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Porn Addiction? Here are The Answers to Your Questions…

Porn addiction and pornography use is on the rise in South Africa, so we interviewed an expert and asked her your most burning questions on porn! It’s porn in SA exposed!

Some people insist that porn is an unhealthy relationship killer, others insist that it can be a magical part of an intimate relationship. But how exactly are South Africans using porn, and what are the rules so that porn can be used safely in a loving relationship?

Have you ever wondered what ‘normal porn use’ actually looks like? There are so many questions that our readers have regarding this often hidden and taboo topic.

That’s why we’re breaking down barriers today and have enlisted the help of a highly respected expert in porn addiction to help us make sense of the good, the bad and the ugly!

Expert Showcase: Sorika De Swardt

The Désir team looked into who might be the best resource to answer these burning questions, and we came across Sorika De Swardt, whom specialized in Addiction and Mental Health, in the United Kingdom.

With a BA degree in Social Work, a Master’s degree in Psychology and 23 years practical experience, few individuals in South Africa have her depth of knowledge when it comes to the topic of addiction.

Sorika has also been involved in educational development programs on the subject of sex addiction, speaking, writing and appearing as an expert on local radio stations across South Africa. Please find more information on her website: SORIKA DE SWARDT

Naturally, while searching for someone who could answer these tough porn addiction questions, her name came up and she graciously agreed to be interviewed for this first-of-its-kind piece.

Now, onto the answers you’ve been waiting for!

Question 1

In a recent article, News24 reported that according to Pornhub, South Africa is on the top 20 most frequent users list for their site. That makes us #1 on the African continent. In 2016, we were #1 in the world for watching porn on our phones.

In your opinion, why are South Africans so taken with pornography?

Answer:

Pornography can be an escape from the daily stressors of life. South Africans live under very stressful circumstances and anything and everything that diverts our attention, offers escapism and provides immediate gratification, will draw people in.

The availability of smartphones with internet connection, hook-up applications and a more free-thinking and liberal approach to sex and sexuality also contributes to people venturing out into experiences that they did not consider some years ago.

Before the internet, you had to leave your house, drive somewhere to a dodgy neighbourhood to find a porn shop where you could buy or rent books or videos. Supply was limited and you actually had to show your face somewhere with the chance that you could be recognized or identified.

Today, pornography is free and cheap, you can remain anonymous and it’s available anytime, anywhere at the touch of a smartphone button.

“Availability, affordability and anonymity makes the use of pornography easy and more appealing than a decade ago.”

People are also disillusioned with relationships that don’t last so a pleasurable sexual experience, (“going solo with pornography”) with no strings or responsibilities attached can be rather appealing to some.

There is also:

  • Experiencing sexual satisfaction
  • Feeling aroused
  • Achieving orgasm
  • Attempts to regulate mood and self sooth when they feel bored, lonely, stressed and depressed

Question 2

On average Pornhub reports that people in SA spend 10 minutes and 46 seconds on their site, most commonly between 22:00 and 1am.

What does this say about how South Africans are using porn?

Answer:

When and how much time people spend on pornography websites is not a clear indicator of how porn is used by South Africans.

Many people will download porn during the night and watch it during the day.

It may also suggest that it is still something we do whilst our partners and children have gone to bed and we have some privacy.

Interestingly enough, 10 minutes is not an extended time to be on a pornography website and does not indicate that we are a nation struggling with porn addiction.

It might indicate that the content online is becoming more and more explicit in an attempt to bring about fast gratification and pleasure.

People who are watching pornography secretly (without their partner knowing) would also rather do it at night when it feels safe to do so.

Question 3

In your expert opinion, does an overuse of porn negatively impact relationship intimacy?

And what other kinds of negative backlash might a couple experience if they are exposing themselves to a lot of porn?

Answer:

Based on my experience in private practice as well as various up to date research studies, the overuse or compulsive use of pornography can be very damaging to the individual as well as to their relationships, finances, legal status, emotional wellbeing, sexual health and sexual functioning, to name a few.

