I will be using the term ‘porn addiction’, but I must be fair and acknowledge that there are academic debates over the use of the word ‘addiction’ regarding pornography. I will still use the term, but I want to do it with the definition below so that you understand the limitations I’m working within.

Definition of addiction (that I will be using):

Addiction is characterised by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.”

Food, drugs and gambling can all become addictive because they all give you positive feelings (biological feedback loops) and naturally drive a desire (and ultimately a reliance) for more. Sexual activity also falls into that category and so does porn. All the other addictions are publicly recognised to be problems that require long-term healing and recovery, but porn addiction doesn’t get the same recognition. The worrying thing about this is that actually porn has the potential to take a tighter vice-like grip on someone’s life than all of the others. This is because all of the others have some kind of in-built limitation that restrains the behaviour (to some extent), but porn doesn’t. There are some vital differences between porn and the others that should get us thinking:

  • Porn is free and always accessible, gamblers and food addicts are limited by money supply.
  • Porn viewing is less stigmatised than others and is even encouraged in some circles. So there isn’t such a strong social motivator against taking it up towards giving it up.
  • It’s far more accessible for a young child than drugs, alcohol, gambling etc… And with most people encountering it in their young teenage years, when the brain is changing dramatically, it will naturally be influencing a child’s development alongside their social and academic factors.
  • It has few immediate physical side-effects, whereas food and smoking addiction naturally have many.
  • Due to the never-ending novelty, porn addicts don’t easily lose their appetites.

There are also some scientists who would argue the addictive power of porn is actually synonymous with that of cocaine or heroin due to it affecting the same pathways in the brain. But that research is still under investigation, so I’m not using it as my main argument. If it is true though, then there is going to be a real need for physical healing to take place. There is a lot more to say on this matter, but these are the main ideas in the realm of biological impact and they should at least help us to see that ‘my little porn habit’ is synonymous with ‘my little gambling/eating/smoking habit’.

For further, more in depth analysis of the subject, check out this TED talk.

And see a brilliant explanation of the science here.

‘But I’m not addicted’ you might say, ‘so for me it’s just like having a daily meal or the occasional flutter on the Grand National’. You may well be correct; it might not have the same grip on you that it had on me. But does that mean that it’s therefore a good thing to do? Hitting a child might not be an addictive thing for you to do, but that doesn’t grant it high moral value. I suggest we answer this question with the current cultural Holy Grail of philosophy, ‘do whatever makes you happy and doesn’t harm others’. Does it make you happy? Does it harm others? I’ll be addressing those questions in the next blog.