#11 The Flaccid Porn Addict!

c: Today we joined by our first guest, our first Virgin.  Dr. Kevin Alderson is professor and counselor of psychology at the University of Calgary.  He is a licensed psychologist in Alberta since 1986 and editor of the Canadian Journal of Counselling and psychotherapy.  He is also an author with over a dozen publications.  Today we are going to explore some of his specialties.

Dr. A:  My specialties are in the areas of sexology, LGBT studies, hypnotherapy and I’m moving into addictions.  That’s my current project.  I’m writing a textbook on addictions counseling. 

c: One of your book titles caught my attention: Lessons of kicking the crap out of cigarets!

Dr. A: I love that one, it had a lot of self-hypnosis in it written in a narrative form to create indirect suggestion, which is one of the most contemporary forms of suggestion.  We’re all used to the traditional form which is very direct.  It simply told you the way it is and what you are going to do.  You are going to quit smoking if you ever take a cigaret again you are going to vomit. That is a direct suggestion.  The indirect suggestion is more subtle, based on literary talent, on nuance, sometimes on double entendre and on metaphors.  They have found that for many people in the West these forms of indirect suggestion is better because they don’t create resistance because in the West we don’t like being told what to do. 

c: No we do not.

Dr. A: Direct suggestion sounds too much like our parents.  Johnny clean up your room now!

c: No!

Dr. A: And that’s the typical answer.

h: Rebel, rebel, rebel.

Dr. A: Everybody loves that answer, no. No is a fun word.

c: No pisses off parents so kids like to use that a lot.

Dr. A: Something I would really love to talk about today is this.  Because I am writing this book on addictions counseling, and I’m currently on the chapter of sex addiction, six weeks ago at the University of Calgary they brought in the world leading expert on sex addition, Dr. Patrick Carnes.  He gave a talk about how we are all headed for disaster in terms of addiction.  That even if addiction isn’t affecting you now just give it a little more time.  He was particularly concerned about young people having access to pornography.  With the internet, any smart kid can pull up porn in a second that's unless you have parental control on every single computer the kid has access to, and keep cell phones away from the kid as well.  So now more kids are watching porn and Dr. Carnes thinks that as a result, we are going to see a future filled with sex addicts.  So I listened to this and I started to think is that true? I mean a lot of people who are adults today had access to porn as teenagers.  It was harder to get than it is today, but the main change is that it's anonymous, you can access porn anywhere at any time and no one is aware that you are actually doing so. Before you had to take a few steps to access this material. And so my question to him was, I said, Dr. Carnes, I’m not sure I agree with you on what you’ve said because most pornography is what we would actually call erotica.  It’s expressing two people, or more than two people sharing affection, sharing sexuality in contact with each other in a nonexploitive way, and in a way that does not subjugate one over the other.  Whereas in my definition, pornography is where exploitation is occurring, where violence perhaps is introduced, or subjugation is clearly advanced and you can see that the basis is not one of mutuality or caring, it’s one-upmanship of some kind or another. Most of what we have out there is actually erotica.  So I said, if your theory is true then most Americans should also be killers, perhaps serial killers because they have been exposed to hundreds if not thousands of hours of violent acts just on television alone, not to mention in video games and movies and that violence is more graphic than it’s even been.  So if your theory is correct that kids watching erotica are going to become sex addicts then people watching violence ought to be very violent people. Well, he never did answer the question.  He didn’t seem able to make the link between what we are seeing on tv in terms of aggression to what kids are now seeing in terms of erotica.  I was very disappointed and I gave it plenty of thought.  I put on my three hats, sexology first, hypnotherapy second, which includes suggestibility, and I put on my hat of addictions third. My thought was, is this going to be the outcome, then I have a completely and utterly different outcome than the world expert.

c: Picking up on what was said there I want to ask you, Heather, your differentiation between pornography and erotica.

