Out of the Shadow

Out of the Shadow

What's the Prevalence of Porn Doing to Our Psyches?

By Wendy Maltz

November/December 2009

"Porn is an easy outlet, a one-way outlet. What a rush! What a release! The Internet puts an endless stream of images at my fingertips. I've conveniently conned myself thinking it's okay, but deep down I know it's wrong. It makes me feel dirty and has hurt my relationship with my wife. I beat myself up afterward, hate myself, and swear that was the last time. But before I know it, I'm back at it again. I'm scared where it's leading. Can you help me?"—Scott, 44 years old.

Scott, a successful lawyer with a wife and two children, showed up at my office for his first session confused and angry about his relationship with pornography. He could see the damage his Internet porn habit was having on his marriage, health, and career, but he couldn't stay away from it. His story is typical of men and women—of all ages, backgrounds, incomes, and lifestyles—who are seeking counseling for serious problems related to pornography.

When I began counseling in the mid-1970s, cases like Scott's were rare and almost inconceivable. Hardcore pornography was difficult to obtain. But in recent decades, new electronic technologies, such as cable television, computers, and iPhones, have transformed it into a product that's available to anyone—anytime, anywhere, and often cheap or free. It's become a substantial part of our economy, boasting annual revenues in excess of $13 billion in the United States and $100 billion worldwide.

The revolution in accessibility has led to…

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