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True Story: I Ditched Porn When I Realized That “Extreme” Is Now Mainstream

By July 3, 2018No Comments
This post was originally published in the Chicago Tribune. It has been shared with the author’s permission.

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

This guy's experience sheds light on how porn has rapidly evolved in the last 20, even 10, years. Whenever porn is talked about, it should be understood that Playboy centerfolds are no longer the norm, but violent, extreme, and humiliating content is.

Eight years ago I made the decision to stop viewing pornography.

I chose to do so, in part, because of the growing trend of offering up extreme and disturbing sexual content to web visitors. Today, it’s no longer a trend. This extreme form of pornography is here to stay.

My journey to stop viewing porn started when I followed a suggestion from a friend to check out an adult website he had discovered. I had viewed a lot of videos, but my favorite porn medium was to read stories. I preferred the anticipation and back-story over jumping straight into the action the way a lot of adult videos do.

That night I logged onto the site my friend suggested and I went straight to the “most popular” sex-stories section. I was disturbed when nearly every story subtly introduced a theme I had never encountered in porn before: incest. No matter how carefully I first checked the title, category tag or story description, that theme kept popping up.

I decided to leave the “most popular” section and quickly discovered that some of the other categories were even more alarming. I never visited that website again, and within a few months I made the decision to stop viewing pornography altogether.

I haven’t seen it in any way, shape or form since then. I could write a book about the benefits I’ve experienced in my life as a result, but I’ll save that for another time.

The sheer magnitude of porn

Fast-forward to April 2018. I was doing research for an article I was writing when I did a Google search for “most visited websites in the world.” I clicked on a link from the data-tracking website SimilarWeb that showed the top 50 most frequently visited sites worldwide. I wasn’t surprised to see Google, Facebook, and YouTube in the top three, but I was surprised to see an adult site in sixth place and especially surprised to see the name of that site I had encountered all those years earlier in 11th place. I clicked on the stats.

It was the 11th most visited website in the world and the eighth most visited site in America. Then I saw the estimated number of visits that site receives: 2.74 billion monthly. (Contrast that to the kind of porn that was popular in my father’s generation. Playboy.com currently ranks as the 32,237th most visited website in the world today — a far cry from 11th place.)

I clicked on the link to go to the porn site. I had no temptation to view any of the videos or read any of the stories. I went straight to the “sex stories” section to see if any of those extreme categories I remembered were still being featured. They all were. Worse, I discovered several more disturbing categories to choose from.

Many are too graphic to print, but here are a few samples: mind control, murder, slavery, violence, bestiality, nonconsensual sex, body modification, cruelty, drug, rape, reluctance, snuff, torture, young, blackmail, males/teen females, humiliation and a category dedicated to what I now know is one of the site’s favorite themes: incest.

The evolution of porn

I was disgusted. I thought how is it possible that enough people have an appetite for such things to dedicate entire categories to each one?

That’s when I saw that the site shows you how many people have viewed each story. The first three stories I saw listed—ranked only by most recently published—had been viewed a combined 1,090,332 times. I didn’t click on any of the individual stories, but some of the titles suggested rape, torture, and capturing young victims.

I was seething. I set up a time to sit down with two friends who are struggling with what they describe as “pornography addiction.” I met with each individually and told them about what I had discovered. I asked if they had encountered any of those themes in the adult sites they frequent.

They both confirmed that extreme sexual themes are now everywhere. What surprised me most was that they confessed they encountered such themes so often that they’re no longer aroused by anything else. They told me they had never gone online seeking anything like it in the first place, but found these disturbing themes were introduced so frequently, and in such subtle and unexpected ways, that eventually they stopped being interested in anything else.

I’ll let the experts debate what impact the mass consumption of such pornographic themes may have on society, and I’ll stick to what I do know—that these extreme sexual themes are viewed millions of times every month on a site more popular in the United States than Twitter, Instagram or Netflix.

That thought keeps me up at night.

Daryl

The guinea pig Pornhub generation

The Playboy generation is now having to address extreme content with the Pornhub generation.

As internet porn grows more popular; it has also turned darker, more graphic, and more extreme. (See Why Consuming Porn Is An Escalating Behavior.) With so much porn available, pornographers tried to compete for attention by constantly pushing the boundaries. [1]

“Thirty years ago ‘hardcore’ pornography usually meant the explicit depiction of sexual intercourse,” writes Dr. Norman Doidge, a neuroscientist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself. “Now hardcore has evolved and is increasingly dominated by the sadomasochistic themes … all involving scripts fusing sex with hatred and humiliation.” [2]

In our post-Playboy world, porn now features degradation, abuse, and humiliation of people in a way never before seen in the mass media. [3] “[S]oftcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago,” Doidge explains. “The comparatively tame softcore pictures of yesteryear … now show up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.” [4]

But what’s the big deal? What’s the harm in a little violent, humiliating fantasy?

We’re glad you asked.

