The Dangers Of Internet Pornography Addiction

The Dangers Of Internet Pornography Addiction
By Dr. Victor Cline

(Editor’s note: Dr. Cline has just updated his monograph “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children” with this new material on Internet porn.

In the past five years, porn on the Internet has virtually exploded in volume and is now the leading source of pornographic materials worldwide. Some of my porn addict patients inform me that the Internet has three major advantages in feeding their addictive sexual illnesses. They call them the three “A’s”: It’s easily Accessible, Affordable, and Anonymous.

I have had boys in their early teens getting into this wasteland with really disastrous consequences. They told me they actively search for porn on the Internet, keying in on such words as sex, nudity, pornography, obscenity, etc. Then, once they have found how to access it they go back again and again, just like drug addicts.

Dr. Albert Cooper, a West Coast university researcher, writing in the Journal of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, refers to this as a “cybersex addiction.” He indicates that cybersex compulsives are just like drug addicts using the Internet as an important part of their sexual acting out. This is their “drug of choice,” often with serious harm in their home lives and livelihood.

Dr. Mark Schwartz of the Masters & Johnson Institute in St. Louis says, “Sex on the Net is like heroin, it grabs them and takes over their lives. And it’s very difficult to treat because the people affected don’t want to give it up.” Cybersex compulsives can become so involved with their online activities that they ignore their partners and children and risk their jobs.

Another researcher (Putnam) has noted that some cybersex addicts develop a conditioned response to the computer and become sexually aroused even before fuming it on. “Simply sitting down to work at the computer can start a sexual response that may facilitate online sexual activities. As with other addictions, tolerance to cybersex stimulation can develop, prompting the addict to take more and more risks to recapture the initial high.” (see New York Times, 16 May 2000, F7)

Dr. Jennifer Schneider, a Tucson, Arizona, physician, conducted a survey of 94 family members affected by cybersex addictions and found that problems could arise even among those in loving marriages with ample sexual opportunities. “Sex on the Net is just so seductive and it’s so easy to stumble upon it, people who are vulnerable can get hooked before they know it.”

She further commented that the damage can be as devastating as that caused by compulsive gambling or addiction to alcohol or drugs. In her survey of these 94 people in committed relationships, she found they experienced serious adverse consequences, including broken relationships from those partners with cybersex addictions. Partners
commonly reported feeling betrayed, devalued, deceived, ignored, and abandoned and unable to compete with a fantasy.

Among those studied was a 34 year-old woman married 14 years to a minister who she discovered was compulsively seeking sexual satisfaction by visiting pornographic sites on the Internet. She commented: “How can I compete with hundreds of anonymous others who are now in our bed, in his head. Our bed is crowded with countless faceless
strangers, where once we were intimate.” (New York Times, 16 May 2000, F7)

State obscenity laws can’t solve the problem since it is largely a national and international problem. However, enforcement of federal obscenity laws (18 USC 1462, 1465) would certainly reduce the amount of Internet porn, since the U.S. is the major producer at the present time. However, these laws are not being enforced; and as a result,
distribution on the Internet of hardcore “adult” pornography (i.e., no children depicted) is largely unpoliced in the United States. At the international level, there are no treaties prohibiting hardcore “adult” porn.

Filters can be very helpful in discouraging or slowing down young family members from accessing Internet porn, but it should be clearly stated and understood that no filter is absolutely foolproof. A computer-wise user, if persistent, can nearly always breach filter defenses. So caring parents I should use filters as partial protection but also have the family Internet computer in a central location where the I parents can monitor and supervise its use.

It should also be noted that few parents are capable of monitoring their children (especially older children) 24 hours a day. Laws restricting minors’ access to Internet porn are needed to help parents protect their children from being exposed to this addictive and often toxic material.

Most U.S. libraries allow use of their computers for Internet access but refuse to use filters to protect underage children from harmful exposure to pornography. This means that a seven-year-old could potentially access explicit sexual matter representing extremes in anti-social pathology whose source could be from any place in the world.

Already we are seeing children sexually abusing other children using the Internet or other media as their instruction manuals. Some might consider permitting exposure of young children to these kinds of materials a form of child abuse or, at the very least, contributing to the delinquency of a minor.