Why Shouldn’t Johnny Watch Porn If He Wants to?

Sexual brain training matters—especially during adolescence.

Editor’s Note: The comments quoted throughout this piece were taken from the comments sections of posts and message board conversations where men were talking about sex.

It’s normal for kids to want to learn all about sex, especially during puberty and adolescence when reproduction becomes the brain’s top priority. For this we can thank the specifics of teen-brain development.

Think of an adolescent jungle primate watching another band with such fascination that he (or she, in some species) leaves his companions, and endures the slings and arrows of being without allies at the bottom of another troup’s pecking order—all for a chance to get it on with exotic hotties in the future. The things our genes do to guarantee genetic diversity!

Now, fast-forward to a young guy discovering the mind-boggling novelty of Internet erotica:

I started looking at Internet porn when I was 11. I immediately became hooked, and spent hours daily viewing porn. Simply seeing a pair of exposed breasts was enough to get me off. But desensitization soon kicked in, and I began developing fetishes to get the same hit from porn. It started out with different ethnicities, then lesbians, then watersports, then scat/beastiality/BDSM/tranny, and then any combination of the above to create the sickest porn imaginable. I can remember sitting in school fantasizing about sick porn that I could search for that night.

What is it about the adolescent brain that makes this guy’s experience not unusual? Answer: During adolescence a temporary neurological imbalance develops. The “sex, drugs and rock & roll” part of the brain is in overdrive. The “let’s give this some thought” part is still under construction, and won’t reach maturity until adulthood.

This recipe for impulsive and risky behavior rearranges other adolescent-mammal brains too. It is evolution’s way of driving the brash independence many young mammals need as they seek mates and carve out territories. In the brain’s cost-benefit analysis, the scale is tipping heavily in the direction of possible rewards.

There’s a kicker though. The capacity of our teen to wire up new sexual associations mushrooms around 11 or 12 when billions of new neural connections (synapses) create endless possibilities. However, by adulthood, his brain must prune his neural circuitry to leave him with a manageable assortment of choices. By his twenties, he may not exactly be stuck with the sexual proclivities he falls into during adolescence, but they can be like deep ruts in his brain—not easy to ignore or reconfigure.

Sexual-cue exposure matters more during adolescence than at any other time in life. Now, add to this incendiary reality the lighter fluid of today’s off-the-wall erotica available at the tap of a finger. Is it any surprise that some teens wire semi-permanently to constant cyber novelty instead of potential mates? Or wire their sexual responsiveness to things that are unrelated to their sexual orientation? Or manage to desensitize their brains—and spiral into porn addiction?

Incidentally, are you a guy remembering your own adolescence—and how you could never climax enough during those years? Perhaps you’re supposing that Internet porn would have been a splendid innovation. If so, read these two articles: Porn, Novelty and the Coolidge Effect‏ and Porn Then and Now: Welcome to Brain Training. Porn, its content, the way it’s delivered, and its potential effects on the brain have changed radically. For today’s users, more orgasm can lead to less satisfaction.

Teen brains differ from adult brains

When we dug into the brain research on adolescents, we were astonished at how malleable teen brains are. Radical changes in the sexual environment hit them hardest. Here are four vulnerabilities unique to teen brains:

1. Much stronger “Go get it!” signals

The reward circuitry is the core of all drives (including libido), emotions, likes, dislikes, motivation…and addiction. In adolescence, sex hormones propel this ancient circuitry into a window of hyperactivity, which subsides by the early twenties. As journalist David Dobbs explains:

We all like new and exciting things, but we never value them more highly than we do during adolescence. Here we hit a high in what behavioral scientists call sensation seeking: the hunt for the neural buzz, the jolt of the unusual or unexpected. … This love of the thrill peaks at around age 15.

The brain’s sensitivity to dopamine, the “Gotta get it!” neurochemical crests, which spurs novelty seeking, overrides executive control, and helps consolidate learning and habits. In fact, teen brains respond to anything perceived as exciting with two-to-four times the reward-circuitry activation of adults, thanks to their extra dopamine sensitivity. Both novelty and searching/seeking spike dopamine in all human brains, but cyber erotica’s endless possibilities prove an irresistible lure for many teens.

The first time I looked at those hot pictures the feeling seemed to be out of this world, just ineffable. Suddenly I knew there was something worth living for, everything else was just boring, everyday life. I fled to this artificial drug: porn and masturbation. It was not unusual to watch porn for hours a day.

“Ineffable?” Yes. Teens are more likely to register sexual arousal, and other highs, as transcendental, memorable experiences. That is why you can still recall the shimmering details of that first centerfold. But there’s more evidence of hypersensitivity to thrills:

Alas, their heightened sensitivity to reward automatically renders teens more susceptible to addiction than if they encountered the same thrills later in life.

2. Decreased sensitivity to aversion

Having spent Friday night playing “World of Warcraft” until 4AM, while washing down eight slices of pizza and a bag of Doritos with a six-pack of Mountain Dew, our hero is ready to do it all again come Saturday night. Research shows that teens are less deterred by symptoms of excess. Aversion is a reward-circuitry function, and teens can handle more wattage before their circuits overload

Ever wonder why Slasher + Teens (sex) = Summer Box-Office Hit? It all comes down to the marvels of the brain. No wonder porn images that adults find shocking, “eeeew,” or violent, register as abnormally exciting to teens. Also keep in mind that teens are less able to take other people’s feelings into account (even bad actors).

When I was 14/15, I encountered she-male porn while surfing the Internet. I still remember the graphic nature of the advert. Something just snapped in my pubescent brain. All the straight and lesbian porn I had watched for several years seemed ordinary. My heart started racing. My head was thumping, and the fear of getting caught…not just watching porn, but watching what some could consider not exactly 100% straight porn…made it all the more memorable. I remember crying after I finished. I didn’t know what came over me. I was so terrified I wanted to curl up into a ball in my bedroom. But I didn’t stop watching it. I was still attracted to girls, but with the she-male porn, I could orgasm quicker.

3. Weaker “Stop!” signals

The sex hormones that initiate teen sensitivity to thrills unfortunately do nothing to speed up development of their brain’s self-control center. A teen brain is like a new car with a Ferrari engine and Ford Pinto brakes.

At puberty, an extremely reactive “accelerator” comes online: the brain’s emotion-motivation mechanism, or reward circuitry, located below the rational cortex. It overpowers the “brakes,” the brain’s “CEO” or prefrontal cortex in the forehead, which won’t fully mature for a decade. The latter assesses risk, thinks ahead, chooses priorities, allocates attention and controls impulses.

Meanwhile, teens often base their choices on their emotional impulses as opposed to reasoning or planning. Later, as the prefrontal cortex matures, there will be fewer “I can’t believe he did that” moments. Teens make sounder judgments and modulate mood, plan and remember more effectively.

In the meantime, teens have trouble perceiving the consequences of “going for it.” Again, this is no accident. Daredevil tendencies during adolescence serve species that must take risks then to strike out on their own or find mates. In the case of adolescent humans, evolution has simply not had time to adapt to the hazards of recreational drugs, fast cars, or excessive consumption of junk food, online gaming, or Internet porn. That’s why we have the Darwin Awards.

4. Extreme neuronal growth followed by pruning

Human brains go through two stages of dramatic neuronal growth: one in utero and throughout the first several months of life, the other between the ages of 10 and 13—just when most boys (and now, many girls) begin to look at Internet porn. Ideally, during this critical developmental period, we humans are exposed to age-appropriate sexual behavior. We learn how to flirt and connect with potential partners.

This second burst of neuronal activity entails first multiplication and then subtraction of neural connections. No wonder mood swings are a hallmark of adolescence! Together, genes and environment sculpt the clay of a teen’s frontal cortex. As use-it-or-lose-it proceeds, the brain reorganizes and fine-tunes itself:

The cortex prunes away little used circuits, while strengthening well worn neural pathways. Nerve cell axons in favored pathways become better insulated with myelin, increasing the speed of nerve impulses. Little branches that receive messages (called dendrites) grow like vines to better hear the incoming signal. The connections between axons and dendrite (synapses) multiply on strong circuits and vanish on weaker ones. In the end you have memories, skills, habits, preferences and ways of coping that stand the test of time. (ibid., Dobbs, emphasis added)

In less glowing terms, we restrict our options—without realizing how critical our choices were during our final, pubescent, neuronal growth spurt. According to researcher Jay Giedd:

If a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV [or Internet porn], those are the cells and connections that are going to survive.

This is one reason why polls asking teens how Internet porn use is affecting them are unlikely to reveal the extent of porn’s effects. Kids who have never masturbated without porn have no idea how it is affecting them. (It’s like asking them, “How has being male affected you?”) They have nothing to compare with.

Keep in mind that older porn users often do not connect their porn-related symptoms with heavy porn use—even when they develop porn-induced sexual dysfunction (PISD). Porn always seems like the “cure,” because even if they can’t get it up for sex, they can usually get it up if they watch enough extreme porn. Can we expect teens to figure it out?

Same problem with asking teens about porn’s effects on mood. Users always “feel better” when using, even if the more they use, the worse they feel overall. So why would porn be seen as the problem? Moreover, when users try to quit, they sometimes face weeks of severe withdrawal symptoms, so controlling use can be mistaken for the problem instead of the solution.

Fact is, most heavy users who are going to hit a wall from excess, don’t do so until their twenties—just about the time their reward circuitry has curtailed its hypersensitivity. For example, by adulthood, dopamine receptors in the reward circuitry gradually decrease by a third or a half. Now, thrills aren’t as thrilling, and the consequences of excess are more disconcerting. Once nature’s foot is off the reward accelerator, it’s time for a hunter-gatherer to settle down and raise some youngins.

