Sunday, September 22, 2013
What’s Wrong with Porn?
My interview with Wendy Maltz LCSW
I recently had the opportunity to interview Wendy Maltz LCSW, co-author (with her husband Larry Maltz LCSW) of The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, one of the most informative and thought-provoking books I have read on the topic of pornography. Over the past year, I have given considerable thought to creating a curriculum for teens that would provide an open and honest appraisal of the risks and rewards or cost and benefits of exposure to online or cyber pornography.
Since 2005 I have worked with adult sex addicts and through this work it is clear to me cyber pornography creates more problems than any other behavior, including sex with prostitutes, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and sex with multiple/anonymous partners. Cyber pornography is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week (home, work, or any place with Wi-Fi connection) and can be accessed without any financial cost. When combined with compulsive masturbation, cyber pornography can produce serious and long term problems in psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. As would follow, the relapse rate with cyber porn addicts far exceeds the relapse rate related to any other sexually compulsive behavior.
In my clinical work with adult cyber porn addicts a consistent story emerged: exposure to pornography began as early as childhood and certainly by adolescence. The vast majority of my clients said they believe their addiction began with their first exposure to pornography, particularly if that first exposure was online. The intensity and variety of online pornography provides a degree of sexual stimulation that is simply impossible to match in any other sexual context.
As a result of my work with adult sex addicts, it became clear to me that there should be cyber porn education, prevention, and treatment for teens. With this topic in mind, I asked Wendy Maltz how she would construct a sex education curriculum for teens that specifically addressed cyber pornography. I began the interview by asking Wendy what parents should do to help protect children from the potential lifelong damage produced by cyber pornography.
Wendy first explained it is vitally important for parents to engage in an open and honest conversation with children about the way sex is presented in the media. She believes parents need to think about what type of sexual messages are being endorsed within the media, which includes television, music, film, and online pornography. Parents then need to talk to their children about what they are seeing in order to create critical thinking skills. For Wendy the central challenge for parents is to empower their children to take a critical stance towards sexual content in media rather than become passive consumers.
Wendy encourages parents to examine what type of sexual content (and stimulation) is being introduced into their child's psychological and biological “systems,” in the same way they discuss eating habits, the use of drugs and alcohol, and smoking. By beginning a process of sexual media education within the family at an early age, children can develop a comfort level and sense of trust in talking about sexual behavior with their parents, which is crucial for providing parental guidance. If both child and parent feel unsure, anxious, and fearful about the discussion of healthy sexual behavior, more than likely they will have great difficulty addressing the complicated issues presented by cyber pornography.
When I asked Wendy what she would recommend parents regarding cyber porn specifically, she said the message that needs to be related is that porn, although exciting and entertaining, poses significant health risks. This conversation needs to happen in a way where the parent is not shaming their teen for looking at porn or attempting to provoke a guilt response. Parents need to explain, in a way that avoids lecturing and moralizing, that the sex presented isn’t healthy sex. The sex portrayed in pornography is distorted as it presents “good” sex as impersonal, cut off from values and feelings, and removes relationship dynamics and consequences.
Again, the purpose of this conversation is inform and empower so that teens will be make positive choices with respect to their “consumption” of sexual content in the media and cyber pornography in particular.
I then asked whether she would recommend parents take the position of banning pornography within the household. Wendy began by saying that although she appreciates there are many different views of cyber pornography (e.g., it’s harmless fun, teens are only curious, porn shows a variety of forms of sexuality, censorship is wrong) and recognizes some teens can manage to engage with cyber porn without significant negative consequences, she would nonetheless recommend parents take the position that porn will not be part of the family’s media diet-- in the same way that a parent would set a limit with respect to drug use, alcohol, smoking, or overeating.
I then turned our discussion to sex education for teens focusing on cyber pornography (middle and high school settings). I posed the question “If given the opportunity to speak to teens, what would you say about cyber pornography? Would you recommend moderation? Abstinence?” In response to this question, Wendy talked about her personal journey through pornography, which began with the perception of pornography as a risk-free source of pleasure and stimulation, to a positive influence on individuals and couples in the context of sex therapy, to a concern about how pornography was affecting individuals and couples, to the belief that pornography represents a true public health risk. Wendy’s journey is described in detail in an article on her website (Out of the Shadows on www.healthysex.com).
