We’re excited to announce that our founder Jim Crawford has a book that’s coming out later this year: The Trilogy Modum: One Lawyer’s Story about Practicing Law, Politics, and Beating the Odds. Read on for a sample chapter from that text, “Permeation of Porn in our Society.”
Why would I possibly include a chapter in this book about pornography? The answer is that it fits into many men’s life in a way that can be devastating and deceitful. Looking at it from the outside it seems like a topic that is out of place, but I disagree. When talking about abuse in our society porn fits squarely into the catechism. I wanted to introduce my thought process about the harms of porn from an emotional and physical aspect in order to tie the pieces together regarding my proposition that this aspect of sexuality is a major component that “holds down” males in so many ways in life’s journey. Later on, a few chapters away I will discuss in more detail how porn fits into the overall scheme along with abuse. For now, let us discuss the growth of porn and how our society has reached a point of no return.
A deep dark hidden Canyon exist in society and we are all afraid to address it. I’m talking about sex offenses that permeate family structures and destroy so many lives in this country.
I’ve handled literally thousands of “sex offemy clientsnse” cases categorized as such in the Maryland code. These range from rape, sex abuse of a minor, sexual touching, sexual exploitation, solicitation of a minor for sex, child pornography, indecent exposure, and some consensual crimes such as solicitation of prostitution.
Over the years, the question has become what came first, the chicken or the egg? What actually contributes or causes these actions? Is pornography a root contributor? Does it play a role of any kind?
Our society is “freer” in many ways than ever before. The ability to “speak out” through visual depictions and sexual imagery in today’s society is abundantly prevalent, arguably more than ever before. The first amendment literally has your back. But there are limits. Historically, has the number of sexual abuse cases reported always been as high as it is now? Previously, was it just covered up and put it in a dark corner just be forgotten? In my opinion, these cases have always existed and were tossed aside and ignored by our justice system. That included prosecutors, police, and the general public.
Early in my career, I started to notice certain trends in the sexual offense cases where I represented defendants charged criminally. One of those trends was that in the majority of sex offense cases I’ve handled, most of the defendants are men who are engaged in some sort of pornography use.
First, let me say that from a legal and personal standpoint I believe pornography falls under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and is guaranteed speech. I have no moral qualms with pornography in general and I am not naïve enough to believe that it is something new in our society. I do have issues with the treatment and helplessness of individuals who fall prey to the industry, but that is another subject.
In order to understand my premise and philosophy, a little background is needed. Pornography was not recently invented. History shows since the beginning of mankind there has been some sort of “thought process” regarding capturing sexuality and erotica. Ancient Greece orchestrated many visualizations of pornography although it was basic writings and some limited visual. The term “pornography” is derived from the Greek language “pori”, meaning prostitute, and “graphein”, which means “to write”.
Later in history, depictions of sexual behavior were many times memorialized in a religious context. John Jenkins, in an article published in 1998, “A history of the United States, Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in America”, believes evidence shows that although phallic imagery and depictions of orgiastic scenes existed for centuries, they probably did not fulfill the modern psychological functions of pornography as used today. In other words, they were treated and looked upon differently, not just for sexual arousal, but for other moral or religious purposes.
The current culture and historical use of pornography shows deep roots in the Enlightenment period of the eighteenth century because printing techniques became advanced enough to promote visual materials such as drawings as well as written materials. Many people believe the classic and highly read “Fanny Hill”, or referred to as “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure”, (1748), was the first true pornography western production.
The Victorian age, with its purported adherence to family values, nonetheless had a dark underbelly of sexually explicit productionsal deviation case, especially in Great Britain. A central location for these publications and productions were located on a street in London known as “Holywell Street”. These smut booksellers are equivalent to today’s modern-day porn shops. There were many of them!
The invention of photography — and several decades later, motion pictures — almost immediately scooped up on the pornography bug to sell to the general public. Even in the 1920s, pornographic films and movies were widely available. Of course, not many people could afford them or had the ability to see them, but they were there.
