Is it really a lonely drug? Maybe it’s time for a little more research.
“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [‘hard-core pornography’], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it …” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, 1964
The subject of pornography and its influence on readers and viewers almost always is premised on the presumptions that porn is universally defined and that much of it can be addictive. But both presumptions fail in the legal and diagnostic arenas.
There is no single legal definition of what constitutes “hard-core” porn and obscenity and what erotic materials cater solely to a user’s “prurient interests” and are void of any “redeeming social value,” the latter being two criteria that are still applied in local court cases. Nor is there sufficient clinical research to categorize excessive use of sexually stimulating materials as an addiction.
Instead, since the Supreme Court declined in 1964 to impose a federal standard for obscenity and what defines porn, local governments have been free to infuse “community standards” in their decisions about what is obscene. But a litmus test of sorts emerged from the ’64 case in which Justice Potter Stewart, in Jacobellis v. Ohio, wrote he could not define hard-core porn but that “I know it when I see it.”
The case in which Stewart wrote narrowed the scope of earlier Supreme Court decisions and preserved the constitutional right to freedom of speech – except for “hard-core” porn. But it also left inconsistencies from one local jurisdiction to another, that is, what is deemed obscene in one city or town might not be so in another.
Perhaps the only dispute on which most everyone agrees, at least in clinical studies and surveys, is in the definition of the word. Derived from a Greek word referring to female prostitutes, the word pornography is defined in virtually any dictionary with the reason for it – sexual gratification of the user.
Deep Throat and the golden age of porn
Pornography in the United States experienced something of a renaissance when it moved onto Main Street from its consigned restrictions of dark viewing booths in shadowy back alley adult bookstores in 1975. Then, a porn actor named Harry Reems who was hired at the last minute to appear in an adult feature that would become a porn classic, Deep Throat, was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines. Reems, 11 other individuals and four corporations were convicted in April 1976, but Reems’ conviction was overturned later on appeal.
But publicity of the case and widespread support that Reems generated from mainstream entertainment figures and liberal groups apparently drove Americans to check out the film. Deep Throat, aided by public curiosity and a thumbs-up review by the New York Times, earned a staggering $60 million at the box office. Reems’ cut was $250 for the one day he worked on the film. But the movie and notoriety which Reems received during his legal fight inarguably cemented his porn career that lasted until 1989 and in which he performed in an estimated 1,800 XXX features.
Yet, maybe surprisingly, neither Deep Throat nor its spotlight on the porn industry in the public’s collective psyche is credited for ushering in what has is called porn’s “golden age,” when adult studios, performers and the number of XXX films proliferated and adult movie theaters sprouted onto Main Streets across America. Another surprise is that porn’s “breakthrough” film was a gay production, Boys in the Sand, which is credited by historians and critics with ushering in the porn’s heyday.
Preceding Deep Throat production by nearly a year, Boys in the Sand takes place on Fire Island, the historic gay haven in New York, and features an all-male cast in three segments. Directed by legendary gay porn director Wakefield Poole and showcasing gay performer Casey Donovan, Boys in the Sand was the first adult film with credits, the first to be reviewed by the entertainment industry’s influential Variety newspaper and the first XXX film to achieve crossover popularity as a mainstream movie.
The introduction of the VCR and the home viewing market it created thrust porn accessibility and viewing to stratospheric heights in 1981. But the advent of the Internet launched porn into the galaxy. Statistics on porn usage on the Internet are only as good at the given moment because they and the amount of money to access pay-for-porn and private show sites change literally every second. But the numbers at any given moment are staggering by any measure.
Porn drives behavior and it drives the internet
TopTenReviews.com is a web-based service that, when accessed, features an running tally of how many people are on the Internet accessing and viewing porn at any given second. A more stable picture of the popularity of Web porn might come from Pornhub, just one but the largest of literally thousands of porn portals. In its annual report for 2014 and published Jan. 7, 2015, Pornhub reported it was visited 18.35 billion times and 78.9 billion videos were viewed – the equivalent of 11 videos of every man, woman and child on earth.
The United States came in as the country viewing the most porn with the average user spending nine minutes and 40 second on the site. Curiously, viewing dropped by 18 percent on Christmas Day and by 22 percent on Super Bowl Sunday.
Perhaps alarmingly, sex vids involving teenagers were the most requested. The safety and potential for child sexual exploitation are but two of the myriad of bothersome issues spawned by the age of social media and, especially, the profliferation and easy accessibility of online porn. As imporant as those issues are, as equally vital is the psychological and mental impact of “excessive” use of sexually graphic materials. Because excessive is subjective and non-quantifiable, the common agreement is that use of porn has become excessive when it adversely impacts the psychological health or interferes with social, work and relationship obligations of the user.
Porn and the DSM-5
Yet excessive seems to be equated with addiction in some mainstream media commentary, scholastic studies and, especially, pro-life and Christian coalitions whose blogs saturate the Web. But medical and psychiatric studies and surveys challenge the assumption that addiction as defined in medical and psychological terms applies to pornography. Instead, limited research seems to be torn between categorizing excessive porn usage as either an addiction or disorder of compulsive behavior:
“The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes a new section for behavioral addictions, but includes only one disorder: pathological gambling. One other behavioral addiction, Internet gaming disorder, appears in the conditions proposed for further study in DSM-5. Psychiatrists cited a lack of research support for refusing to include other behavioral disorders at this time …
Porn addiction is not a diagnosis in DSM-5 (or any previous version).”Viewing online pornography” is mentioned verbatim inside DSM-5, but it is not considered a mental disorder either.
When the fifth edition of the (DSM) was being drafted, experts considered a proposed diagnostic addiction called hypersexual disorder, which also included a pornography subtype. But in the end, reviewers determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to include hypersexual disorder or its subtypes in the 2013 edition.
While pornography is mentioned inside DSM-5 when discussing several paraphilias, it is not yet included as an independent diagnosis. DSM-5 does not consider pornography to be a mental health problem.” – Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography_addiction
The Lonely Drug
The need for further research seems to be justified in an innocuous finding reported by Pornhub in its yearly report for 2014 and reported initially by The Gilmer Mirror. Its survey of 2,000 people was confined to men over the age of 50, however, thereby limiting a broader view of the Internet porn audience. Nonethless, among the findings:
- 24% called it an addiction.
- 40% called it a compulsion.
- 36% said they were casual users.
Respondents said they used porn because:
- 21% said they were lonely.
- 33% said it was like a drug and they felt compelled to do it.
- 42% said because they could.
- 42% said it was the only way they could have an orgasm.
- 35% said they couldn’t meet a woman
- 56% said they had tried to stop but they couldn’t.
The respondents, describing how using porn made them feel, said:
- 45% said it made them feel guilty.
- 58% said they believed it was wrong to do it.
- 34% they didn’t think it was a problem and enjoyed it.
- 58% were worried that they might get caught and it would damage a relationship.
- 36% said they were more likely to think about women in a sexual way. –
That 58 percent of men said they believed watching porn was “wrong” and nearly half – 45 percent – felt “guilty” watching it might serve as a call for more diagnostic research.
For those interested in more research, a Google search may be more of a distraction. For the person who worries about the time and money he spends on Internet porn has likely passed the threshold of “excessive” use. At that point, then, the “addicted” or compulsive porn user should consider modifying his behavior or, if needed, professional intervention. And for the person who finds Porn more of a curiosity, the impacts seem clear.
The surveys point out that Pornography may be the lonely drug. Whatever your take on Pornography, you know it when you see it.
Photo Credit:David Noah1/Flickr