h: I think that’s a very important distinction that you’ve laid out, the difference between erotica and pornography. I think we’re quick to classify everything into pornography and a lot of people wouldn't even think to classify what they watch as being erotica.  I think my one hesitation with what was said is that there is everything humanly possible you could ever think of in the world of porn and in my research is has been that the most mainstream is the kind of pornography that you describe.  There is a power dynamic there that is mostly to subjugate one over the other and I think that with that sort of thought process being fed into kids all the time does it skews away from sexuality as a connection and for the pleasure all parties involved and not just one.  But I agree in the fact that just because people are watching these things doesn't mean that people will act on them.  But what is the correlation, are we seeing a new generation of youth predisposed to a skewed sense of what sexuality means?

c: I believe the huge problem that is overlooked is that for boys being exposed to all this pornography they become separated from any connection with a real woman.  They are becoming impotent. 

h: I have guy friends who have said that.  They are no longer able to get an erection with a regular female body it has to be movies with girls with big tits, big ass, hard screwing just to get any arousal and it’s not enough to see one video but is has to be more before they can even get there.  That must be very scary for a man to be with a real woman and want to have a real closeness and it’s not working down there. 

Dr. A: I think a central question here is in our definitions.  Are we really talking about pornography or we mostly talking about erotica? I think the impact of erotica on young people would be one of, and research supports this, that they learn new sexual techniques, they learn new ways of pleasing their partner, they learn to become more open minded towards sexual practices that otherwise they might have been shy and hung up about.  One of the greatest obstacles to male erection is when men are feeling shy or inadequate for some reason or they are anxious because they don’t have a good sexual rapporteur of skills. So if your penis doesn’t happen to be working for whatever reason and you happen to be with a woman, there are so many ways to please a woman.  Ask any lesbian woman and she will tell you ten different ways you can please a woman right now that don't require a penis. So as you get into a sexual script with another person and you start to relax and you realize that your act is mostly about giving, and good erotica shows you that. It’s about giving to the other more than it is about receiving and the more you start giving the harder your penis will become.

c: So mindset, over body set.

Dr. A: It’s mindset but it’s also a sense of I’m not here to exploit you, I’m here to give to you. It’s all about you, I want you to leave this sexual experience feeling this has been one of the best times of your life. Then I can leave this experience saying that I helped to be part of that.

c: So that comes a piece of education because I don’t believe that men or boys understand the distinction.  They get that they have to be a performer in a certain act, and an erection is a key to that act.  It’s not about pleasing a partner, they don’t learn that.

Dr. A: That’s one of the problems of watching even erotica without some context.  It’s well known that in the making of a porn movie that a guy will be expected to ejaculate on demand and sometimes they can’t always do that so there has to be a re-take.  Sometimes, performers don’t even like each other in real life so it becomes difficult if you now have to be sexual with someone you don’t like or someone you actually disrespect, but that’s your job. But it’s the same thing for violence, if kids are allowed to watch violence unabated without parental guidance from time to time to say, you know what this is garbage, what you are seeing here is not the way people act.  It’s so rare even in the United States to have a serial killer and shows like Criminal Minds reminds us every week that there is a new one that just popped up.   If the US had that many serial killers the whole country would shut down right now because everyone would be living in such absolute horror and fear that they’re going to be next.

h: So do you think that one of the key pieces is having those open means of communication between parents and their kids.  I mean that can be a very taboo area for parents to go.  I’ve worked on those open means of communication with my own mom mainly because I am very sex positive and I want her to be enjoying that part of her life.  But I have a friend who is a mom and sex is an extremely difficult subject to talk about with their kids, and children are not provided with much of an arena at school to talk about what they are viewing.  I believe there is a lot of movement that can be made as far as sex ed curriculum goes where we can start talking about what we are seeing in erotica, vs porn so people can know the distinction you are talking about, which is an important one.

Dr. A: I’m a firm believer in education, but I’m not a firm believer in censorship. It strikes me that it would make sense in violent programming on television and in movies that there ought to be an educational warning at the beginning of a show that says: This is complete and utter fantasy. Most people do not act in such psychopathic ways.  If fact, psychopaths are less that 5% of the populations and even most psychopaths do not commit murder - ever.  This is just a horrific example of fiction and we feel you need to know that up front. These are the kinds of warnings parents need to be providing.

c: I was just going to say why is this not common.

