Hidden in Shame: Heterosexual Men’s Experiences of Self-Perceived Problematic Pornography Use

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The rapid rise in the availability of pornography has given the world instant access to a vast and diverse supply of pornographic material. Although it is possible for both genders to experience a problematic relationship with pornography, the large majority of online pornography consumers who identify as addicted to pornography are heterosexual men. This article aims to examine the experiences of adult heterosexual men with problematic pornography use in New Zealand. A total of 15 heterosexual men were recruited via advertising, social media outreach, and word of mouth to take part in interviews about their self-perceived problematic pornography consumption habits. A data-driven inductive thematic analysis was conducted to explore the different ways men talked about their problematic pornography use. The primary reason men kept their viewing hidden from the world was because of the accompanying experiences of guilt and shame that would inevitably follow most—if not all—viewing sessions or attempts at opening up about their use. Pornography began eroding their sense of autonomy when men experienced a loss of control over their use, which underpinned the core aspect of their problematic use. Over time, the men perceived that pornography had resulted in having unrealistic expectations when it came to sex and sexuality, the way they viewed women, and led to diminished sexual function. Further work is needed in using strategies that could offer alternatives to problematic pornographic use or interventions that help the individual learn how to productively respond to the affective triggers of discomfort that trigger use.

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