No birds or bees, just pixels please

Meanwhile, the adolescent brain is ripe for a perfect storm as the genetically driven hunt for novelty and the unexpected collides with the endless erotica of the Internet. Hypnotic Web-surfing—requiring no effort but scrolling and fapping—replaces leaving one’s tribe to search the savannah for fertile mates.

When I was 18, I had sex for the first time. When she said she was “down all the way”, I ran to the nearest store to pick up condoms like I had the Reaper chasing me. After the deed, my thoughts were, “Hmm…it didn’t feel that much different from masturbation, and it required a hell of a lot more work! Meh, I’ll stick to porn and not bother with a girlfriend.”

Another guy responded:

My thoughts EXACTLY. Just back pain, muscle strain, breathlessness, sweatiness and performance anxiety. MUCH less stress to just crack one off, plus you got your own ‘Iron Fist’ that gets you off better than that real vagina. Not only that, you always get a ‘good visual’ with a ‘porn girlfriend.’ You can see all those beautiful body contours in perfect lighting, breasts n’ butts n’ thighs look glorious, and *always* visible. In real life that’s rarely the case. The first time I did it, I didn’t truly enjoy it (even though we both came a lot). My first time should’ve felt like a TRIUMPH, given how ‘successful’ it was, but it felt artificial. It was then I KNEW there was perhaps something a tad wrong. The sex in my *mind* always seemed sexy and enjoyable. The *real* sex I had was primarily industrial and unexciting. Not good.

Today’s teens sometimes wire their arousal to Internet porn’s unnaturally intense, synthetic stimuli for as long as a decade before they try to connect with real partners. (See pages of self-reports of adolescent porn use.) The situation is even more precarious if a teen’s innocent pursuit of jollies has led to more fundamental brain changes, i.e., addiction. Again, teens are more susceptible to addiction than adults, due to their hyperactive reward circuitry and immature executive control.

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About Gary Wilson & Marnia Robinson

Gary Wilson has taught anatomy, physiology, and pathology for many years. His wife Marnia is the author of Cupid's Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. Among other projects, they host the website Your Brain on Porn.

Comments

  1. News today from the UK. Actually, it’s new users making one of 2 choices when they sign up – opt in, opt out.
    ——————————————–
    Users must opt in for web porn

    FOUR of the UK’s biggest internet service providers are to force customers to opt IN if they want to view porn.

    BT, Virgin Media, Sky and Talk Talk have agreed to the measure as part of a Government crackdown to protect children from filth.

    Customers signing up to the web giants will have to choose whether they want to be able to log on to explicit sites in a bid to limit what material kids can access.

    It is one of a number of moves being announced today to tackle the problem of the sexualisation of childhood following a Government-commissioned report by Reg Bailey — chief executive of the Mothers’ Union.

    PM David Cameron also unveiled a website called Parentport — where families can flag up offending media.

    The site will allow parents to raise complaints about internet content, TV programmes, adverts, videos, computer games and sexualised products such as clothes being marketed to children.

    It will also provide advice on how to contact the regulators responsible for clamping down on inappropriate media and marketing activities.

    And the PM will host a summit at No 10 today bringing together representatives of regulators, industry and parents to assess progress on the report’s recommendations.

    Also being discussed will be new guidelines, published last week by the Advertising Standards Authority, to restrict sexual images on billboards located where children are likely to see them, such as near schools.

    And there will be a clampdown on “peer-to-peer” advertising by under-15s, where children are recruited by companies to promote their products to their friends via social network sites like Facebook.

    Mr Bailey’s report, published in June, warned that modern life was putting children under pressure both to consume goods and services and to take part in a sexualised life before they are ready.

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3865820/Users-must-opt-in-for-

  2. Hi Michael- Yes, that’s exactly what I was saying but there seems to be a defensiveness around porn just like every other addiction. When a ‘want’ suddenly becomes a ‘need’, that’s a clear sign of addiction. The defensiveness is also another sign. Prohibition certainly didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean that alcoholism is a good thing either. That’s common sense but an addict can’t admit that, even to themselves. They feel as if their freedoms are being taken away if someone talks about liver problems that alcohol contributes to. I’ve grown up with addicts, not porn, but other things so I know of what I speak. I’m glad that people are getting help for it and there are places to go to talk about it.

    • How I recognize the voices within this article and the comment thread is that there is a voice of educated wisdom, which is like a parents voice that warns of side effects of these particular behaviors. Then there is a voice (which has yet to be explained clearly) that comes across as adults revolting against the parental figures of authority. This voice seems to not be interested in a real parent’s dilemma, those of us who have children.
      There should be a declarative position here that defines the differences of the social implications of porn saturation and righteous parenting aspects from the adults who are revolting to validate their own freedoms.
      I read this article because of the title, about little Johnny watching porn. I come away from reading this realizing that, as a parent, he shouldn’t because it highly interferes with the natural development of the brain. Whatever the child does after becoming an adult is their adult decision with the owning and acceptance of their consequences.
      I believe that these adults who have decided to use porn, to whatever extent, should simply accept their own decisions and let parents be parents. Some of these commentors are throwing typical tantrums, ignoring reason and getting into complicated tangents. There is an adolescent quality to their argument, and there shouldn’t even be an argument if we are all adults, making adult decisions.

  3. This was a good article and the comment thread was really dynamic. Thank you Marnia and Gary. The subject around sexuality and especially the problematic aspect of modern pornography is right at the heart of how we all perceive and interact with each other, it measures the general health of us as a people, and it measures the distance that we need to close between us.
    I read here that there are strong groups expressing on this thread. One group seems to be supporting the rebuilding of intimacy and the emotional aspects of sex and relationships… not in policing the people and creating restrictions but in unplugging the big industrial complex that drives addictive behavior (similar to the huge nicotine addiction trial of the tobacco industry?) The other group seems to be supporters of legalizing everything about sex? I’m not sure. There actually isn’t much to go on about this side because they seem to be protesting the other side instead of explaining their position. At least a full third of this thread was spent on knocking down the article rather than discuss it. I am in the middle trying to just understand what’s going on. Can anyone please try to explain what the pro-sex side is about, or write an article about this? Seems that people are really fired up but their intentions are not understood.

    • It is also John Lennon’s birthday today. He’s famous for expressing some good qualities about people, like love and relationship. He’s also famous for rebelling against the corporate agenda. Seems a good day to dialog! Cheers.

    • “Pro-sex” is a little bit of a misnomer, but I’d argue that any restriction of porn, masturbation, and general fantasizing about sex is a restriction of personal freedom. Whether YOU choose to do any of the above is up to you. Saying that it’s about “rebuilding intimacy and emotional aspects of sex and marriage” is another way of restricting freedom for some abstract “good of the society”. The idea that the group that likes porn is “bad” because OTHER people (usually women) now want men to be far more sexual (when every message being told to young boys is that they should curtail their urges at all moments) is absurd and self-serving. What is smacks of to me, is the restriction of (primarily male) sexuality (via watching porn) because it now affects the sensibilities of other people (primarily feminists who want men to be sexual but only when at their beck and call).

      As an analogy, I’m a vegetarian, and I think that it’s a healthier lifestyle which has been backed by numerous studies. But should we outlaw the “pro-meat” crowd because it is both less healthy and makes MY life more difficult? Of course not. But somehow this same sort of logic applies to porn watchers?

      • Thanks, A says: That kinda helped. Maybe naming things in general doesn’t work anymore. If there is a group trying to outlaw masturbation and pornography I doubt they’d get very far. I also didn’t pick that up from reading what these people said. Seems they were talking about what happens in the brain when there’s really high-octane fuel put in the tank. I know that I get a turbo-charge if I eat a couple of snickers and coffee. I get a lot done in an hour and then I crash. So I’ve learned to eat oatmeal in the morning and a good lunch. That keeps me going strong all day.
        Things have changed a lot since I was a kid, and I’m not that old, just didn’t grow up with computers and high-speed. I didn’t know what a girls genitalia looked like until I had sex for the first time. Today it seems every 9 year old has been there because of internet porn. I know that would have screwed me up. I don’t know how but I know it would have. Probably in my aspirations.
        On another note, the last thing you wrote about re being vegetarian (good move) is maybe more of what Valerie was saying about doing what’s easy? The easy food would be junk and fast food. The hard food is organics and vegetarian, and you do that because it feels right for you. Maybe what she meant is that she feels that wanking to porn is like junk food? Would that mean that eating organic is like working on a relationship? One side is emotional and the other is mechanical. I don’t think that there’s any laws being proscribed here though. I have a son and I know that I would guide him into getting it together to date the girl he has the crush on rather than getting off from looking at porn. He’d maybe never start dating and spend all of his sexual energy on the computer. That’s a parenting call, and I would want him to eat really well too.

      • To clarify for the umpteenth time, we are all for free speech, do not want to ban porn, are not religious, and don’t want to curtail or control anyone. Search our articles, and you will find nothing written on the “politics” of porn, or gender issues, or the porn industry. We have one focus: the men who want to unhook from Internet porn. To that end we produce articles describing how Internet porn is qualitatively different from pre-Internet porn, and how some young men are suffering sexual dysfunction and addiction that generally reverse themselves after they quit.

        The irony is that we wanted nothing to do with recovering porn addicts or writing about the effects of excessive Internet porn use. History: My site, yourbrainonporn.com is new. After 5-6 years of listening to guys in our forum, we created YBOP to separate their stories and insights from our original website for tantra-like sexual traditions. Porn users started showing up on that forum some 5+ years ago trying to find answers for their unexplained ED, porn-addictions, and other porn-related problems. They found us through Google using “sex addiction” as we had several articles on the neurobiology of sex, evolutionary biology, and even a few on addictions, but absolutely nothing on porn.

