Did you know that pornography constitutes approximately 25% of all search engine requests? Pornography websites rank among the top in the world, and since the internet’s inception, few have paused to consider whether it’s a normal, natural, or healthy indulgence. I’m not arguing against masturbation or sexual play, but the fact remains a large percentage of people visit pornography sites every single day, and science is now shedding light on how watching it so frequently can impact us biologically. Naomi Wolf of New York Magazine explains:
After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.
Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.
The below video by AsapScience briefly details the science of pornography addiction.
A new study out of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin has found an association between watching pornography and the volume of gray matter in a particular region of the brain.
Scientists chose 64 healthy males between the ages of 21 and 45 to participate in the study. They began by asking participants to fill out a survey quantifying how much time they spent watching pornography each week. Researchers found the amount varied considerably amongst the group, but determined that, on average, the men did not watch more than about 4 hours of porn per week. (source)
Following the survey, participants’ brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while they were shown videos of either pornographic images or non-sexual images. Researchers discovered a negative association between the time spent watching pornographic images and the volume of gray matter of the right caudate of the striatum. They found a negative association between time spent watching porn and gray matter volume of the right caudate of the striatum. Scans taken while watching pornographic images revealed a decrease in brain function in the area of the brain often associated with motivation. Finally, the research suggested there was a negative link between the functional connectivity between the right caudate and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex while watching porn. (source)
Researchers involved in the study admit they cannot be certain at this point that the negative aspects of brain function and gray matter volume are caused by watching porn, but believe this possible correlation warrants further investigation.
Is Porn Ruining Sex?
“Pornography is such a polarizing issue, that it’s easy for people to take extreme sides when approaching it. Oftentimes, religious people, while very sincere in their beliefs, brand porn as vile filth that turns good men into sexual perverts and unclean lepers. . . . The other extreme sees porn as just a healthy expression of sexuality. Pornography is heartily encouraged in order to help people discover what pleases them sexually, no matter how graphic or violent the material is. The people in this camp will argue that as long as consenting adults are involved and no one gets hurt, then anything goes. However, this approach fails to recognize the detrimental effects porn can have on an individual, on women, and on society.”
– Brett and Kate Mckay from theartofmanliess.com
Pornography watching can become a compulsive practice, and once those pleasure connections are created in the brain, they can be very difficult to break. I don’t exaggerate when I say that porn can ruin your life. The false standards and ideals established through porn affect men and women more so than you might think. Some might disagree with this notion, but the truth of the matter is, most pornography objectifies both women and men.
There are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. As celebrated American philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky argues, “Pornography is a humiliation and degradation of women. It’s a disgraceful activity and I don’t want to be associated with it. Women are degraded as vulgar sex objects, that’s not what human beings are.” – Noam Chomsky (source)
Below is a TEDx talk with Ran Gavrieli, a gender studies student at Tel Aviv University. He talks about his own experiences with porn and the effect he believes it can have on our minds.