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kroika's essay: Pornography and Sexual Health
November 29, 2008
6:04 pm
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More from the Introduction of The Porn Trap:The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography by Wendy Maltz, LCSW, DST, and Larry Maltz, LCSW.

Not a Harmless Fantasy

In the ten years since we noted growing problems with porn among our own clients, the sheer volume of porn has grown exponentially, as has the ease of getting access to it. As a result, the number of people across the United States and in the world who have developed - and are developing - problems with it has been increasing substantially. Couples and families break up over porn. Single people say their preoccupation with it makes them feel less capable of establishing monogamous, long-term intimate relationships. Self-identified sexual addicts who have spent years in successful recovery relapse with porn, often in more destructive ways than ever before.

Because using porn often involves high levels of dishonesty and secrecy, those who are caught up in it often say they feel isolated, ashemed, depressed, phony, morally compromised, and even in some cases, suicidal. Many are angry, irritable, and unable to sleep. Some tell us porn is leading them on a dangerous path into illegal and risky activities, such as viewing child pornography, having affairs, having anonymous sex at adult bookstores, hiring prostitutes, and viewing porn at work. What we have found really troubling is that many of our clients confide that they are unable to stop using pornography even when they are aware of the negative consequences it is having on their lives. As with alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, this is one of the signs of a true addiction.

Most porn users we've counseled or spoken with are surprised at how easily porn transformed from an occasional diversion or fantasy to a habitual problem that has the potential to destroy almost every aspect of their real lives. What began as fun, escapist sexual entertainment, or a brief but thrilling visit to a taboo world, became a trap. Like quicksand, pornography sucked them in so steadily and quietly that they often didn't even notice they were sinking. For some, porn swallowed up their whole lives, dragging down their relationships, their jobs, their self-esteem, and even their dreams and desires.

But it isn't only those caught in the porn trap whose lives are torn apart by it. The intimate partners of pornography users also seek our counseling. These clients express concern about either being pressured into sexual activities they don't want to be involved in or being sexually ignored. Some feel ridiculed about their bodies, appearance, or sexual performance, which leads them to feel less sexual, both with their partners and in general.

The depth of the problem on the partners of porn users was driven home to us when we learned that two-thirds of themembers of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that compulsive Internet use had played a significant role in divorces in 2002 and that well over 50 percent of those cases involved pornography. Eight years earlier, pornography played almost no role in divorce.

Intimate partners not only worry about whether they can continue to live with the porn user, they also often worry about their children being exposed to porn. Their fears are real - it is not uncommon for children to discover a parent's porn stash or mimic a parent's attitude about sexual behavior and pornography. And if one parent is regularly using porn and the other feels demeaned by it, a child can grow up with a confused sense of what is sexually appropriate and healthy. Partners often feel emotionally abandoned, powerless, and unable to help themselves or their children. Clearly, the porn trap doesn't just trap the user.

November 29, 2008
6:28 pm
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More from the Introduction of The Porn Trap:The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography by Wendy Maltz, LCSW, DST, and Larry Maltz, LCSW.

What Has Changed?

Nearly all the people who experience porn-related problems say that the ready availability of pornography on the Internet and other electronic devices is at least partially responsible. Porn's promise of easy, commitment-free sexual gratification can be just too hard to resist when pornographic pictures, videos, chats, and games are only a mouse or remote click away, any time, day or night. Our high-tech world allows people to access porn anonymously, without having to face a salesperson knowing they're renting or buying X-rated materials.

Thirty years ago, getting your hands on pornography required time, money and effort. Today it takes time, money and effort to get away from porn. With unsolicited e-mails, deceptive links, and pop-up windows, porn can make its way into our lives whether we want it to or not. As one man said, "You no longer have to go looking for porn, porn is looking for you!"

Just a generation ago, only a small minority of people would have been considered regular porn users; today porn reaches an unprecedented number of people of all ages and from all walks of life. And it reaches them 365 days a year, 24/7. In the United States alone, forty million people visit Internet porn sites at least once a month. Some visit for only a few minutes at a time, while others stay for hours on a regular basis. A whopping 25 percent of all daily Internet search engine requests and 35 percent of all downloads are for pornography.

As you might expect, most regular porn users are male (75-85 percent), but the number of females using porn has been growing in recent years. You may be shocked to learn - we know we were - that youth under the age of eightenn have become one of the largest consumer groups of porn. With this earlier start, it's no wonder that people are getting hooked faster, more seriously, and in greater numbers than ever before.

Why We Wrote This Book

Seeing the growing impact porn was having on the lives of our clients and listening to their painful and touching stories, we knew we had to do something more to help them than we were able to do in our traditional practice. We began to research the issue and quickly found that the number of people with pornography-related problems was growing rapidly and their problems were becoming increasingly severe. What used to be a small problem for relatively few people had grown to a societal issue that was spilling over and causing problems in the lives of countless everyday people.

We asked other therapists, especially sex and relationship therapists, about their experiences, and found that they had seen the same trend - seeing very few clients with pornography problems a decade earlier, but seeing it beome a central issue in their practices today.

