“Pornography has become the sexuality educator for many adolescents.” This statement is supported by numerous studies and data: minors access pornography between 9 and 11 years of age on average, between 80% and 90% of young people have seen porn at some time and this has generated a hypersexualized society. Between 3% and 8% of people develop problems derived from this addiction. This was pointed out by psychologist Alejandro Villena at the conference “How to deal with pornography addiction”, organized by Villanueva University as part of the series of conferences on Education and Psychology 2021. Despite this, as Teresa Artola, director of the Degree in Psychology at Villanova University, explained in the introduction to the conference, “this is a subject with a great impact on society, but a bit taboo, which is hardly talked about”.
Compulsive Sexual Behavior
Villena is a general health psychologist and collaborates as a consultant with the Dale Una Vuelta Association, which offers assistance to all kinds of people with Compulsive Sexual Behavior (CSC) or Problematic Use of Pornography, two of the clinical terms used for pornography addiction, despite the fact that it shares many characteristics with other addictions such as alcohol, drugs or gambling. Some data help to place it in the same field, such as the fact that 87% of compulsive masturbation is associated with the use of pornography. The criteria for detecting a person with addiction make it clear: lack of control, repetitive and unsuccessful efforts to stop, loss of pleasure and neglect of day-to-day obligations.
Industry and sexual violence
One of the most serious problems is the distorted and violent image of sex that pornography generates in young people. “The greater the use of pornography, the higher the level of sexual aggression in real life,” Villena said. The porn industry is a billion-dollar giant that already generates more revenue than the major international television networks: for every Hollywood movie released, there are 27 pornographic ones. And most include scenes of sexual violence. This environment extends to video games: 88% now include some kind of verbal or physical violence. “It’s not that pornography is going to turn you into a sexual aggressor, but it trivializes and normalizes violence,” explained Villena, who assured that women’s own perception of sexual violence is altered: “A woman who watches pornography is less likely to report a real rape.”
The psychologist reviewed the consequences, such as affective ones: “Pornography, in the end, is not living sexuality, it is observing sexuality. It is a form of voyeurism,” he stressed. He also recalled that 77% of families have never discussed sexuality with their children. “Sex education is still a taboo,” she stated. “Sex education is a long-distance race. Talking about sexuality does not promote sexual behaviors.”
Villena reviewed the warning signs, especially in the case of young people: lack of communication, excessive use of new technologies, search for places of solitude… In addition, she recalled, there are studied factors that predispose to the addictive consumption of pornography, starting with the sexual education received, without forgetting crises, trauma or abuse, different attachment styles and low self-esteem.
Villena offered advice to prevent this problem at an early stage: have books at home that young people can pick up and read, watch movies together and comment on situations and relationships of their characters, use music and songs to address sexuality, take advantage of brother or sister baths, or stay at beaches, swimming pools or locker rooms to talk about sexuality and the body. And of course, be a role model for them.
New technologies and sexting
It is also advisable to go on social networks with your children: three out of ten teenagers practice sexting. Experts suggest establishing “technology contracts” with children (delimiting when and how they can use their devices or the Internet). It is advisable to use filters for younger children. In fact, Villena drew attention to the lack of legislation similar to that on gambling to prevent minors from accessing pornographic websites by requesting an ID card.