Just Having a Wank? The Fantasies, Addictions and Dangers with Pornography …

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Twenty-eight girls in grid format; a Kandinsky of poses and pouts, nipples and lips, fleshy breasts and fuck me eyes. Gold Show and Party Chat. Anal and Asian. Teen and Trimmed. Girls from all over the world, and you can have your pick, you can have any of them you desire, every day of your life.

And why limit it to one? You can have a threesome, or more, participate in an orgy if that turns you on. You can do whatever you want, have this girl do whatever you want. No raised eyebrows or questions asked; just straight to action, because yes, she really is gagging for it.

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Porn is easy. You don’t have to wonder if your screen is too tired or not in the mood. You don’t have to worry that the last time you turned on your screen, you didn’t perform to the best of your ability, that the screen wasn’t satisfied and maybe even faked it just to get it over with. The screen doesn’t care about such things; it’s always available and will do whatever you want. Any negative emotions or insecurities you have about your own body or performance simply dissolve into the brain changing beauty of sexual fantasy – until you’re finished of course, and then your reality comes sinking back in.

Porn is the most accessed content on the internet; I’ve read that numerous times over the years. And during this worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, with so many people quarantined at home, it’s being watched even more. The world’s biggest site, Pornhub, have given worldwide users free access to its Premium Service for a month of lockdown, with their figures rising almost twelve percent.  The pornography industry is enormous, raking in an estimated $16.9 billion each year in the United States alone. Twenty-five percent of search engine requests are related to sex. Every second, more than 28 million internet users are viewing porn. And yet people don’t talk about it, don’t write about it, often don’t even admit it, except for a tipsy attempt at humour in the pub or inside the safety of a WhatsApp group, and even then, it’s just met with a knowing smirk. There are stigmas everywhere; mental health, drugs and alcohol, eating disorders. It seems to me we are talking about those a little more nowadays, but yet we’re still not talking about porn.

So what is it about porn, and its grip on certain people? Why do people come back to porn time and time again, for their daily, weekly, whatever, fix? Is it just the lure of a beautiful body? An easy elevation of dopamine and oxytocin that brings feelgood factors? Is fantasy really harmless?

Fantasy in general, has advantages and disadvantages, like most things. It’s the law of gravity; that what goes up, must come back down. Look around you, at those people that get so excited, that are full of life and spontaneous fun. I’d bet you my last dollar that the same people struggle with depression, although they may keep it hidden from others. Maybe you’re one of those people and know instinctively what this feels like? You can’t have high without low, happy without sad. And when it comes to fantasy, and for the purpose of this article, sexual fantasy, those chemical changes and highs in the brain, are often followed by low, by shame, or just a sink back into boring reality, when contrasted with where you’ve just been.

Scientific studies and research agree that fantasy creates depression.

“Although a positive future outlook is generally associated with psychological well-being, indulging in positive fantasies about the future has been found to exacerbate negative mood-related outcomes such as depressive symptoms” – ScienceDirect.com.

Research also agrees that fantasies are more than simple dreaming; they are connected to our sense of self.

“Indulging in fantasies may seem like a waste of time, but they are far from frivolous. Most fantasies serve a specific purpose: they can be entertaining, distracting, frightening, or, in the case of sexual fantasies, arousing” – Psychology Today.

Fantasies are normal, this article continues, though people often wonder if they are, particularly when the fantasies are of a sexual nature.  These fantasies generally don’t harm the individual fantasising or anyone else, are about far more than sex itself and are often related to other personality traits or self-judgements, such as not feeling valued or wanted, not having emotional connections.

Should we not fantasise? If fantasy leads to depression, should we not dream of a better future? Life can be difficult and dreary. Should we just accept this? I guess that depends on the amount of fantasy you indulge in, and in this case, the amount of porn you are viewing. You could split these arguments in two, where on one side, you are wandering inside the fantasies of your own mind, then on the other, you are pulled by the lure of the screen, to an increasing awareness you can’t get aroused on your own, without pornography. This latter argument links into a much greater debate; the addiction of screen, of social media, that compulsion to check your notifications, to see who’s liked your posts. This is linked to our own sense of self, to how we want others to view us, how we see ourselves in comparison. We are creating patterns through our neural pathways, then solidifying them every time we turn back to the screen, even when it’s to focus away from the self, to see what other people are displaying on social media, to passively consume ‘other,’ to escape into television and film. The lure of screen is all around us, and if we’re honest, now we have phones to carry around at all times, it’s a fight many of us are engaged in, and often losing. Combine this with the powerful nature of sexual desire and fantasy, and here lies a constant battle for many.