Dr. A: Because most of this viewing is being done anonymously there isn’t anyone who needs to be answered to.  What I would like to see in erotica, and pornography for that matter, are these kinds of educational infomercials that are at the beginning.  How realistic is this, is this how people operate sexually?  I think we can be doing a lot just like cigaret packages.

c: I was just about to mention that.

Dr. A: Cigaret packages have the teaching that if you smoke you’re going to get cancer. Yet even then people still smoke.

c: My point exactly.

Dr. A: But the percentages have dropped a great deal, something like 20%.

c: But do we know what is impacting that drop, it is because the person on the back of the package looks like the walking dead, or are there other factors?

Dr. A: That’s a really good question and I don’t know if they have teased that out.  But we have to ask, what is effective advertising, and to incorporate that into effective advertising that is different.  Whether they are violent or sexual this is very different imagery for people and our minds don’t always know how to cope with that because it's not what we see.  In my entire life I may have seen three people get beaten up, but never someone pulling a gun and shooting someone’s head off which is part of so many programs on tv you can watch in a day.  So much so that it makes it look like this is the way real life is, but it’s really not.  I don’t believe in censorship, but why is it we have censored erotica from television all these decades?  I’m shocked because when I turn on the tv I want to see sensitive, caring, loving acts between two people whether they be sexual or not, but instead what I’m continually getting exposed to is this garbage violence coming out of the US as if to say this is what we celebrate as a society.  I say we should have as much erotica on tv as we have violence because then at least it is balancing out the human psyche to realize that along with Thanatos, which was Freud’s term for death instinct, death energy, we also have libido which was his word for life instinct, life energy.  Let’s have both balanced and then kids would be able to see that it’s not just about violence that’s it also about giving and loving and caring.

c: But we have a moral stigma about sexuality, we seem to have let go when it comes to violence, but we hang on to this stigma we have about sexuality.  It is still the number one taboo in human society.

Dr. A: So we still see teenagers getting pregnant because why because they are afraid to talk to their boyfriends about using some form of birth control.  I mean in most kinds of games that people play they talk through the game and know what the rules are but when it comes to sex this is the game we don’t talk about.  So they get to bed with someone, it could be a one-night stand, and how many times do they say this is what I like, this is what I don’t like, or this is where you would be crossing the line with me tonight because after all I just met you, and I may never see you again, but I won’t appreciate if you try to do anal on me for example.  Why don’t we have these open talks because if we were not censoring sex we would be able to talk freely about it?

h: And that leads to safety.  I believe that knowledge is power there and the more we can get away from the taboo it opens up space for people.  I think that sexual autonomy is built on having the freedom without guilt to explore your sexuality.   For women, that has been chastised for centuries.  You have a topic that is really about your own body that you don’t feel comfortable exploring, heaven forbid you would have to talk to your partner about what you like or don’t like.  You’ve never been given the freedom to make that choice on a societal expectation level and that’s scary, that’s where it gets into the rape culture where we see one person will push and push and push and the other individual have never had the space to have already made the decision on what they like or don’t like.  The ability to say no is the other half of the coin.

Dr. A: I think you are absolutely right that so many people do no know themselves what they like.  One of the exercises that I give to couples who are struggling sexually is to each take twenty minutes and during that whole time you are going to please your partner and after the twenty you are going to reverse roles.  So during the twenty minutes where you are the one getting pleased you are to be vocal the entire time telling your partner second by second what you want.  So if that partner is spending too much time in the genital area you can say I want you to kiss me here or touch me here, but to talk second by second so that your partner learns second by second what you really enjoy.  If you do this exercise for even a couple of weeks together you’ll have pretty good sense of what your partner enjoys.  You might have gone in projecting that you know what she wants, she wants here breasts played with because my last girlfriend wanted this done to her for hours only to find out that this partner doesn’t like it as much.  

h: Oh my God, what do I do now, you mean not all women are the same.

Dr. A: Obviously you’re a woman, you have breasts obviously you want them manhandled for hours.

c: So is that then not why some man just goes straight for the thing that he wants.  Forget what you want because it’s too complicated, I’m just going to get what I want and I am out of here. Your conversation reminded me, I’m a big Osho fan, he has some cool and radical ideas, he talks about a community raising children not just one parent or a pair of parents but an entire community and as they grow into adolescence they are given liberty to explore with each other sexually, so they learn about themselves and about other partners in a safe environment.  Not the same as we do now where there is no foundation for learning about your own sexuality and then relating that to another human being.

