This is the second half of my article, “Recovery”. This article is going to combat a study that claims to disprove porn addiction. For the sake of this post, I will use this link here.
“Whether the subjects were “problem users” or not, they were all shown several categories of images—pleasant ones like skydiving photos, neutral ones like portraits, unpleasant ones like mutilated bodies, and, of course, sexual images—while hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that measures electrical activity in the brain.”
That all sounds fine and dandy, yes? Show the subjects various pictures and measure their brain activity afterwards. I do not disagree with this part. The part I disagree with is below.
From this body of data, researchers examined each subject’s late positive potential (LPP), a common measure for the intensity of the brain’s emotional response at a given moment. The results were clear: Subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images.
As Greg Hajcak, a Stony Brook University researcher on the study, points out, a cocaine addict will experience “increased LLP to cocaine-related pictures”—one of the clearest indicators of psychological addiction.
But even subjects in the study who experienced “major problems” related to their porn usage didn’t display this same LLP pattern when viewing sexual images. In fact, as the researchers note, they “showed decreased brain reactions when shown the sexual images, rather than heightened activity”—the opposite of what one would expect to find in an addict’s brain.
These three paragraphs are where I have a problem with this study. The characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images is different than that of doing drugs, drinking, etc., because of the different senses involved. Sight affects the brain differently than smell, touch, taste and hearing. As I will mention two paragraphs from now, porn affects the brain differently. As an agonist like cocaine, porn mimics the receptors in the brain and leads to desensitization.
As a Psychology major, I’ve studied countless experiments and studies. Yes, a cocaine addict will have an increased LLP to cocaine-related pictures. For a certain period of time per individual. My partner is a former drug and alcohol addict, and has used cocaine. When he watched “Wolf of Wall Street” last year, he said the scenes depicting cocaine use did not affect him and make him want to do drugs. But he said at the height of his addiction and prior to his recovery, absolutely images of drugs would make him want to use drugs again.
The last paragraph is what gets me with this study: “…porn usage didn’t display this same LLP pattern when viewing sexual images. In fact, as the researchers note, they ‘showed decreased brain reactions when shown the sexual images, rather than heightened activity’—the opposite of what one would expect to find in an addict’s brain.” Porn is all about novelty. People get bored with seeing “plain, vanilla sex” and want to see crazy, vivid sexual imagery. The study does not specify what types of imagery the subjects were shown, but still images affect the brain differently than porn movies do. One would expect with an addicted porn user that basic sex acts and images would be boring to them, so their reactions would be decreased, rather than heightened. Many porn addicts require porn such as bestiality, homosexual porn, child porn, porn involving people with freakishly large genitalia/breasts, etc., so basic images would not give them that chemical rush. Just like if you show a cocaine addict a picture of a small amount of cocaine it may not elicit a strong reaction, but if you show them a video of someone doing a bunch of cocaine and enjoying it, they may have stronger brain activity.
In the sexual imagery pictures, the images were either romantic or were sexual intercourse between one man and one woman, which isn’t the case with many porn addicts. Prause says that the responses to porn simply said someone had a high libido. Which is funny, seeing how she wants to reduce men’s sex drives. Many men and women addicted to porn have low libidos because of their porn use.
The problem with studies like these are that they are often biased from the start. Nicole Prause, PhD, is a sex researcher who is pro pornography and pro masturbation. Of course she will do a study in favor of porn! In one of her other studies, she has people pick the “perfect” penis, and has people pick based on if they want a one night stand or a serious relationship. In this article, Prause is suggesting that mates should be judged by their penis size.
Prause also mentions in the first article, that “ACT also supports finding ways to be comfortable with negative feelings associated with viewing sex films, which ultimately might make a person enjoy lower consumption rates.” So basically make a person not feel guilty about viewing porn may make them not only enjoy it, but continue to do so? What about the people who don’t want to view it at all, and want help quitting all together? I cannot find it (someone please link to it in the comments if you find it), but I also read Nicole Prause talks about chemically reducing male sex drives.
In this article, Doctor Bader argues that “‘the addiction made me do it’ is merely an excuse for people who want to avoid the difficult psychological thought and introspection required to address the real issues behind sexually compulsive behavior.” So addiction is not real? I think that the millions of alcoholics and drug addicts across the country would disagree. There’s physical and psychological addictions. This article cites people like Tiger Woods, Kanye West and Russell Brands as “poster children” of sex addiction, and that because they are famous and sleep around and say they have a sex addiction that normal people who have sex addictions are lying about it is wrong.
People like Doctor Prause and Doctor Bader make people with addictions not want to come forward. They make people feel ashamed of having an addiction/bad habit, and try to crush an addiction as being something that comes from religious fanaticism or people who can’t address their issues of sexual compulsive behavior. People with addictive personalities often become addicts. At some point it stops being about cocaine, alcohol or sex/porn, but later becomes about novelty, curiosity and a nagging feeling in the mind telling the user they need one more fix. It is disgusting that people in the medical field try to squash people’s issues.
Do I think people can lie about having porn/sex addictions? Yes. But do I think everyone who says that they have a porn/sex addiction is lying? Nope. NoFap has almost 200,000 members, and I don’t think those people are all lying. I also don’t think that the significant others of those people are lying. Where I agree with Prause and Bader: I don’t think someone should diagnose themselves with an addiction. It requires professionalism and confiding in someone else. You can’t beat a bad habit or addiction alone. You need someone to hold you accountable.
Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to debunk some of this anti-pornography addiction research. I wanted to show it’s biased and should have no impact on the treatment of sex addicts. Sex addicts and porn addicts should be held accountable, should refrain from porn use at all times, attempt to refrain from masturbation/only masturbate without pornography, and shouldn’t be told they just have a high libido.