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Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Sex... and Porn

Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Sex... and Porn

SALT LAKE CITY—Guess what? The Deseret News has just finished publishing a four-part series on the dangers and harms of pornography—and if that newspaper weren't wholly owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) (Mormon), we'd worry that someone other than its readers might actually take their tripe seriously! But because someone might take them seriously, it's probably up to us to set the record straight.

What's most striking about the series, the first three parts of which were authored by Sara Israelsen-Hartley and the final part by Eric Schulzke, is its internal contradictions, the most noticeable of which is the idea that despite how popular porn is—and the articles cite several statistics which make that pretty clear—it's still somehow a problem because so many people watch/use it.

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For instance, among the statistics salted throughout the series are "[a]n estimated 40 million Americans visit a porn site at least once a month"—roughly 125 million people!—and the fact that, "in a 2009 survey of 30,000 college students, more than 10 percent said they viewed pornography online from five to 20 hours a week, and 62 percent said they watched Internet pornography at least once a week. That seems somewhat at odds with a statistic in part four of the series, which claims that, "A 2008 study, for example, found that 86 percent of male college students had viewed pornography in the past year, and 48 percent viewed it at least weekly."

Another study by researchers at Brigham Young University in 2007 found that 21 percent of all college students said they watch porn 'every day or almost every day'." So, assuming those studies were done with scientific rigor, that means nearly two-thirds of college students overall—could be secular students, could be religious ones—watch porn "at least once a week," while even at the highly-religious Brigham Young, the largest religious university in the country, just over one-fifth of those students (98 percent of whom are Mormon) watch it "every day or almost every day." Makes you wonder how anyone gets any studying done, doesn't it? And it's even worse when "media scholars and medical professionals," all but a couple of whom go unnamed, "warn that failing to address ... specifically the way pornography changes the brain will come with dire consequences."

Fact is, pretty much everything changes the brain. We call it "learning." And while it's legitimate to be concerned about what it is that people—especially teens—are learning, to try to make it sound as if porn has some hypnotic influence over most of the people who use it is just religiously-inspired crap. And sure enough, Israelsen-Hartley trots out a couple of "experts" who are only too willing to say porn is so triggering to the pleasure centers of the brain that it's worthy of being called "addictive."

While admitting that "there’s no scientific consensus on how porn affects the brain," Israelsen-Hartley has no trouble quoting Gary Wilson, a guy who, according to his profile on the Psychology Today website, "is particularly interested in the neurochemistry of mating and bonding." And while it's unclear whether he has any expertise in that subject—he's mainly an anatomy and physiology teacher—he's nonetheless started a website called "Your Brain On Porn," where one of the main theories, covered extensively in his video "Adolescent Brain Meets Highspeed Porn," is that watching too much porn makes it more difficult to have and keep erections. (No word, of course, on how watching porn affects women's sexuality, because after all, who cares? It's men's dicks that really matter!)

Seems it's got something to do with DeltaFosB, a protein in the brain that "alter[s] the brain's reward system, increasing incentive for the reward [orgasm] and serving as an indicator that addictive behavior is taking place"—and apparently, that protein level goes up when a man (or at least a male rat) spots a new female (rat) that he can fuck, even though he's already overloaded on dopamine, "the brain’s natural reward for engaging in survival behaviors like mating, eating or conquering." (Hmm... guess we'd better start measuring the brains of all the Pentagon bigwigs and maybe Obama, not to mention all new bridegrooms, for DeltaFosB levels!)

"Critics who deny the existence of sexual addiction simply don’t understand the brain," agrees Donald Hilton, a Texas neurosurgeon who, according to Israelsen-Hartley, "has studied the effects of pornography use on the brain"—although she doesn't bother to tell her readers that he's also the author of He Restoreth My Soul, which "explores the destructive power of pornography addiction, not just from a moral and spiritual perspective, but with the scrutiny of modern science," and of course, Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction: A Resource for LDS Parents and Leaders.

But then, we already knew what true-believing Mormons think about masturbation.

However, at this point, it might be good to inject some sanity.

