Enlightened Living

Meaning and mindfulness in everyday life

Female Objectification and Emotional Availability

Understanding the social dynamics of pornography addiction

It is no secret that men have a lesser degree of access to their emotions and feelings than do women. There are all sorts of reasons for this, and the topic, in and of itself, could fill pages. Suffice it to say, that where women are more likely to express emotions and feelings directly, men are more likely to express emotions and feelings more indirectly, if at all.

That indirect expression of emotion is usually seen in behaviors, rather than words. And it does not take an expert in human behavior to anticipate that those behaviors will likely be less than desirable. The upsurge in convergent media, and coincident availability of pornography, has created a curious phenomenon with regard to this indirect expression of emotion in men -- pornography addiction.

As we have said previously, addiction is a compulsion that has transformed itself from a drive to a need, whether that need is real or perceived. The concrete behavior associated with an addictive dynamic (drinking, gambling, sexing, spending, working, hoarding, etc.) is simply a symptom. The amplified ability to indulge in pornography through increased availability that does not publicly expose such prurient predilections is a good part of what is driving the marked increase of this particular issue.

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Pornography itself is about the objectification of women. In this context women are treated as things, receptacles and socially dissociated objects to be used and tossed aside. They are, in a word, not real. In fact, most men who indulge themselves in pornography would be appalled - despite the immediate response -- if their wife or girlfriend walked into the bedroom wearing fishnets, stilettos and a latex corset and wanted to get nasty.

Why? -- Because pornography is about emotional disconnection, not emotional connection - it fills a gap in emotional maturity and never the twain shall meet - at least not inside a healthy head. In fact, much of the American propensity to distort sexuality is informed by the core Puritanism that would reject pornographic bedroom behavior in real life.

So, we have emotional isolation, the expectation of socio-emotional disconnection in transgender relationship, the basic human need for love and affection, the basic human drive for sex and now we have an easy access venue that can substitute for the genuine experience of these things. This is an almost perfect set-up for acting out without addressing the underlying issue, which is social and emotional isolation.

The genesis of pornography addiction is driven by this emotional disconnection - plainly put, a pervasive and on-going feeling of loneliness. If a man matures in an environment in which he is emotionally isolated, especially from female affection, he will develop an expectation that this experience will be consistent.

There is no magic to this notion, and it is not something that is specific to pornography addiction. It is one version of the development of the memory maps that drive the assumptions, expectations and ideas about the way the world works through which we filter our lives. It is the failure of understanding how to relate emotionally that finds its expression here.

This sensibility of emotional isolation is carried forth, but the needs that remain unsatisfied demand an outlet. What better place to interact in a pseudo-emotional manner than with women who aren't real?

The interesting thing about pornography addiction is that it's backwards relative to other addictive behavior. Most addictions strive to blunt, distract, or self-medicate. Pornography addiction, despite the misplacement of its intention, is a distorted effort to fix the problem of emotional deficit and social isolation.

So, in treating pornography addiction, rather than stopping the behavior because the behavior is destructive, it is more important to redirect the needs driving the behavior into something more productive. This begins with teaching men how to access their emotions and express them in a way that is relevant to their lives and experience.

In the meantime, just like liquor stores and casinos, pornography will continue to be a part of our culture. And, just like drinking and gambling, it becomes a question of our personal ethos whether we will choose to exploit ourselves through our own inauthenticity or look inside to develop a more whole version of ourselves informed by healing, rather than social distortion.

 

© 2008 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

 

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Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer. He is an Initiate in the Shankya Yoga lineage of H.H. Sri Swami Rama and the Himalayan Masters.

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