Be honest. Is pornography causing a problem? Are you viewing it too much? Have you tried to stop but been unable to? Is it interfering in your daily life? Your relationships? Let’s give more thought to the claim fantasy produces depression, and let’s tailor that thought towards pornography.

Porn is more accessible than ever, has become a daily part of people’s lives, particularly young people, and refining this further, particularly young men. It’s changing the way everyone sees sex, how people expect their partners to perform, and how people, particularly males, expect others, particularly females, to look.

A 2020 Guardian survey found porn can often get out of control and affect men’s relationships with their wives. A large number of respondents said they would far rather be having a good sex life with their wife, but they feared this would never happen, now they’d been in a relationship for so long and the excitement wasn’t there anymore. Having children had drained both husband and wife of their sexual energies, or at least one of them. The lure of pornography was simply too easy. It satisfied quickly. But of course, this is only temporary, whereas what follows is often longer lasting.

Anxiety and depression can slowly seep in, and sometimes people don’t even link this with viewing pornography. Partners may not have the same body as the porn-stars, and viewers may not either (unless it’s the type of porn where some older fat bloke has his way with beautiful younger women -and then it’s just not fair; how he can have this and you can’t?). Viewers may not be able to pleasure their partners like in porn, or last as long. Their penis may not be as big, their breasts not so plump or pert. Their partner might not want to do those things. Their sex life may not be as adventurous. And how could it be? Everything goes in porn, if you search for it. You may get the feeling that everyone else is doing it more than you, better than you, and with sexier and more adventurous partners than you.

So why do people keep going back to porn if these side effects are true? The way out of boredom, of feelings of inadequacy, of frustration with current life, is to search for those highs again, those dopamine rushes. It’s the same with drugs and alcohol. It’s the reason why so many people are addicted to shopping online, when they clearly don’t need the purchases, why comfort eating is such a thing for people who desperately want to lose weight. Add the above to natural sexual urges, among the strongest urges many of us have, the need to follow them or find relief from them, throw in the power of fantasy, and there’s a very strong pull, on both body and mind.

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Is porn addictive? While many health and psychiatric professionals do not consider porn addiction to be an ‘addiction’ in the clinical sense of the word, the signs and symptoms are often strikingly similar to those of alcohol or drug addiction. In 2014, a Cambridge University study found that pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts in the same way drugs trigger drug addicts.

My favourite quote about addiction is this, from the writer and teacher of spirituality and sexuality, David Deida:

“Addiction is compulsive, ritualised comfort seeking …”

I get this; it makes sense to me. Deida is writing about addiction in general here, not pornography, but if you think you do something too much, anything, I’d settle here a moment and consider that quote. The first step to dealing with addiction, or compulsive behaviour, is to understand the root of it.

And addictions don’t always come in isolation; they often come grouped together, making them harder to break apart and work on. For many, pornography is sought after the viewer has drank alcohol, or perhaps smoked a cannabis joint, or even taken both. Combine these and you’re taking your dopamine highs to a whole new level. That addiction, that high, will be more intense and have more control over you. And if you’re using porn to overcome or divert from emotional and personal issues you’re not addressing otherwise, then that could exacerbate drug and alcohol dependencies as well as these personal issues.

“Pornography addiction often arises from maladaptive efforts to use porn to alleviate loneliness and other negative feelings. In this view, pornography use is a two-phase process of arousal and euphoria during sexual stimulation, followed by relief and comfort after completion. Pornography provides temporary relief, but ultimately induces greater feelings of loneliness and isolation, disrupting normal attachment behaviour, leading to greater difficulty forming stable, satisfying relationships, and further increasing the likelihood of using pornography as a substitute for intimacy with close others” – Psychology Today.

Don’t forget; porn isn’t real, or at least the commercialised professional side of it isn’t. Yes, they’re having sex, but they’re told what to do, what to say, what noises to make. If a woman wants to be successful in commercial porn, she has to play the game like she’s told to.

“We’re just like mainstream actors, except for the sex,” says Dani Daniels, adult actress and director, speaking to Fortune Magazine. “If Brad Pitt played a serial rapist, would you believe he was one in real life? Well, I’m not a blackmailing doctor, or a horny eighteen-year-old schoolgirl, or a sex addict. I just play one.”

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Daniels recognizes the importance of drawing lines between reality and fantasy, especially when on set with other performers. “The director will call cut and I’ll baby wipe my cheek off and we’ll go back to talking about his wife and what paint colors they picked out for the new house. Shower, hugs, I go home to my family, he goes home to his. That’s normal.”