        The recovering porn users stayed and the numbers grew and grew. They talked to each other and helped each other recover from porn addiction and porn-induced ED. It was amazing to hear about the changes. Since I’m a physiology teacher, we started writing articles on addiction that would help them view their problems from a physiological point of view, rather than a moral/religious view (which we despise).

        More men arrived with more recovery testimonials; erections and sensitivity regained; greater libido; stories of great sex; reduced anxiety; better moods; and improved thinking. Basically – men getting their mojo back. We then created http://www.yourbrainonporn.com 9 months ago to have a home for the porn and ED recovery material. In those 9 months, hundreds of forums and sites have linked to YBOP, and I have read thousands of threads where men discuss porn-induced sexual dysfunction.

        The vast majority of men we encounter decide to give up porn for one reason: porn-induced sexual dysfunction. Most were happily using porn for years with no moral or religious qualms. Their goals are rather simple: a working dick and satisfying sex with a real partner.

        Under the circumstances, I don’t think “pro-sex” is a label that necessarily applies to pro-porn advocates. For many porn use is unfortunately “sex negative.” Here’s a recovering guy’s report from yesterday. Not all recover this quickly, by the way:
        ———————
        Day 56 – “I’m a Playa”

        I have numbers and I talk to a lot of different girls. I went from 0 relationships to 3 relationships in 56 days. I had hankie-pankie with 2 girls this week.

        The first one I ejaculated like three times in one orgasm. Women love this for some reason lol. They are always surprised by it looolll. I did have a chaser effect.

        I felt DRUNK and super tired the next day. I noticed some grumpiness. The ‘sun’ in my chest went away again and I did see a decrease in my self-confidence but it came back the very next day (24 hours later).

        I also noticed that my voice was not as deep anymore. It seems the longer I hold my seed, the deeper my voice gets.

        She told me that my voice has her legs trembling and makes her excited “down there”. I’ve always had a deep voice but it sounds different. It sounds really good and I like hearing myself talk now.
        She says she likes me because I am so chilled (Thank you no PMO).

        The second rendezvous with another chick was pretty awesome too. She swears up and down I am a player. She tells me it a million times a day. I read somewhere when women tell you this is because they are really attracted to you and are trying to frame you into a box to logically explain why they like you. Oh well. It’s not stopping her from hooking up with me 🙂

        On both occasions where I had an O, I was worried I would become the terrible person I was before I started this process…but no. I am still here. I really can’t believe porn affects people that much. I really can’t believe it!

        Another thing I have noticed is that I can sense fear from men my age. It is the weirdest thing. Every time I get around, they FLINCH. This is especially true at my workplace. Seriously, it’s like they fear me. I see it in their eyes.

        At first I thought it was my imagination but it keeps happening over and over. It’s weird. They get nervous around me….maybe I am finally turning into an alpha male!! But when I get around older men, they respect me. They shake my hand and are genuinely nice to me.

        My mood has leveled out finally. I am either really chilled or just happy and enjoying life. This is a big improvement from where I was before: suicidal, extreme mood swings, schizo tendencies.
        I’ve been going out every weekend. It’s like I have too. If I don’t socialize and spend time with people I go crazy. Night time comes around and I turn into this beast!!!

        I’ve also been getting really cocky and self-assured lately. I have such a I don-t give a f%ck attitude. I just know life is only going to get better. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing….you know what???….f#ck that….it’s not a bad thing… For the first time in a very long time I feel good about myself. I have every right to walk with my chest out!

        http://yourbrainonporn.com/day-56-im-a-playa#comment-367

  4. @Wet – If you want to watch porn, then do it. But please don’t pretend and defend it like it’s character building, it isn’t.
    The general rule of thumb is, if something is difficult, it’s probably good for you. If it’s easy, like fast food or pill popping or wanking in front of a computer, it’s not doing you any good in the long run. It’s not that hard to understand, is it?

    • Valerie – don’t leave out getting off in seconds using a vibrator. There is a reason that that too is a multi-billion dollar a year business.

    • Uh valerie, that doesn’t make any sense. Steve Jobs found making cool products easy for him. Usain Bolt found running came easy to him. Michael Jordan found dunking as being easy for him. Are all of those bad too?

      Watching porn is about the freedom to do what feels good to you. If I or other people watch porn, it’s my own expression of my sexuality. Not only that, but for men who DON’T get tons of sex, I fail to see why we should restrict THEIR ability for sexual excitement as well. Should we stop people from masturbating as well?

  5. @Scott- You’re right, it helps to keep people apathetic as do a lot of industries, but mostly it’s the entertainment industry which porn is part of. I just find it sad that we’ve become a nation of watchers instead of doers. We watch sports, we don’t play them. That’s sad. And of course we’re all guilty. It’s much easier to watch a crime show than to go out and fight crime. This is why I don’t watch TV anymore. I’ve learned some great things by watching, but I find I learn just as much and more by doing.
    Ok, now I’m going to follow my own advice and get some stuff done.

  6. Being hairy is nothing to be proud of or ashamed of. It’s like being ashamed that I have toes. That’s crazy.

    @Wet- The money that romance novels makes doesn’t even come close to comparing what the porn industry has made in the last 50 years. And that’s just the porn that people pay for. Ask any porn producer to go into romance novels because they could make more money and I swear you’ll be able to hear the laughter from two states away. It’s a joke.
    Also, people in romance novels don’t get diseases and then spread diseases to other people. They also don’t get drug and booze problems either, you see Wet, it’s because they’re not real.

    • The last stats I could find on global porn industry annual sale is from 2006 and that was over 97 billion. I’m sure it’s higher now. Can find any recent stats though. Do you think the big $ is linked to the others, like drugs, war, oil and banking? May explain the blinders. Maybe it helps keep the rioting down?

    • There also doesn’t seem to be any addiction problems related to romance novels, either. Then again, people probably haven’t explored that territory yet in relations to erotica addictions.

      • wet_suit_one says:

        Hmmm…. I suppose.

        So, going back to “Follow the money. It isn’t a multi-billion dollar a year industry because it’s good for you,” how about banking, the automobile industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the food business.

        How do those square with “It isn’t a multi-billion dollar a year industry because it’s good for you?”

        Also, let’s look at the medical industry. I understand it takes up almost 16% of the U.S. GDP, so it’s about 2 trillion dollars (more than the military!). How does that square with your logic?

        Do tell…

        • Wet One- The most obvious distinction that I can see between the porn billions and the medical industry billions (or trillions) is that the medical spending isn’t an option. The medical costs are extravagant largely due to the fact that there seems to be no choice. Whereas, the spending on porn is optional and for most spenders is considered harmless entertainment.
          I wonder how much of the porn’s income of 97 billion worldwide was taken away from the support of the spender’s families? I’ve heard of guys spending their children’s college education fund on strippers (etc). I see a big difference if you have to sell the farm to pay for your spouse’s cancer treatment, but to have to sell the farm cause you blew you and your wife’s retirement fund on lap dances is pretty dumb. This type of behavior is happening more often than people realize.

    • “Being hairy is nothing to be proud of or ashamed of. It’s like being ashamed that I have toes. That’s crazy. ”

      Perhaps, but many feminists are unwilling to acknowledge that the “hairy feminist” is not just a stereotype, as if they are ashamed of it. On the other hand, they never deny having toes.

  7. Yes, the cosmetic industry, plastic surgery and fashion industries are all bad. Why do you think feminists speak out about these things on a weekly basis and go hairy legged and granola? We know they’re bad. We’ve been saying it for years.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      How about romance novels? Harlequin does a pretty good business as I understand it…

    • Its nice to hear a feminist acknowledge that the “hairy feminist” is not a stereotype. Nothing wrong with being proud if who you are.

  8. If anyone wants to doubt that porn is addictive all you have to do is one thing: Follow the money.
    It isn’t a multi-billion dollar a year industry because it’s good for you.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      You say that and I think about the cosmetics industry. Hmmm….. One wonders doesn’t one?

  9. All I can say is that the idea of a generation of men potentially not learning how to have sex properly, or severely setting back that learning process, is bloody terrifying to me.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      Did they ever know? Where did they ever learn? It’s just a new kink in the wonderous thread of life. Not much to see here in my view.

  10. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Odd, but I’ve spoken with a few men who said that having their female partners watch porn during their real sex as a couple really opened the female partner up. I’ve never tried this (and won’t.) If true, perhaps the porn acts as a permission giver. One thing SAD said that I do agree with is that women seem more conscious of context than men.

  11. The Bad Man says:

    Since these people are non-scientists, but rather bloggers relying on anecdotal evidence to support their opinions, just how much of the population is actually affected by this problem that it should be a concern?

    Quite frankly, I think this is all overblown.

    • I hope you are right that porn use is overblown, but the research cited in our above article says that 9 out of 10 college guys use Internet porn. Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use among Emerging Adults (2008) Be aware that the data was collected 4 years ago. I doubt that porn use and availability has since declined.

      This Canadian study with data from 5 years ago shows that one third of boys ages 13 – 14 were heavy porn users. I wonder what the percentages are now with increasing access to high speed connections and free porn.

