Pornography- Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down
By: Pulkit Sharma

Pornography brings up intense ambivalence.There are people who are addicted to it, people who watch it for recreation, people who hold it as a closet crime, people who get repulsed with it, people who feel guilty yet cannot stop and people who endeavor to get over with it. Several harmful effects of pornography have been reported and yet the prevalence of pornography addiction has gone up. Internet pornography has provided people with material to cater to every possible fantasy. However many reservations there may be, the fact is that pornography has existed for long and continues to grow stronger in demand as is indicated by its blossoming industry. It's time that we carefully look at pornography not through moral lenses but from a psychological perspective assessing the thumbs up and the thumbs down.

Thumbs Up: Some people report that watching pornography in a restricted manner is helpful in certain ways:

. Liberating Effect: A majority of people harbor inhibitions and misconceptions about sex. When exposed to pornography, they come across 'role models' who generously indulge in providing sexual pleasure to each other. For many individuals, this can trigger a rethinking about their sexual beliefs, clear misconceptions and provide an encouragement to spice up their own sexual act.

. Catharsis: Let's face it;every individual has dark sexual fantasies that include exhibitionism, sadism, masochism and voyeurism. People fancy receiving or giving pain during the sexual act, exhibiting themselves and sneaking into the sexual life of other couples. These dark fantasies cannot be suppressed, but theydo requireextensive psychological work to be transformed and sublimated. Till that time people need a safe outlet for gratification. Pornography is one such safe outlet for some people as it helps one derive satisfaction from observing the act rather than performing it.

. Support: For some people pornography can be soothing and have a supportive effect during the times when their partner is away. These people feel that they can temporarily fill in the void by virtual pleasure.

Thumbs Down: Even so, in a majority of conditions pornography can have adverse effects on a person's psycheand relationships:

. Porn Addiction: Watching porn for recreation and experimentation often leads to pornography addiction disorder. For people who suffer from emotional and psychological problems, pornography becomes a drug, which they rely upon for their happiness. These individuals spend increasing amounts of time watching pornography, neglect other aspects of their life and lose control.Their entire life starts revolving around pornography, which then hampers their individual growth.

. Loss of Empathy: Some people cannot distinguish 'reel' from 'real' and blindly start imitating what they see. Often these people stop taking into account the needs, wishes and feelings of their partner. Theybecome self-focused after watching too much porn. If someone starts seeing his/ her partner as a sex mannequin to gratify their kinky desires then it may become extremely traumatic for the partner,which can cause a serious rift in the relationship.

. Antisocial Behavior: Certain forms of pornography happen to be extreme and brutal, which may in fact encourage violent and antisocial behavior in people who watch it. These people start feeling that if the actor can do it and go scot free then they could try it as well. Pornography encourages people to perform violent sexual crimes and has a damaging influence on the psyche.

. Devaluation of women: Pornography tends to show women in a submissive and degraded manner. Men watching such material may adopt a similar attitude and start devaluing women.

The bottom line however, is to know where to draw the line. Watching porn can very well have a recreational impact provided the person has the psychological strength, self-control, ethical values, sensitivity and maturity to handle it. Otherwise, it may become a self-destructive and cruel endeavor.

Pulkit Sharma is Clinical Psychologist & Spiritual Therapist in private practice at Pondicherry (Puducherry), near Auroville. Email:- info@thepsychologistindia.com