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15: January 26, 2009

My Addiction? I Report, You Decide



Not your author, but it could be:
A porn-crazed hubby from Porn.Addict.Hubby.com

I’ve been reading a lot about porn addiction lately. At first I was unimpressed. I tend to associate “porn addiction” with “sex addiction,” which in turn I associate with Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs, whom in turn I associate with huge, freshly-pitched mounds of bullshit. I mean, really: If we're going to talk about "sex addiction" with a straight face, then shouldn't every living human on the planet fess up to having an oxygen addiction?

Still, some of the references to porn addiction that suddenly began popping up here and there in my daily reading cut rather close to the bone. I learned that whole books have been written on the topic. A thoughtful Salon article on addictions in general is noncommital on the legitimacy of sex/porn addiction but doesn’t dismiss such maladies outright.

Is there such a thing as porn addiction? And if so, do I have it?

I brought my usual research regimen and deliberative soul-searching to these questions, and thirty minutes later had arrived at these conclusions:

Yes. Probably not.

Yes, there probably is something that can be called porn addiction. After all, we humanoids can legitimately claim an addiction to just about anything. People can and do speak of being hooked on ice cream, on talk radio, on cow-tipping--the latter my maternal grandfather’s primary vice before he hit puberty and switched his allegiance to bourbon. President Obama is said to feel the tug of his Blackberry more strongly than that of cigarettes.

If we can reasonably call such frivolities as these "addictions," then pornography, too, must certainly hold that potential nowadays. It wasn’t always so, though. When I was coming of age, two crushing realities limited porn’s capacity for damage:

a. A cloud of shame hovered over it, and

b. It was damned hard to get.

Both points are illustrated in this uproarious little vignette from my freshman year at college.

I was loitering in the dorm room of my friends Durward and Nielsen one day listening to LPs. Flipping through Durward’s collection, I found, on the back side of the jacket of Don’t Cry Now, a most fetching photo of the young Linda Ronstadt. She was rocking a tight white tanktop and, with eyes gently shut, was warbling into a large cylindrical microphone set inches away from her wide-agape mouth. I asked Durward for permission to borrow the album and Durward, bogged down in a rare spasm of end-of-term cramming, grunted his assent, and I had nearly made my getaway when Nielsen observed, “Hey, wait a minute, Muggins. You don’t have a turntable,” after which ensued weeks of mirth at my expense.

We had Penthouse and Playboy back then, of course, and I was a loyal subscriber of the latter, always taking care to strip-mine every iota of gooey delight from one pictorial spread before even glancing at the next in an attempt to ration the issue’s efficacy over a full month. But as for actual moving images of actual humans having actual sex, well, that was a rare treat, lads. And when such occasions arose, they were unlikely to involve any humans that one actually wanted to see having sex—if you were lucky enough to get humans in the first place. On Gary’s wedding day, between the ceremony and the reception, we groomsmen kidnapped the bride (a Minnesota tradition of the era) and drove her to the new Adult Book and Cine at the outskirts of Mankato, where five of us, still clad in wedding gown and iridescent powder-blue tuxedoes, crammed into a stuffy, sticky-floored booth to watch “Pigfucker.” A nice memory? You bet. Addictive? Eh.

Now, if I were eighteen and had just begun living apart from my parents today, I would immediately bookmark all the porn sites that offer decent free previews, would check them daily for updates, and would subsequently join every one of those sites the minute I somehow obtained a credit card of my own. Then I would coldcock my roommate and distribute him among five hog farms by moonlight just so that I could lock my door and spend the rest of my days masturbating in peace.

All of which goes to show that yes, for the young and impressionable mind, porn can be highly addictive and destructive, and it’s a darn good thing that the strongest thing any of us could get our scaly little paws on in those days was Penthouse. Let us pray for today’s spoiled youth, and especially for today’s spoiled youth’s innocently bystanding roommates.

Now then, what about me—real fifty-something me, that is: a man saved from porn addiction throughout my salad years by porn’s scarcity. A man who, in his early forties, came to appreciate the suddenly easy availability of internet porn the way his grandparents once reveled in indoor plumbing. Am I, in fact, a latent porn addict? Surely there must be some sort of metric device out there to help answer this question…

A Google search for porn addiction quizzes yielded nearly as many hits as one might expect for “topless college girl” AND “southpaw handjob.” But the results were uniformly disappointing. (In the former case, I mean.) While taking the quizzes, I felt that the designers were all leading me by the nose in the same direction—i.e., toward redemption in the eyes of my Savoir--and not very subtly at that. Section B of one of the longer ones, for example, begins innocuously enough with “Do you masturbate while imagining sexual images, viewing explicit materials or remembering people you've seen?” before abruptly left-turning at item 11 to “Do you masturbate while thinking about children or young teens?” to which my answer is neither yes or no but simply “Dude!”

