Pornography a public issue

Pornography, a public issue

I still remember the voice of someone who told me, “once you open that door, you start a non-return path. You enter an amusement park of fantasies; you enter another world”. The door to Pornography today is more accessible, affordable and anonymous than ever. To the three “a’s” that mark the way to addiction, according to Alvin Cooper, one could add unlimited supply, high quality and interactivity. Welcome to what some call the new Pornography. The recent news of the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Barcelona by a group of boys, also minors, has shocked us.

The Prosecutor’s Office for Minors recognises that children and teenagers “use pornography as a tutorial”. Once again, the question is in the spotlight: is Pornography the cause of violence? How is it possible that these aggressions occur among minors?

Let’s review some data. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, multiple rapes in Spain have increased by more than 50% in the last five years, and 1 out of 4 perpetrators is a minor. In France, a report by the Judicial Police states that another minor commit 46% of sexual violence against children. And since 1996, the number has continued to rise. One of their hypotheses is the influence of Pornography.

The recent study “Epidemiology and Public Health” by Biomedical Research Network Center, with young people between 18 and 35 years old, warned that the probability of carrying out sexual aggression is 2.4 times higher in men who consume Pornography than in those who don’t. It also informs that women who view Pornography are more likely to be sexual victims.

Let’s look at some keys to understanding the impact of Pornography on our brains and behaviour. First, it stimulates the reward system long and exaggeratedly, leading to solid dopamine discharges. Psychiatrist Daniel Z. Lieberman in his book, “Dopamine”, reminds us that this molecule is a close friend of “surprise” of “expectation”. Nothing is enough for it; its message is often “keep going; satisfaction is just around the corner”. Dopamine provides the pleasure of anticipation, not satisfaction. Its motto is very simple: more.

Another critical factor is “novelty”, which generates continuous stimulation. The pleasure of the search for the “perfect scene”, which does not exist, is even more significant than the pleasure of the content itself. This is the so-called “Coolidge effect”, studied by Gary Wilson, author of “Your Brain On Porn”.

Moreover, let’s not forget the positive reinforcement that consumption causes as a reward, and the negative reinforcement, which serves as an escape route from unpleasant emotions. Nor should we forget the supernormal stimulus, where the exaggerated version of a stimulus – in this case, mainstream Pornography – provokes a much more powerful reaction in the brain than the natural version. Indeed, this is a ticking time bomb for any addiction.

Our Association receives over five thousand requests to help get out of porn. Our experience is that we are dealing with a very silent addictive phenomenon. It apparently leaves no trace, but its spider’s web becomes iron over time. An addiction that is silent on the outside but ends up screaming on the inside.

Moreover, this silent behaviour manifests itself in the three phases of its development:

  • It is almost always consumed in isolation.
  • The effects are suffered in silence.
  • There is no communication to ask for help.

Pornography breeds loneliness, and loneliness, in turn, encourages pornography use.

“Instead of using drugs, I was using people”. This is how one young man summed up his testimony on a recent television programme, which may seem exaggerated and crude, but which signs up to the root of these behaviours.

At its core, Pornography involves using others to pursue pleasure at any cost. Viktor Frankl already anticipated that when sex is detached from an affective relationship and becomes a means to obtain satisfaction, it does not achieve its goal. The more pleasure is sought, the further away it becomes. 

Day by day, we see in “Dale Una Vuelta” that there is no consumption of Pornography -violent or not, this germ always underlies it- without some cost. This cost can be social, personal, familial, psychological, ethical, educational, etc. It always affects, to varying degrees. What happens on the screen does not stay only on the screen. Nor is the idyllic proposal of “responsible”, moderate consumption usually realistic; it would be like walking around with a box of matches inside an explosives factory.

Therefore, while we organise events, seminars, and conferences and debate whether there is ethical Pornography, feminist Pornography, or whether Pornography is neither bad nor good (that “it only depends on the use you make of it”), the industry rubs its hands together. Thousands of people continue to be trapped in a life without horizons or challenges, with a growing emptiness.

Among its many effects, Pornography compromises the ability to form loving relationships, distorts sexuality, promotes sexual violence and has a high potential for addiction. In addition, it makes us less sensitive and less human.

The frequent use of sexual content is wreaking havoc in our society and in a cross-cutting way. Let’s put aside prejudices, beliefs, and ideologies. Let us investigate with courage, without fear of discovering causes that may shake our assumptions and securities. The facts show that it must enter the public agenda. It’s time to stop looking the other way. The great pacts of the State must serve its citizens’ common good. Is there anything more important than the healthy emotional, sexual and affective development of each of us?

A few days ago, Jean Barrot, the French Minister for Digital Transition, assured that “2023 will be the end of our children’s access to pornography”. A few months earlier, President Macron said that minors should be protected from the digital world in the same way that “it would not be normal to take a 13-year-old child to a sex shop”.

Regaining control is not enough to give up Pornography; we need to find reasons. And talk, which is the path to freedom. And recognise defeat. And go back. A person in the healing process said a few days ago: “I’m on my sixth day without consuming. I’m having a bad time, but I’m happy”. Life is often full of pleasant contradictions, of joyful suffering.

As a tennis lover, I close the point, set and this article with a quote from the writer David Foster Wallace. “Tennis on TV is to live tennis what porn is to the sensory reality of human love”.

This article was written by Jorge Gutiérrez Berlinches and originally published in “ABC” on March 15, 2023. Sally shares this article here as part of the “Sally Families” project, which aims to help families be safe on the internet.