who lose their jobs, their homes, their families, and sometimes their freedom because of their sexual addictions. Internet porn may be the most common sexual addiction in America.

A recent article at Psychology Today looked at a less visible problem with the frequent use of porn - sexual dysfunction.
Internet porn appears to be "sex-negative" for many users.


Dismay
A growing number of young, healthy Internet pornography users are complaining of delayed ejaculation, inability to be turned on by real partners, and sluggish erections.

Lots of guys, 20s or so, can't get it up anymore with a real girl, and they all relate having a serious porn/masturbation habit. Guys will never openly discuss this with friends or co-workers, for fear of getting laughed out of town. But when someone tells their story on a health forum, and there are 50-100 replies from other guys who struggle with the same thing, this is for real.
Read the whole article.

As so often is the case, it's not either/or. For most consumers of porn, there does not seem to be any problems, and despite years of feminist claims otherwise, porn does not lead to the devaluing of women - on the contrary, it seems to lead to a "benevolent sexism," the belief that women need to be protected.

On the other hand, trying to repress one's desire to watch more only seems to increase the desire, as research by Michael P. Twohig, a psychologist at Utah State University, when he asked 299 undergraduate students about their use of porn:
It turns out that among porn viewers, the amount of porn each subject consumed had nothing to do with his or her mental state. What mattered most, Twohig found, was whether the subjects tried to control their sexual thoughts and desires. The more they tried to clamp down on their urge for sex or porn, the more likely they were to consider their own pornography use a problem. The findings suggest that suppressing the desire to view pornography, for example, for moral or religious reasons, might actually strengthen the urge for it and exacerbate sexual problems. 
I wonder how this plays into the addiction treatment protocols that often require a complete abstinence from porn?

Finally, as several authors have pointed out, the use of porn likely reflects the users personality, and does not, as commonly asserted, shape the personality. If a young man prefers violent porn, he is already someone who has violent tendencies, so it's not the porn that makes him violent.

Two final quotes:
My take (Ingrid Wickelgren): a lot of things happen to males during their development to shape their brains one way or the other, to be nice guys or jerks. By the time they start watching porn, their habits are more likely to reflect who they are than to shape their personalities in any significant way.
And:
It’s all about “personal views and personal values,” Twohig says. In other words, the effects of pornography—positive or negative—have little to do with the medium itself and everything to do with the person viewing it.

2 comments:

Gary Wilson said...

Thanks for citing our PT post, "Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Is A Growing Problem."

However, we disagree with the following statement:
"as several authors have pointed out, the use of porn likely reflects the users personality, and does not, as commonly asserted, shape the personality. If a young man prefers violent porn, he is already someone who has violent tendencies, so it's not the porn that makes him violent."

We see heavy porn users using transexual porn who aren't transexual. We see gay users using straight porn, and straight users equally mystified by the fact that they are getting off to gay porn. What's more, their tastes change *back* to their former tastes when they stop using porn/porn fantasy for a couple of months.

The reason for the uncharacteristic tastes is almost certainly tolerance (i.e., a decrease in brain sensitivity, which is a common indication of addiction processes in the brain). Watching more extreme porn is the equivalent of using more cocaine as the brain desensitizes. Addiction indicates plastic brain changes. For more on brain plasticity: "Straight Men, Gay Porn and Other Brain Map Mysteries."

WH said...

Hi Gary,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this - for what it's worth, I have noticed that same tendency in the men I counsel.

Have you noticed the same change in interests as it relates to violence as you have in terms of sexual preference?

I see men who are straight using transexual porn after a while, for the same reasons you suggest - it takes more of X to get high (where is X is the drug, the images, the videos). But I have not seen men who are not already attracted by violence move into violent porn - but my sample is small.

I'll check out your website - thanks again for stopping by!