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Why the Reasons Someone Looks at Porn Matters

Men who engage in online sexual activities for temporary emotional escape are significantly more likely to experience related negative consequences.



Below are portions of a blogpost from Jul 18, 2016 in the Psychology Today “Love and Sex in the Digital Age” blog by Robert Weiss CEO of Seeking Integrity LLC.


In a March 2016 study, by Aline Wéry and Joel Billieux, both from the Université Catholique de Louvain, published in the journal, Computers in Human Behavior looking at French men age 18 and older, examined usage patterns, motivations for use, and possible effects of online sexual activity, and reached three important conclusions:

  1. Porn use is by far the most common online sexual activity for adult males, engaged in by 99% of the study’s 434 participants.

  2. Men who engage in online sexual activities for temporary emotional escape are significantly more likely to experience related negative consequences.

  3. Sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, in particular erectile dysfunction, can be linked to heavy engagement in online sexual activities.


The “Why” Really Does Matter


In addition to the three findings listed above, the study found that the most common reasons for engaging in online sexual behaviors involve sexual pleasure—with 94.4 percent of users seeking sexual satisfaction, 87.2 percent seeking arousal, and 86.5 percent seeking orgasm. However, a desire to regulate uncomfortable emotions was not far behind, with 73.8 percent of users hoping to alleviate stress, 70.8 percent trying to assuage boredom, and 53 percent wanting to forget their daily problems. (Obviously, most porn users have multiple motivations, such as feeling stressed out or bored while also wanting sexual satisfaction and orgasm.)


This information gets really useful, from a clinician's perspective, when the research team links the reasons for going online to other factors, such as time spent online, activities engaged in online, and, most important, negative life consequences. What they found was a powerful link between escapist motivations and negative consequences. They concluded that men who use online porn to escape emotional discomfort are far more likely to experience related problems than men who go online primarily for sexual pleasure. This indicates that porn use (and other online sexual activities) are, for some users, a maladaptive coping strategy rather than a pleasure-seeking strategy.


This result is very much in line with what we know about other compulsive and addictive behaviors, including substance use disorders and gambling disorder. In fact, almost any addict of any type can tell you that the biggest trigger for use, regardless of the substance or behavior, is emotional discomfort—stress, anxiety, depression, fear, boredom, loneliness, shame, etc. In short, these individuals use not to feel pleasure but to escape emotional discomfort. It is a desire for emotional escape rather than a desire to “get high” that is the crux of all addictions and compulsive behavior.


Self-Soothing and Compulsive Behaviors


As this recent study shows, with porn there is a clear link between repeated attempts at mood regulation and problematic usage. As such, the most effective way to treat problematic porn use—usage that results in negative life problems—initially involves not prescription medications and extensive psychodynamic psychotherapy, but a behavioral approach focused, in part, on the development of healthier coping mechanisms. Even though this is the approach that compulsivity and addiction-focused therapists have been taking with such clients for many years, it’s nice to have new research that backs this up.


The portions underlined above support Freein13 core beliefs. First that those trapped by pornography use have entered the trap by and large because of emotional stress. And second, a behavioral approach with mentor support that can unlock the physical, emotional, and spiritual locks of the trap is the most effective way for the majority of those who have not reached the stage of requiring the expense and time of professional counseling.

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