fbpx Skip to main content
Blog

3 Reasons Why Porn Consumers are Not “Bad” People

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.

By January 10, 2022No Comments

FTND note: Fight the New Drug is an anti-shame organization as well as an organization that educates on the harmful effects of porn. The aim of this post is to challenge the shaming narrative that happens all too often in this fight against porn, and offer up an alternative narrative. It is not our intention to imply that anyone is obligated to date someone with a past or current porn issue, if they aren’t comfortable with dating them. In the end, it is up to every individual to decide what is best for them.

Porn is harmful, plain and simple. It can impact relationships, it harms those who watch it, and it negatively affects our society as a whole.

The body of quality research on the issue does not actually show lasting benefits to the porn consumer or their relationships.

But does that mean that the people who watch it are automatically “terrible people?” Can we make that judgment? 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 to not care about porn’s harms? Maybe. Are many misinformed about porn? Absolutely.

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. A lot of the time, they’re just misled and misinformed.

Related: So You’ve Struggled With Porn? That’s Okay, Here’s Why

New research constantly shows that watching porn contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle, and the objectification of others,Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, Facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257-267. doi:10.1037/men0000058COPY Skorska, M.N., Hodson, G., & Hoffarth, M.R. (2018). Experimental effects of degrading versus erotic pornography exposure in men on reactions toward women (objectification, sexism, discrimination). The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 27, 261 - 276.COPY Zhou, Y., Liu, T., Yan, Y., & Paul, B. (2021). Pornography use, two forms of dehumanization, and sexual aggression: Attitudes vs. behaviors. Null, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2021.1923598COPY  and opens the consumer up to the possibility of having a porn compulsion or addiction,Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 5(3), 388–433. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs5030388COPY Stark R., Klucken T. (2017) Neuroscientific Approaches to (Online) Pornography Addiction. In: Montag C., Reuter M. (eds) Internet Addiction. Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46276-9_7COPY De Sousa, A., & Lodha, P. (2017). Neurobiology of Pornography Addiction - A clinical review. Telangana Journal of Psychiatry, 3(2), 66-70. doi:10.18231/2455-8559.2017.0016COPY  and that’s not healthy.

But much of our culture 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, right? We are here to bridge that gap of understanding, so those people who are watching porn can understand the tangible impacts of their decision to watch porn. Education will help, demonizing people won’t.

And remember, we’re a non-religious organization, so this isn’t about morality—these facts that porn is harmful and research shows that are simply something to consider.

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 as a movement for love want to do the second, and avoid the first. Get it?

Here are three reasons why we believe porn consumers are not “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.

Although it’s fairly common for consumers to use porn as an escape mechanism or self-soothing technique, research indicates that those who consumed pornography to avoid uncomfortable emotions had some of the lowest reports of emotional and mental wellbeing.Brown, C. C., Durtschi, J. A., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2017). Understanding and predicting classes of college students who use pornography. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 114-121.COPY  Another study examined the relationship between the frequency of online pornography consumption and mental health problems, particularly in the context of “experiential avoidance” or trying to avoid negative emotions. The study found that frequent pornography consumption was significantly related to greater depression, anxiety, and stress as well as poorer social functioning.Levin, M. E., Lillis, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2012) When is Online Pornography Viewing Problematic Among College Males? Examining the Moderating Role of Experiential Avoidance. Journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 19 (3), 168-180.COPY 

And in yet another study, researchers at Columbia University, Yale University, and UCLA, found a link between compulsive pornography consumption and poorer mental health, low self-esteem, and poor attachment in relationships. The authors concluded,

“In this paper, we propose that pornography use has the potential to become addictive and might be conceptualized as a behavioral addiction… individuals who scored higher on the Problematic Pornography Use Scale reported poorer mental health and self-esteem, and more insecure close relationships than those who scored lower, illustrating the negative emotional correlates of problematic pornography use.”Kor, A., Zilcha-Mano, S., Fogel, Y. A., Mikulincer, M., Reid, R. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Psychometric development of the Problematic Pornography Use Scale. Addictive behaviors, 39(5), 861–868. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.027COPY 

Related: Why It Can Be Problematic To Refuse To Date Anyone Who Has Struggled With Porn

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. Can you see how that’s an appealing idea, even if it is a lie? 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 (or their loved ones) in the end.

