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Coming Out as a Porn Addict (theatlantic.com)
158 points by jseliger 1547 days ago | hide | past | web | 145 comments | favorite

I think it's telling that the author draws a parallel with the so-called rape culture. It feels like the concept of porn addiction (which is far too loosely defined in this article to be seriously considered) is being used as a tool to retain control over the male libido. Whereas previously women held the proverbial keys to the kingdom, men now have a safe and easily accessible outlet.

But society shames that outlet, attaching emotions such as guilt and repression, and drawing a tenuous connection to an eventual loss of self-control. It does not directly address what should be considered a healthy libido, only that by refraining from any sexual activities at all the brain will somehow eventually reset to a "natural" state, which seems to be defined only by a lowered interest in sex.

The part where the author describes his experience sharing his porn with his partner I found especially disturbing. His partner expressed outright disgust, and then described what followed as mere "fucking". This does not properly address the facet of the libido that demands fulfillment without the pressure of a performance. Men are under tremendous pressure to perform with almost every sexual act, even with long-time partners, and sometimes it's easier, simpler, and more appropriate to fill those needs alone with non-judgmental and even wholly private materials.

Please give an example of "society" shaming porn.

It's a pervasive cultural meme. How many times have you heard people talk or joke about "getting caught" or "walking in on someone" viewing porn? Have you ever been working on a friend's computer and joked about accidentally stumbling onto something embarrassing? Have you seen any of a myriad of comedy films which feature porn-related mishaps involving embarrassment? And then of course there's religion: as far as I know, all the major world religions condemn pornography.

It's also considered embarrassing to be walked in on taking a shit. To me, that doesn't imply that mainstream society holds shitting as shameful or immoral, in fact just the opposite.

I would assume most religions do condemn porn but mainstream US society is not religious.

Mainstream US society is fairly accepting of porn. The fact that it's joked about is basically evidence of this. Nobody jokes about e.g. getting caught fucking children, which IS condemned by mainstream US society.

The point is anytime somebody talks about having a problem with porn, there is some kneejerk reaction about how he is just confused by an unenlightened puritanical society, as if he is incapable of deciding for himself whether or not porn is negatively affecting his own life.

>mainstream US society is not religious.

Only 17% of Americans are non-religious.

And only 19% of Americans say religion is not very important to them (including the 17% who are non-religious).

A majority, 55%, of Americans say religion can solve "all or most of today's problems."

Perhaps more pertinent, a minority of Americans consider pornography "morally acceptable." Even among Americans ages 18-34.



> It's also considered embarrassing to be walked in on taking a shit.

Yes, as would getting walked in on having sex with a partner. But in which of those three cases would the joke be on the person getting caught?

> mainstream US society is not religious.

You might be filter bubbled. Most polls I have seen show at least 70% of Americans consider themselves religious.

> Nobody jokes about e.g. getting caught fucking children

Except for lots of comedians, and in fact, the humor comes directly from the fact that society shames the practice (rightfully so).

I don't believe, nor anyone else I hope, that the prevalence of jokes are a statistical tell about the true societal gauge of what is moral and immoral. Jokes are made about pedophilia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KyMhpzNNlM), jokes are made about bacon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaK9bjLy3v4), let me know if I'm wrong, but those seem separate from each other on the spectrum of "no-no's." Citing how comedians feel about something is not great in the way of proving a point about how the majority see that thing.

There is a bench on our main road that says 'Watching porn will lose you your JOB FAMILY FRIENDS AND KIDS. PORN WILL DESTROY YOUR LIFE.'

Caps are not my emphasis. Glorious Waco, TX. Two miles away was a billboard of a mother discarding a baby into a garbage can for some anti-abortion campaign.

Once I read the first line I immediatelly remembered that sign on Valley Mills and thought: "could this be a fellow sufferer from Waco?" :-D This reminds me how much I look forward to moving out of Waco this summer.

The one on Valley Mills is much easier on the pornographic indulging soul.

The one I mentioned was near 18th and I35 on the way towards the Planned Parenthood clinic. Haha.

Ah, I didn't notice that one :)

I wonder if it's possible to be addicted to passing judgment and feeling morally superior. There are some, especially in the religious right, that seem to commit a lot of mental energy to things they purport to hate, like sexual deviance and infanticide. From a distance, at least, there seems to be a compulsive quality to it. Why decorate a roadway with messages about awkward or obscene subjects, grabbing your attention and forcing them into your conscious awareness, unless there was some kind of reward? Indulgence in covert fantasies? Or something like schadenfreude?

There is a similar anti-porn billboard on I45 just south of Dallas.

Sorry but a bench on the main road in Waco, Texas in no way constitutes mainstream US opinion on porn.

Go watch some porn in public.

It's not so much watching porn in public... I wouldn't want to see to people having sex in public, but how even talking about it is a verboten subject. Of course, talking about your sex life is probably also problematic, so I don't know. Does society shame porn?

Society (at least in the US) shames the use of porn if you're male (loser, pervert, can't get laid) an praises the use of porn by women (independent, empowered, sexy).

As for the concept of porn itself, it's relegated to other bedroom topics and just doesn't come up in "polite" conversation.

"""an praises the use of porn by women (independent, empowered, sexy)."""

Only in liberal, upper middle class, circles. Which of course includes most of the wannabe upper-middle-class talking heads and journalists.

Middle class society don't share the "empowered, sexy" view for porn on women at all.

> praises the use of porn by women (independent, empowered, sexy).

I haven't personally observed this, but our society certainly shames the women who perform in pornography.

There was an incident with Jannet Jackson showing some tit on the 2004 superbowl concert, and everybody was faux-shocked. Much more for porn.

It's a society of hypocrites and puritans.

