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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    ABSTRACT: Despite of a growing number of studies, hypersexuality remains controversial and empirically elusive. Using a group comparison approach, this study revisited the claim that hypersexuality cannot be reliably distinguished from high sexual desire. An online survey, advertised as focusing on pornography use and sexual health was carried out in 2014 among 1,998 Croatian men aged 18-60 years (Mage = 34.7, SD = 9.83). Membership in the hypersexuality group (HYP; n = 57) was determined using the Hypersexual Disorder Screening Inventory and the Hypersexual Behavior Consequences Scale. The highest values on two indicators of sexual desire/interest set membership in the HSD group (HSD; n = 70). The overlap between the groups was negligible (n = 4). Compared to the rest of the sample, men in the HYP group had significantly higher odds of being single, not exclusively heterosexual, religious, depressed, prone to sexual boredom, experiencing substance abuse consequences, holding negative attitudes toward pornography use, and evaluating one's sexual morality more negatively. In contrast, the HSD group differed from controls only in reporting more positive attitudes toward pornography use. The study findings point to a distinct phenomenology of HSD and HYP in men. Clinical implications of the findings are briefly discussed.
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    • "Yet currently no diagnosis in any major codified system subsumes such a disorder (Sungur & Gündüz, 2014). Some researchers, medical professionals, and clinicians provide evidence for the notion of Internet pornography addiction (e.g., M. D. Griffiths, 2012; Hilton, 2013; Young, 2008), whereas others offer systematic refutations of the notion altogether (Ley et al., 2014; Steele, Staley, Fong, & Prause, 2013). Despite these controversies, the notion of Internet pornography addiction persists, and many individuals report experiencing such an addiction. "
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    ABSTRACT: In the United States, Internet pornography use is a common behavior that has risen in popularity in recent years. The present study sought to examine potential relationships between pornography use and well-being, with a particular focus on individual perceptions of pornography use and feelings of addiction. Using a large cross-sectional sample of adults (N = 713), perceived addiction to Internet pornography predicted psychological distress above and beyond pornography use itself and other relevant variables (e.g., socially desirable responding, neuroticism). This model was replicated using a large cross-sectional sample of undergraduates (N = 1,215). Furthermore, a 1-year, longitudinal follow-up with a subset of this sample (N = 106) revealed a relationship between perceived addiction to Internet pornography and psychological distress over time, even when controlling for baseline psychological distress and pornography use. Collectively, these findings suggest that perceived addiction to Internet pornography, but not pornography use itself, is uniquely related to the experience of psychological distress. (PsycINFO Database Record
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    • "Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides researchers a framework for analyzing addictive media behaviors , the DSM-5 does not contain an official diagnosis for online pornography addiction. In a quote featured in a recent online pornography addiction review by Ley et al. (2014, p. 94), Charles O'Brien of the American Psychological Association stated, ''To include this as an addiction would require published scientific research that does not exist at this time.'' Currently, several researchers have opted to use the term problematic media use instead of media addiction (Caplan, 2005; Davis, Flett, & Besser, 2002; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002; Larose & Eastin, 2004; Lee & LaRose, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Since the rise of the popularity of the Internet, the accessibility of pornography has been a growing concern. One particular concern is the potential risk for addictive behaviors to occur as a result of the ease of viewing online pornographic material. The research presented herein explored online pornography addiction using a media attendance perspective, which allows media critics to examine the needs that people seek to fulfill from engaging with various media. Past studies that have used a media attendance perspective to explore media addiction, rephrased here as problematic media use, have done so using social cognitive theory and the concept of deficient self-regulation. Deficient self-regulation may be experienced by all media consumers and can range from normally impulsive media choices to pathological media choices which may result in detrimental life consequences. Borrowing from this, the current study reevaluated online pornography addiction using deficient self-regulation within a sociocognitive framework of media attendance. Results of our model show deficient self-regulation influences habitual online pornography consumption. Moreover, online pornography use motivated by social needs is perpetuated by deficient self-regulation and may lead to negative life consequences in some individuals. These findings contribute a new perspective and framework for understanding problematic online pornography use.
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