We recently had an unpleasant Twitter exchange with two prominent porn addiction critics. We don’t need to go into the details (if you’re interested, see here), but it ended with one of them challenging us to “show our commitment to inquiry” by describing any, even just one, “positive effect”of “sex films”. Our critic presented this as something of a litmus test to determine whether or not we were “trolls”, and promised to send us research if we could deliver.
Now, we don’t feel much need to defend ourselves against attacks on our intellectual honesty. Our blog posts speak to our commitment to inquiry quite adequately, thank you very much. Also, since our founding one of our organizing principals has been that we avoid making black or white pronouncements about pornography use. It’s not that we don’t have views on this issue (see below). Rather, we think it’s best not to stake out hard positions lest we be seen mistakenly as judging porn users and thereby deter people struggling with porn from finding help on our website. We’re here for anyone who feels their porn use is problematic, no matter the cause. We suspect some of our users love porn but can’t control how they use it, some hate porn and want to eliminate it from their lives, and most are probably somewhere in between.
And yet, it’s undeniable that our Twitter feed betrays some pretty clear beliefs. Most of the research and commentary we share in one way or another reflects views that put us pretty squarely in the corner of porn skeptics. To wit:
So yes, we are highly porn skeptical here at PornHelp.org. But we also don’t like to back down from a challenge. The “spirit of inquiry” does require us to look at problematic porn use from as many perspectives as possible. That includes, today, the perspective of those who view pornography as a social benefit.
So, for the sake of provoking searching (and respectful) debate, and to respond to anyone who might otherwise consider us “trolls” merely because of our strong porn skepticism, here are some ways in which we’re able to conceive that “sex films” - i.e., modern streaming internet porn - may have a “positive impact” (which, just to be clear, is not to say that we believe these effects result in a positive net impact).
Ready? (Deep breath.) Here goes.
For starters, internet pornography constitutes a comprehensive visual compendium of human sexual practice, from the mundane to the highly niche. This sort of visual library of sexuality sheds light on, and facilitates the study of, the human condition. We value study and debate on all topics, including historically taboo areas like what goes on in people’s bedrooms and what triggers people’s sexual response. So that’s something positive that porn - however unintentionally - can lend to the world of knowledge.
Next, we acknowledge it’s not just researchers who may find value in the internet’s endlessly diverse collection of porn videos. Consenting adults can use “sex films” as a source of mature, responsible sexual stimulation, and as a way to explore - and affirm - their sexuality in relative privacy and safety. To be sure, we don’t think the intense stimulation and mind boggling variety (not to mention the 24/7 accessibility) offered by internet porn are inherently positive attributes (for many who seek help on our site, they decidedly are not), but we recognize they potentially can be for some people.
Finally, we recognize the possibility of certain positive impacts from producing pornography. Porn is a big business, and in cases where its labor force is healthy, safe, consenting, and justly compensated (which is not the norm), and where its consumers acquire their porn through distribution channels that pay producers for their creations (also not the norm), the broader economy can benefit. Also, porn-producing adults may derive sexual pleasure or emotional satisfaction from being filmed in a sex act, or in treating their pornographic creations as a form of artistic expression. That's not our jam, but we're not going to judge.
So there you have it. Not just one, but at least three ways in which our spirit of inquiry compels us to contemplate positive impacts from “sex films.” We’d say that pretty definitively takes us out of the realm of troll-dom, even if it doesn’t make us any less skeptical and concerned about porn’s overall human impacts.
To anyone who would say that we’re betraying our mission by acknowledging potential counterpoints to our beliefs, we invite (respectful) debate in the comments section. We think intellectual candor is the cornerstone of any honest debate, so we feel confident our readers will understand the purpose in our willingness to go through the looking glass today. We’re somewhat less confident that our Twitter antagonists will ever send us that research they promised, but there’s always hope…
One last thought in parting. At the top of this post, we rejected absolutism about pornography use. We did that in service of a mission in which we are absolutists: our guiding principle that people who feel porn is interfering with their lives and want help, deserve to find that help no matter how or why concern about their porn use arises. Period. Maybe some of those people will find their porn use isn’t personally problematic after all. We suspect many more will come to the opposite conclusion. But in either case, we will take pride if they were able to find the help they needed here on PornHelp.
Longer-form writing from the PornHelp team on current topics relating to problem porn use and recovery.