The Effect of Internet Porn on Real-Life SexWe all know that internet porn is tremendously popular. Its dominance on the Internet is nothing short of stunning. According to Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, there are more visits to pornography sites each month than to Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.

A quick Google search reveals some startling stats:

  • “Sex videos”: 480 million links
  • “Video porn”: 216 million links

Dines has more disturbing news for us: “Porn is without doubt the most powerful form of sex education today, with studies showing that the average age of first viewing porn is between 11 and 14.”

“Porn is without doubt the most powerful form of sex education today, with studies showing that the average age of first viewing porn is between 11 and 14.” What kind of sex education does an endless horde of pornstars on XNXX or XVideos provide? They’re a far cry from the Playboy magazines which were the main source of male titillation for earlier generations. Research shows that chronic viewing of Internet porn shifts the male perspective as well as his sex drive into a realm that bodes poorly for his future love life. (Note: While girls and women also view Internet porn, the focus of this article will be on males, who are by far the most voracious viewers.)

Hyper-Realistic Scenes of Unrealistic Sex

Internet sex videos tend to deliver graphic sexual activity from the get-go, foreplay be damned, placing the viewer into an immediate state of high excitation. What little might be left to the imagination receives a final death blow in today’s increasingly common point-of-view videos. In these “you are there and then some” features, a video cam is apparently attached to the male’s head. That allows the viewer to really “see himself” being serviced by the woman in the scene.

What males typically see can breed a sense of entitlement over women in sexual situations, as well as give them false illusions about orgasm for both sexes: a steady parade of males able to remain erect forever before climax paired with women who are overwhelmed with ecstasy upon penetration. Even worse, it casts women as slaves to male desire.

Does Porn Viewing Alter the Brain?

A study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found an association between pornography consumption and the amount of gray matter in the right caudate of the striatum in the brain. This brain area plays an important role in learning, motivation, and storing memories. MRIs of the brains of 64 men revealed that those who viewed the most porn had less gray matter compared to lower-frequency viewers. The researchers proposed that this effect could have resulted from intense stimulation of the reward system.

“Individuals with lower striatum volume may need more external stimulation to experience pleasure and might therefore experience pornography consumption as more rewarding, which may in turn lead to more porn watching,” reported the authors in JAMA Psychiatry. The researchers went on to say, however, that more study is needed to determine whether porn viewing leads to these brain changes or the lower volume of gray matter predisposes men to view more porn.

Of course, the dearth of male subjects who have never watched video porn makes it challenging to study its effects. Case studies achieve validity by having a control group to compare with the experimental one, but lots of luck finding a male who has never clicked his way into lurid territory.

Programmed by Evolution to Keep Watching

The average boy today sees Internet porn before he’s a teen, and his consumption accelerates dramatically in adolescence. This insatiable appetite is hardly a surprise, considering how human beings have evolved. The male urge to mate with as many females as possible is deeply rooted in animal species because it increases the odds of passing on one’s genes to the next generation. As pointed out by physiology teacher Gary Wilson, Internet sex videos serve as opportunities to vicariously mate with an endless diversity of females. “Each female is a genetic opportunity,” noted Wilson in his popular TED talk titled “The Great Porn Experiment.”

“MRIs of the brains of 64 men revealed that those who viewed the most porn had less gray matter compared to lower-frequency viewers. The researchers proposed that this effect could have resulted from intense stimulation of the reward system.” The desire to view many different female “partners” is supported by the Coolidge effect seen in animal studies. When a male rat is placed in a cage with a receptive female rat, for example, he will go into a frenzy of copulation. This behavior will wane even if the female remains receptive. But when another female replaces the recent partner, copulation occurs again. This makes sense considering the animal instinct to procreate; once one female is impregnated, there’s nothing to be gained by having intercourse with her again. A fresh mate increases the odds of having more offspring. The boy who relentlessly clicks from one sexual “partner” to another online is, in effect, responding to his urge to expand his mating targets.

Teen Brain More Prone to Addiction

Porn watching has a high potential for addiction because it triggers surges of dopamine, a neurochemical that plays a key role in the reward pathway of the mesolimbic dopamine system in the brain. This pathway controls how a person responds to food, sex, and social connections and helps determine motivation. When a person experiences a reward, the pathway promotes memory of whatever was involved to get the reward so the steps can be repeated again.

While this mechanism is important to survival and species propagation, it can also facilitate an unhealthy addiction to porn as the hours of viewing add up. In adolescents, more dopamine is released in reward situations. This makes teens more prone than adults to addiction in general. As Michael Dhar writes on The Fix website, “this dopamine, shift, unfortunately, makes it so that the adolescent is at risk of anything that could be addictive, because addiction involves the release and then entrainment of the dopamine system. This explains the finding that if you’re going to get addicted to something, it’s most likely to happen during adolescence.”

More problems:

  • Our brains strengthen circuits that are in frequent use, while pruning away ones we use less often. This process is well under way in the teenage years and can give overused porno circuits more dominance in the brain’s reward system.
  • As with drug addiction, maintaining the same response to sexual stimuli may require increasing doses of porn over time.
  • Relentless porn viewing can foster antisocial tendencies, such as solitude and voyeurism, while eroding the ability to have a meaningful relationship with a woman.

Finally, men in their early 20s with erectile dysfunction have more trouble regaining their virility than men in their 50s. This may be due to older men not having had access to Internet porn when they were teens, when the brain’s higher dopamine surges are more likely to create new neural connections fostering a desire to repeat the behavior.

If you liked this article, you may be interested in reading:

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