Pornography: A Habit That Can Destroy Lives

Carl Boudreau suggested we now would start talking about our sexuality and intimacy. ~J


Gail Dines Robert Jensen

Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, is the author of “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.” Robert Jensen, a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.” They are founding members of Stop Porn Culture.

NOVEMBER 11, 2012

Assessing the effects of mass media is never simple, but the important questions about pornography are obvious: What happens when a culture is saturated with sexually explicit images eroticizing male domination and female subordination? When those images become increasingly cruel and degrading to women and increasingly racist? When pornography becomes the de facto sex education for most boys and an increasing number of girls?

These disturbing trends do not apply to all pornography. There are many varieties made by hundreds of small producers, but the porn industry around Los Angeles dominates, shaping cultural ideas about sexuality, relationships and intimacy. Just as the food industry shapes how we eat and the fashion industry shapes how we dress, the sex industry shapes the way we think about sex.

Anyone who considers pornography a harmless diversion should talk to marriage therapists and divorce lawyers.

This dominant source of pornography has some consistent themes. The most extensive peer-reviewed study in the past decade found that a majority of scenes from 50 top-rented porn movies contained physical and verbal abuse of female performers. Physical aggression – including spanking, open-hand slapping and gagging – occurred in 88 percent of scenes, with expressions of verbal aggression – usually a man calling a woman derogatory names – in 48 percent.

Individual experiences as a viewer of pornography differ, and many men and some women report pleasurable experiences. But clear patterns emerge from more than 30 years of academic research and organizing informed by a feminist critique of pornography. In heterosexual couples, men who habitually use pornography sometimes withdraw from intimacy with female partners, and sometimes make demands on female partners for sexual acts that are uncomfortable, painful or degrading to the woman. Women in heterosexual relationships report that both these behaviors can destroy relationships, and men sometimes report that they are aware of the damage but cannot break the habit.

Anyone who doubts these trends should talk to marriage therapists and divorce lawyers.

Although there is little systematic research on performers, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s a harsh business for women. The industry portrays high-profile performers with glamorous lives, but producers and directors we’ve interviewed said candidly that the industry “chews up and spits out” women. According to the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which provided testing and health care for performers in Los Angeles until it closed last year, female performers are at risk for injuries and diseases. The group’s founder once said the average career of these women was “six months to three years, tops,” after which they must cope with a variety of physical and psychological problems.

Pornography is the industrialization and commodification of sex, and like all big industries, its product is generic, formulaic and plasticized. These images tend to rob sex of its creativity, playfulness and intimacy, and hence are ultimately profoundly alienating. The performers, the consumers and the culture deserve better.

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10 Responses to Pornography: A Habit That Can Destroy Lives

  1. Excellent post and comments. Thank you so much, everyone! I don’t feel comfortable saying more as it is a painful topic for me to air in a public comment, but I can personally verify each and every point that not only the article but also from each commenter as my life has been touched in a profound way by this issue. Porn addiction is a complex spiritual issue that blocks growth and development for many people.

    I almost missed this one, but caught it in the Recent Posts sidebar — thank you Jean for keeping that in your “widgets”. When I miss a post of interest in the WordPress reader, I use the sidebar to help me catch something I might not have seen.


  2. Woolfo says:

    I recently watched a TEDx video about this very topic.

    “Gary Wilson asks whether our brains evolved to handle the hyperstimulation of today’s Internet enticements.”

    In his estimation overstimulation from high speed internet and pornography leads to a constant seeking of novel information. This can lead to a form of dependance, rewiring the brain in the process. Heavy porn and internet users experience symptom ranging from Erectile disfunction, social anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

  3. Patricia Maas says:

    Porn does destroy marriages. The male withdrawal from his spouse may take years to manifest, in particular if he is hiding his fascination with porn. In the process of withdrawing from the marriage he may continually cut back on all intimate and touching over the years until his spouse may not be touched over months or years. Women who complain or find out about the obsession and confront the spouse may risk bodily harm, but more likely strong denial and an increasing litany of degrading remarks. There may also be the added situation of if the male isn’t having an affair, the obsession with a beautiful woman on TV, a neighbor or even at their place of employment. The husband will defend this fantasy/obsessed with female when given opportunity and may be very vocal about it.

