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June 24, 2017

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Experts and activists outline porn's effect on love relationships

TAIPEI -- Nearly universal Internet access has made pornography more widely available than ever, a trend that some experts warn could have major negative effects on people's lives and intimate relationships.

As many as 90 percent of respondents in a 2012 survey by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation said they started watching pornographic videos when they were minors, said Kang Shu-hua, head of the foundation, at a press conference in Taipei Friday.

The survey solicited responses from 1,676 people aged 21-30, of which 341 were women.

A total 79 percent of respondents said they watch porn on a weekly basis and 22 percent watch it at least once a day, Kang said.

Ana J. Bridges, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas in the United States, has done 12 years of research on the effects of viewing pornography.

Bridges, who is in Taipei for an international forum on porn and sex education, said that her research shows higher porn exposure is associated with a decreased commitment to one's life partner, lower self-esteem, lower happiness in a relationship, less enjoyment of sex and a higher reliance on porn to obtain and maintain sexual arousal.

Moreover, the porn industry has grown exponentially along with advances in technology, she said, and it now sees annual sales reaching over tens of billions of U.S. dollars.

"Moving from print to video to the Internet, pornography is now more diverse, much less expensive and much easier to access," she said.

"It appears that higher availability of pornography is negatively affecting users and their partners," she said.

Sun Chyng-feng, a clinical associate professor at New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, said a recent online poll conducted with Bridges and other experts showed that respondents who watch pornography more often are more likely to engage in aggressive sexual acts, such as choking, mock rape, binding, slapping, group sex and sex with multiple partners at the same time.

That poll surveyed 1,880 heterosexuals in the United States, most of whom were university students.

Wilbert Weerd, a pornography addiction specialist from the Netherlands, said lack of love and attention from parents, sexual trauma and loneliness are some of the common reasons that people get addicted to pornography.

A former porn addict himself, Weerd said watching porn releases a wave of endorphins in the brain that makes the viewer feel better for a while but afterwards causes a crash that leaves him or her feeling weak, out of control, lonely and "empty."

He advised porn addicts to seek therapy to uncover their real problems and needs. "Often a porn addict is not really longing for porn but (for) something else," he said.

Kang said her foundation will organize a series of events this year to raise awareness on the impact of porn on people's lives and relationships, including forums, campus lectures, film screenings and study groups.

It will also launch a website for discussion on social topics related to pornography, Kang said.

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