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\’kens’soomer\ A person who purchases goods and services for personal use. It is important to realize that any purchase, no matter how small, contributes to fuel the demand and therefore promotes the trafficking of women and children.
Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry with a global revenue reaching $97 billion annually; of that, $10 to $12 billion comes from the United States. 1 The use of porn has become acceptable in our society; it has become normalized and even expected. In fact, 22% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 consider porn to be good for society, with 8% of that age group believing it to be “very good.” 2 What is even more disturbing is an estimated 87% of college-age men- and around 30% of women-double-click for sex either weekly or everyday. 3 With the advent of the Internet, pornography has exploded enabling easy access to a plethora of adult websites. According to statistics, 40 million Americans visit porn sites regularly and approximately 200,000 consider themselves to be porn addicts. In the United States, a new pornography video is being created every 39 minutes, and every second 28,258 users are watching porn on the Internet. 4 Due it’s normalization, it is not surprising that Internet porn sites get more visits each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. 5
Society’s need for porn hasn’t been without consequences. Whereas pornography used to be something reserved for a location of utmost privacy, it has now transcended for many, and become a problem in the workplace as well. It is estimated that 63% of adult men and 36% of adult women have looked at pornography at least once in the last 3 months while at work; it is also estimated that 38% of men and 13% of women have done so more than once (in the past 3 months). 6 With 70% of all Internet porn traffic occurring during the 9-to-5 workday, it’s not surprising that Internet misuse costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity each year. 7 It is evident that the use of pornography is no longer considered to be that deep, dark secret that should be hidden; that all shame that was once attached to it, is no longer in existence. Instead, it has become something to be boasted about and even flaunted. This change in mentality has contributed to many dangerous trends in our society.
The harmful effects that pornography has on individuals, their relationships, and how they grow to view the opposite sex has been well documented. The effects of pornography start in the brain. In each one of us, our brain houses a reward pathway. The job of the reward pathway is to keep us alive by rewarding us when we do something that promotes life, such as eating food or achieving something we’ve worked hard for. 8 When these things happen, our brain releases “feel-good” chemicals (e.g., dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins) that allow us to feel pleasure and motivates us to continue to seek out these activities that bring us happiness. However, this reward pathway can be hijacked. The dopamine that is released during the viewing of porn works to create new pathways in the brain, similar to those that are created in a person addicted to drugs. The more a porn user looks up porn, the more these pathways become embedded in their brain creating the need for pornography. Over time, the need to engage in this activity increases to the point of addiction. Once it reaches this point, cutting back on the habit can lead to symptoms of withdrawal. When a person is looking at porn, their brain thinks they are seeing a potential mating opportunity, and pumps the brain full of dopamine. 9 With each click, the brain is flooded with an overload of feel-good chemicals. This makes the brain fight back by shutting down receptors that receive dopamine. Eventually, the things that used to make the user happy no longer have the ability to do so. Instead they are left feeling anxious, alone, and sad until they are able to get back to their pornographic activities.
For many, porn addiction creates a change in perception that can affect sexual tastes. As mentioned above, looking at porn creates new pathways in the brain. These new pathways work to link sexual arousal to the images flashing on the screen. Once the brain starts shutting down receptors in an effort to calm the repeated floods of dopamine, what was once sexually gratifying for the user, no longer has the same effect. Because consistent porn users’ brains quickly become accustomed to porn they’ve already seen, they typically have to constantly be moving on to more extreme forms of pornography to get aroused by it. 10 Many porn users then find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or go against the moral beliefs that they once had. Repeated exposure to deviant, extreme, and dangerous sex acts can lead the user to believe that these acts are more normal and common than they actually are. These unrealistic and dangerous expectations create problems within normal romantic relationships; some porn users begin to need these deviant, extreme, and dangerous sexual behaviors to become aroused. For some, this means objectifying their wife, girlfriend, or acquaintances. For others, this means turning to the world of commercial sex. 11
According to WHISPER (Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt), 80% of prostitutes say johns show them pornography in order to illustrate specific acts they want them to perform. 12 This is concerning because oftentimes, pornography promotes the relationship of sex to violence and youth; this means the demand for young prostitutes who have no choice but to sustain this violence and abuse is on the rise. This violence can lead to women being verbally abused, physically abused, raped, and/or sodomized during their encounter with the johns. Because pornography uses underage girls and portrays them as women, pimps must find young girls to meet the demands of the buyer. This brings to the forefront how serious of a problem we are facing. According to Covenant Eye, the term “youth” is the most popular category when it comes to sexual searches online. 13 In prostitution, demand creates supply. Because men want to buy sex, prostitution is assumed to be inevitable; therefore it’s considered ‘normal’. 14
Johns come from all socioeconomic classes and there are no specific characteristics that distinguish them from other men. They are college students, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, members of the church, and law-enforcement officials; many are married with children. It is estimated that the lifetime prevalence of men who have solicited sex from a prostitute worldwide ranges between 7% and 39%. 15 In the United States, the number of men that have purchased sex from a prostitute range between 15% and 20%. 16 Although the average age of a man who solicits sex is 39.5 years, 25.4% of johns are under 25; 31.5% are aged 25-40; 18.2% are 41-60, and 11.1% are 60 years of age or older. Every year 80,000 American citizens are arrested for purchasing sex. The expense for this is extensive and costs taxpayers $200 Million in court and jail fees yearly. 17 As you can see, this is a growing problem in our society. Its ripple effects touch every single person, young and old. We must seek change and that change begins with acknowledgement.