Wendy explained teens need to be made aware that cyber pornography can have a destructive effect on the way their brains function that is very similar to the negative impact of drugs such as crack cocaine. Consistent exposure to cyber pornography, particularly when this exposure is combined with masturbation, dramatically increases the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces intense and sustained states of pleasure. The pursuit of this pleasurable/euphoric state can shape a teens’ sexual preferences and choices in a way that can permanently reduce (even eliminate) their capacity to experience healthy intimate and passionate sex.
Wendy made the important point that sex is a form of behavioral and emotional conditioning. Every time we have sex certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are reinforced by virtue of the pleasure or discomfort we experience during sex. Wendy explained that an orgasm is perhaps the most powerful re-award/reinforcer that exists in all of human experience. Wendy said teens need to understand that the thoughts and feelings they have at the point of orgasm are reinforced and ultimately become hardwired into their perception of sex -- which in turn shapes their sexual needs and preferences. Hence, if a teen is looking at porn at the point of climax, it is the images and messages of pornography that become part of the teen’s understanding of what sex means.
Wendy believes that as a society we are going through a period of experimentation with cyber pornography and this experiment has the potential to change our sexual values and needs and thereby alter our capacity for healthy sex. As we were concluding our, Wendy made the interesting and important observation that what is available to children and teens on the Internet has the potential to produce the type of trauma that we see in victims of sexual abuse. Wendy then wondered whether our society will ever take active and decisive steps to protect youth from online pornography, as we have with smoking and alcohol.
After our interview I began to think about how to frame a sex education for teens that that would include the topic of cyber pornography when Wendy forwarded me an outline of the type of content she would include in a cyber porn sex education curriculum.
Wendy's outline included the following topics:
1) Sex basics and realities (bodies, brains, desires, functioning)
2) How sexual interest begins and is developed and shaped
3) Defining healthy sex
4) The role of sexual pleasure in mating, bonding, love, self-esteem, and healthy communities
5) Sexual rights (in contrast to sexual exploitation)
6) Gender similarities and differences (what does it mean to “be a man” or “be a woman”?)
7) Sexual harm (what are harmful influences and behaviors and why?)
8) Pornography (defining pornography; traits of today's product; the effect of regular/heavy use on the brain; how porn differs from other sexually explicit materials; how content is often sexist/racist and becomes more violent/extreme; what pornography does not show/teach; the benefits/rewards of looking at porn; risks related to looking at porn; the lack of warning on pornography; the absence of informed consent and regulation; similarities to sexual perpetration/abuse; trickery; peer attitudes and pressure).
9) Making wise sexual choices
10) Understanding empathy and integrity (impact of your sexuality on others)
11) How to create and maintain a healthy sexual relationships
12) How to build a healthy sex life (with yourself)
13) How to develop skills of being a good lover
14) How to get help when needed
It is difficult to understand, 12 years in the 21st century, why the topic of teen use of cyber pornography has not been incorporated into mainstream of sex education at the middle and high school levels. The reasons for the absence of this discussion in school settings is obviously complex and would invite debate from many different groups, ranging from those who believe pornography is morally reprehensible, to those who see pornography as a First Amendment issue, to those who see pornography as a harmless form of sexual stimulation, to those who have worked with sex addicts and see the potential damage of a relationship with pornography. Notwithstanding the need to address the various concerns of these groups, it seems more than reasonable for adults, particularly those who are in a position to educate teens, to begin to at least take on the process of developing a sex education curriculum that candidly addresses the types of choices and experiences that teens have via the Internet.
Christopher Mulligan LCSW
CYBER ADDICTION RECOVERY CENTER
CHRISTOPHER MULLIGAN LCSW
Internet and Video Game Solutions
Three hour parent training session
Signs of Internet and Electronic Entertainment Addiction
1. Does your child/teen dedicate the vast majority of his recreational time to the internet and electronic entertainment?
