The current media fest around Hollywood personalities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey has focused on the issue of sex addiction and offending behaviour. Little has been said however about the likelihood of addiction to internet pornography as a contributory factor, a common effect of which is risk-taking behaviour including abuse of power and coercion. The latest pornography research helps to place these issues into context. Sex offenders can have both porn and sex addiction disorders, one exacerbating the other, along too with problematic use of alcohol and drugs. See our short posts about addiction and behavioural addiction. Seeing these behaviours through the lens of the addiction model, with continued use despite negative consequences, can help us consider appropriate treatments and remedies for those trapped within it. Understanding that the brain is plastic and can change, gives us hope that offenders can learn to let go of anti-social behaviour, if they are willing to do so.
It is worth noting the recent research developments into the effects of internet pornography on an individual’s physical and mental health and behaviour. Here are some links that will take you to the heart of this work. The majority focus on the potential for internet pornography use to lead to addiction or to harmful consequences.
There are now 37 neuroscience-based studies providing strong support for the addiction model. They have used a wide range of techniques including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG). Others employed neurospychological and hormonal approaches.
Taking a wide view, in the last few years 13 literature reviews have been published by some of the top neuroscientists in the world. These reviews also support the addiction model.
There are now 18 studies reporting findings consistent with escalation of porn use (tolerance), habituation to porn, and even withdrawal symptoms. Escalation, tolerance and withdrawal are strong indicators of an addiction process
The potential for pornography consumption to impact on sexual health is explored in the 25 studies which link porn use/sex addiction to sexual problems and lower arousal to sexual stimuli. The first five studies in the list demonstrate causation as opposed to just correlation, a weaker standard. Causation is strong proof of the effect of internet pornography on the brain. In these studies participants eliminated porn use and healed chronic sexual dysfunctions. This demonstrates more readily that it was not underlying personality disorders nor childhood issues that caused the addiction, but rather the impact of a supernormal stressor on the brain over a period of time. Once removed, the brain was able to recover a more normal and sensitive response to stimulating material.
The largest group of studies are those linking internet pornography use to less sexual and relationship satisfaction. At present we are aware of 55 studies that demonstrate this outcome.
Over 40 studies now link porn use to poorer mental or emotional health and poorer cognitive outcomes. You can access them here.
There are now over 25 studies linking porn use to “un-egalitarian attitudes” toward women. Might this pornified, hyper-masculine culture be responsible for the increased toxic environment in today’s Hollywood, Westminster and other workplaces where there is sexual discrimination and abusive behaviour towards women (and feminised men)? If so, we need to educate our public that it is not ‘normal’ or safe to internalise such behaviour. Rich or poor, powerful or not, individuals need to learn that their excessive personal pleasures can lead to harm and have to be curbed if we want to live in a civilised safe environment.
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