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Problems with porn

Overindulging can have side effects

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It won’t make your hands fall off and it won’t make you go blind, but watching too much porn can screw up your sex life. Erectile dysfunction, issues with body image and full-blown addiction are just a few of the symptoms of over-watching porn.

A 2011 survey by Italian researchers at the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine surveyed 28,000 men who categorized themselves as being addicted to porn. The results showed that many men, some as young as 14, suffered from “sexual anorexia.”

Sexual anorexia, according to the report, happens when viewers gradually become desensitized to porn as a result of “excessive consumption,” resulting in a loss of libido, impotence and an image of sex that is skewed from real-life sexual relationships.

Like video games, drugs and alcohol, there is a fine line between enjoying porn occasionally and becoming addicted. Porn can be enjoyed, but in moderation.

Dr. Lisa Anllo from Linwood Psychotherapy Associates, is a clinical psychologist whose primary specialties are relationship issues and problems related to sexuality. She explained it’s difficult to label what is an acceptable amount of porn to watch, as it is different from person to person.

Anllo said there are red flags that occur when someone begins to invest too much time into porn.

“If one starts to spend excessive time and energy with a behavior, like porn watching, that has consequences that may be ignored such as less sexually functional behavior with one’s primary sexual/romantic partner, less time spent with family/friends or [interference] with recreational hobbies or even work, then one might want to self-identify as having a need to get help or at least set a plan to limit one’s access,” Anllo said in an email.

Most college students are no strangers to porn. In fact, college-aged males and females make up the second-largest demographic of porn viewers, according to a 2015 infographic released by the adult entertainment juggernaut PornHub.

Thirty-one percent of viewers are between the ages of 18 and 24, the infographic showed. Additionally, a 2015 survey from Covenant Eyes showed on average, nine out of 10 boys and six out of 10 girls viewed porn before the age of 18.

For The Spectrum’s 2018 sex survey, 222 out of 346 students said they watch porn. Students that do watch porn watch at different rates weekly, most watching at least once a week and some watching twice a day.

As porn has become more accessible, moving from our computer screens to our mobile devices, its viewership has grown substantially. In 2017, PornHub drew 75 million visitors daily, each spending roughly nine minutes watching content. This is up significantly from 1 million daily views when the website launched in 2007.

The statistics show porn isn’t going anywhere. Whether you’re a daily viewer or save it for a special treat, the adult entertainment industry is constantly growing and adapting to its ever-increasing audience.

But porn has its drawbacks.

Over-watching porn can skew viewers’ perceptions of what is realistic and what is fake.

In recent years, Anllo said she has noticed issues with body image and anxiety as a result of watching too much porn.

“Before porn was widespread across the internet, it used to enhance people’s sex lives,” Anllo said. “But now, there are people with compulsive addictions as a result of watching it too much.”

Anllo said she’s noticed that more and more young people are being influenced by porn and as a result, view themselves as inadequate compared to the actors on their phone and computer screens. People are going as far as getting cosmetic surgery to enhance their genitals to mimic professionals’ body parts.

“One interesting phenomenon, which is more recent, is that you have women shaving their vulvas and pubic area and it’s thought that this is due to porn and its accessibility,” Anllo said. “This depiction of unrealistic, retouched [body parts] is actually causing women to go to cosmetic gynecologic surgeons.”

Another issue floating around the world of porn lies within the ethics of the trade. With a large portion of its viewers being under the age of 18, this raises the question: is porn a realistic platform for young adults to learn about sex?

Porn caters to viewers’ fantasies and gives them an opportunity to explore sexuality in ways that they might not be able to with their partner. More often than not, what occurs in a pornographic video doesn’t translate to how sex happens in real life.

The problem is younger viewers may be oblivious to this important fact.

Dr. Lance Rintamaki, an associate professor in the department of communication, teaches Sexual Communication. He realizes many people view porn for its unrealistic elements. But, he says, it’s important for viewers to remember there is a fine line between what’s real and fake when it comes to porn and sex in real life. Open communication with your partner is always necessary when trying to bring in new ideas to a relationship.

“The common theme in porn is fantasy. Both men and women in the college age group have learned a lot about what they think sex is about from watching porn, but this causes a lot of problems,” Rintamaki said. “Boys develop expectations about how they're supposed to look, how they're supposed to perform and what partners like. [The] same thing applies to young girls, but what you see in porn can be way off the norm. If you learn that's how [sex is] supposed to be, though, we have a problem.”

If read the wrong way, harsher genres of porn can subliminally steer male viewers towards rape culture and sexual violence against women. Rintamaki talked about the typical differences between porn targeted towards men and women.

“Most porn is made by men, for men, and tends to focus on a fairly graphic, first-person point of view. By contrast, porn made for the average woman's sensibilities builds over time, establishes connections between the characters involved and shows them together as a couple, working as a team,” Rintamaki said. “Women often aren't sex-averse, but recognize that porn for them needs to be about way more than just deep-d*cking. If you're confused when your girlfriend responds with disgust to your super sloppy porn focused on nothing but lady parts, the problem is your kind of porn isn't her kind of porn.”

Both Anllo and Rintamaki said there are ways to get help if you are affected by porn addiction. There are numerous 12-step programs such as Sexaholics Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous who work individually and with your partner to help fix addiction.

Each program and therapist offers a different framework for recovery, but programs often aim to moderate porn usage and work with patients to begin having regular sex with their partner again.

Students have mixed feelings about the psychological side effects of watching porn. Jeffery Gonzalez*, a senior exercise science major, says he agrees with Rintamaki. Gonzalez thinks watching too much porn can severely warp someone’s perception of what sex should be like, resulting in unnecessary anxiety and self-confidence issues.

“In the adult entertainment industry, porn stars are hired for a specific reason. Companies find the best-looking people that have nice bodies, huge penises or breasts, and people become self-conscious of themselves and their bodies,” Gonzalez said. “It’s all for show. As you get older and begin exploring your sexuality, a lot of people watch porn to learn about sex. People just have to realize that’s not how it actually works.”

Other students feel porn is a good outlet for viewers to explore their sexual fantasies and get new ideas to try with their partners.

Jessie Smith*, a junior health and human services major, said she disagrees with claims that porn causes issues with body image. Smith said she believes porn is very inclusive due to the vast number of categories and ethnicities the genre represents.

“With porn, there are so many body types. It’s very diverse. Anyone can have sex or film porn,” Smith said. “It’s all about what you want to see in your personal time. If your sexual orientation is straight, but occasionally you want to watch same-sex porn, who’s going to stop you? Everyone can be represented in porn, which is what makes it so appealing.”

With an increase in compulsivity, Anllo applauds the small number of schools across the country that offer porn literacy classes. The schools approach the natural curiosity of viewing porn as more sex-positive instead of shaming youth for exploring their sexuality.

Some schools are beginning to offer programs that help youth learn how to properly navigate watching porn, while educating them about the realities of sex. Anllo hopes more schools will adopt such programs, but notes an obstacle might arise in the form of parents who might not understand the intent.

“[It’ll be hard to convince] parents who are conflicted about acknowledging their kids’ sexuality, nor will schools at pre-college level want to touch it necessarily as they fear upsetting the parents by teaching about sex in this more accepting, normalizing way,” Anllo said. “But one can hope that some more progressive middle schools might take it on with inclusion of discussion groups for parents.”

*The names of students have been changed to protect their identities.

Max Kalnitz is a news editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com.


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