JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Porn is popular. Just how popular? In 2019, there were 42 billion individual visits to Pornhub, one of the most world’s most popular pornographic websites.
That’s enough for every person on earth to visit the website 5-and-a-half times.
Each day there are 115 million people who log onto the x-rated site and in 2019 alone there were 1.36 million hours of new content added to Pornhub, equaling 169 years.
Americans by far make up the most traffic on the global porn site and the state that spends the most time on it: Mississippi.
Year and after year, Mississippians top the charts on the most time spent watching porn on Pornhub, according to the website’s internal reports. In 2012? Mississippi. 2013? Mississippi. 2014? Mississippi again.
You would have to go back to the year 2015 to not find Mississippi in the number one spot. It was this year when Hawaii beat Mississippi by only one second.
But Mississippi would go on to dominate each year after that, with the average time spent by a Mississippian on Pornhub per session being 11 minutes and 26 seconds.
This then begs the question: Does Mississippi have an addiction to pornography? First, you would have to answer the question of what an addiction actually is.
“Addiction is a cluster of social, physical, physiological and even spiritual maladaptation and dysfunctions due to overuse, abuse and/or dependence to a substance or behavior,” Dr. Lin Hogan recites from memory.
In other words, the doctor explains, whatever the individual is addicted to, whether it be a drug, alcohol or a certain behavior, is causing dysfunction in a “constellation” of different areas in the person’s life, thus making it unmanageable.
In essence, addiction affects the whole person.
Hogan, who is a clinical therapist at Weems Community Mental Health Center in Meridian, says that one’s environment plays a pivotal role in their addiction but also, and equally as important, their genetic makeup.
“If somebody’s parent has alcoholism, then they have a 50 percent higher chance of acquiring alcoholism than the next guy,” Hogan says. “I tend to generalize it to say that if you have a parent that has a drug/alcohol problem, you have a higher risk... of developing one yourself.”
Hogan then explains how the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a role in addiction. Simply put, dopamine is a chemical in the body which is a main part in how we perceive pleasure.
“Anything that is considered survivalistic or a perpetuation of the race such as eating, drinking, sexualized behavior, procreation; dopamine is part of that,” he states.
So whether it be taking a drink of water on a hot day or eating a great meal, dopamine is involved. Dopamine levels can also spike when someone hits a jackpot at the casino, uses their drug of choice, or when they access porn.
Our bodies then remember that blast of dopamine, causing us to seek out what caused it in the first place. And, for some, they must seek it out to an unhealthy degree.
It must be pointed out too that the drug itself (meth, cocaine, alcohol, etc.) is typically the crux of said addiction.
Hogan also explains that, to an addict, their addiction should be looked at as a friend of sorts - even if it is a detrimental one. It’s something they can do that is dependable, changes their mood and is an ever-present force in their life.
That’s why it can be so hard to quit. Then add onto this the side effect of withdrawal that comes with attempting to abandon this friend that only makes leaving harder.
While everyone agrees that addictions to drugs and alcohol are undeniably real, addiction to porn leaves some experts skeptical.
Some point out that it is not a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists says that there is just not sufficient evidence at this time that supports porn addiction as a mental health disorder.
But Hogan disagrees, saying that porn addiction is “absolutely” real.
“It’s real because it happens,” he says emphatically. “Over the years, I’ve had a number of people, many people come in and that addiction to pornography is happening in their world and it’s affecting their world.”
To Leigh Ann Germany, the high prevalence of porn in today’s society is due, in part, because of its easy accessibility.
“I mean I could pull up pornography in less than a minute from this device,” the certified sex addiction therapist says, picking up her phone.
Germany, though, is not on a crusade against porn, saying that “everybody that views pornography does not have a problem with pornography.”
But it’s when that casual viewing turns into a coping mechanism or when it is viewed at too young of an age that Germany says it can become an issue.
Some signs of porn addiction may be that it’s damaging a relationship, you have lost interest in other activities or it has affected your job.
