Access to porn is easier than ever these days. In fact, at any given moment any of us could pull out our phone and within seconds have porn streaming no matter where we are. Given the ease of finding pornographic material it’s not surprising that many people develop an addiction to it. And porn addiction symptoms can be easy to overlook.
Are there really symptoms of porn addiction? Loved ones may suspect a problem, but have no real way of knowing if there is something to worry about. So what do you look for if you suspect porn addiction, but don’t know for sure?
What Kind Of People Have a Porn Addiction?
A study published in Newsweek, Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don’t Buy Sex, reveals some clues to porn addiction symptoms. Here are some excerpts from the article.
The men who buy sex are your neighbors and colleagues…Men of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds do it. Rich men do it, and poor men do it, in forms so varied and ubiquitous that they can be summoned at a moment’s notice.
And yet surprisingly little is known about the age-old practice of buying sex, long assumed to be inevitable. No one even knows what proportion of the male population does it; estimates range from 16 percent to 80 percent.
And yet buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it. The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group.
“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers,” Farley says. “We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”
What does that say about our society's acceptance of selling sex today – when you have to lower the research standards to find enough men who don’t buy sex? So what’s that got to do with porn addiction symptoms? A lot.
The normalization of strip clubs, sexually orientated magazines like Maxim, and sexually suggestive images at almost every turn on the internet, should make porn addiction almost to be expected for men. Which supports why the researcher had such a hard time finding men who didn't buy sex. Having these things in your life are also potential symptoms of porn addiction.
Many experts believe the digital age has spawned an enormous increase in sexual exploitation; today anyone with access to the internet can easily make a “date” through online postings, escort agencies, and other suppliers who cater to virtually any sexual predilection. The burgeoning demand has led to a dizzying proliferation of services so commonplace that many men don’t see erotic massages, strip clubs, or lap dances as forms of prostitution. “The more the commercial sex industry normalizes this behavior, the more of this behavior you get,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).
So What Are The Symptoms of Porn Addiction?
It may seem based on this research that almost everyone has a problem with porn. It’s actually not quite that dire, but addiction is definitely an issue, especially among men, and is causing big problems in their relationships. So how can you tell?
3 porn addiction symptoms that can be seen in this research:
1. Lack of emotional connection with their partner during sex
Farley found that sex buyers were more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships than non-buyers, and they enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes, whom they saw as commodities. “Prostitution treats women as objects and not ... humans,” said one john interviewed for the study.
2. Requests for unusual sex acts, such as anal sex
Farley’s findings suggest that the use of prostitution and pornography may cause men to become more aggressive. Sex buyers in the study used significantly more pornography than non-buyers, and three quarters of them said they received their sex education from pornography, compared with slightly more than half of the non-buyers. “Over time, as a result of their prostitution and pornography use, sex buyers reported that their sexual preferences changed and they sought more sadomasochistic and anal sex,” the study reported.
3. Aggression or anger around sex
“Prostitution can get you to think that things you may have done with a prostitute you should expect in a mutual loving relationship,” said one john who was interviewed. Such beliefs inspire anger toward other women if they don’t comply, impairing men’s ability to sustain relationships with non-prostitutes (all excerpts from The John Next Door).
These are all symptoms that I see in my work with men who have porn addictions. It’s important to understand that these are possible symptoms of porn addiction, but are not a guarantee of it. They’re also not the only symptoms you may see.
It's important to also keep in mind that this study focused on the selling of sex, prostitution in particular. Porn addiction does not have to mean a man uses prostitutes. But as an addiction to porn escalates a man will be prone to take riskier and riskier sexual behavior. As time goes on the person can find himself (or herself) needing more and more in order to feel satisfied, much like a drug addict or alcoholic. This can lead to behavior such as making online dates or arranging for meet-ups with strangers.
Are there other porn addiction symptoms? Sure. Keeping computer or smart phone use secret, loss of interest in sex, seeking time alone or being unaccountable are a few others. If you suspect a man you love may have a porn addiction, speak with a professional counselor who specializes in treating men addicted to porn.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published October 6, 2012. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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