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Effects of Pornography on Sexual Behavior

By mlindenbach Mar 03, 2012 3169 Words
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The effect of pornography on sexual behavior Melissa Lindenbach Psychology 290 May 28, 2008

Effects of pornography

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Pornographic material is utilized by a wide variety of people in society today. Some people view it for acute stimulation, some view it to satisfy an addiction, and others use it as a springboard for their sexual fantasies. Regardless of its use, pornography is dangerous to a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health as the level of stimulation a person achieves is very powerful. Unfortunately, once a person becomes captivated by the material it is only a

matter of time before “pornography becomes the theory and rape becomes the practice” (Corley, 2006, p. 127). As such, it is apparent sexuality and sexual behaviour has moved into an era of objectivity and corruption with the progression of society. The original definition of pornography encompassed any work of art or literature dealing with sex and sexual themes. Today, the Attorney General Commission of Pornography defines pornography as “any material that is predominantly sexually explicit and intended primarily for the purpose of sexual arousal” (McGEADY, 2000, para. 1). The following research explores the cause and effects of pornography in relation to four sexual behavioural trends including: altered attitude, the change in sexual expectations, desensitization of sexual activity, and the correlation with sexual crimes. These behavioural trends have been supported by various research and theories. Dr. Victor B. Cline, a psychologist at the University of Utah with a private practice specializing in family marital counselling and sexual addiction, reports a four-phase syndrome that all of his clients experienced throughout their pornographic experiences. These four stages include: addiction, escalation, desensitization, and acting out sexually. The addiction and escalation stages alternate until the subject becomes desensitized to the material. When the subject desensitized, major problems such as rape and violence begin to develop. As such, extensive research regarding the effects of desensitization and sex crimes has been conducted by Dr. Cline and other specialists. Because of the wide

Effects of pornography

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variety of research available, desensitization and the correlation with sex crimes has been classified as major headings in this paper. Studies have shown that a variety of degrees of behavioural modifications which all begin with the same starting point - an altered attitude towards sexual practices. I) Altered Attitudes Pornography, and its underlying messages, has proven to alter one’s attitude towards sexual practices. These alterations can encourage behaviour that can harm individual users and their families (Weiten, 2001, p. 396). Zillmann and Bryant (1984) conducted an experiment using undergraduate students to measure the effects of pornography on sexual behaviour. They found the majority of students developed a liberal attitude towards sexual practices (i.e. premarital, casual, and experimental sex) after being exposed to pornography on a regular basis (three or six films per week for six weeks). Students also reported a change in affection toward their significant others and themselves (Weiten, 2001). This topic will be further explored in the discussion of unrealistic expectations caused by pornography. As the content of pornography has evolved and become a greater catalyst within society, there has also been an increase in premarital and casual sex. An article published by Public Health Reports (2002) revealed that seventy-five percent of women had engaged in premarital sex by the time they were twenty years old, and ninety-five percent of women by the time they were forty-four years old (Warner, 2006). When you compare these results to Zillmann’s and Bryant’s findings, one can conclude that as pornography consumption has become more acceptable, so has the liberality of sexual activity.

Effects of pornography II) Unrealistic Expectations

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In addition to altering one’s attitude, pornographic material has also led to a creation of unrealistic expectations when engaging in sexual activity. Dr. Robert Jensen, who has spent eighteen years studying the effects of pornography states: “It is devastating to think that boys will think this [pornographic films] is a normal way to interact with women. Women are not watching this, so they have no idea what they are up against” (Duncan, 2007, para. 11). To complement Jensen’s statement, Zillman’s and Bryant’s subjects also reported a decreased level of satisfaction with their partner’s physical appearance, sexual curiosity, and sexual performance (Weiten, 2001). This feeling of dissatisfaction, most commonly experienced among men, has often led to adulterous relations and/or divorce (McGEADY, 2000). Dr. Victor B. Cline reports: “The major consequence of pornography is not the probability or possibility of committing a sex crime but rather the disturbance of the fragile bonds of intimate family and martial relationship. 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 relationship with long-term bonded partners” (McGEADY, 2000, para. 44). This quote represents the emotional impact of pornographic consumption. When the subject begins consuming pornography on a regular basis the level of trust and intimacy begins to change within the subject’s personal relationships. The idea of “making love” is transformed, in the viewer’s mind, into experimenting. As a result, the subject’s partner becomes objectified and the intimate component of sex becomes tarnished. When the attitude begins to change, the subject’s personality also begins to change. In 2003, 350 divorce lawyers met at an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conference and a sixty percent majority stated that internet porn addiction played an extensive roll in over fifty percent of divorces in the previous year.

