WETZSTEIN: ‘Poor outcomes’ of pornography

Second of two parts

If pornography was accurately advertised, it would be touted for its amazing ability to make people feel bad about themselves, develop secret lives, do bizarre sexual things to themselves and others, and eventually lose any interest in making love with an actual person.

These are just a few of the “poor outcomes” of pornography use that clinicians and researchers are discovering.

Alas for the American public, uproars over pornography, such as the recent one involving the University of Maryland and an X-rated film, usually revolve around the red-herring argument of censorship.

What usually is missing in these dramas is any speech — free or otherwise — about how pornography can warp people. For instance, porn users can:

• Dislike pornography but still crave it.

• Start seeing others through pornographic eyes, i.e., reducing women of all ages to their body parts.

• Be shocked by certain images, develop a “tolerance” for them and then feel driven to seek out even more shocking images.

• Build such strong pornographic “scripts” in their minds that they cannot perform sexually without the scripts.

In fact, pornography is an excellent way to unravel real-world love relationships, research finds.

Impossibly beautiful, sexually insatiable female porn stars make many husbands and boyfriends feel dissatisfied with their wives’ and girlfriends’ appearances and sexual behaviors. This, in turn, disorients the wives and girlfriends — they don’t know what to do with their feelings of disgust, despair, betrayal and anger when they see the men they love ogling other women while ignoring them.

Pornography is already implicated in half of divorces, social scientist Patrick Fagan told an Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) event in November.

RELATED:

Part 1: Sexual behaviors trouble students

When pornography use rises to the level of addiction, “40 percent of sex addicts will lose their spouse, 58 percent will suffer severe financial loss and a third will lose their jobs,” said Mr. Fagan, who directs the Center for Family and Religion at the Family Research Council.

Research on pornography is being compiled by the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J., as part of its “Social Costs of Pornography” project. At a December conference sponsored by Witherspoon, IPS and the Social Trends Institute, 10 experts presented evidence about pornography’s encroachment into American culture and its impact on love, sex and relationships.

For instance, aggression and violence is the rule — not the exception — in pornography, said Ana J. Bridges, a psychology professor at the University of Arkansas who studies how pornography affects romantic partners.

Mrs. Bridges and Robert Wosnitzer did a content-analysis of 50 best-selling adult videos a few years ago. They found that in 304 sex scenes, nearly 90 percent contained verbal and/or physical aggression (e.g., name-calling, degrading comments, kicking, slapping, gagging, choking, pushing, biting or brandishing a weapon).

Most aggressive acts were performed by men on women, Mrs. Bridges said. Even more disturbing, the women’s responses were abnormal — despite the abuse, few women flinched, protested or even indicated they were in pain; instead, the most common reactions were “pleasure or neutrality,” she said.

The adult-video analysis also looked for normal activities of lovers, such as kissing, caressing, verbal compliments, hugs or laughter. Less than 10 percent of videos contained any such act.

These are not “sustainable, happy relationships,” said Mrs. Bridges, who discussed the video analysis at a 2007 anti-pornography conference.

Instead, the porn videos are teaching aggression, “that slapping your girlfriend during the process of having sex is something she will enjoy,” she said.

The solution? How about “restore to pornography its bad name,” as Louisiana State University political science professor James R. Stoner Jr., told the Witherspoon conference.

I agree. Let’s start with college campuses.

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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