Georgie de Mattos/Mustang News

“Addicted to porn?”

The words were typed on white paper in black, all-capital letters. The signs were scattered around Cal Poly’s campus earlier last month, prompting several head turns and double takes.

Graduate student Alex Vice, who is pursuing a teaching credential, is part of a national church group called Pure Desire that creates open places for people to talk about pornography and sexual addiction. Along with the “Addicted to porn?” question, the signs had information on how to get in contact with this ministry.

Vice posted the signs around campus because he thinks there are a lot of students who struggle with porn addictions, but are too scared to talk about them.

“I believe the deepest root of all fears is a fear of condemnation by other people,” Vice said. “People don’t want to talk about it because they are afraid others will shun them or think they are weird.”

According to Esquire Magazine, Pornhub — the largest pornography site on the Internet — reported that there were a total of 87.8 billion porn videos or clips viewed in 2015, which translates to about 12 porn videos viewed by every person on Earth. Among these users, the largest amount of users —approximately 41 percent — were reported to be from the United States.

Infographic by Celina Oseguera

Considering how prevalent pornography is in the country, it is not discussed as openly as other topics.

“There is a larger public reticence, and I don’t think it’s just limited to pornography,” women’s and gender studies lecturer Steven Ruszczycky said.“There is a hesitation to talk about sex in honest and serious terms.”

Puritanical past

According to the American College Health Association, more than 70 percent of students are sexually active. Sex is everywhere from advertisements to television to music. But on a public university campus, pornography is still somewhat of a taboo subject.

Part of this has to do with America’s puritanical roots.

America was founded by Puritans whose values are still deeply embedded in contemporary culture, according to The New York Times. They held the belief that sex should be restricted to marriage and that all nonmarital and nonreproductive sexual activities were forbidden, as stated by sociologist Lisa Wade in her article, “Before Love.” These values continue to shape judgements and behaviors. Especially when it comes to matters of sexuality, puritanical ideals tend to serve as a moral compass, despite personal religious beliefs.

This stigma surrounding the topic of pornography and how it is consumed has created a wall between our private and public lives, according to Ruszczycky. He said that feelings of shame and fear are often associated with speaking openly about pornography and sexual habits because it can be hard for people to admit their inner desires.

Infographic by Bukky Babalola

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a normal sexual desire,” Ruszczycky said. “One of the things that pornography is doing is making it clear to us that desire takes a lot of different shapes and forms.”

Pornography has an enormous digital market, but can also be found in drawings, books and even comics. Ruszczycky said the modern description of porn has taken on many different meanings.

Ruszczycky and his co-authors created an edited collection of essays called “Porn Archives,” challenging people to think about porn in new ways.

“The landscape is much richer and more complex than the black and white arguments that limit how we think about pornography, what it actually is and what people do with it,” Ruszczycky said.

College students who aren’t afraid to talk porn

According to Vice, one of the benefits of talking about something like pornography in a serious light is realizing that everyone has something to share, and nobody is alone.

“What I was surprised the most about in the group is the brutal honesty that is required to participate,” Vice said of the Pure Desire group. “It is actually very liberating to not only to get the chance to be honest, but also to be expected to be honest.”

Vice believes that it is beneficial for college students to speak about pornography, specifically addiction. He said that pornography is frequently used as a stress reliever when students get anxious about school and new surroundings.

Zoe Raven, Cal Poly’s Let’s Talk Sex student facilitator, said her program creates a similar environment.

Raven leads a discussion once a month where participants are encouraged to let go of stigmas and talk openly about their opinions and experiences. She said that no matter what topic she chooses, the subject of pornography always seems to surface.

Video by Shannon McCallister

Raven believes that porn affects the way that people view themselves when it comes to sex. She said it can be difficult for some to get past the awkwardness of talking about it because it makes people feel vulnerable.

“It’s important to leave your comfort zone because that is how you grow,” Raven said. “We talk about (sexual) expectations in our meetings and the more we talk about them, the more we can see how they are impacting us.”

The privatization of fantasy

Today, anyone can access digital pornography on the Internet in a matter of seconds, and most of it can be viewed for free. Raven said that sometimes connecting to technology is much easier than interacting face-to-face. This is why many consume porn in the first place.

“It is called the privatization of fantasy,” Raven said.

According to Raven, it is a problem when porn serves as an education source for many young children who do not learn about sexuality in a healthy and open setting.

“I think we need a comprehensive sex education for children to help prepare them for the porn that they probably will see,” Raven said. “We need to have dialogues where we can investigate on our own and create our own opinions.”

Raven said that by talking about pornography and bringing to surface what is naturally suppressed, matters of sexuality will appear to be more real for students and their partners.

“Through discussion we can come to terms with our emotions, and there are moments when people realize that they are experiencing a lot of the same feelings,” Raven said.

Correction: The title of the infographic concerning pornography viewing habits has been changed to clarify the views and statistics are for one site, Pornhub. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *