PVV – Women, Girls, Virtual Coke, & Eroto-Toxins, oh my!!

Recently, JW brought this “article” entitled “More women lured to pornography addiction – Survey finds 1 in 6 caught up in steamy Web” from The Washington Times to my attention. Not to be a hater, but the word article definitely needs to be in quotes in this instance.  Here’s why…

According to the “About” section on their website: “The Washington Times is a full-service, general interest daily newspaper in the nation’s capital. Founded in 1982, The Washington Times is one of the most-often-quoted newspapers in the U.S. It has gained a reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting and thorough coverage of politics and policy. Published by The Washington Times LLC, The Washington Times is ‘America’s Newspaper.’” (sic)

Ok, but where is the part about The Washington Times being founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the same person who started The Unification Church? Or the part about it being owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the Unification Church, until 2010?

The Washington Times is currently listed as one of the “projects” started by Reverend Moon on The Unification Church’s website.  According to the site, The Washington Times is “The Influential newspaper in Washington DC that is giving the liberal establishment a run for their money” (sic).  Along a similar vein, The Washington Times is (supposedly) sometimes considered to be a socially and politically conservative alternative to the larger and more well-known Washington Post. Ok…

Do roots in The Unification Church point to potential biases in The Washington Times? Probably.

Is it ok to have biases, opinions, and a political agenda, even as a “general interest daily newspaper”?  Most definitely.

Do these things qualify The Washington Times as “America’s Newspaper”? I’m gonna go ahead and say definitely not.

Now, all news sources (this news source included) have biases, slants, missions, and perspectives, and I have no problem with this… if the news source in question is forth-coming with their subjectivity, which The Washington Times really isn’t.  The Washington Times’ allusions to objectivity coupled with their sometimes thinly, sometimes thickly-veiled biases, slants, missions, and perspectives prompted me to take a closer look at some of the points made in their “More women lured to pornography addiction – Survey finds 1 in 6 caught up in steamy Web”… umm… “article.”

Here are just three of the points made and/or supported by The Washington Times, followed by my response.

1. “In 2003, Today’s Christian Woman found in a survey that one out of every six women, including Christians, acknowledged struggling with the same [pornography] addiction [as men].”

Reporting issues: The Washington Times does not link to the “study” they are referencing. Moreover, I was unable to find an archive of Today’s Christian Woman’s findings anywhere. Without access to the study, in particular to an articulation of the methods that were employed, it is impossible to assess the validity of this 1-in-6 claim.  More significantly, without such transparency, it is unethical to make such a claim in the first place.

There are several additional stats listed in the article such as: 17% of women struggle with “pornography addiction;” 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work; etc. In each instance, there is 1) no link to the stat’s source, some study, or a report and 2) when I researched the claim myself (just by googling), transparency is again an issue.

2. “‘The more pornography women use, the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex,’ said Mary Anne Layden, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. ‘The earlier the male starts using pornography, the more likely they are to be the perpetrators of non-consensual sex.’”

Again, reporting issues.  Because there were no links to any studies substantiating these claims, I googled Dr. Layden.  Funnily enough, I couldn’t find any scholarship from Dr. Layden that was directly related to porn.  So then I went through my university’s library and, using Academic Search Complete, all I could find related to Dr. Layden and adult was something called “Porn Panic over Eroto-Toxins” in New Scientist magazine (Vol. 184: 2475).

In “Porn Panic over Eroto-Toxins,” Dr. Layden said that she was privy to unpublished research indicating that “even non-sex-addicts will show brain reactions on PET scans while viewing pornography similar to cocaine addicts looking at images of people taking cocaine.” So, watching porn is like doing coke?

Her sentiments were echoed by Jeffrey Satinover, a doctor whose website outlines therapies for homosexuals (as in, one of those entities who “cures” people of queerness, which they regard as an illness or disease). Satinover described porn as a designer drug, which was delivered efficiently over the internet.  So, watching porn is like doing virtual coke?!!

But Dr. Joe Herbert, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge and former president of the International Academy of Sex Research, says that porn, like sex, can trigger the release of natural opioids.  These opioids have a feel-good effect.  He takes issue with Dr. Layden’s and Satinover’s (among others’) implication that the chemicals released through “virtual coke”/porn are somehow harmful.  According to New Scientist, the brain responds similarly to anything it perceives as a reward (sex, porn, coke, cake, whatever).  Consequently, Herbert said that any comparison between the physiological harms resulting from the use of hard drugs (ie cocaine or heroin) and the brain’s generic reward responses is “complete rubbish.”

All this New Scientist stuff is fascinating, but let’s think about this in terms of The Washington Times for a moment. The Washington Times has included a rather incendiary statement of “fact” in a report about a controversial topic. But, ironically, the person who is stating that “fact” does not have any published research to support her claim.  That (actual) fact in conjunction with Mary Anne Layden’s known opposition to porn and adult entertainment makes me question the accuracy and validity of her claim(s).

3. “If a man or woman ejaculates to pornography on a regular basis they will actually attach to sex as object relationships as opposed to intimate relationships,” Mr. [Douglas] Weiss, [a licensed psychologist and executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs], said. “So they will actually hunger for object relationships, creating over time what we call intimacy anorexia.

To this statement, all I can say is – how many squirters do you know Doug??!!

I kid, I kid!! In all seriousness, the claim I think Doug is making here has to do with psychoanalytic theory and object-relations.  If one watches too much porn, they will “attach” sub/consciously to sex or some sex-related thing instead of attaching to what they are supposed to attach to – intimate relationships.  Consequently, these “emotional anorectics” will crave sex over intimacy… and that’s bad?  Well, I guess it is according to Doug and The Washington Times.

Here is my point in all this: I always tell my students to “consider the source” – to think about where information is coming from and why exactly that source may be providing a particular set of facts or spinning a story in a certain way.  I encourage them to do this in school (in my classes too!), in conversation, and when they are getting their news.  I encourage you all to do this too, especially when you’re reading stuff about porn (even on PVV!) and extra especially when what you’re reading is coming from “one of the most-often-quoted newspapers in the U.S.”

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