Film and various visual publications were thriving through the 1970s, not just in this country but throughout the world. The 1980s brought videocassettes and eventually DVDs, so movie productions could be brought into the home and owned privately. In many ways, I believe this is where the “boom” occurred. The concept of owning the movie privately and viewing it privately was a huge advantage over the old methodologies of viewing pornography movies. For decades, there were “movie houses” where pornographic films such as “Deep Throat” were shown in public view. Now, all of a sudden, an individual can view as much pornography privately as he or she desired.
I would argue that movies are much different than the old medium of viewing pornography such as a Penthouse or Playboy magazine privately. Yes, images are viewed in these magazines, but they were nowhere near as graphic and revealing as the actual acts of sex acts depicted in the movie scenes.
The ultimate form of viewing pornography was then shortly thereafter created, with the use of the Internet in the 1990s. Almost instantly the pornographic industry became one of the most used and profitable businesses in the world. The web provided a tremendously vast marketplace for pornography use and as time went on the high-speed Internet depictions seemed to consume the world.
There have been countless books written over the last two decades about the effect that pornography has on individuals. During that time, therapists, psychologists, and other professionals actually encouraged at times, the use of pornography to enhance one’s sexual life.
For many years, there has been a continued debate about the effects of pornography and its addictive qualities. Many scientist and doctors believed that pornography actually had the reverse effect on individuals, in that it provided a normal and natural outlet to stress and sometimes marital discord. Today, most scientists recognize the serious consequences of viewing sexual material over a protracted period of time.
As I represented individuals more and more over the decades in sexual deviation cases as well as child pornography, I began to realize that the “thought process” of many of these individuals about sex was either “calloused” or “obtuse”. When completing a pretrial interview for a client in order to prepare for a case, one of my standard questions was “how much pornography did you watch five years prior to this situation?” Almost 100% of the individuals indicated that they had watched a “fair amount” and most indicated they had watched a “tremendous amount”. What that meant from my discussions was that pornography was watched at least one time a day and sometimes twice. Masturbation and ejaculation occurred almost every time. The time range spent on watching pornography lasted from 15 minutes to several hours on average. It became a strange phenomenon within myself because I could almost tell immediately whether or not it individual watched a lot of pornography without even speaking to them, dependent upon the nature of the case. This is true from teenagers charged with sex offenses and men up to the age of 75.
After seeing this for years, I began to argue in federal court and in state court about the addiction of pornography and how it may or may not have affected each individual case. I had determined, through my own research that I would have to correlate how watching pornography and masturbating to it, effects the brain from an addictive behavior standpoint. There is no question that since the time pornography appeared on the Internet, it has become more accessible than ever before. This is reflected in the population’s overall pornography consumption, which has been on the rise globally and is still rising. The question that must be asked and is very important, “what effect does the frequent consumption of pornography have on the human brain and how does it affect sexual desire and behavior?” Can it actually cause an individual to act out? Is there a correlation between the viewing and consumption of porn and eventual criminal charges? What are the statistics?
Most of us will admit that pornography is deemed a social taboo. Very few people admit to its use, yet the market and the amount of money spent on the industry is tremendous. Billions of dollars each year is spent and made in the industry. Before the Internet, pornography was distributed and viewed in a much different way. Magazines, Playboy, Hustler Magazine, and the occasional movie were the most common methodologies for the public to consume pornography. That limited amount of consumption is much different than today’s average consumption. Today, it can be viewed discreetly and directly at home on a computer very simply and without cost. The anonymity and the ability to view pornography on just about any type of electronic device today makes it more accessible than consuming food for the average human being.
Specifically, what effect does pornography consumption have on the average male brain? Recently researchers Simone Kuhn and Jürgen Gallinat conducted extensive research on that specific subject. They studied sixty-four (64) adult men aged twenty-one (21) years to forty-five (45) years old. They were first asked about their current consumption of pornography and the material they watched. Based upon their answers, a baseline MRI image was taking of the brain while they were actually viewing pornographic images. The study showed there was a direct connection between the number of hours the subject spent viewing the pornographic material per week and the overall volume of actual gray matter in their individual brains. A negative correlation was created between the pornography use in the volume of the striatum, which is the area of the brain that makes up part of the reward system. The study found that the more of the subject were exposed to pornography, the smaller volume of their stratum. The conclusion of the scientists was that “this could mean that regular consumption of pornography dulls the reward system, as it were.”
