International speaker on how porn can impact relationships

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While experts see both positive and negative impacts from consuming pornography, international speaker Gene McConnell says porn has the power to negatively impact relationships.

(KTUU)

McConnell gave his lecture titled "The Power of Porn: A Closer Look at Pornography's Impact on Relational Health" to healthcare providers in Anchorage on Monday. The 5-hour long course counts towards continuing education credits for providers to maintain their licenses.

The course covers a myriad of issues: The idea that porn is psychologically addictive; anecdotal evidence suggesting certain pornography is related to human trafficking; and how porn can instill a lack of regard for the human body in children who are exposed to it.

McConnell believes that pornographic imagery of violent sexual interaction has the potential to de-sensitize viewers, leading them to act violently towards their own sexual partners.

Alisa Drake -- who is a mother of three young boys and a licensed therapist in Anchorage -- says this anecdotal correlation of violence in pornography and sexual abuse is of particular concern in Alaska.
According to the 2017 FBI Uniform Crime Report, instances of rape in Alaska were reported at over 2.5 times the national average.

Drake acknowledges there's no way to directly correlate watching violent pornographic content with high rates of sexual abuse -- but as someone who has worked with victims of human trafficking in Alaska, she suspects there's a correlation.

Obviously, not all porn is violent in nature. In fact, Drake says many therapists have prescribed watching pornography to spark romance in failing marriages. She does not agree with this practice.

"I've known many that have used pornography as a way to help people heal in their struggle -- in their marriages and relationships," Drake said. "They offer pornography as an option for healing, and I conversely see the damage."

McConnell spoke to that damage at his seminar on Monday. He said porn took away his ability to maintain deep and meaningful relationships with his wife and daughter. He talked about how, at one point, his daughter was on the edge of suicide, and his wife became anorexic -- all because of his infatuation with other women that caused him to neglect his family.

"Every time I saw it, every time I consumed it, I knew it was wrong," McConnell said. "And not only was I feeling bad about myself -- I was pushing people away."

McConnell recommends families install software to limit children's access to pornographic websites. However, he says parents should be willing to have open conversations about pornography so their kids aren't exploring it on their own. He describes giving a child unrestricted access to the internet without having a conversation about pornography as similar to "letting them run down the Red Light District, freely."

Jeoffry McCormick is a social worker at a homeless shelter in Fairbanks. He attended McConnell's seminar. He says there's a stigma attached to pornography that he hopes one day will disappear so he can provide better care for his patients.

"A lot of men in my line of work struggle with pornography," he said. "It's a hidden disorder, I would call it, where they can't talk about it."

Various articles, including a 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, say there's not enough empirical science to classify watching pornography as an addictive behavior.

Channel 2 reached out to local adult entertainment shops on Monday to get their reactions to this story, and did not hear back in time for publication.

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