The Last Psychiatrist, ever controversial, suggests that in some men, viewing pornography (and relevant compulsion) is a way of maintaining a state of denial regarding their own poor sexual performance. It's an interesting hypothesis.


I don't have a useful personal contribution, I guess. I'm used to closing my eyes and imagining things. My stuff's better than porn, anyway.

The one part that grinds my gears: we're all well acquainted with the stench of amateur pseudoeconomics, amateur pseudopsychology, and amateur pseudosociology that infest every Internet discussion like a splotchy, shouting Bill O'Reilly discussing the movement of tides. Move aside, fellas, here comes amateur pseudoneuroscience:

>I posted this on Your Brain Rebalanced, and someone pointed out the obvious to me: neurons the fire together, wire together, and if I was still indulging those fantasies, I was still keeping those reward pathways strong.

Yeah, if you don't activate the 5-ht4nonsense receptor for a little while, stupidtonin production returns to normal levels. Check, please.

By all means, share your experiences, what works and doesn't, but don't get attached to your claims as though they're related to some fundamental law of neural processing. The brain is a mighty complex thing, and two-bit highdeas about the effect of a fantasy aren't helpful and may distract from real self-improvement. Just pay attention to what is actually happening when you do things.

Though I think the article's barometer is off: the question is not "do you have weird fantasies at all anymore". You have memories, memories don't go away unless you do something stupid. The question is "are you fulfilled by having sex with your partner". In that vein, remember this:

"Ambition is the death of thought" ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Oh, most importantly: stop thinking of sex as a performance. It's not. A partner, male or female, who expects otherwise is a bad person.

> viewing pornography (and relevant compulsion) is a way of maintaining a state of denial regarding their own poor sexual performance.

I think that's a bit off and the answer is far simpler. I have sex regularly with my wife and still consume porn, as do many others. I have a child. I don't think you could describe my sexual performance, which I assume is meant in the evolutionary sense, as poor.

I don't mean to be crass, and this conversation is already pretty much there, but ejaculating is fairly similar to urinating. It fulfills a necessary bodily function of discarding old sperm. All primates do it and if you restrain yourself, your body will do it involuntarily (ie you'll have a wet dream).

Personally, I prefer not to have to change my underwear in the middle of the night, regardless of how pleasant the experience may be.

why would you assume the evolutionary sense?

Nocturnal emissions generally only occur in teenagers, just a small nitpick.

I do believe that is incorrect. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nocturnal_emission#In_men summarizes Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 275 as follows:

> For males who have experienced nocturnal emissions the mean frequency ranges from 0.36 times per week (about once every three weeks) for single 15-year-old males to 0.18 times per week (about once every five-and-a-half weeks) for 40-year-old single males. For married males the mean ranges from 0.23 times per week (about once per month) for 19-year-old married males to 0.15 times per week (about once every two months) for 50-year-old married males.

That is interesting and frankly shocking research. Thank you! I have been taught wrong.

as do many others.

Your wife is having a lot of sex, then...

Nailed it. There's so much pseudo science around these topics it's hard to find any actual facts to back up their positions. Sharing experiences is important, but don't frame it as science.

Try search google scholar. I haven't looked in this topic specifically, but I have looked into other politicized/psuedo-science heavy topics on it, and it has always brought up good science.

science still has no answer to such a great question.


>The Last Psychiatrist, ever controversial, suggests that in some men, viewing pornography (and relevant compulsion) is a way of maintaining a state of denial regarding their own poor sexual performance. It's an interesting hypothesis.

Yes. If one is to assume there's something as a "rich sexual performance" standard, people should aspire to.

As a recovering alcoholic, current caffeine addict, occasional nicotine user, and porn user, here are my thoughts.

I had a complete physical, mental, and spiritual addiction to alcohol. Parts of my life were falling apart around me and I was completely powerless to put down the bottle. Everywhere I went I had to have a plan as to how I would drink, and the possibility of being away from alcohol for a day threw me in fits of panic. When I did quit (years ago), I suffered from acute alcohol withdrawal, including delirium tremens, and had to taper off with benzos to prevent seizures. For me to successfully quit, I had to go to rehab and attend AA meetings everyday for months.

Nowadays I'm a big coffee drinker. If I forget to drink some sort of caffeine on any given day, I will get a headache sometime in the afternoon. I suffer physical withdrawal which is somewhat uncomfortable, but the fact that I could forget to have caffeine in the first place indicates a different sort of addiction than my alcoholism. If I wanted to quit, I would just have to go through a couple unpleasant days and be done with it.

As for nicotine, I've gone weeks, even months without any and haven't suffered withdrawal symptoms, but I enjoy it, so I use it on a semi regular basis, and have been for the last 6 years.

"Addiction" is a term which can describe a wide variety of conditions. As an alcoholic, I have a tendency to downplay addictions that aren't to dangerous substances. However, the author obviously has some mental obsession with pornography, he saw a problem with his porn use, and he felt like he needed some sort of external support to cope with and curtail his use. I don't think the term addiction is wholly inappropriate in his case.

What I don't like as much is applying the label of addiction to other porn users. I think it's up to the individual to be honest with themselves and decide whether they need to take drastic measures to curtail their porn use, whether it's a bad habit, or whether it's just another outlet and presents no threat to their emotional well-being.

My coffee intake regularly creeps to the level of having a headache on withdrawal. Personally, my approach is this:

a) Never drink coffee on Saturdays. The routine change makes it easy to skip coffee one day.

b) If a coffee free Saturday induces a headache, skip coffee for a couple of days.

This is, for me, enough to lower the volume of coffee I drink, thus maintaining an acceptable level (by acceptable I don't mean healthy, I probably still consume way too much caffeine; I mean controllable)

To quote the cryptonomicon, "Clarity of mind (Cm) is affected by any number of factors, but by far the most important is horniness" http://www.euskalnet.net/larraorma/crypto/slide63.html

Until an article like this one considers the impact of its recommendations on productivity, the entire debate is on the wrong topic IMO.