Porn is not real, it’s scripted and every actor knows exactly what to do next.

No one is ever unsure, inexperienced or rejected. No-one falls pregnant, no one has problems with sexual dysfunction and no-one contracts STI’s. No one is tired, everyone looks great and toned, and consent is not something that you ask for.

When a person overuses pornography, it distorts their perception of sex, sexuality, relationships and the complexity of so many other things that a relationship encompasses.

“In the world of online sex, intensity replaces intimacy.”

The very normal things about relationships, like deep connected love, friendship, flabby bellies, conflict, real headaches and tiredness because of a hard day at the office, and the right to make decisions over your own body and sexual boundaries, become hindrances.

Porn looks easy and relationships look like really hard work.
In relationships we don’t always get what we want, when and how we want it.

With these distorted views of sex and relationships the compulsive porn user becomes less and less attracted to their real life partner and more and more engulfed by the immediate, boundary less, often unreal intensity of online sexual pleasure.

No partner can compare or keep up with what the internet and pornography offers, and this will make one partner feel dissatisfied and resentful, whilst the other will feel unsafe, not good enough, rejected and betrayed.

The more the one withdraws, the more the other is potentially driven to seek gratification outside the relationship and vice-versa.

Then there is also the danger of becoming addicted to pornography or sexual acting out. There are still a handful of professionals who sadly give confusing statements conflating the term “sex addiction” with phrases like “sex negative” and “sexual conservatism.”

But anyone working in the field can attest to the devastation any addiction brings to families. Sex and porn addiction is no exception to this rule.

Porn induced erectile dysfunction is also something we’re coming across more and more.

Question 4

Many South Africans are outwardly totally against porn, saying that it negatively impacts morals.

In a Psychology Today article, studies have suggested that porn-free relationships are stronger, with lower rates of infidelity, and that couples who watch porn together are more sexually satisfied.

In your opinion, why is this the case?

Answer:

What South Africans outwardly say, is often just their internalized shame speaking.

Whilst there is no doubt, pornography goes against the moral fibre of families and monogamous committed relationships, it is also true that not everyone buys into the hetero-normative-monogamous and moralistic views of sex and relationships anymore.

Partners are often not of the same opinion about the use of pornography.

When one partner watches pornography in secret, they are often filled with shame and this impacts their ability to emotionally and physically connect with their partner.

“Porn literally brings a third person, or many other people into the bedroom – which is a huge stumbling block towards relationship intimacy.”

Some consider watching porn to be infidelity in itself and if your partner feels betrayed by what you are doing, they feel betrayed. We cannot tell a partner that we did not hurt them deeply just because it was not our intention.

I believe there are four kinds of couples in South Africa at the present moment:

  • Those who both agree that pornography has no place in their marriage and should one partner stray, it will be met with a sense of hurt and betrayal amongst other consequences.
  • The second group are those who agree to watch porn together and experiment with what sorts of pornography might work for both of them.The problem here is that men and woman tend to watch different kinds of pornography. Woman need context and the sex must be part of a storyline of some sort. Men in general don’t need that amount of context.But some couples are adamant that it spices up their relationships and because no-one is lying about it to their spouse, there is no betrayal.
  • The third group of couples have no idea what to do with the tsunami of explicit content that can be found online in all formats and across all platforms.Some will agree to disagree and one partner will watch porn with the permission or at least knowledge of their partner.However, these relationships tend to get into trouble because the partner who is not watching porn still feels ‘I am not enough to satisfy my partner’ and they eventually withdraw.
  • The last group never discusses pornography and one or even both partners may be watching pornography secretly. Again, the secrecy, lying and emotional distance that follows often causes serious problems in a relationship.

Question 5

In your expert opinion, how does a person in a loving relationship healthily use porn?

Is there such a thing?

Answer:

I fail to see how a person in a loving relationship would need pornography to become aroused or to spice up their relationship. There are many other ways of doing so.

Having said that, many couples feel that if they are both in agreement that pornography, erotic reading, sex toys and other forms of stimulation are a nice add-on to their normal loving and healthy relationship, it would not necessarily do harm because it is part of a whole menu of sexual activities they choose to enjoy together.