Effects of pornography

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They also noted that pornography had an almost non-existent role in divorces only seven years prior (McGEADY, 2000). This statistic not only illustrates the altered attitudes of the consumers, but also the emotional impact of pornographic material. Once the subject’s expectations towards sex changed, they begin traveling through Dr. Cline’s four-phase syndrome. A. Addiction The first phase is the addiction-effect. According to Dr. Cline, addiction occurs when the subject gets hooked on pornographic material. Once involved, the subject keeps reverting back to the material to experience more excitement. The pornographic material provides a very powerful sexual stimulant or aphrodisiac effect, followed by a sexual release often achieved through masturbation. Once this level of euphoria is reached the subject becomes dependent on the material, despite any negative consequences such as divorce, loss of family, and/or legal problems (McGEADY, 2000). B. Escalation The second phase results when the subject becomes bored of the initial chosen pornographic material. Consequently, the viewer now requires rougher, more explicit, more deviant sexual material to reach the initial level of euphoria. The addiction and escalation are mainly due to the powerful sexual imagery in the viewers’ minds. Viewers adapt to this material and eventually prefer this image to sexual intercourse itself. Once a viewer has reached this state their ability to love and express affection has diminished (McGEADY, 2000).

Effects of pornography

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The majority of erotic materials are scripted to appeal to males and often portray women in degrading roles (Weiten, 2001). With the pornographic industry targeting male viewers, drawing them in with edgy forms of erotica, males seek to satisfy the new standard of sexuality. If/when their significant other rejects the idea or can not uphold the viewers standards, the viewer will either engage in sexual activity with another person, or continue to the relationship with the pornographic material (McGEADY, 2000 ). When the pornographic material begins satisfying the viewer’s sexual needs, the addiction evolves into the next phase of Dr. Cline’s four-phase syndrome, desensitization. III) Desensitization of Sexual Activity Desensitization, phase three of four, is explained by Dr. Cline as, “The pornography that was originally perceived as shocking, taboo-breaking, illegal, repulsive or immoral, yet still sexually arousing, soon becomes acceptable and common. Viewers tend to believe ‘everybody does it’ and this gives them permission to also do it, even if the activity is illegal and contradicts their previous moral beliefs and personal standards” (McGEADY, 2000, para. 4). The 1985 Congress of the United States of America stated that “the clinical and experimental evidence supports the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between exposure to sexually violent materials and an increase in aggressive behaviour directed towards women” (McGEADY, 2000, para. 47). This desensitization is a dangerous component of addiction because the violent or immoral acts become an acceptable level of euphoria. As previously stated, when one removes emotion from sexual pleasure, the ability to love and express affection has also been removed. The individual falls into what Naomi Wolf (2003) describes as the porn myth: “porn does not wet one’s appetite; rather it turns them off the real

