Internet Pornography: Exposure And Confusion

I am becoming increasingly aware of the number of people, including young teenagers, who are sending us E. Mails about a very troubling problem. The problem is directly relatied to Internet pornography. The problem is the terror and confusion it creates.

First, adolescents are expressing terror that they that they could be "pedophiles" because they happened across some pornographic sites that depicted young, nude children. All of these youngsters are asking the same question: "Am I a Pedophile?"

Second, adult men or their wives, are expressing fears that these men could be homosexual. The reason for the fear is that they find themselves somewhat attracted to homosexual pornography.

Third, many people state that they are feeling paranoid that the government or police are tracking and recording their pursuit of pornography on the Internet.

What is especially interesting about these E. Mail concerns and questions is that they fly in the face of the research conclusions reached by a Post Doctoral Social Work Student at the University of Montreal. Louis Lajeunesse, post doctoral student and professor in the University's School of Social Work, studied the impact of pornography on male sexuality. He selected as his subjects, young men in their twenties who had never viewed pornography. Professor Lajeunesse claims that the young men showed no ill effects after they were exposed to pornographic material.

I find the conclusion somewhat surprising given the nature of the population he studied. A sample of men in their twenties who had no history of viewing pornography hardly qualifies as evidence of the effects that exposure can have. Second, the type of pornography viewed is not very clear not the amount of time spent viewing, where it was viewed, home or at the school, and the nature of the material.

What the people who are spontaneously sending E. Mail to Mental Help Net are reporting is great anxiety about their behavior. In addition, this anxiety become so pronounced that it causes them to question their sexual orientation.

In addition, there is the fact that women continue to write us about the pornographic behavior of their husband's or boyfriends and the fact that it causes them to feel hurt and betrayed to the degree that they entertain ending the relationship.

The are some facts about Internet pornography that need to be clarified:

1. Pornography on the Internet is very powerful and, therefore, very addicting.

2. The publishers of Internet Pornography are often criminals who are part of larger international drug cartels and dealers in prostitution.

3. The dealers in Internet pornography understand the addictive process. In that process, people become desensitized to the sexual images on the screen. Therefore, they have to publish ever more kinky types of sexuality in order to satisfy their customers.

4. In keeping viewers addicted by satisfying their need for more and more erotic material, they resort to male and female homosexuality, group sex, sadism and even child pornography.

5. Those men who view Internet porn are surprised by their attraction to homosexual acts on their monitor. However, pornographers work hard to make this appealing as a way of maintaining interest in what otherwise could become boring sexual images.

6. The lines between child and adult sexuality becomes blurred because pornographers use older adolescents who could be of legal age for sex but appear to be children, thereby appealing to pedophile feelings. This, too, can entrap people who are searching for ever more erotic material.

My point in all of this is that pornography on the Internet is not benign. Clearly, it creates a lot of confusion and anxiety for people who are vulnerable, and interferes in relationships because of the terrible feelings it arouses.

This does not mean that I favor censorship because I do not. First, I don't even know if it is possible to sensor material that comes from other nations. Second, there is always the danger of using censorship as a way to stop the free and open flow of information and discussion in free and democratic societies.

However, I do believe that parents need to be more vigilant in protecting their children and teenagers from this material. This is not for what some might think are "moral reasons." Rather, pornography depicts human sexuality in ways that are distorted and unrealistic. This is what creates confusion in the minds of young and vulnerable people.

Adults, meaning the remainder of the population after we talk about children and teenagers, need to know how pornography works to cause addiction and make types of sex that would otherwise not be appealing, seem very appealing and, therefore, anxiety producing.

Your thoughts, comments, questions and experiences with this problem are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

  • Beth

    My biggest concern about pornography has always been the poor message it sends about the meaning of sex. This applies especially for young impressionable men and women who are viewing such material. Sexual relations are ideally a beautiful act of sharing between two consenting adults. It's a private act, an act of love, an act of mutual sharing and spiritual bonding. It should be respectful and caring. Pornography does not represent this in a healthy way. It's objectifying and at times disrespectful. Not only that, but the fantasy element is not based on everyday reality. It sends all the wrong messages.

    Humankind has been given some very wonderful gifts, the pleasures of sex being one of them. But it is a gift which should be held as sacred as an act of love between two adults. Just my personal opinion and beliefs on the matter.

    As far as the internet goes...with power comes responsibility to not abuse that power. One would hope the folks producing this type of stuff would care about the type of damage it can do, but some things are beyond our control. I tend to think this stuff can and is very harmful.

  • Anonymous-1

    What about the Kinsey scale?

    Is it possible that internet pornography is actually enhancing the sexual experience?

