Another WRAP Week of Porn Disinformation

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Every year at this time, National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week mobilizes tens of thousands of civic leaders, religious figures, and policy-makers. The goal is to spread lies about the dangers of adult pornography, and its alleged connections with sex trafficking, domestic violence, and child exploitation.
I have written about this cynical, shameful project many times (https://goo.gl/fYS2KE; https://goo.gl/4juJRQ; https://goo.gl/HHkHKo).

Even assuming that many of those involved are well-meaning, this program is a cash cow exploiting people who don’t have a clue about how pornography is actually made, how it is consumed, and how such consumption affects people. WRAP is a disinformation campaign that gathers steam each year, damaging increasing numbers of marriages and everyone’s ordinary legal rights.

This year, I’m writing a different response. For those who mistakenly insist that I am “pro-porn,” here are legitimate problems with porn consumption that I see in my therapy office every week:

Porn as sex ed
Kids and teens starved for information about sex or bodies naturally turn to the primary place that they’re on display: porn. Without parental or school guidance, they have no way to understand that porn does not represent sex as it actually is. Some kids see pretend coercion and believe that it’s real; most young people see sex without preparation, conversation, relaxation, or affection, and think that’s standard.

Porn as aspirational
Adults should know better, but don’t discuss their sexual vision with their partner. What kind of sexual experiences does someone want to have—romantic? Lusty? Rough? Role-playing? Athletic? Without discussion, without the mutual investigation that can yield knowledge about oneself along with one’s partner, too many adults fall back on the imagery that’s so familiar from pornography. Or romance novels. Of course, the sex they’re enacting may not provide the emotional experiences they desire.

Porn as distraction from relationship or personal issues
Life, of course, offers us more problems than we’d like: marital, child-rearing, occupational, health, and the neighbor who refuses to train his “just friendly” dog.

Everyone deals with problems in their own way. For some, escaping into the world of porn is an easy way out. It’s a world of abundance—there’s always enough erections, enough time, enough access, enough enthusiasm. Problems and drudgery just don’t exist in porn-world—no issues with birth control, back pain, crying children, long-simmering conflict about money, or too much alcohol.

If everyone had a supportive partner, the resolution to almost every problem would start with “talk with your mate.” Unfortunately, not everyone is in such a position. And many people who are don’t realize it, or don’t have the skills to take advantage of such a life-affirming resource.

Porn as medication for emotional issues that need attention
Tens of millions of adults struggle with depression, anxiety, Asperger’s, social inhibition, PTSD, or other emotional issues. While some get excellent help from mental health or medical professionals, many others don’t. Instead, they medicate their problem, variously, with alcohol, shopping, television, gambling, overwork—or watching porn, often hours every week.

One of the major shortcomings of “porn addiction” programs is how little they screen for these psychological problems. And too many psychologists respond to such patients by focussing on the porn (and the partner’s distress) instead of doing a proper different diagnosis that might reveal a deeper, more serious mental health issue.

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All of that said, it’s important to understand that none of this is the fault of porn. The makers and distributors of adult pornography don’t make it for kids, don’t claim that it’s educational, don’t offer it as aspirational, and certainly don’t force anyone to watch it.

Every single way in which porn is misused is the fault of those misusing it. That particularly applies to parents, who recoil in dismay at their kids looking at it, yet refuse to discuss it with them beyond “it’s crap, don’t watch it.”

If kids are left on their own with smartphones that many grownups can barely manage, if adults can’t talk to the adults they’re having sex with, if people with problems can’t direct themselves to the help they need—porn is not responsible.

And for people who can’t remember life before the internet, here’s a reminder: before internet porn, people were damaging themselves, their marriages, and their finances. People were enforcing sexual ignorance and anxiety on their kids, themselves, and each other. Historically, porn didn’t cause the evils of divorce, rape, or child molestation (or war, Communism, or the Plague. It’s the height of cynicism to suddenly blame those things on modern pornography.

If civic activists would focus on the real problems associated with pornography, instead of dragging in unrelated but emotional issues like trafficking, addiction, and child abuse, perhaps we could all work together to increase society’s Porn Literacy—and reduce the actual problems exacerbated by the near-ubiquitous consumption of adult pornograpy.

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