Online porn use: How much is healthy? Part I

John Hopton for redOrbit.com – @Johnfinitum
Let’s get one thing straight from the start: all men use porn. And don’t just take our word for it; that’s the assessment of Robert Weiss, co-author of Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age, who spoke to redOrbit about careful casual use, the warning signs for when a universal habit becomes dangerous, and how America should adjust its general attitude towards sex.
“With regard to boys and young men, there are three basic porn-related questions,” Weiss told us: “How many boys and young men use porn? How much time are they spending with porn? How is porn affecting them?”
He says that: “The first question is actually easy to answer. All of them! Relatively recently, a Canadian scholar attempted to perform research on the effects of porn use among adolescent males but couldn’t – because he was unable to find any potential test subjects who weren’t already using porn! (Without a control group, there was no way for him to make comparisons.)”
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This is not a sign that we are witnessing the end of civilization in the age of decadence. Most people would fall into Weiss’s first category of consumption:  Casual Porn Users. This is the category we’ll take a look at in this article, before looking at more dangerous use in another.
Defining casual users
Weiss says that Casual Porn Users are “people who find pornography entertaining, fun and possibly distracting. They enjoy porn intermittently, depending on their life circumstances, but not on a regular basis. Usually they see porn as a facet of a healthy sexual life.”
The idea of porn being healthy may not sit well with some people, but Weiss says that: “For a wide variety of cultural, religious and historical reasons, Americans are at times highly sex-phobic. In truth, many societies around the world are far more accepting and open about sexuality being natural and not shameful.” (Though he points out that some cultures are of course far more conservative).
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The author adds that: “Parents in particular tend to freak out if/when they catch their kids with porn, even if the parents used porn themselves when they were kids. Rather than worrying or not worrying, it’s better to develop open lines of communication among family members, especially with kids, letting everyone know that sexual topics can be discussed without fear of judgment and/or reprimand.”
Benefits of just…talking about it
One of the advantages of a society that talks more openly about sex, in a healthy, everyday sense, is that it would help people to avoid one of the risks of pornography even for casual users, which is a skewing of what we think is normal in sex.
Weiss says: “The fear that parents and professionals typically have – and this fear is not always unfounded – is that adolescent males’ brains are being rewired to continually demand the unrealistic levels of novelty and perfection that pornography consistently provides, and that they are therefore becoming out of sync with real world romance.”
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If young men only have porn as the driving force in their sexual development, before their own sexual encounters and even before having the opportunity to have responsible discussions about sex, then this is unquestionably a risk to their sexual thinking.
Whilst trying to resist porn use in society makes about as much sense as trying to have automobiles banned because cars are dangerous, there are things to be mindful of for all users, and these things could be discussed more openly, as part of a healthier sexual discussion overall.
Continue on to Part II.
Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, is author of Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age, and Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health.

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