UNLV discussion takes on impact of porn on intimacy

Sat, Nov 17, 2018 (2 a.m.)

CARP Las Vegas, a religious nonprofit organization, hosted its third-annual campus talk at UNLV in early November to help students navigate questions about sexual intimacy through a more traditional, conservative lens. 

Organizers stressed the lecture was purely informative, addressing topics such as how young adults define and explore their first sexually intimate relationship. Are they friends with benefits, dating, allowed to see other people, exclusive, or are they saving themselves for their wedding night?

William Struthers, a professor of psychology at Wheaton College (Ill.) who studies the impact of pornography on intimacy between couples, led a discussion centering on the impact of porn and multiple sexual partners on the stability of relationships. 

Struthers explained his work on the impact of porn on men from a neurological and religious view, which was inspired by students confiding in him at the religious university where he teaches. 

“I was teaching my classes on addiction and gender-difference sexuality and especially the males came to my door, saying I’ve got a problem and it would come out that they were viewing pornography and masturbating,” he said. “Because they’re religious students, they’re really messed up about it and there’s a lot of shame around it.” 

He said that some male viewers of porn have compulsive control disorders. 

“We do find that there’s a subgroup of men who view pornography who just can’t control themselves and actually will keep choosing over and over again negative consequences, lots of negative consequences, for the promise of a good high,” Struthers said.  

Victoria Hartmann, director of the Erotic Heritage Museum who is a clinical sexologist and certified mental health counselor, said porn isn’t the cause of compulsive viewing, but the item that best fills a void for someone who already struggles with compulsive control issues. 

“There are studies that support the argument that adult material can be damaging,” she said. “There are also many, many studies that show that pornography has no significant impact on anyone who isn’t already predisposed to compulsive behavior. ... The best answer is people who might already be predisposed towards compulsivity might struggle with filling those empty spaces with adult material or food or you name it — some people are just oriented more towards adult material.”

Hartmann also said porn doesn’t show all the emotional effects of sexual intercourse because it’s not meant to. 

“Pornography is fantasy sex. It’s commercialized sex. It’s not meant to be sex ed, and it does not depict the full range of human emotions or of sex acts — it is for entertainment purposes only. So, is it limited in scope? You bet, that’s what it’s supposed to be,” she said. 

Both Hartmann and Struther agree that sexuality isn’t something to be ashamed of, but how to express that sexuality comes down to an individual’s beliefs. 

“If they have been brought up in a religious home, very religious home, or because religion attaches a lot of shame to sex, those people tend to struggle more with adult material and with the consequences of adult material and their relationship,” she said. 

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