"Watching pornography can’t be an addiction in the same way that watching TV can’t be an addiction," prescribed Dr. Marty Klein, a psychologist and family therapist who deals with his patients' sexual problems on a daily basis. "Calling someone who watches too much porn (or TV) addicted—and even hurts his life doing so—trivializes the real process of addiction to substances like alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine."

In fact, "porn addiction" and even "sex addiction" are, for most, manifestations of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is in the latest Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, while neither "sex addiction" nor "porn addiction" can be found as diagnoses. OCD sufferers can obsess about anything: Praying, washing hands, stepping on sidewalk cracks... and watching a lot of porn.

And of course, any article on the harms of porn has to include its share of scientific loonies—and Israelsen-Hartley has no problem putting credence in Dr. Raju Hajela, director, Region IX (International) of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and chair of the subsection of definitions.

"In our definition, behaviors are a consequence of the disease, they are neither the disease nor the cause of the disease," Hajela claims. "In the DSM, the behavior is the disorder."

Well, let's think about that for a moment. If the "behaviors are a consequence of the disease" rather than the "disease" itself, what exactly is this "disease" that produces the behaviors? It's not a virus; it's not a tumor; it's not an infection of any kind—it's a way of thinking! And ways of thinking aren't "diseases"; at best, they are psychological conditions like OCD, and such conditions can only be diagnosed by observing the person's behaviors! Brain scans just don't cut it. So attempting to dismiss behaviors as a "consequence" or product of a disease is putting the cart before the horse—when there's no horse! There's only the behaviors; the "cart." (Gee; maybe the DSM is right!)

Part 2 of the series opens with the sad tale of Lili Bee (probably not her real name), who was "stunned" one day to find out that "the man she considered her soul mate viewed pornography"! This was after her cleaning lady handed her a trash bag (kitchen size or 50-gallon? The article doesn't say) filled with "his pornography collection"—which of course made her "sick to her stomach" for which she "ran to the bathroom."

Just another day in the lives of the sexually dysfunctional. Guess she should 'a listened to the cleaning lady when she "called through the [bathroom] door," "Oh honey, you shouldn’t be upset by that, all guys do that. Some of us even do that." (And rest assured, that's the only reference to women pleasuring themselves sexually in the entire series.)

Cue the "expert"!

"People aren’t aware of how extremely harmful (pornography) can be," said Wendy Maltz, psychotherapist and co-author of The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. "We’ve allowed this product that shows sex in a particular way and trains sexual arousal patterns in ways that can limit positive sexual expression. People are developing a sexual relationship with it that is superseding human relationships."

Now, we're going to make the assumption that most (possibly the vast majority) of those reading this are fairly normal, so ask yourself the question: If it's a choice between whacking off to porn all by your lonesome, or having sex with a real, live partner, is there really any question which one you'll choose?

But no: "Maltz and a growing number of scholars and therapists are becoming concerned about the effects of pornography on relationships, the way it commercializes sex and normalizes violence under the guise of fantasy." [Emphasis added.]

Well, we suppose that's a step up from the off-the-cuff remark in the first part, which describes porn as "[f]ormerly a back-alley, mafia-funded industry," but the existence of the adult industry hardly "commercializes sex," which activity survives pretty well on its own without anybody paying (money) for it.

More troubling, though, is the "normalizes violence" part of it, since later in the article, that "violence" is defined as performers being "slapped, spanked, gagged, choked, kicked or had their hair pulled." Well, we've seen our share of both porn and of people having sex "out in the world," and consensual spanking and buttocks slapping are things that a hell of a lot of people engage in while they're having sex—so we're wary of the claim by Robert Wosnitzer, screenwriter of the abysmal anti-porn pseudo-documentary The Price of Pleasure, that he studied "304 scenes from the 50 most popular porn movies of 2005" and "found" that 88 percent of them had those forms of "violence"—and surprise, surprise: "Almost all (94 percent) of the violence was directed to women, who responded nearly overwhelmingly with pleasurable or neutral expressions."

Needless to say, no list of those "50 most popular porn movies of 2005" is provided, but we'd find it difficult to believe that such a list wouldn't include a fair assortment of productions from Vivid, Wicked, New Sensations, Digital Playground, Adam & Eve and other companies that have a strict policy of banning violence of any sort—even consensual butt-slapping—in their movies.

