Thanks to the flood of science and research that has come out on the topic of porn in our digital age, we are now seeing that there are legitimately harmful effects of porn consumption. But what about porn that isn’t the mainstream, live hardcore video content? There are many different forms of pornography, such as softcore, hentai, animated, erotica, and audio porn, just to name a few. So what are the harms of these? Are there any?

Let’s focus on erotica for a minute.

Erotica, simply put, is literature that describes sex in graphic detail in order to arouse the reader. Many romance novels contain sexually explicit language, and there are countless websites online dedicated to telling explicit stories about sexual encounters, real and fictional. We’ve received many questions about this type of material from people who want to know if reading these highly exciting stories is as unhealthy as watching porn. Every once in a while, we’ll also receive a story from someone who is compulsively hooked to reading what they call “written porn,” similarly to someone who can’t seem to stop watching porn.

The following message is one we received from a woman who fell into a real struggle with erotica. One takeaway: while reading is not the same as watching, written porn isn’t as harmless as some believe it to be.

——————

Dear FTND,

Someone I know once told me that boys look at porn, girls read porn.

While this isn’t a solid rule, I feel that it is a fairly accurate generalization. I am living proof of that. I find it very easy to avoid looking at porn—watching a porn video makes me feel uncomfortable and dirty. I feel acute shame. Hentai is easier because it doesn’t feel as dirty when it’s anime (something else I didn’t find any reference to). But, my compulsion to porn happened because of written porn; and it is just as easy to find as video porn.

The Beginning Of An Obsession

I had a passing introduction to porn in a couple books I read as a teenager, but they were “softcore” and didn’t lead to anything more. It was when I read the Fifty Shades of Grey series that my porn obsession really began.

I read the series out of curiosity. It was a really stupid mistake. The fact that the series was loosely based on bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism & masochism (S&M) practices, or BDSM for short, just made it worse. I went searching for more information on BDSM after reading E.L. James’ twisted version of it out of curiosity and soon found sites where I could read porn of any genre. And there is a wide array.

Related: There’s No Room For “Fifty Shades” In A #MeToo World

“Softcore” love-story type sex, incest or pseudo-incest, bestiality, threesomes or group sex, mind control and behavior modification, lots of anal, crazy kinky sex…even kidnapping, rape, and murder. These were all “genres” that anyone could read. Cruelty, horror, and humiliation are each their own genres. Sticking to one genre and avoiding the things that seem abhorrent doesn’t always work since a story picked for one genre may introduce new elements in a way that makes them seem normal.

My obsession grew and began affecting my body image, my relationship with my husband in and out of the bedroom—my entire view on sex changed. I developed several porn-induced fetishes and found that I had to think about the things that I read about in order to be turned on for sex or achieve an orgasm.

Trying To Find A Way Out

I finally got to the point where I had to think, what do the things I read say about me? Do I want to be controlled? Do I want my husband to control my life choices or even what we do in the bedroom? I married him because he made me feel like I could do anything I set my mind to. He married me because he wanted an equal partner to support and be supported by. He doesn’t want the responsibility and burden of making all of the choices in our marriage or in the bedroom.

Take the Quiz: Can you tell the difference between a summarized scenario from the Fifty Shades trilogy and a real #MeToo experience?

I knew what I was doing was harmful to me and my relationship, so I made the decision to stop visiting online pornographic story sites. But that didn’t end my obsession. I stopped reading “hardcore” porn and instead found the world of “softcore” porn published literature, what is sometimes referred to as “mommy porn.” My Kindle Unlimited subscription soon came to be my biggest enabler.

Later, in struggling to cut the porn out of my reading, I decided to simply skip the sex scenes in my books. This sometimes worked, but usually didn’t. I would go through cycles of more porn or less porn and sometimes no porn in my reading. But reading a romance story without explicit, arousing scenes now felt lacking.

Still Working To Overcome

I am still working on overcoming my porn compulsion. I have had to think seriously about what I want in life and the person I want to be as well as the wife I want to be. I have thought back to the early stages of my relationship with my husband, when sex was about the love we felt for each other and experiencing that with him was exciting and everything I needed for our sex life to be fulfilling.

I decided to only think about my husband during sex and focus on my love for him and my attraction to him and being present in the moment. My porn-induced BDSM fetish damaged our sex life because it wasn’t mutually agreed upon and made me want to be controlled during sex and be told what to do and when to do it…even though it wasn’t as fulfilling in real life as it seemed when I read about it.

Now, because of my phase with it, my husband is used to calling the shots in our sex life when that doesn’t actually satisfy either of us, and giving up that control is hard. Changing the way I think, feel, and act is difficult, and I know that I will never be able to get back to the place where I was before my obsession and feeling completely comfortable with myself as I am.

Related: Porn Without Pictures: My Explosive Childhood Addiction to Erotica

“Mommy porn” literature is seen as being innocent and not harmful in the ways that video porn is, but really feels just the same. It can affect your brain and your relationships in similar ways by introducing unrealistic and violent fantasy.

Please encourage research for written porn and other types of pornography in the same way that you do video porn. Help people to see that, just because it’s a book or a cartoon and not real performers, doesn’t mean that it isn’t hurting you and that it doesn’t lead to harmful habits and obsessions. Please include information and help specifically for written porn on your site.

– E.

Is erotica as harmful?

So what’s the answer? Is reading erotica equally as harmful as watching pornography?

While research has yet to definitively answer this question, we think the above personal account offers a perspective that should be taken into consideration. It’s also important for people to know that, as we mentioned before, porn comes in many different forms and mediums, not just images and videos. We stand to raise awareness on all forms of pornography because of its proven harmful effects.

The information on this front is still developing, but from what we’ve seen in the lives of real people all over the world, erotica and other written pornographic material can have similar negative and addictive effects to seeing actual visual versions of porn. From these personal accounts, many feel that this highly arousing and graphic sexual literature can become very compulsive due to its hyper-stimulating content. This material can also warp ideas and perceptions about sex.

Some could argue that these forms of porn are less harmful, and they may be right, but they are still artificial sexual stimulation that can have negative effects. Is it worth the risk? Based on the research, the costs of consuming synthetic sex far outweigh any perceived benefits.

What YOU Can Do

Help spread the word on the harmful nature of pornography, in all of its forms. SHARE this article and take a stand.

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