Porn Addiction?

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Roy
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Porn Addiction?

Post by Roy » 29 Jul 2019, 17:21

About a month ago our ward had some special guest speakers to our special combined Sunday school meeting. These were individuals called to lead pornography addiction groups. We now have two porn addiction recovery support groups - one for men and another for wives of the men. Our meeting included the YM and the YW and this meant that there were 11 year olds in attendance.

Over the course of the presentation there were some assertions that I believe are questionable. One was that 90% of men are addicted to porn. After doing some digging on the internet it appears that there is a statistic that 87% of college aged males view porn. There seems to be a conflation of viewing porn and being addicted that I believe is unhealthy (one LDS affiliated website labeled a kindergartener fantasizing about his school teacher as "lust addiction").

The second assertion that I believe to be questionable is that porn has an affect on the brain similar to crack cocaine (sometimes shortened to "porn is as addictive as Crack!"). Again, after some digging, there is a fair amount of truth to this subject. Both porn and crack trigger the brain's reward center to release dopamine. This can also be true of other behavioral addictions like gambling, overeating, or shopping. Also the brain does tend reinforce behaviors that bring the desired outcome. This can mean that the brain can come to expect to receive an easy payoff from porn and that certain environmental factors can trigger a craving (like driving past a porn store you have visited in the past). So yes, porn and crack both use dopamine - but so do other normal activities. It seems that the trick is to use the dopamine responses of the brain's reward center to motivate healthy and social activities rather than isolating and anti-social activities.

Both of these dubious assertions were things that I can handle but I imagine this left the 11 year olds in the room thinking that 1) 90% of men are sex addicts and 2) Pornography is so powerful that just one taste can enslave you to a lifetime of addiction. Are the 11 year old girls thinking that they have a 90% chance that their future husband will be a closeted porn addict? I later spoke to a member of the bishopric nonchalantly about the subject. He felt that it was important to have the youth there and to talk to them like adults - to get it out in the open. My own 11 year old son has not gone through puberty and I worry that messages like this could warp his view of sexuality (fortunately both of my children chose to go home early this particular Sunday).

I feel for the church. There are some individuals with legitimate life destroying sexual addictions. Also, porn is ubiquitous with a fairly high percentage of men and women partaking at least occasionally. Because of morality/commandments we LDS are set up with a Zero Tolerance expectation. This means that we may treat those individuals that participate occasionally as addicts when they would not be so labeled in the non-religious world. (incidentally, going "cold turkey" can be similar for a habitual porn user as doing a "fad diet" in that it might not be sustainable long term and may result in "starvation" and then "overindulgence"). I feel for the church but I can't help but think that some of the problems are of the church's own making and that some of these "addicts" are just normal people.

Lastly, I have huge concerns with clinical groups that have grown up to serve this need. This reminds me of Evergreen and other Christian groups that had formed to support homosexual conversion therapy. I wonder how much of the normal human sexuality development is being twisted, demonized, and shamed … possibly for profit? I feel that "Life Changing Services" fit into this mold. They advertise to bishops and church leaders. They report receiving referrals from bishops. They seem to benefit from over diagnosing sexual or pornography addiction and then marketing their programs as the treatment. I have very little familiarity with the business model but I foresee red flags and I don't understand why people in thy psychology and medical fields are not sounding the alarms.

So, considering that my children are probably going to be receiving messages about porn in their church classes fairly soon, DW and I have been discussing how to teach the subject in our own home. After several weeks of pondering, I have found no better balanced perspective than an article that was shared here some years ago. "The naked people in your iPod". It is worth a read (or a re-read) and I wish more church leaders could tone down the frightening rhetoric and be more balanced.
https://medium.com/@ungewissen/the-nake ... 70a27fdb59
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 29 Jul 2019, 19:06

Porn absolutely can be and is addictive for many people, but we also view it in a skewed way in the Church. Just like social drinking by responsible users isn't a clinical addiction, neither is occasional viewing of porn. The industry is vile and truly evil, in the aggregate, but, at the individual level, not all use is addiction.

