When users become abusers

The sexual exploitation of women and children start with pornography

In the Age of the Internet, pornography has taken over not only online platforms but also many of our minds.

According to researchers “pornography’s intense stimulation of the brain brings about significant changes in the brain similar to drug addiction.” [1] So “those with compulsive sexual behavior have brain activity that mirrors those of drug addicts.”[2]

This addiction starts first with repulsion by certain content, but habituation requires stronger doses to achieve the same effect. As with drug addiction, what started as recreational could finish totally out of control with the user needing greater and more extreme “doses.”

Women’s as sexual objects

Image by Natashawilliams, morguefile.com

Besides addiction, Susan Fiske (professor of psychology at Princeton University) showed in a study in February 2009, that the brain activity of men viewing pornography resulted in the users viewing women more as objects than as humans.

Both addiction and viewing women as objects, leads to a “positive correlation between an increase in pornography use and the likelihood of adults believing violence against women is acceptable”[3].  Also, there is evidence that “males who watch porn regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexual behaviors, including rape and aggression. The longer men watch porn, the more likely they are to begin viewing women as sexual objects instead of people.[4]

De-sensitization, the path to child sexual abuse?

A porn addiction often leads to desensitization, distorted views of reality, and a desire to pursue more deviant forms of pornography to fulfil their sexual desires.[5] Those deviant forms of pornography are those ‘stronger doses’ I mentioned in the beginning.

This desensitization, a phenomenon described numerous times at the consultation of porn users, is the way in which “images that would initially disgust the viewer—including unwanted pop-ups such as child pornography or violent pornographic images encountered during the search for non-violent images—lose their ability to shock and disgust over time”.[6] So desensitisation makes addicts become stimulated by images that would have repulsed them in the past. Those images may include violent sexual acts and child, particularly teen, pornography.[7]

As I already mentioned above, we see that the habit of porn leads to the need of ‘stronger doses’, which consists of a “constant stream of new, increasingly violent and fetishized content. In order to keep up with this demand, more women and children become prostituted and trafficked.”[8]

“More than 30% of the searches conducted in eDonkey P2P network are related to child sexual abuse.”[9] 

In “Internet Pornography and Paedophilia” (2013), Dr Heather Wood, a clinical psychologist, analysed several reasons why persons find themselves regressing from adult pornography to child pornography. He mentions that children will not pose the threat which an adult might, which means that the child is less likely to reject and is less hostile or aggressive than an adult partner. Also, the argument of destabilisation of a person’s sexual adaptation through large exposure to pornography can ultimately produce sexual arousal by viewing children against their inclination.[10]

We see a clear link between porn addiction and sexual abuse of children because over time, child pornography or violent pornographic images lose their ability to shock and disgust porn users, which may turn them into abusers of children and women. In the end, this will validate and normalise sexual exploitation, which clearly goes against the human dignity of the child and the women.

So It appears that “pornography continues to be a factor in human trafficking for sexual exploitation of women and children”.[11]

In treating women as sexual objects, there is a clear violation of their human dignity. Human dignity can only be respected if the human person is viewed as a subject with inviolable rights. This exploitation becomes so clear and intolerable for everyone when it comes to treating children as objects but if we want to protect children we have to fight at the roots which are the mind-set that justify any kind of exploitation of children or women; online or live.

Written by Marie-Christine Alting von de Geusau WYA Europe intern.

[1] Simone Kühn, Jürgen Gallinat, “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn,” JAMA Psychiatry 71 (July 2014): 827-834.

[2] Cambridge University. (2014) “Brain activity in sex addiction mirrors that of drug addiction.” http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/brain-activity-in-sex-addiction-mirrors-that-of-drug-addiction

[3] Hald, G., Malamuth, N. & Yuen, C. (2010).  Pornography and attitudes supporting violence against women: revisiting the relationship in non experimental studies. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 14-20.

[4] http://www.roadtograce.net/current-porn-statistics/

[5] http://www.frc.org/onepagers/the-effects-of-pornography-on-individuals-marriage-family-and-community

[6] p. 20 http://www.forofamilia.org/documentos/VARIOS%20-%20Ingles.El%20coste%20social%20de%20la%20pornografia.Datos%20y%20propuestas..pdf

[7] http://www.conversantlife.com/morality/the-social-costs-of-pornography

[8] National Center on Sexual Exploitation. (2015) Pornography + Sex Trafficking: The Facts. At http://stoptraffickingdemand.com/facts/?

[9] Thorn. (2015) Child Pornography Statistics. At https://www.wearethorn.org/child-pornography-and-abuse-statistics/

[10] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-l-pulido-phd/exploring-why-offenders-v_b_9330296.html

[11] http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1215/