Another contribution to sexual problems is the use of pornography. Pornography has be shown to stimulate the same neural pathways which are associated with other addictions. Like drugs or alcohol, a pornographic image loses it’s impact with repeated exposure leading to be an escalation in the amount and type of porn. Typically, porn addicts progress from soft porn (eg semi-naked women), to hard porn (eg group sex, rape, sex with animals and sex with children, violent sex).
Pornography also desensitises the viewer – initially they may be repulsed by what they see. With repeated exposure, they move towards acceptance and the belief that ‘everyone is doing this’.
Almost all sexual assault perpetrators are pornography users. The number of men in prison for sexual assault has doubled since 1988 and 2/3rds of sex crimes in Australia are against children. The advent of the internet has made pornography accessible to young children in their own homes. In 2003, 84% boys and 60% of girls aged 16-17 had been exposed to internet pornography.
While many people think that pornography is just a bit of harmless fun, there a number of unwelcome side effects including:
- Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Contrary to popular belief, pornography use does not enhance sexual performance, but rather undermines it. The unexpected popularity of erectile dysfunction medications (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis etc) can in part be explained by the dramatic increase in pornography use over the past decade.
- Sleep deprivation and deterioration of general health. Some pornography addicts spend hours on the internet, often while the family is sleeping. Sustained sleep deprivation will ultimately take its toll on the user’s health.
- Financial penalties. A pornography habit will cost the addict financially. It can also have an impact on the users earning capacity. It is estimated that 80% of internet pornography is accessed during business hours on work computers. This results in a loss of productivity leading to limited promotional opportunities and in some cases, to job loss.
- Marital instability. Pornography impacts negatively on the marriage in a number of ways. Pornography use often comes with, or is followed by, sexual infidelity. This may take the form of masturbation, internet sex, phone sex, prostitute sex or an affair.
All these forms of infidelity hurt the spouse and drive a wedge in their intimacy. Like all infidelity, the secrecy and deception involved destroys the spouse’s confidence and trust in their partner. Pornography has a devastating impact on a couple’s sexual intimacy. Two common outcomes have been noted:
- The pornography user loses sexual interest in the marriage, because it seems ‘tame’ and unexciting, and their sexual energy is being absorbed by other sexual liaisons.
- Pornographic images are permanently imprinted on the user’s brain and cannot be erased. It generates unrealistic expectations of the spouse and introduces impossible comparisons. One woman described their use of x-rated movies to assist with their sexual difficulties this way. “Initially it seemed to help – I felt more interested in sex. And then, one day, I noticed that as we were having sex, my husband was watching the couple on the TV and I realised he wasn’t making love to me. He was just masturbating inside my body”.
Other spouses report feeling demeaned and humiliated by their spouse’s demands for more extreme sexual practices. Pornography use is absolutely antithetical to deepening the intimacy and meaning in a couple’s sexual life. Treatment programs are available and can be accessed via the local Catholic counselling agencies.
Posts in this Series
Sexual Response: here
Adult children of Addicts: here
Enhancing Sexual Communion: here
Recommended Reading: here