And of course, what Wosnitzer and his cronies are apparently unaware of is that in the vast majority of porn movies, those about to have sex discuss with each other before the scene starts what types of activities they're good with, and what must be avoided—and guaranteed: A performer who violates those sorts of agreements with any regularity suddenly finds himself (it's usually "him") on a lot of people's "Won't Work With" lists.

But what's perhaps most interesting in part two is the amount of attention paid to former performer Jan Meza, a Shelley Lubben/Pink Cross acolyte who performed under the name of "Elizabeth Rollings" in a whole 16 movies in 2007 and 2008, with two further videos having been released in 2010 and 2012, well after she left the business.

Meza is depicted as a "plus-sized ... prostitute-turned-porn-star" with three kids who, while drunk and zonked on "a variety of pills she'd been given that morning to help her relax" (and just who gave those to her is for some reason omitted, suggesting that it wasn't anyone on the set), participates in a 25-guy gangbang for White Ghetto Films, released in 2012 under the name This Isn't Cake Boss, for which she says she was paid $5,000, "a pat on the back, and extra money."

"The director promised to stop if she was in pain, and vowed no one would call her bad names," Israelsen-Hartley recounts (apparently) a conversation with Meza. "But they did, and he didn't stop filming even when she began crying. During the scene, the pain was so intense she actually blacked out several times—images that had to be cut from the final film. After the scene and publicity photos the men wanted to take with her(!), she ran from the room to the bathroom, where she stood in the shower crying and vomiting... When the video finally came out, it was edited to make it look like Meza was enjoying the experience."

There are just a few problems with that account. If the video was indeed shot in 2006, as Meza claims—it was released in 2012—and it so traumatized her, why then did she continue making porn movies until 2008? And considering that she did another gangbang for White Ghetto, this time with nine guys, did she find that traumatic as well? The article doesn't say. What we do know is that Meza is currently an anti-porn activist, so her account of the gangbang shoot should probably be taken with a grain or two of salt.

But trust "youth minister" Rachel Collins, who "has spent the last nine years building relationships with women in the industry and helping them get out," to put the proper perspective on it.

"I couldn't think of anything unsexier (than porn)," Collins said. "Sex is made to be between two people in a committed relationship who love each other. There's so much to it that's so beautiful and intimate, and when you make everything about an orgasm, what a cheap and fake reality."

Well, guess what, toots? PORN IS FANTASY! It's never claimed to be anything else! So Israelsen-Hartley's summary of Collins' take on the industry—"all just a façade... a parade of carefully edited images and manipulated encounters that are sold as authentic and enviable—all while ignoring the pain of performers"—is just so much horseshit.

But Israelsen-Hartley does make one valid point in the piece: "[E]xperts say it [porn] makes for a terrible behavioral model, especially for young people who have no other ideas about sex."

Right you are! What those "young people" need is a comprehensive class or two in real sex education; one that deals with the real feelings and desires of real teenagers, presented in a way that doesn't denigrate those emotions and urges which every teenager experiences, but instead helps map out a course for them to become sexually active at some point in their lives. It would start with teaching teens how to masturbate (which, yes, might involve watching some porn—or looking at Penthouse), how to prevent pregnancy and STDs when having oral sex and intercourse, and how to decide if the person you're sexually infatuated with would actually be a good life partner—and perhaps most importantly, doesn't try to tell you that all it will take is a little will-power for you to remain "pure" until marriage.

And it's just this lack of good sex ed that leads to "studies" which found that among frat boys "who consume pornography—specifically rape and sadomasochistic types—report higher levels of willingness to rape women if they wouldn't get caught or punished, and lower willingness and perceived ability to intervene in a sexual assault situation." Porn doesn't do that; failing to give teens a good grounding in what is sexually acceptable in decent society and what isn't does that.

The Mormon church, of course, opposes all of that "sex education" stuff. Same with religious fundamentalists of all stripes.

Indeed; the article speaks approvingly of Meagan Tyler, a "non-religious feminist" and author of Selling Sex Short: The Pornographic and Sexological Construction of Women's Sexuality in the West, who "says society has accepted sex as a commodity that can be bought and sold, viewed upon demand and twisted into every imaginable fetish."