I mean, I'm sure by some metric I'd live a better life if I never ate alone... but I'd also be hungrier, more focused on food, and almost surely less productive.

For whatever reason most people seem to think that orgasam sits separate from the other natural functions of the body. I don't. If I'm hungry I eat. If there's someone I can eat with, all the better. I don't see why that algorithm needs to change when it comes to sex.

Reading this article, I get the feeling that the real problem isn't porn at all, but rather societal attitudes toward porn and the web of shame that the author finds himself ensnared in. He seems to admit as much towards the end of the article.

Personally I find it kind of anthropologically fascinating that society has a natural impulse to record the reproductive act and view such recordings as a leisure activity.

With the annoying proliferation of camera phones, I assure you that getting laid is not the only pleasurable leisure activity that seemingly everyone has a nearly instinctive desire to record and watch. I won't declare it cultural because there's enough immigrants representing in my area to prove that it doesn't matter if you're born in Laos, Japan, Mexico, India, or the USA, if the kids do something cute, its a mommie instinct, out comes the smartphone.

Once you have kids you'll see what I mean. Last Monday night you'd think it was a camera technology convention, not a little league baseball game.

For better or worse, its only residual cultural Puritanism that stops my wife from showing everyone a video of when our kids were conceived, much as she has video of seemingly everything else involving them. (including when they were born, and I'm not kidding about that)

Oh, I totally agree. I'm merely pointing out that pornography seems to have a special place in the history of media depictions:


>Personally I find it kind of anthropologically fascinating that society has a natural impulse to record the reproductive act and view such recordings as a leisure activity.

Have you also noticed that besides "the reproductive act" it records and views ALL kinds of acts as a leisure activity?

From war stories, to horror stories, political stories, court drama, to adventures, to comical incidents, stories about actual events, to a guy doing stupid things to himself (Jackass)?

Why would "the reproductive act" by any different?

Not to mention people rarely watch the actual "reproductive act". They watch sex. Including anal, blog jobs, tentacle porn, all of which are anything but "reproductive".

Because reproduction employs just one case of the total of sex expression / porn material, doesn't mean it has anything to do with it.

Humans have a superpower called empathy. By watching others experience pleasure, we ourselves can experience that pleasure and people will pay for that.

I'm pretty sure that when we get aroused from porn, that's not an empathetic response. (There may be empathy involved, but it's not primarily empathetic. We can test this: do sociopaths get aroused by porn?)

It's a biological drive, like hunger, but it's the only one that's primarily mental, rather than physical. When you eat food, it literally gets into your blood and changes your body chemistry. So watching hamburgers is not the same as eating them. But how can your body detect sexual satisfaction without the involvement of the mind? It can't. So you can transmit it remotely.

I never claimed it was primarily empathy. But imagine watching porn where there was no emotion expressed. Uninterested faces and motions. Absolutely no expression from the face, not even flexed muscles or anything to indicate enthusiasm. Pure and simple intercourse. It would look like nature, simple utility. That is not arousing.

Really, you're declaring your own porn preferences as a universal human constant?

I didn't say anything about my preference. I said the emotions expressed will be invoked in the viewer.

Nature can be arousing. People are aroused by mannequins, photocopiers cars, other things without emotion. I don't think empathy is at all necessary.

Nope. Maybe you're young and you allways had porn available at your fingertips (internet). When I was a teenager, I'd come accross just a couple of movies on VHS a year. Beyond that, I'd have to watch the blacked out, static filled, almost unwatchable image from the unsubscribed-to porn channel on cable. Couldn't see their faces, couldn't see expression, but could still see outline of bodies. Still got aroused.

Kids have less capacity for empathy and a starving man will always eat crumbs. I did my fair share of cable box hacking/noise sifting/etc, but usually adults tend to mature in their preferences. Would you still be aroused by that content?

I also probably had a lot more testosterone in my body back then... but if I was still starving, then maybe. I guess I won't know, since there's the internet now...

It has been shown that monkeys are willing to pay for porn, too (or apes or chimpanzees or something, can't remember the exact differences).

I sense an opportunity for an upcoming YCombinator round...

Problem is the target group has no buying power.

Porn is destructive in itself and should not be dismissed as neutral, even if you've never seen it in your own experiences or in those around you.

Porn is about control. A person tells themselves a false story about their sexuality (even if they can't articulate it or form it into words) that goes something like "I am not satisfied with my current sexual experiences, but if I find the right type of images/videos/fetishes and watch them, I will be satisfied" -- The person fulfills their sexual desires through porn use, but then it doesn't satisfy and they are back for more the next time.

You can't control a real person as easily as porn and so the user continually goes back to porn. Over time the user prefers porn to the other person in the relationship (usually a woman). Women especially, will try to compensate for the gap by comparing themselves to the women in the porn videos, but to no avail and the woman feels more and more dejected.

Heavy porn use also leads to erectile dysfunction and other issues (even if not in a relationship). Some helpful info is here: http://yourbrainonporn.com/

>Porn is destructive in itself and should not be dismissed as neutral, even if you've never seen it in your own experiences or in those around you.

Then so is food, tv, computer use, and anything else that can create compulsive behavior. You're telling a very particular story about porn but it isn't the whole story.

>Porn is about control.

Which is why women find it so threatening. Sex is about control too. If your partner is giving out sex like they're dog treats for "good behavior" how is your position in life any healthier? In that context maybe porn isn't so bad after all depending on your relationship to it.

"Which is why women find it so threatening."

I would add that women also don't understand it because they don't operate visually as men do (with respect to sexual images).

