Boys and Porn: It Ain’t Your Father’s ‘Playboy’

Boys today have access to super-stimulating porn that may lead to erectile dysfunction, social anxiety, and other problems.

About five years ago, limitless quantities of free, shocking, explicit videos became widely available to savvy Internet users with high-speed connections. Alas, some of the planet’s most talented computer wizards are youngsters (or their buddies). Passing around outrageous pornographic video clips is now a popular social activity.

Such videos are often so extreme that they dumbfound even the most free-thinking parents. According to psychiatrist Norman Doidge in The Brain That Changes Itself, porn grows more shocking because today’s porn users tend to habituate to material viewed. That is, today’s super-stimulating porn, instead of satisfying more, numbs the brain’s pleasure response. Then the user needs something even more shocking to get aroused—which the porn industry readily delivers. Who’s gonna get excited by Pac-Man when he has been playing Grand Theft Auto or Halo 3?

Increasingly, extreme porn is a problem. The more novel, startling, forbidden, or disgusting a video is, the cooler it is to pass around, and the more it excites a viewer’s brain (specifically, the reward circuitry). Climax then reinforces the “value” of the material that produces the climax. So, kids’ brains are now rewiring to value brain-jolting material, for which nothing in their (or most anyone’s) experience has prepared them. The constant flood of novel material keeps dopamine levels in the reward circuitry high while viewing continues, reinforcing the lesson that these images are valuable and important. Norepinephine released in response to shocking images also appears to reinforce this learning.

♦◊♦

While video games also flood the brain with dopamine, it’s evident that sexual content activates additional aspects of the brain’s reward circuitry. As kids mature, sexual reproduction signals trump video-game thrills.

The brain changes that follow repeated stimulation can have surprising effects. Young men report that their sexual tastes sometimes morph in unexpected directions, and that they become less responsive to normal flirting.

Since I began sharing the correlations men are discovering between heavy Internet porn use and symptoms like erectile dysfunction and social anxiety, I’ve been hearing from younger and younger guys struggling with such symptoms. (As an aside, users who manage to avoid extreme stimulation do not seem to report unusual erectile dysfunction problems.) Here’s a sample:

I’m hoping to recover and get aroused more around girls. I have been going insane thinking that my sex life is over. I am 15 years old and I’ve been masturbating since I was 12. It started out as just simple videos but now I have been getting into more extreme stuff. … Can you explain to me the basic steps I need to take to recover please? … I have to ask this so that my mind can rest and I can feel confident. Is there any permanent damage done to me? If I successfully quit porn will my limb stay up when I become sexually active in the future? Or will I have ED issues?

Science has not investigated or verified the answers to his questions. First, who can find porn virgins of a suitable age to test? Second, who deliberately wants to expose kids to hyperstimulating, abnormal, erotic videos to see what happens in their brains, or how it alters their sexual response? No one is measuring the ways in which extreme videos may subtly be changing brain sensitivity, thereby altering libido and sexual tastes over time.

♦◊♦

Again, it’s likely that the missing insights revolve around an ancient mechanism found in all mammalian brains: the reward circuit. It has long been known that overstimulating it with drugs can cause increased cravings. Now, research is revealing that non-drug, “natural” things, like junk food, can alter this part of the brain like drugs—numbing the response to normal stimuli.

If a guy has been viewing porn videos since puberty, how would he know if his (lack of) response to potential sweethearts, his kinky tastes, or his masturbation cravings are normal for him? He has nothing with which to compare. Sexologist Jakob Pastötter gives an example of how porn shapes perception:

When Kinsey did his studies in the ’40s, not even gay men practiced anal sex frequently. The first changes occurred during the ’70s in the gay scene and then, especially under the influence of the so-called gonzo pornography, also in heterosexual circles. Suddenly, anal sex seems to have become quite a common practice. And accordingly, sex counselors report that not too long ago the first boys inquired, “How can I persuade my girlfriend to have anal sex?” Then, a few years later, came the first girls: “How can I dissuade my boyfriend from anal sex?” Now, the girls come and ask the sex counselors, “What pills can I take to prevent it hurting like hell?” All this in a period of only fifteen years, which began when anal sex was introduced in pornography as a common sex variant, in the mid-’90s approximately.

Today, it is not unheard of for boys to become hooked on autoerotic asphyxiation, bondage, or rape porn. Psychologists have published accounts of otherwise straight boys who developed unsettling obsessions when desensitized to vanilla imagery—and then felt such intense, pervasive anxiety that their real-life relationships were compromised.

♦◊♦

What’s a parent to do?

Most parents cross their fingers, remind themselves that they survived encounters with Playboy, and hope their kids will figure things out for themselves.

But today’s porn is nothing like Playboy. It’s video, so the viewer can more easily imagine himself in a role—especially in modern, envelope-pushing “gonzo”-style films, where the actors hold the cameras. It’s always novel, and there’s no limit to how much can be viewed. In other words, not all masturbation is equal.

Masturbation based on imagining affectionate contact with a real potential mate is stimulating enough, especially for a teenager. But masturbation based on shocking stimuli, by gradually numbing the brain, can shift the user’s priorities away from real potential mates.

Should caregivers shame kids or imply they are bad people for watching today’s porn? Certainly not. But caregivers should tell kids to avoid Internet porn as much as possible, and why. Even if science is lagging behind in reliable research, anecdotal evidence of Internet porn’s risks is increasing. It’s also becoming clear that there are unmistakable benefits from leaving it behind.

♦◊♦

So, what do you tell kids?

1. Find a balance. Tell kids that masturbation is normal, and that it’s beneficial to work out a schedule that doesn’t escalate. Tell them to experiment with different intervals of say, once or twice a week, or even less. Point out that sometimes less frequent masturbation actually results in less overall frustration. Sticking with a schedule will require some self-discipline, a skill kids will use throughout life. Consider teaching your child one of the many ancient techniques for redistributing sexual energy.

2. Understand the escalation problem. Point out that our brains are generally calibrated for genitals achieving normal degrees of stimulation and arousal. Once we move to new thresholds of stimulation (today’s super-porn or sex toys), we risk making our brains temporarily less sensitive to subtler, ordinary stimuli.

3. Stick to natural stimuli. Tell kids to masturbate based on their own imaginings of real potential mates and realistic, affectionate sexual encounters. If that isn’t getting them to climax, it’s probably because their brains haven’t returned to full sensitivity since their previous climax. Nonetheless, it is better to wait than to turn to today’s porn to get the job done.

4. Porn is unrealistic. Point out that a partner’s satisfaction is not dependent upon the huge, unflagging erection or other characteristics of a porn star. Nor is a man’s pleasure dependent upon the hairless genitals, breast implants, or degradation of his partner. Paint a mental picture of normal sex for your child.

5. Masturbation is not the ideal mood medicine. Because climax offers temporary relief, it seems like a cure for anxiety. Kids can easily get in the habit of masturbating to regulate mood. Unfortunately, too frequent climax can make tension worse over the following days. Kids need other ways to regulate mood. Vigorous exercise, friendly interaction with others, trusted companionship, time in nature, affectionate touch/hugs, doing something creative, singing, time with pets, meditation, and service to others have all been shown to help reduce stress and/or regulate mood—probably because they improve brain balance.

6. Avoid threats and shaming. Risky activities release extra adrenaline and dopamine into the brain, and are therefore paradoxically perceived as more “valuable.” (The brain’s primitive reward circuitry assesses value based upon how much exciting dopamine is released in connection with an activity.) Threats of future punishment and warnings against “sin” therefore increase porn’s power to overstimulate the brain, making subsequent porn binging more likely.

♦◊♦

If you cannot think of a good way to open the porn discussion with your child, you may want to watch this free YouTube series together: Things You Didn’t Know About Porn. It helps kids distinguish between the urges coming from the reward circuitry and the self-control available from the analytical part of their brain.

Research shows that a strong, supportive parental relationship can protect kids against risky behavior, even in those who are genetically vulnerable. So, whether or not you find the above suggestions helpful, do find a way to discuss today’s gonzo-porn videos with your child without shaming or threatening. Encourage your child to ask questions. Accept that ultimately he will have to make his own decisions. All you can do is offer solid information, your loving support, and a healthy example. That may be all your child needs to steer toward sexual balance.

About Marnia Robinson

Marnia Robinson, J.D. is the author of Cupid's Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. She blogs with the collaboration of her amazing husband Gary Wilson, who teaches human sciences.

Comments

  1. Tom Matlack says:

    thanks for this important article Marnia. it’s a topic that we as parents don’t talk about enough but is very real and accelerating.

  2. Tell a kid to limit masturbation to one time a week? Marnia, were you ever a teenage boy?

    • *smile* I believe in aiming high. Actually, the more I learn about the brain, the more I wonder what constituted “normal masturbation” for our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It may be that the stress/isolation of modern life, combined with increasingly extreme sexual stimuli, has led to habits that are more extreme than they generally were throughout history. See “Masturbation, Fantasy and Captivity” http://yourbrainonporn.com/masturbation-fantasy-and-captivity The significance of this point isn’t that our current habits are “wrong,” but that our brains may not have evolved to handle the neurochemical bombardment of constant stimulation.

      • As a 35-year-old man, I can attest to the possibility of abstaining at any age. In may case, I did not abstain as a teen because nobody talked to me about it. It was my secret and I had free reign to indulge in my senses. And yet even at that age, when I did abstain for even a week (which was hard) I felt amazing things in my mind and body. I actually wished that someone would talk to me about this subject so that I could control my life even more. Unfortunately, whenever I brought it up with my dad, he would change the subject. I went back into my lonely cave. (!) I have not discussed this with anyone else.

        To the original poster, I suggest that you or someone else talk to this young man. Let him feel it is first of all not wrong to masturbate. But show him alternatives and discuss what is a healthy relationship to sex. This page is a great jumping off point for information.

        Marina, I cant say enough. This is an amazing article and I am glad to see it online. Thank you.

      • Well, after 35 years of trying I finally got it down to a good schedule – once a day. Plus sex with my wife. Except those relapses where it goes to 3, or 4. Or maybe 5. A day.

        So good luck with the teenage jerk-off scheduling.

  3. David Wise says:

    The genie is already out of the bottle. They’re doing things I never thought about. Good luck on the child rearing.

  4. Fantastic and important piece, Ms. Robinson. It should be required reading for any parent of a teen or tween boy. (…and I agree with TO above, once a week is probably unreasonable!)

  5. Alex Huntington says:

    I’ve heard all this before… from another lady. I am 45 and I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t work that way. I would play PacMan before many new, state-of-the-art video games simply because the later completely missed the point about what makes a good game. To compare PacMan with Halo 3 is not fair because Halo is new and good. Quite often, my boys would go back to some really old game, ignoring many new ones. Same thing about porn and real sex – one can watch hours of senseless pounding and screaming and get no reaction and yet, be completely aroused by a touch from their partners. Once the novelty fades, people go back to “proven” ways of sexual intimacy. That being said, we do evolve socially and that includes sexual habits. Just because some teenagers expressed their fear over “too much masturbating” to porn doesn’t give any credentials to this type of claims. Boys have always had all sort of fears related to masturbation and that’s not going to change.

  6. James Leahy says:

    There seems to be a lot of judgment in this article. And I will always have a problem with any article that asserts what’s ‘normal’ and what isn’t.

  7. I enjoyed this article, especially because of the reasonable, rational things (except for the frequency argument) that a parent can do with a child.

    What I find somewhat distressing is this line – “Today, it is not unheard of for boys to become hooked on autoerotic asphyxiation, bondage, or rape porn. Psychologists have published accounts of otherwise straight boys who developed unsettling obsessions when desensitized to vanilla imagery…” This implies to me a judgment of those desires. Yes, some people are attracted to the extremeness of those activities. But some are genuinely kinky and find themselves turned on by rape for many other reasons. Bondage has become an almost vanilla image in itself; ask almost any couple and they’ll mention some small interest in being tied up. I also worry about the use of “straight” boys. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt and reading “straight” as “good, reasonable kid on the straight-and-narrow,” and not “heterosexual,” because if it were the latter, that would constitute an incredible leap that only “not-straight” boys are interested in these extreme images, and that any good, respectful, het boy would never possibly be turned on by overt displays of power and domination.

