To most, the subject of pornography is confrontational in and of itself, but it would be appropriate for me to explain this problem by including research (and I don’t mean “research”) and reasoning.
I am not a Psychology major, but I hope to turn such problems into a benefit. For a long time, this was an article waiting to be written, but now I have the chance to discuss the subject with people of this all-too-human struggle; especially since this is an online platform that appeals to Millennials, for we are the ones who grew up with the Internet and need to read this.
I would like to start by stating that viewing adult entertainment is not an isolated part of society, especially since nearly half of all male college students would say otherwise. Although women can get addicted, the overwhelming majority of addicts are male. It is not just young people who suffer in silence, but also celebrities, like Terry Crews and Russell Brand.
And I know what you are thinking: “If that’s the case, then I should be fine because everyone else is doing it.”
It is a rationalization that is too tempting to conjure, but it does not mean that it is healthy. In fact, it is that reason why this addiction is a societal problem. There are even companies that produce content and are using their business model to attract the demographics most afflicted with addiction.
However, there is also a growing number of young men who are voluntarily abstaining from viewing the imagery.
You may think it’s not hurting you. Is it not? As it turns out, there is proof that habitual consumption can cause erectile dysfunction among the young male demographic who typically would not be afflicted by it.
It may also be of surprise to find that it can be as addictive as narcotics. It is one thing to watch this material, but it is another to be stimulated by it. The viewing of explicit images and videos among excessive consumers has also been linked to the decreased connection between the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex (which is common in the brains of addicts). If you are stimulated by porn, then you would want to maintain that euphoria without serious thought. This is how the imagery becomes an addiction since it also involves numbing the reward-seeking part of the brain that produces dopamine. This causes anyone being addicted to escalate their fetishes into darker territory. It may not hurt you in the short-term, but the afflictions are very subtle.
Maybe you would want to do other activities that are more productive?
Even if your “activity” lasts for 15 minutes, maybe that amount of time could have been spent reading a chapter from a book. You may have also basked in your lust as a de-stressor. If you felt sad, stressed, or insecure, you would put on Private Mode and go to work. This is one of the symptoms of addiction; by treating something (alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, etc.) as a de-stressor. This would cause it to become habitual until it rules your life.
Dr. Gary Wilson makes note of a group of young men who are mostly not religious congregating around the action of no longer indulging in the content, which includes the founder of the NoFap Reddit thread and movement. A journalist for Esquire.com powerfully stated that the concern of the addiction does not come from religious figures, but “…coming from young men themselves. From us.”
Some claim that this medium liberates women. Does it really? Ran Gavrieli, who has worked with victims of sex trafficking, made it a point in personifying pornography, saying what makes something sexual is, “whatever men find arousing.” Such a statement is easily applied to the mad, capitalistic pursuit of filmed prostitution.
A link does exist between early consumption and misogynistic views of women later in life. It would make sense that a medium that can alter your mind can also alter your view of women as sexual objects. What also makes the industry disturbing is not only the dubious consent by the actors participating in it, but also the predatory nature of people in positions of power to influence the youngest demographic to keep consuming it.
But it is possible to change.
As Terry Crews stated in his video, the more people you tell about your addiction, the less power it has. Shame is a major part of why people continue to struggle with their addiction since it makes them unable to seek help. There has not been a lot of scientific scholarship into this branch of addiction because there were not enough case studies, which are increasing with the rise of the NoFap movement. What the proponents of the movement reported is a boost in energy and sexuality.
I do not think that making something illegal will magically cure the addiction. Such a simplistic act of legislation just does not apply to human nature. I would rather live in a world where such industries are heavily regulated and the population is more educated about this type of addiction.
When someone is addicted and he comes out about it, he should not be responded to with shame, rather with the exact opposite –– with empathy; with the understanding that addicts are really ourselves if we were confronted with titillation and exoticism as self-medication for our own powerless, meaningless lives.