Now, I'm not sure that's the best way to put it but the fact is that there is only a fraction of porn for women vs. porn for men. No market apparently?

If there was an innate need in women for porn and sexual images there would be a market created for it and there would be much more porn targeted to the female market.

Back in the day there was pretty much only 1 printed magazine with images of naked men "Play Girl". And some would argue that that was actually read quite a bit by gay men as opposed to women. But there were dozens of magazines which a man could buy. On a newstand at least.

If women were stimulated the same way as men someone would have exploited that, right? But they didn't.

Same with the internet. (Wouldn't want to guess at the ratio if anyone knows please post.)

>If women were stimulated the same way as men someone would have exploited that, right? But they didn't.

If women were stimulated the same way as men you wouldn't have to cater to women. With that said, the number of women watching porn is astronomical. Stars like James Deen and Manuel Ferrara have gained a huge following because they are able to cater to female markets.

Women often consume different erotica, which is less video/hardcore based. Romance/erotic romance novels seems to be a growing market.

I do think more women avoid porn/erotica due to this 'disgust' towards porn in society.

Any remaining gap, I would assume is genuinely due to women having a lower libido.

Indeed. My wife and friends in the same industry make quite a good living off of romance novel writing. Women have their erotica, but it's more 'in your head' kind of stuff, than the visual market of porn for men.

The best selling book of 2012 was erotica :)

I took a look at the website you linked at the bottom of your post.

The first thing I noticed is that most of the front-page articles are testimonials. Fortunately there was an article written by the author right at the start, however as soon as I started reading I noticed another problem. Almost every reference is to other articles on that same site, which themselves link deeper into the site. Occasionally I'd hit some articles from psychology today (psychology magazine, not a journal), and other popular media sources. I did not find any references to proper scholarly articles though.

A quick search of Google scholar turns up no articles to back up most of the major assertions he makes on here. Now that's certainly not enough to dismiss the site outright, but it's certainly enough to make me question what exactly he found, and how well he is interpreting the existing results. I have no trouble accepting the existence of porn addiction, but I do believe that making a case as strong as the one you seem to be making requires much stronger evidence than what you have presented.

You are right, porn is about control. Control of your own sexual urges and desires instead of relying 100% on your partner, who may have a lower libido and appreciate that you're not badgering them into sex when they don't want it. Control of your desires so that you don't end up in a bad relationship just for sexual gratification.

Unless you're coming at it from a religious moral angle, porn has less potential for destruction than sex. Porn doesn't lead to STDs and unexpected pregnancy.

Erectile dysfunction is a physical dysfunction, not merely the lack of desire for sex. Stop giving men anxiety about their erections simply because they don't want sex all the time.

I think we could respin this into a meme that could apply to various other topics. I immediately thought of my own deep dark secret which is watching (fully clothed, I assure you) cooking shows on TV. Reads pretty smooth.

I tried it with my own - I like to read Batman comics. Frighteningly accurate.

If you're not satisfied with your current sexual experiences, the solution is to explore your own sexuality and find what actually turns you on. If porn helps you achieve that, then that's great.

Obviously you should work on finding a consensual partner that shares your sexual interests, but in the absence of such a partner, I'm not convinced viewing pornography in moderation is destructive.

>Porn is about control.

If that's what you really think, then you have a really fucked-up relationship to sex.

Speculate much?

sounds scary. You forgot to mention furry hands though.

Porn addict, food addict.

I don't think negative habitual behavior equals addiction.

Not to marginalize people who has problem with porn or food habits, but poor self-control and bad habits does not equal addiction in my book. I'm probably wrong definition wise, but I think this stance trivializes real addiction.

I mean, yes, dopamine and all that. Reward of negative behavior. But you make your own decisions in life. You're not an insect, you're a conscious human being.

Arguing definitions isn't very profitable. Addiction is a continuum, and where lines get drawn vary depending on purpose. There's no One True Definition of addiction because there's no One True Purpose for using the term.

"There's no One True Definition of addiction"

I was under the impression that the definition used traditionally in medicine is that denial of the addictive substance results in physiological withdrawal symptoms; hence caffeine and heroin are addictive, but cocaine is not. [Edit: wrong about cocaine.]

That's one definition, but there are others used by medical community.

Increasing tolerance is a feature of some definitions. "Drug seeky" and "drug keepy" are other features - people who hide bottles of alcohol around the house, or people who need to find more of the drug when their supplies are running low.

Saying that cocaine isn't addictive would be a strange definition of addiction.

"Saying that cocaine isn't addictive would be a strange definition of addiction."

Yes, I was wrong about that, as apparently there are withdrawal symptoms with cocaine.

I'll agree but add that any withdrawal symptoms (physiological or psychological) should define addiction. If one quits World of Warcraft but can't stop thinking about it and it interferes with their day-to-day life, that's an addiction.

There's something empowering about recognizing something as an addiction. It allows you to compartmentalize that behavior, and act on it like you might a disease. Exercise and eating right don't become behaviors you're trying to habitually instill, they become "treatments," that you feel mandated to consume, because to allow the disease to continue is unacceptable.

A little self-control goes a long way, and the words we use with ourselves are very important. We create our own narrative, and unfortunately a lot of people are oblivious to this. Hold yourself to a higher standard, and you can do a lot more than you think.

"But you make your own decisions in life. You're not an insect, you're a conscious human being."

Do you regard the human brain as belonging to the physical universe, or somehow apart from it? If the former, where and what is the "you" that is making the decision?

Obviously there is a can of worms here.

Can I just suggest that if you are not a conscious human being who makes choices, but instead, like a billiard ball, are whacked around by the myriad balls and cues you encounter in your meaningless existence, with thoughts caused by minds caused by brains caused by effects chaining back forever...

then being swayed by one more argument or not makes zero impact on your status. You remain a mere effect of your circumstances.