    This site has never professed to being Kink-friendly. It may be hard to sell that to the mainstream populace while trying to talk about being Good Men. To many, it seems somewhat irreconcilable; it’s really not. Statements like the one I referenced make me worry about the men who do have kinkier fantasies, and still see messages where if they are considered “extreme,” they are always wrong. Where is the man who loves his wife, but still wants to play out a consensual, organized, SAFE rape scene supposed to turn? If even the best place I’ve found for good advice on being a healthier man won’t accept you, where else can your self-worth turn?

    • Gary Wilson says:

      I think you are missing the main point. The article is not moralizing on “good” versus “bad” types of sexual practices, it’s really about alterations in the reward circuitry. It really comes down to escalation – one sign of a numbed pleasure response. A decreased pleasure response is due to a decline in dopamine receptors and less dopamine released in response to the same old stimuli. Individuals need more and more stimulation to get aroused, or to get off. The two ways a porn user can escalate are:
      1) Increase time spent watching
      2) View more extreme sexual activities – way beyond what you describe
      This second method of escalation is often quite troubling to the user – and that’s the important point. It’s not yours, or mine, or society’s view of the “kink,” it’s the users view. So if a young man is heterosexual (and really knows it), yet can only get it up for transsexual porn, it’s very disturbing for him. Key point – for him.
      If we can stick with what’s occurring in the user’s brain, and stay away from projections of morality, we can see the problem more clearly.

      • Ingrid Nevin says:

        *So if a young man is heterosexual (and really knows it), yet can only get it up for transsexual porn, it’s very disturbing for him. Key point – for him.*

        I agree with this point. However, once a person realizes what is going on, understands and accepts it, the problem could evaporate.

        I am a woman who had, from a very early age, been turned on by rape fantasy. Even as a teenager exploring my very first erotic images and writing, vanilla porn had no appeal. Consistent with the escalation principle, as I got older, some of the scenarios I read began to border on torture rather than just reluctance.

        And yes, I spent years wondering if I was normal, sane or a good person. I read a great deal on fantasies and eventually learned that as long you clearly divide fantasy from reality in your mind, it’s fine. My anxiety about the nature of my fantasies stopped and I am even learning to share them with my loved ones. I really enjoy vanilla sex with my partners. And when I am alone, I masturbate to scenarios that I would not wish on the worst criminals in history and now, I am okay with it.

        • deserthiker says:

          I hope that if you are claiming that fantasizing rape scenes is normal and healthy, that you are the on the receiving end of that rape-and thus in control of the progression of that fantasy. If not, I’d be interested to hear how you think that the desire to hurt and violate someone is normal? Do you fantasize about raping two year old little girls? Four year old little boys? Physically disabled women? Is that normal too? Or is it only normal to get off thinking about violating, hurting and humiliating adult women? While no one has a lock on defining normal, caring, sensitive men who truly respect women and see them as their equal, do not fantasize about hurting women, or get off watching women get hurt. They find it repulsive. This would be because they are intelligent and sensitive enough to know that millions of women around the world and throughout history have suffered extreme and despicable acts of sexual violence at the hands of animals (men who rape) and would rather not be associated with those vile acts or vile humans.

        • Dead on, Ingrid.

          Desert hiker, so ingrid’s not-uncommon rape fantasies are responsible for the history of sexual violence worldwide even though she pointed out the separation of fantasy and reality? Interesting, sounds like you must being speaking as someone without a modicum of self control…

  8. Great article!

    I had a lengthy response written to the commenters here. I thought it was pretty good. Then the page autorefreshed and it’s all gone. Lol.

    Short of it…. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Far too many young boys lack the guidance of a strong male role model in their lives to be able to help navigate the fringe, fetish and filth the internet has to offer. Brings to mind the old adage, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”

    I have sons.

    • nyxerebos says:

      “Far too many young boys lack the guidance of a strong male role model in their lives to be able to help navigate the fringe, fetish and filth the internet has to offer.”

      I think this attitude misses how good the internet has been for people with less mainstream desires. I think it’s wonderful that people of all tastes can find porn and likeminded people on the internet. No matter what you’re into there’s a community out there to help you find it, help you accept yourself if you need that, and form community values and safe boundaries, as with BDSM.

      It’s normal for young people to experiment and try out different things, it’s healthy. They’ll work out what what works for them – it’s not up to some ‘strong male role model’ to tell them what their sexuality should be, or which desires are legitimate. People don’t get to choose their orientation or kinks, and nor do their parents, they discover them.

      • Young children trying to figure themselves out are vulnerable to perversions as well that they may not have otherwise gotten involved with, yet were exposed to and found themselves unable to control. Just like junk food, sometimes the most unhealthy things look attractive and though they may not be good for us, they fill some need/void which could/should otherwise be filled by something healthy and nutritious. Heck, impulse control in many males isn’t even fully developed in the prefrontal cortex until around 25 years of age.

        Your response makes it appear as though we are slaves to our more primal instincts and I just don’t subscribe to that. I’m the one in in control of my penis, not the other way around. I’m so sick of people, regardless of orientation living out this “the heart wants what the heart wants” garbage and just using that as a scapegoat to a lack of self-control and personal responsibility.

        And as a father to two sons, a man with a great passion for cultural antrhopology and some other “ologies” IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that men of wisdom and character are there to guide sons through the murky waters of their sexuality. And notice, I said “guide” just as I did in my first response. Never did I say that we should tell them what to think or do but guidance is absolutely necessary. It’s no less necessary than the guidance many people need to learn how to be married, or to be effective CEOs, or to be…. counselors. Do you see the common thread here? People, need guidance to deal with people. It is not innate. Just watch toddlers play with each other. Not all, but many, will hit, bite, scratch, etc just because they want what the other has. Humans learn the better parts of their humanity by interaction with other humans. Same for men learning to be men (in their culture) and women. I’ve never observed a wolf learn to be a wolf by becoming part of a lion’s pride.

  9. ‘sex counselors report that not too long ago the first boys inquired, “How can I persuade my girlfriend to have anal sex?” – a few years later, came the first girls: “How can I dissuade my boyfriend from anal sex?” Now, the girls come and ask the sex counselors, “What pills can I take to prevent it hurting like hell?” Here we have a great example of how you cannot ‘treat’ dominant sexual practices (porn) by isolating an individual, and their brains for that matter, from the culture that produces and condones those practises. This article shows just how sexuality is contigent on historical and cultural shifts and is therefore constructed (because sexuality is something that is never static) so we wont really change these dominant version of sexuality until we examine why it is that our culture produces them. You cannot just look at the effects of boys without looking at adult men and ask why do they want to produce images and try and persuade women to do things that really hurt them? We need to ask: why do men want to pay women to appear in films so they can be aroused by humiliating and hurting them. Why do men get off on women being hurt (real or fantasy) or degraded, dominated and humilated? This is as much about men as it is about protecting boys. I’m sometimes really shocked at mainstream mens mags nowadays who promote prostitution, lap dancing and all sex industries who often deal in the misery of poor and ethnic migrant woman and girls. From my experience, most men simpy are not interested to hear of what really goes on behind the scenes in porn and the sex industry. Why?

    • Cooper Fleishman says:

      Nice point. I’d argue that porn itself isn’t the causal problem, but a product that simply mirrors the already existent misogyny that came not from porn but centuries of normalized subjugation. The images are produced because there’s a market for it, not the other way around.

      The sex industry in all its forms needs to be legalized and regulated the hell out of. Just like with the food industry, consumers can enjoy a service while being conscious of the ethics of production. The more we view the sex industry with shame, the easier it is to ignore the basic human rights of the industry’s workers, many of whom are looking for a way to more safely do their jobs—not a way out. In the same vein, we shouldn’t conflate fetish with abuse.

      Many aspects of the industry function with a clean conscience. We can vote with our wallets.

  10. The author doesn’t like male sexuality. That’s cool. No problem. She apparently doesn’t like the fact that women are losing some control over the expression of how and when men have sexual pleasure. The argument isn’t new, actually. Naomi Wolf made the same argument, but argued that porn was bad for girls’ self-esteem (http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/index1.html). But, as has been said before, “If something has a direct benefit to an individual or a class of people, and a theoretical, abstract, or amorphous benefit to everybody else, realize that the proponent’s intentions are to benefit the former, not the latter, no matter what bullshit they try to feed you” (http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/sfo/279126743.html). I would talk with a grain of salt anything said by a person that advocates telling post-pubescent boys to maintain a masturabation schedule.

    The woman is obviously insane.

    • First of all, turn of the damn autorefresh. It’s messing up people’s comments.

      Second, I wanted to say exactly this.

      As soon as I read “Passing around outrageous pornographic video clips is now a popular social activity.” I knew the entire article had to be bullshit and the author probably doesn’t know anything more about social media than what television tells her.

      Kids know some of that porn isn’t ever really going to happen to them, they’re fantasies and the people making the movies are doing their job. A job. It’s not real. Kids aren’t stupid. They’re probably more wise about the ways of the internet than you are, Marnia.

      Penn and Teller did a great episode about this. I couldn’t find a link to the first half of it ( War on Porn ) but here’s a link to the second half: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDYZOaTaK2A
      Watch it, learn from it, love it.
      What it comes down to: There are no conclusive studies, at all. NO, CONCLUSIVE, STUDIES.

      Also telling a teenage boy to masturbate only once ( or less! ) a week is simply cruel and will probably lead to more “weird” behavior and sneaking around and doing it anyway than him being able to masturbate at will.

      Lastly, it always seems to be the guys fault. When guys want or do something with sex and women ( read: this author ) doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, it must mean that guys are weird and are getting numbed by internet porn.

      I have a lot more I want to add to this, but the autorefresh is probably going to delete it all again so I’m just going to hush up.

      I agree with magdelyn, this woman is insane.

    • Gary Wilson says:

      magdelyn says: The author doesn’t like male sexualityActually magdelyn, the author does like male sexuality. I’m her husband and you are so mistaken.
      It’s simply amazing how people project their own nonsense whenever they read an article about Internet pornography.
      It would be great if you and others would confine yourself to the content, rather than employ your Fox news style of spin. You might want to read the article before you cut and paste your patented response. Naomi Wolfe did not cover the science of addiction and Marnia did not discuss girls’ self esteem.
      Just for the record, we are far-left liberal in our political views, have no religious affiliation, and strongly support free speech – including pornography. 

      As for Ron saying there are no conclusive studies – there are NO studies on the brains of porn users. No scientist is willing to study Internet porn – undoubtedly in part due to shrill hyperbole such as we see here.
      What
      is safe to study are the effects of natural reinforcers (highly palatable foods, gambling, videos games) on the brain. When consumed at high rates all of these natural reinforcers can alter the typical brain in ways similar to addictive drugs.
      The main change is a decline in dopamine receptors (D2) in the reward circuitry of the brain.(“Study shows compulsive eating shares addictive biochemical mechanism with cocaine, heroin abuse” http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/sri-ssc032310.php)That means natural reinforcers can be addictive if the stimulation is supranormal, i.e., higher than what our ancestors evolved with. (Ever wonder why 65% of Americans are overweight, and 30% obese ?)
      Masturbation is far more stimulating to the reward circuitry than sausage or Twinkies – twice the levels of dopamine. So it is biologically foolish to argue one cannot get addicted to internet porn. Especially when the common practice for porn users is to edge for long periods (upping their dopamine) as they click from one novel visual to the next.
      And, one day, research will bear this out with respect to Internet porn use. Reality is reality, even before science catches up with it.
      P.S. – read my response to nyxerebos below.

  11. From reddit:

    “That is, today’s super-stimulating porn, instead of satisfying more, numbs the brain’s pleasure response. Then the user needs something even more shocking to get aroused—which the porn industry readily delivers.”

    This is such tired bullshit. It gets debunked again and again, and people who are uncomfortable with extreme porn just gotta keep harping on with this nonsense.

    Me, I like sugar in my coffee, and I think one spoon is the right amount, maybe a little honey now and then to switch things up, or some rooibos on a cold day or in a calm mood, or a little camomile at a friends house. I don’t need more and more sugar every time to keep tasting it.

    It’s the same with porn – my tastes have been about the same for a decade now, I enjoyed the odd playboy when they were all I could get as a kid, but people generally have some set of fantasies or situations that turn them on most and they keep coming back to.

