As some of you know, I’ve been working on a book chapter about pornography and sex addiction for Kevin Mahew Publishing, one of the leading religious book publishers in the UK. I’m co-authoring this chapter with Dr. Mark Laaser, and the book (as yet untitled) will come out sometime in later this year. In the course of research, I tried to find information and resources about pornography and sex in the UK. As it turns out, this was not hard to do, since the situation there is very similar to what we have in the US.
Here’s some quotes from an interesting and lengthy article with the intriguing title: “Not tonight darling, I’m online” by Adrian Turpin. While not endorsing everything said in the article, I agree with many of its conclusions, and want to highlight some great quotes from it.
Dr Marios Pierides is a consultant psychiatrist with the Capio Nightingale hospitals in London, who specializes in treating patients with addictions. “The man who tells you he hasn’t looked at pornography on the web is the man who tells you he hasn’t masturbated,” he says. …
“One of my colleagues calls internet porn the crack cocaine of the internet,” Pierides says. “It would not be unreasonable to call it an epidemic. In the past 12 months, I’ve seen an explosion in the number of people referred to me with issues about it. It has tripled. This is causing real problems.
“I’ve had many wives complaining about it and simply going along with it, and the number of people in offices is startling. It’s now not at all uncommon for me to be consulted by high-flying professionals who fear their addiction will lead to them losing their jobs.”
The psychiatrist’s views find accord in the US. According to Mark Schwartz, the clinical director of the Masters and Johnson Clinic in St Louis, “Pornography is having a dramatic effect on relationships at many different levels and in many different ways – and nobody outside the sexual behaviour field and the psychiatric community is talking about it.”
In the article, Turpin profiles a man named “Michael” who appears to be representative of many Britons struggling with this issue. He’s very articulate and thoughtful, as you’ll see from the following:
But according to Michael, ease of access [to Internet porn] is only part of the problem. “It’s easy to think of the internet as just another medium,” he says, “a high-tech version of dirty magazines or films. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.
“To me, the most disturbing thing about the internet is that it has the perfect structure to promote dissatisfaction. You click on an image, it’s not quite right. So you click on another, then another. It’s completely open-ended. If you just keep looking there’ll be that image that’s just right. But the more you look, the less you get turned on by the stuff you did before. So, you have to search harder.”
You don’t have to be a moralist to see a downside in millions of men regularly seeking oblivion in an activity that is doomed to disappoint them and which frequently depresses them.
However you judge it, the scale of this flight into fantasy is strange. To some it may look like both symptom and symbol of a wider malaise, marking a collective failure to connect with one other and engage with reality. Has an addictive, acquisitive society lost sight of what makes it happy beyond the next serotonin-inducing surfing session?
“The metaphor of a man masturbating at his computer is the Willy Loman of our decade,” says Mark Schwartz of the Masters and Johnson Clinic, referring to the spiritually rudderless protagonist of Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman. “In a sociologist’s terms, it’s anomie – the completely lonely, isolated man having sex with an airbrushed woman on a computer screen. It’s truly pathetic, even tragic.”
I’ll close with another reference from “Michael.” Here is how he describes his feelings about his own porn use:
“When I talk to you about this for the first time, I feel queasy. It’s not quite a moral queasiness. I’m not talking about the ethics of pornography or the exploitation of women. Whatever I ought to feel about that, that’s the easiest bit for me to rationalise.
“It’s not sexual guilt. It’s more a sense of waste and puzzlement. What am I lacking in my life and my marriage that I need this? You are meant to get to know yourself as you get older. I”m 32 and sometimes I think I’m getting more confused, lost in cyberspace. But the most baffling thing is that I can say all this to you, but when I go home tonight I’ll probably boot up my machine and start all over again.”