      One In Three Boys Heavy Porn Users, Study Shows
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070223142813.htm

      QUOTE: “ Ninety per cent of males and 70 per cent of females reported accessing sexually explicit media content at least once. More than one-third of the boys reported viewing pornographic DVDs or videos “too many times to count”, compared to eight per cent of the girls surveyed. “

    • What I think would be interesting is if there was some way to get a real survey (maybe from GMP readers) about how porn viewing affects themselves and their relationship. Seems only a handful of people comment (some louder than others) so it’s hard to judge without more input. I can only speak for myself and from my experiences and I know that this is a big problem, for me and 100’s of others that I know personally. If you frequently use porn and do not have a problem, assuming that you are in a relationship, and know 100’s of others, like you. then we cancel each other out. I know that I did not believe that I had a problem when I was single, and even when I was in a committed relationship, until I tried to stop. That eventually forced me to realize that I couldn’t stop. That is the subject of the brain science, and this is verifiable science by the way.

      • wet_suit_one says:

        Hasn’t really affected me. I’ve got other problems, but not the ones that Gary and Marnia are talking about. So far, it hasn’t really bothered the sweet love. She doesn’t seem to mind and finds my quirks endearing. She would rather some things are otherwise, but due to my openess about my issues and my past, she’s cool with it and we have a rollicking good time between the sheets.

        Yay me!

        And yes, she knows of my past and ongoing porn use.

  12. wet_suit_one says:

    Hmmm…

    Guess this debate has been shut down.

    Oh well.

    It was good while it lasted. The humanity on display was invigorating. Carry on!

  13. It’s true that many things can become an addiction and can make actual human contact less interesting, enjoyable, and desirable.  Porn can become one for men.  The use of sex toys can become one for women. Of course, the latter would never, ever be written about here because it doesn’t criticize men’s behavior.

    • Actually, we have also written about the latter, and we totally agree with you. See “Vibrators and Other Pleasures: When ‘Moderation’ Fails” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201106/vibrators-and-other-pleasures-when-moderation-fails

      The power of superstimuli to dysregulate some people’s brains is not gender-specific. The reason more men are suffering is simply because more of them have been using Internet porn for longer. Women are catching up though. See “Porn Then And Now: Welcome to Brain Training” for more on why Internet porn is unusually stimulating. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201108/porn-then-and-now-welcome-brain-training

      • wet_suit_one says:

        Yeah, but like Eric said, that will never be written about here because it doesn’t criticize men. It’s not that you don’t raise it, it’s that it won’t be talked about here.

        The Wet One

    • Hey Eric M- I can see your point and I’m sure this is true for some women but I would not consider women’s abuse or preference for toys to be at all comparable to mens abuse or preference for porn, at least from my experience in relationships. My partners have only resorted to toys, reluctantly, when they were either not in a relationship or, reluctantly, when we were in a slump (sometimes due to my own porn use).
      In my opinion, males seem to be more willing and able to dissociate from emotional connection (the holding and foreplay aspect of lovemaking) which allows men to be more susceptible to becoming glued to porn, since that is safely isolated from real connection. And, again in my own opinion, women seem to desire the foreplay aspects more than men. Maybe this is deep DNA, socially cultivated bonding drivers or simply my own experiences. And, in reading Marnia’s link to her article above re: vibrators, she writes that both she and her friend noticed that vibrators interfered with making love with their partners and they limited their use of them, to restore sensitivity and the bonding in the relationship. I have not heard of many men who have done the same when noticing that they were more aroused by porn than their partners! In fact, it often seems to go the other way.

      • “I have not heard of many men who have done the same when noticing that they were more aroused by porn than their partners! In fact, it often seems to go the other way.”

        I have.

        But, can you imagine a man who could not orgasm without viewing porn, even having sex with his own wife? What do you think of that scenario? He’s got a serious problem. Agreed?

        That is the exact situation with many women. But, you don’t hear nearly as harsh criticism. Many women report that they can only orgasm with a vibrator, and use them both alone and even with their partners. If you think about it, it’s the very same thing, without the incredibly harsh and judgmental criticism.

        • Meant to say:

          “But, can you imagine a man who could not orgasm without viewing porn, even WHILE having sex with his wife? What do you think of that scenario? He’s got a serious problem. Agreed?

          • Hey Eric- Yeah, agreed. I know a guy who couldn’t have sex with his girlfriend (my friend) without setting up his laptop next to their bed to watch while he tried to have sex with her. That was from even the beginning of their romance. That wasn’t a lasting relationship… This isn’t harsh criticism of the guy but of the severity of problem, just as it would be for a woman in a similar scenario, not a criticism of the woman but of the problem. These ‘problems’ exist for many people in relationships and commenting on the problem isn’t meant to shame any people with them, male or female. Shame is a bigger problem for many people. It seems that what can get damaged in relationships is the overuse or abuse of toys/porn cause it can numb people to their partners. This doesn’t make me want to ban anything or make anyone ‘bad’. It’s just a comment on the social milieu, the sexual zeitgeist.
            What I believe is that often people prefer toys/porn over relationships or the old fashioned roll in the sack. But if there’s no relationship then it’s hard to see any potential problem, cause there’s no obvious conflict to make a problem evident. If that is even partially true, then maybe there’s a huge problem out there that lurks in the shadows? Like millions of people having a virus that hasn’t made them feel sick yet? Sounds like sci-fi.

            • All true. But, imagine if only the use of sex toys was mentioned in that vein but seldom if ever the use of porn. Women would very likely feel singled out for criticism, and argue that men are given a pass.

  14. Bystander says:

    I heard that blogorrhea will be included in the next edition of the DSM. “A compulsive need to spend excessive amounts of time posting irate comments on blogs.” No, honey, I can’t come to bed, someone on the Internet is wrong!!! Becomes a disorder when it interferes with one’s work or social functioning.

  15. Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette says:

    Can someone please tell me why I’m apparently being censured?

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Thaddeus, you have repeatedly engaged in Ad hominem attacks**, which are against our commenting policy. A link to our commenting policy is on the front page of the site, and also here: http://goodmenproject.com/commenting-policy/

      **[“Ad hominem abuse involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to invalidate his argument, but can also involve pointing out factual but ostensible character flaws or actions which are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions.”]

    • The Bad Man says:

      Because you disagree with the ideology of the GMPM.

      • I think that it’s about social etiquette Bad Man- Same as when someone at a huge dinner party talks with a bullhorn at the table, not allowing anyone a shared voice in the discussion because it differs from theirs. Seems GMP is promoting discussion and different voices to be heard in equal time and volume and they only discipline abusers of common courtesy. I read the rules and they seem ok to me, but that’s my opinion…These rules apply to most public blogs and GMP is not declaring there is One truth and obey or you’re out. I really like this forum and read a lot that differs from my interests and perspective, and that’s ok. I don’t need to denounce the entire topic because I think differently, that would be arrogant and disrespectful for others opinions and experiences.

  16. Thanks for your wonderfully informative article, Marnia-
    Most significantly, your work has enabled so many of the men and women addicts I’ve worked with come to terms with/ heal from their sexual addictions because they finally come to understand the workings of their own brains. So many have put off getting help due to being crippled by shame and guilt, which enable negative feedback loops right back into the addiction. Your work helps defuse those stigmas tremendously and allows treatment plans to be implemented without the colossal self-recrimination attendant with the sexual addictions.

    An author who’s helped further my understanding is Dr. Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and researcher at Columbia University and University of Toronto whose book “The Brain That Changes Itself” is filled with empirically sound data. In particular, the chapter “Acquiring Tastes and Loves: What Neuroplasticity Teaches Us About Sexual Attraction and Love” explains how internet porn addiction (and fetishes) can develop and continue even when the porn user takes note of the consequences amassing in his life, and even when he is later repulsed by what he’s looked at.

    Another important book is “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters with Addiction” by Gabor Mate, M.D. In this compassionate view of addiction, the author explores the scientific and psychological causes of addiction, from his work with addicts at Downtown Eastside Vancouver where he works as a physician.
    He locates the source of addictions in the trauma of an emotionally empty childhood, making it a relational rather than a medical problem. As such, his treatment approaches value human connection over the traditional treatments as a cure. Those of us who work with porn/ sexual compulsivity know it to be fundamentally an intimacy disorder so the relational approach to treatment is most helpful here.

    Thank you again for your efforts to help before porn addiction gains traction: in the younger teen years.

    • Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette says:

      It seems to me that it is increasingly the case in American culture that liberty, freedom and empowerment are cast as things which can only be obtained through a priori recognition of oneself as a victim. In this sense, addiction has become a very powerful cultural myth for speaking of a more general malaise created by the conditions of life and labor in the late 21st century.

      By casting the inability to successfully meet the almost unbearable pyschological pressures of late capitalist post-modern society as the product of a biological syndrome of addiction – itself defined, tautologically, as the inability to meet the productive demands of said society – psychological breakdowns are recast as discrete, individual events which have little if any relation to social life.

      By encouraging this shift towards individualization, victimization and the discourse of addiction, mental healthcare professionals protect their own socio-economic niche in a world where human productive labor increasingly has littlereal value, but in which humans are still ulitmately defined as worthy according to their ability to produce.

      We thus find that almost all of the definitions of addiction predicated here revolve around a priori notions of functionality, productive ability and individual dis-ease, which – through quasi-magical thinking interpretations of the poorly understood and bitterly contentious scientific field of neurochemistry – become naturalized into disease.

  17. This sounds all too familiar, unfortunately. I found porn at 10, and I have probably masturbated, on average, 4 to 5 times each and every day since. Always to porn and to some really freaky shit. I was awkward socially before and developed a very embarrassing physical condition that make me even more introverted. As a teenager, I basically spent my entire days sitting at home on the computer playing computer games and jerking off. For a long time, I tried to find a girlfriend, and was asking girls out, trying to flirt, etc, and things never went well for me. I kept feeling more ashamed and depressed about my lack of success that I finally gave up completely.

