Phenomenological Seduction of Pornography : Gateway to Most CSB

March 27, 2008

Phenomenological Seduction of Pornography: Gateway to Most CSB

Introduction

A review of the medical literature would reveal that there exists in the medical and psychiatric community, an ongoing nosological debate, regarding the basic phenomenon of hypersexuality. For one, the term nonparaphilic sexual addictions were omitted in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. (DSM-IV) and these conditions are presumably classified, as sexual disorders not otherwise specified.

The difficulty with the research on pornography and its appropriate classification, whether it is a paraphilia-related disorder or a nonparaphilic hypersexual behavior disorder, rests on the following consideration:

a. The alleged fluidity in the cultural boundary between deviance and normalcy with regard to sexual arousal (CNS Spectrums, 2000)

b. Very few data exist because of the reluctance to talk about sexual problems, and medical practitioners are not likely to suspect sexual addiction or compulsion (Schneider, 1991). This kind of addiction is not easily addressed because it is private and highly individualized. Aside from all these, empirical, neurobiology, psychometrics and family history data are sorely lacking, presenting the unavailability of clear and meaningful diagnostic criteria for sexual addiction as a fit for scientific study (Goodman, 1998).

c. There is no established treatment program for this kind of addiction. However, the treatment for this phenomenon has been prescribed from other models of addiction that has been studied extensively, and criteria of which, have also been modified and applied to sexual behavior (Schneider, 1991).

However, this paper is not about the merits of the nosological debate. A specific behavior that this paper will address is the issue of pornography or more recently, Internet pornography, and its lingering power and control over an individual.

A specific definition of pornography addiction – while it is nonexistent, may be derived from the behaviorally nonspecific addictive disorder just like how the diagnostic criteria for sexual addiction are derived likewise (Goodman, 1998). Such definition then, facilitated the diagnosis of the disorder from the simple definition of addiction.

Pornography addiction then is a sexual pattern characterized by two key features:

1. Recurrent failure to control the behavior.

2. Continuation of the sexual behavior despite significant harmful consequences.

However, as Goodman pointed out, significantly, no form of sexual behavior in itself constitutes sexual addiction. In this case, pornography qualifies as sexual addition not on the merit of the behavior per se, its objects (printed, TV, Internet, phone sex), its frequency or its social acceptability but by the relationship between this behavior pattern and an individual’s life. Using this definition, the frequency of the use of the pornography for one’s prurient interests does not qualify as an addiction. What would qualify, as an addiction to pornography would be the proper assessment of the relationship between the behavior and the individual’s life (Goodman, 1998). Moreover, pornography becomes an addiction when the individual is not reliably able to control the behavior, and the sexual behavior has significant harmful consequences and continues despite these consequences.

This is where, Christians who are researching for the alleviation of the pornography problem, would encounter some difficulties. For one, secular sources would not readily admit that pornography is problem, but could only become one when it can no longer be controlled by the individual. Addiction can only be established when there is no more control on the behavior, and that harmful consequences have already resulted from its continuance, despite any attempts to stop it. The definition posited by the available literature on this topic, is not something that the author recognizes as valid and reliable.

The problem with this definition is the descriptive word “control.” With this definition, one can be pouring over pornographic materials for years, and yet able to follow normative functioning in their lives without this “habit” becoming a problem. It would only become a problem, pathological or addiction – if “proper assessment of the relationship between the behavior and the individual’s life is established” and indeed been deemed harmful.

Another term that is not really helpful for Christian counselors who are helping others who are struggling with the issue of pornography, is the term, “compulsive behavior.” Any sexual behavior can be part of the addictive cycle. Again, the literature would suggest that the context of the behavior must be considered to ascertain whether the behavior is compulsive (Schneider, 1991). However, as most people know, what is healthy sexual behavior for many people may be unhealthy for others. What can be compulsive to others may not necessarily be called addiction. What became then a primary determining factor in determining pathology with regard to this behavior is the individual’s impulse control (Black, 1999). One’s heightened dependence on pornography therefore, would not constitute addiction, if that individual has a higher impulse control over the behavior.

What can be helpful for Christian researchers and counselors, is to note that addiction is any thinking or behavior that is habitual, repetitious and difficult or impossible to control. Addictions tend to be progressive conditions that slowly exert more and more power and control over the individual. (Collins, 1988.) The word “progressive” helps define this behavior in some way. Proclivity to pornography is a progressive condition, as Collins pointed out, can eventually control the individual.

