Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

In The News


Porn is invading home, work

Deseret Morning News, Sunday, August 08, 2004
Provo, Utah
http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,595082727,00.html

Porn is invading home, work
With sites just click away, addiction has become big concern

By Jesse Hyde
Deseret Morning News

The first time Paul Turner tried to kill his wife, he baked her cookies laced with rat poison. When that didn't work, he cooked her spaghetti with mushrooms he believed were poisonous. On his final attempt, he put fish tank cleaner in her injected medication.

Turner told Provo police he wanted his pregnant wife dead because, among other things, she wouldn't allow him to look at Internet pornography.

On Jan. 26, supervisors at the Provo River Water Users Association suspended Louis Darrell Kinyon of American Fork from his job. At a meeting the next Monday to discuss the suspension, Kinyon, 49, flew into a rage and damaged a candy machine on his way out of the Pleasant Grove office.

Police were searching for Kinyon in the surrounding neighborhood when he returned to the building, chased co-workers outside and shot his 36-year-old boss, killing him. He then went in a bathroom and shot himself in the face.

Kinyon's suspension stemmed from "inappropriate material" found on his computer. Kinyon, who has recovered, has been charged with capital aggravated murder and third-degree felony sex exploitation of a minor.

The latter charge is related to the material found on his computer.

It wasn't long ago finding pornography was a chore, especially in Utah. Even in big cities, buying pornographic videos or magazines required slipping into the back room of a seedy video store. Now on the Internet, in motel rooms and on pay-per-view television, porn can be just a click away.

As pornography has become more accessible, it has also become more popular. Last April, 29 million Americans viewed pornographic Web sites there are nearly half a million of them accounting for nearly one quarter of all Internet users, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, an Internet audience measurement and analysis agency.

Rentals of hard-core videos, which show real sex acts, soared from 79 million in 1985 to 759 million in 2001, according to Adult Video News. That's an increase of almost 1,000 percent. The porn industry now rakes in about $10 billion a year, roughly the same amount Hollywood makes on all major releases at the domestic box office.

"It's everywhere," says Rory Reid, a therapist who treats sex addicts at Provo's Gathering Place. "Some people feel like they can't escape it."

The explosion of porn, and mainstream tolerance, has created a whole new category of addicts, psychologists say. Men and women who view porn sometimes become so consumed by it they can't keep it out of the workplace.

Before Turner tried to poison his wife, his boss at the Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confronted him about pornography found on a computer.

When Kinyon was suspended for material found on his computer, he snapped.

"I've seen some people who are definitely deserving of the label, people who are really doing themselves damage," says David Tomb, a University of Utah psychology professor who has met with dozens of men consumed by porn. "They feel out of control to the point where they are losing their job, their marriage is falling apart, their whole life is disassembling because of their need to look at pornography, and they have a lot of the same characteristics you see with someone who has a drug addiction."

Does compulsive viewing of pornography qualify as an addiction? And if it does, is it a harmless waste of time, a healthy stimulus for bored couples, or a dangerous obsession that destroys relationships, ends careers and contributes to violence?

On a recent Tuesday night, a group of admitted sex addicts gathered at an Orem church for a weekly meeting. They met in the nursery, a cheery yellow room with pictures of Jerusalem and Noah's Ark taped to the wall.

Sitting in a circle, the men introduced themselves as "sexaholics" and shared temptations encountered during the previous week both those they overcame and those to which they succumbed. For men who had stayed sober from compulsive sexual behavior for a month or longer, there were tokens and hugs.

Sexaholic groups in conservative, largely Mormon Utah County (there are two) attract everyone from newlyweds obsessed with porn to white-haired grandfathers who have lost count of how many prostitutes they have bedded. Some of the men have attended these meetings, which use the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, for years.

For these men, pornography addiction is a very real thing; it is a habit that has hurt relationships and affected job performance.

Reid, who runs the program for compulsive sexual behavior at the Gathering Place, said he has counseled dozens of porn addicts. Most are men, he said, and most come in on their own. Others are referred by employers such as Novell that have become aware of the problem.

"We've had police officers, postal workers. This problem is not discriminatory," Reid said. "You'll get the custodian, you'll get the medical doctor and everything in between."

