While some view porn as a healthy extension of your sex life, others consider it a vice thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right up there with smoking or gambling. But like other vices, can it really get you hooked? According to a new paper in the journal Current Sexual Health Reports, there is no strong scientific research that porn addiction exists.
First, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s agree that people have some heated opinions when it comes to X-rated clips. Some love turning it on and reaping the solo and relationship benefits of watching porn, while others get hung up on the wildly unrealistic expectations it can put on your sex life (like these 13 things that are only ever true in porn). The more mainstream porn becomes, the more we hear about addiction treatment centers and alleged negative consequences (see: the movie Don Jon). Our societyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obsession with porn is definitely growing, but our research on actual porn addiction may not be keeping up.
MORE: The Hidden Perk of Watching Porn
The Problem With Addiction
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The idea of addiction has become so overused as a society to describe any overused behavior that someone else has decided is a problem,Ã¢â‚¬Â says lead study author David Ley, Ph.D., clinical psychologist in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Case in point: our constant references to how Ã¢â‚¬Å“addictedÃ¢â‚¬Â we are to chocolate, yoga, or our cell phones. But when you look at excessive porn use through the lens of drug or alcohol addiction, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly fit.
For instance, no research suggests that people experience a withdrawal effect when they stop watching porn, says Ley. And while some argue that people can develop a tolerance for porn, Ley says that evolving tastes in porn are more likely due to normal sexual development. Basically, what turns you on now might not be what turns you on 10 years from now. Plus, research shows that people tend to view the same kind of porn rather than searching for increasingly elicit clips over time, says Ley.
Most notably, porn addiction was rejected from the DSM-5 (the authoritative guide for defining, diagnosing, and treating mental health illnesses), based on the fact that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s insufficient research to back it up. But what makes excessive porn use any different from another problem habit, like gambling use disorder (which was included in the DSM-5)? Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no evidence that gambling is healthy, but there is tons of evidence that sex and masturbation are,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ley. After all, you probably wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t consider a daily runner to have an addiction (and letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s be honest, there are a ton of healthy reasons to have more orgasms).
MORE: When 59 Percent of Women Watch Porn
WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in a Label
So whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the problem with using the term porn addiction? Ley says itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more than a matter of semantics. Labeling porn as something you can be addicted to puts it in a negative light, downplays the positive benefits, and ignores the fact that it could be a coping mechanism for a deeper problem (like erectile dysfunction or depression), says Ley. The researchers arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t denying that there could be some negative consequences of spending the better part of a random Tuesday watching porn, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re arguing that labeling this as porn addiction doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mesh with the research and isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t helping anyone.
The other problem: There are a ton of porn addiction treatment centers popping up around the country charging money for treatment that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually proven to work, says Ley. So what about the people who truly feel theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re addicted to porn? According to a recent study looking at self-identified porn addicts, it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the frequency of use that predicted whether or not they felt they were addictedÃ¢â‚¬”it was actually their level of religiosity (Surprised? Here are 11 other things you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know about porn). Ã¢â‚¬Å“Other research supports that this is often an internal conflict with ones own sexual or moral values,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Ley. Essentially, it may be that our societyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obsessions with porn and addiction are really causing this so-called porn addiction.
MORE: 3 Surprising Facts About Porn Shoots