An unfortunately popular misconception in our culture is that pornography use is a normal, harmless habit.
If you are a porn user, you may be relying on this idea to rationalize or justify your habit to yourself and your family (if you are a recovering addict, you may have done so earlier in your journey, and you already know better). This misinformation is one of the things keeping you trapped by your pornography habit. Please read this.
If you are the spouse of an addict, your partner may have tried to convince you to believe that his or her porn use is innocent and normal, and therefore should be acceptable to you. Its impact on you should be evidence that porn use is not innocent, not harmless, and should not be acceptable. You are not just overreacting to normal, healthy behavior, because using pornography is not normal or healthy.
Healthy or not, acceptable or not, pornography use is certainly a common habit. Research published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association and cited in Mark Kastleman’s 2001 book The Drug of the New Millennium claims that 86% of American men described themselves as “likely to click on Internet sex sites if given the opportunity.” Another survey conducted by MSNBC, Standford, and Duquesne found that in 2000, 25 million Americans used porn for ten hours or less every week, and 4.7 million used porn for 11 hours or more every week.
The fact that pornography use is common does not prove that it is normal, healthy, or harmless. Many habits which are common are also potentially harmful. For instance, 45.3 million people in the U.S. smoke, and 392,683 of them die every year as a direct result, along with tens of thousands of innocent bystanders (due to secondhand smoke). Like tobacco, porn is addictive, and despite its popularity, it is unhealthy and damaging to your relationships, to your partner’s emotions and even his or her mental health, and to your own brain chemistry and your mental and emotional health.
Mental health professions draw a line between harmless behavior and real disorders largely based on whether the behavior significantly disrupts normal life – at work, in relationships, and in other normal activities. By that standard, pornography use is most often not normal, harmless behavior. Nearly half of the families who responded to a Focus on the Family poll in 2009 said that porn use was a problem in their households. It is important to note that they did not just say that a family member used pornography; 47% of families reported that pornography use was a problem.
Clearly, the research shows that using porn often disrupts normal family life and relationships. It can also alter your brain chemistry, make it difficult for you to enjoy intimate relationships with a real partner, and cost you a lot of money. Use of pornography has also been associated with major depression and increased feelings of loneliness.
Your use of pornography is disrupting your life, and is therefore a harmful, abnormal behavior, if:
- Porn use is hurting your partner or causing conflict, distrust, or tension in your relationship.
- You are spending time using pornography instead of spending time with your children, your friends, or your spouse, or if you are neglecting work, household tasks, and other hobbies because of the time you spend on pornography.
- You find yourself thinking about porn even when you are not using it, during other activities or by default, anytime you are bored.
- You search for or use pornography while you are at work. This could cost you your job and possibly result in a sexual harassment suit.
- Your children have inadvertently found the porn on your computer or in your browsing history, or have seen it while you were using it..
Porn is not a representation of normal, healthy sexual relationships, and its use is not normal, not healthy, and potentially very harmful to you and to your family. If you think you might have a problem with pornography or another form of sex addiction, please seek help (this site is a great place to start, but it is not meant to be the only resource you need for recovery). If you think your partner might have a problem with pornography or another form of sex addiction, please talk to your partner and encourage him or her to seek help.