Like other aspects of the entertainment industry, porn has made the jump to VR. And like other VR experiences, VR porn is more immersive than its two-dimensional counterpart. It allows the viewer to feel like more of an active participant, making the experience feel more real.

When dealing with something like pornography that already blurs the line between fantasy and reality, amplifying that effect can be cause for concern. That was the motivation behind a new study done by Newcastle University, which looked into the effects virtual reality has on pornographic experiences. Their findings were not reassuring.

The Study

The research was completed by a team of computer scientists at Newcastle University in the UK, using a story completion method. This involved providing online writing communities (like fan fiction and Reddit forums) with an introductory sentence describing a man about to have his first experience with VR Porn. The team then solicited short stories completing the story prompt from those writing communities. They collected a total of 45 participant-generated stories: 24 written by men, 18 written by women, and three identifying as other.

The team then analyzed the stories, identifying running themes and repeated tropes or topics. After studying the stories, they grouped them into two categories, labeled “perfect” and “precarious,” respectively. The “perfect” category of stories depicted idealized sexual experiences; a “perfect” scenario, “better than the real thing.” The second group of stories “often went beyond what would be acceptable in real life with sometimes violent imagery, featuring men performing degrading sexual acts on women or forcing themselves upon them.”

The Results

The active, immersive potential of VR porn presented to the participants—and by extension, the researchers—several frightening possibilities. When the VR porn is constructed using 3D models rather than real people, the viewer can get away with things that would never be acceptable in real life. Degrading and violent acts are fair game, allowing for the enactment of dangerous fantasies. Such experiences, repeated over time, can fool the mind into thinking the behavior is permissible outside the VR experience, potentially leading to acts of sexual violence against real people.

What’s more, the same tools that create the 3D models of generic men and women can likewise be used to reproduce the likeness of a real person. This opens the door to avenues of revenge porn and exploitation that only further blur the line between the virtual and the real.

Where to Go for Help

Virtual reality porn is merely the latest content that has proven both addictive and mind-altering. Its use, and the addictions that come as a result, can have devastating effects on the lives of users and their loved ones. If you’ve sought to protect yourself or your family from pornography, but normal tactics have proven ineffective, an intense outpatient program like those offered at Lifestar Therapy may be the solution. If you feel trapped and are desperately seeking help, know that there is a way out. You can win the struggle against pornography, and we can help.

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