The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the ‘Pornography Addiction’ Model

Current Sexual Health Reports 01/2013; manuscript in press(2). DOI: 10.1007/s11930-014-0016-8


The addiction model is rarely used to describe high frequency use of Visual Sexual Stimulus (VSS) in research, yet it is commonly used in media and clinical practice. The theory and research behind “pornography addiction” is hindered by poor experimental designs, limited methodological rigor, and lack of model specification. The history and limitations of addiction models are reviewed, including how VSS fail to meet standards of addiction. These include how VSS use can reduce health risk behaviors. Proposed negative effects, including erectile problems, difficulty regulating sexual feelings, and neuroadaptations are discussed as non-pathological evidence of learning. Individuals reporting “addictive” use of VSS could be better conceptualized by considering issues such as gender, sexual orientation, libido, desire for sensation, with internal and external conflicts influenced by religiosity and desire discrepancy. Since a large, lucrative industry has promised treatments of pornography addiction despite this poor evidence, scientific psychologists are called to declare the emperor (treatment industry) has no clothes (supporting evidence). When faced with such complaints, clinicians are encouraged to address behaviors without conjuring addiction labels.

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Available from: Nicole Prause, Feb 12, 2014
    • "It has been suggested that concepts such as HYP, sexual addiction, or compulsive sexuality might simply reflect difficulties with managing high levels of sexual desire in a social environment that stigmatizes above-average interest in sex (Ley et al., 2014; Winters et al., 2010). In other words, it may not be a clinically relevant psychopathology but, rather, social norms that label high sexual desire (HSD) as socially inappropriate and undesirable that produce an ego-dystonic (hyper)sexuality through stigma, self-blame, and shame (Reid, Carpenter, & Lloyd, 2009; Reid, Temko, Moghaddam, & Fong, 2014; Reid, 2010). "
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