Porn Addiction: Pathologising Healthy Sexual Behaviours to Exert Control Over Human Sexuality

The following is based on information taken from scientific journals focusing mainly on North America with some from Western Europe.

Porn addiction is not recognised in diagnostic manuals nor is it supported by strong empirical data. In fact, reviews of the available science supporting porn addiction show poor experimental designs which calls the findings into question. Scientists have argued that porn addiction is not a medical issue but a moral one and that’s what I’m going to outline here.

Adopting an addiction framework for pornography and more broadly, sex, has been reasoned as a new way to regulate individual sexuality through creating a restrictive socio-sexual normativity. The moral values responsible for this come from Judeo-Christian influences which have shaped contemporary social norms in Western countries. This argument against pornography comes from the sacred role that sex is meant to play between husband in wife in religious unions. Sexual acts outside of this union, in this case masturbation and pornography consumption coming together in a private setting, remove sexual legitimacy and are perceived as dirty.

Some scientists have suggested clinicians should consider a patient’s gender, libido and sexual orientation in the context of conflicts shaped by religiosity rather than immediately apply an addiction model to sexual behaviour. There is evidence to support the idea of porn addiction being a religious and moral issue instead of a medical one. Findings have shown that stronger religious beliefs and moral disapproval of virtual sexual stimuli (porn) predicted how likely an individual was to think they were addicted to porn despite their level of porn use. For example, one religious man thought his biweekly use of porn was proof of his addiction. Biweekly use of porn does not meet the criteria for masturbation proposed by some supporters of porn addiction theories. It seems that religiosity can influence perceptions of what is acceptable sexual behaviour and what constitutes an addiction. Another finding is that a significant percentage of individuals who see themselves as sex addicts or have received treatment for sex addiction have strong religious beliefs. This shows a bias based in religion which may lead individual’s to seek out help for behaviours which are most likely normal but pathologised either through internal monologues as a result of social learning or people in their environment.

Even in the non-religious, negative biases to certain sexual behaviours can exist due to the tranmission of moral values through a culture with roots in religiosity. Studies show that professionals hold biases against individuals that engage in fetish and BDSM behaviours, have non-monogomous relationships and those that have diverse erotic interests. These supposedly ‘abnormal’ sexual behaviours are deemed to contribute to sex addiction yet none of them are shown to be linked to psychopathology. The commonly used Sexual Addiction Screening Test has also been criticised for pathologising individual’s with a high libido (or sex drive). Studies have previously suggested that women inserting toys into their vagina for masturbation, women using toys for sex with a partner and having seven or more orgasms a week all are suitable criteria for sexual addiction or hypersexuality. None of these things actually constitute a psychological problem but are deemed morally wrong by the researchers and therefore, were suggested as diagnostic criteria. Another layer of complexity is added to this debate through gender and sexism yet I will save that for another post.

The fight against porn addiction has been touted as a moral crusade in which one group of people are imposing their lifestyle onto others. This is a great shame as human sexuality is incredibly diverse and it has been over time, cultures and even individual’s themselves. This observation and accumulation of its documentation have made many scientists realise that atypical sexual interests are complex and not pathological, often times they are beneficial and improve an individual’s life. There is no universal normality. There are multiple normalities and if they are consensual and free of unwanted harm then they should be celebrated.

Sources

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1468017316644701

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1533256X.2011.619926

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1158136009001376

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14681990500358469

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272820552_The_science_and_politics_of_sex_addiction_research

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.460.8394&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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