Anti-Porn Crusader Thinks Porn Causes Brain Damage

Gretchen Gallen
SALT LAKE CITY – John Harmer, an anti-porn advocate for more than 40 years, has added a new arsenal to his attack on the porn industry, and this time it is as simple as the human brain, not on drugs, but on porn.

In a revived effort to wipe out the multibillion-dollar porn industry, Harmer's new theory is tied to a method called "brain mapping," which he believes can provide scientific proof that porn is not only addictive, but that it can harm the brain's normal functions.

Through proceeds from Washington, D.C.-based Lighted Candle Society, which charges followers $10 per candle to "overpower and destroy the mists of darkness that are ever present with pornography," Harmer intends to fund a $3 million research project to analyze the results from "functional magnetic resonance imaging" (FMRI) to trace the damage caused by exposure to porn images.

Harmer and fellow anti-porn crusaders believe there is a distinct and traceable relationship between the viewing of pornography and anti-social behavior. In Harmer's words, studies have been done in which television viewing has been proven to be addictive, and there is proof that the viewing of violent content can affect the brain, but no one has yet undertaken the issue of porn and the brain.

Fellow anti-porn advocate Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education and author of "The Psychopharmacology of Pictoral Pornography," believes that proof of the correlation between porn and the human brain could be a "silver bullet" for individual lawsuits against the porn industry.

"It's not that pornography acts on the brain like a drug," said Reisman. "It is a drug."

Reisman believes that viewing pornography triggers adrenaline that is experienced in the gut and genitalia and triggers the production of testosterone, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.

"It's a drug cocktail you're hit with," she said. " Pornography is a powerful, an enormously powerful, stimulant, which triggers such a rush and such a high. It's not a sexual stimulant. It's a fear-sex-shame-and-anger stimulant."

Reisman also believes that porn leads to rape, serial murder, child molestation, and male impotence, and that it should not be defended by the First Amendment because the viewing of porn affects a part of the brain that is non-speech related.

"It's similar to the way cocaine or heroin can take over and control you," says Victor Cline, a therapist familiar with porn addiction. According to Cline, pornography "sets up a powerful linkage between an image that arouses you and a powerful reinforcement. Just like with chemical dependency, new neural pathways are opened up and it changes the brain."

If all goes according to plan and the FMRI study renders the expected results, Harmer and fellow society members believe it will give them license to "go into the courtroom and hold them [the porn industry] liable for physical harm. If we can hold them financially liable for the harm they are doing, then we have the real opportunity to push pornography into the gutter where it came from, and keep it there."

To continue funding its research, the Lighted Candle Society will hold a fund-raising dinner on May 12 at the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City. The Lighted Candle Society, co-founded by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, has also contributed funds to the Utah Coalition Against Pornography and to smaller anti-porn groups in the state of Utah.