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by Craig Gross on September 23rd, 2007 in The Haps

This article was in the Trinidad News written by Rhea-Simone Auguste.

You’re online surfing the web at night when a small pop-up window with a naked, conventionally attractive couple appears on your screen. “Cum see us live” flashes in front of your eyes in bright colours. You click and within seconds you’re sent to a website where you can view a variety of pornographic images free of charge. For some people, it’s easy to stop right then and there. Close the window. Go to another website. Be outraged and adjust your lewdness control options. Scream “sinners” and immediately head to a church to repent for witnessing such vulgar behaviour. But for others the temptation is much too great. These people find themselves looking for the right visual images to stimulate themselves sexually. Night after night they come back looking for more, each time narrowing down their preferences and going directly to the scenes they want to see. After a while, it becomes a compulsive obsession. They must watch. They feel compelled to see more. But can they become addicted? First, let’s define addiction in this context. According to a statement “The Science Behind Pornography Addiction” made by Daniel Linz, a Professor of Communication and Law and Society based at the University of California, Santa Barbara: “An addiction is commonly described as an experience of powerlessness, an unmanageable drive, and a basic out-of-control sexual behavior. “Sexual addiction” may be nothing more than a learned sexual behavior expressed in violation of prevailing societal norms and expectations. In our society today it appears to be in vogue to attribute numerous popular behaviors to biological and psychological origins. It is an explanation of convenience for something threatening and unpopular.” In the official bulletin for the American Psychological Association, Monitor on Psychology, Volume 31, No. 4, April 2000, Tori DeAngelis reports that many other psychologists doubt that “addiction” is the right term to describe what happens to people when they spend too much time with sex materials on the Internet.

“It seems misleading to characterise behaviors as ‘addictions’ on the basis that people say they do too much of them,” says Sara Kiesler, PhD, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of one of the only controlled studies on Internet usage, published in the September 1998 American Psychologist. No research has yet established that there is a disorder of Internet sex addiction that is separable from problems such as loneliness or problem gambling, or that a passion for using the Internet is long-lasting.”

Linz added, “In fact, the notions of “sexual addiction” generally, including “pornography addiction” as well as the recent concern with “on-line sex addiction” are highly questionable to most scientists.”

“Four findings seem to emerge from an unbiased examination of the psychological literature on sex addiction: 1) So-called sexual addiction may be nothing more than learned behavior that can be unlearned; 2) labels such as “sex addict” may tell us more about society’s prejudices and the therapist doing the labelling than the client; 3) most research on pornography use, for example, through venues such as the Internet, is methodologically flawed; and, 4) scientists who have undertaken scientifically rigorous studies of exposure to sex materials report that despite high levels of exposure to pornography in venues such as the Internet, few negative effects are observed.”

So what does this mean for the growing number of local women going online and/or checking their DVD stores for both soft-core and hard-core pornography?

It means that labels such as “sex addict” or “pornography addict” may actually tell us more about our society and gender roles than shed light on any new addiction syndrome.

According to the American Psychological Association: Those diagnosed as “sex or pornography addicts” are disproportionately men, leading some researchers to hypothesize that the process of socialization along traditional “masculinity ideology” with respect to sex results in men expressing their masculinity through excessive sexual behavior.”

One can hardly deny that traditional female views on sex and sexuality are rapidly changing in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caribbean. From school girls engaged in filming and starring in cell phone pornography to the large numbers of women posting pornographic content on their web logs (blogs), perhaps now more than ever women are openly speaking out about an entertainment phenomenon that has been dominated by men for many years.

While some may question the moral qualities of pornography deeming it to be a “bunch of vice” or openly express disgust because of the obvious objectification of women in some cases, one can hardly deny the fact that more women are moving from starring roles in pornography to viewers as well.

“I like to watch porn,” Saundra M* unabashedly stated, “And I’ve been watching porn since I was around 15.” The now 24-year-old said her fascination with the subject began with late night unsupervised viewings of soft-core material on cable. “I had a TV in my room and one night I was up late and flipping through the channels and I saw a couple having sex. Something about that image stayed in my head. It turned me on.”

Although Saundra doesn’t believe she’s addicted, she says her preference over time changed. “After a while, the soft-core stuff just wasn’t interesting. There wasn’t the same excitement because you couldn’t see everything that was happening Actually a female friend lent me a video she had when I was around 18 and it was explicit. I never watched soft-core again after.”

Women aren’t just borrowing and looking at free images either. Several have taken to purchasing and building their own private stash.

“Women come in here all the time looking for blue movies. Some of them does be kind of shy about it and wait until nobody around to ask for it. Some of them does come straight and say what they looking for. They want black porn. They want Chinese porn. They want Latin porn. They want Indian porn. Different women want different things,” Michael S* a DVD stall attendant based in El Socorro shared.

So what’s the final analysis? Linz noted: “Before rushing to the judgment that pornography is addicting, we must take note of the following: So-called sexual addiction may be nothing more than learned behaviour that can be unlearned; labels such as “sex addict” may tell us more about society’s prejudices and the therapist doing the labeling than the client; scientists who have undertaken scientifically rigorous studies of exposure to sex materials report that despite high levels of exposure to pornography in venues such as the Internet, few negative effects are observed.”



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