The Dangers of Porn


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Introduction

            Porn harms society and people.  This article was written for bachelor’s level college at first, and now adapted into my article.
            This is a document that summarizes current research.  It does not present any new information, although I’ve included my own theories.
            Keep in mind, I will provide links to all the studies within the text.  But some studies may be on scientific journal websites that require membership to access.  In this case, a link will be provided to the study itself.  Some research sites allow you to view the whole article, however, if you sign up for a free membership.

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Harms To The User

Biological

            A recent study by Dr. Kuhn & Dr. Gallinat discovered that chronic porn use can alter your brain matter, i.e. reduce your gray matter volume.  Now, because it’s the first study of its kind, to my knowledge, they’re not completely sure of the direction of causality (chicken or the egg), but it is plausible that porn exposure can harm the brain.  This would agree with studies on the behavior of people who were exposed to porn as children.

Psychological

            Porn has many psychological effects on the brain.
            For example, Dr. Carnes, Dr. Murray, and Dr. Charpentier (see this link) found that sex addicts are more likely to be addicted to other things, probably due to trying to medicate their shame and guilt.
            Porn use can make you more likely to be depressed.  The same study that found that porn may alter people’s brains also found that porn users are more easily depressed.
            Sexting can put you at risk for profound emotional trauma.  A study on sexting by Crimins & Seigfried-Speller found that those who sext are putting themselves at risk for being cyber-bullied.
            Porn use can lower your self-esteem.  Mei and team did a study on kids who engage in “problematic internet use” (which includes “poorly controlled urges and maladaptive obsession with the internet”, i.e. is a broad category that can and does include porn use) among Chinese high school students and found that these kids had lower self-esteem.  In addition, Ariel Kor and team found that porn use can lower your self-esteem.
            Porn use can make religious people less happy.  This might seem obvious, but a study by Dr. Patterson and Dr. Price points it out.
            It can be argued that porn can cause mental disorders, at least child porn.  Dr. Jahnke and team found "higher rates of mental disorders among [pedophiles] may result from, or be exacerbated by … belonging to a stigmatized group."
            Porn can actually suck you in and get you addicted to child porn.  Porn portals can actually cause psychological harm to a user’s arousal template (i.e. what the user is into).  Dr. Carnes found this behavior in studying three internet porn portals: often, the internet porn portals play off of each other, “assaulting” the user with ads for more risky material than they are currently watching.  In this study, Dr. Carnes found that when one of these more risky venues taps into unresolved trauma within a user, this can lead them into more risky behavior because it combines the user’s sense of exhilaration with their past hurts.  This is proved through thousands of interviews with pedophiles and child molesters: they almost always started out with softcore porn.  Basically, porn turns victims into monsters.  Dr. Carnes also found that porn can cause depression and lowered self-esteem.
            Porn harms self-control.  A study by Dr. Ferron and team found that individuals with “low conscientiousness” might become deviant and/or compulsive online.  Ariel Kor and team also found that problematic porn use resulted in less self-control over sexuality.
            Porn also causes faulty thinking.  Jahnke’s study on child porn showed that child porn users overestimated how much stigma the public had towards them, which indicates their thinking is not reality.  Dr. Carnes’s study on arousal templates and internet portals seems to indicate this faulty thinking when users get pushed into deviant and even illegal behavior.
            Porn has an effect on the user’s general mental health as well.  Williams found in a study on personality and porn use that psychopathy and sexual aggression seem linked.  Ariel Kor’s team found that problematic internet use can damage the psyche.  Jahnke found that child porn users suffer more mental health disorders.  Carnes, in his arousal template study, found that tapping into the unresolved can lead to eroticized rage (i.e. rape).  Taken together, these studies show a negative, not positive, effect on the user.

Behavior

            Porn changes how people act, and not in good ways.  Williams found a link between deviant behavior and porn use.  Dr. Crimmins & Dr. Seigfried-Spellar found porn users were four times as likely to engage in sexting, which (see above) can result in risky offline behavior (such as unprotected sex) and increased odds of being cyber-bullied.  But why would people put themselves at risk like that?  Clearly there’s a problem.  Dr. Carnes found in his arousal template study that internet sexual behavior (porn, webcams, cyber sex, etc) can make a person’s compulsive behavior get much worse, and even cause the user to engage in deviant sexual behavior in real life.  D’Orlando found that porn use makes people seek out new and novel behaviors, which could result in them putting themselves into financial troubles, as well as having a negative impact on their current and future relationships.

