Porn Addiction?

by Jason Stotts

I’ve argued before that I don’t think porn addiction is a real thing (here and Erosophia Podcast #14 & #15).  I’ve also referenced Dr. Marty Klein’s essay on it.  But, here’s an angle that I haven’t pursued enough yet: why do people think they’re addicted to porn in the first place?

 It turns out that it might be because they’re religious:

Compared with their less spiritual peers, people who identified as very religious were more likely to have a perceived Internet pornography addiction, no matter how much porn they actually consumed, according to a new study.

“We were surprised that the amount of viewing did not impact the perception of addiction, but strong moral beliefs did,” the study’s lead author Joshua Grubbs, a doctoral student in psychology at Case Western Reserve University, said in a statement. (LINK)

In some ways this isn’t surprising, because it is religion that labels porn wrong and we can only have addictions to things that are “wrong.”  If you don’t think that’s right, consider that I have a strong chemical addiction to caffeine.  Not only that, it’s easily available, lots of people have this same addiction, and some people spend lots of time and money on their addiction.  But, even though this is a chemical addiction with literally all the signs and symptoms of an addiction, this isn’t an “addiction.”

Actually, and this is rather off-topic, but I am reconsidering my views on “addiction.” After taking classes in addiction and substance abuse for my MFT program, I’m not sure that I even think that the idea of “addiction” is a useful concept. In fact, I think it probably does more to obscure the true problem than elucidate it. The idea is this: people use drugs because they are in pain and don’t know how to cope with it. I don’t think I would have accepted this idea before my classes and before attending a SMART Recovery (cognitive based recovery, which is a really good program) meeting and some AA meetings (which I think do more harm than good).  Before, I thought of drug addicts in the stereotypical way of purposely doing something immoral and being completely culpable for this.  While at the Smart meeting, I heard the addicts there describe their pain and how good their substance made them feel, when nothing else would help.  How they came back to their substance of choice when things got worse, in a very vicious cycle, because they needed their substance more when it was hard and not less.  I initially couldn’t quite understand this, how these people could keep using their substances even in the face of all of the problems mounting because of their use.  Now I understand that they don’t escalate their use in spite of their mounting problems, their mounting problems are another reason they use! I can’t help but think this idea, that people use because they are in pain, restores the humanity to drug addicts.  It also gives us a clear place to begin in treating addiction and helping the addict to overcome their problems. If we can’t help them to overcome their deeper pain, all we’ll do is send them into an endless cycle of relapse.  But, once we can help them to heal their inner pain, we can help them to quit using or to control their using. I think that it also explains addiction more thoroughly than other frameworks, including why addiction can be self-perpetuating as the pain increases from the addiction itself.  Moreover, it explains the apparent contradiction in the disease model whereby the disease model cannot explain why some people with very strong genetic dispositions to addiction never actually use and why some people with no genetic disposition to use become addicts.  Frankly, the disease model is a bad metaphor gone awry.  One does not “catch” alcoholism like one catches herpes.  There is no virus or bacterium that causes addiction.  While it might cause dis-ease in a person’s life, it shares nothing in common with the common usage of that word and to continue to call it a disease is both wrong and misleading.

Anyway, getting back to “porn addiction,” of course those who feel that porn is wrong are going to have a problem with watching porn.  Since they’re watching porn to masturbate (because really, why else do you watch porn?), and masturbation is also a sin, but sexual needs are real needs and important needs, but their “addiction” to watching porn makes them look at porn, which makes them touch their dirty genitals, well…you can see how their god wouldn’t be happy.  Since watching porn is both immoral and feels good, the christian comes to think that there must be something wrong with them that makes them feel pleasure in this “immoral act.”  But, the problem is their christianity and mistaken beliefs, not the pleasure they get from porn and masturbation.

So, the easiest way to get rid of “porn addiction” is just to get rid of christianity.

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