  • sandy

    Another problemmatic area: the easy availability of internet pornography can lead to problems between a couple when the viewer chooses the ease of orgasming to porn over the more complicated interactions with a partner. Quality sex with a partner requires listening, attentiveness, delaying one's own pleasure, prioritizing the partner's preferences, skill, practice and often some degree of awkwardness or anxiety. Choosing to quickly satisfy oneself via two dimensional outlets can become habit forming to the exclusion of a partner. This can be a difficult habit to give up as well as lead to seriously hurt feelings.

  • severin

    I agree that in some cases pornography can lead to all the harmful effects mentioned above. But this is just one side of the story. Of course that sex therapists or psychotherapists are usually asked for help by people or couples who have some problems (caused by pornography in this case) but sometimes they may forget that there are also plenty of people who experience no problems related to watching pornography, of course these happy people with a satisfying sex life do not visit sex therapists and they do not write e-mails to them because they do not suffer from any harmful effects. (similar example is alcohol - it has ruined lives of many addicts but there have always been also many people who drink alcohol in moderation without any destructive consequences)

    I just want to say that besides all these problems mentioned in the article, there is also a group of people watching porn who experience some "pros" or "benefits" of watching pornography without any harmful or destructive side effects. They just do not complain, because they have nothing to complain about when speaking about pornography. So my point is that pornography definitely CAN lead to serious problems but not always and not inevitably. However, I do not underestimate the danger of problems mentioned above (especially when children are affected by internet pornography), so I agree with the main point of this article that internet pornography gives us a lot of reasons to be very careful in many areas of our lives.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Pornography, Harmless or Not?

    There is rarely a rule that holds true for all people. Yes, for some people, viewing pornography may hold no ill effects. Also, as one reader asked, yes, pornography may enhance the sex lives of some couples.

    However, having said these things, there is still a need to point out a major problem with Internet Pornography (not the only problem). The problem is that is devalues sex, takes the mystery and excitement out of the real and erotic side of making love between a couple. This is why regular viewers of porn need ever more and diverse forms of pornography: It grows mundane and boring.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Jojo

    Because internet porn, especially video porn is geared to men's primary sexual sense- the visual, it is a very powerful sexual stimulant. But we have to be careful about the word "addiction" Until the American Psychiatric Association recognizes internet pornography "addiction" as a malady published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual we need to look upon heavy porn use and compulsive masturbation by men as a symptom of many different types of recognized psychological disorders.

    That being said though, many psychologists and sex therapists are seeing a rise in the number of male patients in their teens and 20's who come looking for help because they have become sexually dysfunctional with their wives and girlfriends.

    The reason for this is often the fact that these young men are the first "porn generation" the first to grown up with hardcore pronography easily available in the home via the internet. These men have been watching highly stimulating visual pornography since puberty and have conditioned both their bodies and their minds to respond to these highly stimulating visual images together with the firm grip and feel of their own hand during masturbation.

    For these men, once they do get to have real sex with a real person they find themselves unable to get or keep an erection or being unable to ejaculate during intercourse. This happens because the experience of partner sex is so different from masturbation using porn both physically and mentally. Because they have conditoned themselves to heavy duty porn and masturbatory stimulation they find their desire levels during sex with a partner doesn't rise to a level high enough to maintain erections or to achieve orgasm. Add the resulting sexual performance anxiety to the mix and you have serious sexual dysfunctions not often seen in young men in past generations who are in their sexual peak years.

    So this "porn conditioning" is a real problem and it takes a theraputic specialist to get these young men back to the point where they can function properly during a real life sexual experience.

    This problem is also seen in older, married men who are heavy porn users. Many of them have turned away from their wives because of a perference for porn and masturbation over sex with the same long term partner.

    For these men, and the younger ones it is not just the high visual stimulation porn provides but also the great variety. A different fantasy partner and sex act at the click of a mouse. Never the same thing twice if that is what they want.

    Younger men are easier to turn around because despite having been watching porn from the time they were young teens or even before, they have an hormonal advantage which can be untilized in their "deconditioning" Older men, with lower levels of testosterone, need higher stimulation as they age, even if they have never used porn. So it is much more difficult to get older married men with higher orgasmic thresholds who may also a bit bored of marital sex and are attracted to porn's great variety, to give up their preference for viewing pornagraphy while they masturbate.

  • Lem

    You've done your research well. Many still bush the issue of internet porn under the carpet, including uneducated clinicians. I've read many comments myself who really are not aware of whats happening today.