    I still want a girlfriend desperately, and not just for the sex but for the cuddling, kissing, and love that comes with it. Unfortunately, at 24, I doubt any woman would want to be with a total social failure. It is hard to get out there and try when you have no positive experiences to draw on and you already lack self confidence. I often think that I should probably just spend a few grand and have a long “girlfriend experience” with a hooker and then take my own life.

    • Brains are plastic, which means you can change your habits. It’s not easy, but guys often see (some) improvements very quickly: http://www.reuniting.info/download/pdf/0.BENEFITS.pdf. Visit http://www.yourbrainonporn.com Good luck with your recovery.

    • wet_suit_one says:

      Spend a few grand on several pros. Get on Plenty of Fish, make an awesome profile (they tell you how or at least they used to), go on dates with every woman that will go out with you. Learn everything you can from every experience.

      And after you’ve done all that, then decide if it’s time to die.

      I’m not saying don’t kill yourself, I’m saying don’t kill yourself without giving a honest to goodness good ole college try. Heck, you may even find it’s not worth the hassel and choose to check out. I wouldn’t blame you for it as I’ve oft considered it myself.

      But defintely don’t spend a few grand on one woman. A few grand should be about 10 experiences in my opinion. Of course, the local market will decide.

      The Wet One.

  18. wet_suit_one says:

    Furthermore, Marnia and Gary, I’m not seeing ad hominem attacks by Thaddeus at yourselves. What I’m reading is skepticism about the claims you’re making and sketicism that it is “science.” Which isn’t to say that it isn’t a real possibility, just that it’s not “scientific” enough.

    As well, just because one authority has found internet porn addiction to exist, is this a clinical matter (like my doctor’s view on cannabis use which results in “Cannabis related hyperlethargy”) or a clinical diagnosis with no thorough and sound understanding of the underlying physiological problems, or is it just a handy (from the clinician’s perspective) categorization of a problem that practioners keep on hearing about from their patients?

    I don’t pretend to know, but I think that such diagnoses are made based on clinical evidence or at the very least certainly have been made in the past. Hysteria comes to mind as an example. Is it that there is a real physiological problem or is it a social problem for some that gets medicalized?

    There is reason to be cautious and skeptical of such claims given Western society’s history of such things. Heck, a fine example is the female orgasm problem which pharmaceutical co’s are desperately hoping to “cure” with a pill. We don’t really need to wonder why the pharmaceutical co’s are so interested all of a sudden in women’s orgasm problems, but do we really honestly believe that it’s because they really think and care about this “woman problem?” Others don’t necessarily have such pecuniary motives, and yet still pursue the medicalization of a “problem” for other reasons.

    So as to preserve one’s freedom of action and thought, such claims ought to be viewed skeptically (at least if you want to preserve your freedom of thought and action).

    Thaddeus seems to have that skepticism. Based on the history of society’s blunders in this area in the past, I think that Thaddeus’ skepticism is well placed and prudent.

    But, that’s just how I read things. What the heck do I know? Could be that Thaddeus is just an internet troll casting apsersions on your characters and decency, but I’m not seeing it. I see a spirited debate with plenty of back and forth. Also, as I’ve said above, I see more problems with your “porn addiciton” claims than I saw before due to a more critical examination of those claims than I’ve seen before. It’s been a most worthwhile reading.

    The Wet One

  19. wet_suit_one says:

    Well, we have an excellent debate going on here folks.

    First let me say hi there Gary and Marnia! We’ve chatted on your other website and it’s good to see you here!

    I’ve read Gary and Marnia’s blog before and considered it a much better argument than the usual hand wringing about porn.

    Thaddeus is clearly more sceptical than I, and I am persuaded enough by the arguments presented here that Marnia and Gary’s position has some holes in it. Note, for the record I did not read all the studies and citations presented, but then I was never going to. Also, I was never going to quit watching porn either, but Marnia and Gary’s points did give me pause.

    So far as the science debate goes, I am inclined to agree with Thaddeus. It is inadequate to come to such significant conclusions.

    That said, I do believe that there is a possibility that Marnia and Gary are correct in some or all of their claims. I do not believe that the evidence is there yet to “prove” them. Given the nature and realm of human behaviour that we’re dealing with here and due to the general inability of our society to handle these matters rationally or even maturely for that matter, I’m inclined to err on the side of caution and not buy Gary and Marnia’s claims hook line and sinker (though it’s probably something worth considering in one’s own life and seeing how things go).

    For young lads with nary a sense of themselves and filled with the nonsense spread by the media, the pundits, the idealogues and pornographers (essentially everyone, not all of whom knows what the heck they are talking about), I think that the lads should do it the hard way and figure it out for themselves.

    Even if they initally choose porn over women (and no reflective individual would reject that idea out of hand) I imagine that most of them will ultimately pursue women at a later date when the mating market is more in their favour and less stacked against them (like I did! Heh!).

    For the record, I appreciate Gary and Marnia’s contribution to the porn discussion. It adds an angle that not based on ideas and possibly based on physiology and neural functioning rather than the usual arguments (non of which are persuasive to me). Their ideas, even if unproven, provide a lens through which real harms of porn can be seen other than what we usually see. What we usually see is that it causes women some discomfort without any strong direct link between porn and oppression of women (as it has ever been thus and Playboy has not always been) and the discomfort that porn causes women (to which I say life is hard, deal with it. No man is directly harming you by using porn to get his joliles nor is any teenage boy. If you don’t want men or teenage boys using porn, then you better start getting them sexually involved with age appropriate partners (whatever that is) at about between ages 14 -17 because after that (probably even before that) it’s a lost cause. Porn is simply part of the playing field now and I rather doubt it’s going to go away even with the most heavy handed approach of government.

    Finally, I’d like to say that the censorship here is interesting. I’m also know as The Wet One. Haven’t been able to post all day on this most interesting topic. I wonder why? Have I been blacklisted?

    Anyways…

    Peace, out.

    The Wet One

  20. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    By the way, I’m quite enjoying a book called “Sex at Dawn,” which deals with our likely prehistoric sexuality.

    • Have a look at the review of LSAXON on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/review/R18Q194BCH4T4N It politely and thoroughly dismantles just about every point the book attempted to make.

      • Henry Vandenburgh says:

        Those are indeed interesting reviews. As I read SAD, I was fairly aware that the sexuality portrayed is not the sexuality we have now, or perhaps should have. But I thought it was probably the repression implicit in more complicated social structure that conditioned us away from it. So, I thought it was more of a social Freudianism that changed us. It’s interesting that Saxon also disputes the basic premises of SAD.

  21. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    I’ll say this. I have spoken with men who stayed up all night (even one on the job) masturbating to internet porn. Since he sought treatment for this, he used the AA-type definition of addiction: it was a problem for him that he seemed powerless over. I know little about my student’s sexuality. I have the instinct that it’s more “surface” than ours (1960s) was. Viz: the tattoos, hard attitudes, etc. I’m persuaded by the idea of dopamine circuits mirroring addiction. But to treat addiction, you don’t have to even go there. Can addiction be a construct used by moral entrepreneurs to “profit?” Sure.

    One’s sexuality seems so idiosyncratic. Most of my own fantasies were about the grown up women in my neighborhood when I was a teen. Strange, because I’ve only gone out with one woman older than I. I lost my virginity to a prostitute in Korea in 1964. I had trouble finishing because the sensation was subtler than masturbation, but I adapted quickly.

    I’m pretty happy that porn wasn’t ubiquitous when I was an adolescent. I’ve enjoyed it occasionally as an adult. I actually like the “deviant” aspects– like group sex– which I can’t actualize in my own life.

    I have a PhD in sociology, and an AS degree in psychiatric nursing. I hold a CA psych tech license. I don’t think that there are a whole lot of real experts in this area. I think M&G are correct on the addiction aspects (although I don’t agree with them on monogamy,) and I agree with Thad about the dangers of moral entrepreneurs. Sorry this is meally mouthed.

  22. As Garnia has now claimed at least three times that I haven’t addressed the substance of their article (when in fact I’ve not only addressed it, I’ve stamped and mailed the sucker and evn put it through customs already), let me make my point clearly once again (sorry that this is a repeat):

    1) There is no good or conclusive evidence that internet porn (which Garnia has never defined, by the way) works on the brain in any manner different from other sorts of porn. Very few studies have been done about this and the ones that have have very low numbers of subjects, no random selection of subjects and often display HUGE assumptions (just one instance: why should we assume that different structures in pedophiles’ brains were caused by pedophilia and not by, say, the experience of being locked in a featureless box for months or years on end? Or by the experience of socially inculcated guilt?)

    2) Addiction, as defined by the ASAM, contradicts DSM-V on several points and is also functionally indistinguishable from several non-adictive but socially stigmatized behaviors (as a couple of Garnia’s cited authors point out).

    3) We do not have good data that anything fundamental is changing in young male sexuality. Self-reporting is a very bad tool for this sort of thing as people will report whatever’s foremost in their minds. In a world where Viagra ads run during the Superbowl, I think it’s safe to say that young men will be reporting “erectile problems” at a much higher level than ever before simply because they PERCEIVE them more. That hypothesis has to be discarded before we can say anything about a presumptive link between increased porn and increased ED.

    4) Given the points above, Garnia’s claim that a “perfect storm” is brewing in adolescent male sexuality seems to me to be a classic example of moral entrepeneurialship on Garnia’s part, perhaps brought about by a mid-life career crisis.

