Is Porn Addiction a Myth?

Should porn addiction be banished to mythology?

For a long time now, we have been used to seeing headlines telling us of a growing porn addiction in our society. Internet pornography and its easy accessibility, lack of censorship and the sheer volume available has largely been blamed for this problem. However, a psychologist named Dr David Ley has recently claimed that porn addiction is in fact a myth. Is this an unfair belittling of a serious affliction? Or does it put into perspective what is just an enthusiasm for watching people have sex?

In the UK, one survey of 18–25 year olds has shown that 8 out of 10 men have watched porn on the internet, while over a third of women have done the same. The same survey found that a quarter of men were worried about the amount of porn they were looking at. While this is no doubt a big statistic, are these men right to be worried about the amount of porn they watch? There have been no conclusive negative side effects from excessively watching pornography and there is no link between porn and erectile dysfunction. As people across the country breathe a sigh of relief, it brings to light the absence of studies on the topic. The lack of scientific research in favour of the disorder’s existence is what caused Ley to question whether it is in fact a myth and by extension question those who purport to treat it. Although there have been some studies into the subject, no significant number have been published. This lack of data has meant that pornography addiction failed to be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMMD), the handbook for mental healthcare professionals.

In response to Ley, it can be argued that just because the evidence is insufficient, the condition itself may still be very real. If someone is taking the time to watch over 10 hours of porn a week (apparently 4% of 18–25 year old males), has it reached the point of becoming compulsive, just like being addicted to smoking or drugs? Or perhaps these people just have a little too much time on their hands – literally. Another sub-culture who can be accused of the same thing is the gamer addicts and no one is trying to put them in a manual for mental disorders. Or at least they weren’t until 2013 when it was added under the Conditions for Further Study section of the DSMMD. Without wanting to lump them in the same category, there is arguably little difference between the types of disorder they are (both involve staring at a screen, using your hands, the need for constant stimulation). So maybe it is only a matter of time before porn addiction is added too. A sexual and relationship psychotherapist, Paula Hall, disagreed with Ley by saying that he was dismissing the very real pain that porn addicts and their families endure. Various news and magazine articles on the topic make it hard to deny that people are suffering, meaning there is a case for it to be further looked into and dealt with.

There have been warnings about porn for eons but it seems like society has become a lot more accepting in recent years. This is not to deny that there aren’t genuine concerns, such as people being able to access child porn and other illegal acts far too easily. And the possibility of children accidentally stumbling across images that will scar them for life – or at least until puberty. Then there is the potential for teenagers to have unrealistic expectations of what sex involves, making an unwilling girlfriend or boyfriend perform the freaky stuff one might find in the kinkier depths of the internet. The more prudish concerns, however, appear to be dying out. The average parent would no longer be shocked to discover their once-innocent sprog has had a peek at the steamier side of the internet. In fact, it has been suggested that there are positive effects of watching pornography. Ley and a team of psychologists found that it linked to a decrease in sexual offences as it provides an outlet for illegal sexual desires. Additionally, they found that couples who watch pornography believe it can help them appreciate their partner more in a long term relationship. As porn is primarily used as a masturbation aid, and the majority of people no longer take the hard-core Catholic line that masturbation is a sin that will damn you to hell forever and ever, there seems no to reason to object to those who choose to indulge every so often. Interestingly, it has been found that those who have religious beliefs are more likely to think they are addicted to porn, despite there being no connection between religion and viewing time. This suggests that it is cultural influences which make people only think they have a disorder; their religion may make them feel ashamed or embarrassed by their viewing habits.

While there is cause for further scientific study into porn addiction, it seems the average Schmoe has no cause for concern if their penchant for porn has got a little out of hand. As with most things, there are positive and negative effects and common sense often prevails: when it takes over your life, it may be time to put away the tissues. Otherwise, happy viewing!

Leave a Reply