Similar to professional athletes, male performers must develop a routine. While performing, men must focus on timing, where the camera is, and what angle might be best for the camera, not necessarily what feels good.

“When we’re shooting live, I’m looking up at the monitor every couple of minutes to see what we need next,” says Dan Leal, a male porn actor. “Imagine you’re in bed and looking at flashcards.”

Can porn be healthy?  Can there be positives from watching porn?  Some people just have a higher sex drive than others, and if one partner watches porn to satisfy their higher sex-drive whilst simultaneously maintaining a healthy sex-life with a partner, then there’s something to be said for that. Or if someone watches porn whilst single, or partners like to watch porn together, where’s the harm? Another argument might state it’s the amount of porn you view that depends on whether or not it’s healthy for you. And yet it’s not just about ourselves, is it? We often focus on ourselves, whilst ignoring the welfare of others.

What about porn and young people? What’s the effect of an increasingly sexualised society on our young women, our daughters and granddaughters? What’s the effect on our young men?  Jon Ronson, creator of the Butterfly Effect and The Last Days of August podcasts, claims “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that every twelve year old in the world, where porn isn’t restricted, is getting their sex education from Pornhub.” Age restrictions on porn sites often consist of no more than a button to click claiming to be eighteen or older. The average age of first exposure to pornography is now only eleven years old. According to The Recovery Village, as many as 93.2% of boys and 62.1% of girls first see porn before they turn eighteen. And according to the Guardian, “British teenagers are increasingly turning to pornography as an educational tool because schools do not tell them ‘what to do’ in early sexual encounters, with teachers instead focusing on issues such as contraception.”

That doesn’t come without issues, of course. Erectile dysfunction in 2014 was reported as going up one thousand percent in sixteen to twenty-four year olds, linked to the rise in pornography.  And in 2019, NHS experts noted a further increase in erectile dysfunction in otherwise healthy young men, and again, considered excessive porn use the most likely factor. Suffice to say, failure to perform in real life, after watching excessive porn, is hardly going to help a young man at a crucial stage of his life deal with confidence and esteem issues.

Porn has also changed how many young women present themselves, and not just the increasing proliferation of lip enhancements and breast enlargements. Of course, there’s always been fashions for young women to follow, and of course young women have often wanted to appear attractive, or sexy. But now we have girls as young as twelve and thirteen being shamed by boys, and sometimes other girls too, because they’re not wearing thongs, because they have hair under their arms and between their legs. They are being told this is disgusting; they should be smooth and hairless at all times. But our bodies naturally grow hair, so where does this come from? It comes from pornography, from the shaving of vaginas because pubic hair got in the way of close-up shots. So you might be watching adult porn, you might be watching two consensual adults having sex, but the boys in your daughter’s class are watching it too, and they’ve grown up with easy access to all forms of pornography, and their views on females and sex is changing because of it. And your daughter, or your granddaughter, your niece or friend’s daughter, could be shamed at such a vulnerable emotional age, because she’s doesn’t conform to what the pornography industry has helped standardise. She may be called a ‘freak’ or ‘frigid’ and may even struggle to get a boyfriend at the age of fifteen, because she won’t send sexy pictures of herself when asked by boys.

And yeah, I know I’m taking pot-shots at males here, and I know females watch porn too. In fact, some statistics claim a third of all porn is watched by women. But it’s almost always filmed from a male point of view, showing power over women that never refuse sex and that verges on, or explicitly shows, the using and abusing of their bodies. Women are almost exclusively submissive in porn. Things are done to them that satisfy the male ego and sex-drive. Is this a healthy way to view sex and sexuality? We live in a society where men are conditioned to feel in charge, to be powerful, in so many ways other than sexuality. Why can’t a man be submissive in sexuality? Why can’t a woman take charge? No wonder all these poor young men suffer from erectile dysfunction. Porn star and producer Casey Calvert states men’s sexuality is as nuanced and varied as women’s, and that most of her requests “are from men for cuckolding and hot wife stuff, or stuff where the woman is more dominant than the man,” and the men are often apologetic about it, because they think it’s something to be ashamed of, but it turns them on.

And while being turned on is fine, as long as it’s consensual and doesn’t hurt anybody, we drift back to fantasy now, because the longer you fantasise about something, for those who have pornography addictions, the more you become anaesthetised to its allure. Over time, it fails to do its job, and so you need something else to arouse you. Again, we could compare this with drugs and alcohol. You have to delve deeper to get the same level of kicks, like the body’s tolerance rising after repeated drug taking or alcohol drinking.

