American Association of Therapists Treating Abortion Related Trauma
Professionalizing the treatment of abortion related trauma
Bridging the gap between research and practice
Bridging the gap between research and practice
A recent study from Barna Research reported that 27% of older Millennials started viewing porn before puberty. Another recent study reported that young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 seek out porn more than any other generation. They also found in the same study that this age group had more guilt about not recycling than watching porn. What I find interesting is that the Guttmacher Institute also reported in 2014, that patients ages 20-24 obtained 34% of all abortions in our country. As a therapist who specializes in sexual addiction, I have to only wonder how a young person’s exposure to pornography prior to puberty, in addition to later viewing porn in their early 20’s, may impact their sexual behaviors and added risk to a crisis pregnancy with their partners. If the age group that seeks out porn the most is also the age group that has the most abortions, it would make sense that there could be a correlation. So what does this mean for therapists who treat clients who are Millennials? Are you properly screening for porn use, possible sexual addiction and risk factors for a future crisis pregnancy as a result of what this research shows us?
If you are a therapist that works with Millennials, it would be important for you to add to your intake assessment questions about early exposure to porn, and current use. This is a critical stage to begin looking at risk of a future sexual addiction prior to marriage. It is unlikely that a male will report any addictive behaviors as it relates to porn use to their future spouse prior to marriage. As I mentioned earlier Millennials tend to minimize the use of porn as a problem. They tend to see it as quite normal. So why would they need to bring it up to their future spouse? In fact, their future spouse may think of it as normal also, since they grew up in the same generation. As a therapist you have an opportunity to help a client who presents with problems related to porn use before it escalates to a full addiction and causes problems in future relationships. What I have found is many female Millennials will act as if it is a normal part of their generation until it hurts them, or they “allow it” to hurt them. What they often find is they bought into a generational norm that goes against the very nature of wanting to be respected and not objectified. They are only able to hang onto that norm for a short period before they realize they can no longer defend against what should normally be expected from a trusting relationship. If after doing an assessment, you find that a client appears to have an addiction, it might be better to refer to someone who specializes in sexual addiction if you don’t think you are qualified to treat.
In addition, if you identify a Millennial client that currently uses porn or is addicted, it will be important to not only screen for an abortion decision in their past but to also assess how their current use of porn may have an impact on a future crisis pregnancy. You see, when a client becomes addicted to porn, they quickly learn that there is no need for emotional intimacy or connection in order to have a sexual experience. This later leads to being able to have sexual relationships without any emotional connections. This generation might call this, “friends with benefits”. It would then make sense that they would have more sexual partners, without any sense of commitment. This would most likely add to the risk of a crisis pregnancy. The disconnect and lack of emotional intimacy would also contribute to how one would respond to finding out their partner is pregnant. They would act disconnected from the reality of an unborn child that was now conceived.
Another factor to consider is the viewing of pornography tends to affect how a person acts in the sexual relationship. Not only can porn affect what they want to do with their partner sexually but it can also cause more sexual aggression. Often their partner does not understand the changes in their partner’s behaviors toward them, especially if they don’t know they view porn. With increased aggression, comes a greater risk of a crisis pregnancy.
We therapists need to be prepared to work with a new generation of problems related to internet porn use, and the risk factors that might contribute to a crisis pregnancy and a possible abortion decision. What we know from research is, this generation views more pornography than any other age group. We also know this generation has more abortions than any other age group. To think that there isn’t a correlation, would be ignorant.
Gregory Hasek MA/MFT is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oregon.