Apparently Tyler, an Australian, is no student of world (let alone American) history or she'd know that it's only within the last hundred years or so that sex hasn't been "accepted as a commodity," what with the temple prostitutes of ancient Greece and Rome; the first-century brothels of Pompeii; Paris's Place Pigalle, a popular hooker stroll; Amsterdam's red-light district, whose sex workers can actually join a union; the brothels that sprang up to service Union and Confederate soldiers in such backwaters as Washington, D.C.; the "bawdy houses" of turn-of-the-(20th)-century New York City; the several brothels currently doing business in Nevada; and on and on and on.

"What I ask is that people try and think about what sexuality would be like without porn," Tyler pontificated. "If you have difficulty imagining what that would be like, then we all have a problem."

If so, it's a problem of long-standing, considering that the cave paintings of early humans of 40,000 years past contained pornographic images, and people have been drawing, painting, writing, publishing and photographing porn ever since.

And here's a shocker: "Five Swedish studies of youths found that young men and women who frequently look at pornography are more likely to have had anal intercourse, and that boys who watch pornography are more likely to have experimented with acts they saw on screen, according to a review by Michael Flood at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society."

Yeah; nobody'd ever think to try butt sex unless they'd seen it in porn, just like everybody would be "doing it" in bed, under the covers, with the lights out, in "missionary" position absent anybody showing them anything different! (And rest assured, some people need to be shown something different!)

Oh; and guess what? It seems that according to their lawyers, 62 percent of people who are getting divorced claimed that "the internet" was a "significant factor" in divorce cases they had handled in 2002, and a little more than half of those (56 percent) claimed that it was one partner's "obsessive interest in pornographic sites" that caused the trouble. Note the word "obsessive."

And that, of course, would include Lili Bee (remember her?), who "after two years of supporting her partner through sex-addiction therapy, couples counseling and recovery meetings," finally ditched him after he confessed he hadn't stopped looking at porn—at which point she became an "interfaith minister and a counselor to partners of sex addicts."

"I could never get it out of my head that I wasn't his 'real choice'," Lili said. "I was someone he was settling for. And how could I ever feel OK about the impending aging process when I knew my partner was bonding (through orgasm) to girls who were teenagers, girls decades younger than myself? I began to go to war with myself, to hate every gray hair that sprouted, every tiny line on my face, every freckle on my body."

And who's the sick one here again?

Sara Israelsen-Hartley's final contribution to the series begins with a little shock 'n' awe, with Icelandic assistant prosecutor (and anti-porn activist) Sigridur Hjaltested getting bent out of shape upon learning that, "A 15-year-old girl [was] pressured into having sex with three boys. One of the boys was 15. The other two were even younger."

Shocking! Horrifying!

Until you learn, of course, that the age of consent in Iceland is 14 (as long as the partner is no more than 24 years old)—but why let facts get in the way of a good story, especially one calculated to shock American sensibilities?

But that's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as Israelsen-Hartley is concerned.

"[O]ver the last five years, the sexual offenses division in Reykjavik has seen crimes that are more graphic, violent, and perpetrated by younger and younger individuals," she writes, and Hjaltested is only too happy to back her up, claiming, "The sexual offense cases we get bear more [resemblance] to hard-core sex and a sex culture that is rapidly changing."

But as AVN recently noted, with a new center-right government having been elected in late April, the porn ban sought by the previous administration is "likely toast"—which doesn't mean that plenty of other countries won't be trying for the same censorship.

For example, just last month, UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller commanded nearly a dozen ISPs including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, BT, BSkyB, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Vodafone, O2, EE and Three to attend a "porn summit" at No. 10 Downing Street, the result of which was that the companies agreed to help the Internet Watch Foundation, which maintains a database of blocked sites, find and block even more sites, as well as search and target child porn.

On the other hand, back in March, the European Parliament deleted from a massive "Resolution" a clause that called for a ban on all forms of "pornography" in the media, leaving European Union members to make their own rules regarding citizens' access to sexually explicit content.

