Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
For several years now, a controversy has been debated as to whether or not there is such a thing as Internet Addiction. In fact, many years ago one individual contacted me via E. Mail inquiring about starting psychotherapy because he could not tear himself away from the Internet. He left his telephone number and I, naively, believing he was serious, called him to see if he wanted to schedule an appointment. After he picked up the phone and I identified myself, he reacted in a shocked way and asked why I called him? When I told him that I thought he wanted help in getting away from the Internet he said yes, he did want help: via E. Mail!!
Though I suspect this reads like a joke that should be followed by a "bad um bum," I must sadly report that it is a true story.
However, there is another related and serious debate over the issue of the Internet and pornography. The debate is over whether Internet pornography is harmful to adult viewers. There have always been those people who consider pornography nothing more than another example of freedom of the press and freedom that some people have to express themselves. However, this is not a political discussion but one that has to do with human emotions and mental health. In addition, this article directs itself to the issue of Internet Pornography and not to any other forms.
During the past fifteen years, a significant number of men have presented in psychotherapy with complaints about a compulsion to watch pornography. Like any compulsion, the complaints were an inability to control the impulse to view adult websites. In some cases, this was happening at the work place with the fear that it could lead to being discovered and fired. In other cases, this took up such an enormous about of time each day that important tasks were not being completed. There were also those men who feared that their wives would find out about how they were using their computers and would be extremely angry with them. In all cases, the viewing was accompanied by masturbation, followed by the fear that they would not have enough libidinal energy left over for their wives or girl friends.
None of these men complained about the quality of the sexual relationship they had with their intimate partners. In addition, most of them reported that they had good relationships and were quite happy. In a few cases, the intimate partner either knew about the pornography because it was not kept secret or they had discovered it by accident. In all cases, the wives or girl friends were disapproving and wanted the activity to end. Depending on the psychology of the individual woman, some felt as though they were being rejected by their male partners because the images on the screen must have been more pleasing than they were. A few others reacted to this as though their partners were having an illicit affair. In a few examples where the viewing became accompanied by E. Mail with the women on the adult sites, the wives or girl friends felt threatened, angry, and were on the verge of ending the relationship. Trust became a major issue, particularly if the viewing was being done in secret and even more so if it was accompanied by E. Mails or chats. Finally, there were many women who felt that the pornography was disgusting to view, and that it debased and devalued women.
What is most significant is that there were some men who presented viewing the adult sites as a problem of their own , separate and apart from what their partner might or might not approve of. In addition to reporting unhappiness with wasting a lot of valuable time during the day, these men admitted to feeling isolated, lonely, empty, guilty, and adolescent as a result of this activity. Yet, they couldn’t stop themselves.
In some cases, these men were able to use psychotherapy to cease viewing this material and in other cases, they started attending SA or Sex Addicts Anonymous and were pleased with the results.
In light of the experiences presented above, I can only conclude that viewing pornography on the internet is harmful in a number of ways:
Harmful Effects of Internet Pornography
-Threatens marital and intimate relationships.
- Is experienced as being isolating and depressing.
- Shares many qualities of other addictions, such as not being able to control the impulse to view it.
- Threatens employment if done at work.
- Is extremely unproductive and leads to frustration on the part of the viewer.
- Due to the interactive nature of the Internet, can lead to direct contact with the models on the adult sites.
- Can harm the self esteem of some men who feel adolescent in viewing these sites and masturbating.
- Is offensive to many wives and girl friends who often feel rejected and not good enough as a result.
- Angers people who consider it to be exploitive and debasing to women.
- There is always worry that children could discover the pornography on computers used at home.
In the many cases I have experienced in the psychotherapeutic setting, viewing internet pornography was not harmless fun and posed serious complications for relationships and for individual mental health.
What is your opinion? Your thoughts, opinions and experiences are encouraged.