I have a harsh view of therapeutic approaches that diagnose and label anything that does not meet clinical diagnostic disorder measurements. There is a lot of money in non-clinical treatment, and even well-meaning, sincere people can do a lot of damage if they don't know what they are doing and end up requiring unique therapy for all actions.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Minyan Man
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Minyan Man » 29 Jul 2019, 19:16

Roy, you said in your post
There are some individuals with legitimate life destroying sexual addictions.
What does a life destroying sexual addiction mean? I don't want to sound silly about this. I really want to know.

I know that drug & alcohol addictions can be "life destroying". I'm just not sure about sexual addiction.
Also, are there degrees of sexual addiction? Isn't the church running the risk of promoting adolescent curiosity when it gives it such emphasis?
I know that it is more prevalent today than when my children were growing up.

Arrakeen
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Arrakeen » 29 Jul 2019, 22:48

There's definitely an unhealthy obsession with pornography in the church. Porn is a real problem, but the church's methods are not helpful. We seem to spend a lot more time scaring people away from it instead of how to move on from it if you've already used it (which many, perhaps most, have). This just creates shame. If after using it a few times you are already labeled an addict, unclean, unworthy of dating/marriage, unable to take sacrament, etc, then you might as well give up and keep doing it. Labeling someone an addict can send the message that they are incapable of stopping, which is not a helpful way to view things.

This really frustrates me because like many people my age, I struggle at times with pornography. But there seems to be little acknowledgement that shame and addiction language often only make things worse. I need to be feel like I can move on from my mistakes, not that I will be trapped by them. Treating porn as a chemical addiction also makes it easy to overlook reasons behind the behavior like shame, loneliness, and hopelessless, which some of the rhetoric at church can exacerbate. Honestly the message I need is that I can simply move on and put things behind me, not that I am some seriously damaged person who needs to go through a lengthy rehab program to have any hope of changing.

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SamBee
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by SamBee » 30 Jul 2019, 01:40

Minyan Man wrote:
29 Jul 2019, 19:16
Roy, you said in your post
There are some individuals with legitimate life destroying sexual addictions.
What does a life destroying sexual addiction mean? I don't want to sound silly about this. I really want to know.
It can mean different things at different times.

* Inability to maintain a real relationship marriage due to it.
* Excessive spending on related materials.
* Impotence or fertility related issues.
* Getting into situations which jeopardize your friendships, business relationships etc.
* False expectations.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Minyan Man
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Minyan Man » 30 Jul 2019, 05:51

Thanks SamBee. My next question is: how pervasive is it?
(I am really showing my ignorance on this topic.)

Minyan Man
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Minyan Man » 30 Jul 2019, 08:54

Psychology Today has an article regarding 4 ways porn causes problems.
It is interesting. The language is very frank & open. It is meant for an adult audience.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog ... s-problems

Here is another site that addresses how pervasive porn is:
https://www.sagu.edu/thoughthub/pornogr ... ornography

I have no idea how scholarly or accurate these reports are.

Roy
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Roy » 30 Jul 2019, 11:26