Relationships

            One of the big impacts I theorize is seen in the combination of research on porn use and Bowlby’s Attachment Theory.  Taking information out of Dr. Clinton and Dr. Sibcy’s book Why You Do The Things You Do, we find that addictions cause a parent to be emotionally, mentally, and/or physically unavailable to their children.  Just talk to people who grew up with an alcoholic parent.  This addicted parent is essentially abandoning their children.  These children grow up with huge holes in their hearts and minds, which can then lead them to try to sooth these pains with alcohol, drugs, porn, etc.  This sets up a vicious circle where addicted parents raise children who become addicts themselves.  This is not just a suggestion: this is reality.
            Porn indirectly damages relationships.  Ray and team found that child porn use is linked, like all porn, to antisocial behavior.  Ariel Kor and team found that problematic internet use has a negative effect on relationship attachment.  Dr. Gilliland and team studied hypersexual patients and found that the majority of them self-reported that their relationships weren’t as close (“insecurely attached”).  Davis & Davis discovered that porn use undermines relationships with parents and friends.  Jahnke found that the more scared a child porn user is of being discovered, the more socially dysfunctional they are.  Carnes found in his arousal template study that porn use leads to the user pulling away from relationships (“intimacy withdrawal”).  Dr Ferron and team, in a study of online sexual infidelity, found that “cyber infidelity is explained by attachment insecurity” (i.e. less meaningful friendships and relationships).  Dr. Perry found in a longitudinal study that more frequent porn use damages the marriage relationship over time.  I suggest that this porn use that leads to damaging marriages can cause a porn user to have less sex and less satisfying sex, which then increases their pain and causes them to watch porn even more, thus another vicious cycle.
            Porn also damages relationships directly.  Dr. Doran and Dr. Price found that porn users are 25% more likely to get divorced and 101% more likely to have an affair, which directly harms relationships.  Dr. Ferron and team found that cyber infidelity is linked to marriage and sexual problems.  They also found that neuroticism is linked to cyber infidelity and being less happy in marriage, though they didn’t show a directional causality.  Dr. Ferron and team also found that porn use caused men to be less satisfied with their sex life within their current relationship.  This supports Carnes’ arousal template study, which found that sex becomes less satisfying for porn users.

Porn Harms Others

It Harms Your Significant Other

            Porn harms others, not just you.  Carnes’s arousal template study first suggested that porn harms relationships, causes users to withdraw from intimacy, and decreases their sex life and sex life appeal.  Even at the base level, more time spent engaging in porn use results in less time to spend with others.  Much less, guilt and shame can cause even more detachment.  Dr. Willoughby and team found that porn negatively impacts 95% of relationships in which only one couple is using porn.  Perry’s longitudinal study found that more porn use results in less marriage happiness over time, thus harming the innocent spouse.

It Harms Your Children

            Again, as Dr. Clinton & Dr. Sibcy found, parents who are addicts (of any kind) have relationships that are less close.  As theorized, your children will have a worse relationship with you, resulting in them growing up with holes in their psyche, and thus often becoming addicts: a vicious cycle.  This is also verified by Dr. Carnes in the book Out Of The Shadows, as well as Dr. Mark Laaser’s book Healing The Wounds Of Sexual Addiction.
            Porn breaks families.  Dr. Walsh studied the life and history of many female porn users and found that female porn users were more likely to be from broken homes and more likely to become divorced.  Also, Dr. Wurtele studied child porn users and found that they had insecure attachments to their parents.  Dr. Wurtele and team suggested that adults who were abused in the past could accidentally expose their children to porn, hence another possible vicious cycle is discovered.

Porn Harms Society

            Probably the most disturbing trend I found in research is that porn can cause harm to society at large.  A few reasons why:
            First, like I already theorized, there’s the vicious cycle of abandoned and addicted parents abandoning their own children, who grow up to become addicts.  Addictions alone cost our society in the millions of dollars.
            Second, child abuse is a similar vicious cycle, as already discussed.  Dr. Wurtele found that past sexual abuse in adults appears to influence the use of child porn and/or becoming pedophiles.  This backs up what Dr. Carnes said about arousal templates.

Conclusion

            Porn harms everyone.  This is extremely easy to prove, as so many studies find so much harm contained in porn.  I strongly suggest that people share this article and raise awareness.

Limitations

            It is understood that, due to using research material about child porn users, some of these effects may be slightly less pronounced.  There’s already a valid link between the two, but I suggest that child porn users see more extreme effects on themselves and others than non-child-porn users.  This simply means one needs to think about each of these studies before generalizing them out to the entire population of porn users.

