Is Pornography Addictive?
Part 3 – Who Do You Believe?
This is Part 3 of a three-part series. The opening article can be read here.
A few weeks ago I viewed the 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. It’s a story about a blended family that comes together with a total of eighteen children. The film generates a good dose of humor and wisdom from the many circumstances these two parents face trying to raise so many kids.
When the newly married couple was overwhelmed at the grocery checkout because the bill came to a staggering $126.00, I also realized this movie was an interesting time capsule. But it was another scene that gave me pause.
Sending kids to bed, the mother walks into the boys’ bedroom and discovers one is reading a pornographic magazine. With a quick verbal chastisement, she takes the book away.
Conversely, in the 2003 movie Calendar Girls, which is based on the true story of a few middle-aged women in England who decide to raise funds toward cancer research by posing nude, one of these mothers discovers a porn magazine stuffed under her son’s mattress. Instead of taking it away, she merely tucks it back where she found it.
This difference in reactions is significant and reflective of society’s view of this material. In 1968, a film aimed at family audiences didn’t endorse the possession of “girlie” magazines by young people. By 2003, it’s viewed as part of a teen’s normal healthy development.
This “normalization” of pornography is largely responsible for fueling arguments that it must be protected, in all its various forms, under the First Amendment.
The side arguing this material is merely a benign, prurient form of entertainment, has some well-organized representation to make their point. Organizations like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the Free Speech Coalition are determined to fight for pornographers’ rights, with professionals like Dan Linz, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California who felt the Senate Hearing upon which these articles are based was too “one-sided.” (His written response to these doctors can be found on the Free Speech Coalition website.)
In his rebuttal, Dr. Linz bases his opinion on the notion “science” has not yet identified the existence of sexual or pornography addiction and that medical associations don’t recognize these terms as labels for legitimate conditions.
Ironically, one of the sponsors of the Free Speech Coalition site where Linz’s comments are posted, is the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation. This organization assists people working in the adult film industry with the special medical needs peculiar to their occupation. Following the link to their website, you can find a list of societies dedicated to helping people break out of self-destructive habits ranging from alcohol abuse, drug dependencies, and gambling to—sexual addictions.
(In fact, every sponsoring link on the Coalition’s stars-and-stripes bearing homepage leads to companies connected to the adult entertainment industry. It seems to be a fair conclusion that financial backing from these sources may contribute a certain bias to the presented information.)
For Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, another presenter at the November 2004 Senate hearing on The Science of Pornography Addiction, there is already enough evidence to question the logic of protecting pornography based on its similarities to other forms of expression.
“Upon viewing or reading the ‘expression,’ the pornography addict experiences an irresistible impulse to self-stimulation,” explains Satinover, saying this isn’t the case when reading “Melville, or Batman or The Washington Post.”
“For the addict, this impulse has become more intense from pornography than from people he loves or who love him, and also requires ever more extreme forms of pornographic expression to achieve the same level of pleasure.”
Satinover says pornography is addicting because it uses the same neurological pathways as a drug dependency. In the case of a morphine or heroine addiction, synthetic opioids are injected into the body to induce intense pleasure. With pornography, this happens naturally.
Since the advent of the Internet, Satinover says, “The delivery system for this addictive stimulus has become nearly resistance-free. It is though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes.”
While libertarians, like Dr. Linz, hold fast to the current lack of scientifically controlled data to back the claims of the Senate Hearing’s participating professionals, there is one thing Dr. Linz cannot deny: The personal experiences each of them brought to the hearing.
Dr. Mary Anne Layden succinctly summed it up in the discussion following the formal testimony, “Clinicians who are treating sex addicts do not question whether porn is damaging or not.”
And with the ever-increasing ease of access to this material in our media saturated world, I doubt you’ll have to look far before you observe some of the same negative effects they mention. So, why should we wait to be part of the statistics in a future scientific study?
If you suspect one of your children, your spouse, a co-worker, or a friend has a problem with pornography; here are a few Internet links supplied by Dr. Mary Anne Layton where you can find help and advice:
Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health
Also we offer this guide to sexual addiction treatment from a U.S. company called Recovery Connection.