Victor Cline: “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children”

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.

11 thoughts on “Victor Cline: “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children”

  1. Your point of view, Nopornnorthampton, may be right in many respects. But pornographic material does make a social statement that sex, even “uncommitted” and so-called “deviant” sex, can be and is good for us and should be enjoyed without guilt and shame by those who wish to engage in it. Disagree with this point of view as you wish, but you should not be entitled to claim the right to deny it first amendment protection equal to yours.

    You state that you would not banish erotica, essentially, sexually explicit materials depicting romantic love between committed couples. But one person’s version of acceptable erotic is another person’s porn. Ever heard of the religious right? … One should be able to browse the “erotica” of their choice in hard copy form as readily as any other type of material offered in hard copy form downtown, particularly because for many of us living downtown, the usual mode of transportation is by foot.

    While I am not be interested in 90% of what Capital Video offers, the proposed changes to the zoning law may effectively zone out of our neighborhood the stores most likely to carry material many of us consider to be desirable “erotica.” Be careful, Nopornnorthampton, least you throw out the baby – our freedom – with the “dirty” bath water that comes with it. Your freedom is next.

    And obstructing access to pornographic material, by zoning it to the outskirts of town is, as a practical matter, actual and real censorship. If the subject matter of the material was religious or ideological, no one would seriously contend that zoning it to the outskirts of town was anything but unlawful censorship. So, stop continuing to insult us by claiming that it is not censorship! It is.

    And frankly, more harm has been done to, and continues to be committed against, women and children by and in the name of religion and ideology than all the porn put together ever did or does.

    Further, the revolting and degrading nature of the material for many does not justify its banishment. Gay erotica is degrading, revolting and just plain sick to many, if not most, heterosexual men, but would you dare ban gay erotica in this town? Of course not. The truth is that usually when people justify banishment of pornography on grounds of protecting children or women, they are merely protecting themselves from embarrassment or the shame they feel about sex.

    To be sure, I’d rather have King Street improved, so what about the secondary effects upon the quality of life that porn and erotica shop allegedly cause? Which comes first? The porn or erotica shops that are banned to undesirable areas by zoning laws, such as the zoning law proposed here, or the porn and erotica?

    Instead, to upscale our King Street neighborhood, let’s work together on zoning requirements that would achieve that goal without infringing upon free speech. E.g., Signage and storefront requirements. So what say you, Nopornnorthampton?

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Freedom of speech is certainly an important value to us and we have given its protection a great deal of thought.

    Many of your arguments, such as that any restriction of speech will put us on a slippery slope to losing our freedoms, have been addressed in our FAQ (left-hand column). Our laws represent compromises between competing values. In fact, most laws can be viewed as infringements on our freedoms. We accept them because people are imperfect and we’re willing to give up some freedom for order and safety. The exact point of balance is a continual negotiation. Northampton is a highly educated town. 25% of the populace has graduate degrees. We have little concern that the people will support excessive restrictions on speech. But even if laws are passed now that people find later to be too restrictive, the people can loosen them down the road. The debate is never truly over.

    With respect to freedom of speech vs. the risk of secondary impacts from a porn shop, we say the balance has tilted too far in favor of a blind privileging of this freedom at the expense of other important values, such as compassion for the people who have to live next to a porn shop. Many US courts agree with us, and they uphold reasonable zoning regulations on adult uses. The risk of real-world harms of a porn shop, in the forms of crime, blight and harassment of passersby, is real, well-documented, and the people have a right to ask porn merchants to compromise.

    While I concede some of our suggestions will make access to certain adult businesses a bit less convenient, this is not censorship. Pornographic material will still be widely available, particularly for anyone who has cable TV, a  satellite dish, or access to the Internet. We don’t advocate the establishment of any censorship board. No one will be arrested for consuming currently legal forms of porn.

    In the realm of persuasion, we do feel it’s fair to ask porn consumers to keep in mind the potentially harmful effects of porn on their personal relationships and the conditions under which porn workers work. Our hope is that people will voluntarily reduce their consumption of porn, and that businesspeople will decline to make money from suffering. As for distinguishing between porn and erotica, we suggest some differences in our FAQ.

    It’s true that some religions and ideologies may have harmful effects, but it’s unfair to tar them all with the same brush. For this aspect of your argument to be meaningful, you would need to identify a specific ideology and demonstrate with facts how it was as harmful as porn. We address other aspects of this issue here.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “storefront requirements”, but if it’s similar to the city’s new proposal to limit the size of adult businesses when they are near homes and schools, that is indeed an interesting approach that we look forward to studying closely in the coming days. Our instinct would be that small, local businesses would be generally more responsive to citizen concerns than say, a large chain headquarted in Cranston, Rhode Island.

