Category Archives: pornography research

Fifty Shades of Grey: Sexual & Pornography Addictions Hurt Everyone

50-shades
Thanks to Danielle Adams of Lifestar Therapy for this guest post, which explains from a therapist’s perspective how this popular book/movie series affects the larger society.

We’ve probably all heard of Fifty Shades of Grey by now, the popular erotica book series and its accompanying films. The story follows the two main characters, Ana and Christian, and their unhealthy relationship revolving around Christian’s obsession with BDSM. And so it goes.

People’s opinions swing back and forth between extremes: it’s trashy – it’s just dirty fun –  it empowers women – it objectifies women. From a purely objective standpoint, the books are not great. The writing is sophomoric, the sex scenes are ridiculous, and the message is a fairly unhealthy one.

So why is it so popular? We could debate the question for hours and still not reach a consensus, but the fact of the matter remains: Ana and Christian’s abnormal relationship feeds into the idea that sexual addictions are easily overcome with merely the right motivation (i.e., the right partner), and millions of women are eating this up.

The Problem

Sexual addictions are primarily thought to develop because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like depression or other mental disorders, and the fact that antidepressants make a difference for some sex addicts suggests that this is correct. Studies have shown that food, drugs, and sexual interests share a common location within the brain’s circuitry. So in the same way that food sounds good when we’re hungry, abnormal sexual activity sounds good to a sex addict when they feel that urge. The addicted brain tricks the body with powerful chemical rewards when the sexual urge is fulfilled. In this way, self-destructive behavior is rewarded and therefore continued, even though the rational mind knows that it’s a problem.

This brain chemistry explanation especially helps to make sense of why accomplished, successful, rational people, men and women, can be just as susceptible to sex addictions as anyone else. A chemical imbalance in your brain is every bit as real as a broken arm or a gash in your leg.

There are many negative consequences of sexual addictions, including greater risk of STDs, low self-esteem, lack of intimacy, inability to maintain healthy relationships, and sometimes even legal trouble. And the harm doesn’t stop with the addicted person; there is often collateral damage. Partners discover the affairs and feel betrayed, family members become aware of the lying and sneaking around and find themselves overwhelmingly disillusioned.

The Fifty Shades Effect

One of the problems with Fifty Shades of Grey is the happy ending. Sexual addictions take years of struggle to overcome. Much of the time they are never really cured; coping mechanisms are put in place and practiced, the behaviors may stop, and the person can resume normal life and pursue healthy relationships, but sometimes it’s a lifelong battle.

Christian and Ana are able to work through his issues and emerge stronger for it, but in the real world, addictions are not resolved so neatly.

Oftentimes, the addict will not get the help he or she needs, or the relationship cannot survive the effects of the betrayal.

If you have someone with a sexual addiction in your life, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you. There is nothing you did or could do to cause it, and it is not your responsibility to “cure” them. Be supportive and encouraging as they seek help, but don’t neglect to look after yourself. For spouses of sex addicts, it can be helpful to attend a support group. It takes immense commitment and consistent hard work every day, but with the right tools, relationships can be repaired and addictions can become a thing of the past.

About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.

 

New Research Reveals How Porn Affects Relationships

man on computer2 morguefile

Couples who believe that viewing pornography is morally acceptable, and who have even heard experts say limited porn use can be “fine” may now be interested in research showing how porn use negatively affects intimate relationships. The research is causing experts to change their recommendations and advise couples (and individuals) that pornography is harmful.

Laissez-fair attitudes about porn are changing, and some heavy hitters have recently voiced their concerns with how widespread porn use has affected modern culture. Following are a few summaries of these changing views and a brief explanation of what experts are learning about what they call “arousal addiction.”

Time Magazine’s April 2016 cover story “Porn and the Threat to Virility” is one mainstream example of how a culture that used to be accepting of porn use is now highlighting how its use can be harmful. Men who grew up using porn as teens have started a movement to expose the harm it has caused in their lives, starting with decreased virility and libido.

For a fairly entertaining explanation of the brain changes that occur with porn viewing, view this TED Talk by Gary Wilson called “The great porn experiment. Wilson explains the physical changes that occur in the brain with porn viewing and how they lead to “arousal addiction.” He also shares experiences from the new control group of men who have become ex-users as a result of widespread erectile dysfunction, depression, social anxiety and memory/focus problems that disappeared once they gave up porn. Pornography use can be more detrimental to teens because of the increased plasticity of their brains, says Wilson. In fact, older men improve their symptoms faster than younger men, but both of them can reverse the negative effects and often feel a “rebirth” after giving up porn, Wilson says.

Relationship experts Drs. John and Julie Gottman released an “Open Letter on Porn” in April that changes their stance on the acceptability of porn use. “Research on the effects of pornography use, especially one person viewing pornographic images online, shows that pornography can hurt a couple’s relationship,” say the Gottmans. Research suggests pornography can be a “supernormal stimulus” that causes interest to decrease in their normal sexual partner.

“Pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony,” the Gottmans conclude. Read their letter for further details; I will merely highlight a few points they make here:

  1. Use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.
  2. Porn use threatens a relationship’s intimacy by causing the partner using it to turn away from intimate interaction with their partner.
  3. Because the person watching porn is in total control of his or her sexual experience, that person may form the unrealistic expectation that sex with their partner will also be totally under their control.
  4. Porn sites often include violence toward women and perpetuate ideas that violence is acceptable.
  5. Porn use can become an addiction causing the same brain mechanism changes that occur with other addictions, such as gambling or drug use.
  6. Porn use can lead to a decrease in relationship trust and an increase in affairs.

In other (not as recent) research, a Journal of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences (Surgical Neurology International) published an article entitled “Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective” by Donald Hilton and Clark Watts, who outline the chemical changes and anatomical changes that occur in the brain with various types of addictions, including addiction to pornography use. They studied the physical changes that occur with porn use as compared with eating addictions, cocaine and opioid addiction, and others.

Some conclusions made in this scientific paper:

“In 2006 world pornography revenue was 97 billion dollars, more than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. This is no casual, inconsequential phenomenon, yet there is a tendency to trivialize the possible social and biologic effects of pornography. The sex industry has successfully characterized any objection to pornography as being from the religious/moral perspective; they then dismiss these objections and First Amendment infringements. If pornography addiction is viewed objectively, evidence indicates that it does indeed cause harm in humans with regard to pair bonding.”

As with the conclusions by the Gottmans, Hilton and Watts also express concern that data demonstrates a strong correlation with regard to pornography inducing violent attitudes against women. They say it is irresponsible not to address this issue considering the current patterns of porn use. (In 2001 87% of college age men viewed porn, 50% weekly and 20% every day or two, 31% women viewing as well.)

The bottom line is that experts are now realizing porn use interferes with healthy intimacy between partners, changes the brain chemistry, negatively affects sexual performance, and can negatively affect performance in other areas of life.

Does this research change your views on pornography?

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.