Porn addiction – it’s not just you. Truth, reality and hope for addicts and partners.

In 2014 I wrote a serious article with a slightly tongue in cheek heading called  Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?  Now while I admit, I may have been exaggerating slightly, the premise of the article was clearly not entirely without justification. It may seem a little far fetched but if, as I saw tonight while out at dinner, parents are using screens to placate/regulate a child’s behaviour out in public then what does that really mean for that child and their ability to engage with other humans later in life? What happens when, as a society, we are more comfortable relating to a screen or to another human being through the medium of a screen, than we are when faced with a flesh and blood human. One that you can’t simply swipe away when convenient?

How does this relate to porn addiction? Well for many years the debate on porn was centered around the notion that succumbing to the temptation of porn signified some kind of moral failing. From a religious/Christian point of view, it was a question of sinfulness.  A sign that one has allowed oneself to become infected with one or more of the seven supposed deadliest of sins, lust and/or gluttony. Or, from a feminist point of view, porn is seen as the vile exploitation of women as sexual, one dimensional objects with no humanity other than form. Exposure to pornography was seen as something that was detrimental to our morality and incremental to men’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for all things sexual. Yet as Naomi Wolf ironically points out in her article, The Porn Myth in actuality, the end result of too much exposure to pornography has had the effect, not of turning men into sexually ravenous beasts, but the complete opposite; sexual and emotional anorexics who can no longer relate authentically to a real life woman or get aroused by one. As it turns out, excessive viewing of pornography in this digital age turns men off, not on.

As numerous studies now show, repetitive and compulsive viewing of internet porn by men, (and a growing number of women) induces the opposite effect than one might expect, and just like a person who is addicted to a substance grows increasingly desensitized to the drug whilst continuing to crave it more and more, a person who is addicted to pornography finds he/she ends up on pretty much the same, well trodden treadmill. Intensely wanting something that can no longer provide the temporary relief and stimulation it once did.

Recent research implies that internet pornography is as addictive as certain drugs and affects the brain the same way. But, porn’s special hook is that it taps into that human need for attachment by adding into the mix hormones that are normally associated with bonding, love and connection. In effect, a porn addict becomes more attached to porn than anything or anyone else in their life. As a consequence, relationships, marriages, work and soon enough, the relationship with the self begins to suffer.

Porn addiction, like any addiction goes through stages – however, unlike most other addictions, the physical effects of porn addiction are virtually invisible, and the psychological and emotional effects are quite subtle, at first. In-fact, many porn addicts may seek treatment of a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, OCD, as well as physical ailments, stress, other addictions and finally sexual performance before anyone “thinks to ask about their porn viewing habits”.

But more and more studies clearly link issues related to sexual performance, including as I mention in my previous post, erectile dysfunction in men in their late teens and early twenties, (something that was almost unheard of 10 – 15 years ago) back to extensive viewing of internet porn. It is only when they can no longer get an erection, or ejaculate even with porn that some men start to make the connection between their excessive viewing of porn and other issues in their life. Often this is the only thing that eventually get’s their attention. (Their partners, if they have partners, may have known for some time that something was happening, or rather…not happening!)

This sorry state of affairs is bad news for both porn addicts and partners of porn/sex addicts, many who spend night after night lying in bed next to a partner that never seems to be ‘in the mood’ for sex. The result can be devastating to marriages, relationships and the self-esteem to both parties. The secretive nature of most men’s porn addiction may also mean that some partners may not know that they are in a relationship with a porn addict or even if they are aware of their partner’s porn habit, they may not make the connection at first either. Or they may not know the extent of their partner’s porn viewing. The damage this causes relationships is thus far unmeasurable.  One site states that 56% of divorces in the U.S. involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornography among other staggering statistics.