    Some fraction of people have had extreme and disturbing fantasies for a long time now – look at the historical popularity of the Marquis de Sade’s work. That doesn’t mean softcore porn is some sort of gateway drug, just that as pornographers push boundaries they get closer to the fantasies someone already has and would like to see depicted. People have always been kinky, the internet makes this more transparent, more acceptable, and more visible to parents who are already uncomfortable coming to terms with their kids sexuality.

    Yes, kids pass around copies of 2Girls1Cup.avi and other shockingly weird stuff, that doesn’t mean they’re fapping to it or become dependent on it to get off. The version of this trope that porn leads to desensitization and ever more transgressive material – leading inevitably to people needing child porn and snuff to get off – is bunk. Reactionary, moralistic bunk which religious conservatives and certain (minority) feminists are eager to latch on to and perpetuate because it suits their existing prejudices against porn. It gives rationale to their prejudices.

    tl;dr you can take my softcore lesbian cheesecake when you pry it from my cold dead mouse hand.

    • Gary Wilson says:

      nyxerebos – Did you even read the article? Anyhow you seem to need some more education.

      Drugs aren’t the only Addictions
      It’s common knowledge that dopamine-raising substances, such as alcohol or cocaine, can create addictions. Yet only a minority (about 15%) of humans and rats that use addictive drugs ever get addicted. So, are the rest of us safe from addiction? When it comes to substance abuse, perhaps yes. Yet when it comes to unrestricted access to superstimulating natural reinforcers, the answer may be no, although certainly not everyone gets hooked.

      The reason hyper-stimulating versions of food and sex can hook us—even if we’re not otherwise susceptible to addiction—is that our reward circuitry evolved to drive us toward food and sex, not drugs. Today’s high fat/sugar foods (65% of Americans are overweight) and Internet porn (you’re reading this), have the potential to hook even more people than do drugs. Both override our brain’s satiation mechanisms – the I’m done feeling – because calories and fertilization opportunities are your genes top priorities.

      In many ways Internet porn can be more addicting:
      Certainly easy acces, no cost, and privacy all contribute to Internet porn use. But it’s unique abilty to keep dopamine elevated for long periods make it appealing, and potentially addictive.
      Recovery sites often stress the addictiveness of Internet porn is dues to masturbation ad orgasm getting linked to explicit and shocking visuals.
      1) It affords extreme novelty – 100’s of new sexual partners per session. Novelty is highly stimulating to reward circuitry. It is not Dad’s static, finite Playboy. Porn users often report that “real sex” is now boring.
      2) Unlike food and drugs, in which there is a limit to consumption, there are no physical limitations to Internet porn consumption. The brain’s natural satiation mechanisms are not activated, unless one comes. Even then, the user can click to something more shocking to become aroused again
      3) With food and drugs, one can only escalate (a marker of an addiction process) by consuming more. With Internet porn, one can escalate with novel “partners,” and by viewing new and unusual sexual practices. It’s quite common for addict to move to ever more extreme porn.
      4) Unlike drugs and food, the brains natural aversion system doesn’t get activated with Internet porn. Aversion is when you don’t like how a drug makes you feel, which is quite common.

      Recent research reveals that behavioral addictions (tasty food, gambling, video games) and substance addictions create the same result – a drop in dopamine receptors in the reward circuit. This is a major hallmark of all addictions. With fewer dopamine receptors, it’s a lot harder to stimulate the reward circuitry. This leads to what all addicts experience – a numbed pleasure response.

      Unlike nearly all other addictions, the brains of Internet porn addicts have not been study. However, it’s illogical to conclude that Internet porn cannot change the brain, when it’s been proven that junk food can.

      • nyxerebos says:

        Yes, I read the article, and, no, I don’t buy into this notion of porn addiction. I’ve known real addicts – people with real and debilitating substance dependency. Overeating and compulsive masturbation are not the same thing. Your assertion that porn and junk food “have the potential to hook even more people than do drugs” because of how our reward system evolved makes no sense, because drugs act on it directly producing experiences much more intense than occur naturally in response to sensory input. Ask a crack user if you don’t believe me.

        When you say “Even then, the user can click to something more shocking to become aroused again.”, you’re implying that more shocking is more arousing, which would only be true if you weren’t looking at what you really wanted to to begin with, or perhaps you’ve somehow fetishised the taboo aspect porn and get off on transgressing society’s boundaries.

        To quote this webmd article: http://men.webmd.com/guide/is-pornography-addictive

        > Erick Janssen, PhD, a researcher at the Kinsey Institute … disputes that people who look at porn typically progress in such a way. “There is absolutely no evidence to support that,” he tells WebMD.

        > “I think of porn addiction as a label that’s used to put down behavior that’s disapproved of socially,” Violet Blue, a sex educator and author of The Ultimate Guide to Adult Videos, tells WebMD. “A lot of it is shaming masturbation.”

        Since ‘porn addiction’ is not classified in the DSM, and psychologists debate wehter it exists at all, I’m going to assume it’s not a major problem and social hangups about sex are where the real issue lies. The OP wants to limit boy’s masturbation, maybe questioning why that is would be a good start.

        • Porn addiction is an addiction when it interferes with your regular life, gets in the way of relationships and jobs, and just in general turns your life upside down. You’ve been hiding under a rock if you seriously do no believe porn addiction exists. Porn addiction has been known to ruin marriages because people (primarily men) often prefer porn over the company of their partners and families. I watched an episode of True Life where a woman kicked her husband out because she found porn somewhere in the house and discovered he was still watching copious amounts of porn on the internet—he was allowing porn to interfere with quality time with his wife. Even when he was kicked out, he still continued to watch copious amounts of porn, and it was staggering just how much he watched. He knew it was bad and tearing his family apart, but he himself couldn’t pull away form his porn addiction without proper outside help. If this isn’t considered porn addiction, then I don’t know what is.

          You can become addicted to anything. An addiction is generally considered an addiction when it interferes with your life, and though it’s only a small percentage of porn consumers, porn addiction is real and often interferes with the consumer’s life.

        • Gary Wilson says:

          nyxerebos – You are simply wrong, as new research clearly shows that both highly palatable foods and drugs cause similar changes in the reward circuitry of animals and humans.

          So tell me – which is more stimulating: ice cream, or masturbating to internet porn?

          FIRST STUDY – demonstrates you are incorrect.
          Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward
          PLoS One. 2007 Aug 1;2(1):e698.
          Magalie Lenoir#, Fuschia Serre#, Lauriane Cantin, Serge H. Ahmed*

          Refined sugars (e.g., sucrose, fructose) were absent in the diet of most people until very recently in human history. Today overconsumption of diets rich in sugars contributes together with other factors to drive the current obesity epidemic. Overconsumption of sugar-dense foods or beverages is initially motivated by the pleasure of sweet taste and is often compared to drug addiction. Though there are many biological commonalities between sweetened diets and drugs of abuse, the addictive potential of the former relative to the latter is currently unknown.

          Nevertheless, the present study clearly demonstrates in rats–an animal species that readily self-administer cocaine and that develops most of the signs of addiction following extended drug access [34]–[36]–that the reward value of cocaine is bounded and does not surpass taste sweetness–a sensory-driven reward.

          The absolute preference for intense sweetness may also point to the existence of brain signaling pathways that are more powerful than the mesostriatal dopamine pathway in controlling reward-oriented behavior and that taste sweetness would activate more vigorously than cocaine

          SECOND STUDY – demonstrates changes in the brain that mimic those that occur wjhen addicted drugs – like crack. There are several like this.
          Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats
          Paul M Johnson & Paul J Kenny
          Nature Neuroscience doi:10.1038/nn.2519 28 March 2010

          We found that development of obesity was coupled with emergence of a progressively worsening deficit in neural reward responses. Similar changes in reward homeostasis induced by cocaine or heroin are considered to be crucial in triggering the transition from casual to compulsive drug-taking. Accordingly, we detected compulsive-like feeding behavior in obese but not lean rats, measured as palatable food consumption that was resistant to disruption by an aversive conditioned stimulus. Striatal dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs) were downregulated in obese rats, as has been reported in humans addicted to drugs. Moreover, lentivirus-mediated knockdown of striatal D2Rs rapidly accelerated the development of addiction-like reward deficits and the onset of compulsive-like food seeking in rats with extended access to palatable high-fat food.

          These data demonstrate that overconsumption of palatable food triggers addiction-like neuroadaptive responses in brain reward circuits and drives the development of compulsive eating. Common hedonic mechanisms may therefore underlie obesity and drug addiction.

        • Gary Wilson says:

          Nyxerebos- wrong again.

          The new DSM-5 will have excessive pornography use under hypersexuality disorders.

          It’s simply amazes me that you and other that have no experience communicating with porn addicts continue to comment as if you have some secret knowledge. We have been listening to their stories for 5 years and 3 things are clear:
          1 – It is an addiction by all definitions – and includes dependence, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
          2- Many very healthy individuals, who have had no other addiction, are getting hooked.
          3- It’s extremely widespread, this I know. I can’t prove, but you can’t prove otherwise – because no one is studying it.

      • I'mjustme says:

        Ok, so what I’m seeing here is an article written entirely and admittedly based on anecdotal evidence. Noting that and saying there should be more study? Legit.
        Noting that, and having a particular sample of anecdotal evidence that, by its very nature, cannot be said to be representative, and then encouraging parents to act in certain ways? That’s weird and scientifically irresponsible, not to mention ethically gray.

        I’m 24. I’m in the age range where I see this increasingly extreme porn; I’m not all about passing it around, but it’s gotten passed around to me. The appeal for everyone I know who’s seen it is entirely separate from any sexualization. It should probably not even be called “porn”.

        The argument you seem to be making is that some people somewhere are sex addicts, and that they may follow a pattern of increasing need, like other addictions. I can go along with that. The conclusions being made frm that, however, are ridiculous. People have different natural sex drives, and I’m really against anyone saying that all people should really probably only masturbate so often. We don’t tend to diagnose other addictions purely on how much alcohol, for instance, is consumed. A big guy can drink more. We look at things like whether the drinking is having increasingly negative effects on a person’s life that are going ignored.

    • deserthiker says:

      You seem to be oblivious to the hordes of men who are seeking help from counselors and 12 step programs because they have lost (loved ones left them) their lovers, their wives, their kids, sometimes even their boyfriends– due to the inability to control their urge to watch porn. There are some great first hand accounts out there–from college educated, bright, professional men young and old, who would basically confirm that you are full of crap.

  12. Matthew Graybosch says:

    “Who’s gonna get excited by Pac-Man when he has been playing Grand Theft Auto or Halo 3?”

    Ms. Robinson, I’ve played games like Fallout 3, Demon’s Souls, and Bioshock — and I still enjoy a good game of Pac-Man. If you’re going to compare porn to video games, then learn something about video games before you start to resemble another lawyer with a bad habit of demonizing games. Does the name Jack Thompson ring a bell?

    • Quietus-Silenus says:

      I play video games. Pac-Man may be as fun as those advanced games, but surely it is far less immersive and graphically advanced, no? In any case the metaphor might be inaccurate, but perhaps it would be best to understand context before tossing around hyperbolic pejoratives like “Jack Thompson” in such a Jack Thompson-esque manner, yes? And who’s demonizing video games anyways?

  13. “Masturbation based on imagining affectionate contact with a real potential mate is stimulating enough, especially for a teenager.”

    I don’t think the author is ‘crazy’, but she is definitely judging. Affectionate contact with a mate is great. It is far from the only appropriate sexual fantasy.

  14. Porn, no matter how unrealistically depraved or lovey-dovey, is still a symptom and not a problem and the problem is still plain old sexual-frustration and that isn’t going to go away till inverse gender mechanics (more sexual encounters = enhanced endurance for men and decreased sensitivity for women) and diverse libido levels go away.

    Unfortunately , familial attitudes still have the biggest influence and science still has no influence over who starts a family.

