The premise and conclusion of one recent study claiming pornography is beneficial to men is so outlandish, one hardly needs to delve into its claims. One atheist author has even described the analysis as “completely crazy.”
The study, which appeared in the July edition of Psychology of Men and Masculinity, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Psychological Association, employed a short-form version of the Porn Consumption Effects Scale (PCES), a self-assessment made up of 47 questions aimed at understanding the overall health impact of pornography consumption.
In the abstract, the study’s authors write that those who participated in the survey by taking the abridged 14-question PCES assessment “perceived pornography to have a significantly greater positive than negative effect on their lives.”
“How can that be?” Gary Wilson, an atheist and the author of the book, “Your Brain on Porn,” asked during an interview with the Catholic News Agency. “Is every study published in the last 25 years wrong or is there something wrong with the PCES?”
Wilson pointed to the study’s obvious contradictions in hopes of debunking the conclusion of the survey.
In the introduction, even the authors admit pornography consumption has profoundly negative impacts on the men who view it. They note that it leads to “body image dissatisfaction,” “permissiveness toward casual sex,” “engagement in condomless sex,” “preferences regarding the sexual practices depicted in pornography,” “sexual aggression” and “sexual objectification of women.”
The prototype for the PCES was first developed in 2008. A few years later, Joshua Grubbs, a psychology professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, developed the Perceived Pornography Addiction Questionnaire. Roughly one-third of the survey’s questions center on shame.
Grubbs’ work gained a lot of attention in 2015, following the publication of a study that found the perceived addiction to pornography — that is, “feeling addicted to internet pornography irrespective of actual pornography use” — can cause significant psychological trauma in the form of stress, anxiety, anger and depression.
In response to the study, Grubbs, who is a Christian but “very skeptical” of conservative evangelical teachings, alongside his fellow researchers urged clinicians to shift from focusing exclusively on treating pornography use itself to helping change the mindset of those who consume it, though he told Faithwire it remains important to address the unhealthy consumption of pornography.
The jury is still out on whether the habitual consumption of pornography should be described, from a clinical perspective, as addiction. But these questions need to be asked — and answered — as our society continues to march toward an increasingly relativistic moral structure where we can avoid making absolute judgements on these kinds of issues.
That, however, seems to be the way our culture is trending. Consider the issue of gender dysphoria: In June, the World Health Organization dropped gender dysphoria, once considered a psychological condition worthy of clinical treatment, from its list of mental health disorders.
No longer is gender dysphoria something to be treated, according to the medical community. Now it’s something to be wholly embraced and accepted under the banner of transgenderism.
As for pornography, regardless of what this one outlying study claims, the data is stacked against smut.
Not only is pornography seriously eroding our relationships with one another, it’s also making the world a more dangerous place for women and notably undermining the sanctity of marriage. And new research shows those who consume pornography often end up trapped in a dizzying battle between lust and loneliness.
So it’s reasonable a distinguished scholar like Wilson wouldn’t buy the absurd claim porn is good for men or women. And the data is on his side.
Editor’s note: This article unintentionally misrepresented some of Grubbs’ work and has since been updated.