CHAPTER 18. PORNOGRAPHY AND SEX ADDICTIONS
A crucial dimension of the definition of pornography is the emphasis on its appeal to prurient interests. In one sense, there can be no better definition for illustrating the moralism of American values. The definition takes it for granted that Americans see sexual subjects as inherently bad or, at the least, suspect. American moralists just cannot bring themselves to see sex as possibly a good thing, even outside marriage.
Many people trying to get around the moralistic underpinnings of the word pornography by using words like erotic material. This way they hope to separate the pornography one might find down on New York City's Forty-second Street from the kinds of material a husband and wife might watch to spice up their love making. This tight-rope act is a very difficult one for American try to have prurient material in spite of their definition of it as obscene or bad. No matter how many sex education lectures one goes to, or how many sexually liberating books one reads, even the American who wants to be sexually liberated continues to be uneasy about the entire area of sex and sexual depiction.
As we saw from the definition of pornography, a moralistic attitude is built right into it. Therefore, it should not be surprising that pornography is subject to a great deal of criticism. Much of this criticism is based on the degeneracy model of sexual behavior. This concept underlies most popular views of pornography, as it underlies the concept of sexual addiction as well.
There has been increased interest in the entire topic of sexual addiction. Indeed, there is a popular book out entitled Sexual Addiction by Patrick Carnes. He writes that the signs of sexual addiction are a pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior; severe consequences due to sexual behavior; an inability to stop despite adverse consequences; persistent pursuit of self- destructive or high-risk behavior; ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior; sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy; increasing amounts of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer sufficient; severe mood changes around sexual activity; inordinate amounts of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experience; and neglect of important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of sexual behavior (Carnes, 1991: chapter one).
The degeneracy model is a pseudo-scientific model. It is naturally popular in a deliberately sexophobic society. The problem with Carne's analysis is that he treats sexual addiction as if it were a strongly physiologically addictive drug like heroin. Money (1988:148) maintains that there is no such amorphous entity as sexual addiction. There is only addiction to someone or something in the context of sexual arousal. It may even be addiction to something that very few people recognize as sexual. He criticizes Carnes for the dogma that sexual addiction is caused by sexual excess, which Money labels a moralistic sexual degeneracy model.
The big problem with the concept of sex addiction is the sexual degeneracy model itself. This holds that people interested in sex are really perverts and degenerates and their interest in sex gradually overtakes their whole psyche and they have to receive greater and greater stimulus to attain the same response. This is the theory that all rapists start out as people innocently looking at pornography, getting hooked on it, buying massive quantities of pornography and starting a collection, and then having to advance to more extreme, and even violent, forms of pornography. Many conservative thinkers latched with glee onto serial killer Ted Bundy's claim that pornography led him to more violent types of pornography and eventually to killing women. Rape, however, is not a product of looking at pictures of acts suggesting rape, but rather it is a paraphilia. The pictures themselves cannot make a non-rapist become a rapist paraphile.
Sociologists share much of the dogma of sexual degeneracy. They said sexual degeneracy begins with concupiscent imaginations that, unless disciplined by the intellect and the will, find their outlet in wet dream, masturbation and promiscuity. Degenerated by vice, the jaded imagination seeks ever stronger stimulation in the form of pornography and sexual depravity, with increasing frequency, insistence, and variety, until the end product is the sexual addict. Today's sexual addiction theory reiterates this prescientific logic of degeneracy theory. Money, 1988:148
Much of the moralism applied to the paraphilias comes from the degeneracy model (also known as the self-esteem model). One can see this in a popular book on the female chasing Cassanovas (Trachtenberg, 1988:28) : "At the center of every addiction, as at the center of every cyclone, is a vacuum, a still point of emptiness that generates circles of frantic movement at its periphery.. . . It is characterized not only by feelings of worthlessness, the conviction that one deserves nothing more than the destiny of a drunk or junkie, but by a blurred and tenuous sense of self - a fundamental uncertainty about one's own existence. That uncertainty breeds hunger, a ravenous desire to be filled, to be validated, to be made whole. When the addict takes his fix . . what he experiences is not so much pleasure as a sense of completion that has been missing until that moment. " Trachtenberg (1988:29) calls the Casanova complex a compulsion, but he see it as a compulsion created by an inner self-esteem problem. He makes this so-called compulsive into a psychologically weak person. He even refers to the compulsion as evil, saying that in our time sickness is only a cover for what used to be called wickedness. And he stresses that he is so moral that he would not think of offering any excuse for the wickedness of these men.