  4. Alex says:

    No comment 😉

  5. Tom says:

    It will destroy a marriage very fast if the spouse not involved in porn is not promiscuous. Fantasizing
    about other woman or men is almost like going to have an affair. It is so close there isnt hardly any difference. My son went through this as did I in a different sense but still just the same it turns out to be a rejection of the other as you want to have sex with another in the mind. To think it is harmless means you are just a pig-period. If one chooses to be promiscuous, then a divorce is the correct answer, that is if one has so many transgressions against ones spouse that made him turn to porn. When humans do bad things to others, they usually do not tell on themselves to the person they did the bad act to and thus “hide it” and store it in the closet. But too many secrets makes one less and less spiritually and one can not have a real relationship any longer when having them in ones mind. Come clean with your spouse about the things one was doing to the other before the porn started and get back to the level of affinity and trust once enjoyed. It will take guts to do this but confessing our “sins” to the person they were aimed at makes one more responsible perhaps and wont do the harmful act again.

  6. curi56 says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  7. Too many times Jean, we’re told all this porn is ‘good’, that you’re ‘uptight’ if you don’t ‘get it’ and that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t enjoy it. But its not OK. Please note, I make a clear distinction between well made, erotic films and literature and the kind of plastic ‘fast-food’ masturbation fodder that’s becoming a real threat to our culture. My spiritual sources tell me this is one of the most insidious issues facing our culture during the shift, its a backdoor route into which the dark forces are mounting their campaign – they do their most diligent work through our sexuality, having destroyed the ancient code of honour that existed among the sexes in the Golden age, ‘they’ know that if we ever get that back, it will jettison their mission into oblivion – such is the power of our sexuality. This frantic, obsessional masturbation culture has been installed as another measure to siphon off sexual prana – and if the fantasies are violent, all the better for ‘team dark’. The last thing they want to see is human beings enjoying powerful loving experiences, true intimacy and love. Restoring our sovereignty as men and women is key to the change, and very few of us in western industrialized society know how it feels to be truly power-full, to reside within the enthronement of your power as either a man or a woman.

    I’ve felt for years like screaming, because few people seem to see how this could single-handedly destroy the fragile gains we have built in redefining ourselves as men and women in the past 50 years, not to mention that its energy signature is drawing in parasitic beings from all over. I worry more than ever – because these graphic sexual images are paraded around on TV for young children to watch. We have a fight on our hands with this one, in fact this issue is one of the big things I will be explaining in more detail once I have my website about women and 2012 up and running 🙂 Thanks for posting this Jean – it is a big problem and not one that’s been taken seriously enough I don’t think.

    • Jean says:

      RSD, your words strike a deep chord within me. I have to wonder what has happened to our country when it is considered normal to take drugs in order to have sex. Something is badly out of whack here, don’t you think? Our emotions have been so traumatized that we need drugs? How sad! Hugs, ~Jean

      • Thanks Jean 🙂 I also think that the majority of women have never fully experienced the power of their bodies during orgasm, again it’s another of those lost Atlantian ‘arts’ sexual magic, sex used to infuse and heal, what remains of it is in Tantra now of course. I have an interesting link on my Facebook page about how sexual violence rewires the female brain, it also talks about how explorations in female sexuality are scant, because sex in our culture is by men for men. I’m convinced this is the linchpin of so many things wrong in the world, this degrading of the relationships between the sexes. And yes, porn does damage marriages. I’ve experienced it, and its utterly harrowing, as Tom says, you may as well go off and have an affair. Fortunately we worked through it, but to this day I still don’t really trust him. As a woman you feel like a complete failure, you feel degraded and betrayed, and I don’t care who wants to ‘defend’ men having continual easy access to porn (and women too, for that matter) it isn’t a healthy part of sexual relations when its like this, when one partner lies to the other. So yes, this political is also very personal for me 😦

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