Helpful Resources

    This section was not a part of my original article, but I have added it here for those who struggle.  These steps work for almost every type of sexual compulsion, but are mainly for porn.
    So you're struggling with pornography?  I understand how you feel.  It is a difficult addiction to overcome.
    What follows is my advice for breaking free.  A lot of this probably came from Dr. Carnes, Dr. Laaser, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and/or Marnie Ferree, so keep in mind most of this advice is a combination of what works.   YOU CANNOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN!  You should do these things, in roughly this order:

  1. Give your life to Jesus and/or establish/re-establish a relationship with Him.  I realize some of you aren't religious or spiritual, but the success of the 12 steps of recovery indicate that there has to at least be something to spiritual growth.  But keep in mind, you can be a Christian and still not have a relationship with Jesus.  I've met plenty of Christians who are like this.  My advice to you: spend time praying, reading your Bible, and going to church, a good church that is compassionate and caring.  You need friendships.
  2. Attend 12 step recovery groups.  They're basically free.  My personal favorite is Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), but there is also Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and Celebrate Recovery.  SAA is the most flexible and adaptable, and in my experience the most available one.  Celebrate Recovery, last I checked, doesn't have a specific plan that helps sex addicts: they go to the "other" category.  Sexaholics Anonymous has such a strict definition of sobriety that few can attain it.  SAA seems like the best fit, in my opinion.  For the 12 step programs to work, you must dedicate yourself and work the steps with a sponsor.  I strongly recommend you attend every available SAA/CR/SA meeting (of your choice) for the first 90 days.  Be there for every one within driving distance.
  3. If your insurance covers it and/or you can afford it, seek out a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT).  Usually they're mental health therapists who have this additional certification.  They can help you with your underlying mental problems (because often addicts are self-medicating something, like anxiety or depression) as well as the sex addiction.  If you cannot afford to see a therapist, at least consider seeking out an American Association of Christian Counselors member in your area ("lay counselor") who can help you with this problem. Lastly, if none of these things work, at least try to see a mental health counselor (therapist) or psychologist and ask them to help you figure out the source of the addiction (i.e. what you're self-medicating).
  4. Get rid of all your friends who cause you to relapse.  Find new, supportive ones.  And be there for them, also.  Many addicts make new friends through the 12 step programs: that's good.
  5. If your work place causes you to relapse, try to change jobs.
  6. If where you live causes you to relapse, try to move.
  7. Read everything about this addiction.  My personal recommendations (see below) are Out Of The Shadows and Healing The Wounds Of Sex Addiction.  If you're a woman, especially read No Stones.
  8. Realize your life is going to change.  This change is good.  Embrace it.  Hold your head up.  Know the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt is proper negative emotions for bad things you've done.  Shame is excessive negative emotions for bad things you've done.  Guilt is good: it leads you to change, ask for forgiveness, and make amends.  Shame causes you to relapse, to self-medicate with other drugs, or even food.  If something causes you shame, try to avoid it.  This means you might have to block or unfriend people from FB who post stuff that causes you to relapse or tempts you.  If your Netflix or TV causes you to relapse or be tempted to relapse, get rid of cable and/or Netflix.  There are other things to watch out there.
  9. Do not self-satisfy.  I've seen too many people relapse over their self-entitled behavior.  You can live without it.  It is a compulsive behavior that will only keep you from breaking free.  I know that there are plenty of people who will disagree with me based on the many lies told by the industry.  They're telling you this to keep you hooked.  Don't believe it.  You may need to ween yourself off of your acting out behavior in steps, and I get that, but make the goal to not self-satisfy.
  10. Consider using blocking software on your home internet and/or computer(s) and or phone(s).  A sponsor or a trusted friend can do that for you.  Also, if you have a burner phone, destroy it and don't get another.  One free method is to use Open DNS: you simply change DNS servers.  But OpenDNS, while being the least intrusive option, is also not perfect.  It's also best done using your router's settings.  Consider Covenant Eyes (they have outright filtering apps now).  Another method used by some people is to cancel their home internet completely.  This means they can only use the internet on their phone or in a public place.  But keep in mind that, while software filtering is a useful tool to keep you sober, it cannot do everything.  There will always be a way around it if you are determined enough.  Some people with spouses will have to have their spouse password-lock all digital devices in the home.  For the few uber-geeks, software won't help, so physical controls might be necessary (only when spouse logs you in, only at specific times of the day, etc).  So this step, while important, may not work for you.  I am a Linux geek who studied and passed the CompTIA A+ certification in 90 days: it didn't work for me.  It may work for you.
  11. If a highway billboard or a strip club is on your drive to work and/or church and it's bothering you, take an alternate route to avoid it.
  12. If you're tempted in ways that include driving (adult book stores, strip clubs, flashing, stalking), have a friend or spouse control access to the keys.
  13. If you're tempted in ways that include pedophilia, stay away from places where children may be present.  Also, for those tempted by pedophilia, flashing, stalking, rape, etc, I'm going to re-emphasize that you get professional help.  Just as (see Dr. Carnes arousal template information above) your sexual preferences may have changed when something tapped into some unresolved trauma inside of you, with professional help it can probably be fixed.

    If you keep these things in mind and take an aggressive approach where you attack your addiction from all sides, you can win.

References