Porn Addiction: Hidden in Plain Sight

Hands tied together with mouse cordSince my last blog post several of you (all female) have logged onto my website and then called to express relief that I’m writing about something – women and pornography addiction – that many people and the popular media do not recognize as a real problem.  The Washington Times recently published results from a 2006 Internet Filter Review poll which found that 9.4 million women access adult websites each month, and 13 percent of them admit to accessing pornography at work.  And remember folks, this was four years ago!

Another sobering fact has surfaced as I continue to help women who have been sexually abused or assaulted.  The more pornography women view secretly, the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex, which is often dubbed with the misleading moniker ‘date rape.’  As one young woman said to me recently, “It looked like a rip-roaring good time [for both participants] when I watched it online…”

Pornography has been around forever, in one form or another. But with the popularity of the internet it’s become a veritable tsunami of titillation that is readily available to people of all ages and genders. Sex is the most popular topic for all internet searches, with more than 1.3 million porn sites accessible at the click of a mouse. Hands down, online pornography is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction, producing $13 billion in annual revenue in the U.S. alone.  And it’s not going away any time soon, despite frantic efforts to protect children.

Back in the 1980s, I worked with many people experiencing addiction to substances such as alcohol or cocaine. Most of these patients suffered serious withdrawal symptoms, to be sure. And they had to learn entirely new ways of getting through life without the thrill obtained from the drug. But no one needs or requires cocaine to survive, and most people were able to make the changes that kept them away from old relationships, social settings, and parties that encouraged drugging behavior.

Contrast this with addiction to pornography, particularly on the Internet, where most of us spend a great deal of time, whether at work or at home. All people who experience sex addiction have a particularly challenging time recovering because our culture is saturated with sexual images. Sexuality is used, both online and offline, to advertise everything from cars to soap to nail polish.

There’s no way to escape the fascination and preoccupation with sex that permeates our society. Sexually compulsive people are constantly bombarded and tempted with their drug of choice: the endorphins that flood our bodies when we are sexually aroused.

Most people with sex addiction that I work with are significantly impaired in their ability to relate to partners with mature intimacy. They’re usually stuck in early adolescence, or whatever age they first got that ‘hit’ viewing pornography.  People with sex addiction can essentially stop developing spiritually, relationally and morally at the age of the onset of the addiction that binds them as adults.

My colleague Rob Weiss explains this phenomenon: “If a person masturbates to pornography on a regular basis they will actually get attached to having sex with inanimate images or objects rather than real people. Soon they will actually hunger for idealized relationships with images rather than intimate human relationships, creating over time what we call intimacy anorexia. Healthy sex is always relational. Object sex of this kind skews our arousal template, creating a particularly intense ‘buzz’ that can never offer the full satiation and depth of connection that true intimacy can offer.”

Please don’t get me wrong here: as a licensed clinical sexologist I have actually prescribed porn to couples who need a boost or inspiration or ideas to spice up their sex life together.  But I’ve suggested that they watch it together, not secretly and alone in their cubicle at work or in the wee hours of the morning while their partner is fast asleep. Addiction to pornography is a serious problem which needs to be taken as seriously as cocaine or heroin addiction.

© Copyright 2010 by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Deanna H

    Deanna H

    October 20th, 2010 at 4:37 AM

    And how do you even go baout getting help for a problem like this when there is still such a taboo that surrounds it? There are enough people who do not believe that alcholism and drug abuse are diseases much less addiction to porn. And I would have to think that this would be something very difficult to talk to someone else about.

  • wendy

    wendy

    October 20th, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    ok,so I think I am addicted to porn. I’m not sure but I think I am. that’s because I watch it pretty often and I just can’t seem to get into any long stable relationship. and this only helps the porn habit. I stay away from family and there’s really nothing much I do to entertain myself. what do I do? :|

  • TUDOR

    TUDOR

    October 20th, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    watching porn by itself is not the problem but when your relationships suffer due to it and if you find yourself constantly going back to it then it surely is time to get some counselling!

  • FX

    FX

    October 20th, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    @ Deanna H:I completely agree with you.
    The only solution to this problem is to create awareness and eliminate he taboo factor with regard to pornography and then have more and more people come out of their closets to speak about it and thereby solve their problems.

  • Kerrigan

    Kerrigan

    October 21st, 2010 at 4:42 AM

    Kind of shocking to me. I thought that this was something that only men would do. I mean when I get a free minute at work the last thing I want to do is surf porn websites. I would much rather look for some great online shopping deals or even celeb gossip, but porn has never really been my thing and I asumed that this was the case with my fellow sisters, guess I was all wrong about that! I would rather create all of that at home if you get my drift than watch it online!

  • Kensington

    Kensington

    October 22nd, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    My take on it is that more women have become porn consumers due to the availability of it (the internet), as well as the TYPES of porn out there. There are a lot of “by women, for women” porn directors and films out there, which a lot of women prefer (more storyline, less likely to be violent or degrading). There has also been an explosion in the amount of “amateur” porn uploaded for free. Watching a real-life couple have sex can seem a lot more inviting than your typical plastic, desperate “professional” woman having sex with men for money.

  • eva

    eva

    February 2nd, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    Sometimes our problem is not that we don’t know enough, the problem is that we don’t act on what we know.Porn can be considered as a main problem here, it’s a disease that’s been hard to be cure.

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