When 56-year-old Madonna posed topless for Interview magazine this month the public reaction was a stifled yawn.
Her erotic exposé was the latest in a recent swathe of celebrities stripping off. In November, Kim Kardashian bore all for Paper magazine, in a shock exercise subtitled Break The Internet. In September, Keira Knightley also posed topless for Interview – to expose the objectification of women and on the condition her breasts were not to be retouched.
A few weeks earlier, news that celebrities including actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton had been hacked and their naked photos posted online set the internet abuzz.
Are sanctioned celebrity nude images porn? Soft porn? Or something else entirely? Are they the chicken or the egg in a society that is becoming ever more visual and highly sexualised? And where will our seeming desire to access such images end?
Recent research has found more Australians are clicking onto online porn. The second Australian Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR), released last month, found 63% of men and 20% women had looked at pornography in the past year. Ten years ago, only 16% of men had visited an internet sex site and just 2.5% of women.
The ASHR researchers say the findings are not directly comparable. The first ASHR study, released in 2003, asked participants:
Have you gone to a sex site on the internet on purpose?
The current survey asked:
Have you ever looked at pornographic material?
This included magazines, books, pictures, films and internet porn sites.
But there’s no doubt access to internet porn is on the rise. A longitudinal study carried out by the ASHR team showed an increase in the use of internet sex sites between 2005 and 2010. And the research links a rise in experimental sex – in particular oral and anal sex – to what couples see on the internet.
Lead researcher Professor Juliet Richters, from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, told me:
Much readier access to porn means people can see things done and say: “that looks exciting, I’ll have a go at it …” It doesn’t mean they like it. But the number of people who are trying new things has increased.
Rising porn addiction
So why are more Australians looking at online porn? Is it deliberate, accidental or opportunistic? Because it’s freely and readily available? Because pornography is so highly addictive?
Psychologists say porn addiction is the stuff of modern clinical practice. Psychological researchers are still reluctant to impose the label, with studies to date showing poor experimental designs and a lack of methodological rigour.
But in July, Cambridge University neuropsychiatrist Dr Valerie Voon published a much-awaited paper showing that the brain-scans of men who describe themselves as porn-addicted revealed changes in the brain’s reward centre. Basically, their brain scans looked like those of alcoholics or drug addicts.
Nudity is everywhere. On billboards, in magazines, on our desktops and mobiles. Like the complacency and compassion fatigue that plagues news media images of war, we increasingly view nakedness with our eyes glazed over.
We click on nudity in our lunch hours and coffee breaks. Quality news sites usher us on our way. No hyperlink, no worries: Google is there to help. And what is the line between soft porn and hard? What is the difference between clicking on sanctioned eye-candy in the office and clicking on X-rated adult porn at home?
Porn is not all bad. At the same time, porn does raise issues for many people. The ASHR study found 60% of Australians believe porn can improve sexual intimacy; but almost half of Australians believe porn degrades the women who appear in it. One in three believe it degrades the men.
Psychologists, meanwhile, have seen a rise in couples seeking help for porn addiction. Melbourne clinician Dr Janet Hall says porn addiction is a case of “the more they see, the more they want”. Hall told me she estimates that in 40% of her couples counselling, porn addiction is a problem. Ten years ago, it was a handful of cases.
Porn is also changing how we make love. For young people in particular, anal and oral sex has become normalised. A decade ago, 79% of men and 67% of women had ever had oral sex. Now it’s 88% and 86% respectively.
For experimenting teens, porn and sex go hand-in-hand. But what does porn teach young men and women about body image, intimacy and gender relations?
“There are young men who have never had sex with an actual woman who are addicted to porn before they’re 20,” says Dr Hall. “Those in relationships have really lovely girlfriends but the kind of sex they feel confident with is watch and wank. It’s abundant, anonymous and free.”
So what’s the answer? The most recent revisions to the mental health bible, the DSM 5, did not include sexual addiction as a disorder.
But some social scientists say it may only be a matter of time. If porn is addictive and nudity is normal, where does that leave us?
Be careful where you click.
@Dr Janet Hall
The hottest problem I am seeing turn up in the clinic is the sad and rejected man whose woman is just not interested in sex.
One of the biggest questions is – what should he do?
Should he leave, how does he coach her when she sees it as pressure, should he start an affair, should he go to a massage parlour, should he surf the internet for porn or does he just have to make do with masturbation?
It’s a real lose/lose situation.
Anyone with a story/solution is welcome to send me their story!
Go here if you are a man who wants real help in sparking up your woman’s sex drive.
On this audio recording you’ll hear Dr. Janet Hall’s expert advice for men on experiencing sensational sex with the emphasis on Sparking Up Your Woman’s Sexual Desire. This is specifically designed for a man whose woman is not much interested in sex.
Because the woman may take exception to what she many perceive as manipulation, it is recommended that the man listens to this recording in private for quite a few sessions and jots down a strategic plan, before putting the ideas into practice or asking his partner to listen to the ideas suggested.
