LOS ANGELES—Researchers David Ley, Nicole Prause and Peter Finn have just published a review article online at Springer's journal, Current Sexual Health Reports, The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the ‘Pornography Addiction’ Model. As the report's title unambiguously makes clear, the authors find no basis whatsoever for the now common diagnosis of "porn addiction," which has been adopted as a fact of modern life by myriad media outlets as well as an increasing number of professional clinicians. Even more problematic, it has also become the semi-official position of several governments, including, depressingly, the Brits.
According to the report's abstract, however, "The addiction model is rarely used to describe high-frequency use of visual sexual stimuli (VSS) in research, yet common in media and clinical practice. The theory and research behind ‘pornography addiction’ is hindered by poor experimental designs, limited methodological rigor, and lack of model specification."
The abstract adds that not only do the authors review the "history and limitations of addiction models," but notes that they come down very hard on the therapy industry, arguing, "Since a large, lucrative industry has promised treatments for pornography addiction despite this poor evidence, scientific psychologists are called to declare the emperor (treatment industry) has no clothes (supporting evidence). When faced with such complaints, clinicians are encouraged to address behaviors without conjuring addiction labels."
According to a review of the report on medicalxpress.com, the researchers found "no sign that use of pornography is connected to erectile dysfunction, or that it causes any changes to the brains of users. Also, despite great furor over the effects of childhood exposure to pornography, the use of sexually explicit material explains very little of the variance in adolescents' behaviors. These are better explained and predicted by other individual and family variables."
Contradicting popular opinion even further, the report addresses the positive benefits of porn consumption. As noted by medicalxpress.com, "It can improve attitudes towards sexuality, increase the quality of life and variety of sexual behaviors and increase pleasure in long-term relationships. It provides a legal outlet for illegal sexual behaviors or desires, and its consumption or availability has been associated with a decrease in sex offenses, especially child molestation."
Perhaps the most damning finding of the researchers, however, is the profound lack of scientific data to support porn addiction. For instance, "Fewer than two in every five research articles (37 percent) about high frequency sexual behavior describe it as being an addiction. Only 27 percent (13 of 49) of articles on the subject contained actual data, while only one related psycho-physiological study appeared in 2013."
Worse, regarding research that has supported a theory of porn addiction, "Ley's review article highlights the poor experimental designs, methodological rigor and lack of model specification of most studies surrounding it."
One finding that may prove to be controversial has to do with the influence of religion on people who profess to be addicted to porn. "Clinicians should be aware that people reporting 'addiction' are likely to be male, have a non-heterosexual orientation, have a high libido, tend towards sensation seeking and have religious values that conflict with their sexual behavior and desires," noted medicalxpress.com, adding, "They may be using visually stimulating images to cope with negative emotional states or decreased life satisfaction." A separate study conducted at Case Western Reserve University came to a similar conclusion.
The lead researcher, David Ley, PhD, a New Mexico clinical psychologist and executive director of a large behavioral health program called New Mexico Solutions, as well as the author of the book, The Myth of Sex Addiction, said of the seemingly common treatment for porn addiction by clinicians throughout the country, "We need better methods to help people who struggle with the high frequency use of visual sexual stimuli, without pathologizing them or their use thereof. Rather than helping patients who may struggle to control viewing images of a sexual nature, the 'porn addiction' concept instead seems to feed an industry with secondary gain from the acceptance of the idea."
Easier said than done, is our guess.