  15. Well, I think it’s ridiculous to say that porn can’t be addictive. I actually think it’s one of the greatest addictions of our modern times and the fact that it’s so easily hidden has made it that much easier to ignore. Just look at our culture as a whole, it’s addicted to porn. There are porn stars that are household names and that’s not because our society is so sexually healthy. Today’s average guy does not only look at porn once a month when the Playboy magazine comes in the mail. Today’s average guy most likely spends more time viewing porn then his father did. And that’s not because men today *need* porn in a way they didn’t need it 50 years ago. It’s because the formula for consumption of porn has changed due to technology, cheapness, ease and anonymity. These are factors that shouldn’t be ignored because it’s these factors in combination with porn thats changed the way we view sex; and honestly, what men expect in the bedroom. I’ve experienced it personally and have had conversations with other women that also have experienced it. So hey guys, maybe you do always go back to the good ole trusty PacMan game. But that doesn’t stop you from saying “ I sure do like PacMan but damn, I can’t do the things I can do with it that I can with Halo”. And there is no woman in the world that wants to be her man’s “PacMan” when he is so easily and happily entertained by the more flashy “Halo”. You might go back to the PacMan, but it’s the fact that you use both PacMan AND Halo to self pleasure and meet your *needs*, is the real concern.
    I also think it’s important to note that whether you believe porn is addicting or not, whether you think it’s harmful or not, what does it say about what collective masculinity desires in women where it’s sexy to see women called names, belittled, and used roughly to only be tossed aside for the next new face? Whether you think porn is addicting or not, whether you like it or not; not one person here can’t deny that depictions of women through porn are mostly belittling to women. Is that what you want to stand up for?
    Stand up for your sexuality. Stand up for your right to masturbate. Stand up for being a man. But don’t stand up for an industry that makes money off treating an entire gender as second class citizens. There are things you can say and do to a woman in porn that you could not legally do to a man regarding his ethnicity or religion.
    Lastly, I think it would be helpful for today’s parents to also talk to their daughters about porn. Boys aren’t the only one with the internet and girls can receive just as many negative and ill-advised ideas about sex and their bodies from porn just as boys can. We also have to consider how differently we treat boys and girls when it comes to sex. We praise guys when they get sex. We justify degrading sexual attitudes towards women because guys are just being guys. I have seen comments from the other posters where they were angered by the article because they felt that it was demeaning to men to dare suggest that porn can be addictive or that masturbation should be controlled. But somehow I guess it’s not degrading to see woman used in any way imaginable for male enjoyment? I guess it’s not degrading to see women called four letter names (the way so much porn does) as long as men have something to masturbate to?
    When it comes to a man’s own daughter or wife, the rules magically seem to change. If boys are taught to respect women just as they want their mother’s and sisters to be respected, if boys are taught to respect their own sexuality, to not be ashamed of it, but that they aren’t allowed to have it at the expense of women (and yes sorry guys, all to often porn does come at female expense) then maybe we can really start having healthy attitudes about sex. That’s never going to happen if it’s always justified that the degradement of women is *okay* because men get horny. And I fully understand that these women choose to do porn. But I also understand that many of the men that watch porn are fathers and husbands that would *never* want their daughter or wife treated or viewed in a way that the women in porn are viewed as. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t treat half the population as their only there for your sexual pleasure and then A)Expect the women in your own life to be respected by other men B) Expect women to hold men in turn with respect.

  16. I’m confused. I looked at one of my old harddrives from when I was 15 or so and browsed through my old porn collection and… it’s pretty much like what I look at now, just lower quality (the internet was slower back then).

    And it’s not like I don’t jack off all the time. Back in high school and the first few years of college I was doing it three to five times a day. I only slowed down when I moved in with my boyfriend and started having sex regularly.

    So where’s the escalation?

    Oh, and to the women who want to know how to make it hurt less: lube, patience, and a patient boyfriend. And if he’s not willing to take it as slowly as you need, then he can do without.

    • Quietus-Silenus says:

      There’s not necessarily an escalation, just as not everyone becomes an alcoholic or addicted to fast food or whatever other substance boosts your dopamine receptors in life. Doesn’t men that escalation doesn’t exist.

      As for the latter point- I think unfortunately in these days, more women are not realizing they can do without, because more men are insisting on not going slow.

  17. typhonblue says:

    I agree with the author. But I think she needs to extend the scope of her judgments.

    Many women agree that the sexual pleasure they get from a vibrator is far superior to the sexual pleasure they get from having sex with a man.

    I’m sure Ms. Robinson would agree that this is wrong. These women are hurting themselves and their partners by turning to sexual stimulation that’s greater then what they can get naturally. There is a serious potential for abuse here and women should start limiting their use of vibrators considerably.

    • Funny you should bring that up. I subscribe to a listserve of academic sexologists, and just the other week one of them asked if there was any research being done on women and vibrators. It seems there’s ample anecdotal evidence that vibrator use leads to less sensation in the clitoris. It’s likely the decreased response is due to brain changes (decline in dopamine receptors), which numb the pleasure response (as with porn users).

      • typhonblue says:

        I look forward to your next article on how women shouldn’t be using vibrators.

        • When I’ve been listening to their distress for five years, as I have in the case of porn users suffering severe symptoms and having a very difficult time quitting, I’ll certainly write that article. I do write about women, too. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/200909/sexual-energy-and-the-single-woman

          Just to give you a taste of the kinds of symptoms men are finding clear up when they skip porn for weeks, here’s what one wrote today. (They started about 10 years after he began masturbating frequently at age 12.)
          “When I began to question the benefits of frequent masturbation, I was struggling with strange symptoms. For a couple of years (or even more) I had been noticing:

          * unfamiliar headaches
          * a very shallow and almost tight voice
          * I felt dry inside my eyes.
          * My face felt dry
          * In the mornings, I felt a strange unpleasant feeling in my whole body.
          * I couldn’t focus on my studies for longer than 40 minutes before getting the same strange feeling in my body which made me lie down on the couch and have a nap for an hour.
          * I felt crazy. I thought I had diabetes (low blood sugar) or bad vision (I tested my vision which was perfect).
          * I even thought I had ADD or ADHD, because I could be pretty impulsive from time to time.
          * In addition to that, I was feeling pretty insecure in social interactions, and didn’t feel safe and comfortable around people in general.
          * I felt like a child sometimes: impulsive, restless and so on.
          * I could even feel how my sex appeal was down at zero. But I couldn’t do anything about it!

          Just a heads up for those of you who may not connect your neurochemical overstimulation with your symptoms.

  18. Thanks, Marina. We’re still unsure about the whole thing about giving your kid a jack-off schedule. But we gave you some 8-bit-love – http://www.8bitdad.com/2010/12/07/good-men-project-talks-porno/

  19. Oh, this is rich: a woman lecturing men on their sexuality, and how we’re expressing it are hurting us? Me thinks its time to wander over to the feminist websites to lecture the ladies on how they’re really only hurting themselves every time they say no to a man for sex. I mean, there’s scientific studies that show that semen improves a woman’s health, so it’s true… right? Or maybe I should tell them how wrong they are for refusing anal sex, because I’ve personally talked with women that swear by it.

    While that last one is true, I think I would get a good verbal lashing… a well-deserved one, at that… for telling women how their particular views on sexuality are wrong. Just like you deserve one for dragging that tired old trope of, “Masturbation will make you go blind, and grow hair on your palms!” in here.

    I just recently discovered this website, and have been enjoying it up till now. But seeing this kind of rubbish junk-science on here… I’m very disappointed.

    • Gary Wilson says:

      Dear David,
      No ones leacturing you. We don’t care what anyone does with their genitals, but is is important to understand what happens to the brain.
      Feel free to actually read the article and my other posts – and tell me about the junk science.

      here’s more science

      strong> STUDY: Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats., By Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D
      Unlimited acces to especially enticing food caused a decline D2 receptors in the reward circuitry. It occurred rapidly, along with behavioral changes. The dopamine receptors had not returned to normal even two weeks after the animals were returned to normal food.

      Compare that to the rats taking cocaine – they had a similar drop in D2 receptors, yet their receptors returned to baseline in 2 days.

      This means that unlimited access to an especially exciting version of a natural substance or phenomenon can lead to brain changes that indicate an addiction process. A decline in Dopamine receptors is a known marker of an addiction process.
      Simplified:
      1. Overeating tasty food (sausage, cheesecake, frosting) CAUSED a reduction in dopamine receptors.
      2. This also shows up in human findings.
      3. One of the main findings in drug addictions is a decline in reward circuitry dopamine receptors.
      4. In short, natural reinforcers can be addictive if the stimulation is supranormal, i.e., higher than what our ancestors evolved with.

      Extended use of Internet Porn is far more stimulating to the reward circuitry than sausage.

    • Welcome to the new world David – its not just Men instructing men and women how to live their lives, women are joining the ranks too. Women have listened to men tell them how they should be sexually and even how they should give birth to babies for eons. In my knowledge, no man has ever given birth to a baby and yet, a whole group of them are experts. So when you drop your ego and cease being threatened, you’ll realise that the article, written by an woman with kudos in this area, is about brain functioning in the reward circuit. And yes, the topic is sex.

  20. as a general rule, more stress=more masturbation. ask any college boy and they will tell you that the number of time a day goes way up nearing finals and before a paper is due. I have heard people comment that they are just avoiding their work but thats not it. Its a stress reliever and allows the brain to clear and you are much more focused. Although 51 years old, I am a full time college student and i was surprised at the increase in masturbation as the work got more difficult. Funny thing is. I can be struggling with math and take a beat off break and everything is clear and goes much smoother afterward.

  21. mstrchef117 says:

    What about eroge and h-anime? Though a large amount of Animated pornography is quite violent and fetishistic, I do not believe all of them are pornographic. For example, most Eroges (the well written ones) are hardly about sex. They just happen to show sex scenes, most of the time it obvious that they force in the scenes for sales(not always the case, for example, in Ef- a fairy tale of the two, it is tastefully used to show the consummation of a young couple’s relationship).The only time I recall these good games to have somewhat disturbing scenes, such as rape, are to elicit a negative( and that means anger,sadness) emotional reaction from the reader because of the attachment you would have developed to the heroine. For describe it as degrading (so in this case it could fall under the category of tasteful pornography/erotica, or not pornography then). Albeit, there is a slight escapist edge to these Eroge as with most anime and games. Though it is hardly a harmful outlet for the socially awkward men who play this stuff. Hope I don’t seem like I’m trolling, its just that I really am quite obsessed with this stuff (even though I’m Chinese, guess I’m just a stupid Weaboo) and I really don’t want to see my hobby condemned.

    An addendum to clarify the terms I have mentioned. Visual Novels, are basically Choose Your Own Adventure Books ,except in digital from with High-production values (such as voice acting from name seiyuus [VAs] working under pseudonyms, BGM, Orchestral Soundtrack, and pictures). VNs could fall under two categories, Eroge (Ero-Game) or Galge (Gal-Game). The former will have erotic content while the latter will only show “fanservice” or what you would see in typical rom-com anime (for ex. Clannad is a galge, not a eroge). Most non- erotic dating sims such as Love Plus (for the DS) also falls under the term Galge.

    Eroge also falls under several specific genre. Nukige, is basically just masturbatory fodder and with paper thin plots to justify the scenes one would see on the screen. Could range from vanilla sex-scenes, to rape, to various fetishes (such as bondage, tentacles, incest, incest rape) and some guro stuff.

    Nakige, (deriving its name from the portmanteau crying-game) is usually what gets the most praise from the connoisseurs of the industry (and is usually what gets translated and adapted into Anime). These games would have extensive characterization and intricate plot. Will usually make a person cry, but ends on a positive note. (Examples would be Ef- A Fairy tale of the Two, Kanon, AIR, Kimi Ga Nozumu Eien [aka. The Eternity you Desire/ Rumbling Hearts {for the western adaptation]])Usually deals with issues about death, separation etc.

    The last genre, is the utsuge (or depressing game), usually makes one cry or depressed and ends on a similarly depressing note. Also used to describe some games in the Nakige genre. In my experience, most Utsuge would use rape as a plot device to either characterize or create sympathy for a particular character.Death is also not uncommon in these games for both male and female characters. For example, Muv Luv Alternative can be considered an Utsuge for all the depressing things that happens in the middle of a military-political sci-fi drama where Earth is being invaded my aliens.

    Also, why should I, as a socially awkward, relatively (due to mandibular asymmetry and somewhat crooked lower teeth) unattractive, and shallow 18 year old male, have to interact with women to get “sexual satisfaction”. Obviously, due to the fact that I’ve yet to learn the intricacies of male and female relationships will doom me to a life of involuntary bachelorhood (which I’ve come to accept.Think about it,if one reaches the age of 20+ and never had a girlfriend, one would know nothing of kissing, sex, going out, how to deal with arguments, buying presents, being spontaneous. No woman at that age is not going to accept that.

