1. printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings. (Oxford Dictionaries)
In recently reading Dr. Marty Klein’s book titled: His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's Porn Panic with Honest Talk About Sex (link to purchase here), I can say that I appreciate his approach in discussing our panic as Americans over this divisive topic. Many aspects are covered in this book and among them the most salient tone is how as a society we are into the business of fear mongering, moral prescribing and promoting pathology. The panic that has been perpetuated by the media, and premature findings in Neuro-Science point to demonizing and scapegoating porn as the main culprit for unhappy/failing relationships and other societal perils. Yet, upon further exploration pornography may not be the sole culprit for some problems attributed to it after all.
Dr. Klein points out that porn is to be consumed by adults, as it is an adult product and has a few chapters outlining the importance of honestly talking to not only partners in our relationships; but in also having difficult conversations with our children about this topic especially in this internet age.
Porn viewing can serve different purposes and the consumption of porn has many different audiences. Porn is not solely consumed by males, in fact a growing number of women are also consuming porn at much higher rates. There are also many facets to porn. With book sales of the popular hit Fifty Shades of Grey series hitting over 100 million, one can see that the appetite to consume fantasy driven sexual material (porn) is as high as ever.
Another key point that Dr. Klein repeatedly expresses throughout his book, is that porn is not intended to be a real depiction of what actually happens during real world sex between adults. Porn is engagement in fantasy by the consumer. It is not as he says: “A documentary”. I’ll repeat that Porn is the consumption of a fantasy. In the realm of fantasy an important note is that what makes fantasies usually titillating is the fact that they are just that: an imaginative state with the person not having any intent in actually carrying them out; but more on that topic in a later post.
However, this leads to where the waters can get muddy for individuals, especially children that may access porn. Children are not developmentally, psychologically or emotionally ready to understand the implications that inappropriately consuming adult material may have on their development. This is where Dr. Klein posits that parents take a realistic approach and talk with their kids about adult material and the inappropriate nature of viewing it.
Also, I have to mention that in relation to inappropriate consumption by kids, and one thing parents overlook too often is the video games their children play. Video games can also contain highly explicit violent and sexual content not suitable for children, which will also be a later topic on this blog. Parents and children need to talk about what real world relationships look like and foster open communication with each other about these topics and get to the point on how pornography is not an appropriate platform to learn about real world sexuality.
An in depth look at how porn viewing affects couples is also covered in the book by sample cases in his therapeutic practice provided by Dr. Klein. Insecurity of husband’s desires for the women they see depicted in porn is a common theme expressed by distressed wives in couples’ therapy. Also, people having difficulty in understanding why they may be in a relationship with a partner who watches porn and fear that their partner may have a deficit for doing so is also covered. I think that is important to discuss when people label their partner’s behavior or their own actions as problematic/sick. If a person feels that they or their partner have a problem with viewing pornography uncontrollably there may be some other aspects that may need further evaluation if in fact there is a problem. A sex positive approach is what is suitable and necessary in approaching and sustaining sound therapeutic care. Factors that can be contributing to distressing behavior can be related but not limited to: anxiety, depression, hormonal/endocrine problems, medication side effects, obsessive/compulsive behaviors, relationship issues, intimacy difficulty and other environmental or biological factors.
If any of these problems are exacerbating the use of porn, then people may need to seek professional help in order to address deeper emotional issues that may be prompting distressing behavior(s). If you are not sure where to seek help, ask your physician or seek out a psychotherapist who specializes in helping people who are feeling like they need help with this and related issues. Ask potential therapists you speak with what their views on porn use are and how they may be qualified to help you.
There is a growing consensus among therapists who are currently turning away from attaching a porn addiction label to clients/patients and are focusing on treating porn use behaviors as part of: Out of Control Sexual Behaviors. The conceptualizations of therapists and their approaches in treatment vary between cases and therapists. A key article recently published in this debate on the label of the treatment of sex addiction can found (in this link here). Usually, if a person is utilizing porn to substitute for relationships or is feeling that porn is interfering with their life, the porn consumption is a surface level problem masking a deeper issue.
Dr. Klein also explores/debunks some myths surrounding porn and the effects of mass porn access since the launch and access of high speed internet in the early to mid-2000’s all making for a compelling read. A relationship that has been studied is that in areas where porn is consumed at higher rates, a correlation exists between porn consumption and decreased rates in: divorce, teen sex, abortions, and sex related crimes e.g. sexual assault/rape.
In conclusion, porn like any other adult geared material/goods for consumption e.g. alcohol is to be done so responsibly. As adults, it is a constitutional right to view adult material for adults and one who wishes to do so has that freedom. These freedoms exist as long as the material is legal and depicts behaviors/acts between consenting adults. We must however, be aware of how our porn consumption affects not just those in our lives, but what drives us as individuals to consume it and how that relates to our relationships and ourselves. Also, we have to continue to have open conversations about our views regarding it if we are to maintain self-awareness of our behaviors, feelings and thoughts.