The concept of porn addiction, and the acceptance that it is a problem that is getting worse with the rise of internet porn, is firmly embedded in mainstream culture. The idea really took hold with the pop sci meme of ‘Your Brain on Porn‘ published a few years back and utilizing the common sense but scientifically dubious idea that the human brain has not evolved to handle the instant sexual gratification of tube porn on tap. The gratification on demand that free tube sites such as Pornhub bring has been likened to the cheap thrill enjoyed by an addict, with scientific evidence supposedly indicating that the same reward centers in the brain are activated by watching porn as when a junkie shoots some heroin. These psuedo-scientific arguments have been used to justify repressive anti-porn legislation including recently in the United Kingdom. Things are only likely to get worse with the advent of virtual reality porn.
However, other more sober commentators have doubted the concept of porn addiction or at the least the way it is bandied about too easily and aimed at anybody who regularly looks at erotic material online. One prominent critic of the porn addiction industry has recently published further research that indicates the labelling of ‘porn addiction’ can do more harm than anything that the actual watching of porn can do.
The concept of porn addiction has a self-sustaining momentum, with online self-help groups, websites, TED talks, nonprofit groups, discussion boards and television shows, all promoting the idea that pornography triggers reward processes in the brain, and thus has the potential to become an addictive, destructive behavior. But, in recent years, chips have begun to appear in the facade of this monolithic morally-based concept.
In January 2015, Joshua Grubbs of Case Western, published powerful research showing that seeing oneself as a porn addict was predicted not by how much porn one views, but by the degree of religiosity and moral attitudes towards sex. Now, Grubbs has published explosive follow-up research, demonstrating that believing oneself is addicted to porn actually causes pain and psychological problems, in contrast to the idea that identifying as a porn addict is a part of a road to recovery.
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