  22. Disgusting article. I find it abhorrent that you would try to censor one of the most basic human instincts.

  23. This is a real wacky article with very little decent research presented that isn’t somewhat obvious.

    Just how pervasive is this supposed problem of real porn addiction that actually takes over peoples lives? (comparable to heroin) I’m not just talking about the stories of wives catching their husbands with porn, cause we all know the reason is because they weren’t gettin any.

    Today’s candy is sweeter and more available than yesterday’s candy so talk to your children to be reasonable so they don’t rot their teeth. Use some common sense and stop with the moralizing about how much or how extreme is acceptable because it’s all subjective (especially a woman’s opinion)

  24. Dear God! I am so happy I’m not a teenager right now. Girls getting pressured into anal sex? Severely not okay.

    Great article.

  25. I never realized that porn addiction was such a controversial topic.

    I know a little about addiction. I was an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for 15 years now.

    I was addicted to porn. My porn use progressed over time. I used to be happy with glamour shots and an active imagination. Then I moved to soft porn pictures. It was not long before I wanted harder and harder images. When I got easy access to videos, I followed the same progression. Simple porn was more than adequate. Over time I wanted to watch more explicit and more extreme porn. Over the years, I have noticed that porn itself has changed. Some extreme acts were never seen just a few years ago, such as ATM.

    After reading an article describing porn addiction and looking at my then current behavior, I realized I was addicted to porn. I decided to go cold turkey. As with any addiction, it is tough, but worth it. As time passes I feel less need to look at porn. I am more in tune with my physical sexual response. I am more in tune with my partner when we are playing.

    Does everyone who looks at porn get addicted? No. I remember when I was an alcoholic and seeing other people have a single drink and no more. I could not understand how they could do that and I wished that I could. Just as alcohol and drugs are acknowledged to be addicting, I believe porn needs to be acknowledged as being addicting.

    • Did this “addiction” interfere with your everyday life?

      Did you spend your food money on porn?

      Did you spend your rent on porn?

      Did you have uncontrollable compulsions that took over your own ability to decide?

      I think the word “addiction” is overused.

      • Gary Wilson says:

        Denis- here’s a test for addiction. The people visiting our site for the last 6 years can answer yes to all seven. So yes porn can be an addiction.

        And all addictions, whether chemical, or behavior involve similar physiological changes in the brain. This has already been explained – Low D2 receptors and an increase in BDNF. Please be specific with your comments on the science, if you can.

        Answer yes or no to the following seven questions. You only need to answer yes to one part for that question to count as a positive response.

        If you answer yes to at least 3 of these questions, then you meet the medical definition of addiction. This definition is based on the of American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and the World Health Organization (ICD-10) criteria

        1.Tolerance. Has your use increased over time (escalation)?
        2.Withdrawal. When you stop using, have you ever experienced physical or emotional withdrawal? Have you had any of the following symptoms: irritability, anxiety, shakes, headaches, sweats, nausea, or vomiting?
        3.Difficulty controlling your use. Do you sometimes use more or for a longer time than you would like?
        4.Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?
        5.Neglecting or postponing activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?
        6.Spending significant time or emotional energy. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spend a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?
        7.Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?

        If you answered yes to at least 3 of these questions, then you meet the medical definition of addiction. This definition is based on the of American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and the World Health Organization (ICD-10) criteria

      • Denis, I think you do not have a clear definition of what addiction is. Many who have an addiction are financially capable of supporting their habit without taking money meant for food or rent. A person does not need to be sleeping in the gutter in order to have an addiction.

  26. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    TURN OFF THE FUCKING AUTO REFRESH!

  27. People are able to carry out a wide range of addictions and live a normal life by outward appearances.

    It does not bother me that men want to masturbate. I have no doubt that masturbating relieves stress or clearly provides a healthy bodily function. That has never been up for debate.

    What bothers me is the state of what porn is, how it depicts women both falsely and degradingly, and much time is spent on it’s consumption. I said it before and will say it again. There are things you can do to a woman through porn that would be considered a hate crime if done to a man for his religion or race. Could you imagine the public outrate if an African American man was shown eating feces for the pleasure of someone else? Why is it okay to treat women in a fashion that no man would respectfully treat another man? Why do men even want to see women treated like they aren’t people? Why would a man want to defend and industry that prayed on his own sexual weakness and exploited women but also exploited him? Every type of woman is fetishized through porn, from ethnicity, to age, to the size of breasts or butt. No one denies that porn doesn’t make people feel good or gets ride of stress. But why would you want to defend, stick up for or use an industry that does such a poor job of depicting men and women under the 5 second of pleasure one gets from it when you can just as easily go about your business without promoting and using and industry that feeds off the discouragment and objectifcation of women and the weakness of men?

  28. If you are a parent and you take the advice of this woman you will only encourage your child to rebel in ways that make jerking off look like a walk in the park.

    • Why would they rebel? Its just a conversation about how they can effectively explore their sexuality in a way that’s constructive for their brain development. They’d only rebel if you make them feel ashamed or that you’re demanding they have a sex life that mirrors what you want for them. I believe its important to shed light on how the activities that are becoming mainstream are impacting the trajectory of young people’s lives.

      • Very wrong. This is another ” Political Correct” blast against men. While it seems to be about porn it is a arrow at the male’s sexuality. Women watch porn too. What the answer is sex education of a level if some of the European countries which have a better way than the fight of foolishness that is ongoing in the US.

        • Good point, Rio. The original title we choose was “Kids and Porn” – obviously not male-specific. The editor changed it because this is an online magazine for men. So there was no intent to “blast” men, and I’m sorry you read it that way.

  29. While it is natural to be curious about sex, many of the things the kids stumble across on the net are not part of a healthy relationship. It can be especially hard for single mothers to discuss this issue with their sons, but it is important that they understand that what they are seeing is fantasy. Here are some tips on how to broach the subject: http://morningquickie.com/2011/02/23/sexwithmadamex-how-do-i-talk-to-my-13-year-old-about-pornography-sex-teenagers-puberty/

  30. It is excellent to hear and see these discussions taking place. This article is correct when it points out that porn of today bears little similarity to anything our world has experienced: in content, scale and accessibility to young children.

    My main hope is that de-sensitized people (of all ages and both genders) will be delighted and warmed when the ‘lost arts’ of cuddle, erotic massage, and more joyful forms of sexy play are re-discovered.

    Especially kids and teens need NEW sources of preferred sensual education and relationship guidance. Unfortunately one’s own parents are often the last place an adolescent want to learn about details like: “one of the many ancient techniques for redistributing sexual energy.”

  31. Well you all are going to hate me. I am a very conservative, religious female and I think pornography is disgusting. I would rather spend the rest of my entire life alone than put up with a man that has to watch other people getting freaky to feel something (I don’t care what the “something” is). Men already are such a burden (and I love my husband, but yes it’s like having an additional child) and one more notch of disrespect is a solid walk away point for me. After I read all of these comments I realized how alone I am in the world, and I told you; you are all gonna hate me. That’s okay. We’ll never meet and I won’t read your manipulative, pretentious comments anyway. To the author; very interesting. I agree with the science you offer and I personally know many couples that split because she got more and more uncomfortable, and his desires got more and more unrealistic. My useless opinion; nasty stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      You have every right to decide what your dealbreakers are in your relationship. I don’t think you’ll hear a lot of hate here, just skepticism about how realistic your position is.

      Just curious, probably none of my business, but you did bring this up after all – do you consider it disrespectful and sinful for your husband to masturbate at all, or just disrespectful and sinful to look at pornography? Do you not want him to use it at all, or just not bring it into the house? I ask in part because I wonder if the rules/boundaries are clear to him.

  32. wellokaythen says:

    I have to disagree with the comments that say the author is telling everyone what ‘normal’ sexuality is. I think this article has the opposite problem, actually. There’s such a huge gray area here, I wonder how much of ANY sexuality is acceptable under this analysis.

    If the problem is the fact that we have powerful reward systems in the brain and therefore pleasure centers are dangerous, then really anything that is pleasant is dangerous. If porn masturbation creates dangerous brain chemicals, then we will also need to limit falling in love, good food, sentimental movies, really anything that may be pleasurable. Let’s face it – if orgasm is just brain chemicals, then everything we feel is just brain chemicals. Reading romance novels that present men as dashing, heroic saviors, not to mention watching quirky romantic comedies, no doubt also change the brain’s chemistry.

    I think that people (male and female) who masturbate a lot may develop insensitivity. One way to prevent this is to masturbate less frequently, of course, but there are other options. If you pleasure yourself the exact same way every time with no variety, then of course you are going to require “more extreme” measures over time. Variations in pressure, speed, etc. may help to prevent insensitivity. If you’re going to talk to your children about frequency, you may as well talk about variation.

    A teenage boy scheduling masturbation according to his mom’s recommendation seems to be a recipe for disaster. Does he have to tell her when those times are? Will this schedule be marked on the calendar on the fridge?

    • The problem isn’t “powerful reward systems in the brain.” The problem is stimulation that is way more intense / frequent then the human brain evolved to handle without becoming dysregulated. The extreme novelty of rapid-fire Internet porn is like nothing our ancestors’ brains ever confronted, and it has the potential to change users’ brains. Your examples of other pleasures are irrelevant—unless their use rises to the level of abnormal stimulation. For instance, the brain evolved to “fall in love.”

      We agree that everything is reflected in brain chemistry moment-to-moment, but that’s not the point. The issue with today’s porn is whether the stimulation is intense enough to cause chronic changes in brain structure and neurotransmitter levels. It’s evident that overuse of porn can do that, just as heavy gambling, drugs and overeating junk food can do it. All pleasures are not equal. We’re talking about people getting hooked. Addiction is well defined, and Nora Volkow, head of the NIDA, has repeatedly pointed out that all addictions have the same mechanisms in the brain, whether substance or behavioral.

      We’re all for pleasure, so there’s no need to defend it. This article is a warning about a loss of pleasure due to brain changes. Addiction is, at base, chronic dissatisfaction.

      Mom? The point is that kids might be encouraged to come up with their *own* schedule.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I do appreciate there is a qualitative difference, along a spectrum, among different intensities of pleasure. Perhaps it was extreme of me to suggest the article is critical of all pleasure. I guess what I’m trying to figure out, from the article and for my own perspective, is where to draw the line, where exactly the “normal” threshold ends and the “abnormal” begins (assuming that’s a useful or appropriate distinction.)

        I admit to having very little background in neuroscience, but from what I understand the brain is already changing permanently from moment to moment to some degree. What I hear suggested here is that there is some “natural” normal state of the brain, somehow conserved over the last million years of natural selection, and that it is modern-day stimulations like massive junk food and internet porn that is changing the brain too much, however that is defined. Maybe, but there is much in the modern world that is making human brains unlike any that have gone before. I don’t think you’re saying this exactly, but it sounds like you’re saying change in the brain is inherently bad, when in fact it is always changing.

        I subscribe to the theory of natural selection, too. I think it’s a solid theory that the human brain today is a product of a long history, but I see some problems in arguing that there is a single “natural” state for the brain, like “how it’s supposed to be.” For one thing, natural selection does not really have a direction. It’s not that our brains are made to be a certain way and any big deviation is automatically unnatural and unhealthy. For another thing, standing on evolutionary theory too much could actually backfire – the human brain has evolved an incredible toolmaking feature that we use all the time to make very pleasant things like campfires, agriculture, written literature, and porn videos.

        Another assumption that I detect, and again maybe I am reading too much into the article, is the assumption that there is a somewhat normal small percentage of the population attracted to “more extreme” forms of sexuality. And, somehow the intensity of porn today has increased that percentage beyond the normal range – in one example given, too many men now expect anal sex with their female partners, when such practice had been rarer before.

        Again, I see some problem in spotting the normative range. Is there really a constant, evolutionarily normal percentage of people who are into things like BDSM? As a historian I am fascinated by the idea of figuring out how anyone could arrive at that average. (For example, taking any sexuality averages from the 1950’s as a baseline is probably going to skew the figures – the Baby Boom was an age of sexual extremes.) Is there an epidemic of unrealistic expectations because “normally” 95% are okay with vanilla sex but now “only” 75% are okay with vanilla?

