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9 Facts You Should Know About Porn Addiction

It’s more complicated than you think.

In the digital age where porn is simply a click away, the cliche image of a dude thoroughly ensconced in his mom’s basement with a lifetime supply of lube often feels like a cautionary tale to warn others of the dangers of porn addiction. But what is porn addiction actually?

On Cosmo Happy Hour podcast, Cosmopolitan.com’s social media editor Elisa Benson and senior sex and relationships editor Ali Drucker tackle the complexities of porn and porn addiction with the help of Lauren, a recovering porn addict, actress Pamela Anderson and Rabbi Shmuley, who wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal about the dangers of pornography, and sex and relationship expert Dr. Jessica O’Reilly. Together, they put together the pieces of what porn addiction really means — and whether porn is actually as a bad as its reputation.

1. The digital age allows a crazy amount of access to porn. Duh. In this way, access might contribute to addiction. ‘I think the dawn of the internet age of porn has definitely increased our access — it’s everywhere,’ Drucker says. ‘You could literally be looking at porn now 24 hours a day if you were so inclined, when that hasn’t always been the case.’ Anderson agrees, equating porn addiction to alcohol addiction: ‘Because of this easy way to access everything and this kind of technological age, we have so much access. So we have to just think about it because it’s rampant… some people can go have a drink in a bar and be OK with it. Some people can’t. So which one are you?’

UNIVERSAL PICTURES

UNIVERSAL PICTURES

2. In order to understand porn addiction, we must first define addiction. There is some controversy over whether porn addiction actually exists. But recovering addicts are adamant about the legitimacy of their addiction. ‘I think it’s the act of disconnection from your world and not wanting to be present,’ Lauren says. ‘And I think for me, that defines addiction, and if that’s taking you away from your career, your responsibilities, from your love life, then it’s an addiction. So if I’m going off that philosophy, then 100 percent porn is an addiction.’ Still, sex addiction has been repeatedly rejected by the American Psychiatric Association. ‘I really think it’s important to differentiate between experience and what the data says. If you have a specific experience and you believe it, then it’s perfectly valid. But you don’t want to generalise that to everybody else. That’s why we have experts who are combing through the data,’ O’Reilly says.

ABC FAMILY

ABC FAMILY

3. The stereotype that porn addiction is some guy with a gallon of lube in his mother’s basement is unfairly taking women out of the equation. ‘When I sought recovery, talking about females dealing with porn addiction was rare,’ Lauren says. ‘And I ended up in sex addiction anonymous and was one of the four women in the state of Alabama seeking help and, on top of it, I was the only one under the age of 30. So today, I’m so grateful to see that there’s programmes popping up for women specifically because they are apart of this demographic dealing with porn and sex addiction.’

4. Porn addicts say the aftermath of the addiction is a disconnection from actual sexual intimacy, or ‘sexual anorexia.’ Rabbi Schmuley believes that as the addiction grows, porn no longer stimulates sexual intimacy. ‘It actually becomes the substitute,’ he says. Lauren says when combatting that, you can end up going on the other end of the spectrum. ‘Something I learned right when I entered therapy is when people are in there for porn and sex addiction, they go from having a compulsive behaviour to completely turning it off and losing all sex drive. And I was stuck in this — they call it sexual anorexia — for five years. I could not get out of it worth the life of me.’

5. Porn addiction may not be the main problem; it may be a symptom of something else. ‘I think for me, it was the act of disconnecting from the world that I lived in,’ Lauren says. ‘I grew up in a very toxic Christian environment where it was very black and white thinking, where women’s value was in their sexual purity…. So I grew up in a world where sex is so taboo and for me, masturbation and pornography really disconnected me from reality, and it was something that helped me run away from stress and insecurities.’

6. No, some people’s propensity for addiction does not make porn inherently bad. O’Reilly doesn’t want people to make an assumption that porn is evil. ‘A recent study, we looked at 280 men whose porn consumption varied I think from zero to 25 hours per week and what they found was there was no positive correlation between porn consumption and desensitisation or arousal or erectile dysfunction issues,’ O’Reilly says.

AMAZON STUDIOS

AMAZON STUDIOS

7. Even if it has addictive qualities for some, porn can actually help you and your partner on a more intimate level. Dr. Jess explains, ‘We know that couples who watch porn together report that they have higher levels not only of sexual satisfaction, but sexual knowledge because they start talking about things…. Porn is not designed as a form of education. We all know that, alright? It’s not made to be a source of learning. However, it can help us I think to teach our partners what we do and don’t like.’

8. A huge part of the recovery process is reshaping what sexuality means to you. Lauren’s therapist has pushed her to reframe sex positively instead of associating it with guilt. ‘I think the beautiful thing that I found in recovery is I know that sexuality is a beautiful part of being human and a part of a way of connecting with people. I’ve had to work really hard in reshaping my beliefs around that, which has been a huge crux of the last eight years…. I personally do not watch porn, but it’s funny. My therapist has challenged me to watch it and test out those boundaries.’

9. Sexual intimacy and openness can be regained after recovering from porn addiction. Lauren says that her recovery has made it a possibility to using porn in future relationships. ‘There was dormant years of me avoiding intimacy at all costs. I just didn’t want to be a part of it. I was so upset. I felt broken. But today, I feel like I have this clean, beautiful slate that I’ve worked so hard for. I’ve worked so hard to reframe my belief system around sexuality and so if that was something my partner and I wanted to do 100 percent, I would be open to it. 100 percent.’

This article was originally published Cosmopolitan.com

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