If you want to pretend to take part in a rational discourse, you should also pretend to be a conscious human being to whom discourse makes a difference and reasons can be better or worse as they conform to reality or not. Your alternatives are limited by the nature of the forum you've chosen.


The theory of 'addictive personality' is no longer a valid scientific explanation of addiction.

How do you feel about "nicotine addict"?

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin. Doubt you get physically ill trying to kick porn.

Physical addiction to nicotine is hard to establish and quite weak. It is strongly psychologically addictive.

I'm cautious about the new addictions, and I think there's some misunderstanding in sensationalising in pop therapy, but I can see how porn addiction or sex addiction can happen.

It's pretty well established that people can be addicted to gambling, and I don't see much difference between that and other non-substance based addictions. Gambling is more well known because it is so well tuned to exploit the addict.

Very true; when I finally quit smoking after a decade of being a heavy smoker I have found that it only took a me few days to get through the physical addiction but it took me months to get over my psychological addiction (e.g. not think of smoking after eating). Adjusting my behaviour was really the hard part and it required a lot of willpower.

Same here. The first 3 days were bad, but nothing special. But now, after almost a year, I'm still fighting with the desire to smoke.

In combination with external factors (like stress) I can totally see why people are returning to addiction again and again.

Are you saying that people who are addicted are not conscious of their problem?

Most of the time, getting out of addiction takes more than your run-off-the-mill consciousness and self-control.

No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying this article trivializes what I consider to be real addiction.

Reality: nobody cares what you consider real and fake, and whatever those words mean to you.

If you're not examining it in a scientific way, then you have no business making conclusions.

Recovering opiate addict here, I guess I'd fit your definition of having a "real addiction[sic]". I just want to chime in and say the defining attribute of addiction isn't whether or not something is physically addictive, but whether or not the behavior is negatively impacting your life and you can't stop on your own aka psychological addiction. I've been through opiate withdrawals dozens of times, while I had the urge to use my WANT to be clean was enough to bare the brunt of the pain. Physical withdrawals weren't the reason I relapsed after kicking (as I had obviously returned to a endogenous opioid (receptor) balance), it was the psychological dependence that crept back into my life when I was stressed. It's that pattern of addictive behavior in response to emotions that is the problem, not receptor downregulation and cessation of production endogenous neurotransmitters or what have you.

Remember your criteria for addiction doesn't match that of the medical community's, and for good reason.

>it was the psychological dependence that crept back into my life when I was stressed. It's that pattern of addictive behavior in response to emotions that is the problem

Very well put. I am no expert in this subject, but it feels to me that the web is taking advantage of this pattern a little too much.

I am not just talking about porn, its social networks, video sites, gaming sites, aggregators all of which are being engineered to optimize for engagement.

Definitely, if you want to see an extreme example of it take a look at Tumblr. The echo-chamber nature of the site leads to a positive feedback loop of certain illnesses. In this case I'm thinking of pro-anorexia content of that site being reblogged compulsively and the new content that spawns from such influence is ghastly and viral.

Ask any serious WoW player how the game has impacted their life. From what people have told me, the social relations in-game are such that one becomes reliant on a group and vice-versa to advance in the game. Soon those reliances become responsibilities that start to overshadow real life.

Some anime is specifically drawn and written to take advantage of the type of person that would obsessively envelope themselves into their favorite anime's branding. Do a google image search for otaku, and you will immediately see the kind of profits people peddling 50 different editions of the same figurine must be raking in.

Take a look a bluelight.ru and erowid. The former is a forum for discussion of psychoactives the latter a index of chemicals and experience reports submitted by users. Instead of the harm reduction espoused, it encourages dangerous behavior in the name of 'sharing research'; which is just ingesting what could be a chemical without much human research and just writing about it. One wouldn't be compelled to put themselves in such a position if it wasn't normalized and encouraged by a community that was warped by a pattern of addictive behavior.

Grouphug.us is another example. Reddit certainly is as well. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc all provide that supplemental 'reward' of positive human interaction without the human component. Your brain isn't stupid, when actual human interaction doesn't provide the reward you WANT, it will learn where it can get it. Psychological addiction is quite the beast.

So before people were writing about it on the internet no one was doing drugs in a stupid way? As anecdotal evidence, I know a variety of people using cold water extraction of APAP on tehir opiates that would never have done so without reading about it online, perhaps saving their livers. I think communities like bluelight and erowid are indispensible resources for people to educate themselves about the positives and negatives of various substances, especially so given that the abstinence-only campaigns around substances in many countries (think DARE in the US) are full of so much misinformation and encourage the irresponsible use of drugs by basically declaring them all the same, as "bad".

No, but before the internet the realm of completely untested novel psychoactive chemicals was confined to certain circles of chemists, academics, psychiatrists, and social commentators/reformers. The first person to test 2C-* series was Shulgin, and only after systematic titration on himself did he ever think of sharing his discoveries. Today it is a little different.

Today, someone can find a lab willing to synthesize a chemical for very cheap with the intention of selling it for a huge profit online. That person then posts on a board such as bluelight or erowid, where the first introduction of its ABUSE is documented. Users of the board are attracted to the novelty of the new substance, and are encouraged by the community to follow the behavior of 'researching and sharing' by acquiring said substance, ingesting, and then relaying back to the board about the experience. They are likely some of the first people in all of history to ingest the substance. If you don't think this is inherently dangerous behavior I don't know what to tell you. I don't think it detracts from their goal of harm reduction, but that element of the community exists and I do think it warrants more scrutiny than immediately dismissing my argument.

If you want to read a well researched book on the phenomenon, pick up Drugs 2.0 by Mike Power. It's on amazon's UK site.