If the man does want to enrol his partner, it is highly recommended that you both listen first to another recording in the Sensational Sex audio recording Series – How To Solve Sex-Drive Conflicts. You’ll learn some valuable tips on how to communicate together so that you can resolve conflicts of interests and achieve that sex-life you deserve together.
The recording gives important information of the nature of Sexual Desire, some examples of loss of desire in women, the 3 types: Women who don’t, Women who can’t and Women who won’t.
The common difficulties encountered by the man who wants to spark up his woman and the, do’s and don’ts, for action he many choose to put into effect.
It also has some hypnotic suggestions for you to help you cope with anxiety about whether she will and the rejection when she won’t.
By the way, some folk have found that sexual fantasies can be a valuable adjunct in stimulating their sex-lives, and you many also find another of the recording in Dr. Janet Hall’s Sensational Sex Series useful in your search for a Spark For Your Woman’s Sex-Drive. You’ll find this on Jan’s CD: Sensational Sex Fantasies For Women: Seductive Fantasies to Fire-Up Your Sex-Life.
Finally, there is a segment where Jan speaks directly to your partner to encourage her to expand her sexual experiences with you. In a heart-felt and non-threatening manner, Jan will help your partner see that all you want is a loving sex-life and that both of you deserve to be enjoying Sensational Sex.
Be well, Be happy, Love life and Enjoy a Sensational Sex -life!
Dr Janet Hall
My boyfriend is very keen for us to have a threesome with another guy. Although the idea of having sex with two men kind of excites me, I am scared that maybe he is actually gay and if we do this he may find out that he likes it more than having sex with me because I am a woman. At the same time I am scared that if I don’t do this he may get pissed off and go with a guy anyway. Have you got some advice for me?
It’s a bit of a worry about your guy because most men tell me their fantasy is to have it off with two women. It sounds a lot more practical for a man because with two women he’d have a lot more options for positions.
Certainly some gay sexual behaviour would be likely if you went ahead with your man’s wishes and that would probably upset you if you don’t care for it.
I suggest you get clear with you guy what and why he wants to get out of the experience. If he just wants to see you having sex with a man that could be OK if you want to do it (though I think that people in love are best to stay monogomous).
If he does want a homosexual “try-out”,your guy is best to go do it without your blessing. If he really is gay you are better off to find out now. I hope for your sake he isn’t!
Where does a healthy sex drive end and sex addiction begin? Daniel G Taylor investigates.
All “Troy” wanted was a happy ending. But when he busted up with his first boyfriend, quantity of sex became the source of his self-esteem. Up to 12 hours a day were devoted to masturbating and seeking unsafe sex with unattractive men. Was he a sex addict or simply highly sexed? “An addiction is the urge to indulge in thoughts or behaviours so frequently that it interferes with normal everyday living,” says Dr Janet Hall, clinical psychologist, sex therapist, hypnotherapist, and author of Sex-Wise.
“It also has a negative impact on our essential humanity in terms of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and economical parameters.” She specifies negative consequences including STDs, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, bankruptcy, and relationship difficulties – all things Troy experienced. Sexual addiction is not just about indulging your outlandish libido – it’s a real disorder that affects millions. But can it be cured?
But Dr Charles Silverstein (pictured), author of The Joy of Gay Sex, objects to the concept of sexual addiction. “Such a term is a further means of making gay men feel guilty for being gay, and we’ve had enough of that kind of oppression.
“My second general objection is the emphasis on sex instead of talking about human relationships. The gay man who tricks every night and, for instance, never sees the other man again, is not suffering from compulsive sex. “His problem is his inability to form intimate relationships. His nightly forays probably feed his loneliness, at least until the next day when his fear of being alone drives him to find the trick of the day. He’s not suffering from compulsive sex, as if to say “bad boy,” rather it calms his fright of human relationships.”
Hall plainly doesn’t want to guilt-trip anyone about sex and she thinks a healthy high sex drive can be terrific. “With a high sex drive it’s contained, such that it’s integrated into normal living. You would rather have sex than watch TV!” Highly sexed people “plan for sex and also take advantage of spontaneous opportunities. Sex benefits them.” Such benefits include an end to boredom, appreciating the body beyond the genitals, and it’s a recreation activity you can do wherever you and a willing partner find yourselves.
Slimming and fitness is another bonus. “A long, energetic sex session can help burn calories and keep your heart rate healthy,” Hall told blaze. “Having sex twice a week is the equivalent cardiovascular exercise of jogging 60 kilometres per year.”
People who love sex instead of needing it take better care of themselves and are happy, calm, and less stressed. Both enjoy greater success at work and work smarter, not harder.
Troy labelled himself “sex addict” and sought a solution, everywhere from religious fundamentalism to 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous-style groups. At one church, despite its homophobia, he overcame his fear of connecting to people intimately and non-sexually. He also came to realise he loves casual safe sex, but now it’s a part of his life and not an obsession. He’s found his happy ending.