THE SIDE EFFECTS OF WATCHING PORNOGRAPHY
I have pondered on this topic for a while now, but 3 days ago I came in contact with a porn addict who gave me details of his predicament; I decided to write on it as so many of us might be experiencing this problem too.
The late 1980s, it is thought there were just three kinds of people using the internet: civil servants, academics and people looking for pornography. Presumably, they were not mutually exclusive either.
It is students we have to blame, or thank. From the beginning, the ‘internet’ – then a rudimentary platform rooted in bulletin board systems and file transfer protocol – was being harnessed on college campuses across America as much for research purposes as it was for the sharing of explicit, copyrighted images from the porn industry. Where there was demand, supply followed, and it grew.
Over the next few years, sex sites began pioneering every incoming technological development, adopting text and visuals before many other sectors, innovating file sharing, and making huge amounts of money. By 1995, when the US entrepreneur Gary Kremen (that’s Kremen like ‘Werder Bremen’, not Kremen like ‘semen’) registered sex company, the industry was already a dominant force.
Today, it is believed the online porn sector is worth around $15 billion, and it reaches more people, and younger people, every year. In 2016 the analytics report of just one website, Porn hub, revealed that its videos were watched 92 billion times last year, by 64 million daily visitors. It works out at 12.5 videos for every person on the planet, and if you tried watch all of them consecutively – don’t – you’d be busy for 524,641 years.
It took decades for society to believe the science that proved smoking cigarettes was harmful , and we are learning a similar lesson with porn in our world today. And since we’re an awareness campaign, first and foremost, we’re all about getting these facts into the light.
With all this new information gathered from research and scientific studies, it is time for society to take a critical look at what’s been perpetually marketed as a relationship enhancer, harmless personal entertainment, and solid sexual education source. As convenient as it would be to believe those claims, Science and research are showing us how porn harms the brain, damages relationships, and negatively affects society as a whole.
Here are reasons why porn is anything but harmless entertainment. After all, knowledge is power in this fight against porn.
- Porn can change and rewire a consumers brain.
Believe it or not, studies show that those of us who make more frequent use of pornography have brains that are less connected, less active, and even smaller in some areas. Thanks to modern science, now we know that the brain goes on changing throughout Pornography, constantly rewiring itself and laying down new nerve connections, and that this is particularly true in our youth.
There’s some pretty fierce competition between brain pathways, and those that don’t get used enough will likely be replaced. Use it or lose it, as they say. Only the strong survive.
That’s where porn comes in. Porn happens to be fantastic at forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain. In fact, porn is such a ferocious competitor that hardly any other activity can compete with it, including actual sex with a real partner. That’s right, porn can actually overpower your brain’s natural ability to have real sex! Why? As Dr. Norman Doidge, a researcher at Columbia University, explains, porn creates the perfect conditions and triggers the release of the right chemicals to make lasting changes in your brain.
- A porn habit can dramatically escalate into unexpected territory.
Like any potentially addictive substance, porn triggers the release of dopamine into a part of the brain called the reward center (a.k.a. reward pathway or system). Basically, the reward
center’s job is to make you feel good whenever you do something healthy, like eating a great meal, having sex, or getting a good workout.
The “high” you get makes you want to repeat the behavior again and again. Your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chance of survival.
Porn is an escalating behavior because as some users develop tolerance, the porn that used to
excite them starts to seem boring.
Predictably, they often try to compensate by spending more time with porn and/or seeking out more hardcore material in an effort to regain the excitement they used to feel.
Many users find themes of aggression, violence, and increasingly “edgy” acts creeping into their porn habits and fantasies. But no matter
how shocking their tastes become, you can bet there will be pornographers waiting to sell it to them.
- Porn can become an obsessive compulsion, or even an addiction.
Research shows that of all the forms of online entertainment—like gambling, gaming, surfing, and social networking—porn has the strongest tendency to be addictive.
When porn enters the brain, it triggers the reward center (like we talked about before) to start
pumping out dopamine, which sets off a cascade of chemicals including a protein called DeltaFosB. DeltaFosB’s regular job is to build new nerve pathways to mentally connect
what you’re doing (i.e. the porn you watch) to the pleasure you feel. Those strong new memories outcompete other connections in the brain, making it easier and easier to return to porn. (See How Relationship OCDs affects your love life.)
As porn users become desensitized from repeated overloads of dopamine, they often find they can’t feel normal without a dopamine high.
Some report feeling anxious or down until they can get back to their porn. As they delve deeper into the habit, their porn of choice often turns increasingly hard-core. And many who try to break their porn habits report
finding it “really hard” to stop.
If this sounds like the classic symptoms of addiction, well….the head of the United States’ National Institute on Drug Abuse agrees.
- Porn can really alter a consumer’s sexual tastes.
The reward center (like we’ve talked about before) is usually a pretty great thing. Normally,
our brain attracts us to healthy behaviors and encourages us to form life-supporting habits.
But when those reward chemicals get connected to something harmful, it has the opposite effect. Porn users may think they’re just being entertained by sexually explicit content, but their brains are busy at work building connections
between their feelings of arousal and whatever’s happening on their screen.
And since porn users typically become accustomed to the porn
they’ve already seen and have to constantly move on to more extreme forms of pornography
to get aroused, the kind of porn a user watches usually changes over time. (See Porn is an Escalating Behavior.)
In a survey of 1,500 young adult men, 56% said their tastes in porn had become “increasingly
extreme or deviant.” Just like the rats, many porn users eventually find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or that go against what they think is morally right.
In many cases, porn users find their tastes so changed that they can no longer respond sexually to their actual partners, though they can still respond to porn.