Another problem with the degeneracy model is it places too much emphasis on the activity itself, rather than on the addict. There are many substances that are potentially addictive. This includes such activities as gambling and sky-diving, not to mention substances like alcohol. One can become addicted to almost anything. (But you seldom hear moralists condemn sky- diving as sinful.) Therefore, it is not so much the characteristics of the substance or activity that is inherently important (although this does play a role), but the physiological nature of the person and the social stresses he or she faces. It is not the pornographic material itself that is so important, but rather the nature of the person who becomes addicted to the pornographic material. Further evidence that it is not the material itself that causes addiction is that some sex addicts can become aroused by and actually prefer pictures of clothed persons -- the type of pictures we see in any magazine on the news stand racks.
It is interesting that the moralists only focus on male pornography. Romance novels are the female equivalent of male pornography, but seldom is the argument heard that romance novels lead in a degenerative way to more and more extreme forms of pornography, and thus into unhealthy sexual addictions and behaviors.
Some authors even see love as a source of addiction. (This position certainly confounds the idea that pornography is bad because it causes addiction.) In Liebowitz's The Chemistry of Love (1983), the author makes the point that PEA (peptide called phenylethylamine) is critical to the chemistry of courtship. Its molecular structure parallels that of amphetamines and creates a high-arousal state.
Falling in love involves several body changes. Among these are an increase in the heart rate; a decrease of levels of lactic acid in the blood; an increase in endorphins; and healthier and more effective white blood cells. Moreover, the neurotransmitter beta-phenylethylamine produces euphoria and boundless energy. It is said that some people become BP junkies with a pattern of unsuitable love affairs.
The chemistry of love can help explain what some people popularly refer to as temporary insanity. For instance, in 1992 many people were shocked when they were told that the highest court official in the state of New York, Judge Saul Wachtler, was arrested for trying to blackmail his ex-lover. The person on the street would shake his or her head and say what hope is there for any of us if this distinguished judge cannot control his emotions. However, there are many popular expressions in the language, such as lovesick and moonstruck, indicating the high degree to which this type of love behavior is common.
Carnes (1991:34) maintains that people who experience dual dependencies like chemicals and sex often make this striking observation: chemical abuse is easier to stop than sexual addiction. One reason is that sex addiction can start very early in life. Second, unlike an alcoholic, who can avoid alcohol, a sex addict carries the source of supply within. A more difficult recovery is one of the prices of getting high on one's brain chemistry. This analysis is interesting but debatable. The reason is that the body cannot afford to produce chemicals that would be as powerfully addictive as heroin. For if it did, the chances of survival of those being high all the time would be very low. The so-called love chemicals are not likely to be highly physically addictive, but rather psychologically addictive.
One reason for the popularity of the idea of addiction applied to sex is that this label is so much more lenient than the label of sexual deviant or sexual pervert. And in this era, where reporters feel compelled to tell the public about any sexual problems of the important public figures in our lives, the desire to appeal to the addiction model is understandable.
Mothers, when they find that their sons have access to normophilic pornography or have acquired examples of it, become child abusers who, albeit inadvertently, destroy sexuoerotic normalcy in both heterosexual and homosexual boys. Joined by their antisexual male counterparts, women organized against pornography inadvertently and contrary to their avowed aim, destroy sexuoerotic normalcy and replace it with pathology on a national scale. Money, 1988:170
Money (1988) argues that it is perhaps better to have some mild and non-violent pornography available to children. He says this is more likely to insure that the child imprints on normal heterosexual love as an alternative to imprinting on violence on the television screen. He also states that the severe punishment of children for showing an interest in sex is harmful. Usually the more bizarre the children's play, the more severe the punishment. However this is likely to result in imprinting on the very behavior that the parent is trying to discourage because the severe reaction of the parent causes a massive release of adrenalin in the child's system and this is likely to insure the permanent imprinting on the proscribed behavior.
The accomplishment of preventing paraphilia will be by ensuring healthy love map development in childhood. The sexual climate produced by a war on pornography is a sex-negative climate, and its antisexualism permeates society. It is transmitted to young parents and affects their childrearing with respect to their children's sexual learning and their manifestations of normality, as in their juvenile sexual rehearsal play. Sex-negative parents transmit sex negation to their children. Sex negation at home is reinforced in the media, the community, the school, the religion, and among peers. Money, 1988:177
If women's genitals are not accessible at the critical time for imprinting, the mechanism may seize upon the nearest sensory approximation that is actually available. Women's underwear occupy the crotch area and often take the shape of publis and vulva to some extent; so they are likely candidates for sexual imprinting. (Wilson, 1987: 106-7)
There is considerable evidence for this. Frequently reported finding that deviant men of all kinds come from families that are sexually restrictive and do not permit nudity in the house. Sexually deviant men are also less likely to have seen pornography as children (Goldstein, et al. 1971). A popular interpretation of these facts is that early exposure to sexually explicit materials provides 'inoculation' against the potentially harmful effects of pornography in later life. But a far simpler explanation is that the sight of female genitals in early childhood is a prerequisite for appropriate sexual imprinting and development. Wilson, 1987:107-108
R. J. Stoller (cited in Campbell 1989:553) wrote in 1970 that no material in and of itself is pornographic. The observer of material projects his or her sexual fantasies into the material. Therefore, the focus should not be on the material itself, but rather on the observer.