So, is the news all bad? Well, no. Latest brain research shows that the brain is actually very flexible, and  malleable, kind of like plasticine. In-fact the term for the way the brain can change itself, based on what is experienced is called neuroplasticity. This is good news. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the same way you get yourself into a sticky situation is largely the same way to get yourself out of it. While the allure of internet porn may have lost its charm many clicks ago, the habit that it has created will be hard to break. Hard, but not impossible. For men who have lost the ability to relate to women, emotionally and physically, and for partners of addicts there seems little alternative, other than to dissolve the relationship, which let’s face it, is fairly likely. It can’t be much fun to be in a relationship with a porn addict. However, chances are that if you leave a relationship with one porn addict, you are more than likely to run into another just as addicted, or on his way to being so, seeing as in America at least, sex addiction (which porn addiction is a form of) has reached epidemic status, according to this 2011 News Week article.

So, how do you beat a porn addiction and reverse its affects on the brain? Well the answer is simple, if not easy and this is simply to stop it. Stop all contact with porn and masturbating to porn and give your brain a chance to rewire itself and re-learn, or rediscover what comes naturally.

That is the only solution. I did say it was simple, but not easy. Recovering from porn addiction (for addicts and/or partners) takes time, courage and commitment and it is not easy to do without support. There are some very good websites now that can assist, (which I shall list below in the resources) but the assistance of a therapist who is aware of the nature of porn and sex addiction, one who will take it seriously can be fundamental to long lasting recovery. At least, having a close friend or understanding partner (if that is possible) that you know and trust is also important. The reason being that porn and sex addiction most likely mask other issues. Issues such as fear of intimacy, abandonment fears, attachment disorders, and perhaps even trauma. Once the defence of porn has left the building, then there is nothing to protect your unconscious and chances are some deeply buried emotional wounds may re-open.

It’s important to be aware of this possibility as many who try to ‘re-boot’ as it is called on websites such as Your Brain on Porn and Fight the New Drug often try many times and fail because they are inadequately prepared or lack support.

If you are experiencing porn addiction or are the partner of a porn addict, seek help from a qualified therapist and/or see some of the websites listed below for more information.

SOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/
http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts/#sthash.ubb4Ty3m.dpbs
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/05/the-prevalence-of-porn/
http://yourbrainonporn.com/cambridge-university-brain-scans-find-porn-addiction
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361
http://newsok.com/the-five-stages-of-pornography-addiction/article/5407775/?page=2
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/index1.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/13/a-letter-to-my-ex-husband-who-preferred-pornography-to-me
http://www.newsweek.com/sex-addiction-epidemic-66289
http://globalchristiancenter.com/mens/overcoming-temptations/16765-pornography-in-the-church-a-new-epidemic
https://www.lds.org/tools/print/article/narrow/?lang=eng&url=/topics/pornography/audiences/youth/teenagers-and-pornography-addiction-treating-the-silent-epidemic
RESOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/ (Internet filtering service)
http://yourbrainonporn.com/
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/
http://www.posarc.com/ (Partners of sex addicts resource center)

Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?

After a particularly robust discussion on the topic of internet porn addiction involving a frank and open exchange of views I took it upon myself to do some ‘research’ into the subject out of interest.

To be honest, pornography has never really phased me. Nor have I ever really worried about whether or not my partner looked at porn. I just thought it was something that ‘all guys do’ whether they admit to it or not so why bother getting upset about it. Each to their own was my attitude. But more than that, I also considered myself a pretty ‘open minded’ individual when it came to sex and sexuality. To be honest, I guess I had a pretty naive idea about what porn actually meant and what it actually entailed. It did occur to me that an industry which trades on the subjectification of one human being over another was in essence problematic. However, two adults engaging in mutually satisfying sexual communication is one thing, but pornography has nothing to do with that. Pornography, and internet pornography at that is an entirely other animal.

However, putting all morality and feminist discourse aside what I discovered about the very recent phenomenon that is high-speed internet pornography and the effect it is having on men and in particular very young men, is actually pretty terrifying to say the least.

