April 14, 2016

We Agree, Porn Harms Relationships and Here’s Why

On April 5th, 2016, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, clinical psychologists and co-founders of the Gottman Institute, posted “An Open Letter on Porn.” This article discussed the serious threat pornography poses for intimacy and relationships in a powerful and direct manner. Below is a response from Lisa Thompson, Vice President and Director of Education and Outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.


 

Dr. Gottman,

Thank you for this insightful and truth-filled post on pornography. In my work I regularly meet people who are suffering the devastating impacts of pornography in their lives and those of their loved ones. In the last six months I’ve met three women whose marriages have failed because their husbands of many years are choosing pornography over them, and another young mother who lost her husband to porn. And, just yesterday, I was speaking with a man who was wrecked to learn of his wife’s pornography problem. It’s heartbreaking.

As others have observed, sexual fantasy is “rehearsal for relationships.” If you imagine others as mere instruments of your gratification, you are literally rehearsing exploitative patterns of behavior towards others. And, of course, the more one engages in such behavior, the more normal selfishly using others for sex becomes (whether it’s the real life partner in your life, or the person displayed on your computer screen). Interestingly, brain science has revealed that fantasizing or imaging doing something activates many of the same brain circuits as actually doing it (see: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723134745.htm). Thus, is can come as little surprise that so many people through their pornography use are conditioning themselves away from loving and passionate relationships with their spouses.

Moreover, it’s more than a little scary to consider how many people are consuming forms of violent and degrading pornography. Even if only a fraction of the people consuming such pornography acted out those scripts in real life, it would have traumatizing impacts on countless lives of real people.

The evidence demonstrates all too well pornography’s coarsening impact on sexual attitudes. For instance, Zillman (2004) found that men who used pornography were more likely to agree with statements such as: 1) “A man should find them, fool them, f*** them, and forget them,” 2) “A woman does not mean ‘no’ unless she slaps you,”, and 3) “If they are old enough to bleed, they are old enough to butcher.” Ugh! What woman would want to be in relationship with a man with attitudes like these? But these are the very attitudes that pornography use breeds.

More recently, a meta-analysis assessing 22 different studies from seven countries around the world found that consumption of pornography was associated significantly with both verbal and physical aggression, among males and females (see:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12201/abstract). That seems pretty compelling to me. But I guess some people’s pornography use is so important to them, they are okay with risking becoming more verbally and physically aggressive towards their sexual partners.

In light of all this, I think there are important questions any pornography user should ask him or herself. To begin, is their pornography use making them a more loving, affectionate, attentive, and caring sexual partner, or a more self-centered one? Is pornography use changing their sexual template and tastes–do they now find themselves enjoying more violent and fetishized forms of sex? Do they find themselves consuming pornography they don’t even like? Are they struggling with a compulsive need to view pornography? Would they rather look at pornography than make love to their partner? Can they even make love to their partner?

Those who express concern about the harmful impacts of pornography are not anti-sex, they are anti-garbage. Pornography represents a trash heap of humanity sexuality–a place full of putrid decay that robs people of joyful, tender, passionate sexual mutuality, and truly intimate relationships. Thank you for inviting people to walk away from the muck and mire of pornography and welcoming them to join the feast at the table of love.

Sincerely,

Lisa

Lisa L. Thompson

Vice President of Research and Education

Lisa L. Thompson serves as the Vice President of Research and Education for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, where she oversees NCOSE’s strategic planning for increased public understanding of sexual exploitation related issues. To this end Lisa conducts analysis, develops research initiatives, and liaises with a wide-range of public officials, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher learning, and academics to generate collaborative action to combat the full spectrum of sexual exploitation especially as pertains to the harms of pornography, stripping, prostitution, and sexual trafficking.

Lisa joins the NCOSE following nearly two years with World Hope International (WHI), where as its Director of Anti-Trafficking, Lisa administered WHI’s anti-trafficking and sexual-violence recovery programs in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While working for WHI Lisa also served as a steering committee member of the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST), a collaboration initiative she helped found, and as a reviewer for the Journal of Human Trafficking.

She has written on the subjects of sexual trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation for publications such as Christian History and Biography, Caring, Mutuality, PRISM, and Social Work and Christianity. Lisa is a contributing author to Hands that Heal: International Curriculum for Caregivers of Trafficking Survivors, as well as the book Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:  Europe Latin America, North America, and Global in which she contributed chapters about the use of torture by pimps, as well as the policy conflicts between sex trafficking abolitionists and HIV/AIDS advocates. She is the co-editor of a special anti-trafficking edition of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work journal Social Work & Christianity and has provided expert testimony to the U.S. Congress. Lisa routinely speaks about sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (i.e. prostitution, pornography, stripping), and facilitates anti-trafficking training events for a diverse range of audiences.

Additionally, Lisa served for more than 12 years as the Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking for The Salvation Army USA National Headquarters. In that role she pioneered strategies for The Salvation Army to create recovery services for survivors of sexual trafficking and advocated on public policy issues and initiatives related to combating sexual trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. Lisa chaired The Salvation Army’s North American Anti-Trafficking Council and directed its Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking. Previous to her arrival at The Salvation Army, Lisa served as Policy Representative for the National Association of Evangelicals’ (NAE) Office for Governmental Affairs in Washington, DC, from 1998 to 2001. While there, she was heavily involved in NAE’s advocacy efforts seeking passage of legislation now known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. She has also worked for consulting firms managing Community Develop Block Grants programs in Kentucky, and taught English as a second language in the People’s Republic of China.

Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts in Government from Western Kentucky University, and her Master’s degree in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute and University.

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