        I also wanted to thank you at the very least for examining what people actually do when they ‘consume’ porn. I have seen decades of debates about pornography and entire curricula analyzing the visual images of porn, without hardly any mention of masturbation at all. I disagree with some of the conclusions here, but I’m glad to see we’re getting to some of the real life stuff here.

        • Gary Wilson says:

          If you truly want to understand how Internet porn can alter the brain watch:
          Your Brain On Porn Series
          http://yourbrainonporn.com/your-brain-on-porn-series

          You have pinpointed the main problem: not understanding neuroscience. Most sexologists, therapists, and sex researchers know very little about neuroscience. In other words they know virtually nothing about what they are truly studying – the brain. Desire, lack of desire, orgasm, compulsion, and bonding all arise in conjunction with neurochemical events. Behavior and neurochemistry are circular; each affects the other to a degree. So behavior matters. Many experts study sociological behavior without understanding the basic mechanisms driving the behavior, and their advice is therefore incomplete.

          The answer to where exactly the “normal” threshold ends and the “abnormal” begins can be determined biologically or behaviorally. Indeed there is an abnormal state, and a normal state when it comes to addiction.

          The three main biological changes that mark ALL addictions include:
          1- Decline in reward circuitry sensitivity. The main structural change is a decline in dopamine (D2) receptors. This leads to tolerance, or needing more stimulation to get the same (or lesser) reward.
          2- Sensitization of addictive pathways. This means that the rewired addiction pathways produce more dopamine than normal. This involves a protein called Delta FosB.
          3- Hypofrontality. This involves a decline in size and functioning of the brain’s frontal lobes. The frontal cortex loses its ability to control unwanted behavior.

          As far as behavior, here is the full questionnaire for addiction produce by the APA:
          http://yourbrainonporn.com/definition-of-addiction-quiz
          The main behavioral signs from the APA include (answer “yes” to 3 and you have an addiction):
          1- Tolerance: Which leads to escalation of use. For porn addicts this manifests as more time viewing, or moving into more extreme genres of porn. Strong emotions, such as fear, shame and disgust, elevate both dopamine and adrenaline, thus stimulating the reward circuitry. Let’s be really clear: more extreme, means more extreme for that particular individual. What shocks him/her. It has nothing to do with societal norms. For example, on our forums we had a gay man distraught because he was hooked on straight rape porn. We have had straight men upset because they were hooked on gay porn. And even a lesbian upset because she needed straight porn to have an orgasm. So “normative” has nothing to do with this.

          2- Withdrawal symptoms: Any symptom at all means your brain has undergone an addictive process. Nearly every person on our forums experiences multiple withdrawal symptoms when they stop using today’s extreme porn.

          3- Difficulty controlling use: If one cannot completely stop using porn, without thinking twice, then the brain has changed. (Masturbation is a different matter, although, as an historian you would probably be interested to learn that today’s levels of masturbation in the West appear to be an anomaly.)

          4- Unsuccessful attempts to cut down.
          5- Concealing or minimizing use.
          6- Experiencing negative consequences from use.
          7- Replacing previous activities with the addiction.

          It’s not that our brains are made to be a certain way and any big deviation is automatically unnatural and unhealthy.
          This is statement is incorrect. The brain is an organ made of cells, like any other organ. It is no different. Large deviations from the norm have disastrous effects. Small deviations can lead to such things as addiction, autism, bipolar disorder, etc.
          Your statement is a perfect example of not understanding basic physiology—and you are certainly not alone.

          Just to summarize, we are not saying brains can’t evolve. We are not saying brain changes are “bad” in and of themselves. We are not arguing, “how the brain is supposed to be,” although we are arguing that behavior can push the brain itself beyond the range of “normal” as a physiological matter.

          We are pointing out that excess can create unwelcome symptoms in individuals, which appear to be evidence of physical changes related to an addiction process in their brains. The need for more and more stimulation is not a matter of choosing a different “flavor” of sex, even though it is currently portrayed that way. It can be evidence of an addiction process. Each person can figure this out for him/herself with adequate knowledge. A good starting point is The Brain That Changes Itself by psychiatrist Norman Doidge. He includes an intriguing account of a study on BDSM fans, which revealed a strong association with painful childhood procedures. In short, their “choice” of “flavor” was shaped by their environment, not their innate preferences. This is also happening in today’s porn users.

          • wellokaythen says:

            Thank you for the very clear definition of addiction. I can see the usefulness of the APA diagnostic in coming to some kind of conclusion about whether or not a person is addicted to something. It’s absolutely crucial to psychology and psychiatry to have some way of measuring behavior or tendencies. I recognize that the APA and the DSM-IV are recognized authorities in psychological matters. I have no doubt there are people who want to reduce their porn use because they feel addicted. And, I agree there has to be some definition to work with.

            However, my critical thinking skills are getting fired up here.

            First of all, this message seems to be using the rhetorical approach of “argument from authority.” The opinions of the APA, backed by good research, are worth noting, but saying that something fits the APA definition of something abnormal does not prove that using the terms normal and abnormal is a valid way to frame the issue of internet porn.

            I admit I don’t know much about the current APA (except for their citation style), but I do know the profession has a very mixed track record when it comes to working out normative ranges of behavior. (I believe it was the DSM-II that listed homosexuality as a mental illness.) Many ideas of what normal brain function should be are social and cultural conventions about “proper behavior” read back into physiology. (As introverted person, I’m very glad the definition of normal has recently evolved to make room for more of “my people.” We are no longer deviations from a norm, more like a variation of normal.) I agree that scientific understanding is crucial, I just want to mention that scientific understanding is always tentative and constantly evolving.

            A group’s definition of normal or abnormal is an interpretation of data, not a statement of some kind of biological fact. I may not be current on the latest experimental findings, but I do know, logically, that showing something has physiological effects outside of a certain range does not mean that the range is a valid definition of normal. Looking at something as “average” or “relative to the mean” or “in the majority” is mathematically sound and perfectly scientific, it seems to me, but “normal” is an ideological judgment.

            Second of all, devil’s advocate here, but a few of the items on the addiction checklist seem to be products of “social and cultural intolerance” (for lack of a better phrase) of porn and masturbation. Feelings that are heightened by a sense of shame and shock, negative social consequences, and concealing use are all products of reactions to porn, not necessarily porn itself. Perhaps removing the stigma of masturbating to porn could alleviate some of those aggravating factors. I’m also not clear on how masturbation gets separated out here – I assume by this APA definition it is possible to be addicted to masturbation, or is masturbation considered natural like food?

            Judging by the APA checklist, I am addicted to masturbation, coffee, food, TV, oxygen, urinating, reading books, and writing to this blog, just to name a few.

            Third, there seems to be a bit of circular reasoning in terms of seeing changes as bad: Changes are bad because bad things come from changing the brain so changing the brain is bad. I don’t see anywhere here where you say that tiny changes in the brain can be good or harmless. All change seems to be bad, for example difficulty in controlling use is “evidence that the brain has changed.” Surely my memory structures are now changed from writing this message. I may even remember this exchange for the rest of my life – permanent change right there.

            Another kind of circularity, though I’m not sure how to get around it: trying to limit use is evidence of an addiction and also recommended to stop the addiction.

            I think we have a lot of common ground here. I just think these conclusions bear some further analysis.

            • Gary Wilson says:

              QUOTE: First of all, this message seems to be using the rhetorical approach of “argument from authority.”
              Oh please, it’s not an argument from authority. You asked how one can tell if they are having a problem. Clearly, you are not interested in learning anything new, only tossing out straw men arguments. The APA test is just one measure that people can use to see if they are having a problem.
              Other tests include”The Three C’s.” Maybe you will like this one?

              1. Craving/Compulsion: Behavior that is motivated by emotions ranging along the Craving to Compulsion spectrum. This craving is intense and persistent.
              2. Continued Use: There is a continued use in spite of adverse consequences. So despite being aware of some of the harmful consequences both mentally, emotionally, and even physically, you do it anyway.
              3. Control: There is a loss of behavioral control. There is a building up of tolerance and there is withdrawal.

              QUOTE: A group’s definition of normal or abnormal is an interpretation of data, not a statement of some kind of biological fact.
              No, you are incorrect. As explained above, there are measurable and defined biological changes that coincide with moving from use to addiction. These biological changes (in the brain) coincide with behavioral changes seen in animal models and humans.

              QUOTE: Second of all, devil’s advocate here, but a few of the items on the addiction checklist seem to be products of “social and cultural intolerance” (for lack of a better phrase) of porn and masturbation.
              What are you talking about? This is a generic list aimed at any addiction. It was actually developed with substances in mind.

              QUOTE: Judging by the APA checklist, I am addicted to masturbation, coffee, food, TV, oxygen, urinating, reading books, and writing to this blog, just to name a few.
              Then you might want to think about abstaining from coffee and TV, but I wouldn’t suggest giving up oxygen or urinating.

              QUOTE: Third, there seems to be a bit of circular reasoning in terms of seeing changes as bad: Changes are bad because bad things come from changing the brain so changing the brain is bad. I don’t see anywhere here where you say that tiny changes in the brain can be good or harmless.
              This is even sillier than your last point. The article was on porn. It wasn’t meant to be a textbook on neurobiology. Where did we say “all changes in the brain were bad?” Talk about circular. You are arguing with your imagination.

              I’ll let Norman Doidge, from The Brain That Changes Itself, chat a bit:

              http://yourbrainonporn.com/doidge-on-pornography-and-neuroplasticity

              “The current porn epidemic gives a graphic demonstration that sexual tastes can be acquired. Pornography, delivered by high-speed Internet connections, satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change [forming new neural circuitry—a key element of addiction].

              During the mid- to late 1990s, when the Internet was growing rapidly and pornography was exploding on it, I treated or assessed a number of men who all had essentially the same story. Each had acquired a taste for a kind of pornography that, to a greater or lesser degree, troubled or even disgusted him, had a disturbing effect on the pattern of his sexual excitement, and ultimately affected his relationships and sexual potency.

              None of these men were fundamentally immature, socially awkward, or withdrawn from the world into a massive pornography collection that was a substitute for relationships with real women. These were pleasant, generally thoughtful men, in reasonably successful relationships or marriages.

              The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor. Not all addictions are to drugs or alcohol. People can be seriously addicted to gambling, even to running. All addicts show a loss of control of the activity, compulsively seek it out despite negative consequences, develop tolerance so that they need higher and higher levels of stimulation for satisfaction, and experience withdrawal if they can’t consummate the addictive act.

              All addiction involves long-term, sometimes lifelong, neuroplastic change in the brain. For addicts, moderation is impossible, and they must avoid the substance or activity completely if they are to avoid addictive behaviors. Alcoholics Anonymous insists that there are no “former alcoholics” and makes people who haven’t had a drink for decades introduce themselves at a meeting by saying, “My name is John, and I am an alcoholic.” In terms of [brain] plasticity, they are often correct.

              Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it. The usual view is that an addict goes back for more of his fix because he likes the pleasure it gives and doesn’t like the pain of withdrawal. But addicts take drugs when there is no prospect of pleasure, when they know they have an insufficient dose to make them high, and will crave more before they begin to withdraw. Wanting and liking are two different things.

              An addict experiences cravings because his plastic brain has become sensitized to the drug or the experience. Sensitization leads to increased wanting. It is the accumulation of deltaFosB, caused by exposure to an addictive substance or activity, that leads to sensitization.

              Pornography is more exciting than satisfying because we have two separate pleasure systems in our brains, one that has to do with exciting pleasure and one with satisfying pleasure. The exciting system relates to the “appetitive” pleasure that we get imagining something we desire, such as sex or a good meal. Its neurochemistry is largely dopamine-related, and it raises our tension level.

              The second pleasure system has to do with the satisfaction, or consummatory pleasure, that attends actually having sex or having that meal, a calming, fulfilling pleasure. Its neurochemistry is based on the release of endorphins, which are related to opiates and give a peaceful, euphoric bliss.

              Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyperactivates the appetitive system. Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated. Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we’ve been sitting all day, so too do our senses hunger to be stimulated.