Sure, but at least people are sharing information, trying to shut down sketchy drug makers in China putting out adulterated product, teaching basic purification techniques, talking about drugs to stay away from (lots of MXE addiction stories and MCAT horror stories on bluelight). I know a fair amount of people that ingest grey-market research chemicals. I don't think any of them have any illusions that what they are doing is "safe". But then again, alcohol is quite physically dangerous, has a bad addiction profile, and makes people do far more stupid and dangerous things that many more mind-altering drugs. There's lots of people doing unsafe things in the pursuit of hedonism or escape.

As long as quasi-legal analogues and new substances are going to be sold as cheap highs in head shops and adult video stores and the like, which they most certainly are now that more and more designer drugs are being produced everyday, I certainly want knowledgable people sharing their bad, and good experiences with others.

If some people enjoy beta-testing new substances knowing their long-term safety profile is completely unknown, would you rather it be done completely in the dark, or at least with ideas of dosage ranges, knowledge of warning signs of overdose,etc etc.

While it's clear that Shulgin was more responsible than a lot of budding teenage psychonauts, that's not always the case (Lilly's use of ketamine comes to mind), and it's not clear what he was doing was inherently less dangerous. He was often the first person in history to test a substance.

Interesting bit from the article:

"The height of my porn watching was my adolescence -- high school -- when each relationship felt like a splintering slat on a long rickety bridge. Porn didn't just serve as an outlet for my sexual frustration; it was a steadying beam to fall back on."

I wonder for how many men this is true.

It's interesting also to see this juxtaposed with the "All men are rapists" meme--one wonders if the absence of open affection, sexuality, and broken standards is promoting this sort of behavior and in turn perhaps causing the very thing that many authors claim to be afraid of.

It's also not necessarily such a bad thing -- i.e. using porn (or alcohol, pot, or anti-depressants; or over-eating, or compulsive shopping) to get through the rough spots in one's dating cycle.

Mind you, I'm not saying it's a good thing, or that it's without its downsides.

I just mean we should look at these things in perspective: if our dating culture (with all the head games) is so broken that some people have to go through years and years of phases where they just can't find a relationship that's both gratifying and sustainable over any length of time -- and btw this includes many people I know, even some very attractive people with plenty of sexual options on the table -- then maybe we should start talking about that, and how people can learn to do better for themselves (and their potential mates).

And not so much about the rather crude (if temporarily effective) medicines some people feel forced to use to get them through the darker stretches of depression and anxiety that they can't seem to help falling into, again and again. As a reward, it would would seem, of just wanting to find someone they can love, and be loved by in return.

PS, re: anti-depressants -- having worked in the pharma industry for a while, I'd recommend healthy, sex-positive, consensual amateur porn over these insidious, soul-numbing and possibly long-term toxic concoctions they market as "cures" to well, more or less the basic human condition, any day.

Find it hard to trust that piece, too many possible agendas come to mind that could motivate publishing it.

For what it's worth, I've been watching porn now an then and it didn't spiral into more and more kinky and what not stuff for me. I still prefer "playboy style" most of the time.

The thesis that porn worsens your sexual taste is probably the foundation for a lot of ideological campaigns...

Yeah. Also disappointing is the tendency to be completely oblivious (it would seem) to the difference between correlation and causality. For example:

At the 2003 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers meeting, two-thirds of lawyers reported that compulsive Internet use played a significant role in divorces over that year, and 56 percent of those divorce cases included a partner who had an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

i.e. one of the partners was using porn as a band-aid to ease the pain of a much deeper problem -- which typically takes one of 3 forms: (1) both partners love each other and are doing "everything right" but one has discovered, before the other it would seem, that they just aren't really compatible sexually; (2) they're still hot for each other, but other distractions (fighting, money, kids) are getting in the way; or (3) one of the other parts has "discovered" that they have a different chromosomal preference.

Nasty and potentially intractable issues, indeed. But porn watching by itself -- even excessively so? In comparison, not so much.

I hate mention of marriages failing due to "compatibility issues". It's a total mockery of the intent of the institution. When you marry, you covenant to society that you will make yourself compatible with your spouse, even when it's difficult to do so, as long as these terms do not breach a handful of fundamental contractual obligations implied by the marital covenant.

If one is "sexually incompatible" with his/her spouse, they should talk about it, recognize the issues, make compromises, and move forward. They should also recognize that while sex is meaningful and important, it can't be a deal-breaker for a marriage -- what happens when a partner contracts a medical condition that precludes their participation in intercourse? This should be recognized as a possibility going in, and people should realize that they can't allow sexuality to overwhelm and consume larger, more important pieces of their relationship. Pornography can cloud this crucial perspective.

When you marry, you covenant to society that you will make yourself compatible with your spouse, even when it's difficult to do so, [...]

That's fine for you. Other people have different priorities in their lives. And elevating the sanctity these abstract entities known as "institutions" to the point where they feel miserable, trapped, and unfulfilled do not count particularly high among them.

If one is "sexually incompatible" with his/her spouse, they should talk about it, recognize the issues, make compromises, and move forward.

That's fine for you, if those are your priorities. But what's fine for you isn't necessarily fine for other people.

They should also recognize that while sex is meaningful and important, it can't be a deal-breaker for a marriage ...

Again, maybe not a deal-breaker for you. But for other people... I think you see what I'm getting at here.

People do not have to marry to be together. Marriage should be regarded as an important step, where you promise to your peers that you will be with your spouse until the end of life. This is valid even without religion.

Have a different view? Can't commit to such a long time? That's OK. Marriage is not mandatory in a relationship (and for some people it's in fact detrimental). Just don't marry and live happy.

That's a proposition. Is there an argument to back it? Why should marriage be life-long, vs time-limited?