There are a few other things to consider here:

    1. Watching pornography means that you are part of the demand chain that is involved in things like sex trafficking of children, men and woman against their will. Whether you like it or not, you have no way of knowing if what you see on screen is a paid porn star who really wants to have sex to earn a living, or whether it is a mother selling herself to feed her children. Or worse, whether you are watching people being sexually violated under coercion. Pornography and the sex trade is a business of demand and supply.
    1. Some people will watch porn a couple of times just to try and learn a new technique or out of curiosity, but they may not be prepared for some of the things they see on screen and this may impact their approach to their partner. Objectification of a partner or people in general when someone overuses pornography is very common.
    1. However, if a couple agrees on what is considered pornography (i.e. photos of naked bodies or high impact video material of people having sex etc.) they may come to some agreement of what they are comfortable or uncomfortable watching, and let their partner watch too. So they have to agree on the boundaries of what can and cannot be viewed.
    1. Couples must also talk about what constitutes infidelity for them. No-one in a committed monogamous relationship should watch porn secretly because it will damage the relationship (whether you are caught or not). It is best to have an open discussion about the different perceptions regarding pornography, fidelity, what intimacy means to each partner and how to navigate the differences of opinion.
    1. Adults can watch porn without it being an addiction or crisis, but when someone watches it secretively, compulsively and they experience shame, loss of control and negative consequences, it may be that the arousal template of the person is expanding problematically and that they have lost control over their sexual acting out. Such a person needs qualified therapeutic help for porn addiction.
    1. Lastly, the golden rule applies – whatever two consenting adults do in their own time in their own space is between them and our opinion on that is null and void because it is their relationship and their agreement. But it is also important to understand that the person on the screen may not have consented to what is happening to them.

Question 6

In your expert opinion, when does ‘normal’ porn use become a problem? And what signs should someone in a relationship look for if these problems/addictions manifest?

Answer:

If a person is viewing porn and that behaviour is impacting his or her life in negative ways, he or she might want/need to do something about it.

If a person is looking at porn and it’s not causing problems, then he or she probably does not need to make any changes. The amount of porn a person is using is not the deciding factor, rather what porn use is doing to his or her relationships, self-image, and wellbeing that counts.

Watching pornography like many other activities, activates the pleasure pathway in the brain and dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin are some of the feel-good hormones that are secreted.

When one repeats the behaviour too often, a person tends to become desensitized and they may find that they need more violent, more extreme content to get to the same point of arousal.

They may also find that they start to view things that they never intended to view such as child pornography. This is an indication that the person’s Arousal template is expanding problematically and they would need expert help in breaking this cycle.

The most common form of sex addiction today is porn addiction. It’s based on the same criteria as other forms of intense addiction:

  • Failed attempts to cut back or quit resulting in loss of control
  • Obsession, preoccupation
  • Negative life consequences like work problems, ruined relationships, loss of interest in things, declining physical health, financial problems, shame, isolation and depression
  • Masturbation with porn resulting in injury or abrasion
  • Shame and guilt over the types of porn being consumed
  • Losing track of time when using porn
  • Spending excessive amounts of time searching for, watching, engaging with or collecting porn
  • Anxiety and depression related to porn use
  • Emotional and social isolation
  • Drug or alcohol use in conjunction with porn addiction
  • Escalation – from 2D images or video to webcamming, collecting porn, cyber-sex, casual hook-ups, prostitutes and affairs
  • Anger or irritability when the topic of porn use comes up
  • Reduced interest in real sexual relationships
  • Sexual dysfunction like inability to reach orgasm, delayed ejaculation, erectile dysfunction with real world partners, but not with porn

Question 7

There are so many different types of porn these days, stories, images, gifs, videos, live chats – the list goes on!
Which mediums, in your expert opinion, are considered safe, and which are ethically dubious? Can you cheat on a partner just by looking at or engaging with porn?

Answer:

This is down to the two partners in a relationship.

