Man watching woman undress on laptop computer. Shot over shoulder to view screen.

Hi, I recently read your article “the real problem with porn, it’s bad for sex” and I was actually relieved that someone from the psychology world is addressing some of the problems with porn; thank you for this thorough and very helpful information. My question is this, what would it look like to address women’s pain and suffering as the real problem? Is our pain not valid in itself? Are men not capable of seeing women’s suffering for what it really is? Is the porn industry above reprimand for apparently helping lower sex crime? I see porn as a problem because it is degrading to relationships. It has hijacked men’s brains and poisoned and debilitated them. It has objectified and degraded women. It has caused undue stress in my daily life and I have found very little validation to fuel my fight. How does it look to validate and address this pain as the real problem? I hope to gain some perspective from your professional insights. Thank you!


  • Michael Castleman says:

    I’m very sorry that you feel pain because of porn. I don’t for one moment dismiss your suffering. I just believe you may hold some mistaken beliefs and that rethinking them might bring you a measure of peace.

    Let’s begin with your assertion that porn poisons men, degrades women, and harms relationships. Academic researchers have delved into this. University of Arkansas investigators (led by a woman) surveyed a large number of women about how they felt about porn. One-quarter said essentially what you say, that porn is poison. But three times as many, three-quarters of the respondents, did NOT feel that porn warped their men, degraded women, or threatened relationships. Why do you think most women disagree with you?

    Porn depicts male fantasies of sex without any responsibility—for contraception, relationships, or anything else, just pure wild sex. You don’t like that. But in my opinion, everyone has freedom of fantasy. People can daydream whatever they want, as long as they ACT responsibly. The evidence is quite clear that since the late 1990s when porn exploded on the Internet, men have been ACTING better. The divorce rate has declined, so porn doesn’t appear to destroy relationships. The rate of sexual assault has declined, so porn doesn’t seem to contribute to sexual violence. Fewer teens lose their virginity during high school, and more sexually active teens use contraception, so porn doesn’t seem to spur teen sexual irresponsibility. In other words, since porn flooded the Internet, women are less likely to see their marriages end. They’re physically safer. And as their children come of age, they behave better than teens who came of age before the late 1990s. I’m not saying that porn is the only cause of these welcome trends. I’m simply pointing out that with porn more easily available than ever before, socially harmful behavior has declined. That’s good.

    Women who feel disgusted by porn often say what you’ve said, that it depicts sex with out relationships. That’s true. But is that necessarily horrible? I don’t think so. The large majority of Americans have engaged in at least some casual sex, that is, sex without real relationships: one-night stands, summer flings, vacation romances. The research on these short-term, non-relationship liaisons clearly shows that the large majority of people feel fine about them. So there’s nothing inherently destructive about having casual sex, the kind presented in porn. Meanwhile, sex within relationships is not necessarily a a bed of roses. Consider domestic violence and marital rape. Those victimized women would probably have been better off without those relationships and the sex in them.

    Porn is a cartoon version of sex. Like cartoons, porn sex is totally unrealistic, but fun to watch. When Wile E. Coyote hits the Roadrunner over the head with a sledgehammer, viewers don’t pick up hammers and wail on the nearest head. Viewers know that cartoons shouldn’t be taken seriously. When chase scenes in action movies show reckless drivers smashing into cars while fleeing the police, viewers don’t jump into their cars and speed the wrong way down one-way streets. They know that those chase scenes shouldn’t be imitated, that they’re cartoons. Similarly, men who view porn don’t race to mistreat women. Several studies show that compared with men who view little porn, those who watch a lot are LESS sexist and more respectful of real live women.

    Have you ever swooned a bit over a hunky movie star? Most women have. They don’t turn around and divorce their men. They enjoy a little fantasy and then return to their lives. The same is true for men who view porn. They watch wild orgies, usually masturbate to orgasm, and then, relaxed, they return to their everyday lives.

    Many woman who say they object to porn actually object to their men masturbating. I believe that everyone—male and female—has the right to self-sex. The research clearly shows that married people self-sex just as much as singles, often more. The research also clearly shows that more than half of US women own vibrators, and that few use them in partner sex. Most use them only solo. Women who object to male masturbation—with or without porn—don’t say anything about women’s self-pleasuring, which is almost as common.

    The porn genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back in. There are more than a billion porn pages on the Internet. It’s definitely here to stay. If you wish, you and the one-quarter of women who feel as you do are free to talk yourself hoarse condemning porn. But three-quarters of women feel differently. They don’t feel particularly threatened by porn—or by their men masturbating to it. Why do you think they disagree with you?

    • sam says:

      Dear Michael,
      I appreciate your quick response to my above question. Thank you for taking the time to try and address all of the concerns I have.
      Firstly, I should mention that I am not opposed to masturbation and self pleasure. I consider myself a professional in this regard and am proud to have accomplished such things without the use of any toys or tools including vibrators and lube. I’ve watched and enjoyed porn myself on occasion and even learned some great techniques from it. I advocate self pleasure and the exploration of personal fantasy.
      I have always considered myself to be more sexual than most people.
      To answer your question I can’t speak for most women because i set myself apart from them…in that most women probably don’t see porn as a problem maybe they realize perhaps that they are unwilling or unable to keep up and or compete with the magnitude of it. But I do realize that my perspective is likely jaded by my own experiences. I like sex a lot and I feel more than capable of fulfilling my partners wants and needs. Whether or not they see me the this way seems to depend on whether or not they consume porn.
      In order for you to understand me I would have to give you a lot of details about my personal history. Unfortunately that would take too long so I’ll try to help you understand. I can tell the difference between someone who uses porn and someone who doesn’t by their bedroom behavior. I’ve noticed the trend in the last ten years. It’s taken me a lot of time to come to terms with it because the quality of sex is so far diminished in porn users that it’s impossible for me to dismiss. I’ve had to turn to self play to meet my needs and when this happens, my own pleasure with my partner is ever further negatively affected. So, then I have to work harder to make sexy time better for both of us…but it shouldn’t have to be hard work. In order for sex to be enjoyable I need to be relaxed.
      I realize men are very visual but I see what happens in porn, and i am not trying to compete. All I can do is be true to myself. I am not lacking in self love and I have never had any plastic surgery. I refuse to abuse my body just for attention. I see women who do and it’s really sickening to me. They are beautiful the way they naturally are and they’re desperately trying to upgrade themselves. The fact that I see the correlation is irrelevant. I agree that porn isn’t going away. But guys need to be woken up to this truth. The lot of them are growing increasingly clueless as to how to please a woman. That’s the real reason men turn to porn in the first place IMO! Does anybody else out there see the cycle? Again, I have personally experienced the difference between men who don’t use porn, and men who do. I can even tell with a fling or one night stand. Thanks to porn, i have found those types of situations to be much less worthwhile, and have found the viability of male partners to be diminished. So, how do I address this problem? I know a lot of gys are ashamed of their porn use. How do I “fix” a porn addict without shaming him about his porn use? I’m sure your background in psychology has provided enough information about the brain chemistry involved in healthy relationships. I’ve bought and read so many books by doctors and psychologists that I feel I’ve already done my due diligence and im still heartbroken about this. Thanks for your help.

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