Relationships

Kiwi sex expert says porn is the biggest addiction society has ever seen

''The statistics are eye opening, people are watching pornography from a very young age,'' says intimacy counsellor Angela Rennie.

By Karyn Henger
Government officials are working on legislation that, if passed, would restrict New Zealanders' access to pornography - and a Kiwi sex expert says the proposed bill couldn't arrive soon enough.
Internal Affairs and Children's Minister Tracey Martin hopes to introduce a proposed policy to Parliament before next year's election that would adopt practical and educational approaches and possibly introduce regulations to "prevent children and young people from accidentally being exposed to pornography and from deliberately accessing it in a digital environment, including at school".
Five bills proposed by the Christian lobby group, Family First, including compulsory porn-blocking software in schools and in Wi-Fi services in public places such as airports and libraries, "will be considered during the policy development process".
Martin said this week, "It's a priority of mine and I really want to see legislation introduced this term."
Research by the office of Chief Censor David Shanks in 2018 found that 75 per cent of NZ boys and 58 per cent of girls aged 14 to 17 had seen porn online, either deliberately or by accident.
Moreover 69 per cent of teens who saw porn at least once a month had seen "violence or aggression", and almost half of teens who had had sexual relationships said they had "tried doing something [they] saw in porn".
Auckland intimacy counsellor Angela Rennie welcomes the proposals, saying "addressing this in any way" is a move in the right direction.
Rennie has seen first-hand the devastating impact pornography has on relationships and individuals.
"I would say it's the biggest addiction society has seen and no one is really doing anything about it.
"The statistics are eye opening, people are watching pornography from very young," she says.
Angela Rennie says porn is the biggest addiction society has seen.
So concerned is Rennie, she has approached a number of Auckland secondary schools offering to present to students about the damage watching 'high-speed' (online) pornography can cause and what healthy relationships should look like.
"But they don't want me to come in and talk."
She has been disappointed by their lack of acknowledgement of the problem.
"I believe we need to be doing more at schooling levels."
Rennie explains that regular exposure to pornography effectively reprogrammes the brain, leaving a person unable to enjoy normal, healthy relationships or intimacy.
"Pornography provides the brain with an artificial version of a natural reward. It floods the brain with extra dopamine and then the dopamine hits that a person gets from a natural reward of bonding and sex with a person cannot compare to the dopamine hits they get from high speed pornography."
Men begin to suffer from erectile dysfunction and both men and women (porn is watched by both genders) are unable to develop genuine connections with others.
"I have found people that have a problem with pornography from a young age have never felt the desire to fully connect with someone else," Rennie says.
In relationships, the partner addicted to porn will begin to prefer porn to intimacy with their partner.
"It's quicker, they don't have to put any effort in, there is no fear of rejection," Rennie explains.
"And then when the partner finds out their partner is choosing porn over them it affects their body image, they experience feelings of rejection, and a high percentage consider it to be cheating."
For some, pornography addiction takes such a hold they seek out more and more unacceptable forms of it to achieve the same dopamine rush.
Rennie explains, "The dopamine receptors get diminished and that leads to extreme porn, kinks, fetishes, seeking out prostitutes to get the same high.
"It can lead people to illegal pornography use and illegal sexual behaviours. The majority of porn is sexually aggressive which normalises this behaviour, especially for younger users.
"There was a massive study down a few years ago in Australia on this, and what young women were sexually doing to have boyfriends was alarming."
Rennie says she couldn't tell you how many clients have told her, 'If I'd known what it would do to me I would never have watched it, how detrimental it would be.'
"It's a massive problem and it needs to be addressed."