Additionally, while the subjects were viewing sexually stimulating images, the level of activity in the reward system was significantly lower in the brains of the frequent and regular users of pornography then in men who seldom used pornography. “We therefore assume that subjects with high pornography consumption require even stronger stimuli to reach the same reward level,” said Simone Kuhn.
The undeniable conclusion of the research and findings is that the connectivity between the stratum and other brain areas can be interpreted in two ways.
- Either the decrease connectivity is a sign of experience – dependent neuronal plasticity, i.e., the effect of pornography consumption on the reward system, or
- It could be a precondition that determines the level of pornography consumption itself. These scientists believe that the first interpretation is more likely the plausible explanation. In fact, the scientists behind the research stated, “We assume that frequent pornography use leads to these changes. We are planning follow-up studies to demonstrate this directly.”
In a 2014 Cambridge study, it was determined that longer duration of use of online sexual materials in healthy males has been shown to correlate with lower level putamina activity suggesting a potential role of desensitization. Although the study suggests that the brain responses to explicit online materials may differ between subjects, individuals who may be heavy users of pornography and online material but without the loss of control or association still showed negative consequences. The study shows in many cases that desensitization in porn addicts mirror sensitization issues like drug addicts. It was found that porn addicts fit the excepted addiction model of wanting more porn, but not necessary liking it.
In the 2014 book Your Brain on Porn, after reviewing many brain studies on pornography, Dr. Gary Wilson, M.D. concludes, “Compulsive porn users often described escalation in their porn use that takes the form of greater time viewing or seeking out new genres of pornography. New genres that induced shock, surprise, violation of the expectations or even anxiety can function to increase sexual arousal, and in porn users whose response to stimuli is growing blunted due to overuse, this phenomenon is extremely common”.
A study done by the same author through a member survey found that over sixty percent (60%) of the members evaluated express that sexual taste resulted in a significant escalation through multiple porn genres. Twenty seven percent (27%) of those tested stated that “my taste became increasingly extreme or deviant.” Extreme behavior by looking at videos that never interested the user in the first place became something of the commonplace. The author claims that this study, taken together with other studies, debunks the thought process that porn users eventually “discover their true sexuality” by surfing video sites and find what they naturally like. The evidence is mounting that streaming high level pornography appears to alter sexual taste in some users and that is related to the addicted brain change known as desensitization. In other words, the study shows that individuals who look at certain types of pornography that are out of the norm of their regular sexual activity may temporarily be attracted to that type of sex activity.
In yet another Cambridge study conducted in 2015, “Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards” by Paula Banca, Laurel S. Morris, Mitchell Neil, Marc N. Potenza, and Valerie Voon, it was again determined through MRI imaging and through controlled studies that porn users habituated faster to sexual images. That is, their brains became less activated seeing the same image and they were more quickly bored. As the Cambridge study concludes, “Thus, the novelty of Internet porn drives the addiction to it, creating a circular spiral of needing more novelty to overcome faster habituation.” My question, for purposes of understanding and representing my clients, was whether or not individuals are naturally set up for these types of novelty, and whether or not they are pre-existing conditions. The study determined that the addiction was, in fact, not pre-existing, and that it was basically a learned behavior. It was determined that “novelty seeking” occurs often when individuals are masturbating to pornography.
“People who show compulsive sexual behavior, such as sex addiction, are driven to search more for new sexual images.” Again, researchers determined that addicts were more likely to choose the novel images over the familiar sexual images. “We can all relate in some way to searching for novel stimuli online. It could be flitting from one news site to another or jumping from Facebook to Amazon to YouTube and so on,” explains Dr. Voon. They found that when sex addicts viewed the same sexual image repeatedly, compared to the healthy volunteers, they experienced a much greater decrease of activity in the brain known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which is also related to the anticipating rewards aspect of the brain. The researchers correlated and believed this was consistent with habituation, where the addict finds the same stimulus less and less rewarding. They compared to an individual coffee drinker who may get a “buzz” from the first cup of coffee but over time by drinking coffee they get less stimulation.
