19 thoughts on “The Risks and Harm of Pornography in Couple Relationships: Its Misleading Nature

  • February 27, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Thank you for this excellent piece, Dr. Staik.

    I’ve struggled with the issue and meaning of pornography in our society for decades, having gone through the Feminist era as a staunch Feminist, highly aware of gender imbalances in our society and working towards positive change and equality between the sexes.

    I read Susan G. Cole’s Pornography and the Sex Crisis many years ago, and found her arguments compelling.

    As one who firmly believes in freedom of speech and expression, the struggle for me has been to maintain a laissez-faire societal attitude, while deeply examining the more subtle (and not-so-subtle) messages of this industry. Every way I’ve examined it, I’ve landed on the conclusion that it truly does cause more harm than apparent good in society.

    It’s a complex issue, and one well worth exploring. Thank you for doing so so clearly and eloquently here. I look forward to reading your second instalment!

    Zoë Kessler, B.A., B.Ed. (Adult Education)
    Psych Central Blogger, ADHD from A to Zoë

    • February 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      Hi, Zoe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and “struggle” on this challenging topic. What seems increasing clear to me is that politics are about protecting big industries. If it sells, we have legislation that protects the rights of business. Since industries have the money, they craft the debate and discourse to exclude real options. Our debates on this issue have intentionally, I believe, misled us to champion free speech (of course!). If you look at Canada’s example, we see what the discourse and action would look like when it is really by, for and of the people.

      You may be interested in a chapter titled, “Civil Rights Antipornography Legislation: Addressing the Harm to Women” by Steven Hill and Nina Silver in edited BOOK, Transforming a Rape Culture, 1993, edited by E. Buchwald, P. Fletcher, P., & M. Roth. Here’s an excerpt:

      “In FEBRUARY 1992, the movement to stop violence and discrimination against women won a remarkable victory when Canada’s Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that obscenity is to be defined by the harm it does to women and not by what offends our values. “Materials por¬traying women as a class of objects for sexual exploitation and abuse have a negative impact on the individual’s sense of self-worth and accep¬tance,” read the court’s landmark opinion, the first time a court has established the precedent that a threat to the equality and safety of women “is a substantial concern which justifies restricting the otherwise full exercise of the freedom of expression.”

      “In the United States, the obscenity laws are all about not liking to see naked bodies, or homosexual activity, in public,” commented University of Michigan law professor Catharine MacKinnon, who helped write the law brief and, along with author Andrea Dworkin, has pioneered the “harm-to-women” approach to antipornography legislation. “Our laws in the United States don’t consider the harm to women. But in Canada it will now be materials that subordinate, degrade, or dehumanize women that are obscene.”

      That was 20 years ago! Here in the US, several attempts over several years to pass similar laws failed. Our politics are much more entrenched in money than other industrial nations…yet the treatment of all human beings with dignity and honor continues to be worth goal for human hearts.

      Thank again for your comment. So glad you stopped by… : )

  • March 1, 2011 at 5:25 am

    I thought this was a fabulous, informative article. I learned things I didn’t know, yet make so much sense about how pornography affects how (usually) men related to intimacy.
    I’ll be passing this on to AdiosBarbie. They did a campaign against Kanye West’s latest video and it’s depiction of cruelty and sex with women.
    Thanks again.

    • March 1, 2011 at 7:00 am

      Thanks for your comment SHerry. So appreciate the feedback and sharing this piece. Glad to have you visit!

  • March 1, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Good article. Makes sense to me. Reminds me a great deal of the concepts in Kindon & Thompson’s Raising Cain, Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys and Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia.
    I am a feminist, and have noticed that things in many ways are worse for women, such as MTV. MTV popularizes images of underage girls as totally obsessed with sex, this sexualization is now matter of fact. And it is becoming that way for boys as well. Demeaning for all ppl. I like the Canadian legislation. I’m extremely cynical abt USA right now, (m/b all ppl) so good luck getting anything passed like that here. But it IS a meaningful piece of legislation. Thank you I will look into it.

    • March 1, 2011 at 7:07 am

      Thanks, Kathy. I completely agree these images affect our men and boys as they do women and girls. After all we are all in this life together hopefully to awaken a positive direction. It’s not easy to not be cynical when the legislation that affects every sector of our society seems geared to protect the rights of industries to make profits over public well being. I trust and hope in an awakening, one person at a time, that expresses the true essence and spiritual values of the human heart.