But that hardly settles the issue, as anti-porn activists—including, apparently, the editorial staff of the UK's second most popular newspaper, the Daily Mail—continue to push for putting all porn sites accessible from UK ISPs behind an "opt-in wall." This, from a paper that apparently prints a story about "pornography" at least every three or four days, including ones with salacious headlines like, "Scantily-clad Lindsay Lohan films a sex tape with porn star James Deen in racy new The Canyons trailer." (No, don't bother looking for an actual Lohan/Deen sex tape; it ain't out there.)

But Israelsen-Hartley quickly returns to the "problem" of American porn with the claim (by "experts") that U.S. obscenity laws aren't being enforced—in part because other "experts" essentially say that the public doesn't give a shit.

"In theory it's possible for the government to enforce them," said Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at UCLA School of Law. "It's just that there's been very little political appetite to do that, with changing social mores … coupled with a sense that it's extremely unlikely that this is going to do any good."

Indeed; so much porn; so little time! Not to mention, Volokh points out that "the laws intended to prosecute obscenity were a bit vague to begin with"—No! Really?—and that with the Justice Department having failed to appeal the Ninth Circuit's Shaffer/Kilbride case, federal law still hasn't figured out what the "community standard" of the internet is.

No worries, though; as far as Morality in Media president Patrick Trueman and his former partner in crime National Obscenity Enforcement Unit partner Rob Showers are concerned, it's just a matter of browbeating churchgoers and the like to get enough of them to create "an avalanche of public sentiment … saying, 'We're not putting up with this anymore'."

That, of course, might be a little tougher than it looks. Israelsen-Hartley recalls for her readers Utah's 1999 case where defendant Larry Peterman, general manager of the Movie Buffs video store chain, was acquitted of selling/renting adult videos when his attorney Randy Spencer entered into evidence the fact that Utah County residents had rented 19,389 adult pay-per-view movies rented from DirectTV over three years; that during a "nine-month test run" of Spice TV, subscribers purchased 1,416 adult pay-per-view movies; and that a nearby Sun Coast Video store saw 20 percent of its profits from adult video sales, which accounted for only 2.5 percent of the store's inventory.

Israelsen-Hartley then cites her understanding of the Miller test, mischaracterizing the third prong—the so-called "LAPS test"—as being dependent on a "broader, nationwide audience" when in fact the audience has nothing to do with it—and she makes sure to quote Virginia prosecutor Raymond Robertson as "emphasizing that prosecutors have to stand firm on those prongs and avoid getting derailed by defense attorney’s arguments about free speech and tolerance," neither of which, of course, have anything to do with free sexual speech.

Israelsen-Hartley also lauds U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan for prosecuting Extreme Associates, claiming she "charged headlong into the case, relying on years of experience prosecuting child pornographers to propel her through six years of legal procedure that included a dismissal and a successful appeal to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which returned the case to the district court." Hmmm... somehow, the reporter seems to have missed the fact that after the Third Circuit's remand, it took three years of Buchanan back-burnering the case before newspaper coverage forced her to take some action, which resulted in guilty pleas to "conspiracy to distribute obscene materials"—not an obscenity conviction—and landed Rob Black and Lizzy Borden in prison for nearly a year.

The article goes on to claim that thanks to the alleged increase in obscenity prosecutions during Reagan and Poppy Bush presidencies, there was "a decrease in hardcore pornography and a sense of hesitancy on the part of pornographers," when in fact, the number of hardcore movies released every year grew and grew.

After bemoaning the fact that "the Department of Justice hasn't filed an adult obscenity case since 2010," and that it took three trials to convict Ira Isaacs, Israelsen-Hartley quotes a Justice Department spokesman to the effect that the DOJ is no longer spending its "limited investigative and prosecutorial resources" on adult porn anymore, preferring to go after kiddie porn producers and distributors instead.

But in Mormon country, that ain't good enough.

"If you don't like the situation, if you don't like a porn shop in your town, contact the district attorney. Make sure their phones ring off the hook," Trueman advised. "But the public isn't doing that. They haven't done that for many years."

Really? No shit! Maybe it's because, as Volokh points out, "[I]f the goal of the prosecutor is to make porn less accessible, that's what's not possible. One thing that we have found, is that in free countries, it's hard to stop the spread of things that people want to consume."