2. Does your child/teen organize his schedule around specific internet events, gaming, or TV shows?
3. Are your child/teen’s grades slipping? Is she failing to complete homework or hand in assignments?
4. Does your child/teen refuse to leave the house because of his preoccupation with a particular video game or internet activity?
5. Does your child/teen talk compulsively about electronic entertainment, including monologues about the minute details of a game or show?
6. Does your child/teen avoid any type of physical activity in favor of sitting in front of a video/computer monitor ?
7. Does your child/teen argue and complain whenever he is asked to turn off the computer, TV, or gaming console?
8. Does your child/teen spend every weekend alone, playing video games, surfing the internet and watching television?
9. Does your child/teen complain that all activities are boring and useless, except for the internet and electronic entertainment?
10. Does your child/teen confuse internet acquaintances with true friends?
11. Does your child/teen lack awareness of the amount of time he spends on electronic entertainment?
Attend a 3 hour parent training session
This session will teach you to:
Contact Christopher Mulligan LCSW for more information.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Monday, September 9, 2013
Signs of Teen Cybersex Addiction
Bookmarks sexual online sites.
Spends more than 5 hours per week using the computer and/or cell phone for sexual purposes.
Searches for sexual material through an Internet search tool.
Internet sex has interfered with important parts of life (peer relationships, family relationships, homework, etc).
Participates in sexually related chats.
Has a sexualized username or screen name.
Masturbates while on the Internet.
Accesses sexual sites from computers at school or friend’s house.
Conceals the sexual use of the computer from family and friends.
Lies about the use of technology for cybersex when confronted by a friend, parent or other adult.
Intentionally seeks out and views pornography on the Internet.
Stays up after midnight to access sexual material online.
Uses the Internet to experiment with different aspects of sexuality (e.g., bondage, fetishes, anal sex, etc.).
Promises to stop using the Internet for sexual purposes.
Uses cybersex as a reward for accomplishing a task (e.g., finishing a project, homework, stressful day, etc.).
Feels anxious, angry, or disappointed when unable to access sexual
Engages in increasingly risky behaviors when online (has given out name and phone number to strangers, has met strangers offline, views child pornography, etc.).
Meets face to face with strangers met online for romantic/sexual purposes.
Uses sexual humor and innuendo with others while online.
Has seen sexual images/videos of other teens online.
Posts and views sexual photos and/or messages on Facebook or other social media sites.
Stores sexualized photos obtained online.
Posts and views sexualized videos online (YouTube, Google Video, etc.).
Treatment for cybersex addiction includes a combination of:
For more information contact Christopher Mulligan: 310-287-1640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Address:11140 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
CHRISTOPHER MULLIGAN LCSW
The combination of a LGTBQ teen’s emerging curiosity and confusion about sex, their increasing sex drive, together with the accessibility and aggressive marketing of sex on the internet, has resulted in online sex or “cybersex” becoming a regular part of their sexual development. Unfortunately, research suggests between 10 and 15 percent of teens (straight and LGTBQ) cannot manage moderate behavior when they engage in sexual activity online and quickly develop compulsive behaviors that can result in addiction.
The term cybersex is a catchall phrase used to describe a wide variety of computer and cell phone based sexual behaviors. These behaviors include accessing online pornography (audio, video, text), engaging in sexual chats, creating an avatar to engage in sexual acts or chats, using WebCams to engage in “live” interactive sexual behavior, using social media sites or email to arrange offline sexual encounters, using sex toys designed for the online world, or a combination of all of the above.
For the majority of teens - straight and LGTBQ - the preferred form of cybersex is “sexting.” The term “sexting” refers to communication with content that includes sexually explicit pictures and/or text messages sent using cell phones or other electronic devices.
Although sexting may be the preferred form of cybersex, increasing numbers of LGBTQ and straight teens are engaging in sexual interaction in chat rooms (with friends, acquaintances, and strangers), using WebCams to engage in interactive sexual behavior with a “live” partner (friends, acquaintances, and strangers), and using the Internet to locate and “hook up” with anonymous sexual partners .