Effects of pornography

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thing” (para. 1). Wolf (2003) explored the porn myth in detail in her October 13, 2003 New York Magazine article stating that “the onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening the male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ‘pornworthy’ ” (para. 5). With pornography readily available for any individual to consume, the initial visual stimulation becomes initiation of arousal and therefore the pedestal women need to physically live up to. Over Wolfs many years lecturing and interviewing students on the effects of pornography, she has observed a common response from young men and women. Wolf (2003) states, “they [young women] can never measure up the expectations set before them and they can never ask for what they want; and if they do not offer what pornography offers then they can not hold a guy” (para. 13). On the other hand, when Wolf discusses sexuality with men, most stated they prefer having sex right away to get it over with because was going to happen anyways (2003). Both responses testify to the desensitization of pornography. David Bethell, a pornography addict and supporter of Naomi Wolf, gives the following response to Wolf’s porn myth: “As a man who has a porn addiction I can safely say that everything Naomi Wolf says is so, so true. Like any addiction we lose ourselves and it is a terrible place to be. What this stuff does to men and women in equal measure is a terrible affliction on today’s' society. I prey we awaken from this disease very soon.” (Wolf, 2003, para. 25) Beyond all of the proof and experiments conducted, when one applies Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning to erotica, and its relationship to sexual arousal, it becomes very apparent how the relationship between arousal and pornography exists. When a person engages in sexual intercourse, the orgasm is classified as the reward. If one were to associate that orgasm with an intimate experience with their significant other, over time that experience would become what

Effects of pornography

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initiates the arousal (Wolf, 2003). However, if one associates the orgasm with a pornographic experience, which can encompass a wide variety of immoral and degrading images, then those images become what initiate that person’s arousal. When one experiences the reward of the activity, they become conditioned to enjoy and explore different avenues of pleasure (Wolf, 2003). The problem arises, however, when a person becomes conditioned to pornography itself, simply because of the wide variety of stimulus they can expose themselves to. Once one becomes desensitized to the original pornographic stimulus, a new avenue is sought out. This new medium of sexual pleasure is the fourth stage in Dr. Cline’s four-phase syndrome. IV) Correlation of Pornography and Sex Crimes The fourth phase that occurs according to Dr. Cline is an increasing tendency to act out behaviours viewed in pornographic materials including compulsive promiscuity, exhibitionism, group sex, engaging in sexual activity with minors, rape, and inflicting pain on themselves or a partner during sexual activity. As stated earlier, pornography causes attitude changes within the psyche of those who consume it. As the viewer progresses through the stages of dependency, increased exposure to materials also increases the acceptance of rape or other forms of sexual violence. The viewer’s mindset also becomes more accepting to the idea that women enjoy being forced into sexual activity (McGEADY, 2000). Dr. W.L. Marshall, found that almost half of convicted rapists used pornography depicting non-consensual sex to arouse them before seeking out a victim. Other investigators have reported that rapists and child molesters used pornography both immediately prior and during the assault. Marshall published a report on the connection between pornography and rapists in the Journal of Sex Research in 1988. Marshall concluded that eighty-six percent of convicted rapists said they were regular users of pornography; and fifty-seven percent admitted direct imitation of

Effects of pornography

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pornographic scenes when they committed rape (Unknown, 2007). As stated by Marshall, “pornography is a teaching manual for rapists. It provides the potential rapist with visual models to use in committing his crimes.” (Unknown, 2007, para. 1) A study conducted by Zillmann and Bryan has also found that consuming hard-core nonviolent pornography on a regular basis increases the willingness to force a woman into sexual acts given that the viewer was assured they would not be caught or punished (McGEADY, 2000). The results of Zillman’s and Bryan’s research correlate with a study conducted by Dr. Feshbach who found that fifty-one percent of normal college males indicated a high likelihood of imitating a sadomasochistic rape if they were assured of not being caught (McGEADY, 2000). Serious problems arise when those, such as serial murderers, who do not worry about being caught carry out their sexual fantasies. Gary Bishop and Ted Bundy are two examples of two serial murderers who have used pornography to spur their fantasies. Gary Bishop: Arthur Gary Bishop was born in 1951. He was an honour student, Eagle Scout and teenage missionary. He was also an obsessed pedophile and child killer. Bishop molested and killed five known young boys in Salt Lake City, Utah. After his conviction he wrote a letter which revealed his addiction to pornographic material. Bishop wrote: “Pornography was a determining factor in my downfall. I somehow became sexually attracted to young boys and I would fantasize about them naked. I would purchase books with nude boys to enhance my masturbatory fantasies but it soon wasn’t enough. I desired more sexually arousing pictures so I enticed boys to let me take pictures of them naked. Such material would temporarily satisfy my cravings, but I soon would need pictures more explicit and revealing… Finding and obtaining sexually arousing materials

