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Why Porn Wrecks Sex & Relationships – TheJournal.ie tells us!

13 January 2013

A few months ago I started a series called “why boys never become men” looking at the issue or pornography and video-games and just yesterday I read on TheJournal.ie a (mostly) helpful article by a sex therapist looking at the effects porn has on (real) sex and relationships. Most of it is quoted below and comes from a journalist called Eithne Bacuzzi

PORN IS NOW at our fingertips, and one click makes it immediately accessible.

The result of this can be multifaceted, depending on the viewer. The question is, are we really aware of the consequences of this availability?

Patrick Carnes PhD writes in Facing the Shadow that:

Cybersex is transforming our sexuality. It is now the number one profit centre on the Internet, having passed sales in computer and software. Most sex education occurs on the web.

While internet porn has replaced the old information sources such as Playboy and Penthouse, people now access information in ways that are more comfortable and helpful. The powerful result of this is that users can be lulled into thinking that no one is watching and it is safe. The anonymity is an attraction.

This easy availability comes with a health warning. As a sex therapist I suggest consensual viewing of soft porn by partners is absolutely acceptable and can be fun. It can add to the enjoyment of a fulfilling creative sexual relationship.

On the whole I thought the article was helpful but this was the section I least agreed with.

Firstly, I wasn’t sure  the words “comfortable” and “helpful” are words I’d want to associate with viewing porn. We shouldn’t be comfortable when viewing porn and, in my opinion, it is never helpful to view porn. And this is revealed by the issue of anonymity she mentions.  If porn really isn’t a big deal (it can be helpful, it isn’t something we think is wrong etc), then why do we want “anonymity?” Why do we want to hide? What are we ashamed about?

Secondly, I had major hesitations about viewing porn together. Here are just 2 reasons. (1) Viewing soft-porn together is a slippery slope to addiction and one partner accessing harder forms of porn. (2) I’m against viewing porn in general as the porn industry is a brutal industry that objectifies and demeans people by its very nature and trivialises sex. Men and women are treated as objects for our selfish gratification and sex becomes very cheap. BOTH of these things go against God’s intention for us (a) to treat one another with respect and dignity, as people made in the image of God and (b) to hold sex in the highest regard as one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

Anyway Bacuzzi feels the pressure of the slippery slope so tries to qualify and set boundaries on viewing porn by saying,

When it is NOT okay is when one partner (mainly the female) feels coerced into performing sexual acts to please the other. This need to please can originate in the dynamic of their relationship and plays out both inside and out of the bedroom. Too often the porn script is: sex is better outside of loving relationships. Porn is always depicted as being devoid of warmth, affection, embrace, cuddling, laughter, flirtation and playfulness. It is portrayed as a clinical exercise in order to attain maximum sexual pleasure. It is goal focused and result driven.

Let me say here, that I believe and have witnessed some catastrophic consequences where internet porn becomes a feature in a couple’s relationship. In the extreme its constant solo use can go to the very soul of the relationship. It penetrates the closeness, intimacy and warmth, which are the fundamental ingredients of a healthy, working relationship. The frequency of use is very often lied about and if discovered, becomes a very contentious issue. I call it “the elephant in the room”.

Partners of frequent users who have chosen porn over relationship sex often report body and self esteem issues. Their initial reaction in an effort to understand their partner’s preoccupation can be around self blame. Frequent users also report feeling stressed, isolated and very alone. It’s a “lose-lose” situation. The piece they both long for is intimacy and feeling desired and loved. This is the most difficult part of any relationship to achieve, as it requires trust, vulnerability and love. The distance in the relationship happens slowly. Getting caught up in viewing internet porn doesn’t happen overnight.

She then goes on to talk about addition. Again, I wouldn’t want to concede as much ground as she already has, but what she says is still worth listening to.

So when is it an addiction? When it replaces the relationship. When desire and arousal is present only while viewing these images. When it’s used as an escape mechanism, to avoid feeling lonely, hurt and stressed. When it interferes with one’s normal life and where there is disengagement from a close partner. Self delusion can take over and secrets become the norm. Fear of discovery becomes a constant burden and one feels powerless and ashamed.

The replacement relationship is now with a mood altering experience. The addict’s new norm is with airbrushed images that promote perfection. Perfect bodies, perfect sex, perfect timing, perfect orgasms, usually in unison. The real stuff of relationships is not quite like that.

So what about the effect of the wide availability of porn on vulnerable, inexperienced young people? Of course there is a parental responsibility piece here and it is entirely up to the individual adult person to monitor this viewing. There are many ways of doing this. The distorted view of sexual encounters can objectify females and promote the message that females are for the provision of pleasure. The sexually explicit material is exciting, titillating and normalised.

She then goes on to talk about the issue of young people today, which is going to be a massive issue

Concerns arise around young people’s emotional and intellectual development and there understanding of intimacy. We know that adolescents can experience emotional and physical pressure in early dating relationships. Suffice it is to say at this point, that in my own work as a therapist some, and I emphasise some, early exposure to explicit porn can reverberate in later relationships. It is seen as a major contributory factor to some sexual difficulties later. Impaired sexual desire, erectile issues, confidence issues are some of these.

She concludes her piece by saying

On a very positive note, with cognitive restructuring, sexual information and education in adult life, it IS possible to undo some sexual core beliefs and expectations. We therapists are often presented with difficulties around results-driven and goal-orientated sex. The introduction of the idea that the sensual, slowing down aspect is the first step and with the elimination of pressure on sexual performance, this works extremely well. It’s what our work in sex therapy is all about.

The key message is: clinical, functional sex is never as rewarding as the feelings involved in making love.

A thought provoking article wouldn’t you say?

Now I have settled into my job I hope to return to my series on why boys never become men. Watch this Space.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 13 January 2013 4:52 pm

    I’m surprised there aren’t more likes here. A strong case made against the frequent use of porn (most especially within relationship). But I think it can be equally harmful to adult relationships, men and women start trying to conform to the standards they see in it. Aim to perform like the performers. :- / Real life having to contort into the fictional?

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