Every person has a love map. The love map motivates the search for that partner or activity that can fulfill the love map's orgasmic fantasy. It is not the pornography or the topless bar, that causes the person to change a love map. Rather a person with a definite love map chooses a certain type of pornography or sexual practice. Money, 1988:167
Pornography by itself cannot change a person's love map (Money, 1988:167). If it were otherwise, then horror and murder- mystery movies featuring strangulation and drowning would have converted the love maps of millions of American youth into asphyxiophilic love maps -- which manifestly has not happened. There is an amazing variety of what is sexually exciting to men. We have already discussed the paraphilias. But even in the non- deviant types of sexual interest, there is a great deal of variety. There are the standard categories of sexual interest most of us know about, such as men who prefer legs or breasts or rear-ends, but there are also men who prefer obese women or very tall women or very short women. Some of these qualities of orgasmic interest are so narrow that it takes some effort for the men to find the type of women they are interested in. For instance, some men prefer an oval structured rear-end and there may be no more than five women in a hundred that have this type of physical structure.
In the United States the most common area of sexual interest appears to be the breasts. In Brazil the rear-end seems to play a more important role. In a sexophobic society such as America there may be an easy explanation for the fascination of men with breasts. This is not due, as feminists or moralists say, to the one-tracked mind of man but rather to the prudishness of the culture. Since nudity or even partial nudity is discouraged in the United States, the only areas exposed flesh are likely to be the breasts with very clever uses of strategic materials to make the most out of the limited areas that can be exposed in the United States. Therefore, when men imprint sexually in the United States they are most likely to imprint on breasts. It is common to hear that breast preferences especially are adolescent expressions that men have just not outgrown. Many see this as a kind of immaturity. However, the process or processes at work here seem to be more physiological than psychological. In a country like Brazil where nudity is more prevalent, the variable area covered is the rear-end with more imprinting likely to occur in this area.
Imprinting-like processes may account for the amazing variety of sexual likes and dislikes. These preferences tend to appear with the earliest sexual desires and are notoriously resistant to change. In one sense it is lucky that there are so many different types of body preferences among men, for women who differ from the physical norms might otherwise find it virtually impossible to find mates.
Pornography can become psychologically addictive and perhaps at the most slightly physically addictive, but not strongly physically addictive. The problem with such an addiction is that it can interfere with one's relationship to one's partner. Some male's may actually prefer masturbation to sex with their partner, or frequent masturbation may lessen the frequency of sexual interaction with one's partner. But this is probably not the fault of the pornography itself, but is rather related to problems with the person who becomes addicted. Some masturbation in marriage, however, is probably perfectly healthy and may even be beneficial.
One can turn inward to a inner fantasy world of pornography rather than try to find real solutions to real problems. Addiction to pornography may continue in a marriage not so much because of the power of the addiction, but because of the discrepancy between the love map of the masturbator and the partner. This discrepancy could be in terms of body discrepancy (the male likes extremely thin women but his partner is normal weight) or differences in sexual behavior preference (a masochistic male with a non-sadistic female). The likelihood of having a pornography collection and remaining committed to masturbation is more likely in the case of these discrepancies between love maps and reality.
The Special Case of Violent Pornography
Pornography does not create violent rapists (with the possible exception if a very young person were to be exposed to violent pornography at the time that the person was imprinting; but who would show such scenes to young infants?) Pornography can play an important role in the life of sexual deviants, but it does not causes these deviancies. Nonoffenders tend to outgrow pornography in adolescence, whereas pornography becomes increasingly important to many sex offenders after they grow into adulthood (Murrin and Laws, 1990:89). Pornography plays a much more important role in the life of the pedophile than in the life of the rapist. In Marshall's (1988) study, more pedophiles were high-frequency masturbators, and this particular behavior pattern predicted general pornography use and the use of pornography in the commission of the offense. Murrin and Laws, 1990:89
The 1970 report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Sexually explicit material, the report concluded, has an extremely superficial and short-lived impact on the lives and behavior of the persons exposed to it. However, the 1970 commission did not study reactions to violent pornography.