  3. No Porn Northampton,

    Would you ban a book being sold in Northampton that contained explicit descriptions of rape, incest, sexual slavery, forced impregnation, and murder?

    I am sure you would.

    In this case, you would be banning THE BIBLE.

    The Bible, believed to be the word of God by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and regarded as a great work of literature by the rest of humanity, contains many violent and explicit descriptions of disgusting acts.

    Let’s take a read through the Old Testament. Lot gets drunk and commits incest with his daughters. Dinah is raped.

    Moving on to the book of Samuel, the Israelite army conquers a city and enslaves its female populace as their wives.

    Suppose I want to open a Christian bookstore in Northampton. I would certainly be selling the Bible. Would you then worry about the “affects on the surrounding community” by reading scripture? Would you relegate my Christian bookstore to the “outskirts of town?”

    How about you force all of Northampton’s synagogues, churches, and mosques to “industrial areas” for reading this “obscene book”, the Bible, at their services?

  4. We don’t support banning any speech. We do support regulating large adult businesses. There’s a world of difference. Plenty of your constitutional rights are regulated, the right to bear arms being one. Please read our FAQ.

  5. People who hide behind the guise of “freedom of speech” when touting their rights to pornography would do a great service to humanity if they paused to consider the violation of human rights in the making of pornography.

    Most of the girls that participate in filming porn were once victims of sexual abuse themselves. Many are substance abusers and FAR too many are underage. This is a fact. These are wounded people who are being exploited.

    What you take in with your eyes, effects your mind and spirit and all your interactions in this world. Do you actually believe you can participate in supporting this cycle and not sacrifice the better part of yourself? For many people porn becomes as addictive as alcohol or drugs and equally as destructive in their lives. Or the lives of a family member. Or a friend.

    And if none of that matters to you…at least consider the known fact that pornography contributes to child molestation and the rape and killing of women.

    Freedom of speech, “freedom”, period, has nothing to do with a pastime as conducive to lower level thinking as pornography. You talk of freedom? True freedom is accomplished through self discipline and nothing of relevance was ever accomplished without self discipline. So hide behind all the metaphors, analogies, euphemisms,amendments, banner waving, or any other mask you choose, but pornography, just like alcohol and drugs is another example of people choosing escapism over reality regardless of who suffers from their indiscretions.

  6. I’m KMA. I own Cape Cod today. A very successfull online website about Cape Cod. I let people write about anything they want. I write about children sex. I love writing about children having sex. Come to Cape Cod today and read some of my stories. I like to write about the child sex of magician Tarquin Churchwell.

    Upon further investigation into Tarquins early years it seems his mother was called to the principals office when Tar was a mere 10yo. Seems Tar had sex with his 4th grade teacher & was being sent home w/mom. Mom called Dad to come home and handle the uncomfortable challange of discussing what happened at school. Dad & Tar when for a ride to talk about what happened. Dad said it was normal to have fantisies about some of his teachers “but perhaps it was not such a good thing to act them out and maybe we should all just try & put this all ~behind~ us and go home and hopefully he best not do it again.” Tar said: “Gee thanks for understanding Dad.” And they went home. As they were pulling into the driveway Tar says “Hey Dad, do you think you can give me a ride over to my friend Billys house?” Whereupon his Dad said “Why son why not take your bike & ride it over there?” To which little Tarquin replies: “Yeah, well I would Dad… But my butt is really hurting.” And now Tarquin wants to ‘give it back’ – what he learned at school – To anyone who crosses him or Ha Ha – “Lies”. Where on to you fella -You are in need of serious help. You know: ‘Unresolvedchildhood’ “issues” still linger. The more you dish it out the more we gonna put it wherethe sun don’t shine!

  7. You people are the reason why sexual offenses are like they are today. If you people would go over to Europe and check out the percentage of sexual offenses to the percentage of sexual offense in America you will find that the percentage in Europe is way lower than it is in America. The reason for it is because in Europe they have porn on regular TV and the way the look at it is you do not want to watch it CHANGE THE CHANNEL. In fact, they even have porn on TV for the kids to watch. I know because I have lived in Europe when I was little and I have been there once since then.

  8. Your speculations are contradicted by a great deal of evidence. For example, please see:
    Porn and Sex Crimes in Other Countries: The Historical Experience

    We appreciate that there is a long-standing romantic vision that if we
    can only dispense with all ‘unnatural’ social restraints, a sexual
    utopia will envelop the world. Unfortunately, the reality is when you
    dispense with all restraints, the strong come to oppress the weak. This
    is exactly what we’re witnessing between porn producers and performers, between porn shops and communities, and between porn viewers and victims.

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