But no; being overly interested in what entertainment people in their own homes and buy at the store are Americans' rights as citizens! Just ask Mary Beth: "To bring these cases is important because it reminds the people in the community that it is their choice on what material they find offensive, and what material they think that the law applies to. If they don't speak up, then prosecutors won't know that this type of material is material that they don't want in their communities."

The fact that the First and Ninth Amendments make it clear that it's nobody's business—certainly not prosecutors and certainly not neighbors—what type of material their fellow citizens are looking at, as long as it doesn't involved kids, seems to have been lost on the Deseret News—which helpfully provides a checklist of actions "YOU" can take to invade your neighbors' privacy, including "educating" yourself about obscenity laws, installing internet filters on everything from computers to phones to gaming systems, browbeating local cops and prosecutors, and writing letters to and calling companies that "make money off of distributing pornography"—you know; the legal stuff that nobody is claiming is "obscene"—which according to pornharms.com includes Wikipedia, Hilton Hotels, Cosmopolitan magazine, Barnes & Noble... and the Department of Defense! Most interestingly, Israelsen-Hartley suggests "Talk to youths about sexuality and appropriate expressions of intimacy." Gee, we wonder where that might happen? Perhaps in sex education classes?!?!?

Now, tell the truth: You knew they'd get back around to porn addiction before this series was through, didn't you? And sure enough, the fourth installment, written by Eric Schulzke, tells the story of "2 couples [who] claw back from porn addiction."

F'r'instance, take Megan—not her real name—who, it seems, "had developed strong intuition about [husband] Tom’s porn use."

"I can tell,” she told Tom. "It’s your temper, short fuse, frustration level with the kids, general irritability. I know that is not your real self. When I see that, I think you are acting out."

Gee; we thought jacking off to porn relieves stress, but what do we know? We only work with it and around it every day...

But the problem for Tom was, porn is pretty much everywhere he looks. The article notes that he had quit [going to strip clubs] after getting a lap dance, which he saw as a dangerous step toward further infidelity," but "the hotel room porn and Internet indulgence continued, as did the guilt and irritability."

Indeed; people who feel guilty looking at porn probably shouldn't—or should see a therapist to find out why they're afraid of watching an act that's the basis for the entire human race, and without which "families" don't exist.

But, as the article explains, Megan and Tom's marriage had been "solid" for its first two years, with "no grounds for mistrust." But then came the porn, which Tom discovered "when he had chanced on a soft core pornographic magazine while picking up trash in the neighborhood. He snuck it home, and he had been looking at pornography ever since." (Besides getting rid of those dirty porn distributors like Cosmo and the Department of Defense, perhaps pornharms should add "trash collection" to its list!)

So the couple sought out the one person they knew could help them: they "talked to their Mormon bishop," who "encouraged Tom to 'try harder' or exercise more."

But that only helped for a little while, leaving Tom exhausted... and turning Megan completely psychotic: "At one point, I was so angry with him that I wanted him to die. I thought, please God, just take him off the face of the earth. It hurt so bad." [Emphasis added] (Looks like she's about ready for a guest shot on Snapped!)

"The cycle went on for 14 years, and it hurt worse each time... But did it have to?" Schulzke asks. "There is a younger, hipper world out there, one steeped in Shades of Grey and Sex in the City—a world where the Huffington Post reports that sadomasochists are surprisingly well-adjusted, Oprah guests encourage wives to embrace their husband’s porn, and youngsters wear 'future porn star' t-shirts."

In case you hadn't guessed, those are Bad Things—though Schulzke has to set up his readers for that conclusion by first admitting, "Whether porn is objectively harmful is a question that has sharply split professional and public opinion. Even feminists are flummoxed. Widespread use among seemingly healthy people offers a patina of legitimacy, and every obscure state college seems to employ a 'sexologist' who is casually confident that it's all good." [Emphasis added]

Damned "sexologists," ruining the joys of hellfire and damnation for the rest of us!

