It is not every day that the subject of pornography gets centre stage at a major venue of a vast international audience such as TEDx, but that is just what happened recently – at TEDxJaffa in Israel.
The featured speaker, Ran Gavrieli, has been all over Israel and beyond, speaking about pornography addiction and how it afflicts women and men alike, as well as impacting children, even those as young as five years old, according to researchers.
According to such research and to candeobehaviorchange.com, a website dedicated in part to sexual addiction, watching pornography and sex brings about a chemical reaction in the brain similar to that produced by consuming drugs or alcohol. As the brain releases a surge of endorphins and other powerful neurochemicals, like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, these “natural drugs” produce a rush or a high. Statistics reveal that people all over the world use pornography as a form of escape and self-medication.
At the TEDxJaffa talk, Gavrieli had the opportunity to explain his personal position on the topic, including how porn watching affected his mind and, consequently, his relationships with the opposite sex. The talk can be viewed at YouTube, under the title, “Why I stopped watching porn: Ran Gavrieli at TEDxJaffa 2013.”
Gavrieli holds a BA in gender studies and theatre, and a master’s, and is working on a PhD in gender studies. He has been an outspoken activist against human trafficking and prostitution since 2008. He gives approximately 400 lectures a year to audiences of all ages, including military units and high-tech organizations.
He said he began viewing porn when he was in his twenties. “I soon felt the distortion of my mind,” he recalled, “and I began doing something about it around the age of 30.
“Porn did not change my general perception of women, but it did invade my intimate life. By doing that, it made me look at women in an automatic way, through ‘porn lenses.’ This contradicted who I am, so I had to uproot this habit for my personal well-being.”
Gavrieli said, “I felt [feelings] without the ability to name them, but when I started reading [work by feminist author and activist] Catharine Mackinnon, it all became crystal clear.”
Gavrieli was approached by TEDxJaffa organizers after some of his views were published in popular media in Israel. “The experience was great, because it gave the option to communicate with people all over the globe,” said Gavrieli.
“It is my day job to do these talks, 90 minutes each. But usually it’s to an audience of few hundreds, not millions. I am very grateful to the TEDxJaffa team for allowing me to do so.”
Since the TEDxJaffa talk, Gavrieli has continued receiving positive feedback from viewers. “The comments were fabulous. I keep on getting tons of them every day on Facebook,” he said. “The only thing I am still waiting for is the TED official website to put me on their front page for a couple of days. My talk is only on YouTube for now.”
Gavrieli’s goal is to “deconstruct power relations between genders, between people,” he explained. “In so many aspects, we try to strive for equality in our society, but in terms of sex and money, we regress.
“Prostitution is where sex and money intersect. So many self-made women don’t want to be called ‘feminist,’ or feel disappointed with feminism. It is because of equality not prevailing. Sex and money are how we preserve oppression toward women.”
Porn watching by the numbers
According to Gavrieli, “In Israel, like in the U.S. and all other Western countries, porn is being watched on regular basis by 92 percent of 12-year-old boys. The same rate of girls is exposed as well, even when they don’t wish to be.”
As a father himself, Gavrieli emphatically asked, “Are we cool with porn being, by far, the Number One educator of sexuality and intimacy of our kids?
“Israel is not dealing with it. Not yet. Just like the U.S., the Israeli government cares more about money and taxes coming in from porn than it cares about [the] education, values and identity of the next generations.”
Statistics at familysafemedia.com show that the average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old, with 90 percent of 8-to-16-year-olds having viewed porn online (most while doing homework). As well, the website notes that 40 million Americans regularly visit internet porn, with 10 percent admitting to it being an addiction.
The male/female breakdown is at 72 percent male, 28 percent female. While 17 percent of women admitted to having a pornography addiction, nearly 10 million were found to access adult websites on a monthly basis. Women are more likely than men to use adult chat rooms and be more discrete about their cyber activity. In fact, 70 percent of women keep their cyber activities secret.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.