  • March 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Wow-really powerful article, Dr. Stalk. I never thought about the inherent manipulation of the porn industry to get men to pay to masturbate.

    Really thoughtful and well-researched. I especially appreciated the focus on the detrimental effects on male sexuality, as well. We tend to negatively associate porn with female degradation. Any stats regarding female viewership?

    Scary point about porn needing to have an edge-hence, the need for violent sexually explicit material to maintain the interest, and to keep that billion dollar cash cow flowing.

    • March 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      So glad you stopped by, Linda. Thanks for your comments and feedback. Haven’t seen recent stats, I’ll look into this. Users are mostly men with women participating to please men. Numbers among younger women are increasing. The human need for belonging shapes behaviors, and those who craft marketing campaigns know this well. It has taken a scary turn as violence and degradation are the main staple. Thanks again!

  • March 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I’d been waiting for some quiet time to read your post and wow, what fascinating and compelling information and insights. You weave together the complexities so that we need to consider all the layers. Thanks for the extraordinary perspective and a wonderful list of expert references. You never disappoint! Thanks. ~Dawn

    • March 2, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Thanks for all the kind words and feedback, Dawn. You have a great way with words. I much appreciate your comment and visit!

  • March 1, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Fantastic post Athena. I am glad you also wrote about how harmful it is to men, and especially how they are not allowed to have any fear or perceived “weak” emotions. So useful and through in the way you explain and validate everything. I am so glad that you are out here on the web writing and clearing things up! Thanks.

    • March 2, 2011 at 8:34 am

      Thank you, Irene. Too often the relationship between men and women is depicted as a competition, in truth, they are both negatively impacted by this either-or thinking, both yearning how to be open, connected and vulnerable yet also individuate as separate unique beings. Thanks again!

  • March 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Great post Dr Athena… as always!

    • March 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, Ricardo, and for your support! So appreciated.

  • March 3, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Prezados Senhores.

    Sou psicólogo e na minha experiência clínica tenho observado, através de realatos dos pacientes, que as fantasias sexuais podem colaborar na performace do casal, desde que utilizadas convenientemente e apenas com esta finalidade.
    O que é preciso ressaltar por outro lado, é que a utilização compulsiva da pornografia pode ser prejudicial. Assim, não podemos generalizar qualquer conceito nesta questão. Thanks.

    • March 6, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Dear Marco and Niko, thank you for sharing a different perspective on this.

      Marco, I am aware that some therapists and sex therapists recommend the use for pornography for sexual stimulation. I take a different approach in this area, with all due respect.. In my view, the necessity to stimulate sexual desire with pornography may be a symptom of deeper problems with emotional intimacy – a widespread problem in our western culture, and likely a product of the limiting expectations we have surrounding “masculinity” and “femininity” and the fears of intimacy they foster, essentially, a fear of vulnerability, which you likely agree is an essential aspect in the formation of emotional intimacy.

      Niko, it is true that some pornography is not explicitly degrading. Most of what sells today is. Also, research shows high risk for getting into increasingly “harder” stuff. It’s just the way the human brain tends to work. What used to be “soft porn” as Pamela Paul writes is now just on TV and movies even PG.

      Neuroscience findings show the brain is a social organ, with mirror neurons that show human nature to be one of compassion, contribution, caring for the well being of others. To me this says another reason to question the use of pornography and sexual fantasies with other partners is because the subconscious mind does not know the difference between reality and fantasy. It is my opinion that fantasies, in addition to increasing the chances of acting out the fantasy, is a form of infidelity. The power of human imagination to manifest what it imagines is limitless. Why not access the full force of these energies to imagine — and realize — the wonderful possibilities for a passion, caring, fun friendship couple relationship? Thank you again for commenting. I appreciate your views.

  • March 6, 2011 at 2:58 am

    I disagree. Some porn is that way, but certainly not all of it. If you’ve never seen any non-degrading porn then I’m sorry to hear it.
    Then again, I watch gay porn so perhaps it’s just straight porn that’s like this.

  • April 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    This article was very informative. Having been married to a wonderful man who has struggled with porn addiction since his teen years. He is 42 now and we have been married almost 17 years. I found out about his addiction when we bought our first computer…three years into our marriage. That was 7 years after we had first met! The internet has definitely become the “other woman.”

    • April 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks for contributing your experiences to this discussion, Eva. It’s a challenging situation that I encourage you to write in a journal about, and perhaps seek a professional to talk to as well if you have not already. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment.


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