    • To Thad,
      It’s a radical claim to say that porn addiction does *not* exist, when ASAM states that sexual behavior addictions exist. You still cite no research to refute ASAM’s new definition of addiction. It’s also arrogant to claim that the people who self-identify as having a porn addiction are lying. What special knowledge allows you do that? What are your qualifications or magical powers that allow you see into millions of lives and brains to determine whether someone is addicted or not?

      #1) These 2 articles (from our article) explain how Internet porn is different that porn of the past such as magazines and rentals: Porn Then and Now: Welcome to Brain Training http://yourbrainonporn.com/porn-then-and-now-welcome-to-brain-training Porn, Novelty and the Coolidge Effect http://yourbrainonporn.com/porn-novelty-and-the-coolidge-effect

      You will find links to research within the articles. What makes Internet porn different is how the medium is used, and how that can keep dopamine levels spike for hours on end, like playing video games (Brain research has proven excessive video game use cause all the markers of addiction).
      Novelty drives dopamine. If interest or erections (dopamine) start to wane, the user switches to a new scene, or different genre of porn. Most men report multiple windows and scanning through hundreds of scenes before they hit the right one for orgasm. This type of stimulation cannot be matched by a single DVD, or a once a month Playboy.

      Dopamine is also kept elevated by seeking, searching, and bumping into anything that shocks or surprises all characteristics of Internet porn use. Comparing magazines to high-speed, multiple window, constantly changing genres/porn stars, all in one session – is like comparing playing checkers to World of Warcraft. The internet is a different animal, which is backed by studies (already cited) showing that 15-20% of young people have Internet addiction (Taiwan, China, Korea, Hungary).
      The question we are asking is – What happens kids start Internet porn use at the same time, or before they start masturbating?

      It’s true that no brain scans have been done on those indentified as solely porn addicts, but brain scans have been done on young people with Internet addiction. See our article with multiple peer-reviewed studies: Ominous News for Porn Users: Internet Addiction Atrophies Brains http://yourbrainonporn.com/ominous-news-for-porn-users-internet-addiction-atrophies-brains

      As far as your concern about labeling, or determining addiction versus “normal use”, ASAM has addressed this. The activity neutral set of criteria proposed by ASAM eliminates the need to define what porn is, or how much porn use, constitutes an addiction. You will be happy to know that ASAM’s definition of addiction is not based on any rigid set of behaviors, such as 1.5 hours of porn viewing per day equals an addiction, but one hour doesn’t. The brain doesn’t work that way and neither does ASAM’s definition.

      ASAM quote:
      Although some believe that the difference between those who have addiction, and those who do not, is the quantity or frequency of alcohol/drug use, engagement in addictive behaviors (such as gambling or spending) (3), or exposure to other external rewards (such as food or sex), a characteristic aspect of addiction is the qualitative way in which the individual responds to such exposures, stressors and environmental cues. A particularly pathological aspect of the way that persons with addiction pursue substance use or external rewards is that preoccupation with, obsession with and/or pursuit of rewards (e.g., alcohol and other drug use) persist despite the accumulation of adverse consequences. These manifestations can occur compulsively or impulsively, as a reflection of impaired control.

      That is one reason why ASAM emphasized that addiction-related behaviors, such as: inability to stop use, tolerance and escalation, withdrawal symptoms when use is curtailed, continued use despite negative consequences, all point to the same addiction related changes that occur in the brains of all addicts.

      #2) The DSM is a political document, also used for insurance reimbursement, and may have little to do with reality. The DSM authors are the same folks who called homosexuality a mental disorder. Are they who you trust? Politics and opinions change with the wind, but hard science continues to march on. ASAM used years of accumulated evidence from hard science to arrive at their conclusions.

      ASAM uses diagnostic criteria to diagnose addictions. We have already posted them. As stated, when these behaviors are present, they indicate corresponding brain changes. Take your concerns up with ASAM.

      #3) Wrong again. There are thousands of young, healthy men who have trouble achieving normal erections, even when masturbating and using porn. In fact, a survey by the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine (SIAMS) confirmed porn-induced erectile dysfunction in young men. Italian urologists commissioned this survey when men in their early twenties arrived at urology clinics with unexplained ED. Upon questioning, doctors identified one common variable: heavy porn use starting in their teens. When that one variable was removed these young men slowly regained erectile function and libido.

      Italian men suffer ‘sexual anorexia’ after Internet porn use
      http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2011/02/24/visualizza_new.html_1583160579.html

      Scientists: Too Much Internet Porn May Cause Impotence
      http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/02/25/scientists-internet-porn-cause-impotence/

      The key word is “variable”.

      My website (www.yourbrainonporn) links back to hundreds of forums and websites, in about 25 different countries. Only 5-6 of these links have anything to do with porn recovery. The rest are places that men gather and post, such as: pick-up sites, sports sites, cars, current events, exercise, bodybuilding, you name it. In addition to the many visitors to our sites, I have read thousands of threads, some with hundreds of posts, discussing unexplained symptoms in young healthy men using today’s porn. These young men (ages 15 -35) have nothing in common other than years of heavy porn use and increasing sexual dysfunction. When that one and only one variable was removed, they eventually regained erectile health. All experienced withdrawal symptoms when they stopped porn, and nearly all experienced similar time frame in healing.

      No other hypothesis is needed when changing a single variable (porn use) resulted in a change in condition (no more ED) for all subjects.

      Please read the following posts to get a reality check that “the perfect storm” has already made landfall for these young men:

      Thread (300 hundreds posts, and growing)
      Ask a recovering porn addict anything. (SRS)
      http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=137504963

      Too much porn/masturbation cause ED (almost 950 posts, and growing)
      http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Mens-Health/Too-much-porn-masturbation-cause-ED/show/183203

      22 with porn induced erectile dysfunction? (almost 320 posts, and growing)
      http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Mens-Health/22-with-porn-induced-erectile-dysfunction/show/469209?page=1

      It’s clear that you find it upsetting that sexual behavior can cause addiction-related brain changes. But no matter how insulting your rhetoric, you won’t be able to change this fact. The evidence is only growing stronger. If the proper research had been done while control groups were available, the truth would already be common knowledge by now. Really get it that the research you are insisting upon has not, and cannot now be done. As a culture we have two choices: either ignore all other evidence (your approach), or endeavor to steer by what is available (our approach). Readers are free to take their pick. That’s what blogs are all about.

      • To Thaddues:
        The part you cannot grasp is that behaviors and symptoms correlate with specific physical changes. It’s called medicine, thad.

        Since you refuse to follow the links, or read ASAM’s new definition, which throughly explains this concept, I’ll provide recent brain research on Internet addiction, including excerpts.

        A short sentence describes what each study means. As stated, the 3 characteristics of addiction recognized by NIDA and ASAM are sensitization, desensitization, and an inhibited frontal cortex (hypofrontality).
        ——————————
        Enhanced Reward Sensitivity and Decreased Loss Sensitivity in Internet Addicts: An fMRI Study During a Guessing Task.
        As the world’s fastest growing “addiction”, Internet addiction should be studied to unravel the potential heterogeneity. The results suggested that Internet addicts have enhanced reward sensitivity and decreased loss sensitivity than normal comparisons.

        Those with internet addiction have both sensitization and desensitization.
        —————————————————
        Confirmation of the Three Factor Model of Problematic Internet Use on Off Line Adolescent and Adult Samples. (2011)
        As the Internet became widely used, problems associated with its excessive use became increasingly apparent. Although for the assessment of these problems several models and related questionnaires have been elaborated, there has been little effort made to confirm them. Using latent profile analysis, we identified 11 percent of adults and 18 percent of adolescent users characterized by problematic use

        Study found problematic Internet porn use in 18% of adolescents…in a sample that was more than half girls! What would it have been had the sample been all male?
        ——————————————————————-
        Reduced striatal dopamine D2 receptors in people with Internet addiction.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21499141
        An increasing amount of research has suggested that Internet addiction is associated with abnormalities in the dopaminergic brain system.Consistent with our prediction, individuals with Internet addiction showed reduced levels of dopamine D2 receptor availability in subdivisions of the striatum including the bilateral dorsal caudate and right putamen. This finding contributes to the understanding of neurobiological mechanism of Internet addiction.

        This means desensitization caused by excessive Internet use.
        —————————————————-
        Changes in Cue-Induced, Prefrontal Cortex Activity with Video-Game Play
        http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2009.0327
        Brain responses, particularly within the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices, to Internet video-game cues in college students are similar to those observed in patients with substance dependence in response to the substance-related cues. These changes in frontal-lobe activity with extended video-game play may be similar to those observed during the early stages of addiction.

        This means sensitization of addiction pathways.
        —————————————————————–

        Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder
        http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020708
        Recent studies suggest that internet addiction disorder (IAD) is associated with structural abnormalities in brain gray matter. However, few studies have investigated the effects of internet addiction on the microstructural integrity of major neuronal fiber pathways, and almost no studies have assessed the microstructural changes with the duration of internet addiction.

        This mean hypofrontality or a decrease in frontal cortex volume and functioning.
        ———————————————–
        Male Internet Addicts Show Impaired Executive Control Ability Evidence From A Color-Word: Stroop Task.
        Both of the behavioral performance and ERP results indicate that people with IAD show impaired executive control ability than the normal group.

        This means decreased functioning of frontal cortex.
        ———————————————-

        Feel free to
        1) Cite papers saying that behavioral addictions do NOT cause desensitization, sensitization, and hypofrontality, which are the hallmarks of drug addictions as well.
        2) Explain how watching Internet porn (hundreds of scenes per session) for hour’s every day, from the age 12 to 24, would not have an effect at least equal to video game addiction.
        3) Defend your position with more than an opinion

  23. Bronstein says:

    They know a hell of a lot more than your average psych. P screws with your brain, relationships and life. End of.