              The men at their computers looking at porn were uncannily like the rats in the cages of the NIH, pressing the bar to get a shot of dopamine or its equivalent. Though they didn’t know it, they had been seduced into pornographic training sessions that met all the conditions required for plastic change of brain maps.”

            • wellokaythen says:

              Sorry, misfiled my response. See below.

  33. wellokaythen says:

    What I am sensing is some impatience with what I thought was a spirited but rational, impersonal debate.

    Perhaps it would help if I summarized where I see the main agreement and disagreement between us.

    1. Agreement: I have no doubt that there are measurable, physiological changes in the brain associated with viewing internet porn. Real, factual biological changes, independent of the observer.

    Disagreement: Showing there is change is not the same thing as showing that the change is from normal and healthy to abnormal and unhealthy. The conclusion that a particular physiological dynamic is inherently abnormal and unhealthy is really a judgment call, not an objective scientific analysis. Similarly, imputing motive to someone else’s argument would also be considered a judgment call. Secondly, to “coincide” or to show a correlation is not the same as demonstrating causation. Measuring physical changes is not the same as showing that something has moved from a normal state to an abnormal one.

    2. Agreement: People can demonstrate symptoms of being addicted to porn in ways very similar to being addicted to drugs.

    Disagreement: Some of those ways of measuring addiction seem overly vague and could include many activities that are generally not thought of as problems. They could even be activities that many experts would consider “natural” and “normal” parts of life. (It’s not a matter of whether or not I “like” the rubrics, just whether they stand up to rigorous analysis.) I apologize if my comments about my potential addictions came across as flippant. I was clumsily trying to suggest that drawing the lines between use and addiction, and between habit and problem, is incredibly difficult, it seems to me, given the APA guidelines or the 3C’s. If harmless things can fall under the heading of addictions, might that also include porn masturbation?

    I think the Doidge excerpt is a very eloquent statement of his conclusions from his clinical experience. I think I get a better idea where your recent messages are coming from. His argument is quite clear and unambiguous. I understand it quite easily and I can see how people would find it an inspirational, alarming call to action. It uses very impassioned, evocative, even poetic language that one rarely reads in scientific research: “endless harem,” “seduced” by an “epidemic of porn,” etc. (I imagine that the word “epidemic” does have a quantitative, scientific measurement, but I’m guessing this is a more poetic use.) Definitely powerful, powerful ideological conclusions.

    • Gary Wilson says:

      What you are sensing is my inability to take you seriously when you claim to be addicted to urination and oxygen. So you are requiring more and more oxygen to get the same effect? You are hiding your use of oxygen? You are trying to quit breathing unsuccessfully? Breathing is interfering with social activities?

      QUOTE: Disagreement: Showing there is change is not the same thing as showing that the change is from normal and healthy to abnormal and unhealthy.
      This is the third time you have said the same thing. The third time you are completely wrong. No offense, but you don’t seem to grasp basic physiology or pathology. I’ll say it again – there are ways to measure addiction biologically, as outlined above. The questionnaires are ways people assess their addictions. If you want to take on the medical profession, addiction researchers, the APA, and clinicians treating addiction, be my guest. However, I don’t see you as having any special knowledge in the addiction realm. Your entire “argument” appears to be based on defending the use of porn. In other words, it is based on your “feelings” about your porn use.

      What is ironic is that this article (and other articles we write), have no judgments about porn use. In fact, we think it’s perfectly normal (although risky for the reasons we explain). We see the effects, but we don’t want to ban porn. We don’t see porn use as moral issue; we see it as neurological issue. As far use vs. addiction, that’s an individual decision. Even with negative consequences, such as copulatory ED, many will not stop using porn. As we have seen over the years, most heavy porn users don’t know how it’s affecting them until they quit. So if you want a valid test of how you may (or may not) be affected, try quitting for an extended period. See what happens. And then make your own choices.

      QUOTE: I think I get a better idea where your recent messages are coming from. His argument is quite clear and unambiguous.
      You would have gotten a much better sense of where we are coming from if you had followed the link to http://www.yourbrainonporn.com and watched the presentation. Then perhaps read the 40 or so articles on sexuality and neurobiology, and porn addiction. Or read the pages and pages of accounts of men addicted to porn and recovering from using. Or perhaps read the several hundred scientific papers related to addiction (and our comments on each one). Or maybe the pages of Questions and Answers provided by porn users. Or maybe read Doidge’s entire book.

      • wellokaythen says:

        It is correct that I don’t have any specialized knowledge in the addiction realm. I was responding as a critical reader of this blog. My responses to what I have read on this blog have been based on what I consider common sense and logic, and based on the basics of what I understand about the scientific method. I make no claim from academic authority. I freely concede that what I have said may be wrong, a concession I think is central to having a rational discussion. Would you be willing to join me in this by conceding that you could also be wrong?

        I appreciate the invitation to take on the medical profession, APA, et al. When I read something that doesn’t make sense to me or seems to have dubious logic, I tend to question it. If I have been disrespectful then I apologize. I tend to take statements as statements and not evaluate them based on the profession, degrees, or professional affiliation of the author, or lack thereof in my case. I like to think even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Even a non-specialist could have a valid point. The fact that someone does not take a statement seriously is not actually proof that the statement is untrue.

        I can see where one could get the impression that I am simply trying to defend porn or defend my own use. I am questioning the label of normal/abnormal in response to an article about the negative effects of porn use, so that could seem like a knee-jerk defense. No doubt I have preconceived notions about the normality or abnormality of internet porn, but my point is that some of the experts cited (Doidge, for example) seem to have preconceived notions as well.

        Maybe I am reading too much into Doidge’s use of some highly charged terms like “perversion” (used in the larger web article that you recommended). I assumed that whether or not something can be labeled a perversion is subject to debate. I assumed that whether or not something could be labeled abnormal is subject to debate. I assumed that the definition of addiction is subject to debate. I assumed that even statements by people more educated than me are subject to debate.

        Perhaps I was just imagining an anti-porn bias. Guilty as charged. Perhaps I was globalizing from earlier alarmist campaigns from the fields of psychology and psychiatry. (An earlier message brought up Friedrich Wertham, perhaps an extreme case but I do see some similarities.) Generalizing from similarity was a fallacious way for me to look at it. I should take it on a case by case basis.

        What I see now is some pretty good common ground, actually. I was trying to dig to see what the underlying assumptions were about porn and masturbation and I see they are actually similar to mine. I would agree with all the sentiments in this recent paragraph:

        “[W]e…have no judgments about porn use. In fact, we think it’s perfectly normal (although risky for the reasons we explain). We see the effects, but we don’t want to ban porn. We don’t see porn use as moral issue; we see it as neurological issue. As far use vs. addiction, that’s an individual decision. Even with negative consequences, such as copulatory ED, many will not stop using porn. As we have seen over the years, most heavy porn users don’t know how it’s affecting them until they quit. So if you want a valid test of how you may (or may not) be affected, try quitting for an extended period. See what happens. And then make your own choices.”

        Come to think of it, there’s something quite sex-positive about seeing a decline in sexual pleasure as a negative consequence of something! (Not sarcasm. I do think this.)

        • Gary Wilson says:

          QUOTE: Would you be willing to join me in this by conceding that you could also be wrong?
          Wrong about what? That porn addiction is real? That there are objective neurological measures for brain changes associated with addiction? That Internet porn addiction is a growing phenomenon?
          No I won’t join you. I stand 100% behind these points.

          QUOTE: Even a non-specialist could have a valid point. The fact that someone does not take a statement seriously is not actually proof that the statement is untrue.
          I’m still not sure what your point is – that addictions do not exist? If so, your arguments are based on personal wishes.

          QUOTE: No doubt I have preconceived notions about the normality or abnormality of internet porn.
          Abnormal is when the brain undergoes the aforementioned measurable changes associated with addiction. Normal is before your brain changes.
          Abnormal is when you take a number of addiction quizzes, and you keep getting the same result – that you may have a problem. Normal is before the changes.

          QUOTE: I assumed that whether or not something can be labeled a perversion is subject to debate. I assumed that whether or not something could be labeled abnormal is subject to debate.
          I understand you want to make this the issue rather than neurobiology. I’m not speaking for Doidge, but I think I covered this. My answer again is, “it’s up to the individual to determine what is a perversion”. You see, a porn addict needs to escalate in order get the same buzz (or even an erection). S/he is looking for what shocks the primitive brain to cause an elevation of dopamine in order to stimulate the numbed reward circuit. Porn users moving to an “abnormal” or “perverted” (whatever that is for them) genre is common, and a sign of tolerance (escalation).

          QUOTE: I assumed that the definition of addiction is subject to debate. I assumed that even statements by people more educated than me are subject to debate.
          Oh sure, for those that do not know neurobiology. Not at all for addiction researchers. That’s why we get so many psychologists and sociologists debating us on moral, or social, or whatever grounds. But we don’t write about the morality or the social implications of porn. Our interest is the user. Once you analyze the brain of an addict, the debate is over.

          QUOTE: Perhaps I was globalizing from earlier alarmist campaigns from the fields of psychology and psychiatry.
          This is typical. People immediately see the word “porn” and they have made up their minds before they read the first sentence of our articles. When we try to debate porn addiction on the basis of neurobiology (the only objective measure), we get the same patter. All the debaters reach the same dead-end: “There is no such thing as addiction” or “You can be addicted to anything.” These are false statements, and they demonstrate a complete ignorance of the dopamine system and addiction neurobiology.

          Our underlying assumption is that one can overstimulate the brain with extreme versions of natural reinforcers such as food and sex. You see, internet porn is not normal sex. The unending novelty of “sexual partners,” the unlimited variety of genre, and the shock/surprise that occurs frequently, are all highly stimulating, and potentially addictive, to the reward circuitry.

          • wellokaythen says:

            “Once you analyze the brain of an addict, the debate is over.”

            Yeah, I was afraid of this. I was afraid that “science” defined contrary to the nature of the scientific method would be used to shut down debate. All conclusions from objective scientific and/or clinical study are subject to further testing and investigation, if they are being examined under the light of science. From what I understand, this is why scientific studies are peer-reviewed and vetted from several angles. Most professional scientists would agree that theories are tentative, “as best we can tell given the evidence so far,” subject to further research, and paradigm shifts do occur sometimes.

            Certainty that the conclusion is 100% true and cannot be called into question, absolute certainty that the methods used were totally objective and totally conclusive, and absolute certainty that all researchers have done everything right, all these certainties can get in the way of expanding scientific knowledge. These certainties remind me of a “faith-based” approach, actually. I admit I have not read peer-reviewed neurobiological journal articles, but I am guessing none of them claim “stop the presses, debate is over, we now have the truth!”

            “Abnormal is when the brain undergoes the aforementioned measurable changes associated with addiction. Normal is before your brain changes. Abnormal is when you take a number of addiction quizzes, and you keep getting the same result – that you may have a problem. Normal is before the changes.”

            I see the distinction. I agree that there is great objective evidence of a change from “before” to “after.” I am not questioning the fact that there are changes from before to after. “Before X” and “After X” seem like perfectly objective, quantifiable, scientific, categories.

            What I have been questioning is the assumption/conclusion that before=normal and after=abnormal. I have read other peer-reviewed hard science journal articles, and they generally shy away from using words like “normal” and “abnormal.” I don’t believe astrophysicists refer to healthy stars and unhealthy stars, or geologists refer to a normal fault line or an abnormal fault line. Do neurobiologists really use terms like “normal” to describe brain dynamics?

            “You see, internet porn is not normal sex.”
            “The unending novelty of “sexual partners,” the unlimited variety of genre, and the shock/surprise that occurs frequently, are all highly stimulating, and potentially addictive, to the reward circuitry.”

            I agree with the second sentence. That seems to be on solid experimental grounds, and states a tentative, testable truth claim, and notes a tendency or a potentiality. My issue is with the first sentence. No doubt porn-inspired masturbation can be different from in-person sex in some neurological ways. (And for the sake of argument we can leave out the use of porn in foreplay between two or more people in person.) “Not normal” strikes me as a value judgment (and it could be accurate!) more than a scientific category. “Common” or “average” or “in the majority” are objective categories, but “normal” is not. There are people who engage in “more extreme” sex who are not addicted to it, and there are others who are addicted to “normal sex.” Yes, I do think addictions exist and that they can be correlated to brain changes. I just think the definitions or rubrics about addiction need some fine-tuning.