Effects of pornography

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became an obsession. For me, seeing pornography was like lighting a fire on a stick of dynamite. I became stimulated and had to gratify my urges or explode” (McGEADY, 2003, para. 88). Ted Bundy: Theodore Robert Bundy was born November 24, 1946 and was a charming, intelligent, and conniving man. Before Bundy was executed in 1989, he admitted to assaulting and murdering forty women (McGEADY, 2000). In an interview conducted by Dr. James Dobson, Bundy revealed that he encountered soft-core pornography in the local drug store, which sparked his interest. His interests later grew to pornographic material of a harder nature that included violence. Bundy stated: “I want to emphasize that violent pornography is the most damaging kind of pornography” (McGEADY, 2000, para. 90). Dr. Dobson asked Bundy if the pornography fulfilled his fantasies and Bundy responded: “In the beginning it fuelled this kind of thought process and then all of the I was on the verge of acting out these thoughts… it happens in stages… my experiences with pornography that deals on a violent level of sexuality is that once you become addicted you can’t stop. I would keep looking for more explicit and more graphic kinds of materials. I reached a point where the pornography could only go so far and I began to wonder if maybe actually doing it would satisfy me. The influence of violent pornography was an indispensable link in the behaviours, the assaults, the murders. I knew that I could not control it. The barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back with respect to seeking out and harming somebody. I think I need to recognize that those of us who have been influenced by pornography violence are not some kind of inherent monster. We are your sons and husbands. Any pornography can reach out and snatch a kid out of any house today” (McGEADY, 2003, para. 98). Gary Bishop and Ted Bundy are two individuals that not only support Dr. Cline’s four-phase syndrome, but also prove the negative effects of pornography. Throughout this research paper, the degenerative effects of pornographic addiction and how each behavioural change correlates with the progression of the addiction have been examined. Once an individual consumes enough pornographic material to alter their attitude; their mental, sexual, and emotional health become

Effects of pornography

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compromised. In stating this, not all pornographic material will cause this effect. While some soft-core pornography may aid in the intimacy of some relationships, the real problem occurs when pornography, of any nature, begins replacing the intimate relationship. When this happens, “pornography becomes the theory and rape becomes the practice” (Corley, 2006, p. 127).

Effects of pornography

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References Corley, M. D. (2006). From the guest editor. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 13, 127-129.

Cooper, B., Howell, T., Paulhus, D., Williams, K., Yuille, J. (2004). Deviant sexual thoughts and behaviors: The roles of personality and pornographic use. Chicago: American Psychological Society.

Donald A. Dowans. (2007). Pornography. Retrieved April 10, 2008, from http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761568395_1____3/pornography.html#s3

Duncan, L. (2007). Professor speaks about effects of pornography. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from http://media.www.dailytoreador.com/media/storage/paper870/news/2007/01/29/News /Professor.Speaks.About.Effects.Of.Pornography-2681613.shtml#cp_article_tools

Gibbons, F. X. (1978). Sexual standards and reactions to pornography: Enhancing behavioral consistency through self-focused attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(9), 976-987.

McGEADY, P. (2000). The harmful effects of pornography. Retrieved April 10, 2008, from http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/harmfuleffects.cfm

Sussman, S. (2007). Sexual addiction among teens: A review. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 14(4), 257-278.

Effects of pornography

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Unknown. (2007). Pornography fuels addiction, rape, and molestation. Retrieved May 15, 2008, from http://www.traditionalvalues.org/pdf_files/TVCSpecialRptPornographyFuelsRape.PDF.

Warner, J.. (2006). Premarital sex the norm in North America. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20061220/premarital-sex-the-normin-america

Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology : Themes and variations (5th ed.). Toronto, ON: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.

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