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No hard evidence – and other problems with this anti-...

Business Maverick

SEX AND SENSIBILITY

No hard evidence – and other problems with Remojo, an anti-porn app

Image: iStock.

An app claims to help men break free of porn addiction, but is that even a real pathology or just moralising inspired by religion and culture?

It can be an expression of healthy sexuality and can kindle sexual confidence. For LGBTQIA+ youngsters, who are too often unable to get information elsewhere without judgement, it often proves illuminating. But it would take a ballsy person to admit to enjoying erotica, much less porn.

Pornography has had a bad rap, being linked to problems involving relationships and body confidence, exploitation, compulsive behaviour and sexual dysfunction, all of which can be crippling psychologically, socially and financially.

Some blame porn for shaping the way they view their sexual partners and for desensitising them sexually.

Now, for those who believe they have a porn problem, a popular app – Remojo – claims to be able to help.

But the jury is out on whether porn is as damaging as claimed to relationships, sexual behaviour and attitudes to women. For instance, after porn was legalised in Denmark in 1969, researchers there reported a corresponding decline in sexual aggression.

Not a ‘true’ addiction

There are also questions about whether porn addiction is a “true” addiction, unlike addictions to food, gambling or substances.

The American Psychological Asso­­ci­ation does not believe it to be the case. And the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the US catalogue of psychiatric disorders – does not even consider sex addiction to be a real disorder. Instead, it deems it a morality-based concept reflecting society’s conflicted feelings about sex.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Feeling porny: Who watches pornography in South Africa?

Although the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases-11 (2022) – used widely throughout the world – recognises compulsive sexual behaviour disorder as an “impulse-control disorder”, it is not considered to be an addiction in the real sense.

Old habits die hard

Porn is not a modern phenomenon, even if the digital age has made it ubiquitous. Erotic artefacts dating back thousands of years have been discovered everywhere from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to Rome, Greece, Germany, Peru, India and China.

Still, religious and other moral beliefs drive some people to believe they have a pathology: that they are addicted to pornography even when their use is low or average, according to a comprehensive 2020 study published by the American Psychological Association.

For shame

For those who find porn reprehensible or shameful, the Remojo app claims to hold the cure, having apparently helped more than 350,000 men to get over porn addiction, overcome sexual dysfunction, improve their relationships and boost their self-esteem.

Previously a subscription-only app, Remojo is now free to use, to help those “struggling with porn addiction… or who just want to live better without it”.

Remojo blocks porn on mobiles and desktops and tracks progress in an anonymous community. Users have access to more than 10 courses to help to “break bad habits”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Pornography is coming to eat your children

Remojo claims 39% of men aged 15 to 29 watch porn every day, 19% of whom would be diagnosed or identify as “addicted”, and links that to about 50% of men aged 18 to 39 who have suffered from sexual dysfunction.

Pinch of salt or lashings of holy water

Remojo has a disquieting undertone, featuring quotes by John-Henry Westen, editor of the far-right Catholic anti-abortion website LifeSiteNews, known to have published misleading information and conspiracy theories; and courses by conservative Christian and Muslim motivational speakers.

Founder and CEO Jack Jenkins launched the app in September 2021 after receiving more than $1.2-million in investment. As of this month, it has had more than 350,000 downloads.

Jenkins explains that, even for many non-religious people, watching porn is against their values.

“They don’t feel great about it. Maybe they feel like they are betraying their partner; their girlfriend,” he says. “We’ve developed a super-effective behaviour change system.”

Critics suggest that porn “addiction” may simply be a manifestation of depression or anxiety, and that the best treatment is psycho­therapy. 

If you believe an app can resolve deep-seated inner conflicts, go for it. It’s cheaper than a therapist. But it’s unlikely to be the solution to a deeper problem. Or solve inner conflicts with your higher power. DM

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