Why is Pornography Addiction so damaging?

Computational neuroscientist Ogi Ogas suggests that one in six or seven internet searches is for pornography. There are about 5.6 billion searches per day. Consuming pornography is a pervasive pastime in a digitally connected world.

Though, there are arguments that sexually explicit content can have the opposite effect. It disconnects people.

One study, aptly named Basically … Porn is everywhere, lists the negative impact of pornography in young people’s sexual beliefs.

Pornography Leads to Unrealistic Attitudes

“For example, pornography has been linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex; maladaptive attitudes about relationships; more sexually permissive attitudes; greater acceptance of casual sex; beliefs that women are sex objects; more frequent thoughts about sex; sexual uncertainty (e.g. the extent to which children and young people are unclear about their sexual beliefs and values); and less progressive gender role attitudes (e.g. male dominance and female submission).”

That study came from Middlesex University in London. The researchers were looking at the results from youth who became frequent pornography viewers.

Porn can contort attitudes and inclinations about what healthy sex is. It can disrupt the ability to have, build, and maintain relationships with others — perhaps shifting the emotional predilection that yields a satisfying, long-term connection toward a temporary, physical transaction. Porn is often pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s a stylized but simplified representation of something incredibly nuanced and personal.

Pornography Addiction Hurts Relational Connections

This divorce of interpersonal connection between partners and subsequent surrogacy of personal desire manifested itself in Middlesex University study findings as an objectification of women, which can very likely be extended across sexual preferences to other genders.

“Objectifying someone” isn’t just a blasé term thrown around when determining how attractive another person is. “Objectification” is a shift in perception that causes someone to see and believe another being is just an object, free to be manipulated and affected as pleased. It’s legitimately damaging to people’s world view.

The study’s finding about frequent thoughts of sex is similarly problematic. Consider, during the course of the day, what are you thinking about? Time is finite, so you’re likely prioritizing daily tasks that stimulate and sustain you and your lifestyle. You’re reminded, perhaps, that bills need to be paid, or that an old friend’s birthday is coming up and you should reach out.

Addiction Becomes an Unhealthy Obsession

What happens when the frequency of sexual thoughts increases to an unmanageable degree? Make no mistake, sexual thoughts are healthy and natural. They’re to be expected from any person from time to time. However, the immediacy and accessibility of pornography can increase those thoughts into an obsession when an interest in pornography shifts to an addiction to pornography.

Another study of 630 people found that there’s a progression of attitudes and interests from nondeviant to deviant pornography usage, with the user transgressing from the banal to egregious topics. This transition from vanilla to aggressive pornography was correlated to age of onset, or in other words, how early someone started to consume and gain a dependence on porn.

There are findings that show pornography use creates loneliness and loneliness manifests into pornography use, which when exacerbated by addiction can become a damaging, self-perpetuating cycle of disconnection. Pornography is a “sexual script, consisting of eroticism, objectification, promiscuity, and misogyny [which] is on its face antithetical to secure attachment… conceptually linked to loneliness.”

The addiction to pornography becomes a way to alleviate loneliness through arousal and euphoria that lead to relief and comfort. It’s like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. There are some bigger problems under the surface, i.e. the inability to form lasting, satisfying relationships.

It doesn’t just create loneliness in single people. There was a study on pornography use titled Till Porn Do Us Part? A Longitudinal Examination of Pornography Use and Divorce in married couples and whether or not it could predict their likelihood of divorce over time and under what social conditions.

“We found that the probability of divorce roughly doubled for married Americans who began pornography use between survey waves (N = 2,120; odds ratio = 2.19), and that this relationship held for both women and men. Conversely, discontinuing pornography use between survey waves was associated with a lower probability of divorce, but only for women.”

This probability was higher for young Americans, those who were less religious, and those who reported greater initial marital happiness.

An addiction to pornography is a real issue to be taken seriously. It can lead to loneliness, troubled relationships, problematic views, disconnection from the world around us, and difficulty to adapt to interpersonal relationships.