Prevalence of Pornography

Pornography use is the most common among all of the factors involved in addictive sexual behavior. Pornography has been present in the entire sexual behavior spectrum from voyeurism, incest and all the way to molestation and rape. Pornography seems to be the most consistent aspect in the sexuality of males regardless of age, status and financial capabilities.

Exposure to pornography for majority of males occurred early on the onset of puberty (Hart, 1994). Young males frequently report that their first experience of orgasm, usually through masturbation, was accompanied by the use of pornography. (Brooks, 1995). The power of these glossy images, JPEG files, interactive CDs is such that, the images leave a very lasting impression. This is because of the pairing of powerful sexual experience with exposure to positive portrayals of nonrelational sex has a strong conditional effect.

In a printed report by the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography in 1986 (McDowell, Hostetler, 1996), it was cited that the exposure to porn is the strongest predictor of sexual deviance among the early age of exposure subjects. In the early age of exposure subgroup, the amount of exposure to pornography was significantly correlated with a willingness to engage in-group sexual relations, frequency of homosexual intercourse and serious sexual deviance.

Stephen Arterburn, in his exposition When Sex Becomes an Addiction quoted Ted Bundy in an interview with Dr. James Dobson hours before his execution.

“I look at pornography as an addiction. You keep craving something that is harder and harder, which gives you a sense of excitement, until you reach a point where pornography only goes so far. You reach that jumping off point where you begin to wonder if actually doing it will give you that which is beyond just reading about it or looking at it.” (Arterburn, 1991)

But what would explain the popularity of pornography? Dr. Archibald Hart in his book, The Sexual Man, proposes three criteria to answer this question:

1. Humans are notoriously curious and pornography is used to satisfy this curiosity.

2. Sex has become dehumanized. It is no longer regarded as a private and loving act between couples. It has become a spectator sport and as such, performance has been strongly emphasized.

3. Men have become habituated to the stimulation that pornography brings.

The danger that is easily identified with these answers is that the conditioning to the stimulation occurs at a time when young men who are looking at pornography are not simply looking because of curiosity. They are using it to learn from it as well. Thus confirming the love scripts or lovemaps, the development of which, is crucial to sustaining healthy sexuality in relationship.

In his chapter called “The Centerfold Syndrome,” Gary Brooks (Eds. Levant, Brooks, 1995, pp. 28-53) decried the five elements in his distillation of ideas about the problems of men in women and relationships and how pornographic materials seem to alleviate these problems:

1. Voyeurism

Men are by far are the largest consumers of nude magazines and autoerotic materials. Pornography in various forms, like interactive CD, Internet websites, streaming videos, VHS tapes, has been described as the largest entertainment industry in the United States.

2. Objectification

The term objectification comes from the idea that calls men to be observers and for women to the ones observed. This was observed when in a study Brooks quoted, it was revealed that in studying the sex differences, it was found out that men are more likely to view others as the objects of their sexual desires. The women on the other hand, viewed themselves as the objects of the sexual desires.

3. Masculinity validation

This has been described as a perennial problem for the men to somehow measure up to a set of standards, which men themselves are very unlikely able to define. In viewing pornographic materials, an adult male are subtly influenced into thinking that their self-esteem can be elevated by the sense of power they may feel, while watching, a writhing passionate and naked body on the screen. Pornography gives them avenue to project themselves to the characters and situations in their fantasies. Men are also subtly being taught by pornography that a woman’s body and its sexual responsiveness have a direct proportional relationship to one’s virility and manhood.

4. Trophyism

Since men are competitive by nature, this sense of competition also shows its head in the dominant masculine worldview of showing tokens of their conquest. In the area of pornography, trophyism in its simplest sense can be illustrated by situations where men would compare their collection of pornographic materials in an attempt to see who has a better and more aggressive collection. In private, the women portrayed in pornographic magazines become sole properties of the owners to be ogled at, displayed, and exchanged at the hands and pleasure of the owner.

5. The fear of true intimacy

Intimacy issues are critical problems with any given male. Men always seem o be running away from the thing it needs the most to make him feel whole and complete. Men are taught to suppress their needs for intimacy. In the process, men come to invest too much for emotional and psychological power over the bodies of women. This is a very immature way of dealing with the felt need to connect with someone, though it could be a very confusing experience to most men. Preoccupation with pornographic materials would severely handicap a man’s capacity for emotional intimate relationships and nonsexual relationship with women. Men do not necessarily view intimacy the way women view it. For men, the act itself is good enough. Thus, men are in such potential risk of easily separating sex from love and also that of separating sex from real people. Pornography is an easy and impersonal, nonrelational sexual outlet ( Hart, 86).