I’ll spare you that particular quiz, as it is quite long. Below is the shortest of the lot courtesy of whatgodintended.com:


Item Question Answer Comment
1 Do you indulge in pornography in increasing periods of time and increasing amounts? Yes Case in point: after coming up with that throw-away line above about topless college girls giving southpaw handjobs, I simply had to log on and google it just to see what I got. Bupkis at first, so I removed the quotation marks and tweaked it a few times. Long story short: I failed to find an actual video or still image of a topless college girl administering a southpaw handjob; but I had what passes for fun around here in the attempt. On the downside, the completion of this blog post was delayed by ten minutes and thus so was your opportunity to enjoy these words, and I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life.
2 Do you experience withdrawal symptoms afterwards (fatigue, depression, insomnia)? No My porn consumption is limited to the time I spend here in my apartment in the Tokyo suburbs. When I’m down at the farmhouse where Mrs. Muggins resides or on vacation abroad with her, I certainly don’t yearn to cruise porn sites. I don’t! I can quit any time, I tell you! I can quit any time!
3 Do you continue on in the use of pornography after physical, emotional, relational problems have started? Yes I’m writing this during the latter end (I hope) of a long and nasty cold, during which I have watched one or two short videos every day. (I have not pleasured myself while doing so, as I ought to avoid drafts. So, for a change, I just watched.) It passed a little time, stabilized my heartbeat, and left me smiling. So I guess that counts as “continu[ing] on after physical problems have started.” I can’t comment on emotional or relational problems yet, though. Quoth Sarah Palin, I’ll get back to ya.
4 Do you give up important events in order to indulge in pornography? No Because no event seems important since I started downloading porn. Ha-ha, just kidding.
5 After withdrawal symptoms set in, do you use pornography to deal with the discomfort? Uh...no... What is this with the “withdrawal symptoms”? And why the presumption that everyone gets them? I’m not still beating my wife, either, by the way…
6 Are you frequently fantasizing about pornographic pictures and thoughts in the midst of work, social, and personal events? No I live in the real world, and in my real workaday world I focus my considerable fantasizing powers on undressing whatever real people are in front of me at any given moment, just as any normal person does.
7 Do you indulge in the use of pornography in a dangerous way (such as driving)? No Aw, dude! Sick!
8 Do you need significantly more pornography in order to derive the same amount of pleasure? No... Well, more accurately, my reaction is “more than who”? If you mean to say, “more than John Boehner does,” I’m going out on a limb and saying no. That chap is wound waaaaay too tight and is in much greater need of spending some quality time with the School Bus Girls than I do. If, however, you mean more than I myself needed say, two or three years ago…well, maybe. I wish I could time-travel back to that period and watch over my own shoulder so as to compare my porn habits of those days with those of the present. That might be quite instructive. Plus, there was a delightful Aurora Snow three-play that I lost in a computer crash in ’07. I could stand to sit through that one more time.
9 Do you need to reduce the amount of behavior significantly? No...? But then again, if I’m theoretically the addict, what are you asking me for?
10 Do you lose much time and effort in obtaining pornographic material? No With a well-organized website and a high-speed connection, it’s a snap! I scarcely have time to pull my pants down before we’re ready to roll.



Only two yeses out of ten, though I suppose the “no” on item 9 is a sort of stealth-yes. On the other hand, the yes on item 3 was a clear-cut erring-on-the side-of-conservatism yes. Anyway, I felt confident that I was safely clear of the porn-addiction red zone despite the website’s lack of a key for calculating one’s own score. One has to press Submit to obtain one's results, and when I did so I was greeted with:

Your quiz score is 80. You have a sexual obsession.

Sigh… I think this whole on-line porn-addiction-quiz game is rigged. I bet the pope himself would struggle to pass one of these quizzes—especially the one with all the follow-up questions about children and young teens.

Well, I figured that if I wanted a valid paradigm for measuring porn addiction, I’d have to come up with my own. My admittedly cursory reading on the subject led me to posit that the reasons experts cite as to why one ought to be wary of using porn can be roughly sorted into four broad issues. To wit: You’re wasting money; you’re wasting time; you’re getting progressively weirder; and you’re supporting an exploitative industry to meet your own selfish needs.

So let’s break that down.

You’re wasting money.

I’ve belonged to the same porn website for about three years now and, frankly, had forgotten just what my monthly nut was. Bad sign. I checked it out: Turns out it’s 0 yen per month. (That’s $0 per month American.) According to my account records, I terminated my account last August. I don’t remember doing so, but that's neither here nor there. These days, I'm happily capable of attending four-hour faculty meetings and being unable to recall a single detail 48 hours later. Anyway, since August no charges have been made to my credit card, and yet I’ve still been able to log on and download. I’d tell you the name of my site but I’m afraid one of you would rat me out.

You’re wasting time.

Guilty. I have sometimes wondered on a Sunday night what I might have accomplished over the weekend had it not been for porn. And the only answer can be “a heck of a lot more than I did accomplish.”

I feel obliged to point out that, during my three years as a porn-website subscriber/squatter, I have finished a second book under Josh’s name, while in Day-Job Land I have switched employers, earned a promotion, co-authored two books, solo authored five shallow but lengthy academic papers, and with the capable assistance of Mrs. Muggins acquired and partly renovated a nineteenth-century farmhouse. Of course, all that’s just the defensive jabbering of a slobbering junkie in denial, so take it with a grain of salt.