Gary Wilson, after reviewing hundreds of articles and evaluations, has concluded the following eighteen (18) standardized findings from the studies listed thereto.
- The three (3) major addiction related brain changes: sensitization, desensitization and hypo frontality.
- More porn use correlated with less grey matter in the reward circuit (dorsal striatum).
- More porn use correlated with less reward circuit activation when briefly viewing sexual images.
- More porn use correlated with disrupted neural connections between the reward circuit and prefrontal cortex.
- Addicts had greater prefrontal activity to sexual cues, but less brain activity to normal stimuli (matches drug addiction).
- Porn use/exposure to porn related to greater delayed discounting (inability to delay gratification). This is a sign of poorer executive functioning.
- Sixty percent (60%) of compulsive porn addicted subjects in one study experienced ED or low libido with partners, but not with porn: all stated that internet porn use caused their ED/low libido.
- Enhanced attentional bias comparable to drug users. Indicates sensitization (a product of DeltaFosbxual behavio).
- Greater wanting & craving for porn, but not greater liking. This aligns with the accepted model of addiction - incentive sensitization.
- Porn addicts have greater preference for sexual novelty, yet their brains habituated faster to sexual images. Not pre-existing.
- The younger the porn users the greater the cue-induced reactivity in the reward center.
- Higher EEG (P300) readings when porn users were exposed to porn cues (which occurs in other addictions).
- Less desire for sex with a person correlating with greater cue-reactivity to porn images.
- More porn use correlated with lower LPP amplitude when briefly viewing sexual photos: indicates habituation or desensitization.
- Dysfunctional HPA axis and altered brain stress circuits, which occurs in drug addictions (and greater amygdala volume, which is associated with chronic social stress).
- Epigenetic changes on genes central to the human stress response and closely associated with addiction.
- Higher levels of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) – which also occurs in drug abuse and addiction.
- A deficit in temporal cortex gray matter; poorer connectivity between temporal corporate and several other regions.
There is no question. Modern research has shown that individuals who use pornography over a protracted period of time experience “addictive qualities” same as a drug addict, a compulsive gambler, or even a sex addict. In the same respect as an alcoholic, compulsive behavior and greater consumption of alcohol is a marked scenario very similar to porn addiction. The typical commercial porn site list sometimes hundreds of different scenarios of sexual contact.
Every possible body type, sexual contact, sexual fantasy, and any other possible imaging of sexual contact between human beings is listed. The studies show that an individual who may be normally interested in basic sexual activities that they would be inclined to follow absent pornography, tends to morph, and grow exponentially because of the dopamine need for increased novelty. So, an individual who would normally be satisfied with looking at and viewing basic sexual activities defined as pornography, many times will be persuaded to look at different genres to generate excitement for dopamine release.
These are individuals that may not even understand why they are looking at sexual acts that they previously had little or no interest in, or sometimes never even thought of in any sexual context but find themselves viewing these activities and feeling sexually excited but not understanding why. The studies show that the sexual excitement related to these novel activities are not necessarily acts or genres that these individuals would be naturally inclined to look at. Many times, the mistaken need for novelty produced dopamine release for temporary interest in viewing materials on the screen leaves the individual confused and depressed. The truth of the matter is that the extreme novelty that is “sold” to viewers on the Internet is a “trick” that the porn industry place upon individuals once they sucked them into their porn world. The porn industry understands that once they “push” an individual onto their website, they can create an almost endless amount of novelty for that individual which keeps them coming back.
The porn industry is insidious because of these basic sales techniques but yet the individual looking at these websites do not pay any money for viewing. Years ago, the money in pornography was paid by individuals viewing same. Now, the porn industry is one of the highest moneymaking industries in the world, where the larger scale of money they make is because of the high volume of Internet trafficking. In other words, they make money on advertising and by reselling to other companies the traffic they control by individuals looking at the materials.