Once users start watching extreme and dangerous sex acts, things that were disgusting
or morally shameful can start to seem normal, acceptable, and more common than they really
are. One study found that people exposed to significant amounts of porn thought things like sex with animals and violent sex were twice as common as what those not exposed to porn
believed. And when people believe a behavior is normal, they’re more likely to try it.
Similar to a drug, porn
can affect a consumer’s
brain. Researchers have found that Internet porn and addictive substances like tobacco have very similar effects on the brain,and they are significantly different from how the brain reacts to healthy, natural pleasures like food or sex.
Think about it. When you’re munching a snack or enjoying a romantic encounter, eventually your cravings will drop and you’ll feel satisfied. Why?
Because your brain has a built-in “off” switch for natural pleasures. “Dopamine cells stop firing after repeated consumption of a ‘natural
reward’ (e.g. food or sex),” explains Nora Volkow, Director of The National Institute of Drug
Abuse. But addictive drugs go right on increasing dopamine levels without giving the brain a break. The more a drug user hits up, the more dopamine floods his brain, and the stronger his urges are to keep using. That’s why drug addicts find it so hard to stop once they take the first hit. “[O]ne hit may turn into many hits, or even a lost weekend.”
What else has the power to keep pumping dopamine endlessly into the brain? If you’ve ever
sat in front of a computer screen for hours in a porn trance, you already know the answer.
- Porn can damage your sex life and sexual health.
Doctors are seeing an epidemic of young men who, because of their porn habits, can’t get an
erection with a real, live partner.
Study after study has shown that porn is directly related to problems with arousal, attraction, and sexual performance. Porn leads to less sex and to less sexual satisfaction within a relationship.
Researchers have shown a
strong connection between porn use and low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and trouble reaching orgasm. Many frequent porn users reach a point where they have an easier time getting
aroused by Internet porn than by having actual sex with a real partner. One recent study even concluded that porn use was likely the reason for low sexual desire among a random sample of high school seniors. Who ever
heard of that? Low sexual desire among high school seniors!
This trend of sex problems is especially serious for teens and young adults. Their brains are
particularly vulnerable to being rewired by porn, and they are in a period where they are forming crucial attitudes, preferences, and expectations for their future.
- Porn is full of toxic lies.
Sex is natural and normal. Porn is something entirely different.
Make no mistake, porn is a product.
Pornographers have a lot to gain by driving traffic to their sites, so they dress up their product to
grab your attention. That “dressing up” is exactly what makes porn so unnatural and synthetic.
Professional porn actors have a whole team of people to make every detail look perfect, from
directing and filming to lighting and makeup, maybe even a plastic surgeon or two to thank.
With some careful editing, a typical 45-minute porn flick that took three days to shoot can
appear to have happened all at once, without a break. Film the right bodies from the right angles at the right moments, edit out all the mistakes, Photoshop away any imperfections, add a catchy soundtrack, and you have something most definitely NOT like “natural” sex with “normal”
Porn also makes it look like no matter what a man does, the woman likes it even though so
many of the sex acts shown in porn are degrading, painful or violent. And these are just a
couple of the countless lies porn sells.
- Porn can harm love and drive a wedge in relationships.
Research shows that pornography use is linked
to less stability in relationships, increased risk of infidelity, and greater likelihood of divorce.
Men who are exposed to porn find their partners less sexually attractive and rate themselves as less in love with their partners.
A recent study tracked couples over a six- year period, from 2006 to 2012, to see what factors influenced the quality of their marriage and their satisfaction with their sex lives. The researchers found that of all the factors considered, porn use was the second strongest indicator that a marriage would suffer.
Not only that, but the marriages that were harmed the most were those of men who viewed porn
heavily, once a day or more.
Why do porn users struggle so much in real life relationships?
The science is pretty clear.
Research shows that porn users report less love and trust in their relationships, are more prone to
separation and divorce, and often see marriage as a “constraint.” Overall, they are less committed to their partners, less satisfied in their relationships, and more cynical about love and relationships in general. They also have poorer communication with their partners and are more likely to agree that, in their own relationships, “little arguments escalate into ugly fights with accusations, criticisms, name-calling, and bringing up past hurts.”
And if all that weren’t enough, porn also ruins a couple’s sex life.
- Porn can fuel anxiety, depression, and leave consumers lonelier than before.
“The more one uses pornography, the more lonely one becomes,” says Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist who has worked with porn addicts
for the last 30 years. “Any time [a person] spends much time with the usual pornography usage cycle, it can’t help but be a depressing, demeaning, self-loathing kind of experience.”
The worse people feel about themselves, the more they seek comfort wherever they can get it.
Normally, they would be able to rely on the people closest to them to help them through their hard times—a partner, friend, or family member.
But most porn users aren’t exactly excited to tell anyone about their porn habits, least of all their partner. So they turn to the easiest source of “comfort” available: more porn.
- Porn can hurt your partner.
Studies have shown that most women—even if they believe that porn is okay for other people—
see no acceptable role for porn within their own committed relationship. And no wonder!
The evidence that porn can harm relationships and
partners is overwhelming.
The fact is, porn reshapes expectations about sex and attraction by presenting an unrealistic picture. In porn, performers always look their best. They are forever young, surgically enhanced, airbrushed, and Photoshopped to perfection. So it’s not hard to see why, according to a national poll, six out of seven women believe that porn has changed men’s
expectations of how women should look.
As writer Naomi Wolf points out, “Today real naked women are just bad porn.”
Why This Matters
All of these issues show why we’re raising
awareness and shining a light on the proven, measurable harms of porn. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that porn is harmless entertainment that has no impact on individuals or society. Get educated and fight against an industry that is tangibly harming individuals, relationships, and
We deserve better than what porn has to offer. We deserve real love, untainted by the toxicity of pornography. Join this global fight for love and
become a Fighter.
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