Dr. A: It’s certainly a radical idea, I mean if we were to start playing around with our friend sexually this might cause…

h: Wait, everyone doesn’t do that now?

Dr. A: Oh, I want to know your friends!  Mine are obviously boring.  But we all have to define what our boundaries should look like.  There is nothing wrong in having a sexual partner that you would begin your entire sexual rapporteur with spending time learning just what your partner likes and the only way you're really going to know it well is if you verbalize, talk and talk and talk. You can do some of it non-verbally, for example, if we were lovers I could take your hand and move it to where I want you to touch me, but even then I’m expecting you’re going to know what I want you to do with your hand. Verbalizing is still the best way to learn each other's erogenous zones and how much focus we want on different parts of our bodies.  But I’m going to come back to what the world expert said.  He said we are all going to become sex addicts, he’s wrong, but something just as bad is going to happen.  I predict we are going to see some serious stuff go down and it’s not going to be good for our society.   I wonder if you have any clue where I’m going on this one?  We’re not going to be sex addicts but something almost as bad is going to happen.

c: Please elaborate.

Dr. A: I do a lot of work with the trans people, I’m probably the #1 psychologist to deal with transsexual people who are wanting to transition.  I often see them before this process starts and I help them move forward in their process.  I also work with other kinds of trans people, transgender is an umbrella term so it includes a lot of people who don’t live in the conventional ways of gender like cross-dressers and I’m talking about cross-dressers who do it more for fetishistic reasons.  That kind of cross-dresser may of may not have gender dysphoria (rejection of their birth sex), they may or may not have any desire to change but they got caught at a certain point in their adolescence and this is what happened to them.  Testosterone is an amazing hormone in males because it is the reason why men develop fetishes and hardly any women develop a fetish.  It’s a testosterone thing so it’s part of male sexuality…

h: I developed fetishes young 

Dr A: You did?  The research shows that most women do not develop fetishes, at least not the hard-core fetishes that men develop.  The problem with men who become fetishistic cross- dressers, some used to call these individuals transvestites.  That is considered a derogatory term by most people who cross dress for fetish reasons, but the fact is anything that becomes associated with the male sex drive is likely to become a fetish.  This is how fetishes develop. It usually involves a male having an orgasm and something else being present that becomes associated with the male sex drive.  This is classical conditioning, it is automatic, it doesn’t require any conscious thought.  Once it’s developed it can be really firmly established and hard to break.  If you develop a phobia, that is established through classical conditioning and phobias can be very hard to break because the fear response is automatic.  People know it is irrational but whenever they are experiencing whatever they are phobic about, say claustrophobia, they can’t help it, they're stuck in an elevator, they are freaking out even though they know it’s stupid, they know help is on the way but they can’t help but panic beyond description.  Their screaming would send needles up any one of our spines, it would be just so hideous.  Fetishes develop the same way as phobias only instead of being something unpleasant as stimuli the fetish is usually considered a pleasant experience.  So a guy, as a teenager, who has an interest in whatever it is and start doing it for fetishistic reasons, even if they don’t know it at the time, and simultaneously starts masturbating.  They are dressed as a woman, for example, they are masturbating, they have a sexual release and now they are developing their fetish.  Eventually, it may even be difficult for them to ejaculate without now being cross dressed.  Now as cross-dressers grow older the sexual element diminishes in importance and what happens instead is that cross-dressing becomes like comfort food, they are dressing up because it reduces stress.  So the fetish takes over when they are under stress.  Many of these cross-dressers have purged themselves of their clothing, they are embarrassed by it, they get married to a woman and most of them don’t want to tell their wife.  Guess what honey when you’re out of the house I’m going to be dressed as you. They don’t want to tell because they are so embarrassed so they get rid of their clothing but when they get stressed guess what, they go out and buy the clothing again.  Their wife goes out for the day and they spend the whole time at home cross-dressed. And they are so afraid that their spouse will catch them, and often they do get caught, and that’s when they come into my office.  They got caught and their wives are thinking, oh you want to be a woman, or he's gay, but for a fetishistic cross-dresser it’s neither, they don’t want to be a woman, they are not gay, in fact, most of them tend to be hyper masculine.  They are truck drivers, they come in with their deep voices and you’re thinking I can’t even imagine you in a dress.  So how this relates to young kids watching porn today is that when they hit adolescence they will be masturbating to the porn so when the fetish becomes well established they will find it more difficult to be with a woman without porn playing and without it being part of the overall scene.  And you were addressing that, you were talking about a friend who was having difficulty being aroused because he’s become fetishistic about porn.  I wouldn’t call that a sex addiction, but it is a fetish and fetishes can be destructive in your life.  So we are going to see a lot more fetishes around porn.  That’s what I predict.with our children