Minyan Man wrote:
29 Jul 2019, 19:16
What does a life destroying sexual addiction mean? I don't want to sound silly about this. I really want to know.
I once read a book about sexual addictions. My takeaway from the book is that engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior in pursuit of the addiction is a hallmark. One case study was of a man employed as an executive in an office with a private bathroom. He was reprimanded for looking at porn from his office computer. Then later his secretary complained that he spent an inordinate amount of time in his office bathroom. Turns out he was looking at porn on his device (blackberry?). He lost his job and his wife left him. He still spends multiple hours every day alone in his studio apartment consuming porn. In this case, pursuit of the porn addiction was more important than keeping his job. Whatever, part of the brain that performs impulse control and says, "Hang on! Let's be reasonable about this! We can look at porn after work!" was not functioning correctly. The book dealt with extreme cases of clinical sexual addiction. Lack of moderation. Lack of boundaries. Lack of impulse control.
Addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance … despite harmful consequence.
This is why I love the approach used in the "naked people on your iPod" article I linked to earlier. It compares urges to look at naked people to urges to eat bacon or doughnuts. They can satisfy a desire but are not really good for you. Empty Calories? Moderation and boundaries are important but do not freak out - we are talking about eating a doughnut and not about handling nuclear waste.
Curt Sunshine wrote:
29 Jul 2019, 19:06
Porn absolutely can be and is addictive for many people, but we also view it in a skewed way in the Church. Just like social drinking by responsible users isn't a clinical addiction, neither is occasional viewing of porn.
Yes. From what I have read from the people making the case that Porn is habit forming and addictive, they say that it is similar in this way to other behavioral addictions such as gambling, overeating, or shopping. All of those things can deliver elevated dopamine levels and can lead to real clinical addictions in some people and in some circumstances (the casino where I work has signs posted giving information to problem gamblers that want help for just this reason). But just like not everyone who gambles (or even gambles a lot), overeats (or even overeats frequently), or shops (or even shops to excess) is an addict - people that consume pornography with moderation and boundaries are probably not addicts.

My major concern is for my children. The bishop's counselor that I spoke to said in the SS meeting and to me later that he doesn't ask the boys if they have seen pornography because everyone has at one time or another - He instead asks them when was the last time that they saw pornography. :shock: :wtf: :shock: :wtf: This concerns me. I do not know the context of his statement or in what situations he might ask this question ... but I would really prefer that he never ask my son about pornography ... ever. How can I push back against this without seeming like I am justifying and condoning pornography use? I do not want my children to feel that sexuality and arousal are sinful, corrupt, or evil. Sexuality, puberty, and hormones can be messy. Growing up can be hard enough without shaming.

I don't want to give the green light on bacon or doughnuts. We try really hard to model a healthy food relationship in my house. We are all about portion control and plenty of fruits and vegetables and energy to live and jump and explore. But we do also enjoy the occasional BLT or celebratory doughnut with extra spinkles. It is just part of life.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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DarkJedi
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by DarkJedi » 31 Jul 2019, 05:40

I just have to say that the stat that 90% of men are addicted to porn is way more than dubious. I would believe 90% of men at one time or another probably looked at porn at least once, but I disbelieve 90% are addicted. I agree that this is a dangerous conflation. And, I know women who look at porn too.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Gerald
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Re: Porn Addiction?

Post by Gerald » 31 Jul 2019, 05:51

I have always been a bit uncomfortable using the term "addiction" to describe porn use. It forces the issue into a "black and white" conceptualization (you're either addicted or you're not addicted). This is why a member of the Church casually viewing Victoria's Secrets website may be described as "addicted to porn." Is this really what we mean? I'm not for one moment suggesting that viewing such a website is okay but these problems are definitely on a continuum.

If you look at pictures of naked individuals, say, once a week, is this a problem? Well, it may have spiritual ramifications that need to be considered but is probably not something that requires an intense intervention (but may need an intervention nonetheless). If you are viewing hard porn sites to the point that you can neither hold down a job nor maintain a relationship, is this a problem? Definitely! And it will probably require an intense intervention (what that might be I leave to the experts). What about the individual who is holding down a job and interacting with family and friends but spends a couple of hours each night on computer and phone viewing inappropriate sites? This person is somewhere in between and needs an intervention of some kind. The point is that each of these hypothetical examples can be classified as a "porn problem" but vary greatly in terms of expression and consequences. Is the term "addiction" truly useful? I suggest it is a term so emotionally loaded that it's no wonder people work hard to hide their problems OR use it as an excuse for their compulsive behavior.

Finally, I believe that very few people have "porn problems." They have "life problems" and they use porn to temporarily mute their pain and suffering. It may be that if you can address THOSE issues underlying the compulsive behavior that the behavior itself will go away. But our culture (while better than it used to be) is such that the social consequences for an individual whose porn use is made public are dire indeed. If we can help and support our brothers and sisters in a way that appropriately addresses their struggles without shaming them into silence, that would put ALL of us one step closer to living a Christlike life.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

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