The past two weeks featured two opposing Op-Eds in the Salt Lake Tribune (here and here) focusing on the issue of pornography, and especially if an “addiction” model (“pornography is highly addicting”) is appropriate to be taught in high school settings. The impetus for the initial opinion piece was the propriety of allowing the group “Fight the New Drug” (FTND) to offer presentations in public school assemblies or other gathering types, especially since the science behind the claims FTND makes about pornography as “addicting” is not credible (at least that is the claim of the writers). Leaders of FTND and others who work with clients under the “pornography addiction” model and the therapies it suggests wrote a response challenging the claims made in the first Op-ed, linking to studies they say supports all the arguments they make or that challenge studies that underlie the thinking of those who oppose the “addiction” model. It is a fascinating back-and-forth that highlights a major division within helping communities with regard to the effects of pornography upon the human brain and body, and the best approach(es) to take when someone comes to a therapist for help with a level of pornography usage they feel is is problematic.
In this two-part episode, two of the authors of the first Op-ed, Natasha Helfer Parker and Kristin Hodson (both Mormon and certified sex therapists), along with neuroscientist and sex researcher Dr. Nicole Prause and counselor and sex therapist Jay Blevins (who are both non-LDS), join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a wide-ranging discussion of the research surrounding the effects of pornography and if it shows the markers typically associated with “addiction,” and why this group feels the model fails—not only scientifically but with the therapies that arise out of this framing doing more harm than good. The host and panel discuss the influence of religious framings on both therapists and clients that are likely very much at play in preferring the “addiction” model, what other factors might be at play in continuing to use this language and claims about pornography usage, the propriety of it being presented in schools that allow no teachings whatsoever about sexuality within the curriculum yet still allow scare-inducing warnings against pornography (which, in itself, seems incomprehensible apart from understanding healthy sexuality first), along with various other models for assisting those who self-report as pornography or sex “addicts”—and why they feel these other framings and therapies yield better results. Plus so much more!
In coming weeks, as Mormon Matters can gather a panel of persons supporting the addiction model and treatment programs that employ that framing, we look forward to letting them present their reasons for preferring it, and to challenge anything offered in this episode.
Please listen and then share your responses and experiences in the comments section below!
AASECT Position Statement on Sex Addition (released 29 November 2016)
Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexual education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.
AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.
AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.
Op-Ed: “Utah Students Need Real Sex-Ed, not ‘Fight the New Drug’,” Salt Lake Tribune, 1 October 2016
Op-Ed: “Utah Students Need Real Sex-Ed and ‘Fight the New Drug’,” Salt Lake Tribune, 8 October 2016
Prause, N., Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Sabatinelli, D., & Proudfit, G. H. (2015). Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with “porn addiction.” Biological Psychology, 109, 192–199.
* The largest neuroscience study of cue-reactivity EEG, often called the “biomarker” of addiction, shows sex films do not behave like any known substance or behavioral addiction
Prause, N., Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Sabatinelli, D., & Hajcak, G. (2016). Prause et al.(2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions. Biological Psychology.
* The most succinct publication describing the many predictions, not just neuroscience, of the addiction model that have been falsified.
Balzarini, R. N., Dobson, K., Chin, K., & Campbell, L. Does exposure to erotica reduce attraction and love for romantic partners in men? Independent replications of Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg (1989) study 2. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2016.11.003
*The largest study to date on the effects of sex films on relationships finding they either increase desire and love for the partner or do not change it.
Klein, M. (2016). His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic with Honest Talk About Sex. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
* Building on decades of psychotherapy practice, the text reviews how sex films are often demonized to avoid addressing real, and more challenging, problems in relationships. Appropriate for lay audience, but also helpful for clinicians with case examples.
Natasha Helfer Parker, Mormon Sex Info website
Kristin Hodson’s therapy practice website: The Healing Group
Kristin Hodson, et al, Real Intimacy: A Couple’s Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality (Cedar Fort, 2012)
“Sex-Positivity in Mormonism,” Mormon Matters podcast episode, Nos. 314-315. December 17, 2015.