That pornography is an impersonal sexual outlet, has been considered an understatement, when the types of material now available had also proliferated and now reflect a wider range of varied degrading and deviant themes created to an existing audience and at the same time create new markets for these themes (Stock,1997).

In a strong condemnation of pornography in whatever shape or form, MacKinnon, in his article Vindication and resistance: A response to the Carnegie Mellon study of pornography in cyberspace states:

Each new communication technology – the printing press, the camera, the moving picture, the tape recorder, the telephone, television, video recorder, the VCR, cable and now the computer – has brought pornography with it. Pornography has proliferated with each new tool, democratizing what had been a more elite possession and obsession, spreading the sexual abuse required for its making and promoted through its use. .. More women have had to live out more of their lives in environments pornography has made. As pornography saturates social life, it also becomes more visible and legitimate, hence less visible as pornography… Pornography on computer networks is the latest wave in this tide. Pornography in cyberspace is pornography in society – just broader, deeper, worse, and more of it. Pornography is a technologically sophisticated traffic in women…(MacKinnon, 1995, p.1959).

One of the attempts in explaining the etiology of nonrelational sex and the prevalence of pornography were illustrated in the diagram using the developmental model. (Appendix A)

Using the developmental model, (Good, Sherrod, 1995) the authors stated that young males go through the nonrelational sexual stage as part of the sexual identity formation process. This is the stage where young men are easily enticed to look at pornographic materials and other sources where they can discover their sexuality. This stage is preceded by the early disidentification with the feminine characteristics and a departure from male childhood experiences that was reinforced by the cultural messages that proclaimed women as sexual objects for gratification purposes.

This developmental model is particularly helpful in looking at the stage where helping males move from their nonrelational sexual orientation towards a more fulfilling sexual intimacy, can be more effective. Intervention can be done while in the nonrelational sexual stage by identifying factors that would affect the resolution either toward genuine sexual intimacy or despair and intense interpersonal disconnection.

For Christian counselors, it would be unwise to take this developmental model hook, line and sinker. The question that needs to be asked is this: Is nonrelational sexuality natural? To simply assume that nonrelational sexuality is a developmental stage would assume that it is a natural progression of one’s development. Therefore, it is unchangeable. This view is highly deterministic. There is nothing that can be done.

However, this researcher would like to concur with the ideas of the emerging evolutionary psychology and takes the position that although the nonrelational orientation toward sexuality might be normative or prevalent, it should not be viewed as natural, meaning, as in “of our nature.” This means, nonrelational sexuality is not essential and it is not unchangeable (Levant, 1997).

Moreover, this researcher believes that the prevalent nonrelational orientation toward sexuality, normative in our society, is a result of socialization and programming practices, bolstered by a particular ideology regarding gender, influenced by a gender-based power structure, that of a man being superior to women, and has all the rights to behave sexually in ways he deemed pleasurable.

MODALITIES OF INTERVENTION AND TREATMENT

A closer look into the mind of a person with dependence on pornography as aid to his compulsive masturbatory habit, is very needful before any forms of intervention can succeed. Treatment for sexual addition would be most likely effective when the modalities of treatment is based from an integrated approach that considers a range of therapeutic modalities. When the treatment approaches is tailored to fit the individual’s cognition and his inner states, it would address the addictive sexual behavior and the underlying addictive process. (Goodman, 1998).

The most common defense mechanism that a pornography-dependent would use is denial. This is most characterized by their “I can handle it” statements (Seeburger,1993) . They deny that they are addicted to porn. They deny the impact and the tremendous sense of isolation they feel. They also deny and rationalize the catasthropic effects of this dependence on their marriage and other relationships. When they are past the denial stage, they can enter the blaming stage. And the women in their lives are the ones mostly blamed for the predicament they put themselves in.

What was also interesting from a non-addict mind is the realization of an “addict’s pride” (Seeburger, p32). This is best characterized by their thinking that, they can stop this specific compulsive behavior anytime, whenever and wherever they so desire. But this kind of thinking shows the irrationality of their thought processes. They most often than not, have convinced their own minds that they are still in control.