  24. Excellent article. I’m 25, and was exposed to porn in my early teens, although I didn’t get into heavy it until my late teens. I believe that the early exposure made me want to seek it out when I was living on my own, which then led to a porn addiction. Little did I know it was a porn addiction until I discovered some articles by Gary and Marnia. I wish I had read this as a teen. But I’m glad that today’s adolescents may by chance stumble upon this info. Kudos to Gary and Marnia.

  25. Let’s get one thing straight about ad hominems, folks…

    An ad hominem attack ignores the logic of what a person says for an attack on their character.

    When a person has set themselves up as a self-described expert in a very complex field and routinely writes books and articles about said field, making alarmist claims that are not supported by the data she cites, then her credentials SHOULD be called into question. ESPECIALLY if her repeated response to any critique is “You don’t know as much as I do about addiction so go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned more”.

    To question such a person’s expertise is not an ad hominem: it’s simple common sense.

    Marnia is an ex-corporate lawyer, trying to create a wave of moral panic which she can then surf as an “expert” – for pay, of course. Her husband is a nursing student.

    These folks aren’t experts in their chosen topic, y’all: they’re snake oil salesmen.

    • Sorry Thad, we work for free, and Gary has taught in various places, including the local university.

      Due to a fluke of search engine fate, we have been listening to the woes of guys struggling to recover from Internet porn addiction since highspeed became universal, half a dozen years ago. Since founding http://www.yourbrainonporn.com we’ve also been listening to men on hundreds of other sites in 25 different countries struggling with the same issues.

      What they’ve all been learning is so important that we share it in our blogs. We don’t claim to be experts, just journalists with a solid understanding of the recent neuroscience that can help porn addicts understand what they’re dealing with.

      Our impression is that you can’t address the substance of our post, so you’re choosing to attack us for some reason. Do you believe porn addiction doesn’t exist? Are you confident that kids are not at risk? What is your agenda here?

      • I very much doubt that you “work for free”,. You are paid in prestige, if not coin and your book and columns should at least garnish you some speaking engagements, travel ventures and etc. No intellectual “works for free”, even if they don’t have a fixed salary, so please save that crap for people who think a 9-5 job is the epitome of labor.

        As for Gary’s labor in a local university: whiuch school would that be and why isn’t he teaching there now if, aside from being a kick-ass professional in the field he’s been trained in, he’s also an autodidact when it comes to neuroscience?

        Its nice that you’re listening to people. What I am questioning is your training and consequent ability to analyze such testimony and transform it into scientifically significant data in the field you claim expertise in: neuroscience.

        Just from your responses here, I think it’s safe to say you’ve had exactly zero training in the history and sociology of sexuality. Zero or next to zero training in ethnographic data collection and analysis. Zero or next to zero training in recovering and analyziung case histories, life histories, oral histories…

        In short, your “work” is about as scientific and systematic as my banging around on my houses pipes and calling it “plumbing” would be.

        “We don’t claim to be experts, just journalists…”

        But, apparently, “journalists” with no training in that field and no ethical commitment to competently and correctly reporting the science you are supposedly writing about.

        My agenda, as you put it, is to root radical claims about human sexuality in evidence. A LOT of evidence. Evidence which has been generated by LARGE studies with DIVERSE respondents and which has given us REPRODUCIBLE data. None of which applies to the bullshit that you people have claimed above.

        You are not reporting science: you are freely theoretizing about politically touchy (and therefore potentially lucrative) topics based on a handful of very iffy and so far unreproducible studies – studies whose very authors caution about, cautions which you blithely ignore.

        You’re not scientists: you’re snakeoil salemen engaged in performing a self-proclaimed chataqua whose only purpose is to generate a wave or moral panic which you will presumably cash in on.

        My “agenda”, such as it is, is to keep science science and to debunk the pet theories of self-proclaimed experts who want to use the studies of others in order to promote their own socio-political agendas.

        You are free to attack my work in a similar fashion Gary/Marnia, but there’s one very big difference between what I do and what you do: my claims and proofs need to pass peer review in order to get published. As self-taught, self-punlished lawyers-cum-nursing-students-cum-neuroscientists-cum-journalists, you can make up any old thing you want and CALL it science. It’s not like most people can tell the difference, so my prediction is that you’ll have a very lucrative – if necessarily short – career in the snakeoil business.

        Why short?

        Because – as has been the case with every porn panic in the past – when the drastic “perfect storm” claims you make DON’T actually occur and peoples’ sexual business goes on much as before, your work is going to be tossed on the trash-heap of history as one more in a series of examples of how you can pretty much sell anything to Americans as long as you couch it as a sexual threat to their children.

        • The thing is you haven’t attacked our work, only us. You cite absolutely no research to back up any claims. You have also ignored that that the top addiction experts in the US (ASAM) have announced that sexual behavior addictions exist. Just keep ignoring the real experts.
          http://www.asam.org/pdf/Advocacy/20110816_DefofAddiction-FAQs.pdf

          You have ignored that the Head of NIDA, Nora Volkow, has stated that porn addiction exists. You run away from my previous post which contains six studies confirming that Internet addiction causes brain changes similar to those found in drug addicts. Most importantly you have yet to refute the basic premise of this article (which is confirmed by research) that adolescents are especially vulnerable to addictive changes.

          Your strongest piece of “evidence” is that the last DSM, which was published in 1994 does not list porn addiction. Oh yeah, this is the same DSM that listed homosexuality as a mental disorder.

          • DSM-III delisted homosexuality and instead had ego-dystonic homosexuality (if you don’t want to be gay). DSM-IV has neither.

        • Thad, we’re not writing for academic journals; we’re bloggers. As bloggers, our job is to share carefully thought out, hopefully interesting, perspectives about topical subjects. In our case, we began doing this in hopes that experts would, in fact, do the necessary research. Since then, we’ve learned why they simply can’t…no control groups, no permission to expose adolescents to hardcore porn, etc.

          We blog as responsibly as we can. Porn use among guys today is a subject we happen to know a lot about…secondhand. More than we ever wanted to know, in fact.

          As researchers can’t do the research that would reveal the phenomena we’re hearing about on many online forums, and since the guys suffering don’t really have a voice…because for some strange reason they aren’t too eager to discuss their porn-related sexual performance problems using their real names…we reluctantly decided to share what they’re going through. Believe me, if we were interested in cashing in or building a reputation, this would not be our choice of fields. *chuckle*

          If you have problems with the science on which we base our conclusions–conclusions shared by addiction experts–you simply haven’t raised them. Maybe you’re the one not qualified to be debating here.

    • Thudious-
      I see that you are an adjunct professor from a school in Brazil. What exactly are your credentials that entitle you to assert such denial and skepticism, without any ‘science’ to support it, and in direct denial of addiction specialists with advanced credentials that are actually in the field of this discussion? If this is how you wrote your thesis and how you show respect to other professionals then I would question the merit of your education, as well as denounce your opinion. Is that the definition of ad hominem or is that merely a question of validation?

  26. Thaddeus,

    You still don’t understand the basics: all addictions arise from the same fundamental brain changes. You’re also ignoring the elephant in the room. Addiction researchers and medical doctors at ASAM and NIDA *have already determined* that sexual behavior addictions exist. They did so because *all* addictions have such a similar signature as a matter of brain science. The behaviors, signs and symptoms that accompany addiction signify that physiological, measurable brain changes have occurred. As we’ve said, the brain research on porn addicts may never be done due to the absence of suitable control groups.

    Back to your critique of this one section:
    First: The section uou cherry picked is just one of 22 sections of research on our site. Only 17 studies and articles out of several hundred studies

    Second: In addiction to the 22 sections you ignored, 100’s of cited studies are scattered amongst the hundreds of pages and articles you chose to ignore

    Third: most of the research we cite in our articles (as we did in the above article) is off site. Our website contains only a handful of the thousands of papers covering relevant addiction research.

    Fourth: We have only used a few of the 17 studies in this section. Like ASAM, we rely on hundreds of studies related to behavioral addictions.

    Fifth, and most important: We’d venture to say that ASAM and NIDA didn’t rely on the research you’ve addressed above in drawing their conclusions about sexual behavior addictions. ASAM relied on thousands of studies over thirty years of brain research pointing to the exact same physiological changes in behavioral addiction as are found in drug and alcohol addiction.

    You can keep fighting this battle by choosing straw men and carping away, but the war is over. Those who know the most about addiction have already determined sexual addictions are real. Note that sex is mentioned 10 times in ASAM’s new definition and FAQ’s – more than all addictive drugs combined. Gary and Marnia didn’t decide this. We’re just helping others to realize that porn, while not “evil,” is also not harmless for some users—and that adolescents appear to be particularly at risk due to extra brain plasticity.

    1. Feel free to discuss the substance of our article, which is about adolescent-brain vulnerability. (None of your critiqued studies are cited in this article)
    2. Address the research we actually cite in our articles
    3. If you disagree with the experts (American Society for Addiction Medicine), please provide the research you’re relying on.

    The following three links cover the ASAM defintion of addiction:
    The Definition of Addiction by ASAM –
    http://www.asam.org/DefinitionofAddiction-LongVersion.html

    Definition of Addiction: Frequently Asked Questions
    http://www.asam.org/pdf/Advocacy/20110816_DefofAddiction-FAQs.pdf

    ASAM Press Release
    http://www.asam.org/pdf/Advocacy/PressReleases/20110815_DefofAddiction-PR.pdf

    PS – I find it ironic that you scream for peer-reviewed research, and scream for “science”, but ignore both. We provide resarch for this article, and for the articles with embedded links. In essence each article leads to another, totaling about fifty, all backed by solid research.

