Concept of 'Porn Addiction' Based on Pseudoscience, Paper Says

Concept of 'Porn Addiction' Based on Pseudoscience, Paper Says

LOS ANGELES — A new paper published last week in Porn Studies, the peer-reviewed academic journal, surmises that the concept of "porn addiction" is based not on evidence but on pseudoscience.

Further, the author of the study, David J. Ley, a noted author, psychologist and “sexpert,” said that telling people they have a porn addiction does more damage than it does good.

The release of the paper, “The Pseudoscience Behind Public Health Crisis Legislation,” comes weeks after the  New York Times published two fairly negative articles about porn — one article, titled “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn,” attempts to discern how porn impacts the sexual development of teens, while the other, “Let’s Ban Porn,” calls for an outright ban on online adult content.

Porn Studies’ latest published paper, which was edited by the group’s founders, Feona Attwood and Clarrisa Smith, places a starting point to the label of “porn addiction” on legislative debates and accompanying resolutions that state that porn acts as a neurologically altering stimulus, “changing behaviors and sexual experiences and creating patterns of self-destructive behaviors identical to those associated with substance addictions.”

Utah, first in 2016, and other states have either passed or considered passing legislation that identifies online pornography access as a “public health crisis” that would require tech manufacturers to install obscenity filters on all devices, which consumers would then have to pay to uninstall.

“Certainly, the concept of sexual or pornography addiction has been uncritically adopted by pop psychology, mainstream media and [the] general public,” Ley said in his findings. “Unfortunately, the application of an addiction model to sexual behavior, including pornography consumption, has severe limitations.”

Ley, with the paper, set out to offer research findings, theoretical weaknesses and methodological problems that are commonplace in the “pornography is addictive” justification for anti-pornography legislation.

He set out his paper under nine points to help prove his conclusion, including that the concept of pornography or sexual addiction has been uncritically adopted by the mainstream media and general public, and that proponents of “porn addiction” diagnosis rarely rely on actual research or theory regarding pornography's impact or effect.

“Instead, they suggest that pornography consumption has similar effects on the brain as drugs or alcohol,” Ley said in his paper. “Often, they point to cross-sectional studies which found neurological differences between those who use high levels of pornography and those who do not.”

Ley concluded in the paper that there are people who are experiencing challenges integrating pornography into their life, and that there are alternative strategies for supporting these individuals, including providing greater sexual health education; addressing empathy within relationships; and enhancing impulse control and mindfulness, among other ideas.

“Unfortunately, the label of porn addiction is commonly thrown at these individuals in a manner which feeds moral panic, diverts attention and resources from effective, evidence-based strategies to support these individuals, pathologizes otherwise-benign behaviors, serves a profit-driven, exploitative industry, and confuses cause and effect,” Ley said.

“To assist most effectively, we must evaluate and consider those contextual variables, and allow them to guide our individual, therapeutic, and public responses,” Ley said.

“The label of porn addict increases the sense of hopelessness that individuals struggling with their porn use experience. It takes our focus away from the person, places it on pornography, and ignores the user's social, religious and personal contexts.”

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