We began to look for articles and books that could help our clients, but found a lack of information we thought would be helpful. Research on pornography's long-term effects has not been a priority in our society. Our culture tends to avoid discussing sexual issues openly and seriously. Most of the studies that have been done focus narrowly on relatively brief exposures to mild forms of porn, trying to determine whether pornography causes sexual violence. And none of the research included porn use in natural settings, where it is usually accompanied by masturbation. In addition, we found only a handful of studies that dealt with the effect of porn use on intimate relationshi8ps or an intimate partner.

As sex and relationship therapists, we know that pornography use is a relationship issue. Porn affects the user's inner life (the relationship he has with himself), as well as the interactions he has with his partner and other family members. Regular porn use often interferes with a person's ability to maintain good self-esteem and experience mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy with a partner. Dealing with pornography is not solely about stopping a behavior or overcoming an addiction. It also involves reclaiming a sense of personal integrity and manifesting attitudes and behaviors that promote healthy sexual intimacy. Nothing we found in our research discussed pornography use and its repercussions with this type of emphasis.

Since we couldn't find the kind of resource that we felt our own clients and others needed, we decided to write something that would fill in the gap. After many conversations with our colleagues and a thorough study of the professional literature, we began to put together a plan for The Porn Trap. We set out to write a book that would plainly and compassionately address pornography issues from a self-esteem and relationship-based perspective - presenting stories, ideas, and insights from real people who have dealt with porn problems, and providing the wisdom of counseling professionals.

In order to protect and honor the confidentiality of our clients, we advertised for interviewees and also talked to volunteers who were referred to us by other therapists. As the interiew process got underway, we were impressed by the courage and openness of our contacts. They were willing to share very intimate stories of pain and healing out of a desire to help others escape the trap.

Rob, for example, told us he hoped sharing his story would spare others the pain he went through getting caught with child pornography on his computer, and subsequently losing his job, his marriage, and the respect of his family and friends. "Pornography is not only an individual problem, it's a social and cultural problem. I hope my story helps someone else so that they won't feel so alone and ashamed, and will get the help they need."

We also gathered information from intimate partners of people overcoming porn problems. Karan, a 28 year old beautician, spoke of feeling traumatized when she found her new husband's hidden computer file containing sexually provocative pictures of young girls. "The idea of having a child with him suddenly scared me," she said. "What does it mean that he is turned on by this stuff? My trust level fell to zero. It's taken us several years and a lot of counseling for me to feel safe going forward with out plans to start a family together."

Finally, we interviewed therapists, addiction specialists, and pastoral counselors who address pornography problems in both individual and group therapy settings. Their generosity sharing their unique strategies and techniques makes this book an even more valuable tool to those in trouble.

We hope that The Porn Trap helps break the silence surrounding pornography for anyone whose life has been damaged by porn. This book can be your lifeline for getting out of the trap, helping you confront your problems honestly, without judgment or shame, and providing you with the information you need to make your own decisions about if, how, and when to quit using porn.

November 29, 2008
6:42 pm
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Here is the last part of the Introduction of The Porn Trap:The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography by Wendy Maltz, LCSW, DST, and Larry Maltz, LCSW.

I highly recommend the book. It truly is wise, compassionate, non-judgemental and helpful.

What To Expect

We chose the name The Porn Trap because it communicates the danger that pornography use can hold. It also describes how many people feel when they realize pornography is causing them serious problems, but don't want to or can't give it up. What's more, the analogy helps us to organize the stories, research, exercises, and tips into a structure that mirrors the healing journey many people go through - from the first time they see and experiment with porn, to sinking deeper into the trap, to feeling desperate, and eventually discovering how to free themselves.

Throughout the book you will read true stories of people addicted to pornography, or otherwise hurt by it, who decided to change their lives. They often had to endure a lot of suffering before they could see their situations clearly and be ready to make a change. Their stories are dramatic and may at times be difficult to read. They demonstrate how easy and exciting it can be to get sexually involved with porn in spite of having mixed feelings about it. But in the end, these stories are hopeful and uplifting, showing how even the worst porn-related problems can be overcome with the proper knowledge and support.

Most of the stories and quotes in the book come from the interviews we did with porn users and their partners. We have changed names and identifying details to protect confidentiality. [...]

This book addresses a full range of pornography-related problems. It can be helpful to you whether you have just begun using porn, have a well-established habit, or are already involved in a recovery program to quit using it for good. The Porn Trap provides an understanding of porn addiction with simple but effective healing strategies. The book is designed to help you:
- identify and evaluate the impact of porn,
-decide whether it's time to quit using porn,
- learn how to stop using porn and deal with cravings,
- rebuild self-esteem and restore personal integrity,
- heal a relationship harmed by porn use,and
- develop a thriving and satisfying sexual life without porn.

[...] We have written this book because we believe you have a right ot healthy, love-based sexual expression, and that today's multimedia-driven pornography is interfering with that right. While pornography may promise sexual freedom, it can eventually deliver a form of sexual oppression - robbing people of sexual innocence, sexual self-determination, and the skills to experience healthy relationships based on a loving connection with a real partner. Moving beyond porn's influence can return your personal freedom and give you solid footing to enjoy your life.

November 29, 2008
6:50 pm
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thanks kroika, I couldn't remember who had writen it but I wanted to read it again. there was some questions about porn on another thread and I wanted to read your essay again because it defined porn so precisely.

November 30, 2008
12:24 pm
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Kroika--

Thanks so much for posting more information about this topic...

Very insightful, very helpful especially to those whose lives have been affected by a porn user...

~need

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