            From the neurobiological perspective, what is the definition of “normal sex”? (I imagine this is the main issue for many people who, like me, may overreact to your writing.) Is normal sex just whatever sex people have when they’re not addicted to porn?

            And, if measuring changes in brain chemistry and structure is the only objective measure, then that rules out self-administered questionnaires as objective measures. What I hear is that how one thinks about porn is only scientifically relevant in cases where a subject thinks he is addicted to porn but otherwise is immaterial. I can be trusted to self-diagnose as addicted to porn, but not trusted to use the same rubric to determine another addiction?

            Yes, the “oxygen addiction” was half-joking and an extreme example, not entirely fair, but I would point out that I only had to show 3 of the 8 characteristics, not ALL of them. My breathing has negative consequences in my life – my snoring disturbs my wife, the intake of oxygen into the body forms oxidants which contribute to aging damage, and it makes swimming much more challenging than it otherwise would be. I have attempted to stop breathing to see how long I can hold my breath, especially when I swim underwater, but I always cave in and start breathing again. I feel like it’s out of control sometimes – much of the time I do it and I’m not even aware that I’m doing it; it’s like some kind of involuntary compulsion. I have apparently developed a tolerance or need more to achieve the same result – as I get older, I get more and more winded when I reach the top of the stairs; the old breathing just isn’t cutting it anymore. I have no doubt that my brain chemistry looks very different when I’m breathing than when I’m not. Yes, all this is from apparent ignorance, but if I were a subject in a study that would be okay. And damn, it feels good to breathe sometimes!

            • Gary Wilson says:

              Dude, you are the one who first used “normal” and “abnormal.”

              Check the dictionary. “Normal” has two, very different definitions.
              It can refer to what is common, and this is how you’re using it. People can certainly differ about how common they think a behavior is or should, be (which is not what we write about). However, “normal” is also used in pathology to define homeostasis. If markers are outside a certain range, they are “abnormal,” as in the case of addiction. So for example, Internet porn use is “normal” under the first definition, and can still cause abnormalities under the second definition.

              For the rest, you just continue to re-spin the same tired points.

              I guess you want me to repeat for the fourth time that researchers agree on the neurobiology of addiction. Done.

              You really need to educate yourself on addiction science and basic physiology so you can add something new to the conversation. Please visit http://www.yourbrainonporn.com to learn the basics addiction science. The answers to all your questions are there.

              When you have something new and different to say, that’s based on some rudimentary knowledge of the subject, I’ll be happy to engage with you.

            • wellokaythen says:

              I respect a vigorous defense of an intellectual position. I admire confidence in others. I envy the certainty that other people feel about what they know.

              Here is how I am paraphrasing the most recent message:

              “Dear Galileo,

              Until you and Copernicus show a basic understanding of how the universe works, there is really nothing more to say. Read some books written by the experts and you will see that the sun goes around the earth. That is just basic science. If you want to take on Aristotle, the Church fathers, and the Inquisition, be my guest. They all agree. To my mind, I have successfully dodged your questions four times in a row, and I have no more to say. Until you share the same assumptions that I do, you are just persisting in ignorance.”

              Okay, that’s not fair. Copernicus’ heliocentric model was published posthumously, so no one was talking to Galileo and Copernicus at the same time. I took a little literary license there.

            • PS Dear Gallileo,
              Suggest you remove the cover from your telescope.
              Sincerely,
              Father Guido Sarducci

            • wellokaythen says:

              Good one! :-) Thanks for being good sports.

              Wait a minute. Was that a euphemism for masturbation? Very clever with the double entendre…..

  34. Culture Matters says:

    Maybe I’m the only one here who found the article too liberal.

    The author states that “accept that your child will have to make his/her own decisions”.

    Er, not. Parents make final decisions for their kids up until they are adults and on their own.

    Til that time parents train their kids in good decision making and allow them to participate in the process of making decisions – but the final say rests with the parents.

    As far as not “shaming” your child – why not? Who says a dash of shame here and there is unhealthy?

    I know that “shame” prevented me from getting involved in some risky things as a youth, and it still prevents me from doing stupid sh*t.

    Personally I find the permissive parenting that is en vogue right now in the US to be, well, dysfunctional.

    Take a look around your ‘hood. It just ain’t working.

    Parents: Set clear boundaries with your kids. Contrary to popular belief, kids actually want you to love them enough to do so. They have enough “friends” already. They want YOU to be a parent. A figure of authority. Loving, yet strict at the same time.

    American kids NEED that.

    Perhaps now more than ever.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. Helping kids to develop a strong inner compass is indeed a prime role for parents. The risk of shaming a child when it comes to something like porn viewing, however, is that it makes the behavior more exciting (and neurochemically “rewarding”) when the child does happen to engage in it. This neurochemical reality increases an activity’s addictive potential, as explained in the article. I don’t think this discounts your points. I just wanted to mention why shame is risky when it comes to guidance about sexual behavior.

  35. Thank you for the well crafted essay. It clarified a few things for me regarding the type of pornography that is widely available and its impact on the psyche. I remember reading about a young man who is unable to have sex with his girlfriend, and yet masturbated furiously to porn; something that puzzled me. Now I understand why this could happen.

    Whenever I teach the human reproductive part of my health care classes, the kids are dumbfounded when I tell them that watching porn is like watching Spiderman. I tell them that sex is not like what they watch and that emulating it can be harmful (http://snuze.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-you-should-not-emulate-pornography.html), thanks to Chlamydia & herpes and enjoy how round their eyes get. *snicker*

    I applaud your suggestion that parents/guardians must speak openly about sexuality, masturbation and masturbatory aids. Young people need to be equipped to make informed decisions about their body (http://snuze.blogspot.com/2009/01/shagging-real-early.html), especially with the accessibility of “extreme” porn.

    Brava and keep up the good work!

  36. I think we could add drugs and even love to this article and simply call it Obsessions. Obsessing about anything isn’t healthy. People obsess over violence, drugs, love, sex, driving fast, etc. This is really about obsessing over visual stimuli, porn being this particular stimuli.

    Let’s get on with educating kids about sex and even porn. Stop making it so ‘bad” and mysterious and it won’t be as desirable. I do not mean to make it more easily available.

    • I think that’s a good way to describe the problem. The challenge, however, is that Internet porn is a lot easier to “obsess” over than most things for various reasons we’ve outlined here and elsewhere.

  37. “Who’s gonna get excited by Pac-Man when he has been playing Grand Theft Auto or Halo 3?”

    *Raises Hand*

    Pac-Man is still fun despite the fact that I have GTA and FPS’s to play with.

  38. It’s remarkable really, how puritanism reinvents itself. The Second Wave of Feminism was, of course, openly a revival of the “Zeroth Wave” social purity movement, a direct descendant of religious puritanism. Now, it wears a rather slipshod “liberal” hat, but it is all the same thing. So now we have again the terror of masturbation. If this stuff weren’t so influential, I would be laughing out loud at some parent with furrowed brow advising their adolescent son to try just masturbating once a week. Oh, go out for some vigorous exercise to purge those dirty thoughts!

    And, we have the addiction narrative, with a pseudoscience of brain chemistry attached. Wise owls will tell us with their checklists what is good pleasure and what is bad pleasure, and what changes in our minds we are allowed.

    Really, this is truly awful and, as I said, indistinguishable from the Victorian hysteria. No good will come of it. It sure as sh*t didn’t last time. How short our memories are, it seems.

    • To Ian B:
      What’s truly remarkable is your hysterical rant that our work is “pseudoscience”, without having anything specific to say other than ad hominem nonsense. Everything we say is backed up by the latest neuroscience. Instead of shouting “pseudoscience,” as if you know something, argue the neuroscience of addiction, and explain how Internet porn cannot cause addiction.

      Here’s one expert who understands a few things. Dr. Nora Volkow, Head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and one of the top addiction researchers in the world – in recognition of the change in the understanding of natural addiction, is advocating changing the name of the NIDA to the “National Institute on Diseases of Addiction”, as quoted in the journal ‘Science’:
      “NIDA Director Nora Volkow also felt that her institute’s name should encompass addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food, says NIDA adviser Glen Hanson.”

      I think I’ll take Nora Volkow’s opinion on the addictive potential of Internet porn over some random poster with a bone to pick.

      Let’s explore some science. Put on your thinking cap on and ponder this: A lot of heavy porn users are starting to hit a wall. They develop porn-induced erectile dysfunction (see study below).This symptom alone proves that excessive Internet porn is altering their brains’ reward circuitries. These men are terrified that they will never be normal again. Is it puritanical to help men recover their sexual potency and have sex with real partners? Because that’s one of the main focuses of our work. Recovery stories available via this page: http://yourbrainonporn.com/erectile-dysfunction-question

      Please enlighten us with your hypotheses on chronic erectile dysfunction in young, healthy men. Keep the word ‘variable’ in mind, and please, no pseudoscience. Details:

      Thousands of young men, mostly in their twenties, develop chronic ED for no apparent reason, after years of contented masturbation. It’s not anxiety, as ED symptoms are present when they masturbate. These visitors, most of them in their 20s, but many also in their 30s and 40s, come from all over the world. They differ in education, religiosity, attitudes, values, diets, marijuana use, personalities, etc. But they have two things in common: heavy use of today’s Internet porn and increasing tolerance.

      As the men recover, they experience similar symptoms at similar time intervals. First intense cravings, then complete loss of libido for several weeks, then slow return of spontaneous erections, and finally complete erectile health. The process usually takes 4-12 weeks depending on relapses. They experience restored erectile health, mood improvement, increased libido, seeing real women as attractive.

      One variable in common – and when that variable was removed all had the same response. What is truly frightening is the misinformation men suffering from porn-induced ED are receiving from so-called experts. Desperate young men, told nothing can be done, or it is all in their heads. All are distressed and some suicidal believing they will never be normal again.

      Speaking of science, urologists in Italy decide to do a survey because so many young men began arriving at their clinics with unexplained ED. Here’s what they found –

      http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2011/02/24/visualizza_new.html_1583160579.html

      SCIENTISTS: TOO MUCH INTERNET PORN MAY CAUSE IMPOTENCE (2011)
      It may not make you go blind, but Italian scientists have identified a worrying side-effect of watching too much pornography.
      Researchers said Thursday that young men who indulge in “excessive consumption” of Internet porn gradually become immune to explicit images, the ANSA news agency reported.
      Over time, this can lead to a loss of libido, impotence and a notion of sex that is totally divorced from real-life relations.
      “It starts with lower reactions to porn sites, then there is a general drop in libido and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection,” said Carlo Foresta, head of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAM).
      His team drew their conclusions from a survey of 28,000 Italian men which revealed that many became hooked on porn as early as 14, exhibiting symptoms of so-called “sexual anorexia” by the time they reached their mid-twenties.
      There was some good news, however, as the condition was not necessarily permanent. “With proper assistance recovery is possible within a few months,” Foresta said.

      Maybe it’s your memory that’s a bit faulty. I’m pretty sure Internet pornography arrived after the Victorian era.

  39. evilwhitemalempire says:

    Very obviously she doesn’t want men using sexual ‘substitutes’ because it dilutes female sexual leverage.

  40. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    On rereading this, I’m pretty much on-board with Gary and Marina. I do also feel, though, that we’ve entered a repressive era in which second wave feminism also participates. I’d say, make society more erotic, but only in a real sense. The obvious metaphor of men at computers being like Vegas visitors at one-armed bandits has a lot of meaning for me.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Robinson’s piece on porn and its effect on boys has already attracted its fair share of […]

  2. […] takes place — of today is not healthy for the teenage boys watching it.  And by not healthy, psychologists mean it can cause social anxiety and erectile dysfunction.  Ouch. Such videos are often so extreme that they dumbfound even the most free-thinking parents. […]

  3. […] Uhhhhhhhhhh. I’m already imagining what I would have said to my dad if he came at me with that sort of ultra-hyphenated, level-headed, auto-erotic, round-table discussion. Eff that. Our router will be set to block porn sites, and other than that, the natural hunting and gathering of porn will probably yield natural enough results. Check out Good Men Project for the full run-down. Source: Good Men Project […]

  4. Recommended Websites…

    […]below you’ll find the link to some sites that we think you should visit[…]…

Speak Your Mind

*