Is Porn a Health Crisis?

Earlier this year, there was well-publicized political movement in Utah against pornography. This movement politicized the use of pornography. This has led to extreme opinions about the risks and benefits of porn use. Advocates for sex positivity say that this perspective is shaming and culturally harmful. Obviously, many advocates against pornography latched onto this political issue to emphasize their perspectives.

In this video, this complicated issue is discussed, with considerations that you should make regarding porn use.

Today what I wanted to talk about is “what is up with all of this porn is a health crisis talk?” There is a lot of controversy and a lot of varying opinions on the impact that porn has. And I wanted to set that straight a little bit. I wanted to talk about “what is this controversy actually about? And give you some ideas of where you can go with the information that you’re getting. Because a lot of it is very contradictory.

So there are two extremes to this argument. One extreme is saying that porn is a typical, common, normal, healthy expression of sexuality and people visiting adult websites like TubeV Sex should feel ashamed or be shamed. And the other end of it is really highly focused on porn being a health crisis that we need to tackle [as a society]. And that we need to get it so that people do not watch pornography or do not engage in pornography at all. Some of it [the strong perspective against porn] is even getting as restrictive as to get the law involved in some way.

As this argument sort of plays out there’s a lot of things to consider, and actually too many to completely discuss in one video. So what I would first say is that this topic is so broad and big that before you would formulate a big, broad-stroke opinion about it. It’s really important to know that there’s not just one clear-cut answer. It’s actually really a personal opinion that you really need to have for yourself, about whether or not pornography is something in your life that you want. Or that you would even think would be a possibility to have in a healthy way. And there’s a place that you can go from. I’m going to talk about all of those things.

There are some recent events that really bring this into view for the therapy community. If you’re watching this, it might also be something that you’re wondering about as well. And you probably come into contact with some of the stuff that that I’m going to talk about.

Pornography has recently been brought into the political arena more than it has in the past. In Utah, I think there was one lawmaker who was openly discussing it [pornography] as a public health crisis that is an issue that we need to tackle as as a community. Now, there are a lot of valid points that could be pulled out of that. One is that children have access to porn, which is obviously not something that I or most health professionals would support–that children have access to or open access to pornography.

And, you know that they also kind of view from a platform that [says that] pornography damages marriages. Which hits on another kind of interesting element that came out recently, which was that John Gottman (a well respected and renowned relationship expert) came out and wrote an open letter about pornography, and the researched harmful effects that it could have on relationships. Now, this is pretty controversial… that such a well-respected relationship expert came out and had such a strong stance against pornography. On the other hand you can read reports that state if you look at the users of online porn websites like www.nu-bay.com yes predominantly the viewers are male but over recent years more and more women are visiting adult porn sites, this could be due to the different variety of genres that are now available, they tend to cater to a wider range of viewers than in previous years, they literally have something for everyone, as long as it’s legal that is.

A couple of things that that I would take into consideration are that that some of the research is relatively new. And as a community, we really have to take that research and try to figure out where to go so I think again before you take these “broad stroking” opinions about what that research means, I think that we really need to do some more [research]. We need to ask more questions that can lead to other research, that can really help us identify the effects of pornography, and how we educate people about it. And [consider] “is there a way, for those who do want it in their relationships, that they can have it in a healthy way?” So there’s a lot of work that that we have to to do with that in my opinion.

There are a few things that I really think are key if you’re getting this information about pornography is a health crisis
that are important to think on both sides. So that you can have a real balanced point-of-view as you’re deciding for yourself where do you go with this.

The first thing that I really keep in mind is that there are people who do struggle with compulsive pornography use. They’ll isolate with it. They’ll numb themselves with it. They’ll avoid their families. And it doesn’t really does cause problems. So if if that’s something that you are struggling with, or have struggled with, it might be beneficial to step back from pornography, as it could it could lead to those issues.

That being said, there are also a lot of discrepancies with porn. One person in a relationship will think that there’s a problem, and the other person will think that it’s not a problem. And the issue becomes very gridlocked, and it’s very important in those situations that both people’s opinions really are held with a lot of respect. And their been at both heard, and listened to on it. A lot of times, depending on what end of the spectrum your perspective comes from, one point one point of view will dominate. It really needs to be balanced, so that both people can share their personal opinion before they start to work on what kind of negotiation they’re going to have about it. And that also promotes an open dialogue about such a difficult topic.

One of the things that is also really important to keep in mind with pornography, especially if you have an adolescent who you’ve caught watching it is that sexual education is so important. And by sexual education, that means something more in-depth than just education about reproduction. So a lot of times sex ed programs focus on two things that seem not to be that beneficial, which is “abstinence only” for reproduction. Now I’m not saying that reproductive education isn’t beneficial at all. What I’m actually saying is that if it’s just that, it doesn’t really give the full perspective on sex as something that’s that is pleasurable. When young adults are developing and adolescents are developing sexually, they they recognize it as something pleasurable. But they are not really being educated about that. So a lot of times they’re using pornography as their way to kind of learn about sex. As we all know, even if you end up deciding that you want to watch pornography in your relationship, it’s not completely realistic. So the harm in that is that there can be these unrealistic expectations, and sometimes people start to become too hard on themselves, [and] too judgmental about
real-life sexual encounters that they’re engaged in. And actually have an overall lack of understanding about what sex actually looks like or even though should sort of be. So better sexual education can really help to kind of bridge that gap so that at least, if they come into contact with pornography, they’re going to know that that’s not necessarily reality. And they’re better able to decipher the difference between the two. And head into place where they can really have an enjoyable connected, healthy sexual relationship with with their partner or partners.

The final thing that is so controversial in this topic is “is there a way to have a healthy sexual relationship that would
involve pornography?” And in some relationships, this is going to be something that they want to have, and you know the research is a little bit vague on that part. Most of the research is focusing on a broad scope. There are people who are reporting that they have it in their lives and they do enjoy having it. It helps enhance things, so they watch it together. Or they respect each others’ privacy to watch it separately. Individually, I would say that I do see couples and individuals who do have it in their lives, and it isn’t really causing a problem–as they are reporting it.

This is something that is a real personal decision. And so even as extreme as opinions get about this, it is important to keep in mind that it’s still your own personal decision, and it’s something that you’re going to have to decide for yourself. If you decide that it works for you or not the two big, key components that seem to me to really cause a separation between
healthy and unhealthy is, “are people who are viewing it… are they communicating well with their partners?” Are they engaged and are they using it as a numbing tool. Now, a numbing tool in and of itself is not a terrible thing, in that we all numb to some extent. The real critical piece to numbing is knowing that we’re doing it, and being able to walk away from that. Not so that we’re not becoming so numb that we’re not engaging with people in our lives, or interacting with the people that we want to… Or we’re feeling more disconnected. I mean that it’s really important that we have a sense of
connection, and so having an awareness of whether or not pornography is a mechanism for becoming increasingly disconnected is something to really be on alert for.

It’s important to know that even some adults use pornography as a way of getting sexual education. So it might
be that you might need to get some more information about sex, and about what kind of sexual expression is really
congruent with who you are. And what are ways that you can really express yourself sexually. So pornography is one avenue that people can explore, but there are lots of other educational avenues.

So I think it’s important to have an open mind about this, as well. So again, it’s really critical too, with with these extreme opinions on pornography, to kind of focus on trying to have a balanced point of view. Getting information from both sides, having an open mind, and then formulating for yourself, what kind of role pornography should or shouldn’t play in your own life. And that will help you step towards a sexual relationship with yourself and with other people that really makes the most sense to you.

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