Responses to Questions from the NEARI Webinar
NOTE: Neari Press hosted a webinar on April 9, 2019 as an introduction and overview of the What’s Wrong with this Picture Curriculum. Nearly 250 people attended the webinar which generated several questions. I have organized the questions I received into main themes using one or two questions that seemed to best capture the questions that were asked. I then offer my responses.
For more information about this program, visit rusfunk.me/WWWTP. When you visit that page, you’ll also see a link to the recording of the webinar.
If you’re interested in ordering the curriculum, visit rusfunk.me/shop.
You mentioned that most men’s first experience with viewing pornography was ambivalent and full of mixed feelings/responses. What impact does age of first exposure have on men’s experience?
Developmentally, it would seem to me that the younger an adolescent is in terms of first exposure the greater the impact and the degree of negative experiences/responses (fear, shame, discomfort, guilt, etc.).
Some research has identified intensified impact of viewing pornography for children who begin viewing under age 10 (see for example, Skau, B. (2007). “Who Has seen What When? Pornography’s Contribution to the Social Construction of Sexuality during Childhood and Adolescents” Doctoral Dissertation).
Sinkovic (2014), found that both boys and girls who are first exposed to pornography before age 11 demonstrate more sexual seeking behaviors and are involved in more sex risk-taking behavior than peers who are not exposed to pornography.
As a reminder, these effects occur in a social-cultural context where young boys, adolescents and men are actively encouraged to sexual objectify girls and women. Pornography provides a means by which boys and men experience sexual pleasure to their experience of this sexual objectifying. Furthermore, the ways that pornography ties violence and sex (for example, the ways that pornography obliterates the distinction between seduction and coercion) appears to negatively impact on boys beliefs and behaviors in terms of their interactions with girls and women. The younger the age that these beliefs and behaviors become integrated, the more devastating the impact.
There are reasons why we encourage adolescents to delay sexual behaviors. There seems to be fairly wide-spread recognition that while youth may be physically able to engage in sexual behaviors (other than masturbation), they are not ready to do so (physically, emotionally, relationally, etc.). Being sexually active and responsible should be delayed in order to allow (in part) the brain to develop sufficiently to allow adolscents and young adults to do so in ways that are healthful, respectful, and caring. It seems evident that children’s & youth’s exposure to pornography would magnify these same dangers.
The impact of early pornography use is magnified for children and youth since their brains are still actively developing. The commonly used phrase “what is fired together gets wired together” applies here. The neurons that are stimulated in the brain by watching pornography get wired in such a way that when those same neurons are fired up in other situations (say when a young person begins to engage in sexually behavior with another human being), the brain treats it as the same experience – interacting with a human being in a similar way as they acted upon a video image.
For more information check out:
- Your Brain on Porn (https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/) and
- Fight the New Drug (https://fightthenewdrug.org/)
- Kuhn, S., & Gallinat. J. (2015). Brains Online: Structural and Functional Correlates of Habitual Internet use. Addiction biology: 20(2), 415-422.
- Kuhn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2014). “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption.” JAMA Psychiatry: 71(7), 827-834.
- Skau, B (2007) “Who has seen what lately?: Pornography’s Contribution to the Social Construction of Sexuality During Childhood and Adolescents.” Doctoral Dissertation
What is the suggested age for this curriculum?
This curriculum was designed for and has been used with adult men (ages 18 and over).
How do you respond if men say that their partners like to watch pornography with them?
I’m sure this is the (perceived) experience of many men. The fact that their partners may like watching pornography with them is a factor that impacts on men’s experience of viewing pornography, but only one factor. I find it important to tease out how this influences their experience of watching pornography, and how this factor contributes to their experience of consuming the values that are inherent in pornography.
I am also curious what their partners would say (this is true with any topic we ask one partner about):
- Do they like to watch for their own enjoyment?
- Are they watching solely to please their partner and/or to see what it is he is so interested in?
- Can the woman/man be aroused without pornography as a sexual stimuli?
- What happens if they refuse to watch with their husband/boyfriend?
- Does she initiate the viewing?
- Does she like to watch the same kinds of pornography that he does?
- Does he watch pornography when she is not present? And if so, does he watch different of pornography then when she’s present?
Can this be used with Adolescents?
As a program designed for adults, I would be hesitant to use it as is with adolescent men. Adjustments can be made to attend to the developmental stages of adolescent men and I would strongly encourage folks who are interested in providing this with adolescents to do so.
