WHY therapists need to know about porn (Part 2)

Photo by Jascha400d

by Duncan E. Stafford (psychotherapist, supervisor and author) @therapyspaceuk

One problem with working in the area of pornography is the actual definition of what it is.

When I was a student of aesthetics I was cautioned by my philosophy teachers from tackling the question: ‘Is it art or pornography?’ When I first began to write in this area I found that there was an even more difficult but parallel question: ‘Is it porn or erotica?’ Certainly, I have found (even when working with porn users) that where one person sees pornography, another sees only erotic depictions or sexual acts.

In the final analysis, I have come to see the definition of pornography as a more flexible thing – with multiple personal definitions for people. Therefore, it might seem ‘excusable’ that constructed mainstream views of porn, once on the fringes of visible society, are often now thought of as nothing more than what’s presented through comedic parody of the 1970s’ European porn industry (see, for example, an episode of the BBC 1 comedy Not Going Out entitled ‘Movie’, 2011), or the 1998 ‘Friends’ episode, ‘The one with the free porn’. The view from right-of-centre moral panic (beloved of tabloid newspaper headlines and political opportunism) that porn is wholly vile, degrading, toxic material that will corrupt anyone who engages with it in any way appears the only other oft-presented view.

Challenging these constructed mainstream views (pro- and anti-porn stances aside, and taking account of political and moral debates around pornography), what I know through my continuing work and the sizeable number of contacts made to my Cambridge practice and UK national telephone counselling service is that many people experience pornography as a difficulty in their lives. Sometimes this is because of their moral or faith-based codes, but equally it can be because of the depth at which they enter the pornized world; their frequency of engagement with it; the legality of their viewing habits; or simply because they are dropped into the pornized world by virtue of being the partner of someone who uses pornography.

As you can see, an actual set-in-stone definition just isn’t that simple…

In Part 3, Duncan E. Stafford challenges some popular misconceptions about pornography.

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