This is your Brain on Internet Porn - Dirty Week

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Everyone born within the past several decades has been exposed to new technologies, at a constant rate, and from a very early age. Since our world moves so rapidly, it is difficult to determine the long-term effects these advancements have on people, and more specifically, the effects that they are having on our brains. When high-speed internet swept across all of the homes throughout the world, it  brought along instant access to every kind of media, including, of course, pornography in massive quantities.

Never before in the history of mankind have people had access to an almost unlimited amount of videos that include men and women in any way the viewer would like to see them. This all may seem innocent enough, however, not much is known on the exact effects this amount of illicit material and its accessibility has on the brain; especially for early adolescents who have no conception of what life was like before high-speed internet.

Dr. Philip Zombardo – widely known for his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment – recently brought this issue to the attention of many who had never pondered the potential consequences of online porn in a recent TED Talk, titled “The Demise of Guys.” Throughout his lecture, Zombardo explains the current decline of males’ performance in education rates (e.g. “[Boys] are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out or flunk out of school” and “Five times as likely to have ADHD”). He then goes on to explain that males have also developed a fear of becoming intimate with the opposite sex.

“We are seeing a steady increase among males of social awkwardness. The old shyness was a fear of rejection. Now there is a social awkwardness of a stranger in a strange land… especially one-on-one with the opposite sex… (Males) now prefer asynchronistic internet worlds to the spontaneous interactions of social relationships,” Zombardo explains.

The causes behind this? Zombardo believes the reasons are due to excessive internet, video game, and pornography use. There are 27 times more adult films produced than Hollywood movies with the average male watching 50 porn clips a week. The supply is constant and the demand never decreases.

To, Japan makes one of the biggest markets for video games and pornography in the world. In recent years, there has been a startling decrease in the birthrate throughout the country which is on track to lower their population by one-third by 2060. A recent poll showed that over a third of men ages 16 to 19 in Japan have no motivation or are even turned off from the idea of having sex. This was a 19 percent increase over the last four years since the poll was last taken.

Gary Wilson is a teacher of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology and has taught labs at Southern Oregon University as part of the adjunct faculty. He and his wife host the website which focuses on the effects of porn on the brain. Wilson believes that the problem in Japan can be directly linked to internet pornography.

“When I was growing up, no matter your sexual orientation, every guy was interested in someone else. You didn’t completely lose interest. So, when you have 36 percent of Japanese males not interested in sex, something is wrong. It cannot be blamed on a social problem. They have massive amounts of porn, and, of course, are using at extremely high-tech levels. They are the leading part of this storm as to the effects that large amounts of porn are doing to the young mind. This has never happened in the history of humanity,” Wilson says.

The exact effect pornography has on the brain was presented by Wilson in a follow-up TED Talk after Zimbardo’s “Demise of Guys.” Titled, “The Great Porn Experiment,” Wilson explains that the constant supply of new online videos is what keeps males coming back. Having the option to see new women every day in any possible way creates a more intense excitement as opposed to monotonous images. This goes back to the primal instincts of males. As long as there are willing, fertile females around, men will want to spread their seed. Online pornography simulates the supply of these fertile females.

Since there are constant opportunities to “procreate” with a countless amount of females in online porn, Mother Nature has enabled it so the male brain releases dopamine every time a new video displays across the computer. The new video acts as a new female to reproduce with. This is known as the Coolidge Effect. As Wilson puts it, “without the Coolidge Effect, there would be no internet porn.”

Since the male species were originally comprised of hunter/gatherers, the instinctual appeal of internet porn is that it provides plenty of opportunity to hunt. With each click of the mouse and each new video viewed, a new surge of dopamine is registered inside the male’s hunter brain. This sometimes leads to arousal addiction, and as always, with addictions come changes to the brain.

Any drug addict could tell you that the longer they indulged their vice, it took higher amounts of their preferred poison to get the high they were first used to and the same goes for arousal addiction. One of the few side effects includes a numbed pleasure response, and once this enters a person’s psyche, the things that used to give them a regular feeling of pleasure no longer have any effect on them. Another consequence of this addiction is a hyper-reactivity to porn, as in nothing else in their lives can add up to the joy they receive by watching the adult videos.

The culmination of the addiction ends with erectile dysfunction. More and more men that have become serious porn viewers are finding that they begin to exhibit symptoms of ED. This starts in the company of another person and finally reaches the point where they cannot draw an erection by themselves. Performance enhancers do not work in these cases because the problem is mental as opposed to physical. Once this problem has been connected to the use of porn, men who stop viewing the videos gain their ability to get an erection back. Throughout the internet, a large number of online groups have sworn off online porn and have praised the outcomes it has had on their sex life and life in general.

All that being said, Wilson does not believe that internet porn should be banned. He believes it all depends on what is best for you. For those that are part of the younger generation and started watching porn for years before their first interaction with a female, there is a stronger chance they will alter their sexuality in a negative way. Men in their forties and fifties that started watching the videos later in life do not pose as much of a risk. However, every person reacts to things differently and the exact effect of porn on each individual brain is impossible to determine. Wilson suggests that if somebody is worried that they may have arousal addiction, they should give up pornography for 60 to 90 days and then decide on the best route to take from there.

As long as high-speed internet is available, men will continue to spend time watching adult videos. The desire to watch these films have been hardwired into the male brain since we were painting mammoths on the walls of caves. Yet no matter what Mother Nature is telling us to do in the back of our heads, or how our latest tools manipulate our instincts, nothing will ever compare to the interaction with a real woman – something that pornography will never provide.