Pornography

Does Porn Re-Wire the Brain?

The Plastic Brain
The brains of human beings are highly adaptive. This is actually one of our most useful evolutionary traits, helping us to not only survive, but thrive. In fact, our wonderfully malleable brains are why we, and not tigers or sharks or bull elephants, are at the top of the food chain. In other words, as humans we are not entirely reliant on our instincts like most other species. Instead, our brains receive, process, and adapt to external inputs – learning and mutating along the way. This neurobiological ability to quickly adapt and evolve is known as neuroplasticity, and, in most respects, it is a uniquely human trait. Sharks, for instance, think and behave almost exactly the same today as they did 100 million years ago. Their non-plastic brains have not evolved in 100,000 millennia. Meanwhile, human brains are evolving almost by the minute in response to our environment and experience.

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Pornography

Child Porn Offenders and the Sentencing Process: Part Two, Psychosexual Evaluations

Different Motivations, Different Risks

In part one of this posting I discussed the increasingly aggressive sanctions[i] that are levied against most child porn offenders, noting that current sentencing guidelines have been driven primarily by media, political, and social paranoia rather than research based facts about offenders and their behaviors. Essentially, the legal system seems to think that if a person is looking at child pornography, a hands-on offense is sure to follow. This is not in fact the case. Unfortunately, this shortsighted approach is the tactic du jour in most US courtrooms.

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Addictions

Child Porn Offenders and the Sentencing Process Part One: Recidivism and Escalation

In previous postings to this site, I have written about the differences between sexual addiction and sexual offending, the various types of sexual offenders, the treatment of sexual offenders, and therapist reporting requirements when dealing with sexual offenders. However, I have for the most part left a crucial aspect of this therapeutic relationship unaddressed – advocating for (or against) sexual offenders (in particular, child porn offenders) in the sentencing process.

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Sex & Sexuality

Homosexual Identity and Early-Life Trauma/Development



Can you remember the days when The American Psychiatric Association labeled homosexuality as a mental illness? I can, as can just about anyone over the age of 50, as the APA only abandoned this indefensible stance in the early 1970s. And even after the APA grudgingly chose to recognize homosexual attractions and behaviors as a natural variant of human sexual expression, many jurisdictions continued to criminalize same-sex sexual activity. While those antiquated laws are for the most part off the books in this country and other first-world nations, social discrimination nevertheless continues, with many people feeling that the “heterosexual norm” is the only right way to do things, and anything different is either immoral or just plain disgusting.

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Recovery

Using Technology in Sobriety

Over the course of the last several years, I’ve written repeatedly about the ways in which technology can both facilitate and exacerbate addictions. For instance, drug addicts can purchase and abuse “prescription” medications through the Internet, set up buys with local dealers via text messages, and learn about certain parties – events at which drugs are likely to be prevalent like raves, ragers, and smoke outs – on social media. Meanwhile, compulsive spenders avoid the mall (where friends and family might see them overindulging), choosing instead to shop secretly on Amazon, Overstock, eBay, and other online shopping meccas. Similarly, compulsive gamblers often skip the casino and the track, preferring to engage with their addiction in private via online poker sites, digital bookmakers, and other gambling outlets. And then we’ve got sex and love addicts, nearly all of whom struggle with online porn, social media, dating sites, hookup apps, and all sorts of other digital sexnologies.

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Relationships

Conflict Evolution: Making Conflict Productive

As a psychotherapist, I am constantly amazed by the number of couples who either seem surprised that they don’t agree on every little thing, or who seem unable to healthfully resolve even the smallest of conflicts. What they fail to understand is that healthy intimate relationships are a bond between two different people, each with his or her own interests, thoughts and opinions. Yes, there is probably a lot of common ground, but two separate people will never be completely alike. Furthermore, people change throughout their lives, meaning that even if two people start out remarkably similar, differences will inevitably arise as they mature in different ways. As such, if intimate relationships are going to work over the long haul, both parties must we willing to learn, grow and adapt.

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Sex & Technology

Recovery from Cybersex Addiction: Part Three – Tips on Using Cybersex Boundary Plans


As discussed in my previous posting to this site and in my recently published book, Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age, coauthored with Dr. Jennifer Schneider, the definition of cybersex sobriety and the content of cybersex boundary plans both vary according to the needs and life circumstances of the addict in question. That said, whatever the definition of sobriety and whatever the boundaries in a particular addict’s plan, the purpose is to hold the addict accountable to his or her commitments – particularly when faced with challenging life circumstances, emotional pain and other powerful triggers.

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Sex Addiction Treatment

Recovery from Cybersex Addiction: Part Two – Defining and Creating a Plan for Sobriety

Manny is a 43-year-old cybersex addicted construction worker. Fifteen months ago he started going to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings. For the next year, his behaviors did not change and his life actually got worse rather than better. Finally, in desperation, he asked another member of the program for help, and he was assigned the task of creating a personalized definition of sexual sobriety and then a boundary plan for future sexual behaviors. Almost immediately, the program began to work for him. He says, “In my head, I knew what I needed to change and how I needed to change it. But somehow I always ended up fooling myself and relapsing. I would just find a way to rationalize that going back online for sex was OK, just this once, even though I knew it wasn’t. After I finally wrote down what my problems were, and clearly stated which online behaviors were not acceptable, I had some ‘official’ clarity and my life started to get a lot better.

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Pornography

New Research on ED and Hours of Porn Use Inconclusive

Sexual Medicine Open Access has just published a paper coauthored by Nicole Prause and Jim Pfaus entitled “Viewing Sexual Stimuli Associated with Greater Sexual Responsiveness, Not Erectile Dysfunction.”[i] This was not a study on porn users complaining of unexplained erectile dysfunction (ED), and, despite the study's title, no penile responses or erections were measured in the laboratory.[ii] Rather, the authors pulled data from four earlier studies, none of which investigated ED as a function of weekly porn use, and then they "reanalyzed" those data to make claims about ED as a function of porn use.

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Addictions

Recovery from Cybersex Addiction: Part One – Initial Action Steps

For the last five years (at least), Jerry, a handsome 36-year-old office manager, has put the search for sex ahead of all else – even though he’s not having any in-person sexual encounters. Instead, he looks at and masturbates to hardcore pornography for several hours each weeknight and all day on the weekends, and occasionally he engages in mutual masturbation with strangers via webcam. Until a few years ago he tried to also date in real life, usually going out with nice women who were interested in a long-term relationship. He says that he really liked one of them, but that he was never really present with her and she eventually broke things off. He admits that on their dates he was usually more focused on going home and going online than on her. As it turns out, she broke up with him because she thought he was cheating on her (and in a way he was). That was three years ago, and Jerry has not been on a date since. He has tried several times to quit using porn, and sometimes he manages to do so for a day or two. But before long he feels depressed and lonely and he goes back online as a way to escape the pain. Recently, he’s started using his office computer to access porn during work hours – a situation that he knows will not end well. And yet he continues.

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