Internet Porn Affecting Someone You Know?

Is Someone you Care About Affected by Internet Porn?Is internet porn adversely affecting someone you know? The airwaves in both the US and Canada have been giving this topic a good amount of “fear-mongering” attention of late.

So perhaps it comes as no surprise that “The Highs and Lows of Internet Porn,” was the topic at a Sunday worship service recently.

Internet Porn at Church?

At Lawrence Park Community Church (LPCC — a United Church of Canada congregation in Toronto) that was exactly the topic addressed by Paul Ricketts, a registered family, marriage and sex therapist from Hamilton, on Sunday, January 18, 2015.

LPCC runs a January speaker series every year. Last year it was on Sports and Spirituality; this year Social Media and Spirituality. Speakers from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds address the annual topic from their unique perspective.

Pastor John Suk (in the interest of full disclosure, he is my husband!) got things started by pointing out that since ancient Greek times one strand of Western thought has always separated body and soul. In doing so, the body is often seen as the prison house of the soul—the physical thing that holds the soul back from being everything it can be.

As a result there is a long tradition in some branches of Christianity of seeing the body and its desires as getting in the way of full spiritual development. In such traditions — Catholicism, for example — the highest degree of religious commitment is demonstrated by refusing to indulge the body’s desires. Priests don’t get married. And sex is seen as dangerous.

However, in hosting Ricketts, LPCC wanted to underline that the United Church’s perspective is that both the body and sex are healthy and good, both to be enjoyed and celebrated. For that reason, it seemed right to bring sex into the church for discussion — both healthy sex and problematic sex. Ricketts picked up on how internet porn can make for problematic sex.

Internet Porn Might be Problematic

Ricketts made several interesting claims. Internet porn is pervasive, easy to find, and a great way to fuel the brain’s ever present desire for novelty. Children and teens have easy access to internet porn as well, and this is obviously the cause of a lot of parental concern. “What will viewing that porn do to my kids?” concerned parents ask.

Whether or not the word addiction is exactly the right word isn’t the issue — even though this comes up for discussion in professional circles. The bottom line Paul wanted to address is the fact that some people can’t control their consumption of internet porn. He spoke of why this is so.

The viewing of internet porn may release dopamine in the brain — the “high” of internet porn. Viewing it more often develops new neural pathways, and reinforces them, so that the brain habituates itself to viewing and enjoying internet porn. But the desire for novelty means that such viewing, for some, leads to ever more risky viewing, as in the case of viewing child pornography.

After covering the science of why internet porn can be so compelling and possibly addictive for some, Rickets went on to talk about a few other realities.

Interesting facts included learning that internet porn usage is highest per capita in Utah, south of the border. The average lifespan of porn stars is only fifty years — it is a very tough lifestyle.

And ironically, and often with disastrous results, viewing lots of pornography seems inversely related to how much “real” sex one wants, and how well one performs.

But Internet Porn is NOT! Addictive for Everyone

Ricketts suggested that perhaps five percent of North American males are deeply addicted with a much larger number viewing porn less compulsively. This is important to note. While internet porn is prolific, easily available, and a multi-billion dollar industry, it doesn’t follow that everyone viewing it is deeply addicted.

Internet Porn and Couple Relationships

Ricketts spoke about the potentially devastating impact of internet porn on relationships. And indeed my experience as a couple’s therapist supports Ricketts claim. And that makes sense of course. Most typically it’s people who are in distress who seek the services of a couple’s therapist.

Distressed couples speak about their reasons for coming to couple’s counselling in terms of an issue. Internet porn use is one of the presenting issues couples talk about when they come to see me. Other presenting issues are infidelity, no-longer-in-love-with-my-partner, extended family issues, communication problems, frequent arguing, sexual challenges, distance, and more.

My Approach when Internet Porn is a Presenting Issue

As I work with distressed couples who come in where one or both partners are distressed about internet porn, I have learned I am most effective when I listen for and help unpack the impact internet porn has had on the bond between them, the felt sense of “us” is, the attachment. This is the EFT way of working.

Inevitably I find that the internet porn is coded by one or both partners as something that gets in the way of the attachment, the felt sense of intimacy and closeness. Sometimes the internet porn is a symptom of disconnection; sometimes it is the cause; most of the time it is some mixture of cause and symptom. And disconnection between adult intimate partners is coded by the brain as a danger signal.

Upon occasion I do see that the internet porn use on the part of one of the partners falls in the range of “addictive”. Then referrals to Sex Addicts Anonymous, and/or therapists such as Ricketts who have the CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) credential is necessary.

Sometimes the couples I see come to me after one or both of them have or are involved with a CSAT credentialed therapist and/or SAA group. I love working with those couples because they are so ready to finally work on their couple relationship.

Back to Ricketts

In concluding his talk, Ricketts went on to discuss ways of addressing the lows of pornography. He recommended computer filters, like NetNanny, for families, for example. He recommended public placement of family computers.

Ricketts also noted that when folks who are heavy users of internet porn stop turning to the internet for sexual satisfaction, after a time normal sexual desire and functioning is restored.

Like all things that have potential negative consequences (alcohol, guns, drugs, etc), we need to educate and monitor ourselves, as well as our children. And I appreciated the opportunity I had to consider this topic. Thanks Paul.

Challenge to LPCC – Especially my Husband!

OK sweetie, you introduced Ricketts with the comment it’s right to bring sex into the church for discussion — both healthy sex and problematic sex. Ricketts picked up on how internet porn can make for problematic sex. Now it’s your turn. Need a sermon on healthy sex. Waiting.

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One comment on “Internet Porn Affecting Someone You Know?
  1. kevin says:

    This is a very good blog post! Much truth here. I would reword one statement, “Paul wanted to address is the fact that some people can’t control their consumption of internet porn.” The word ‘can’t’ is too strong a word – it implies all choice and hope are lost … even in the moment of temptation. This isn’t the Biblical view of “the new creature”. I would say the “influence” is overwhelmingly strong – but it is only influence.

What do you think?