Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hooked, even after the pleasure goes

(This is the text of my That's Men column published in The Irish Times on Tuesday 14th October 2008):

The term 'porn-zombie' was new to me until I came across it on addiction therapist Jason McClain's website.

McClain was referring to the way in which viewers of porn on the Internet - and I think it's fair to say the vast majority are men - lose track of time as they watch pornography for hours on end.

He takes the view that you have a pornography addiction if your consumption of porn interferes with your relationships or with key aspects of your life away from the screen.

He doesn't see it as an addiction, or necessarily as a problem, if you have a genuinely take it or leave it attitude to pornography. He is not, of course, referring here to child pornography and neither am I.

There are reasons, though, why the journey from 'take it or leave it' to 'porn-zombie' can be a quick one. Anything involving sexual stimulation has a powerful draw and when the stimulation is available free of charge, as it is on the internet, then the draw is all the more powerful.
And remember the collapse of the Internet bubble about eight or nine years ago? Very talented people in Silicon Valley found themselves out of work. Some gravitated towards that area of the web which continued to make money - pornography (the free pornography is, of course, meant to lure people into subscribing to pay sites). The result? Pornography websites became among the slickest and most sophisticated in the world. Link that sophistication with sexual stimulation and you begin to see how easy it is for internet porn, in particular, to draw people in and keep them there.

And the new browsers from Internet Explorer and Google come with what sceptics call a 'porn mode' option that allows people to surf without leaving a trace on their computers.

Add to all this the human tendency to escape into pleasure to avoid the stresses of life. By this I mean that we tend to drink too much, comfort eat, spend too much, do drugs, do pornography and so on and on as a response to emotional pain.

If you can do these things and then put them aside while you get on with sorting out your life, fine. But all too often, they become an end in themselves even after the pleasure has gone out of them.

In relation to pornography addiction, McClain identifies three stages.

The first is anticipation. Here the consumer of pornography is anxious to get people out of the way so he can get to the computer. Next is consumption where the user may well get into that 'porn-zombie' state. The third stage is self-hatred and a sense of time wasted. Then the cycle is repeated, sometimes as a way of escaping from that painful third stage - a bit like taking a drink at lunchtime to help with a hangover.

He suggests measures such as evaluating the effect of porn on your closest relationships, and maintaining an awareness of your behaviour while you are actually consuming porn instead of falling into the 'zombie' state.

He also advocates using software that doesn't allow you to go on to pornography websites. You can always disable the software temporarily but he argues the hassle involved in doing this may give you enough pause for thought to change your mind.

He recommends a free filtering system called OpenDNS, which you can find at The only problem is that it involves, according to its website, "taking a few minutes to unbundle your DNS service from your ISP's Internet connection" which would frighten the living daylights out of me.

But there are lots of filtering programs and if you can find porn you can find them too.

Final thought: people who have a dependence on pornography are not bad people. They are just people who are hooked on a very strong drug and who need to make new choices.

They could start off by looking at McClain's website at which promotes his ebook but also has a link to his blog with lots of good, free information. If you are married to somebody with a pornography addiction, you will find much here to interest you as well.


Luke said...
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Broderick.O.S.D said...
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Dr.Ursula Dr.Ursa said...
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