I am in the process of creating an adolescent version of this program.
Is there any information on juveniles and the effects of viewing pornography?
See the Following:
- Anderson, Cordelia NEARI (2011 updated 2017) The impact of Pornography on Children, Youth and Culture.
- Flood, M. (2009). “The Harms of Pornography Exposure Among Children and Young People.” Child Abuse Review 18: 384-400.
- “The Impact of Pornography on Children” (2016). American College of Pediatrics. ACPeds.org
- Flood, M (2010) “Young Men Viewing Pornography” in K. Boyles (Ed), Everyday Pornography. pp 164 – 178 London: Routledge Press.
- Owens, E.W., Behun, R.J., Manning, J.C. and Reid, R.C. (2012)“The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research.” Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. 99: 99 – 122.
- Skau, B (2007) “Who has seen what lately?: Pornography’s Contribution to the Social Construction of Sexuality During Childhood and Adolescents.” Doctoral Dissertation
Do you have women co-facilitate? (to provide additional accountability)
It is not required nor has it been a part of the common practice to have a woman co-facilitator. There is value to doing so. Having a woman co-facilitate tends to significantly change the dynamics of the conversations – not making it better or worse, just different.
For example, evidence from other topical areas (such as sexuality education, sexual harassment or violence, reproductive health, etc) suggests that male only facilitating can result in a greater sense of ownership to the issues, but less sense of empathy for women’s experiences or perspectives; mixed-gender facilitation provides an opportunity to model in real time gender equitable behaviors while also deepening male participants empathy for the lives and experiences of women and girls.
Can this program be used with developmental disabilities?
This program has not been adopted or applied for adults with developmental disabilities yet.
How do you get men to attend these programs?
We have found it to be most effective when we partner with organizations or groups where men already meet or congregate, and then offer this program to a group of already meeting men. We have run this program with faith groups (eg a men’s bible study), on campuses (for example, with Fraternities), at barbershops, etc.
What comments do you have for women who consider viewing pornography as harmless or an acceptable tool to facilitate arousal?
I tend not to comment on women’s experiences.
I am curious, however to men’s interpretations of women’s position of viewing pornography. See some of the questions I encourage in my answer to question 3 above.
Your work is based on the assumption that there is a relationship between pornography and gender-based violence/sexual assault, whether correlational or causative, is this correct? how strong is the evidence base for this relationship?
The relation between viewing pornography and GBV?
The evidence of the relationship between pornography in general and pornography consumption in particular to gender-based violence is both deep and long. In terns of the relationship, I would categorize pornography as being a contributing factor.
Samples of the existing evidence includes:
- DeKeseredy, W.S. & Funk, R.E. (2017) “The Role of Adult Pornography in Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Perpetrators’ Offending.” In McOrmond, Plummer, L, et al (Eds). Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence: A Multidisciplinary approach to prevention, recognition and intervention. pp 134-142. London:
- DeKeseredy, W.S. & Corsianos, M. (2016). Violence Against Women in Pornography. London: Routledge.
- Fourbet, J. and Bridges, A. J. (2015). “What’s the Attraction: Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 1-19.
- Hald, G.M., Malamuth, N., and Yuen, C. (2010) “Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies.” Aggressive Behavior 36(1): 14 – 20.
- Klaassen, M. J. E., & Jochen, P. (2015) “Gender (in)equality in Internet Pornography: A Content Analysis of Popular Pornographic Internet Videos.” The Journal of Sex Research. 52(7): 721-735.
- Manning, J. (2005). “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and Family: A Review of the Research.” Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. 13 (2-3): 131 – 165.
- Miller-Young, M. (2010). “Putting Hypersexuality to Work: Black Women and Illicit Eroticism in Pornography.” Sexualities 13(2): 219-235.
There are reams of additional articles and research that points to the evidence. Those of you who are interested, please feel free to contact me directly.
What’s the best way to engage the parents of adolescents who disclose that their sons are watching pornography?
This is a complex answer that deserves a more nuanced and dedicated response. I encourage those of you who are interested in this to contact me directly
My response in how to engage parents largely depends on the context of their sharing that their sons are viewing pornography, how old their sons are, and their (the parents) perspective/point of view on their sons viewing pornography.
I’d be curious as to how the parents found out (did they find out by some evidence, did he come to them and express concerns, etc.) as well as what (if any) concerns they have about their son’s viewing pornography.
