Porn Addiction Therapy: the New Gay Cure?

The Porn Panic – my name for the rising tide of scaremongering against sexual expression over the past decade – has followed familiar paths. As religion has declined in this country, so pseudo-science has risen to take its place. Attacks on normal sexual behaviours, once wrapped in biblical terminology, have evolved in step with the new, “enlightened”, times.

Sexuality may be impossible to switch off, but fear and guilt can be instilled to stigmatise and control sexual behaviours. Once it’s branded abnormal, a sexual behaviour can be attacked and suppressed, all in the name of helping the victim. In this way, “medical conditions” ranging from nymphomania to homosexuality have been attacked, stigmatised, and then turned into profit-making vehicles for peddlers of cures.

As already outlined on this blog by psychologist Dr David Ley, porn addiction is at the very least a dubious concept. But this has not stopped the media from promoting the condition as a genuine one. In recent months, the Porn Panic appears to have swung  from a primarily feminist attack on sexual expression (under the “objectification” banner) to a pseudo-medical one.

A particularly blatant example appeared recently on the BBC’s yoof-news channel Newsbeat, where a young man’s “cure” from porn addiction was trumpeted without a shred of scepticism. The story was based on a self-diagnosis by a 23 year old who had found that his “porn addiction” was leading him to watch “pornographic content that disturbed him” – although the nature of the content wasn’t revealed. The article then introduced an expert, Robert Hudson, who said:

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“The first thing we ask them to do is stop masturbating for 90 days”

This sounded familiar: masturbation-as-sin has been a target for centuries, and has long been stigmatised under a variety of pretexts. It has only been in the Internet age that much of the stigma has been lifted, and people have felt more free to admit that they, too are wankers. It is now well known that masturbation is good for both physical and mental health; we also know that it is an outlet for pent-up sexual frustration. This advice seemed deeply troubling to me, so I approached Dr Ley for his thoughts, and he agreed:

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“It’s disturbing to me when people recommend giving up masturbation for 90 days. I always wonder how they treat “oxygen addiction?” Should I give up breathing for 90 minutes?”

He continued:

“The sad fact is that teenagers and teenage boys especially, need lots of support to understand, talk about and express their sexual feelings. We don’t allow that, so these young men go to porn instead. Blaming problems on porn is like blaming Fast and Furious movies for a speeding ticket. Society has a responsibility to teach people about sexual health, and sadly, we’ve neglected that responsibility.
Porn isn’t addictive: excessive use of porn reflects libido, sexual shame, and an inability to understand and discuss one’s private sexual desires. When we allow young men and women to safely discuss and express their sexual needs, even those we are afraid of, this pseudoscientific concept of “porn addiction” will vanish.” [My highlight]
But cures for porn- and sex-addiction are rising in popularity, with the help of promotion from the BBC and others. Just as “gay cures” became popular in those parts of the US where homosexuality was not widely accepted, so today normal sexual feelings in young people are stigmatised as an illness; and once an illness is deemed to exist, remedies can be sold, and money can be made.
But selling cures for fake ailments isn’t just harmless profiteering. Research has found (HuffPo link) that people with sexual hang-ups (in particular, religious people) are more likely to self-diagnose as “addicted”. In fact, perceived addiction is not related to the amount of porn viewed, but to the levels of guilt felt by the viewer. Furthermore, the research suggests that a belief one suffers from porn addiction can itself be harmful:
“Regardless of whether porn addiction is “real,” Grubbs and his co-authors note that perceived addiction has been linked to several real elements of psychological distress, such as depression, compulsive behavior and anxiety.”
The parallels with “gay cures” are strong. Just as the very existence of gay cures may have led to psychological harm, and even suicides, are the practitioners of “porn addiction therapy” sowing the seeds for more anguish?
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3 thoughts on “Porn Addiction Therapy: the New Gay Cure?”

  1. There is a cure for “sex addiction” and its a natural cure. masturbation and girlfriends. Even better if you get your girlfriend to do it for you on occasion. They dont call it a joystick for nothing.

    I like Dr Davd Ley. The man speaks pure common sense. A lot of the worlds problems stem from sexuality and religion and people ned to accept themseolves for who they are providing their actions do not harm others and is consensual I dont see any problem with these peope at all.

    What is normal? Some people have a low sex drives and some peoples sex drives go off the charts. Why do they think sex work is such a popular option? Some people like it, even if they dont like t all the time. When the libido decreases this is called maturity or getting it out of your system.

    A lot of my friends were not suprised I ended up in porn. No I”ve calmed down i can see myself in others coming up in the world and like Dr David Ley I agree education is the key to understanding and your “cure” is knowing yourself and being honest about who you are….

    Even if youre a wanker. Live with it 🙂

  2. In the latest report commissioned in order to try to to confirm that porn must be harmful, I noted enthusiastic use of the precautionary principle which has been so useful in legislating on zero evidence in the case of the NPS bill. I couldn’t help finding it ironic that such efforts were being made to search for confirmation of their already held conclusions, the text of the report quite uncomfortably strained at times, and yet the patently obvious cause of so much psychological long term harm that no one needs a report to highlight, namely the repressive (often religiously motivated) morality imparted during a child’s upbringing, was not identified.

  3. There is no cure for being gay! its just torture……Porn addiction is down to too many people having access to to much porn. Lets face it with the click of a button you can get whatever fantasy you want..it becomes addictive

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