A new paper claiming to demonstrate that pornography addiction does not exist has been rebutted by a noted neuroscientist, Dr. Donald Hilton, MD, in a peer-reviewed response. The rebuttal will appear in the March 2014 issue of Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, the same journal in which the original paper was published, and can be found here.

The initial argument presented, written by Vaughn R. Steele, Cameron Staley and Timothy Fong with Nicole Prause, gained significant press attention. The authors assert that non-pathological high sexual desire rather than disorder or addiction explained the symptoms commonly associated with habitual pornography use. It is of note, however, that unlike the rebutting author Dr. Hilton, none of these authors are neuroscientists.

In his rebuttal, Dr. Hilton, a neurosurgeon and renowned scholar on the science of addictions, criticizes the authors of the previous study for ignoring proven neurological theories and sound research practices.  Hilton illuminates the weaknesses of the arguments by making clear the authors lack of research, and for basing their theories on faulty assumptions:

“The validity of an argument depends on the soundness of its premises. In the recent paper by Steele et al., conclusions are based on the initial construction of definitions relating to desire’ and addiction’. These definitions are based on a series of assumptions and qualifications, the limitations of which are acknowledged by the authors initially, but inexplicably ignored in reaching the firm conclusions the authors make. Yet, the firmness of these conclusions is unwarranted, not only as a result of conceptually problematic initial premises but also due to problematic methodology.”

The assertions made by this previous paper fly in the face of much previous research on this subject. “Pornography addiction is rampant in American society and commonly treated by clinicians in every part of the country,” explained Patrick A. Trueman, president of Morality in Media. 

“Countless men, women, and children are helped every day for this addiction by psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health counselors. It is, therefore, disingenuous, if not outright foolish, to suggest that pornography addiction does not exist.”

Trueman praised Dr. Hilton for quickly refuting the authors of the original study.

Morality in Media maintains an extensive online database of peer-reviewed research on the harms pornography, including papers on pornography addiction, PornHarmsResearch.com, accessed and used by people around the world.


Founded in 1962, Morality in Media, Inc. is the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to opposing pornography through education about its illegality and harms by highlighting the links to sex trafficking, violence against women, child abuse, and addiction.