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Pornography's Progressive Pattern of Addiction


Excerpted in part from Kids Online: Protecting Your Children In Cyberspace
by Donna Rice Hughes (Revell, September 1998)

Dr. Victor Cline, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah and a specialist in the area of sexual addictions, has observed a four-step syndrome common to almost all of his clients who have been involved with pornography.i

Step 1-Addiction. Once consumers of pornography get hooked, they keep coming back for more and more. The sexually graphic material provides the viewer with an aphrodisiac effect, followed by sexual release, most often through masturbation. Pornography gives the viewer powerful imagery that can be recalled and elaborated on with the person's fantasy life. Despite negative consequences, most addicts are unable to rid themselves of their dependence on pornography. Their addiction rules their lives.

Step 2-Escalation. Cline describes the second phase as an escalation-effect. The pornography consumer, similar to the drug user, requires more and more stimulation to reach his or her "highs." In fact some viewers prefer the powerful sexual imagery planted in their minds by exposure to pornography to sexual intercourse itself. This nearly always diminishes the viewer's capacity to love and express appropriate intimacy within relationships.

Step 3-Desensitization. In this phase, material that was originally perceived as unthinkable, shocking, illegal, repulsive, or immoral is now viewed as acceptable and commonplace by the viewer of pornography. Regardless of the deviancy expressed, the viewer perceives the pornography and his or her use of it as legitimate.

Step 4-Acting out sexually. This last step describes an increased tendency to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in pornography, including promiscuity, voyeurism, exhibitionism, group sex, rape, sadomasochism, child molestation, and more.

Clearly, this progressive pattern demonstrates how reality and fantasy become blurred for those who are entangled with pornography or when viewing is no longer enough. Early emotional wounding is almost always a factor in pornography addiction.

In regard to the compulsive or addictive nature of pornography, Dr. Cline shares the following: "In over 26 years, I have treated approximately 350 males afflicted with sexual addictions (or sometimes referred to as sexual compulsions). In about 94 percent of the cases I have found that pornography was a contributor, facilitator, or direct causal agent in the acquiring of these sexual illnesses." ii

iCline, Pornography's Effects, 3-5.
iiVictor B. Cline, "Pornography and Sexual Addictions," Christian Counseling Today 4, no.4 (1996): 58.

© 2001 by Donna Rice Hughes. Request permission if you wish to reprint or post.