Germany says that some additional red flags include having to view it in order to get motivated to do something else or having to view it before work because, if you don’t, you’re anxious all day. Also, do you have to leave at break and go to your car to watch it?
She does not ask the last question jokingly, saying that she once had a client, a teacher, who would sneak to his car during lunch to view porn.
“He was risking that for this behavior. It was a real addiction,” she says. “He knows, ‘I’m risking serious legal trouble and losing my job but I can’t function for the rest of the day if I don’t run to my car and do this real quick.’ It’s a drug.”
Germany recalls another time recently where someone’s addiction had caught up with them, when she went to court for a man who downloaded some pornography from Russia.
It just so happened that intermixed in the porn were images involving children. He had unwittingly downloaded child pornography.
Not knowing what to do, the man then sent the images to a friend which resulted in additional charges. Germany simply describes the ordeal as “a real mess.”
For a minor, though, Germany says that watching porn can also have a plethora of consequences, one being that you think that what you are viewing is what intimacy actually is. She also says that viewing porn at such a young age can more easily alter the arousal template, which, as it sounds, encompasses everything that arouses one sexually.
Teens are also more susceptible to picking up addictions because an adolescent brain is still developing. Their orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain which weighs reward and punishment, acts differently than that of an adult’s, which is also why teens are prone to risky behavior.
Porn addiction as an adult can also have neurological impacts with the addiction actually creating new pathways in the brain. This is why, Germany says, one addiction begets another, meaning if you have one addiction “you probably have another addiction as well and they may be playing together.”
Not all addictions are the same though, with Germany explaining that an addiction to alcohol or drugs is different than an addiction to sex or food, because, unlike beer or cocaine, you need them to survive. That’s what makes treating sex or food addiction a separate beast entirely.
“We have to learn to live with the thing that we’ve been compulsive with and find balance with it,” says Germany. “So, it’s difficult.”
There are local facilities that do treat those suffering from addiction, porn addiction included. One of those being A Bridge To Recovery in Jackson.
According to Kostas Matheos, founder and chief clinical officer of the facility, one usually finds themselves seeking treatment not because they want to, but because they have suffered some type of consequence due to their addiction.
“Rarely does someone walk in my door and say ‘Hey! I’d like to deal with this pornography!’” she says.
When one goes to A Bridge To Recovery, it often starts with an assessment to answer two questions. One, does this person have a problem and two, can the facility help.
If they find that their facility isn’t the right fit, the person may be referred to a residential treatment center. Those suffering from porn addiction are often referred to residential treatment.
This is because people with this addiction often need the structure and support only a residential treatment center can provide because, as previously mentioned, accessing porn is just too easy in the real world.
But those who do seek treatment for porn addiction at A Bridge To Recovery are usually first asked to do an “abstinence agreement.” This, Matheos says, gives the person the opportunity to detox or go through the withdrawal cycle. The severity of the addiction will guide the rest of the treatment.
The client they usually see at the facility is described as a “professional” due to the fact that insurance does not cover those seeking help with sex or porn addiction because these addictions are not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This means that the patient is usually paying out of pocket.
And when it comes to the success rate of the treatment center, Matheos says she’s “not one of those that throws out numbers.”
“There are treatment centers all day long that do and I think they’re full of it, some of them,” she continues. “I mean, I could call you after you get out of treatment and go, ‘Hey, are you sober?’ and you could be sitting there drinking Jack Daniels and... watching porn so I don’t do that.”
She does say, however, that if it weren’t possible for people to recover from their addiction and to achieve sobriety, “I wouldn’t do this.”
To Matheos, addiction is akin to diabetes in that a Type 1 diabetic is never “cured.” She says that their disease will be with them for the rest of their life but that a person can eventually find their way into remission.
As to why Mississippians are spending so much time consuming porn, Matheos, much like Germany and Hogan, could only hypothesize.
Some said it may be due to the state’s unemployment rate, that there is nothing else to do. Some mentioned the high single-motherhood rate, that there are a bunch on teens alone at home who have extra time on their hands. But no general conclusion was ever reached.
“You can speculate about anything,” Matheos says, “but, you know, I don’t know.”