Psychologist Victor Cline specializes in family/marital counseling and sexual addictions. Here are some highlights from his article, “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children”…
As a clinical psychologist, I have treated, over the years, approximately 350 sex addicts, sex offenders, or other individuals (96% male) with sexual illnesses. This includes many types of unwanted compulsive sexual acting-out, plus such things as child molestation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadomasochism, fetishism, and rape. With several exceptions, pornography has been a major or minor contributor or facilitator in the acquisition of their deviation or sexual addiction.
The first change that happened was an addiction-effect. The porn-consumers got hooked. Once involved in pornographic materials, they kept coming back for more and still more. The material seemed to provide a very powerful sexual stimulant or aphrodisiac effect, followed by sexual release, most often through masturbation. The pornography provided very exciting and powerful imagery which they frequently recalled to mind and elaborated on in their fantasies.
Once addicted, they could not throw off their dependence on the material by themselves, despite many negative consequences such as divorce, loss of family, and problems with the law (such as sexual assault, harassment or abuse of fellow employees)….
The second phase was an escalation-effect. With the passage of time, the addicted person required rougher, more explicit, more deviant, and “kinky” kinds of sexual material to get their “highs” and “sexual turn-ons.” It was reminiscent of individuals afflicted with drug addictions. Over time there is nearly always an increasing need for more of the stimulant to get the same initial effect.
Being married or in a relationship with a willing sexual partner did not solve their problem. Their addiction and escalation were mainly due to the powerful sexual imagery in their minds, implanted there by the exposure to pornography.
I have had a number of couple-clients where the wife tearfully reported that her husband preferred to masturbate to pornography than to make love to her.
The third phase was desensitization. Material (in books, magazines, or films/videos) which was originally perceived as shocking, taboo-breaking, illegal, repulsive, or immoral, in time came to be seen as acceptable and commonplace. The sexual activity depicted in the pornography (no matter how anti-social or deviant) became legitimized. There was an increasing sense that “everybody does it” and this gave them permission to also do it, even though the activity was possibly illegal and contrary to their previous moral beliefs and personal standards.
The fourth phase was an increasing tendency to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in the pornography, including compulsive promiscuity, exhibitionism, group sex, voyeurism, frequenting massage parlors, having sex with minor children, rape, and inflicting pain on themselves or a partner during sex. This behavior frequently grew into a sexual addiction which they found themselves locked into and unable to change or reverse–no matter what the negative consequences were in their life….
In my clinical experience…the major consequence of being addicted to pornography is not the probability or possibility of committing a serious sex crime (though this can and does occur), but rather the disturbance of the fragile bonds of intimate family and marital relationships. This is where the most grievous pain, damage, and sorrow occur. There is repeatedly an interference with or even destruction of healthy love and sexual relationships with long-term bonded partners. If one asks if porn is responsible or causes any sex crimes, the answer is unequivocally, “Yes,” but that is only the tip of the iceberg….
In my experience as a sexual therapist, any individual who regularly masturbates to pornography is at risk of becoming, in time, a sexual addict, as well as conditioning himself into having a sexual deviancy and/or disturbing a bonded relationship with a spouse or girlfriend. A frequent side effect is that it also dramatically reduces their capacity to love. Their sexual side becomes, in a sense, dehumanized. Many of them develop an “alien ego state” (or dark side), whose core is antisocial lust devoid of most values….
The literature on aggressive pornography is rather impressive in its consistency in suggesting a variety of harms or possibility of antisocial outcomes from exposure to this material. This should not be surprising after 40 years of research on film and TV violence arriving essentially at the same conclusion….
[E]mpirical research suggests that when experimental subjects are exposed to repeated presentations of hardcore non-violent adult pornography over a six-week period, they:
- Develop an increased callousness toward women; trivialize rape as a criminal offense; to some it was no longer a crime at all;
- Develop distorted perceptions about sexuality;
- Develop an appetite for more deviant, bizarre, or violent types of pornography (escalation); normal sex no longer seemed to “do the job;”
- Devalue the importance of monogamy and lack confidence in marriage as a lasting institution; and
- View non-monogamous relationships as normal and natural behavior.
…In the case of Ted Bundy, serial killer of possibly 31 young women, he stated in a videotaped interview hours before his execution, “You are going to kill me, and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that.” While some commentators discounted his linking aggressive pornography to his sex-murders (when he said it fueled his violent thoughts toward women), there seems little doubt that Bundy consumed a great deal of pornography, much of it violent, from an early age….
And, among high school students, 31% of males and 18% of the females admitted doing some of the things sexually they had seen in the pornography within a few days after exposure. This clearly suggests the modeling-effect or imitative-learning effect, as well as “triggering effect,” that even non-violent pornography has on human sexual behavior in some individuals.
In an in-house study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Administrative Vice division, in 60 percent of the child molestation cases referred to them over a 10-year period, adult or child pornography was used to lower the inhibitions of the children molested or to excite or sexually arouse the perpetrator of the abuse. In another study of 43 pedophiles, child pornography was found used in every one of the cases investigated. The officers reported the abusers repeatedly saying the same thing: “I used this stuff to stimulate the child, to break down his inhibitions.”…
Some Americans strongly hold the belief that pornography, while it may be vulgar and tasteless, is still essentially harmless and has no real effect on the viewer.
However, for someone to suggest that pornography cannot have an effect on you is to deny the whole notion of education, or to suggest that people are not affected by what they read and see. If you believe that a pornographic book or film cannot affect you, then you must also say that Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, or the Bible, or the Koran, or advertising have no effect on their readers or viewers….
Anyone who has seen much pornography knows that most of it is made by men for male consumption; is extremely sexist; gives a great deal of misinformation about human sexuality; is devoid of love, relationship, and responsibility; mentions nothing about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases; and, for the most part, dehumanizes male and female participants….
…individuals should be made aware of the health hazards involved. This kind of knowledge is most important for parents, since most sexual and pornographic addictions begin in middle childhood or adolescence, most of the time without the parents’ awareness or the children have an insufficient understanding of the risks involved.
Read the full article.