It's not a proposition. It is a definition. On Western culture, a marriage is a life long pairing. It is also monogamous, in the same vein, by definition.

Is it lifelong and monogamous in every culture? No. It is in ours, though.

Is the definition being coopted for non lifelong pairings? I don't think most people marry with divorce in the horizon, so even if marriage allows for divorce, I think the public promise is still one of lifelong commitment.

>That's fine for you. Other people have different priorities in their lives. And elevating the sanctity these abstract entities known as "institutions" to the point where they feel miserable, trapped, and unfulfilled do not count particularly high among them.

No, that's historically what it has meant to be married. When married, if you have negative feelings, you are expected to resolve them peaceably and well. It is supposed to be illegal to just quit because you can't handle your own emotions.

Again, there are a handful of very basic exceptions where a dissolution of the union is allowable, but part of the reason marriage exists is to provide that relational stability -- marriage is about the covenant with society much more than it's about either of the spouses or their feelings, which disciplined, mature adults are expected to control.

>Again, maybe not a deal-breaker for you. But for other people... I think you see what I'm getting at here.

Yes, I see what you're getting at. You're arguing that marriage has no formal definition ("It may mean that to you, but...") and is therefore a meaningless abstraction in the macro sense. This is not the way things are supposed to be, but I agree that the prevalence of no-fault divorce makes it effectively realistic. This is a very bad thing.

No, that's not what I'm saying.

And this doesn't seem to be a very effective line of discussion, either.

Medical conditions that preclude participation in everything should be recognized as a possibility going in. For example, I know a couple that was involved in a serious automobile accident. The husband walked away with minor injuries, but his wife was comatose for about a year. She couldn't uphold her marriage vows in any way during that year.

Part of the covenant to society is that you will weather difficulties and remain committed to your spouse. A lot of types of "quick fixes" can cloud that perspective.

>When you marry, you covenant to society that you will make yourself compatible with your spouse, even when it's difficult to do so, as long as these terms do not breach a handful of fundamental contractual obligations implied by the marital covenant.

Maybe you are thinking of your covenant with god? See, though, that's a different thing from a civil marriage. In the eyes of the law, it's a partnership, and one that can be dissolved for 'irreconcilable differences'

Personally, I think this is the problem with calling civil marriage 'marriage' - It means an entirely different thing to various religions. (and different religions have different rules, too. A marriage under Muslim religious rules is rather different than one under Christian religious rules... hell, which denomination of Christianity or Islam can make a pretty big difference in the rules, too.)

>In the eyes of the law, it's a partnership, and one that can be dissolved for 'irreconcilable differences'

This is a relatively recent development, and imo it's incorrect and demonstrates that the foundations of marriage as a serious social institution were dissolved a long time ago. The fact that people no longer think of marriage this way, and the further fact that our courts and laws have acquiesced to this ridiculous opinion, bode very poorly for the future of stable society.

>Personally, I think this is the problem with calling civil marriage 'marriage' - It means an entirely different thing to various religions.

No, again, this has nothing to do with religion at this point. Marriage is supposed to be legally binding. No-fault divorce is a new (and imo vastly problematic) thing.

>Marriage is supposed to be legally binding. No-fault divorce is a new (and imo vastly problematic) thing.

No-fault divorce is the inevitable result of the fact that women can now be reasonably expected to support themselves without a man.

I disagree. No-fault divorce is the result of skewed moral perceptions and broad disconnection from reality. No-fault divorce has hurt women very seriously, which is evident from the precipitous increase of divorce rates since no-fault was established as the effective norm (NY was a fault state into the 2000s on paper, but effectively no-fault in implementation (no substantiating evidence was really required, and it was a forgone conclusion that a judge would grant the divorce once the divisions of assets, custody, etc., were agreed by both parties)).

I doubt we'll ever agree on this, however, as you apparently see the destruction of meaningful marital covenants as an emancipation.

The Scandinavian countries and Australia have this problem solved. Divorce doesn't hurt women if there is income parity, no stigma and comprehensive social services for children.

No-fault divorce has hurt women very seriously, which is evident from the precipitous increase of divorce rates since no-fault was established

Does not follow.

No-fault divorce has caused higher divorce rates. You haven't offered any basis for claiming that those higher divorce rates harm either the women or men involved, let alone that they harm the women disproportionately as you imply.

Stop telling people how they are supposed to live their lives.

Divorce is hundreds to thousands of years old, in Christianity, Catholocism (annulment), Islam (featuring time-limited marriage contracts, and Judaism (Get) -> most of the Western world.

I recognize that, and I think there are good reasons for justifiable divorce to exist. No-fault divorce is newish since the last major social reboot, coming into being starting in the 60s.

Marriage, civil or religious, is always a compromise by the couple before the society that they will be together for life. The parent comment does not need the crutch of religion, it holds perfectly well using the regular definition of marriage.

While it's true that porn use is often motivated by deeper emotional problems, that doesn't mean it's an acceptable outlet. Pornography use obviously does cause serious emotional strife to many partners, or they wouldn't report it as a major factor in their divorce.

One may enjoy breaking the windows of adjacent corporate complexes with a golf club to blow off frustration from a day at work, but that doesn't mean it's an acceptable outlet. Pornography can cause much, much deeper, personal emotional damage than acts of petty vandalism.

Also perhaps "porn addiction" is a good argument in a divorce case?

I did find a little extreme to automatically consider watching porn regularly a problem. On the other hand, let's not draw too many conclusions from our personal experiences; many people gamble occasionally without becoming addicted, but others definitively do.

The thesis that porn worsens your sexual taste is probably the foundation for a lot of ideological campaigns...

Not saying it's proven -- but there's nothing terribly ideological about it either.