And here, we’re talking about a slippery slope, often abusive, where consensual sex turns into voyeurism, where the women doesn’t realise she’s being watched. ‘Upskirting,’ the practice of taking a picture up female skirts without permission, was outlawed under the new Voyeurism Act 2019, with offenders facing up to two years in jail and being placed on the sex offenders register. And that’s not all. What about those so-called porn-stars? They’re clearly not all paid for the ‘jobs’ they do. Yes, some are also uploaded by amateur men and women, who get a kick out of showing themselves being sexually explicit, but the largest and most successful porn sites are so successful because they allow users to upload content that is varied to differing tastes. We therefore find drunken sex parties and the like. As an anonymous respondent wrote for the Guardian survey, “you find videos where the girl is clearly too drunk to give consent. I hated myself every time, but I always went back.”

And what about revenge porn? Something might have been filmed with permission, but then uploaded to a public site without consent. This Covid-19 lockdown has caused a surge in the number of people contacting the Revenge Porn Helpline, the government-funded service for adults who have sexual images and videos uploaded to porn sites against their will, often by ex-partners who were controlling and abusive.  This was made illegal in 2015, and according to the BBC website, ‘figures from 19 of 43 police forces in England and Wales show the number of alleged cases being investigated by officers has more than doubled in the last four years – from 852 in 2015-16 to 1,853 in 2018-19. However, the figures also reveal that the number of charges dropped by 23% – from 207 to 158 – during the same period.’ And that was before the pre-mentioned surge of cases that have arisen since this lockdown started.

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Mainstream porn sites allow and financially benefit from abuse. We know these mainstream sites allow users to upload content free of charge, so how do they actually check this content is appropriate? How do they check it’s consensual, and not abusive? Pornhub insists it has an extensive team of human moderators, watching every single uploaded video to ensure all are legal. But the Internet Watch Foundation has this year confirmed 118 cases of children being raped and abused on Pornhub, stating over half are Category A abuse, meaning penetration and/or sadism.

A Sunday Times investigation found “Pornhub is awash with secretly filmed ‘creepshots’ of schoolgirls and clips of men performing sex acts in front of teenagers on buses. It has also hosted indecent images of children as young as three. The website says it bans content showing under-18s and removes it swiftly. But some of the videos identified by this newspaper’s investigation had 350,000 views and had been on the platform for more than three years. Three of the worst clips flagged to Pornhub still remained on the site twenty-four hours later.”

Stop-it.be, a pornblocker app, claim they found videos of child abuse on Pornhub that had been there for eight years. A petition to shut down Pornhub  can be found at traffickinghub.com, which aims to hold Pornhub responsible for enabling and profiting from the sex trafficking, rape and abuse of women and children.  At the time of writing, more than 800,000 people have signed it, from 183 different countries.

So if you must watch porn, but feel queasy about it, what’s a safer alternative? Pornography is not going to disappear all of a sudden. If you closed all the porn sites they would simply start up again under a new name, or with new owners. Stop watching free porn on the large tube porn sites, says Casey Calvert, the porn star and producer. Go to smaller more ethical sites, where you have to pay for the porn, or go directly to the performers own sites, where you know all the money you pay is going to them directly.

All this talk about others, about how many people watch porn but don’t admit it. I know what you’re thinking; what about me? Well, I’m no expert, but I wrote this from experience and research. I’ve watched pornography, of course I have. And whilst I researched and wrote my latest novel Paedophile Hunters, I watched more pornography than ever before, because it is addictive, and I gave myself the excuse it was for my book. It needs asserting here, that I watched legal adult porn, nothing that included underage children or abusive behaviour towards adults. I would never view anything of that nature, not just because of fear of being caught, but because I believe, like the hunters in my book and the majority of society, that it’s disgusting and immoral. That’s another story, that my novel touches upon. As for adult porn, I’ve actually not watched it since I finished my novel, and I believe that’s healthier for me. Maybe it is for you too?

Richard W Hardwick is the author of Paedophile Hunters, The Truth About Prison, Andalucia and Kicked Out.

Feel free to connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  If anyone buys his latest novel Paedophile Hunters, takes a photo and tags him on their social media timeline, he will donate 50% of his profit to a charity that supports abused children.

If you want to comment on this article, but daren’t publicly, feel free to message him and he’ll post your comment anonymously. I bet many of you won’t though, because that’s partly the point. Most of you are watching it, but not admitting it or talking about it …

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