If the one has no problem with the other one watching porn, then there is no betrayal, no cheating and no shame. However, the compulsive porn-user may find that they are in fact not doing themselves or their relationship any favours, because of the possibility of tolerance building up.

Porn induced sexual dysfunction and a loss of interest in sex with a real life partner is common.

“Many partners feel betrayed, incompetent and ‘not good enough’ to pleasure their partners – because they cannot compare with what is on offer online.”

Any sexual content that includes children, animals or people otherwise unable to consent to sex would be ethically and legally wrong and can have severe consequences.

Question 8

With virtual reality porn on the rise, do you foresee new immersive mediums like these causing problems in relationships? How should a couple handle things like VR porn?

Answer:

Not everyone who uses porn or other forms of digital sexual stimulation will become addicted, or be damaged by the content. However every sex addict I have ever treated uses pornography and their problem started with porn use.

“Porn is therefore known as the escalator for ‘sexual acting out’ behaviour.”

As digital technology continues its evolution, people of all ages and genders are drawn to the immediately accessible content, gratification and interconnectivity it provides.

With things like sex robots, teledildonics and virtual reality, the intensity of the experience will increase, making it more likely that people will repeatedly go back to it and whether they become addicted or not, it is a fact that online sexual activity is costing more and more people their primary relationships, self-respect, employment, mental wellbeing and healthy sexual functioning.

Only time will tell what the other consequences will be for new developments in the area of digital sex but if it causes conflict or concern, it may be best to leave it out of your relationship.

Question 9

Do you have any advice for couples that struggle with porn, porn use – and what is and isn’t okay?

Answer:

When people engage in any form of infidelity regularly, it says something about their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.

They may be afraid of intimacy and may lack empathy for the pain they are causing a partner.

So when the relationship is in trouble, these individuals do not have the skills to effectively work through the problems on their own and a skilled therapist would be needed.

What is needed when a couple has problems with porn addiction or any form of sexual acting out is active listening, practicing empathy, identifying and understanding the root causes, patience, and changes in basic behaviour.

Partners may need to learn how to communicate in ways that feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable to them.

If the porn use has escalated into a full blown addiction or played a role in infidelity, we find that the spouses and partners of addicts typically struggle with both grief and trauma.

Many even display symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Treatment for the partner would be supportive and empowering, whilst treatment for the addict or compulsive user is to stop acting out-behaviour permanently.

This does not mean they are not allowed to have sex, they are just not allowed to act out in a sexually uncontrolled way that causes pain to themselves and others.

“It is about sensitizing and re-learning to be sexual in non-compulsive, non-problematic, life-affirming ways.”

Question 10

If you had to give a couple rules on how best to treat and use pornography, what would they be?

Answer:

If you don’t need it to spice up your relationship, then you are better off without it.

If you need it to spice up your relationship, then an open and honest discussion is necessary about how each partner defines porn, infidelity, and about what would be complete deal-breakers.

There are many other, safer and less problematic ways to spice up one’s sex life such as sex toys, sex games, role playing, relationship enrichment courses, learning each other’s love language and experimenting with new things between the sheets!

**
Sorika would like to give recognition to her mentor and trainer, Robert Weiss (LCSW) from the USA for the insights she gained from his books, articles, training and mentoring.

The Best Resource on Porn Addiction in SA

That brings us to the end of this reveal-all interview! A big thank you to Sorika De Swardt who took the time to educate our readers on sex and porn addiction.

The next time someone asks you, ‘Is porn healthy or harmful to relationships?’ you can refer them to this expert post, and all of their questions will be answered!

Share to spread the word!

For more ground-breaking posts on sex in South Africa:

What has your experience been with porn?

About Désir Intimate Collection

Désir Intimate Collection is South Africa’s most exclusive online store, devoted to giving our clientele private access to the finest designer brands on the intimate luxury market. Headquartered in Camps Bay, Cape Town, Désir Online has one main goal – to help our customers find stronger intimacy, form closer relationships and build passionate love lives by dispelling the myths and social stigmas that prevent people from sensual exploration & expression.

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