The Porn Scale

Harm reduction is an important and often overlooked component of addiction recovery. With porn addiction it’s pretty simple usually, you either look at porn or you don’t. But I believe that even within active porn addiction, the principles of harm reduction can be applied. The principles of harm reduction that I’m referring to here have to do with reducing the harm that porn inflicts while in active usage, while the relapse is actually happening and you’re watching porn.

If you’ve been a porn addict for any length of time, you’ll know that the severity of the content you consume seldom holds up overtime. This inevitably leads to a seemingly never ending escalation of more and more extreme or violent content added to your browser’s history. Sound familiar? Read on.

So, you find yourself yet again in the middle of another relapse. “If the car is scratched, might as well take it off-road!” you tell yourself for the hundredth time. It can seem like the perfect excuse to go off all willy-nilly to the most un-redeeming content. But instead, what if you tell yourself: “OK, I’m relapsing. At least let’s stay at the shallow end. Let’s not jump straight to the hard core stuff.” Therefore, reducing the harm that a relapse may have on your mind.

Now just to be clear, this is not an excuse to look at porn, it’s simple a strategy when relapse is still occurring often in the early stages or recovery.

Benefits

The benefits, less dopamine spikes in the brain, less shame after viewing, and it’s secretly exercising your brain’s prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for critical decision making. Exercising this decision making part of your brain while in a relapse is yet another chip away at porn’s hold on your mind. This gives a strong message to the cravings next time around that says “I have choice.” And gives the viewer an alternative to the helplessness of a relapse.

This method can even be used as a way to ween yourself off of the most disturbing or financially draining content you consume first. As it usually gives the most shame afterwards, which can make a feedback loop leading right to the same material. Cutting out the most extreme material first can be just the tip of the iceberg too, eventually even soft-core porn can be eliminated in this way.

The Method:

But how can I do this you ask? With something I like to call a “porn scale.” A porn scale is a horizontal scale, of graduating severity, containing all content from soft-core on one side, to the most extreme, violent, or financially debilitating material on the other. This is a scale of your own viewing material, and will be different for each individual.

AcceptableAcceptableGray areaNot acceptable
Nudity, soft-core, etc.Intimate sex, fixed cameras, erotica, etc.Explicit porn, close-ups, shocking, etc.Abuse, violence, fetishes, spending money, etc.
An example porn scale

The process of taking inventory can obviously be a painful one. Coming face to face with your shame is not an easy task. With patience, and compassion for yourself, it can be done. Taking ownership of your own viewing activity can be liberating. And once written out, you will have taken the first step towards dismantling your run away escalation of pornographic material, and one step closer to taking back your life.

You can further categorize your porn scale into acceptable and not acceptable material. Having the goal in mind initially to stop the “not acceptable” material first. It may be costing money, or be illegal, or give you extreme shame. For whatever reason, that is prime suspect number one. If you find yourself caught up in a relapse, at the very least, don’t gravitate towards this material. Never mind the fact that you are already in a relapse, just try to stay within the “acceptable” viewing range of the scale. And gradually overtime you can restrict the content further, eventually eliminating everything on your porn scale.

But for now, the goal is harm reduction, a reduction in harm by means of choosing the less extreme content on your porn scale while in a relapse. And again of course this is not an excuse to look at porn just because it’s not extreme. It’s just a strategy used when relapse is already happening. When used as a fail safe and to cut back on extreme material, the effects of this method can be game changing for your recovery and your life.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer

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