One of the biggest harms of the Internet is online pornography. While prostitution (which has the root word porneia) has been around since the dawn of human history, never before has access to explicit content been so easy and varied. Today the porn industry rakes in around $100 million globally, with the U.S. making up $12-14 million of that revenue. According to this report, 40 million Americans regularly view pornography, and 25 percent of all Internet searches are porn-related.
These stats are shocking, to say the least, but it begs the question of how we best understand and treat porn addiction in today’s context. While most of us would naturally assume such addiction is related to sexual impulses, “Dr. K,” who appeared on Chris Williamson’s podcast to discuss the topic, thinks porn use has “nothing to do with sex.”
Instead, Dr. K’s research and experience suggest that porn use is simply another way to try and regulate negative emotions. It’s a powerful coping mechanism that allows the user a sense of escape from loneliness, boredom, stress, sadness, and so on.
“Pornography usage will suppress a lot of negative emotion…what leads to usage is [often] feeling bad about yourself,” said Dr. K. “It’s really about emotional regulation. It really has nothing to do with sex, basically.”
Interestingly, they also talked about how this “shame cycle” relates to social media use and other drugs. People go to social media, cannabis, or binge-eating to escape their emotions and get a quick “dopamine hit.” It’s good at distracting the brain for a few precious seconds but only ends up compounding the negative emotions or suppressing emotions entirely.
“The more meaningless your life is, the more likely you are to be addicted to pornography,” he went on. “You have to have a reason to stop watching. You have to go with that withdrawal for some greater good.”
The goal, then, is not to demonize people who struggle but to strive toward a culture of purpose and meaning. Without meaning, we opt for mere pleasure, which sought after for its own sake will end up withering the soul.
Note: Not everything claimed in this video reflects the views and convictions of Mind Matters.