By Jessica Lees, Third Year Politics and Sociology
Pornography has never been more accessible than it is today. It has evolved at an astounding rate from adult magazines to videotapes to its height as an online platform, with millions of videos spanning every genre possible. Epigram interviewed Jack Jenkins, CEO and founder of REMOJO—an app designed to help break addictions to pornography—to discuss the addictive nature of pornography, and its potentially harmful impact on the emotional and physical wellbeing of the student demographic.
Statistics show that men and boys are the leading gender in the consumption of pornography, although there is a steady incline of female viewers. YouGov found that 'Three-quarters of British men (76 per cent) say they have watched porn, compared to around half of women (53 per cent). Around a third of men (36 per cent) say they watch pornography at least once a week, including 13 per cent who watch porn every day or most days'.
With the average age of introduction to pornographic content occurring at 11 years old, Jack Jenkins stated that the core age range of REMOJO users is between ‘16-35’. The overlap between those in their university years and the demographic seeking out support for pornography dependence suggests that the damaging effects of porn could be disproportionately affecting much of the student population.
However, research has found that excessive pornography consumption can have damaging effects on intimate relationships. Alison Baxter for the American Bar Association details how pornography consumption can trigger aggression in relationships, the perception of women as sexual objects and neglect of the risks and responsibilities of STIs and pregnancy. Epigram spoke to Jack Jenkins about the impact of pornography on relationships: ‘Our community is full of posts referring to relationship issues, marital troubles and divorces as a direct result of porn’.
In Jack’s view, ‘porn is corrosive in most relationships, since for many men it becomes a substitute for real sex, creates unrealistic or unreasonable expectations, creates dissatisfaction through comparison, and trains us to separate sex and pleasure from love.’ For students and young people, this presents a real challenge for the development of healthy first-time relationships.
'A desire to limit or regulate the consumption of pornographic content has clearly entered the public consciousness'
Jack said that he believes the most damaging effect on students and young people, if he had to choose, is likely the distorted image of sex and the unrealistic portrayal of bodies that porn constructs. Jack spoke of porn as, essentially, a performance: porn stars are actors performing on a staged set, equipped with a crew to ensure everything appears as visually appealing as possible. Porn does not reflect the reality of sexual experiences. Of course, if you discover pornography at the young age of 10, by the age of 16—the average age of people’s first sexual experience—your expectations and understanding of sex have been largely influenced by a dramatized, and largely inaccurate, depiction.
He also highlighted the distressing, and often undiscussed, lack of industry regulation. This has led to a concerning link between pornography and child trafficking—in 2019, an astounding nine million videos involving children or non-consensual content were removed from PornHub.
PornHub has been consistently involved in lawsuits from trafficking victims, the most recent of which occurred this August, when Visa faced claims of profiting from child pornography due to the company’s part in processing PornHub’s payments. Los Angeles Times reported that ‘U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney in California denied parts of Visa’s motion to be dismissed from claims brought by a woman who is suing both the payments giant and MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub, over a sexually explicit video taken of her when she was 13’.
'The easy-accessibility of pornography works hand-in-hand with this visual stimulus to form addictions. All that you need is a device and a good network connection to access limitless content for free right at your fingertips'
A Change.org petition calling for the shutdown of Pornhub has reached over 1.2 million signatures, and social media anti-pornography movements are on the rise, including TikTok’s ever-growing #CancelPorn. A desire to limit or regulate the consumption of pornographic content—particularly on PornHub—has clearly entered the public consciousness.
STOP SUPPORTING PORNHUB!!! Instead, consume ethical porn from places like ElseCinema, Four Chambers, PinkLabelTV, or your favorite independent creators. https://t.co/cr2hcdAexQ— Raya Carmona (@RayaCarmona) September 10, 2020
Research has shown that pornography can even alter the way our brains work, literally reshaping the brain with consistent usage, and the influx of dopamine can change the way we think and behave. Jack commented that ‘porn exploits one of our most fundamental human drives: sex and the combination of pleasure, endless novelty, random shock and the high intensity of content on HD porn streaming sites creates a powerful conditioning effect on the dopamine-based reward system in our brain’. PornHub published data in 2019 revealing that the average number of daily visits to their site stood at 115 million , making it one of the most viewed sites globally, and reinforcing its addictive nature.
The easy-accessibility of pornography works hand-in-hand with this visual stimulus to form addictions. All that you need is a device and a good network connection to access limitless content for free right at your fingertips. Regarding the impact of pornography dependencies and addictions on productivity, Jack highlighted that an increase in anxiety and depression, paired with a decrease in self-confidence, self-esteem, focus, motivation and discipline are commonly observed effects. For the challenging work life of a student in pursuit of academic success, decreased productivity and motivation could have a detrimental impact on the achievement of a successful grade outcome.
'Labelled "ethical pornography", women-owned and staffed porn sites have emerged, such as Afterglow, a site catered entirely to female sexual pleasure'
When Epigram asked Jack how he thinks the problem of accessibility should be addressed, he stated his belief that it should be banned entirely, arguing that we should work to ‘honour and respect our women, and the act of sex, not commercialise them’, although he acknowledged that this was perhaps an unrealistic goal.
🚨🚨HOW TO WATCH PORN🚨🚨— Paulita Pappel (@PaulitaPappel) November 15, 2022
Proud and excited to present this free online course on porn literacy - to understand porn better and develop your very own informed, intentional, wholesome viewing practice. Share with your friends and join the conversation 💕 https://t.co/7JnixUDYqe
The proposal to fully ban pornography is, of course, controversial. The equation of sex work with the disrespect of women is not a universally held view, and many female sex workers argue that both viewing and profiting from independent platforms like OnlyFans can be a sexually liberating means to take control of their sexuality and even make a living doing so. Labelled ‘ethical pornography’, women-owned and staffed porn sites have emerged, such as Afterglow, a site catered entirely to female sexual pleasure. These sites aim to break away from the history of pornography platforms.
REMOJO has proven a success for porn addiction rehabilitation, providing an open community with access to communication, courses and videos on the reality behind pornography, alongside mindfulness content and a four-step strategy for quitting. When questioned on the success rate of REMOJO, Jack provided data from a recent survey of 207 users where ‘89.8 per cent of users say they have more self-confidence, 86 per cent of users say they feel more focused and disciplined and 74.5 per cent say they feel more confident in their bodies since using REMOJO’.
The influence of pornography upon young people and their perceptions of sexual dynamics is undoubtedly powerful. With sex education, porn literacy, ethical porn habits and, when appropriate, the usage of rehabilitative apps such as REMOJO, combatting the harmful effects of pornography is possible and can lead to improved mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
Featured Image: Flickr | Charles Deluvio
Do you think that porn has a damaging effect on the wellbeing of students?