You’re getting progressively weirder.

This is a key symptom cited by all the porn Cassandras. A harmless little Girls Gone Wild opus ordered on a whim, so the theory goes, leads the consumer straight to membership in a hardcore site and thence to obsessions with fisting and double-penetration and interracial transsexual squirting until the now-friendless porn victim sits transfixed with the cold blue flicker of “Pigfucker XXVII: The Pig Strikes Back” emanating from his screen.

I don’t know. When I started my career in perversion, I was mainly interested in seeing pretty ladies naked and performing sex acts. And that’s where I’ve been stuck low these many decades. In my young days, my tastes in pretty naked ladies were admirably free of prejudice. Any old pretty naked lady would do, and a lot of the pretty naked ladies available for viewing in those days were just that: old. Since then, a latent preference for pretty naked ladies who are also young (and Asian) has emerged. Some may find this shift discriminatory and distasteful, but for what it’s worth, it marks the alpha and omega of the evolution of my porn tastes. When it comes to consistency, I think it's not too much to say that I'm the 1990s Fred McGriff of porn fandom.

When considering which clip I might download, I peruse the stills and user reviews that the website provides for each clip. (And I must say that porn-site critics as a class are considerably gentler and more constructive than my own Amazon critics.) If, upon viewing a downloaded clip, I find that I’ve been misled and that my sensibilities have been violated, I immediately throw it away. (Well, sort of immediately.) My easily violated sensibilities are as follows:

God saw fit to give ladies two orifices suited for penis insertion. Anything involving a different orifice is off limits. Sorry if I sound like a fuddy-duddy, but there it is. I’m unmoved by BDSM, or indeed by any other acts that must be rendered as unpronounceable acronyms. Moreover, I don’t like any acts that look as if they would subject the recipient to the same degree of discomfort that I experience during a colonoscopy. (I do not share the view of several on-line reviewers that porn actresses “really get into” their work, but need to believe that the experience is not unpleasant for anyone involved.)

Other rules: No gagging, please. Peeing, mechanical devices, grandmothers? No thank you. “Shemale Samba Mania”? I think I’ll pass. The recent proclivities—well, “recent” in Josh years at least—of shaving pubic regions and ejaculating on faces leave me nonplussed, but the sheer ubiquity of these practices compels me to compromise. (For the record, I myself have never ejaculated on anyone's face, nor has any man ever ejaculated on mine to the best of my recollection. It's sort of a Golden Rule thing with me.)

I gravitate toward oral sex and handjob scenes, mainly because one gets the best view of the whole naked lady and far fewer of the extreme close-ups that directors use to appease the apparently large gynecological-intern segment of the porn audience. Did I mention that I like looking at pretty naked ladies?

The verdict: Yes, I’m pretty weird. But you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and you certainly can’t teach an old dog to sit through a twenty-two-minute six-on-one Latina MILF gangbang and like it. Trust me on this: my dog keeled over at the nine-minute mark. Honestly, now, I’m about as weird as I’m ever going to get, I’m afraid, and no amount of porn exposure is going to change that.

You’re supporting an exploitative industry and indirectly injuring others to meet your own selfish needs.

The purportedly exploited and injured parties, I assume, are the actors who appear in porn, primarily the females.

This is the toughest call, an issue requiring exactly the type of research that I don’t feel like doing. I prefer to tell you my impressions because it’s much easier. But here’s one nugget I unearthed from the tiny bit of research that I did manage: retired porn stars of recent decades appear much more likely to settle down to stable marriages and real estate licenses and law degrees and such than did their predecessors of decades gone by, who had an unfortunate tendency to settle down to violent and premature death. (Check out this Wikipedia page and play with the links.)

Objectively speaking, there is no comparison, none at all, between the robust porn stars of today and those of the Seventies. I’m still haunted by memories of the actor who played the title character in “Pigfucker,” for, although he interpreted a challenging role with admirable zeal, it was clear from looking at him that his motivation was born of the fix that he could purchase as soon as he got paid. One is left wondering whether it was he or his porcine costar who met the earlier and grislier end.

He was an extreme case, of course, but many of the stars of the Seventies had a similarly sad, unnaturally gaunt and pale look to them that lent credence to the tales one used to hear of the dire fates of teenage runaways to Lala Land —a look which stands in stark contrast to the wholesome, yoga-practicing, tofu-consuming, fan-club-and-website-having icons of today.

I’m ruling here that the “exploitation” charge is out of date—something on a par with the question “Do you attend adult theaters or drive-ins?” that one of the aforementioned porn-addiction-quiz writers actually felt the need to include in the twenty-first century porn-addiction quiz.

My four-part assessment thus ends with three no’s and a single yes to the question of my putative porn addiction. However, that lone yes does rankle. How far along might I be on my third book by now had I not wasted so much time admiring stills from “Tokyo Teen Tits,” I can’t help but ponder.

So, what do you folks think about my state of mind? Normal middle-aged guy giving his prostate a healthy workout? Or sad, pathetic loner beginning his slow, swirling slide down the toilet bowl of damnation?

Shoot me a line if you have an opinion.