In order for recovery and treatment to take place in any addiction, there must be a bottom line definition of sobriety. This is where it gets a little more complicated for Christian counselors who are seeking ways to help a sexually-compulsive person. For alcoholics and drug addicts, sobriety is defined as being the amount of time they have abstained from the use of alcohol and other substance. For substance and alcohol abusers, sobriety is defined by their manifested strength to resist giving in to the compulsion.

For a recovering sexual addict, the definition of sobriety is not easily established. Sexual sobriety is rarely defined in this way as a complete abstinence from sex (Weiss, 1997). Total sexual abstinence is sometimes required for a short period of time while some pertinent issues are being threshed out during treatment. Abstinence is not a goal of treatment for sexual addiction, though it can be a short -term therapeutic technique, while the addict is being taught adaptation of healthy sexuality. The critical idea behind this approach is to enable the client distinguish between those forms of sexual behavior that are high-risk and those that are low-risk, and eventually engage in sexual behavior that is no longer pathological.

Perhaps one of the best treatments available to help a sexually compulsive person, is the 12-Step Recovery Program. Participation in 12-step groups can facilitate the development of abilities to make connections and establish relationships, that would give meaning. Since addicts resort to compulsive behavior to sometimes mask the pain and the growing feelings of worthlessness, meaningful connections made in 12-step groups can help them turn to people in times of need.

Cognitive-behavioral techniques can also be used to help the client turn his focus on areas outside the symptomatic sexual behavior. Cognitive-behavioral techniques can also be used to focus on the other aspects of the client’s life that makes him vulnerable to rely on symptomatic behavior as defense mechanism in times of duress.

For the deeper level of addiction whose manifestation may involve criminal behavior, psychiatric pharmacotherapy may be advised. Clients who are already in this stage are usually showing signs of other comorbid psychiatric disorders that would necessitate medications, particularly the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Goodman, 1998).

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

Recovery for any sexual addict is a long and arduous task. While forms of recovery and steps that need to be taken may seem overwhelming, integration of one’s broken parts is possible. What makes the process almost impossible are the internal and external stressors that will come into play as an addict begins his treatment. What would be helpful is for an addict to understand the cycles and the various stages of his addictions, and where intervention would be most effective.

What would work otherwise would be to blame, and to cast toxic shame on the addict would would mean more isolation that would render more despair and brokenness.

It is also important to note that attention should also be given to the spouse and children of a recovering sex addict, because they have been broken as well by the addict’s compulsion. Most medical and counseling literature have focused on the addicted person while relegating to a low priority the people who have lived through the addict’s destructive behavior.

Counseling sex addicts call for people who can really dig through the issues of hurt and pain, betrayal, broken promises, isolation and abandonment and even abuse and criminal behavior. Since sexual addiction is a factory for generating endless blame and shame, anyone associated with it most likely have saturated their lives with guilt. They are alienated from God and feel very unworthy of any love they crave for.

Written by Wendy E. Stock Chapter 5 of Men and Sex

The term sex industry, including pornography, phone sex, Internet computer sex, interactive compact disc sex, strip shows and prostitution is an oxymoron that should alert us that something is amiss in the juxtaposition of these two terms. Were it not for our desensitized tolerance toward the marketing of sex, the very term would shout an alarm to us, revealing the dismembering of sexuality from potentially intimate, mutually vulnerable, human eroticism to a preprogrammed dance of mannequins, interacting as if the only value was the execution of the act itself. The sex industry removes sexuality from the interpersonal context into the arena of business and profit, creating and maintaining market-driven commodity, packaging and selling our eroticism back to us in an almost unrecognizable, decontextualized form, a disembodied product.


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4 Responses to “Phenomenological Seduction of Pornography : Gateway to Most CSB”

  1. GentlePath Says:

    Good paper. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. oftherock Says:

    Thanks GentlePath for visiting my blog. Take care.

  3. eugeniosadrao Says:

    This should be published in any public circulation newspaper or magazines. I wish someone who has the clout would help this very useful paper to be published. This is very helpful among the sex addicts. This paper helps them realize what is wrong with them and eventually hold control of their deviant behavior. May they realize that they are not men at all being unable to control themselves from doing the act that they may not know truly harm them. May they come to Jesus to surrender their problems. Thank you Rex. Kahit late it deserves a grade of A. Teka bakit A lang. Dapat A+++

  4. oftherock Says:

    Thank you Eugenio. You are always kind. It seems like you had a long vacation because you were able to read this article. It would be awesome to see this published on a medical/counseling/psych journal of some sort. But for now, it will stay here at wordpress. Take care Eugenio.


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