The use of pornography in our society is so prevalent that it barely escapes most families. Chances are, someone in a normal family is viewing and masturbating to pornography. The question becomes, does the addiction qualities of pornography sometimes catapult individuals into viewing more and more dangerous materials, such as child pornography? There is no question that every situation is unique and every Defendant who is charged with possessing or distributing child pornography may be different. However, the underlying major factor in all those cases is the escalation process. Every brain and its plasticity are different. Just like some individuals who can consume alcohol on an infrequent basis and put the glass down are not affected, but some individuals who take a sip of alcohol become extremely affected and develop into alcoholics. Again, the issue is the individual and the plasticity of the brain and many other factors. The novelty factor that some individuals who view child pornography is an undoubted phenomenon. Many individuals who view child pornography do so on a scarce basis and feel disgusted with themselves. There is no question that individuals who are naturally driven to viewing children in pornographic situations are not the average pornographic user but are someone who is more likely to view such material because they are actually attracted to it.
However, for the most part or at least on a larger-scale basis, individuals who have not been viewing child pornography their entire life and have fallen into the natural desensitization process of pornography, are not individuals who are capable or wish to harm children in any manner.
The undoubted thought process of an individual who sits down at a computer and looks at any kind of material in the privacy of the home, naturally believe that no one will find out about what they are viewing. Social stress such as family issues, job-related issues, depression, social inhibition, and other psychological deviations sometimes lead to habitual computer secretive conduct. Many individuals use pornography as a secretive outlook to combat the above conditions. Many individuals also who view child pornography feel completely disgusted about themselves after looking at same. They promise never to look at it again and really don’t understand why they felt compelled to search for more and more novelty.
I believe that many of the child pornography and sex offense cases I saw were based on a belief system created by simply viewing pornography. I began to argue in open court years before it was accepted from a psychological premise that pornography is, in fact, an “addiction.”
My argument consisted of many factors. First, many of these men were individuals that had little or no negative involvement with the law. Many were individuals involved in a relationship, were married, and had children. Second, the majority had jobs and were individuals who espoused some sort of moral belief system. The question I had to answer was, how could individuals who purportedly follow the rules and laws of society their entire life, but then surreptitiously look at images of children having sex with adults? Third, almost all of the individuals caught with possession of child pornography regretted their actions from a catastrophic standpoint. It was almost as if they were hypnotized, or as if their minds were in some sort of vacuum.
The answer was right in front of my eyes. Desensitization and novelty! When an individual, no matter how old they are, sits down and looks at pornography for the first time, many things occur. The male sexual brain “kicks in.” Historical long learned behaviors based upon DNA and a sexual brain reaction system that has been with us since the beginning of humanity floods all the other components of the brain.
Looking at something sexual and novel for the first time pumps many chemicals into the brain, namely dopamine. Dopamine is the “to do drug.” Video porn is very close to actual sex through the male’s eyes in many ways. It sparks all the same chemical compound reactions in the brain and body as actual contact sex. There are several reasons for this.
High-speed Internet video — which allows individuals to “jump around” to view the specific parts of the actual sexual contact — creates a hypersensitive zeroing in on prospect of the final act, which is ejaculation while viewing pornography. This is called edging. In other words, the male brain looks and looks to find the perfect ending to finish with. The reason is to continue to create the dopamine and other chemical effects. Many men report being in an almost “trance” state of mind for hours looking at porn.
After the male watches the same visualization a couple times and knows that there are millions of other movies available to watch immediately, the novelty aspect of his brain pushes him forward to continue watching another image or movie. This continuous “seeking out” of novelty goes hand-in-hand with the production of dopamine. As stated, this is why some individuals will sit and look at pornography for hours at a time. After ejaculation, men report looking up and having very little understanding of how much time has gone by and also note that they were in “their own little world.”
So, the male brain will usually move on to more graphic or explicit material that may be outside the normal of what they were originally attracted to. In other words, pornography does have the ability to make an individual believe they are actually attracted to certain types of sexuality that they may not have originally been attracted to nor are they normally prone to. After a protracted time period away from the deviation (porn), sexual interest usually reverts to the original mainstay.