My short answer would be to talk with these parents about their values in general, their values about sexuality, gender relationship, gender roles; and explore with them how pornography is likely countering these values. In particular, the ways that pornography provides a severely distorted view of
- what healthy, respectful and fun sexuality looks like;
- masculinity and men’s role(s) in being sexual with a partner
- women and femininity
I would also engage them in a conversation about how they are unpacking with their son(s)’ experiences of viewing pornography.
I believe this would have been more helpful of there had been specific information or quantification of the harm done by pron. Specifically what are the biological effects? Are men who are arrested more likely to view porn (or more violent or demeaning porn) that men in the general population?
Time did not allow for a full exploration of the various harms that result from men viewing pornography; combined with the more public health harms of pornography in general. The evidence suggests clearly that some of the harms of viewing pornography include:
- Men’s attitudes towards women in general (give examples of these attitudes
- Increased internalization of rape myths
- Increasing men’s distrust of women’s disclosures of rape and harassment
- Increasing men’s tolerance and acceptability of other men’s violence towards women
- Men who view pornography regularly report reduced self esteem and lowered satisfaction with their own sexuality
- Increased erectile dysfunction in men who view pornography regularly
- Men’s perpetration of rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual exploitation and sex trafficking
- There is significant evidence to how men’s pornography use damages men’s relationships with women.
Some of the citations to these harms are referenced above (see my response to question 10 and 11), and are included on the last 2 slides of the ppt)
As also touched on above (see my response to question 1), there is evidence that viewing pornography has an impact on brain development and functioning.
Would the effects be the same if porn included “affection, relationships, expressions of love or foreplay and afterplay?
Since this a) only minimally exists and b) is not the kind of pornography that the vast majority of men are searching for, my response is going to be rather conceptual.
Men’s pornography viewing occurs in a much broader social-cultural context in which men’s sexually objectifying women and girls is already occurring at a massive scale. Men’s sexualized objectification is, in fact, the norm. Pornography exists within this context, and men’s experience of viewing pornography (or any forms of sexually explicit material) is deeply influenced by this context. To some degree, until we profoundly change this current socio-cultural environment, men’s experience of viewing sexually explicit and graphic content will not change much.
On the other hand, providing graphic, explicit narratives for men to view and masturbate to that demonstrate gender equality, gender respect, and truly valuing both women and the experience of sex would be a truly positive thing. And may well help move us as a society towards a context that is more respectful and valuing of women and girls; and of sex and sexuality.
Although you said this class increases a participants discomfort with his viewing of porn, etc. does it change behavior at all? Does the discomfort decrease over time?
The program encourages men to stop using pornography during their participation in the class. For many men, this 8-week hiatus pornography is their first experience of consciously choosing to not consume pornography. Inviting them to reflect on this experience and the implications for them of now viewing pornography is a powerful opportunity for them to experience and explore how not viewing pornography enhances their lives.
Our evidence suggests it changes men’s behavior in terms of increasing their activism to end gender-based violence or promote gender equality.
I have not yet invested in any long-term research as to how long these effects maintain.
Are there elements of this curriculum that can be incorporated in to sex offender treatment?
It has been years since I have worked with men who have perpetrated sex offenses. There are several elements that could be adapted and used with this population. Most, if not all of the activities could be adapted to be used in a therapeutic setting.
As a note, much of the imagery and narratives of pornography are actually sex offenses that are being sexualized and normalized. For example, the ways that pornography sexualizes coercive behaviors and tactics and frames coercion as seduction. Exploring this content with men who have sexually offended, it seems to me, would be a powerful therapeutic opportunity. The “continuum of harm” activity could be easily adapted as a treatment activity.
I encourage folks to examine these issues beyond a therapeutic lens. Men choosing to sexually offend occurs in a larger social context in which gender oppression intersects with racial oppression and the sexualized objectification of women and girls. There are social forces at work that normalize men’s sexually offending. Addressing these factors within a therapeutic context provides a means to engage men who have sexually offended as potential social change agents.
This curriculum is designed as a strategy for engaging men as social change agents, and men who sexually offend are a sub-set of men who could be a part of efforts to create social environments that produces gender and racial justice.
I would be happy to talk with some of you about how to best do this.
Are you available for one-day presentations to talk to youths in juvenile detention?
Yes. Although I would prefer to divide a day between a presentation with adolescents, and a training for adults to enhance adults interest, willingness, confidence and comfort in engaging in these conversations with youth; as well as examining the policies and programming in juvenile detention settings to integrate this topic as a normative part of what is provided to juveniles.