Violent people are attracted to violent pornography. The tendency to violence already exists. Rapists are more likely to be aroused by rape scripts which show considerable abuse of the victim, whereas male college students are not. In other words, rapists become sexually aroused by stimuli which show the male achieving more dominance over the woman, and these men are more accepting of interpersonal violence than are force-oriented male college students. Content analyses of pornography shows that the prevalent themes depict men achieving their sexual aims by dominating women who enjoy being humiliated. In addition, the very tolerance of violence in these materials implies an acceptance of violence. In other words, pornography reinforces the views that sexually aggressive men already hold. (Murrin and Laws, 1990:88-89)
Violence tends to be fairly rare in sexually explicit material. In fact, in Goode's (1990:158) study of 500 pornographic videos ads there were slightly more ads featuring domination of men by women than the opposite. Frankly, the attraction to violence is a paraphilia, and does not apply to non-violent men.
There is a double standard concerning violence and violent pornography among conservatives and many feminists. All violent depictions, regardless of whether in a sexual or non-sexual context, can desensitize people to crime. However, while Americans discourage non-violent pornography, they continue their love affair with violent scenes on television, in ads, and in the movies. The problem is that Americans condone a great deal of violence. Their heroes, such as John Wayne and James Cagney, almost always solve interpersonal disputes by a punch to the mouth of the other person. This high level of tolerance for violence also takes the form of a double standard. In a dispute, if a person is provoked they expect the provoked person to hit the transgressor. They see this as normal and proper. And yet they expect men not to hit women. It would seem a double standard is in place here. If men can control their anger enough not to strike women, they certainly can do the same in the case of men. But Americans are not really sympathetic to this view.
It is not exposure to pornography per se that has an influence upon the incidence of sexual crime, but rather the nature of the person being exposed and the existing cultural milieu in which that exposure occurs. Murrin and Laws, 1990:89
The emphasis some feminists place on banning pornography may be entirely "misguided" (Goode, 1990:164). Women should focus their attention on more important aspects of life. They should focus on the real power centers, namely, the corporation. Men and women need to cooperate to gain more control over the corporation so that it does not continue to discriminate against men and women who want to use their time in less sexist patterns.
A Note on Prostitution
Prostitution has a dual aspect, for one can analyze the men who use prostitutes as well as the prostitutes themselves. Traditionally, police arrested prostitutes, while leaving their customers alone. They took it for granted that some men would be drawn to prostitutes. Under the impact of feminism, this has changed in some localities. Some men prefer prostitution to normal sex; this being one of the paraphilias of the mercantile type. The fantasies of these men center around the payment for impersonal sex. Some of these men probably have problems with relationships with women, but the paraphilia itself could even be the cause. Some men prefer anonymous sex without emotional entanglements to the process of dating and courting women. In a personal case I know of, the man has a fear of women and often blushes in their presence. He only feels comfortable in asking women out for which he has no sexual feelings. Of course, this is ultimately self-defeating because the dating process will not proceed normally in the absence of any sexual desire.
In prostitution the economic motive plays an important role. This obviously has to be accompanied with an ability to at least tolerate interaction with many different men. There is evidence, however, that women who become prostitutes are different from those who do not. Nanette Davis (1971, cited in Goode, 1990:148) did a study of thirty jailed prostitutes. She found that their first sexual contacts typically involved intercourse right from the beginning. And for 28 out of the 30, that first sexual experience was felt as either meaningless or distasteful. The average age at first prostitute experience was 17.3 years.
All except seven of the prostitutes had been confined to a juvenile home or training school as adolescents for truancy, incorrigibility, or for sexual delinquency. Davis ascribes these processes to labeling. While labeling may play some role, one should not deliberately reject the role of psychology and psychiatry for early victimization seems to figure prominently in the lives of prostitutes (Goode, 1990:149). For instance, many studies indicate that a very high proportion of women who became prostitutes were the victims of incestuous sex with their fathers or stepfathers, violence within their families, and rape or other coerced sex at an early age. In fact, all but two of Davis's sample of jailed women reported that even before they became prostitutes they had been regarded by parents, teachers, and neighbors as troublemakers, as "slow learners," as misfits -- in short, as deviants.
A Note on Cassanovas
Women are especially concerned about men who act like Cassanovas. Jacques Casanova de Seingalt lived in the eighteenth century and made a virtual career of seducing women.
Trachtenberg (1988) sees love as the drug for the addict, along with thrill seeking and game playing (living out their love map fantasies). He identifies six types of Cassanovas: the hitter (whose greatest pleasure is to con women); the drifter (the opportunist who takes advantage of situations that he comes across); romantics (who actually temporarily fall in love with their victims), nesters (who fall in love and actually marry but once married become bored and start to withdraw and become remote); jugglers (who like multiple partners at the same time); and tomcats (married men who remain married but constantly chase women). However, it is not clear if these are really types or just variations on seductive techniques.
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