2. Many people have zero clue porn is harmful.

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

The mainstream opinion on porn is that it’s generally awesome and good for you, so it’s no wonder people are constantly emailing us to tell us they had no clue it was so unhealthy.

Once people see the research behind why watching porn can fuel sexual exploitation and lead to compulsive use or addiction, and contributes to aggressive behavior, 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?

Related: Why I Am Terrified To Tell My Partner I Still Struggle With Porn

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.Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 5(3), 388–433. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs5030388COPY  Here’s where it gets tricky: The kind of porn a consumer watches can—and usually does—change over time.Banca, P., Morris, L. S., Mitchell, S., Harrison, N. A., Potenza, M. N., & Voon, V. (2016). Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of psychiatric research, 72, 91–101. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017COPY  So as their brain continually wires together what they’re seeing with feeling aroused, what turns them on can change, too.Pace, S. (2014). Acquiring Tastes through Online Activity: Neuroplasticity and the Flow Experiences of Web Users. M/C Journal, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.5204/mcj.773COPY Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419COPY 

A lot of times, a consumer can have no idea that this is what’s happening to them. There are no clear 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.

FTND Resources

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 stuck against the steady pull to log on watch. That behavior can get to a point where it’s beyond the consumer’s control, and they would give anything to be able to stop.

Related: Keeley’s Story: How Abandoning My Shame Helped Me To Abandon Porn For Good

Think of a cigarette smoker that’s desperate for a fix. Similarly, in extreme cases for regular porn consumers, 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. And keep in mind that this happens to both men and women, porn doesn’t discriminate.

The good news is, change is possible! Research and the experiences of thousands of people have demonstrated that the effects of desensitization can be managed and largely reversed.Young K. S. (2013). Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients. Journal of behavioral addictions, 2(4), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.2.2013.4.3COPY Nathanson, A. (2021). Psychotherapy with young people addicted to internet pornography. Psychoanal.Study Child, 74(1), 160-173. doi:10.1080/00797308.2020.1859286COPY  In fact, even in cases of serious substance and other addictions, research shows that the brain can heal over time with sustained effort.Pfefferbaum, A., Rosenbloom, M. J., Chu, W., Sassoon, S. A., Rohlfing, T., Pohl, K. M., Zahr, N. M., & Sullivan, E. V. (2014). White matter microstructural recovery with abstinence and decline with relapse in alcohol dependence interacts with normal ageing: a controlled longitudinal DTI study. The lancet. Psychiatry, 1(3), 202–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(14)70301-3COPY Yau, Y. H., & Potenza, M. N. (2015). Gambling disorder and other behavioral addictions: recognition and treatment. Harvard review of psychiatry, 23(2), 134–146. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0000000000000051COPY Rullmann, M., Preusser, S., Poppitz, S., Heba, S., Gousias, K., Hoyer, J., Schütz, T., Dietrich, A., Müller, K., Hankir, M. K., & Pleger, B. (2019). Adiposity Related Brain Plasticity Induced by Bariatric Surgery. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 290. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00290COPY  Research also indicates that, while guilt can motivate healthy change, shame actually fuels problematic porn habits.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior.18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182COPY 

So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run. Think of it like a muscle that gets bigger and stronger the more you use it—the longer you stay away from porn, the easier it is to do so. All it takes is practice.

Fortify

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.” – Male, 18

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

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.” -Male, 17

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

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.” -Female, 18

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.” -Male, 17

At Fight The New Drug, we work to create a space where people can understand the harms of porn and comprehend 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, and many of them don’t know just how damaging their habit is. Also, remember that a porn habit or struggle most often predates the start of a porn consumer’s relationship with a significant other. Their habit is not personal to their partner, even though it hurts and causes feelings of betrayal.

Along with that, people look at porn to escape from negative feelings instead of dealing with them directly. 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 become addicting, and once consumers start, many of them don’t know how to stop or what to do about it. And in a society that celebrates porn, why would they assume they need to?

Related: This Study Shows Feeling Shame Fuels Hypersexual Behavior While Feeling Guilt Fuels Change

Podcast

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 “bad” or terrible for their understandable struggles with it.

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 value of real relationships and fighting exploitation.

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 based in mutual understanding and respect, not shame or shaming.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.