Porn sucks, plain and simple. It can destroy relationships, it harms those who watch it, and it negatively affects our society as a whole. Research is telling us that watching porn has no actual lasting benefit to the porn consumer or their relationships. [1]

But does that mean that the people who watch it are automatically “terrible people?”

Not necessarily. If we haven’t made one thing clear before, let us clarify it right now—we do not believe people who watch porn are “bad” people. Do a lot of them choose not care about porn’s harms? Maybe. Are many misinformed about porn? Probably.

In a society that judges someone’s cool factor based on how much porn they consume, it wouldn’t be fair to automatically make everyone out to be a bad person who falls victim to getting swept up with the crowd. Science is constantly showing us that watching porn contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle, and the objectification of others, [2] and opens the consumer up to the possibility of having a porn compulsion or addiction, [3] and that’s not a healthy thing. But society is still coming around on this issue, and there should never be a place for discrimination or judgment just because someone chooses to live differently than you. We are here to bridge that gap of understanding, so those people who are watching porn can understand the real scientific effects. Education will help, demonizing people won’t.

There is a difference between seeing a person as wholly “bad” because of something they’ve done and recognizing a behavior they’re engaging in as unhealthy and harmful. We want to do the second, we want to avoid the first. Get it?

Here are three reasons why we believe porn consumers are not bad people, and they shouldn’t be thought of as bad people.

1. Many people watch porn as an escape

An interest in porn can start from being exposed to a single image by accident, and then, looking for it can turn into a habit.

Just like any other drug or addictive behavior, people turn to porn when they experience negative emotions they don’t want to cope with. Counselor Kurt Smith, in his article Why Men Watch Porn states it simply; “The real world has a lot of stress and uncertainty. The world of porn is predictable and controllable.” Porn offers the consumer complete control and reinforces every click of new shocking material with a rush of chemicals to the brain.

However, it is not just negative emotions that make porn consumers turn to their fix. One blogger on a popular worldwide Reddit group, NoFap, dedicated to helping people overcome porn struggles, says that “boredom is often the surprising cause of watching porn. Why? Because boredom is uncomfortable. So we try to fix it with porn. The problem is, the boredom will keep coming back because porn is not a sustainable way to combat uncomfortable feelings.”

Boredom, depression, and stress are human emotions that everyone deals with at some point in their life. One of the most alluring promises of porn is that there is never rejection and always pleasure. Porn never says no, porn is always available, and porn sells itself as always being sexier than any real sexual experience with a real person could be. At the end of the day, none of it is real and will leave the consumer feeling emptier and lonelier than before, even though they were searching porn out to feel better about themselves.

It’s not healthy to cope with anything by turning to porn. It doesn’t make someone a bad person when they do, while it does set them up for a lot of unhealthy choices that don’t benefit them in the end.

2. Many people have zero clue porn is harmful

Still, many porn consumers have no idea the harms they’re getting themselves into.

Because the mainstream opinion on porn is that it’s generally awesome and good for you, it’s no wonder people are constantly emailing us, telling us they had no clue it was so unhealthy. Once people see the research behind why watching porn can lead to compulsive use or addiction, and contributes to aggressive behavior, [4] they suddenly get it. But before then, a lot of people have no clue, and that’s why we’re here to drop knowledge on the real harms of pornography. But does being uninformed make someone a “bad” person?

Porn is so normalized, it’s not often you’ll hear the flip side of the “porn is awesome!” argument. When someone is looking at porn, while they think they’re just being entertained, their brain is busy at work building pathways between whatever’s happening on their screen and feelings of arousal. [5] Here’s where it gets tricky: The kind of porn a consumer watches can—and usually does—change over time. [6] So as their brain continually wires together what they’re seeing with feeling aroused, what turns them on can change too. [7]

A lot of times, a consumer can have no idea that this is what’s happening to them. There are no warning labels on porn videos like there are on cigarette packs. We’re here to change that, and help to inform them to make the healthier decision.

3. Many people struggle to keep their porn habit under control

On the flip side, a lot of porn consumers DO know about the real-life harms of porn. They know, and they want to stop, but the addictive nature of porn has rendered them helpless against the steady pull to log on and binge watch. That behavior can get to a point where it’s beyond the user’s control, and they would give anything to be able to stop.

Think of a hard drug addict that’s desperate for a fix. It can get to a point where their life is ruled by their porn problem, even though they don’t want it to be. Many people who struggle with porn do not want to struggle, they just don’t know what to do or where to go. Everywhere they look, they feel stuck. Society tells them that porn is awesome, while their parents or friends might shame or judge them for being so caught up with porn. So what do they do? They hide, they isolate themselves, and they try to get through it.

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True stories of shame

Here are some messages we’ve received, showing us that many consumers wish porn weren’t a controlling factor in their life:

It killed the only dating relationship I had, and she was one of the only girls whose heart attracted me even more than her beauty. I need to be free from porn and its lies and its wreckage.” -18-year-old male

I was almost 2 to 3 weeks without doing anything, feeling good about myself… And now here I am, feeling horrible again.” -18-year-old female

What really scares me is porn getting in the way of me and my fiancée, she means the world to me and I never want her to feel like something unrealistic and cheap is better than what we have.” -17-year-old male

I want…to know that there is more to life than a computer screen with nude women.” -19-year-old male

Sometimes I wish I could just stop, but its like I can’t control my brain. Everything makes me think about it, and the images always come to my head.” -18-year-old female

So many of my thoughts and so much of my time is consumed by porn that it is alarming. Porn has such a powerful control over my life, I don’t know what to do.” -17-year-old male

At Fight The New Drug, we work to create a space where people can understand the harms of porn and wrap their heads around the science behind why they’re struggling, and break free by using knowledge about porn as a resource.

Porn is what we’re fighting, not people

Porn consumers aren’t “terrible” people because many of them don’t know just how damaging their habit is. Along with that, people look at porn to escape from negative feelings instead of dealing with them head-on. That doesn’t make them “bad people,” it just means there’s other stuff going on in their life that they don’t know what to do about. Those people don’t need shame, they need help. Also, porn can be extremely addicting, and once consumers start, many of them don’t know how to stop or what to do about it.

A lot of people have had porn very negatively impact their lives through their own consumption, a partner’s porn struggle, or even struggling themselves. None of this stuff is acceptable, and we aren’t defending the porn industry or saying that it’s healthy to look at it. We can’t ignore the negative effects of porn, while we can raise awareness about how harmful it is without telling people that they are the ones to blame for everything that’s wrong with porn.

Porn and its normalization is the ultimate problem we’re fighting against, not the people who watch it. We’re fighting for love by exposing the hollow counterfeits of porn and showing people the awesomeness of a real relationship.

In the end, awareness and love can break the cycle that porn can create in someone’s life, and change can start with a single conversation.

Get Involved

Raise awareness on the crippling harms of porn. SHARE this article and let people know that porn is a huge problem in our society.

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Citations

[1] Zillmann, D. (2004). Pornografie. In R. Mangold, P. Vorderer, and G. Bente (Eds.) Lehrbuch der Medienpsychologie (pp.565–85). Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe Verlag.
[2] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 89–110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.
[3] Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered in the Context of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 3:20767; Garcia, F. D. and Thibaut, F. (2010). Sexual Addictions. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 36, 5: 254–260.
[4] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.
[5] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 109.
[6] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Cline, V. B. (2001). Pornography’s Effect on Adults and Children. New York: Morality in Media; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health 27, 2: 41–44; NoFap Survey http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/updy4/rnofap_survey_data_complete_datasets/
[7] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 95.

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