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Porn Addiction May Not Actually Exist - News Flash!

July Westhale’s Avatar Article by Blog Slixa Late Night

The thoughtful advice and opinions of the author of this article are meant to be informative and entertaining and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slixa.

Surprising research seeks to debunk porn-addiction myths, and highlights the benefits of enjoying adult videos. But is that really all that's at stake in this conversation? Sorry, Joseph Gordan-Levitt, recent evidence is cropping up against the highly sensationalized notion of porn addiction. Despite the popularity of narratives in mainstream media that all center around a protagonist’s inability to stop streaming thousands of nudie videos a day (see Don Jon, see Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke), the concept behind being physically addicted to sex and porn appears to be pretty thin.

This all according to studies conducted by Dr. David Ley, author of a study in the Current Sexual Health Report. Ley argues that there are great benefits to watching sex videos, and that the myth of porn addiction is actually harmful to the creation of a healthy sexual society: “The history and limitations of addiction models are reviewed, including how VSS [visual sexual stimuli] fails to meet standards of addiction. These include how VSS use can reduce health-risk behaviors. Proposed negative effects, including erectile problems, difficulty regulating sexual feelings, and neuroadaptations are discussed as non-pathological evidence of learning. Individuals reporting ‘addictive’ use of VSS could be better conceptualized by considering issues such as gender, sexual orientation, libido, desire for sensation, with internal and external conflicts influenced by religiosity and desire discrepancy.”

Furthermore, Ley argues that viewers who watch a certain amount of porn are more likely to have healthy sexual relationships and commit fewer sexual crimes. Statistically speaking, couples who make porn-watching a practice (whether separately or together) tend to have more open dialogues about sex, negotiation, and desire-fulfillment. Kate Hakala of Nerve further supports Levy’s research, due in large part to the highly commercial aspect that has historically surrounded the porn-addiction stigma. Because the narrative of uncontrollable desire in movies, books, and television has created such lucrative capitol (meaning, primarily, that the concept of porn addiction in our Puritanically-rooted society is absolutely fascinating), it would be an expensive theory for Hollywood to give up.

Ley clearly also finds the lucrative nature of addiction pathology troublesome: “we need better methods to help people who struggle with the high frequency use of visual sexual stimuli, without pathologizing them or their use thereof...Rather than helping patients who may struggle to control viewing images of a sexual nature, the 'porn addiction' concept instead seems to feed an industry with secondary gain from the acceptance of the idea.”

Of course, talking about addiction and mental illness is a slippery slope—the commercialization of porn addiction is appalling whether it is propagating a false idea or capitalizing on a real lived experience. And certainly there are many, many people in the word who would find serious issue with Ley’s claims, including addiction counselors and those who have been diagnosed. And while it is never my intention to devalue or discredit the lived mental illness of those who struggle with the diagnosis, I feel it’s important to create discourse around the possibility of sensationalizing, capitalizing, or stigmatizing sexual desire or identity. This is particularly true if the prevalence of porn addiction as an invented idea is harmful to sex positivity, healthy sexual dialogue and relationships between people, and the freedom to masturbate with visual sexual stimuli.

The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, that we inhabit a society that is simultaneously obsessed with sex and a society that feigns sexual innocence. Why, asks Hakala in her article on Nerve, is there no diagnosis for the morally-driven accusations and obsessions made on the part of those policing sexuality? She writes: “Statistically, people most likely to hop on the porn addict train are usually male, have a non-heterosexual orientation, have high libidos, and have religious values that conflict with their compulsions. Meaning: we like to diagnose things that run counter to our carefully constructed social and family values, when maybe, masturbating frequently is perfectly normal. Watching porn isn't accepted in every circle, so it became quite easy to call the behaviors of everyone — from the helpless, to the hyper horny, to the completely ordinary — an illness.”

Zach Shoenfield of NewsWeek shows the other side of the coin in his article Study Casts Doubt on Porn Addiction, but Counselors Say It Exists. Because Ley’s study is based on the idea that porn addiction fails to meet the general standards of addiction, Shoenfield’s article suggests that the argument may be one of semantics: “Whether it’s addictive or not isn’t the issue,” argued Dr. Kevin B. Skinner, a marriage and family therapist who has his own book on treating porn addiction. “It's what it's doing to the mental health and the relationships of the people that are viewing it daily. Those are the questions I would prefer we be addressing.”


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