Kind of like listening to bad music (or pretty much any kind of music over and over again) can stunt your musical development... or eating too much junk food can leave you with a taste for more and more of the same... it wouldn't surprise me that too much bad porn leaves some people with bad, or just immature sexual tastes.

And to the production of... lots and lots and lots of bad, nasty and just shockingly dull commercial porn.

"bad, nasty and just shockingly dull"

sounds like adjectives for TV, most "journalist" websites, most computer games, most radio/music as per your example, most pulp paperback novel shovelware... all ripe for profitable tech startup disruption.

"pr0n that's not awful" would seem to be a perfectly valid startup goal. I have absolutely no idea how to get there, but I like the goal. Can anyone think of any VC funded startups on this topic?

I'd say those startups already exist: they're the producing companies of feminist porn. There's even an annual Feminist Porn Award, where one of the evaluation criteria is whether the film "expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn."

Why would feminists get to decide what is acceptable porn?

Everyone gets to decide, and feminists are part of everyone. The point is that making "porn that's not awful" is an intrinsic goal, unlike most commercial porn producers.

> all ripe for profitable tech startup disruption

This phrase itself has by now become "shockingly dull", too, though......

It's been done to some extent. Have a look at makelovenotporn.

>> For what it's worth, I've been watching porn now an then and it didn't spiral into more and more kinky and what not stuff for me. I still prefer "playboy style" most of the time.

yeah, and I drink alcohol from time to time, and it doesn't spiral into binging and/or addiction. But just because that is the case for me, doesn't mean it's the case for others as well...

Obviously it is a problem for some people, but the distinction that it's not a problem for everyone is an important one.

Men are sexually stimulated almost wholly by visuals. Some women enjoy porn, but any attack on porn is a direct attack on men. Also, many men will spontaneously ejaculate if not stimulated. Honestly, it is not much different than needing to urinate or defecate. It is a bodily function that must be taken care of or your body will take care of it for you. Watching porn is not a bad thing. Some porn is bad, but watching it certainly is not.

Comments here decry pop neuroscience. I will recommend here a new book, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld, who are both thoughtful and appropriately skeptical researchers on neuroscience topics.


Are all fetishes addictions?

I think the individual is the one who decides whether they're addicted or not.

As I understand it, true porn addiction is when it interferes with your sex life to the point that you can't enjoy sex without it, when you want to enjoy it without it. Anything else is just a fetish.

I'm tired of watching society try to neatly categorize things as amorphous as sexual behavior. As soon as the "experts" have something to say, people find a reason to stop thinking about it.

... or when it interferes with other parts of your life. If you're constantly late to work because you can't shut off the porn when it's time to go, that's a definite sign of addiction.

Right -- life interfering stuff, in general, but I just think the most prevalent issue is the interference with one's sex life once one becomes "dependent."

There are people for whom "interferes with sex life" is irrelevant (they don't have one) or isn't a symptom they have (sex continues at a normal frequency) -- but who definitely have symptoms in other parts of their life, such as work, other family interactions, or other hobbies.

I think people are missing a big point here, in the age internet pornography a lot of us can be exposed to some pretty weird shit potentially at some really young ages. We don't get a chance to talk about those things rationally and reasonably because of societal pressures and psychologically that's not a great thing.

As a parent, this is the thing that scares me most. The most risqué thing I found as a kid is very, very tame compared to mainstream Internet porn and I wonder what that kind of stuff might do if (when) my kids stumble upon it.

Porn is used in medicine. Reproductive clinics use porn to help their patients reach climax in order to provide seminal fluid samples. This to me suggests, that like most things, porn can be a good thing, or a bad thing. It's much more about moderation or addiction in general than porn in particular.

I don't think the medical argument is sufficient. They also break your ribs to do heart surgery.

That's exactly the point. Sometimes breaking a persons ribs is a good thing. The medical argument I made was just meant as an example of a positive use of porn. There are surely others, such as in sexual dysfunction therapies, and perhaps in spicing up intimate relations within long term relationships. It's just not a black and white situation where porn should clearly be cast as a societal evil.

My goal was to illustrate at least one uncontroversial use of porn that was positive. Someone willing to concede this point must then think more carefully about which uses of porn are positive and which are negative rather than dismissing them all as inherently negative.

But I used the ribs example to show that something can be used medically that is (correct me if I'm missing something) universally bad outside of that specific medical use. It's not a matter of moderation.

Another interesting tidbit:

At Brigham Young University in 2007, 21 percent of male college students reported watching porn "every day or almost every day."

In their eyes it beats a carbonated beverage addiction.

It's not about porn, it's about addiction.

If your psyche needs an addiction you will find one. It could be tobacco, porn, alcohol, or shopping, but nevertheless you will find your outlet for your addictive behaviour. Different addictions come with different consequences. Porn is a relatively safe addiction (well, I suppose it's possible to physically wear out your genitalia so that it begins to hurt?) so I don't get the title, really.

This article is bullshit. Addiction is an illness. Pornography is not.

Pornography by itself, as strange as the video may be, is not a problem by itself.

I don't know what country / generation / family the author is from, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to come from there.

I talk openly with my friends and some coworkers about sex and pornography and I sure don't feel ashamed to do so!

Food is not a problem by itself, but there are people addicted to eating (sometimes specific types of foods.)

Same with alcohol. Having a drink is perfectly healthy, but there are people who are addicted to the bottle.

"Addiction is an illness" -- and one can be addicted to things that are otherwise perfectly acceptable. This does not provide a basis for excluding pornography from the category of "things someone can be addicted to".

I am not saying that it is exempt from being an addiction for some people. The issue for me with this article is the approach the author takes. The article reeks with guilt toward pornography.

the internet is made for porn ♫♫♫ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bQo05WkHyc

Replace 'porn' with 'sex' in any discussion about porn 'addiction' and it will have an enlightening effect, I think.

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