c: So we come back to this condition where young men have a real disconnect with a real in the flesh female.  What is that going to do with our society moving forward when men can't relate or connect with a real woman? 

h: Women will start connecting with other women, and we’ll talk about what we like.  

Dr A: And men are just going to be left out.  So men, watch your porn consumption.  But there is one element I haven’t brought into this yet and this is the element of addiction.  Not everyone becomes an addict for example.  Those who become addicts typically come from families where they were neglected and or abused as children.  They don’t have a strong sense of purpose or meaning in their life because they didn’t grow up to believe strongly in themselves so the addiction can take root and it becomes the substitute that not only gives them a temporary sense of meaning and purpose but will also alienate the feeling of terrible self-esteem because they didn’t grow up believing strongly in themselves.  So neglected and abused kids are the ones more susceptible to becoming addicts later, not all of them, some develop great resilience, but in most cases, addicts have come from this sort of background.  The best thing we can do is be loving, supportive, put limits on our kid's behavior and make sure they are getting the kind of love and caring that will not only prevent the onset of addiction but will also help diminish the effect of a fetish. 

c: So for parents out there who are struggling with this as a foundation for the normalization of a child it's exposure, but also having a conversation with that exposure.

Dr. A: I think that the normalization of sex is a huge problem, it’s not just we do with our children as parents, but what society is doing trying to censor sexuality in the first place.  Again, if we were going to have censorship, and we surely do because if we didn’t we would have sex on tv 24/7.  If we’re going to censor anything then censor violence.  I don’t want a society of violent people.  I don’t like violent people I’ve decided.  But I do love sexual people who are good in themselves, good in body, good in their minds, they are sexually open, these are fun people to party with.  They are responsible because when they have an open attitude about sex they don’t have any need to just give it away either.  They enter into sexual scripts in a responsible manner and they decide for themselves if this right for me right now or is this wrong.  So I want sexually responsible people.  So as parents what we can do is instill in our kids a clear understanding and let them speak to us freely about sex.  Open these conversations up with them because we are the ones as adults who have to set the examples for our kids.  Talk to them about the fact that they may want to watch porn and know that when it’s mutually caring and satisfying it’s a beautiful thing and you can see that in the visual imagery, and when it is degrading and subjugating to someone, usually to women who are being subjugated in porn, to say this is wrong, this is not the way we treat people.  In our family, I’ve taught you kids to treat people with equality.  It doesn’t matter what color the person is, it doesn’t matter what sexual orientation, whether they are male or female, we don’t do ism’s in this family.

h: I do want to come back to one thing you touch on because I believe it’s such an important piece for parents to feel comfortable talking to their children about pornography, and that’s the suggestion you had for couples.  To tell a partner what you want them to do, and even when you’re sharing that, what came up in my immediate reaction was very daunting.  It’s oh my God I’m going to be asked to share what I like.  And even for me, someone who has been very sex-positive for most of my young adult life, even I still feel put upon, and feeling those societal barriers around exploring and being able to articulate to someone else what I like.   But maybe the more you get into it like you said moving the person’s hands to where you like being touched I would definitely recommend that. It just gets a little bit outside of the comfort zone when it comes to being to verbalize what you like.