The porn industry knows this, and they use it to their benefit. The industry has developed web sites that are designed to create escalation. Once the hook is lodged, it is in deep. In other words, initially an individual may be completely satisfied with viewing and masturbating to a very simple video involving basic mutual consent between two individuals. Because of the novelty and escalation aspects built into our sexual reproduction thought process, we tend to want to escalate the process. That is why most pornography websites will have thousands of options of different genre. Big, fat, small, young, old — all are instant options available to the pornography user.
That is one reason why pornography is insidious. There is a constant search for newness and novelty. The male brain does not understand this just knows that desire to consume additional material exist. After speaking with clients, I have seen individuals who view porn material constantly. Its availability is so easy to find, that many actually look at it on the phone every few minutes.
Years ago, I became aware of a person that loved to write about sexual contact between adults and teenagers of a certain age. For some reason, he was fascinated and became fixated on girls between the age of 12 and 15. He was a decent writer, and he would solicit individuals to send in photographs of teenage girls around that age. The photographs did not have to be sexually explicit; in fact, most of them are just normal photographs of teenage girls. The individual would send this photograph to him, and he would make up a sexual contact story in detail about how the sender and this teenage girl would eventually fall in love and have some sort of sexual relations. The facts showed that most of the people that requested him to write the stories were men in their 40s and 50s who desired to have a pseudo-sexual and commercial relationship with a young girl of this age. This issue is not only a child pornography issue, but also demonstrative of the issues in our society with children are being sexually exploited, as well as
This individual allegedly had a condition where he “had” to have some sort of pornography on at all times in the background of his life. In other words, if he were sleeping, then he would play of the sexual sounds of pornography to help him sleep. During the day, when he was not in the public, he would listen to pornography and watch pornography incessantly.
After representing many pornography and sexual deviation clients over the last 30 years, I have concluded that pornography does, in fact and in many circumstances, escalate an individual’s desire to either view child imagery or to act out in some sexually explicit manner. However, the studies show that the majority of individuals who view child pornography never take additional steps to act out any type of sexual contact with a child. The studies show somewhat different results when there is someone who is charged with a sexual crime involving touching of some sort, and who has watch pornography for protracted period of time. In my opinion, pornography may have played a major part in the decision-making as to whether or not to act out those scenarios.
The reality is that the vast majority of individuals who view pornography will never be charged with a crime. However, Dr. Wilson’s book, Your Brain on Porn, revealed the extent that pornography causes damage to relationships and individuals regarding sexual relationships. I have seen defendants who are very young who have watch pornography since the age of 9 or 10. How can one not believe that viewing sexually explicit material such as high-speed Internet pornography beginning at such event young age cannot affect the thought process of someone that young sexually?
In many juvenile cases, I have seen very immature thought processes and assumptions from young offenders improperly believing that their proposed sexual partner wished to participate in a specific sexual activity, when in reality, there was no consent. In other words, many males charged sexual scenarios will assume such a contact is wanted in a particular circumstance, when in reality, the other individual is not interested.
Dr. Wilson believes that the science shows pornography creates a loss of the attraction to real partners. “Young Japanese men are growing indifferent or even adverse to sex, while married couples are starting to have it even less,” he recites. He continues, “More than 36% of men aged 16 to 19 had no interest in sex, more than double the 17.5% from 2008. Men between 20 years of age and 24 should a similar trend jumping from 11.8% to 21.5%, while men between 45 and 49 years of age leaped from 8.7% to 22.1%.”
Dr. Wilson claims, “Japan isn’t alone. In France, the 2008 survey found that 20% of 18 to 24-year-old Frenchman had no interest in sex. In 2015, an Italian study reported that 16% of high school males who use porn more than once per week reported abnormally low libido, while 0% of those who do not use it reported a much higher libido. The percentage of US high school students who are currently sexually active has decreased from 30% in 1991 to 30% in 2015.”
The studies will continue. From my perspective, things are not abundantly clear from the research. But, where there is smoke, many times there is fire. Bringing these issues to the forefront is very important. If this information helps one person to stay out of the legal system or helps then in their ordinary personal lives, then it’s worth the time.