Like it or not, porn has real impacts

Even non-violent porn has been shown to have negative effects on consumers. The vast majority of porn—violent or not—portrays men as powerful and in charge; while women are submissive and obedient. [5] Watching scene after scene of dehumanizing submission makes it start to seem normal. [6] It sets the stage for lopsided power dynamics in couple relationships and the gradual acceptance of verbal and physical aggression against women. [7] Research has confirmed that those who consume porn (even if it’s nonviolent) are more likely to support statements that promote abuse and sexual aggression toward women and girls. [8]

But porn doesn’t just change attitudes; it can also shape actions. Study after study has shown that consumers of violent and nonviolent porn are more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to coerce individuals into sex. [9] And multiple studies have found that exposure to both violent and nonviolent porn increases aggressive behavior, including both having violent fantasies and actually committing violent assaults. [10]

In 2016, a team of leading researchers compiled all the research they could find on the subject. [11] After examining twenty-two studies they concluded that the research left, “little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive [favorable] to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.”

See the issue, now? Porn is not an issue of private, harmless fantasy—it’s a public health issue. The collective habits of millions of people are undoubtedly having an impact in society, and it’s up to us to raise awareness that a porn-free life is not only healthier, it’s better for everyone.

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Citations

[1] Woods, J. (2012). Jamie Is 13 And Hasn’t Even Kissed A Girl. But He’s Now On The Sex Offender Register After Online Porn Warped His Mind. Daily Mail (U.K.), April 25.
[2] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.
[3] DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings Of Adult Pornography And Women Abuse: New Progressive Directions In Research And Theory. International Journal For Crime, Justice, And Social Democracy, 4(4) 4-21. Doi:10.5204/Ijcjsd.V4i4.184
[4] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books.
[5] DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings Of Adult Pornography And Women Abuse: New Progressive Directions In Research And Theory. International Journal For Crime, Justice, And Social Democracy, 4(4) 4-21. Doi:10.5204/Ijcjsd.V4i4.184; Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half The Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study Of Pornography Use Among A Sample Of Urban, Low-Income, Black And Hispanic Youth. Journal Of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908; Layden, M. A. (2010) Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57-68). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Ryu, E. (2008). Spousal Use Of Pornography And Its Clinical Significance For Asian-American Women: Korean Woman As An Illustration. Journal Of Feminist Family Therapy, 16(4), 75. Doi:10.1300/J086v16n04_05; Shope, J. H. (2004). When Words Are Not Enough: The Search For The Effect Of Pornography On Abused Women. Violence Against Women, 10(1), 56-72. Doi:10.1177/1077801203256003
[6] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half The Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study Of Pornography Use Among A Sample Of Urban, Low-Income, Black And Hispanic Youth. Journal Of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908; Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., Kleiner, S., & Irizarry, Y. (2010). Pornography, Normalization And Empowerment. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 39 (6) 1389-1401. Doi:10.1007/S10508-009-9592-5; Doring, N. M. (2009). The Internet’s Impact On Sexuality: A Critical Review Of 15 Years Of Research. Computers In Human Behavior, 25(5), 1089-1101. Doi:10.1016/J.Chb.2009.04.003; 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. Retrieved From Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Pubmed/10904205
[7] 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; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., & Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development, 45:119–131. Doi:10.1353/Csd.2004.0019; Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., And Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure To Pornography And Acceptance Of The Rape Myth. Journal Of Communication, 45(1), 5–26. Doi:10.1111/J.1460-2466.1995.Tb00711.X
[8] Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., And Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography And Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting The Relationship In Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression And Behavior, 36(1), 14–20. Doi:10.1002/Ab.20328; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., And Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development, 45(2), 119–131. Doi:10.1353/Csd.2004.0019; Zillmann, D. (2004). Pornografie. In R. Mangold, P. Vorderer, & G. Bente (Eds.) Lehrbuch Der Medienpsychologie (Pp. 565–85). Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe Verlag; Zillmann, D. (1989). Effects Of Prolonged Consumption Of Pornography. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant, (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances And Policy Considerations (P. 155). Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
[9] Boeringer, S. B. (1994). Pornography And Sexual Aggression: Associations Of Violent And Nonviolent Depictions With Rape And Rape Proclivity. Deviant Behavior 15(3), 289–304; Doi:10.1080/01639625.1994.9967974; Check, J. & Guloien, T. (1989). The Effects Of Repeated Exposure To Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, And Erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances And Policy Considerations (Pp. 159–84). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Marshall, W. L. (1988). The Use Of Sexually Explicit Stimuli By Rapists, Child Molesters, And Non-Offenders. Journal Of Sex Research, 25(2): 267–88. Doi:10.1080/00224498809551459
[10] 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:10.1111/Jcom.12201; DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings Of Adult Pornography And Women Abuse: New Progressive Directions In Research And Theory. International Journal For Crime, Justice, And Social Democracy, 4(4) 4-21. Doi:10.5204/Ijcjsd.V4i4.184; Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., & Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure To Pornography And Acceptance Of The Rape Myth. Journal Of Communication, 45(1), 5–26. Doi:10.1111/J.1460-2466.1995.Tb00711.X
[11] 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:10.1111/Jcom.12201
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