Dr A: Not really speaking to either on of you directly on this, but I think we all need to look at ourselves and ask, if we are feeling even a little bit uncomfortable with even the thought of doing this, what I would want to ask you is where did you learn that it’s not ok to fully please your body, or have it pleased by someone else.

c: Oh I can tell you that in a heartbeat, it’s growing up under a religious doctrine. 

Dr. A: Yet religious doctrine didn’t censor all the violence on tv.  Yet anything that I have gotten out of religion, and I’ve done plenty of study on various religions, is that they are about love.  They are not about hurting others but about caring for others.  Erotica shows us that in a very visual way, but violence can never show us loving acts, it shows us that the way to deal with human conflict is to maim, to beat, to kidnap to hurt.

c: Dominance. 

Dr. A: Where does that fit into religion?  I don’t see that in the New Testament, or in the Quran, in Buddhism, in Hinduism, so where is this violence thing coming from, why are we so fascinated by it that even when you open up the newspaper each morning you generally see more violent acts and nasty stuff before you see the good natured things that people do in this world, which by the way far outnumber the crazy.  Spend time as a shopping mall and just watch people, look in their eyes and you’ll see that most are just good-hearted individuals.  These people are not about promoting violence they are about promoting peace.  They are living religion the way religion is supposed to be lived.  So why are we tolerating the garbage on tv?

c: Because we slow down for the accident scene, we slow down the see the carnage.  You can not explain it, I can not explain it.  We slow down for the disaster. 

h: It is an interesting phenomenon and it’s an interesting topic to research in psychology and I believe you touched on it when you were talking about Freud and Libido and Thanatos, that there is something within us.  It’s like an energy that’s fed with destruction and violence, but for too long that dominant side has been pervasive in our world where we need to balance it out with libido.  It just feels like people aren’t as drawn to it. 

c: It’s because one sells more than the other.

Dr. A: But sex sells.  Sex in advertising works. I’m going to come back to Freud for a moment that he believed we have two basic instincts as humans.  One was Thanatos the other being Libido and our society for whatever sick reason has chosen to focus on the death instinct.  We, humans, are equally fascinated by Libido, by the sex instinct, by love yet we are more afraid of that.  How different your tv would look if today you turned it on and 90% on the imagery was loving caring and sexual acts and only 10% was violence.  Would you find the sexual acts not interesting? We love to see naked people and hold naked people, advertising works.  Calvin Klein became rich because of his advertising of half naked men.

c: There is a problem there, though.  We equate exploitation with sexuality.  Someone will find it exploitive if you expose someone else sexually.  We have this auto reflex that someone else is to blame for that person’s nakedness.

Dr. A: And yet nakedness was the beginning right in the Old Testament, Adam and Eve, nakedness is where it began.

c: And what happened once they became enlightened?  They found leaves as fast as they could to cover up their shame. 

Dr. A: But there is nothing more exploitive than violence and aggression.  On tv today someone will take a gun to shoot someone and kill them, that person had no choice in dying, the shooter exploited the victim. Even the worst of porn is never as exploitive as violence is.  This may come as a surprise I think to most but in terms of sex acts the most respectful, consensual because it is agreed upon is S&M practices.  In S&M scripts the script is decided upon and it's not the so-called master who is the one in control.  The slave, the one having things done to him or her, is actually the one who sets the script.  The master has to follow the script according to the slave. There are also safe words built in so if things get too intense it only takes one code word to alter the script, to slow things down or to stop altogether. The reasons it’s so safe is because in S&M partners talk.

h: I actually went to a kink orientation.

Dr. A:  Kink orientation?  I’ve got to hang out with you more.

h: But that is something that has always impressed me about that sub-culture is how important the negotiation part is.  These sorts of communication outside that community are not so entrenched.  That group is really showing us what consent sexuality really is.

c: This conversation is to be continued.

Dr. A: This was a great conversation and I hope it was enlightening.  I am known as a kink-positive therapist and some of the things I do I've borrowed from the S&M community and brought them into everyday discourse.  That being to talk and to talk and to talk and to talk not only with your sex partner but also to your children.  Talk to your kids about pornography and don’t be afraid.  Talk about how some of it can be great and some if it is misleading, but that violence is universally misleading.                  

ck

Chris Kennedy