LGBTQ and straight teens are also growing increasingly focused on online pornography and are developing significant problems controlling their behavior. Material with explicit sexual content exists in cyberspace at a total of 400 million pages and counting! Some pornography is found on professional sites, but much of it is found on amateur sites. Parents are generally unaware chat rooms and popular websites that allow instant messaging can easily lead to images from WebCams that are sexual in nature.
Research shows that when sexual arousal occurs after viewing a sexual image, the neurotransmitter epinephrine is released. Epinephrine makes its way to the brain which serves to “lock” the image in to the brain’s capacity for recall. The teen can then recall the image at any time, triggering the same feelings of excitement and arousal. Other neurotransmitters are also released such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and adrenaline which create euphoric states, causing the teen to search for images that will create the same experience. For many teens, the accessibility and anonymity of cyberspace make it very difficult to resist pornographic sites, which can lead to addiction.
Getting Help for Compulsive Cybersex
If you believe your LGBTQ teen has developed compulsive online sexual behaviors, it is crucial to confront this problem directly in order provide appropriate help.
The focus of our treatment program is to assist the sexually compulsive LGBTQ teen in decreasing destructive online sexual behaviors while simultaneously increasing healthy offline sexual behaviors.
As would follow, our treatment program has two primary goals:
1) Reduce the teen's immediate short-term destructive behaviors. Achieving this goal includes 1) helping the teen understand sexual compulsivity by learning to differentiate high risk behaviors from healthy sexual behaviors 2) learning to identify emotional triggers and thinking errors that lead to compulsive sexual behaviors, and 3) learning how to reduce high risk sexual behaviors by developing social and therapeutic support.
2) Develop healthy sexual behaviors. Achieving this goal includes 1) understanding the function/purpose of sexual compulsivity 2) understanding the cost/risks of maintaining sexually compulsive behaviors 3) learning what constitutes healthy sexuality, and 4) learning how to cope with relapse/desire to re-engage in sexually compulsive behaviors.
Our program is designed to help LGTBQ teens understand the function of their sexually compulsive behavior while simultaneously providing information that encourages healthy sexual choices. Additionally, our program helps LGTBQ teens learn to negotiate barriers to achieving long-term sexual well-being.
Our treatment program progresses through three stages:
1) Stage I: Problem identification (taking an off-line and online sexual history, defining problematic sexual behavior, defining different types of online sexual behaviors, tracking behavior through an Internet activity log, identifying emotional and cognitive triggers, identifying high-risk situations, understanding how compulsive sexual behavior is maintained despite negative consequences, defining the process of change, and creating an immediate short-term harm reduction plan).
2) Stage II: Primary treatment (defining sexual identity and sexual orientation, defining the role of body image in healthy sexuality, defining the role of fantasy in healthy sexuality, defining intimacy in the context of sexual relationships, defining spirituality/values in the context of healthy sexuality, defining sexual functioning, defining health sexuality, and defining barriers to sexual health,).
3) Stage III: Continuing care plan (creating a long-term sexual health plan, reviewing the role of healthy sexuality in psychological well-being, reviewing social and emotional triggers, understanding the role of relapse in developing sexual health, and creating an ongoing support system).
Our treatment program is tailored to the unique strengths and challenges of each teen and his/her family and focuses on helping the LGBTQ teen understand and develop a lifelong healthy sexuality.
In the context of helping the sexually compulsive LGBTQ teen understand how to create a life-long pattern of healthy sexuality, our program incorporates the following material:
1) Understanding the biology/science of LGTBQ sexuality.
2) Myths, generalizations and distortions about sex within the LGTBQ community.
3) Confronting homophobia in society and school.
4) Deciding to “come out” (with family, community, and school).
5) Making social connections within LGTBQ community.
6) Dating and relationships within the LGTBQ community (LGTBQ dating basics).
7) Sex and sexuality (making sound decisions about sex, avoiding abusive relationships, identifying myths and truths about LGTBQ sex).
8) Transgender teens (what it means to be transgender and dating and sexual options for transgender teens).