Gonzaga to Host Anti-Porn Conference Speakers Won't Approach Topic from Religious, Moral Angle, Organizer Says

By Sokol, Chad | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), February 22, 2019 | Go to article overview

Gonzaga to Host Anti-Porn Conference Speakers Won't Approach Topic from Religious, Moral Angle, Organizer Says


Sokol, Chad, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


A conference Saturday at Gonzaga University will feature some big names in anti-porn activism and the science of "sex addiction."

Ads for the event, organized by Gonzaga and the Catholic Medical Association, call pornography "the new drug" and "the fuel that feeds human trafficking."

Dr. Alfonso Oliva, a reconstructive surgeon practicing in Spokane, said he decided to organize the conference after reviewing research on the deleterious effects of porn use.

Such material, he said, ruins marriages, objectifies women and conditions young people to seek out increasingly novel, increasingly violent sexual experiences.

"I am now convinced that pornography is a public health crisis," said Oliva, who sits on the board of the Catholic Medical Association.

Speakers at the conference will include a feminist sociology professor, a prominent psychologist and sex therapist, and a former federal prosecutor who leads an anti-porn group in Washington, D.C.

The lineup also includes five mental health professionals from Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, the founder of Spokane's Jonah Project, a Mormon neurosurgeon and the leader of a Salt Lake City-based group that opposes pornography.

Oliva said the presenters won't approach the subject from a moral or religious point of view.

"We wanted it to be a nonreligious discussion," he said. "We didn't want the research to be discounted simply because it's being presented at a Catholic university."

One of the presenters is Gail Dines, a professor emerita of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College in Boston, and an activist who wrote the book "Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality." In a phone call, she described porn as the primary driver of sex trafficking.

"Porn is a major driver of demand to trafficked women because what happens is you socialize boys and men into wanting hardcore sex - the sort of sex that a lot of women, their girlfriends, their wives will not do," Dines said. "So they have to go to women who can't say no. And the only group of women who really can't say no are trafficked women, because they'll be murdered or whatever by their pimp."

Several of the presenters' views have proved to be controversial among researchers who study porn use and other sexual behaviors.

Stefanie Carnes, who leads the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals in Phoenix has been at odds with some researchers who argue people can't become addicted to sex or porn the same way they might get hooked on drugs, alcohol or gambling.

Carnes is far from alone in her view of addiction, though other researchers argue that too much sex or porn use should be classified as an impulse-control disorder - a distinction that could significantly change how the condition is treated.

"Addiction is saying this is a biological cycle. Compulsion is saying this is an emotional cycle," said Cameron Staley, a clinical psychologist at Idaho State University in Pocatello.

In 2010 and 2012, the American Psychiatric Association rejected efforts to add "sex addiction" and "hypersexual disorder" to the fifth edition of its "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," or DSM, a reference book used by psychiatrists in the United States and Britain.

Last year, the World Health Organization added "compulsive sexual behavior disorder" to the "International Classification of Diseases," another industry guidebook, but it refrained from endorsing the addiction model, citing a lack of definitive evidence.

Carnes, meanwhile, said she's confident the scientific community will come to recognize the addictive nature of porn and sex. Like gambling, which the DSM recognizes as addictive, sex is a behavior, she noted. …

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