    According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child abuse online as increased over 1500% from 1997 to 2005. In the last few years alone, according to the NCISS 6.5 million new photos of child pornography and 570,000 new perpetrator's have been identified. Isn't it sad that pornography is so addictive and progressive in nature? The internet with it's endless supply helps fuel an ever growing problem. People really need to get wise and face the truth about porn, rather then defending it like its their own spouse or child. But then again, does the heroin addict want to give up his heroin and be told his use is unhealthy when he's so dependent on it for life? Of course not. No he'll defend it till the cow's come home and he looses everything important to him including the love of real human flesh. Why will he do this? Oxytocin is one reason. The Oxytocin release, that is meant for bonding human beings to one another, bonds him instead to the images on his computer screen and then "poof" there you go, it eventually does become his spouse.

  • Jemima

    This is an interesting topic. Pornography reaches the senses, the sexual senses of a person. The sexual senses of a person are affected emotionally by sexual interactions. Sexual interactions create emotional attachments. Emotional attachments need and will need nurture as would a healthy marital relationship. Pornography or the use of it, enables a disconnection from emotional nurture and what I have found is, that in some cases, the extended use of pornography satisfies a desire to not have to connect with someone. It’s safer if you like. Relationships are invariably difficult for this person.

    We all need sex. But, not everyone is sufficiently functional emotionally though, to cope with a real relationship, so pornography is used as a substitute, to fill the void some of us have. Relationships also, that start on the grounds only of sex will fail because this shows up a dysfunction in the ability to relate, but I digress. Sex is a necessary part of any relationship, but the world we live in today would have us have sex now and talk later, when it is actually best that it be done the other way around. But just how many folks know that? Not many.

  • jojo

    The poster below makes an excellent point and one that is rarely talked about in discussions of internet porn and masturbation.

    There are many men for whom partner sex is difficult or impossible. People who are shy, or suffer from physical or psychological disorders such as a fear of intimacy and social anxiety.

    The porn and masturbation 12 step and other treatment methods can be successful in getting these men to stop masturbating temporarily the the relaspse rate is high because for many of these men the alternative to stopping masturbation with or without porn is celibacy which is not a realistic alternative.

    Anti porn and masturbation programs need to reach out to these people and make interspersonal skills part of the treatment program. This may mean these men need to take a course of psychotherapy first before joining and kind of 12 step or other group. But those groups need to be there to support these men and guide them as they learn ways to successfully substitute partner sex for solo sex.

  • Rene C

    Hi - My husband was using Internet Porn in secret for many years, sometimes hours a day. I knew but could not prove it. He became an expert at hiding it and removing traces on the computer. He finally slipped up and I confronted him. I was uncomfortable with the use. It also affected our sexual relationship. He promised to stop. That was 9 years ago. I am certain that the use has continued, but he has gotten even better at hiding the usage tracks. Our computer is set up in such a way that I can't see any of the internet history. Last spring my daughter came to me very troubled. She was caught up in internet porn and felt very upset. I couldn't find traces of her use on the computer and I believe this is because my husband has the computer set up to remove these. I have been married for more than 20 years and am ready to leave my husband - mostly because the lack of trust that has resulted from this issue between us. I feel badly to leave him because of it - I know some people would think I am overreacting, but I feel unloved, second-rate, and am tired of the untruths that hover between us.

  • Calik Black

    You sir, are incorrect. The only thing in your article that I found to be more than supposition or opinion was that pornography distorts the view of sexuality into something unrealistic. For everything else, however, I am of the opinion that you should never put anything you ever think on the internet, or anywhere else where a person might view it for that matter, ever again. I would attack your points individualy, but I do not feel that your article is truly worth my time.

    Have a wonderful rest of your life.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    For you to launch an attack like you have in your comment, there has to be more going on than the posting of an article about pornography. I have no idea what your problem is but, it seems to me, it is way out of proportion to the nature and tone of the article. Clearly, you are a very angry man.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Anonymous-2

    I believe that regular pornography use is unhealthy for the mind.

    1. Pornography is a form of escapism where the reward is orgasm. This makes it very similar to drug addiction such as alcoholism or heroin addiction. In fact orgasm is very similar to a heroin rush in terms of brain activation: Holstege, Gert, et al. "Brain Activation During Human Male Ejaculation."

    2. Pornography removes the soul and humanity from porn actors (and as an extension, people in general) and reduces them to a series of bodyparts, in other words objectifies them.

    3. This imagery sits in the subconscious and has an effect on your normal conscious experience (in a negative way in my opinion). It affects your behaviour, mood, the way you feel about various things, decision making process etc. This can be very subtle or obvious depending on the person.

    4. A few other concepts that I have difficulty expressing in words.

    These realizations occured to me during a psychedelic experience (mescaline). Since that trip I have had a lower motivation to use pornography, and the impact on my life has been positive.

    All this is just my opinion based on personal experience.

