Counsellors battle ‘plague of pornography’, psychologists Seema Hingorrany & Yolande Pereira, paediatrician, Samir Dalwai (2015)

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,TNN | Sep 13, 2015

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Two weeks ago, at the country's first seminar to battle "the plague of pornography," more than 103 counsellors, youth animators, priests, nuns and therapists from various parishes and secular counselling centres pondered a patient history titled Mathew's story. "Like many people, Mathew looked at porn on the web every now and then," explained the case study before delving into the successful accountant's downward spiral into addiction. "Before long, half of Mathew's work day was taken up browsing the web for porn," the story continued. "Sexual images, urges and fantasies dominate his thoughts... His dearest companion is the laptop." In conclusion, attendees were asked to chart an intervention for the addict, who was now heavily in debt, addicted to hard porn, embroiled in an extramarital affair and eager to leave his wife.The seminar, conducted by Snehalaya Family Service Centre, founded by the Bombay Archdiocese but which caters to people of all faiths, is the result of a six-month-long survey on porn-viewing habits in 16 parishes, seven colleges and eight corporate offices. The survey showed that the habit is widespread and on the rise. Despite aiming for a representative faith-wise sample, more than 50% of respondents were Christian. At the seminar too, 70% of attendees were Christian."Our stand is zero porn," said Fr Cajetan Menezes, who conducted part of the seminar and is the director of Snehalaya. "Even if you watch 20 minutes of porn a week, it will alter your pattern of behaviour and brain structure," he added. Additionally, there is a correlation between porn and violence against women, said Menezes. "For us, pornography is an extension of sex exploitation, and women trafficking, which is why we are taking a hard-line stance on the issue." 

Other city counsellors and therapists have also seen a marked uptick in porn viewing. "Every second patient that walks in practically has a porn obsession," said clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany. "In the last year, I've seen a 30% jump." Developmental paediatrician, Samir Dalwai, has seen a similar trend among children. "One of the big causes of academic deterioration today is pornography," he said. In one instance, a seven-year-old boy's behavioural and academic problems, including hitting other children, were traced to porn. "The father was watching porn and hadn't deleted the sites from the browser thinking the kid is too small," recalled Dalwai.

One of the worst cases Hingorrany has ever treated was an engineering student, who was watching porn 14 hours a day. "He'd failed his exams, bruised himself by masturbating excessively and was suffering from depression and hallucinations," recalled Hingorrany. Several experts, though, say that not everyone gets addicted. In fact, sexologist Prakash Kothari doesn't see any harm in using porn as an aphrodisiac if it's in moderation. He said some people are turned off by overexposure. "It's like gulab jamun. If you have it every day, the fun is lost."

The number of women watching porn is also on the rise. Hingorrany said that for every 10 male addicts, she has three female patients. In one case mentioned during the seminar, porn addiction was mistakenly diagnosed as post-partum depression until the patient came clean. Another side-effect of excessive porn use can be impotence or erectile dysfunction. Family therapist Yolande Pereira, who conducted part of the seminar, said, "Ninety per cent of men and women, who come to us with erectile dysfunction or low libido, after visiting sexologists and urologists without improvement, have a long history of viewing pornography."

Hingorrany estimated that five out of 10 porn addicts suffer from low libido because of their unhealthy lifestyle, overexposure to sexual images and innate anxieties. "I had a boy who came and told me that he watched excessive porn and when he went to perform with a girl, he couldn't do it and panicked," recalled Hingorrany, "I explained that he had desensitized himself by watching too much of it."

Some of those attending the seminar such as psychotherapist and counsellor Nilufer Mistry, who works at Massena Hospital, are specialists in addiction and were attending to further hone their skills. When asked if she agreed with taking a hard-line stance on porn, she said, "I believe anything in limitation is healthy, but porn is very addictive."

Others were church volunteers hoping the seminar would give them the tools to tackle rampant porn watching.

Noreen Machado from St Theresa's parish in Bandra, who is the coordinator of a family cell, hoped it would help her assist parents whose children are struggling with such issues.

In the future, Snehalaya hopes to start a support group for porn addicts, once more safety and privacy measures are in place. They are treading carefully because abroad such groups have been known to attract stalkers and perverts, who join to prey on vulnerable addicts and their spouses.