But to solve the "lurking questions" beneath the "widespread acceptance of pornography," Schulzke turns to the experts, Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant (no relation... or is he?), "prominent media effects researchers at the University of Alabama," many of whose conclusions have been debunked by researchers Edward Donnerstein, Daniel Linz and Steven Penrod in their important book, The Question of Pornography.

For example, Donnerstein, et al agree that in a 1974 study, where Zillmann and Bryan exposed men and women to 8mm stag films that showed women as "socially nondiscriminating, as hysterically euphoric in response to just about any sexual or pseudosexual stimulation, and eager to accommodate seemingly any and every sexual request," they found that those who'd watched six 10-minute loops of this sort per week for six weeks "(1) became more tolerant of bizarre and violent forms of pornography; (2) became less supportive of statements about sexual equality; and (3) became more lenient in assigning punishment to a rapist whose crime was described in a newspaper account."

Just one problem: "It is important to note that long-term exposure to this type of pornography did not increase aggressive behavior," the Donnerstein group found. "In fact... subsequent aggression declined with continued exposure." [Emphasis in original]

Sadly, The Question of Pornography was published in 1987, so the Donnerstein group could not weigh in there on the 1988 Zillmann/Bryan study which Schulzke cites in his article, which allegedly found that exposing 160 "randomly chosen subjects" to one hour per week of porn features (with storyline) for six weeks had them "express[ing] views markedly more hostile toward children, marriage, relationship trust and women in general, compared to a control group that watched sitcoms... The porn group was 41 percent less likely to want their own biological children. And women in the porn group were 65 percent less likely to want a daughter."

Aside from the fact that a study of just 160 subjects is unlikely to produce widely-applicable results, the same caveat that the Donnerstein group expressed regarding the 1974 study could as easily be applicable to the 1988 study.

Getting back to "Porno Tom," though, it turns out that he might have a few screws loose as well.

"When he was using porn, Tom felt at odds with himself, torn apart, as if the person he meant to be was incompatible with the one he was becoming," Schulzke writes. "Psychologists call such stress 'cognitive dissonance'," which is defined as "the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions." Schulzke leaves it at that, but one has to wonder which is more likely to have caused the dissonance: Viewing porn, or being repeatedly browbeaten by Megan about his porn viewing for the better part of their 14-year marriage?

Similar problems were faced by "another Salt Lake area couple," Jill and Paul. Paul had supposedly become "addicted to porn" at age 12 after his mom died, and when he and Jill married 12 years later, he hid his porn use. According to Schulzke, Paul fucked around on Jill for several years until "Jill found a conversation on his computer with one of his liaisons one day. She hadn't even been looking." (Yeah, right!) Of course, she was devastated, and the couple tried marriage counseling but quit after a few months... so they wound up at "Lifestar, a Utah-based sex-addiction recovery program with a national reach."

Most of the rest of this installment is about how Lifestar taught them "cognitive tools for the addiction and relationship tools for creating safety," which resulted in "three years of sobriety [sic] for Tom" and "five years for Paul," even though "He and Jill have had a few rocky moments, including one spat that separated them for two months. But the lapses faded, and the recovery has been strong."

Except that, "Now when Tom he enters a hotel room, the first thing he does is unhook the TV and hide the remote. He never watches TV in hotels. As for the computer, he never surfs now. He uses the computer only for specific purposes." Hey, in the modern day and age, who needs the internet anyway, amirite?

But that's the least of the problem. "With heroin, you have to find a drug dealer. Alcohol, you have to find an outlet," Paul said, "But here, there are triggers everywhere. Billboards, magazines — everywhere."

So we're guessing Paul and Tom will pretty much have to stay indoors for the rest of their lives, and let the wives do the shopping and bring in the mail—but that's a small price to pay for never having to look at porn ever again, right?

Actually, no. Seems Paul and Jill have become "highly active in their community Christian church," and "Paul is now studying to become a lay minister." ("Lay," get it?)

Megan and Tom had similar results: "The two things that did it were Lifestar and an understanding of Jesus Christ," Megan said.

Yep, social pseudo-science and religion, that's the answer to the "porn problem" that doesn't actually exist—but then, religious zealots are used to that sort of problem, aren't they?

To check out the Deseret News's four-part series, start by clicking here.






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Mark Kernes

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