  • Anonymous-3

    It is important for us to know the degree to which pornography can affect a human life. Pornography is extremely powerful and has the potential to take away the most important assets of a person. Any habit for that matter is very powerful. As said by a great philospher "Sow a thought and you reap an action sow an act and you reap a habit sow a habit and you reap a character sow a character and you reap a destiny." It is evident that everything starts with a good or a bad thought, good thoughts should be encouraged and nourished well and bad thoughts though not possible to completely stop should be demolished even before they take the roots.

    Most men get addicted to pornography at their younger ages and some adult and married men also get into this habit. What makes it worse is that people realize very late that they are addicted to pornography and a large number of people dont even know that pornography is an addiction. The act of watching porn activates a part of the brain which produces certain chemicals to give instant pleasure. This is said to be equivalent to an act of consuming heroin or other powerful drugs. The following are some of the characteristics of an addicted person

    1. The person who is addicted would give most importance to watching porn than attending social gatherings, studies, professional activities, family interests and even his hobbies and personal interests. As a result he loses very important relationships, finds difficult to cope with family situations, finds difficult in concentrating with studies and struggles to meet objectives at work.

    2. Derives great amount of unreal pleasure from the act of watching porn, than the real pleasure he could derive from an intimate relationship or natural sex

    3. His fantacies of watching porn with different varieties with different acts becomes stronger with his internal materialistic desires, and therefore, quitting porn or trying to quit becomes increasingly difficult

    4. Will find a huge difference in his decision making abilities, judgement and cognitive skills. This poses a high risk for his personal and professional success

    5. Becomes engaged in watching pornographic material even when he doesnt have a desire to. This is because of the powerful habits that have established as a result of years of watching porn

    Apart from the above mentioned behaviours there are a lot of other problems which establishes in a person who is addicted to porn. The following are some of the ways one can overcome porn addiction and regain the gifted human life

    1. The porn addicted person will find that he has wasted a huge amount of time in his life watching porn. Some people spend more than 10 to 15 years in this highly addictive behaviour and waste precious time doing other important things in their lives. The first and most important step one should take is acknowledging the fact that time is very valuable and that he cannot get back his past time.

    2. Meditation and Yoga will help control materialistic desires and give a way to find new ways in overcoming this bad habit

    3. Practising different forms of meditation will help in removing the deep rooted bad thoughts in the subsconsious mind and thereby making way for new pure thoughts

    4. Understand that habits are very powerful and every struggle to put a good habit will help in eradicating bad habits. This means that the person should try and put in good habits everyday such as eliminating bad thoughts and bringing in good thoughts, physical and mental exercising, understanding and giving way for real intimate relationships and practicising natural sex

    5. Quit the habit of watching porn by adopting a step by step strategy. It is important to note that it takes time for putting in any new habits. Hence the porn addicted person should not try to quit the habit immediately as the craving becomes stronger just after sometime or a few days. Therefore the porn addict should decrease the amount of time he spends in watching porn and gradually stop completely. He should always have a positive mind everyday in acknowledging that he is a normal person and that he has successfully overcome addiction

    Many Thanks



  • lesterC

    In many heavy porn users/masturbators it is a discomfort with sex in a intimate relationship that causes them to turn to solo sex. Intimacy anxiety, attachment disorders, depression,low self esteem, performance anxiety, schizoid and other personality disorders, make interpersonal relations in general and sexual relations specifically very stressful and anxiety inducing. In some cases the stress and anxiety is so bad during sex with a partner it causes the man to suffer from erectile and ejaculation difficulties which amplify the anxiety even further.

    For these men porn is a solution to their problems not the cause.

    It is only when these men are masturbating alone that they can fully enjoy their sexuality. The unlimited variety, rich fantasy experience and the absence of the need to perform or to please allows them to relax and enjoy the experience rather than dreading it as they do when they attempt to have sex with a partner.

    Most studies of men who use porn and masturbate heavily and in preference to sex with a partner also show them as having interpersonal difficulties in other aspects of their lives such as friends and their work/school environment.

    Whether or not these men would be more successful in their interpersonal relations with others should they give up porn and masturbation is debatable. Their low levels of available dopamine and other neurochemicals (and the resulting disorders- see above) are caused by childhood trauma or, more likely, they are an inherited brain dysfunction so abstaining from sexual self pleasure will simply cut them off from all forms of sexual relief rather than enhancing their social capabilities.

  • porno addict

    I was an excellent student in high school, but often times felt lonely coz i didnt have any friends. To change this I resorted to internet and later porn. I have been an addict for past 7 years and I can say it has destroyed my life. I have serious case of social anxiety and i am jobless. Take it from me its something like a drug. I thought i can control it but looks like its taken over my life.