Why is Porn Such a Problem Anyway?

Image courtesy of http://www.silicon.co.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2012/04/Internet-porn.jpg

Porn is often demonised by the evangelical Right with their rule book for appropriate sex, or dismissed by the liberal Left who don’t believe this is a problem that affects them directly. As Jane Langton explains in her “Motion for Masturbation — The Naked Truth

“In the ancient aristocracies, the wealthy men had courtesans for pleasure and concubines for quick sex. In the way we’re going, computers will be our concubines, internet pornography our mistress of the day. Technology is fast replacing human connection at high speed.

‘So what?’ You say. ‘It’s just a wank, a private affair, nobody’s getting hurt.’ The trouble is that porn is addictive and as with many addictions, there are negative consequences. Porn enthusiasts may not be hurting other people directly and yet, when you add up the adverse impact on relationships, on self-esteem, the distorted view on attractive mates … this is collectively harmful; anaesthesia for intimacy.

I surveyed my own network on Facebook and got about 100 responses from friends and friends of friends, asking them general questions (not too invasive) about porn consumption and online activities (all media types) that they will and won’t pay for online. Three quarters of them said they accessed porn and 50% confirmed they would only consume free porn, giving the reasons:

  • Concerned about site security with payment details
  • Didn’t want to support the porn industry with money (obviously happy to support through enthusiasm, since consumption has no impact)
  • Didn’t want porn companies/subscriptions showing up on bank statements

 When asked for their thoughts about female nudity online, most of them gave comments along the lines of “it’s fine, as long as she’s not exploited”, which I thought was interesting considering most of them weren’t paying. When I played this insight back to my male friends (at least the ones who’d given consent for further contact), they simply said they’d never given the issue much thought.

It seems the short-term benefit of turning us on, is at odds with switching us off over the long-term. I don’t think demonizing porn is constructive and in a similar philosophy to decriminalizing the use of drugs, I would like to surface sexual debate into public consciousness, so whilst the specifics of our desire remain private, we can work towards de-stigmatising, de-sensitizing and de-sensationalizing sexual appetite.

Still need convincing?

Here’s Maureen McGrath, in her TED talk on “No Sex Marriage — Masturbation, Loneliness, Cheating and Shame”:

Sexual dysfunction among men under 40 is increasing, and the U.S. Navy thinks porn is to blame. In a new review published in Behavioral Sciences, Navy urologists, neuroscientists and psychiatrists report that 15 years ago erectile dysfunction rates were negligible (2 to 5 percent) in sexually active men under 40. Now, the research indicates that rates are as high as 30 percent in this same age group.”

The line-up continues with Gary Wilson, in “Your Brain on Porn” who reiterates this challenge:

Addiction to internet pornography is a very real phenomenon with a very real impact on well-being. It is a phenomenon which has grown exponentially in the last decade, even though it has remained largely invisible and undetected by society. Tragically, its risks continue to be ignored or actively denied by all but a few enlightened medical professionals. It is a phenomenon that is not just here to stay, but also likely to increase. It is almost certainly the cause of the widespread sexual dysfunction found in recent studies of late adolescence. It is a problem that is most likely impacting you, or your loved ones, without you even being aware of it.

And Ran Gavrieli summarises his departure from porn for two reasons:

“The first one [reason] was that porn brought so much anger and violence into my private fantasies. And these were anger and violence that were not there originally to begin with. And I did not want it for me anymore. This was not me and, I decided to just put an end to it. Easier said than done — I got it later on.

The second reason was that I came to realize I think that only by watching porn I take part in creating a demand for filmed prostitution because that’s what porn really is: filmed prostitution.

Pornē stands for prostitute; graphia stands for documentation. And prostitution was nobody’s childhood dream, it is always a result of trouble and distress.”

How bad does porn addiction have to get before this issue gets elevated to urgent, rather than the occasional vague nod from politicians when a horrific story surfaces in the media? How many experts must commit reports on the dark side of porn before we take action? As feminism shouldn’t just be championed by women, porn needs deliberate attention and analysis from everyone.

Porn may intimidate us, with its bouncing breasts, tiny waists and prepubescent-styled vulva. Porn may horrify us with scenes of firehose semen spraying groups of girls – lapping it up like a probiotic shake. Porn may outrage us with its exploitation of women — who may perform increasingly aggressive scenes for decreasing amounts of money, not to mention the risk of STDs. Perhaps porn is simply seen as online manspace, since we are often told that “men have greater sex drives than women”, thus porn is practically medicinal for guys who can’t get the amount of sex they “need” at home. Whilst all of these views are understandable, they’re not helping us move forward as a civilised society enjoying nooky.

By not talking about porn, we renounce our right to shape the erotic media industry, which will evolve with or without our input. By abstaining from conscious awareness, we can’t design or measure what is actually going on. We leave “insights” to the dubious speculation of companies like Porn Hub, who make bold claims on “what women want”, but base this research on flakey demographic data from Google Analytics.

It is even difficult to measure the impact of porn because so many men and teenage boys are exposed to it. It’s extremely challenging to form a control group of men who haven’t watched porn.

If porn is affecting how straight men relate to their partners, this impacts the relationship and the self-esteem of them both. A reduction in the quantity and quality of sex, may add to the allure of porn and thus create a vicious circle.

And if that isn’t bad enough?

There is child pornography.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s