Pornography: The New Drug

Don Hilton, neurosurgeon

February 15, 2019
Alfonso Oliva, MD, Catholic Medical Association

Despite frigid temperatures and near record-breaking snowfall, a sold-out crowd of over 500 people gathered at the Hemingson Center on the Gonzaga University campus in Spokane, Washington, on Saturday, February 23, 2019, for the CMA Conference on Pornography.

Organized by the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Guild, in collaboration with the university, leading experts from throughout the country gathered for a daylong conference on the consequences of porn on our brains, its impact on intimate relationships and raising children in a pornified culture, and its influence on culture leading to an increase in child sexual abuse, increased sexual violence against women, and human sex trafficking. The latter part of the afternoon was devoted to effective therapies. The conference was attended by college students, and people from all. All attendees received a book produced by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) detailing the published peer-reviewed data that supports the premise that pornography is a public health crisis.

The conference began with Dr. Donald Hilton, a neurosurgeon from San Antonio, TX, who discussed the effects of porn on the developing brain. Dr. Hilton explained that learning and behavior can in fact change brain structure and that addictive behavior, such as to food, sex, the internet, and pornography, has been shown in virtually every study to show shrinkage and abnormality in the reward (nucleus accumbens) and judgement (prefrontal cortex) centers. MRI data from the Max Plank Institute in Germany documents these changes along with impairment in connectivity with the frontal cortex areas of judgement and control.

Gail Dines, Ph.D., professor emerita of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, Boston, MA, author of Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked Our Sexuality, and president and CEO of Culture Reframed, spoke next. Professor Dines has studied the effects of porn for nearly 30 years. She impressed on the audience that mainstream porn, which comes up within seconds of a Google search, is cruel, abusive, violent, and free. She explained that the average age of first exposure to porn is eleven years old, and that the child will be “catapulted into a world of sexual cruelty and brutality, where women are subject to body-punishing sex and called vile names”. She explained that never before have we raised a generation of boys on hardcore porn. The consequences for our culture are that boys grow to be men who view women as disposable objects and themselves as predators and women who see their roles as victims, as dictated by the porn/entertainment industry. Dr. Dines stressed that this will significantly shape the adolescent sexual arousal template. She gave a second lecture on the direct link between human sex trafficking and pornography. She emphasized that we will never be rid of sex trafficking unless we eliminate pornography. Resources to help parents deal with the effects of porn on their children can be found on her website, Culture Reframed.

 

Pornography Conference
Dr. Oliva monitors questions from the audience as Dr. Stefanie Carnes (far right) answers during panel discussion on treatment of sexual addiction.

The topic of sex trafficking was continued by Mr. Patrick Trueman, JD, from Washington, DC, president and CEO of NCOSE. Mr. Trueman was also the chief of the child exploitation and obscenity section, criminal division of the US DOJ. Mr. Trueman explained that in the real world, pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking are one and the same. More than 80% of women in the sex industry are under a pimp’s control, the definition of sex trafficking. Furthermore, pornography meets the legal definition of trafficking if the pornographer “recruits, entices, or obtains women for the purpose of photographing live commercial sex acts”. NCOSE targets companies that promote pornography in their “Dirty Dozen” list. The Hilton Corporation, for

example, has stopped providing porn in all of their hotel rooms under pressure from NCOSE. The discussion of sex trafficking then focused on our community in Spokane. Mr. Aaron Tilbury founder of the Jonah Project spoke about the women and children who are trafficked in our community. His organization rescues and houses these individuals.

Mr. Clay Olsen, from Salt Lake City, is the founder of Fight the New Drug, a youth movement dedicated to raising awareness of sexual exploitation. He spoke frankly to the youth in the audience about relationships. Famous for the group’s billboards, “Porn Kills Love, Fight for Love”, Mr. Olsen presented real life examples through vignettes about young people enslaved by pornography, the devastation to their loved ones and families and the tough road in extricating themselves from the New Drug.

The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to exploring therapeutic solutions. Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D., president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals and author of Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, lectured on compulsive and addictive sexual behavior. The distinction between addictive and compulsive behavior, their diagnosis, and the implications for treatment were discussed. She then led a panel discussion with five local licensed mental health counselors and certified sexual addiction therapists on a variety of questions from the audience. Many questions concerned personal struggles with porn addiction. The panel ended with assurances that recovery and sexual health are possible.

The conference was videotaped, and will be upload to YouTube page in the near future.

Alfonso Oliva, MD, FACS

Catholic Medical Association