The sad reality is I want to believe that the content is harmless. I want to believe that it is a marriage-stimulator and a sex educator, but there is a difference between wanting to believe something and actually seeing it for what it is.
As a realist, I will say that there is nothing glamorous about the medium. It’s not a loving relationship nor an exotic adventure. It is all just a meaningless dopamine trip.
Not surprisingly, this is how psychologist Gabor Mate connects the power of addiction to the addiction to power.
When this cycle can affect anyone, then it can affect society. This causes the very concept of male sexuality to mutate unnaturally, especially during boyhood. This can especially affect society where there is high expectation on men to be more virulent and tough. Since there is a lot of aggression, coercion, and humiliation in the scenes, almost all of the respondents in one study were either numb to it or were pleasured by it.
Although porn itself is not an excuse for men sexually mistreating women, it can definitely influence that behavior. Since the aggression that is involved can alter the mind, it can also blur the distinction between consent and rape. This can only be possible when the actresses are portrayed as always “wanting it,” regardless if it is in a private or public place. Not only can this rewire male psychology into becoming more aggressive, but also female psychology into becoming more passive.
Women are viewed as sexual objects through a monitor screen, in daily life, and on set. What makes this disturbing is that the industry does not care if it includes ordinary women or sex-trafficked girls since what really matters is how much profit is involved without regard to human life. The people within the industry also seek out girls who recently reached the age of consent.
When the actresses no longer fulfill the expectations of the industry, they are immediately disposed of. What is more, it is impossible for these actresses to reintegrate into society, so when they are not disposed of, they are entrapped in this life. They may also carry with them the sexually transmitted diseases that are prevalent in the industry. By frequenting a site, buying a DVD, or paying a subscription, how would you not be indirectly responsible for contributing to the system that causes these actresses to suffer?
Since women are treated as commodities, this can completely alter the concept of love into one that is less human and more conditional and capitalistic. A former well-known adult film star would have scoffed at love for that reason. He also admitted that during his career, he started to view women as sexual objects.
It would make sense considering how the industry (in most of the content at least) enables you to pick any type of woman you want to be pleasured by, whether she is thin or full-figured, black or white, short or tall, in her 20’s or her 40’s; without much effort.
This may lead you to tell me “Why wouldn’t I want to engage in this? It’s not like I’ll ever meet a woman like that in real life.” That is exactly the problem, which is it raises the limit of what would make the “perfect” woman and places high expectations on women who you never even met. When you look at an adult film actress, you are merely looking at a facsimile of who she really is.
I never want to distance any male readers by insinuating that anyone who watches the material automatically thinks women are sexual objects. If all I did was lecture to the 70% of all young men who use pornography weekly that they are horrible human beings, then they would not listen to me or take the science and the accounts of former adult film stars into consideration.
What the opposition does need to take into consideration is that pornography is no longer opposed just by religious people, but by the young men who were themselves addictive consumers.
To all of the men who might also say “Well, I know that porn’s not real. I would never go out and do the things in it.” Indeed, the majority of addicts do not actually go out and treat women the same way the actresses are treated; but this goes back to what I said about being stimulated by the material (in this case, sexually), then you would want to seek out that behavior in order to maintain that high.
To go back to my disclaimer at the top, although I write about problems that affect women, I am not chivalrous because I am no knight in shining armor. I used to think that anyone who was anti-pornography was either a religious fundamentalist or a feminist. However, what did win me over was the science that can accurately explain without bias the harm that it can cause, in this case, towards women.
The reality is that it is impossible to separate abuse of the female gender from pornography. You can’t eat your cake and have it too. You can’t indulge in a medium that puts incredibly high expectations on women and expect that to not affect your overall view of women.
To somewhat paraphrase my previous article about the addiction, I would rather live in a society where people are educated about the medium than a society where the medium IS the education. There is obviously a lot to stomach when it comes to the connection between this material and misogyny, but I would hope that science would become the truth that sets people free, literally and figuratively.