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“Is Everyone Who Watches Porn Addicted?” And 8 Other Misconceptions About Porn

There’s a lot of information about porn out there, and not all of it is quality, accurate, or fact-based. Here, we fact-check a few common arguments about porn from all over the spectrum.

There’s a lot of information about porn out there, and not all of it is quality, accurate, or fact-based.

Here, we fact-check eight of the more common arguments about porn from all over the spectrum.

1. “Porn actually decreases sexual violence.”

Some argue that porn has the potential to decrease sexual violence by providing a “healthy outlet” for people who would otherwise act out in sexually harmful ways, but research shows that this simply isn’t the case. In fact, research consistently shows that porn consumption is actually associated with increased sexual violence.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A meta-analysis of pornography consumption and actual acts of sexual aggression in general population studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12201COPY Rostad, W. L., Gittins-Stone, D., Huntington, C., Rizzo, C. J., Pearlman, D., & Orchowski, L. (2019). The association between exposure to violent pornography and teen dating violence in grade 10 high school students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(7), 2137-2147. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-1435-4COPY 

2. “Porn isn’t addictive” OR “Everyone who watches porn is addicted.”

While some people argue that porn can’t be an addiction, many experts and dozens of neuroscientific studies agree that pornography addiction is very real.

However, experts also note that the majority of porn consumers are not addicted. Even among those with compulsive pornography habits, many still do not qualify as addicts in a clinically diagnosable sense.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 C. Montag, & M. Reuter (Eds.), Internet addiction: Neuroscientific approaches and therapeutical implications including smartphone addiction (pp. 109-124). Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-46276-9_7 Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46276-9_7COPY Willoughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B., & Leonhardt, N. D. (2018). Exploring Trajectories of Pornography Use Through Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Journal of sex research, 55(3), 297–309. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1368977COPY 

3. “Fight the New Drug wants to ban all forms of pornography.”

Since 2009, we’ve been a non-legislative organization, which means it’s never been within our mission (or power) to ban porn. Trafficking and child exploitation, for example, are already illegal, yet because there is a demand for it, trafficking and child exploitation have continued for years. Shifting the culture through education and awareness, however, can help stop the demand at its root.

4. “Porn actually improves your sex life/relationship.”

While some research suggests that watching porn with a partner can provide an initial spark in a relationship, longitudinal studies show that these short-term effects can become negative over time.Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing sexually-explicit materials alone or together: associations with relationship quality. Archives of sexual behavior, 40(2), 441–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4COPY 

In fact, according to one study that followed couples over time, porn consumption was the 2nd strongest predictor that a relationship would suffer.Perry S. L. (2017). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence from Longitudinal Data. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 549–559. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0770-yCOPY 

Additionally, research consistently shows that frequent porn consumption is associated with sexual dissatisfaction.Wright, P. J., Miezan, E., & Sun, C. (2019). Pornography consumption and sexual satisfaction in a Korean sample. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 31(3), 164–169. https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-1105/a000246COPY Wright, P. J., Bridges, A. J., Sun, C., Ezzell, M. B., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Personal pornography viewing and sexual satisfaction: A quadratic analysis. J.Sex Marital Ther., 44(3), 308-315. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2017.1377131COPY 

5. “The problem isn’t porn, it’s shame/stigma.”

Research shows that shame can absolutely play a role in fueling problematic porn habits, yet research also indicates that shame is not a significant predictor of compulsive pornography use on its own. In other words, shame does not solely explain the negative effects of porn.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 Reid, R. C., Stein, J. A., & Carpenter, B. N. (2011). Understanding the roles of shame and neuroticism in a patient sample of hypersexual men. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 199(4), 263–267. https://doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182125b96COPY 

Get The Facts

6. “Porn has been around forever, it’s not a ‘new drug.’”

A still image centerfold magazine is nothing compared to the constant stream of hardcore, high-definition internet porn that anyone can stream anytime, anywhere, for free. Today’s internet porn is incomparably more accessible, more affordable, more available, more anonymous, and more extreme than anything available before the internet.Voon, V., Mole, T. B., Banca, P., Porter, L., Morris, L., Mitchell, S., Lapa, T. R., Karr, J., Harrison, N. A., Potenza, M. N., & Irvine, M. (2014). Neural correlates of sexual cue reactivity in individuals with and without compulsive sexual behaviours. PloS one, 9(7), e102419. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102419COPY 

7. “Yeah, mainstream porn is toxic, but there’s always ethical porn.”

While the idea of “ethical porn” is well-intentioned, it’s important to recognize that it’s still virtually impossible to guarantee that the porn you’re watching is truly ethical, consensual, or even legal. Even OnlyFans, for example, has been found to have serious issues with hosting nonconsensual content, abuse, and even child sexual abuse material.Titheradge, N., & Croxford, R. (2021). The children selling explicit videos on OnlyFans. BBC News Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-57255983COPY 

8. “If my partner won’t stop watching porn, they must be unsatisfied with me.”

Your partner’s porn habit is not a reflection of you or your desirability. Most porn consumers are exposed to porn before they meet their partner, and those habits can be difficult to break. An individual’s porn habit is often reflective of deeper issues they may be experiencing, but their behaviors are never the fault or responsibility of their partner. You are enough, just the way you are.Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0COPY 

9. “Porn is sex-positive, and being against it is sex-negative.”

As a sex-positive organization, we’re here to tell you that an industry that glorifies a lack of consent, fetishizes race, and ignores mutual pleasure is not sex-positive.

Not to mention, research consistently shows that porn consumption is associated with sexual dysfunction (for both men and women)Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Griffiths, M. D., Potenza, M. N., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2021). Are sexual functioning problems associated with frequent pornography use and/or problematic pornography use? Results from a large community survey including males and females. Addictive Behaviors, 112, 106603. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106603COPY  and decreased sexual satisfaction.Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnson, J. A., & Ezzell, M. B. (2016). Pornography and the male sexual script: An analysis of consumption and sexual relations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(4), 983-994. doi:10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2COPY  That’s about as sex-negative as you can get.

Get the facts

Decades of studies from respected academic institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption for individuals, relationships, and society.

Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

Learn more about the harms of porn by watching our three-part documentary series for free, listening to our podcast, reading our educational articles, or checking out our growing research database.

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