In my research, which existed of Googling the words “brain porn” I came across this site: www.yourbrainonporn.com which I highly recommend for anyone who is worried about excessive porn use and if it could be affecting other areas of their life. Well, chances are it is, according to the most recent research on the neurology of the brain and how it responds in particular to excessive porn use. Some of the findings may be of surprising interest to some of you. I won’t go into all of them here but the one issue which I think is of alarming importance is the link between increasing instances of erectile dysfunction in men (some as young as 21) which is linked to over use of internet porn.

For some of these young men internet porn has become a way of life, so by the time they hit their early 20s some of them have been accessing and masturbating to internet porn since they were in early adolescence. The problem with that being thus, because the adolescent brain is still forming, a dysfunctional relationship between internet porn and sexuality has become hard wired into their brains, so much so, that they can no longer be aroused by a real life person. Their brains have come to associate sexual satisfaction with internet porn. After a while, some of them report that they have no interest  in actually having sex with another person, they would rather watch porn and get off. How absolutely whack is that?!

According to one recent (2014) Canadian study, 54% of young men aged 16 -21 reported some kind of sexual dysfunction including erectile dysfunction and inability to orgasm. Frequency and length of use can also contribute to problems with RL (real life) sex. That is, years of use and frequency of use can wear out the brain’s natural reward system, hijacking it so that it no longer associates sex with real life women as a reward. It associates sexual reward with sitting alone in your room, in front of a computer with one hand on your penis and the other on the mouse.

There has been some recent debate as to whether sexual addiction is a ‘real’ addiction or not. Well, according to the most recent (2013) DSM-V (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) it is, as the brain responds in much the same way and the psycho-social behaviours that sex or porn addicts engage in are much the same.  Avoidance of real life situations, inability to connect intimately with another human being, isolation, shame, increasing instances of depression and anxiety have all been attributed to excessive porn use.

My question is this, if left unchecked and our young men of today are forgoing sex with real girls for the thrill of masturbating to porn alone then what does that mean for the future of humanity and relationships in general? The internet has made it easier to connect at a distance, social media makes it easier to ‘connect’ with others by simply ‘liking’ their post or photos. But, as a species, are we in danger of losing our ability to meaningfully connect in other ways? And if young men in particular are choosing to connect with the image of a porn actress (who will never reject them) on a computer screen rather than risk engagement with a girl (who may reject them) then what about the future of the human race? What about real sex, you know that ol’ chestnut, yeah reproduction of the species? Well that takes real engagement with another human being. And yes, human interaction can get messy. (The sort of messy that you can’t always wipe up with a tissue!) And if half the species are losing their motivation to engage in sexual behaviour with potential mates, then is it only a matter of time until the machines take over all together….?

For more information and links to actual studies check out http://www.yourbrainonporn.com

When sex becomes a loaded gun (Nov, 2011)

