pornography use (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2013).
Men who have trouble resisting the lure of porn websites might
simply have dispositions that make them more vulnerable to
compulsive problems in general, the researchers concluded.
Ensuring effective treatment
Putting a label on a porn habit isn’t an idle exercise.
Understanding what drives the behavior is a necessary step
toward designing effective treatments for people who can’t
control the urge.
While science is far from settling this debate, some treatment
programs continue to push the idea that porn is an addiction.
“There’s a tremendous treatment industry that needs this to be
a disease — a thing they can charge people to treat,” Prause says.
But promoting certain therapies may be ill-advised. “You can
harm patients by using treatment models that aren’t research-supported,” Prause says.
Whether or not pornography is a diagnosable addiction,
it’s clear it hurts some people. For them, there just isn’t much
evidence about how best to control this behavior. “There is
a real dearth of good, evidence-based therapeutic literature,”
A handful of researchers are working to close that knowledge
gap but it’s not an easy field to work in. “[Pornography] is a
highly politicized and sensitive topic,” notes Janssen. “It’s hard
to get funding for sex research in general, unless it’s in the
context of sexually transmitted diseases.”
Prause has experienced the difficulty firsthand. While she’d
be thrilled to see things change, she says, funding agencies
are still squeamish about sex. “It’s difficult to have it taken
seriously,” she says. “But it really is a science like any other.” n
Kirsten Weir is a journalist in Minneapolis.
• Bridges, A. J., & Morokoff, P. J.
(2011). Sexual media use and relational
satisfaction in heterosexual couples. Personal
Relationships, 18( 4), 562–585.
• Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Fong, T.,
& Prause, N. (2013). Sexual desire,
not hypersexuality, is related to
neurophysiological responses elicited by
sexual images. Socioaffective Neuroscience
& Psychology, 3, ( 1–12).
• Tolman, D. L., & Diamond, M. (Eds.).
(2014). APA handbook of sexuality and
psychology: Vol. 2. Contextual approaches.
Washington, D.C.: American Psychological
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