3 Things I Wish Sex & Pornography Addicts Understood about Pornography

3 Things I Wish Sex & Pornography Addicts Understood about Pornography

Over the last year, three ideas about pornography consumption have stood out as common areas of misunderstanding amongst recovering sex and pornography addicts. I highlight these misunderstandings here in the hope that they can inform and validate partners of sex addicts who may have been gaslit with one or more of these rationalizations, and to also invite a shift in perspective for those struggling with these issues or beliefs. 

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CONSUMERS GET DESENSITIZED TO THE VIOLENCE IN PORNOGRAPHY: Research shows approximately 88% of mainstream pornography contains violence1, and yet it is extremely rare for a sex or pornography addict to admit exposure to violence in porn, not to mention being deeply impacted or aroused by sexual violence. If you have consumed pornography on a regular basis, it is virtually impossible for you to have avoided violent content. Furthermore, the chances are high you have become desensitized to both the subtle and blatant violence contained in mainstream content. When an addict says he or she is not “into violent porn,” what they often mean is that they do not intentionally seek out pornography containing obvious rape or torture themes. However, to ‘pollute the fantasy’ surrounding the content a person is drawn to, it is critical to recognize and acknowledge all forms of violence one has become desensitized to or aroused by. Without this awareness, it is impossible for the arousal template to be thoroughly examined and healed, and for appropriate amends to be made.

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THE BRAIN DOES NOT MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN “PRODUCTION/FICTITIOUS/ROLE PLAY” CONTENT AND “AMATEUR/REAL” CONTENT: I have heard many addicts attempt to justify or downplay the pornography they use by pointing out that what they watch is “not real,” or was “produced professionally” and is, therefore, less serious in nature. First, let’s be clear about an important neurobiological fact — to your brain and nervous system, it does matter where or how pornography is made. Moreover, produced material is hardly void of exploitation or abuse. In fact, some would argue produced material is more vulnerable to exploitation because of the money-trail inherently embedded in it, as well as for the pressure producers will put on performers to engage in increasingly more shocking or extreme scenarios. Furthermore, a pornography user can never guarantee Internet pornography did not involve someone being harmed, abused, coerced, demeaned, trafficked or negatively impacted by or through its production.

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‘COMMON’ DOES NOT EQUATE TO HEALTHY: I cannot count the number of times I have witnessed an addict justify pornography use by claiming how “common” pornography use is or erroneously stating “everyone is looking at this stuff!” This schoolyard line of reasoning is nothing new, but it is important to acknowledge that this mindset hinders one’s ability to humbly and clearly recognize how sexually explicit and exploitive content is impacting themselves and their ability to relate in healthy ways with others. Statistically speaking, the production, distribution and consumption are not just common, they are unprecedented and rampant! According to Pornhub’s 2016 year in review, humans spent 4.5 BILLION hours (ponder that for a moment) watching pornography in one year and on one website alone, making the actual total much higher. To say pornography use is common is a moot point. Instead, what needs to be highlighted is the fact that a growing body of international research reveals pornography use is associated with sexual dysfunction, relationship dissatisfaction, addiction, aggression, negative body image, decreased empathy, and backward views of gender roles. Common and healthy are not the same thing.

1 Bridges, A.J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: A content analysis update. Violence Against Women, 16, 1065-1085.