Picture this. Three healthy, reasonably attractive but otherwise very different people sitting at a pub having a beer, or two. Two are male and one is female. One is in his twenties (just,) one in his thirties and the female in her (very early) forties. What do they all have in common? They have all decided, for different reasons to abstain from sex for the time being. 
While each situation is different and the reasoning behind their decisions are different, it was a surprise to each to discover that they had all come to the same decision quite independently . While, I don’t want to divulge personal information of the parties involved, I can still talk about myself and only truly speak for myself anyway, and as this blog is all about me I will share the reason behind my decision to embrace chastity. And I’ll admit to being the female in her (very) early forties here (in case you were wondering who she was.)
We live in a highly sexualized society. Sex is used to sell everything from toothbrushes to cars. And these days, thanks to the internet, you can hop online and arrange to meet up with someone for nothing but sex like it’s no big deal. And maybe it’s not. In the sixties everyone was banging on about “free love” and sex without attachment like it was going to revolutionize human relationships. And, I guess coming from the 50’s where relationships and associations were so rigid, it was to some extent revolutionary. 
Nowadays, it seems the pendulum has swung all the way and we have situations like, “Friends with Benefits” – where you are mostly friends with someone except sometimes, you have sex. Trouble with that scenario is that the FWB situation only every really benefits one party at a time, and that is usually the male. The feminist in me hates to admit it, but I have learned through painful experience that as a woman, I am not wired that way. Maybe there are women out there that can have sex “like a man”, but I’m not one of them. If I like a man enough to want to have sex with him, it’s because I see him as someone I want to be in a relationship with pretty much. Which brings me to my next point.
I was in love with a man a little while ago and while the relationship started off in a sexual way, it soon changed into more of a friendship. Basically I wanted more, he didn’t. We still did everything together, except have sex. For a while, it frustrated the hell out of me, but eventually I came to accept it. For him, it was the right thing to do. Very honourable, I must admit and unusual for a man to make the decision that if he didn’t want to commit to a relationship with me then it would be wrong to continue to have sex with me. (As much as he obviously enjoyed it when we did. Had to put that part in. He is no prude!) 
So, on we went being friends and I went back on the dating scene but found that something had happened to me. I had changed. I don’t know if it’s because I was still had feelings for this man but I found myself turning men down who, to my mind, obviously just wanted to have sex with me and while I did not blame them (they are only men of course) and was flattered to a point, the thought of having sex with someone just because I could no longer appealed to me. Even when I was attracted to them as well. I figured, if he is really into me, he will continue to pursue. Or, if he is really into me he will take the time to get to know me. In the meantime, I can wait. I’d like to get to know a person before having sex with them, not the other way around. 
Now, I’m not advocating the hard-core Christian route which advises to wait until marriage before having sex with someone but I can see were this thinking is coming from. Sex can be a special, beautiful, fun and hot thing with someone that you trust and respect and love, or at the very least, like a whole lot. And while sex without attachment has its place and value and I repeat, there is nothing wrong with that kind of sex, it’s just not where I’m at right now. Hence my decision to abstain until further notice. 
I’m not saying I won’t get tempted and maybe I will have the odd slip up or two, and if that happens, I won’t beat myself up about it but the intention is there. And that to me is a huge step forward, into the unknown. There is life without sex, go figure.

On humanity & eroticism (May, 2012)

Of all the philosophers I studied at art school, (the course I studied was very theory based) one French philosopher made such a deep and lasting impression on me that I have, from time to time, felt it necessary to revisit his work. 

Georges Bataille was a librarian by trade but he also dabbled in writing and literary criticism, fooled around with Surrealism and the literature of the erotic. He was a big fan of De Sade but he also converted to Catholicism for most of his adulthood before renouncing Christianity in later life. He was a rebel of magnificent proportions and quietly went about deconstructing ideas and pushing ideological boundaries on a range of topics including economics, theology, anthropology, human sacrifice, mysticism, poetry, murder, art, literature, sex, death, the sacred and of course eroticism. If there is one theme or notion that runs through most of Bataille’s work then it is the notion of transgression. For Bataille, humanity was at its most real when it was somehow able to be in both places at once, in the dirt and the heavens. For him, humanity is aligned as much with the sacred and divine as it is with the base and depraved. And there is but one human act where both of these equally driving natures can share the limelight, and the half-light. The act of sex.

Sex by its nature is the one thing we all do that both binds and divides us. It is the only act that can combine our most lofty ideals with our most basic instincts. The thrust towards eroticism (and the production of art) is the reminder that we all share this compulsion to rid ourselves of our worldly trappings and notions of respectability and revel, if only for a time in the messy, the complicated, the primary and the pure. For Bataille, beauty could be found in a number of places, even The Big Toe which he called, “The most human part of the human body.”
The Story of The Eye (You can download a copy here.)is a far-fetched erotic tale of two teenage rebels who go on a sexual rampage involving all of Bataille’s favourite props; mud, semen, piss, egg yolks, and being French, of course a fair amount of Champagne. 
His writings are worth reading if you are interested in a view of how things fit together that may not on the surface have anything to do with each other. I recommend The Accursed Share, Eroticism, and Visions of Excess as a starting point. 

Finally, the erotic in art is not always about beauty and perfection…it is about beauty which defies explanation and there-for transcends our usual ideals on what is considered beautiful.