An estimated 6 million Americans surfed porn Web sites while at work in April of last year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. A survey of 224 corporations conducted by David Greenfield, author of the book "Virtual Addiction," shows more than 40 percent of all Internet-related workplace disciplinary actions were related to Internet pornography.

Greenfield said he has worked with executives who lock themselves in the office half the day looking at porn. Reid has treated others who stay up all night viewing online porn and come in groggy to work.

Both Reid and Tomb said their clients find viewing pornography an especially tough habit to break. Reid said giving up porn can be as difficult as giving up heroin.

However, other experts say viewing pornography does not qualify as an addiction.

"It depends on what we mean by addiction," said Jeffrey Schaler, a former psychology professor at Johns Hopkins University who has studied compulsive pornography viewing and addiction. "If we mean some disorder or some chemical imbalance, there's no such thing as pornography addiction. If by addiction we mean something that people enjoy and use to cope, then yes, there's such a thing as addiction."

Schaler, author of the book "Addiction Is a Choice," said too many people, from alcoholics to self-described sexaholics, use addiction as an excuse for behavior they find inappropriate. With enough willpower, any addiction from heroin use to compulsive pornography consumption can be overcome, he said.

Other psychologists, such as the late Al Cooper of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Center in Santa Clara, Calif., have said that while pornography viewing can reach the point of compulsion, it does not meet the criteria of other physical addictions.

"It's not something people can't control," Schaler said. "It's not like a seizure."

Depending on your morals, pornography addiction is either a vexing sin or an annoying waste of time. To conservative Christians, pornography has long been viewed as a gateway to baser sins, such as adultery and rape.

The recent cases of Paul Turner, who tried to poison his wife, and Louis Darrell Kinyon, who shot his boss, seem to support such religious fundamentalist theory.

"I think it's dangerous when we attribute a criminal act to pornography, and there's obviously other factors we're overlooking," Schaler said. "It's more complicated than that.

"There's no evidence to show pornography caused (Turner and Kinyon) to do these things. People say, 'Well, pornography obviously had something to do with it.' Look, there are tons of people who read pornography and don't kill people."

There is even some debate about whether pornography addiction escalates. Reid said he has clients who have been looking at the same kind of porn for years, while Tomb said most people hooked on porn seek increasingly explicit material.

"What was previously arousing is no longer arousing. It's almost like someone with a heroin addiction needing more heroin. They haven't changed the drug, but they've increased the intensity of it," Tomb said. "Soft porn will become hard porn. Hard porn will become violent porn."

Anti-porn activists have long warned that porn causes men to objectify women. If it is not limited, they say, men will beat, cheat, even rape.

However, in a recent essay for New York magazine, the feminist Naomi Wolf argued that the proliferation of easy-to-access pornography has not made men into "raving beasts," as many had predicted it would.

"On the contrary," she writes. "The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as 'porn-worthy.' Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention."

Wolf writes that when she visits college campuses women tell her they feel like they can't compete. "For how can a real woman . . . possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer's least specification?"

Reid says he hears the same thing from spouses or partners of porn addicts who come in for counseling at the Gathering Place.

What cannot be denied, he said, is the effect pornography has on relationships.

"It creates unreal expectations," he said. "Pornography in and of itself is just a fraudulent message about human sexuality."

Today, Paul Turner is in the maximum security wing of the Utah State Prison, serving a 15-year sentence for attempted murder. His wife has divorced him and has sole custody of their child. Turner declined comment for this story.

On Wednesday, Darrell Kinyon, who has been found mentally competent to stand trial, appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing. He will next appear in court Sept. 22.

Those who know both men wonder what role pornography played in their crimes.

Turner was described by his older brother as "the 'good kid' who wanted desperately to maintain an appearance of strength and success." Kinyon was said to be despondent over the thought of his family learning of his porn addiction.

"I think he was really torn with the way he was acting. It was so aberrant to his core beliefs. I think it ate him up," said Turner's attorney, Tom Means.

Schaler assumes both Turner and Kinyon were suffering from a state psychologists call "cognitive dissonance," defined as a condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from an inconsistency between one's beliefs and one's actions. He said this condition had more to do with their crimes than their pornography habit.

"Obviously there were other factors," said one associate of Turner who asked not to be named. "But I think (pornography) played a large part in what happened."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2004 Deseret News Publishing Company