Cover image from Fox32. 3 minute read.
This week, a man in Pennsylvania was sentenced to 100 years in prison for what state officials are calling the largest collection of child exploitation images and videos they’ve ever discovered, according to news reports.
Lawrence Jamieson was sentenced Monday in federal court after pleading guilty in September 2017 to sex crimes and child pornography charges.
Authorities say the 59-year-old Jamieson had more than 14.4 million images and videos of children and infants being sexually abused.
Jamieson’s stash of images collected over 15 years was discovered when he was arrested on charges he and an accomplice tried to manipulate an underage girl with learning disabilities into performing sex acts on both men. Prosecutors say they filmed and distributed footage of those acts.
Jamieson was arrested in August 2016 after Willistown police received a report about child sexual abuse. Prosecutors called Jamieson’s collection “some of the most demented images imaginable.”
An Obsession That Evolves
But did Jamieson start with child exploitation images, or did his obsession with taboo and illicit images evolve over time?
We can’t be sure without more information about his specific case, but research shows that porn is a habit that escalates, and it can often be an obsession that evolves way beyond anything the consumer could anticipate.
Let’s look at the data. Like any potentially addictive substance, porn triggers the release of dopamine into a part of the brain called the reward center (a.k.a. reward pathway or system).  Basically, the reward center’s job is to make you feel good whenever you do something healthy, like eating a great meal, having sex, or getting a good workout.  The “high” you get makes you want to repeat the behavior again and again.  Your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chance of survival.  Simple.
Well, actually, not quite so simple. Researchers have recently discovered that the reward center is actually two different brain systems, a “Liking” system and a “Wanting” system, that work in different—sometimes opposite—ways.  Understanding how they work helps explain why porn can be habit-forming and why consuming porn is often an escalating behavior.
Porn is an escalating behavior because as some consumers develop tolerance, the porn that used to excite them starts to seem boring—like in Jamieson’s case.  Predictably, they often try to compensate by spending more time with porn and/or seeking out more hardcore material in an effort to regain the excitement they used to feel.  Many porn consumers find themes of aggression, violence, and increasingly “edgy” acts creeping into their porn habits and fantasies. 
And this is how some consumers eventually end up in illegal territory.
Crossing The Line
Dr. Julie Newberry is a psychologist who has worked with patients who have obsessions with indecent images of children.
In an article for PsychReg, she writes: “My therapeutic experience is that a person who views child abuse images, though committing a sexual offense, is not necessarily a paedophile. A paedophile has a primary sexual interest in children. I suggest that for some people, it is porn addiction rather than paedophilia, which is the cause. A person, usually a man, who has no sexual interest in children, can find himself ‘crossing the line.’”
She continues on to describe her experience, saying, “[My clients] didn’t go onto the internet with the intention of looking at child abuse images, but nevertheless ended up there. They couldn’t understand why they continued to do something that disgusted them and which they knew was illegal. I suggest that each of them became desensitized to mild porn and sensitized to extreme porn. Their higher thinking brain, compromised by addiction, could not win the battle, even when it came to viewing child abuse images. Porn sex was too powerful a need and withdrawal too difficult.”
While not every porn consumer will end up turning to illegal content, some do, likeLawrence Jamieson may have. This is why we raise awareness that porn is anything but harmless, personal entertainment. In too many cases, the porn consumer ends up becoming consumed by their porn.
Child exploitation images are a huge problem in our society and we can’t let it slip into the background. SHARE this article to take a stand and raise awareness on how a porn habit can escalate.
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