Open and shut cases

Open and shut cases

I try to keep up with new sexuality books as much as I can—sometimes not for professional reasons, but for my own entertainment, such as Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, in which hilarious science writer Mary Roach turns her curiosity toward today’s sex research. Two other books I have read over the summer are The Porn Trap, by Wendy and Larry Maltz, which I’ll talk about here, and The Return of Desire by Gina Ogden, about reigniting sexual desire and passion, which I’ll cover in my next column.

Not surprisingly, these book titles earned me quite a few scrutinizing stares from fellow travelers at airport departure gates during my most recent travels. Over my years as a sexologist, I have often noticed that the person in the airplane seat next to me takes their eyes off their Harry Potter book and discretely glances at my sexuality-related reading material, be it The Science of Orgasm, She Comes First, or The Alchemy of Love and Lust. I have finally learned not to get involved in any conversation, unless I want to spend my entire trip listening to people’s sexual problems.

I’m a strong believer in the power of bibliotherapy, so I often recommend self-help books for my clients to read. The Porn Trap is one book I will now be definitely “prescribing.”

There is no doubt that many men and women enjoy watching pornographic material (e.g. porn magazines, adult websites, XXX-rated films and videos) and that it can be used in a healthy way to spice up a sexual relationship, especially when viewed together and when both individuals enjoy watching it. But there also is no doubt that some men and women fall into what Maltz and Maltz call “The Porn Trap.” Here’s how these authors frame their approach:

“We chose the name ‘The Porn Trap’ because it communicates the danger that pornography use can hold. It also describes how many people feel when they realize pornography is causing them serious problems, but don’t want to or can’t give it up. What’s more, the analogy helps us to organize the stories, research, exercises, and tips into a structure that mirrors the healing journey many people go through—from the first time they see and experiment with porn, to sinking deeper into the trap, to feeling desperate, and eventually discovering how to free themselves.”

I have covered ways to combat porn addiction before in this column, but here we finally have a book that I believe will prove a great resource for individuals struggling with excessive use of pornography. The different case stories (such as Victor, who after dealing with his personal problems for five years, stepped out into the public to give inspirational presentations to groups of men in recovery, and Mary, an isolated widow and single mother who craved masturbating to porn for seven years like a drug, before her child’s youth pastor came across her Internet history of XXX-rated websites when fixing her computer) illustrate how a wide range of men and women can get trapped. But more important, Maltz and Maltz manage to give a wealth of advice along with concrete suggestions for steps to take to overcome the vicious cycle. What makes the book so valuable is the fact that so many tips and pieces of advice are combined in one handy resource.

The book also will be helpful for sexual partners in dealing with the incredible pain they often experience when they discover that their “trusted” partner has been addicted to porn. Knowing that other couples suffer from similar problems helps, but having an actual road map in your hands to help you navigate out of the situation is priceless.