    More importantly, you ignore ASAM’s definition, which depended upon thousands of peer-reviewed studies.

    The ironic part is that you would not be allowed to peer review any research studies published by ASAM members.

  27. Here is a good cognitive neuroscience article in Discovery comparing ACC versus amygdala of liberal versus conservative people. It may help explain some of the discussions on this thread.

    blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/09/07/your-brain-on-politics-the-cognitive-neuroscience-of-liberals-and-conservatives/

    Secondly, assuming all this to be indeed true, I suggest we tackle the much more prevalent and addictive interaction with violence (video games, television, religion etc), for frequency wise, I’m quite certain it dwarfs any and all teen use compared to the watching of pornography.

    Lastly, it is claimed that the addictive nature of rock and roll, shaped all boomer brains into behaving and acting like Mick Jagger. I know my own parents do involuntary displays of the chicken dance without much relief or satisfaction. My more immediate worry centers around the addictive mixing of video game violence with Justin Bieber music. The devil spawn from that union terrifies the crap out of me.

    • Could you be a bit more specific? Who’s conservative? Certainly not us. We run a science-based website. We’re not religious, not trying to ban porn, and in favor of free speech. We just also happen to be in favor of better education about the brain and the effects of superstimuli.

      Keep in mind that the reward circuitry of the brain evolved to drive sex. This drive is being hijacked by today’s porn. The purpose of adolescence is to propel us toward mating…not to look for Mick Jagger or Justin Bieber. 100% of all humans enjoy sexual feelings, but, sadly, only a small percentage enjoy the Stones.

      • According to your bios, you have very sepcific ideas regarding what is good sex and whaty is bad sex. I’d call that an ideological point of view.

        I would also suggest that you read more widely into human evolutionary history. Sex, for us, has never been a simple drive. We a re a very unusual species, sexually speaking. Sex has been wired into our basic structures of sociability for at least 250,000 years and when that occurred, it stopped being simply, directly, about reproduction, folks.

        Steven Hawkins isn’t going to pass on his genes (at least not in the normal sense). Nevertheless, his theories and work have given us, as a species, a tremendous evolutionary advantage (that we still need to cash in on, admittedly). Once we became symbol-wielding, social animals, we became super-organic. Your attempt to define sex as a purely biological urge in humans is as sterile as an attempt to create life by combining the proper elements in a pot.

        • THAD: Once we became symbol-wielding, social animals, we became super-organic.

          We became “super-organic”?? What does that mean? Are you saying that humans no longer follow the rules of biology or evolution or chemistry? Talk about needing research to back up a claim. This will be news to everyone engaged in the hard sciences

          THAD: Your attempt to define sex as a purely biological urge in humans is as sterile as an attempt to create life by combining the proper elements in a pot.

          I can’t really follow this, but no biologist would agree. Sex is a biological urge. One can do something as simple as block dopamine in the brain, and all sexual urges completely disappear. That’s biological.

      • Also, regarding “conservativism”: you apparently believe that the changes in behavior now occurring due to new technologies are negative and that things in the past were measureably better.

        Can’t get much closer to a dictionary definition of “conservative” than that, folks.

  28. Actually, That Guy’s putative Mormon Leather Queen gives us an excellent example of why a lot of this “sexual addiction” research is complete pants.

    Let’s say we have John, a young man who grew up a devout Mormon but who, as he got older and for whatever reason, discovered he had an unquenchable sexual desire for Jane, his lovely next door neighbor. They get married and pump out a passle of little Mormons, humping away like two happy bunnies.

    Sexual addiction? Hell no! It’s socially approved and they’re happy so it’s just good old fashioned “good sex” as Dr. Ruth would call it.

    Now let’s say that John and Jane have a son, Bob, who as he grows older discovers that he has an unquenchable sexual desire for leather-dressed biker dudes in high-heels with 16 inch cocks. He knows that his family and religion strongly disapprove of this, so he hides it as much as he can. The internet is there to bring him some relief, however, and like many 15 year old boys, he spends a lot of time in masturbating to the porn he pulls up on it. He’s miserable, because he knows he’s a sinner and is going to hell. He thus constructs a defense in which he’s “not responsible” for this activity he knows is socially condemned. He’s “driven” to sin.

    One day, Bob’s momma Jane finds the Tom of Finland folder on Bob’s harddrive. The jigs up. She takes her son to a psychiatrist who’s read the ASAM’s new definition of “addiction” and maybe our pal Marnia’s new book on internet pr0n. Bob is miserable and admits his situation to the psychiatrist. Self-reporting, right? His sexuality is causing problems, right?

    Hey presto! A new sex addict is born!

    The shrink is not going to judge Bob a victim of “Invisible Friend in the Sky Disorder” for being a Mormon, nor is he going to going to judge John and Jane victims of “Hypersexual Disorder” because they’re HAPPY and SOCIALLY PRODUCTIVE even if they do f@#k like bonobos in heat. Nor is he going to diagnose the whole family as victims of “hypocritical sexual values disorder” because hey, they’re Mormons and that’s what Mormons do, right?

    So little Bobby gets the short end of a very shitty stick and is gets medded to a fare-thee-well. After enough anti-depressants and dopamine inhibitors are pumped into him, why he’ll even be able to proudly say that he’s “conquered his obsession” and now “controls it”. Of course, he doesn’t get much of a hard on for anything at all, now, but the important thing is that he’s no longer a “sexual addict”.

    Doesn’t this picture give anyone here the creeps? Because this “self-reporting” crap, when combined with the elastic definitions of “problems” that Marnia espouses means that pretty near any sexually different adolescent (especially if they are male) is going to get slapped with the stigma of being a sex addict. This is why #19, above, is so insistent on keeping the rules for defining “sexual addiction or compulsion” so strict. Marnia, however, would have see incipent sexual addiction every time a little boy squirts out a load to an up-the-skirt shit of Lady Gaga. Furthermore, many of the psychiatrists she most often cites are just itching to medicate that little boy into normality. All in the name of science, of course.

    Tell me people, is this the world you really want your sons to live in?

    • For once, we partially agree with you Thaddeus. The thought that doctors will feel justified in resorting to addiction meds to address the brain changes caused by today’s hyperstimulating porn makes us cringe, too. Psychotropic meds are alarmingly dull hammers, with lots of side-effects.

      That said, there’s no point in running from the fact that supranormal stimuli have the power to cause dysregulation in some brains. Only when we educate ourselves, parents and kids about the science of brain plasticity, the risks of superstimuli, and the signs that overstimulation is causing brain changes, will we be able to chart our own course by managing our own behavior. This, not medication, is the way to go.

      Addiction has nothing to do with sexual orientation, so as Danny (above) would say: No points for that straw man.

      • The studies you cite are a long way from proving that “supranormal stimuli” exist, let alone proving that it “causes deregulation in the brain”.

        Again, you are making fantastic claims based on very spotty, incomplete and in some cases highly questionable data. Worse, you are using public forums such as this magazine and Psychology Today to air these claims which you feel – based upon your inner intuition, apparently, because nothing in neuroscience out there shows this as yet – that a “perfect storm” is brewing.

        This is a great deal for Gary and Marnia – who is apparently trying to rebrand herself as a autodidact neuroscientist after a failed career in corporate law – but have you ever stopped to consider JUST ONCE what the likely effects of all this alarmist, pseudoscientific bullshit you’re spreading are going to be on kids?

        Do you even care, Marnia/Gary? Does it even occur to you that there’s a good, ethical reason WHY DSM-V sets 18 as an age limit for their diagnosis of “hypersexual disorder”?

        Because if you’d taken time from your busy self-improvement and self-promotional schedules to actually READ the history and sociology of human sexuality, the very first thing you’d be forced to conclude is that alarmist bullshit about adolescents and sex almost always results in increased and generally violent enforced discipline over adolescents.

        You claim that “psychotropic meds are alarmingly dull hammers”, but your half-baked theories on the effects of internet porn are going to give every single unethical adolescent psych professional out there wagons of really big hammers to play with. And if there’s one thing the history of the past 50 years of “tough love” and “scared straight” and “meds for kids” should show you is that your brand of alarmist crap ALWAYS gets turned into a justification to crack down on kids. American adults LOVE to abuse authority when it comes to adolescents and you’re giving them a cracking good excuse to engage in the kind of dominance games they enjoy.

        You two are playing with fire on very big scale and you apparently don’t seem to give one flying f#$k.

        • THADDEUS: “The studies you cite are a long way from proving that “supranormal stimuli” exist, let alone proving that it “causes deregulation in the brain”.

          This quote alone demonstrates your ignorance about current state of addiction research. Junk food, Internent porn are just a few examples of artificial enhanced stimuli we never encountered in our evolution.

          Supernormal Stimuli http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernormal_Stimuli

          Perhaps you may want to read this recent book by Deirdre Barrett Phd:
          Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose
          http://books.wwnorton.com/books/978-0-393-06848-1/

          A short synopsis:
          “Our instincts-for food, sex, or territorial protection- evolved for life on the savannahs 10,000 years ago, not in today’s world of densely populated cities, technological innovations, and pollution. We now have access to a glut of larger-than-life objects, from candy to pornography to atomic weapons-that gratify these gut instincts with often-dangerous results. Animal biologists coined the term “supernormal stimuli” to describe imitations that appeal to primitive instincts and exert a stronger pull than real things, such as soccer balls that geese prefer over eggs. Evolutionary psychologist Deirdre Barrett applies this concept to the alarming disconnect between human instinct and our created environment, demonstrating how supernormal stimuli are a major cause of today’s most pressing problems, including obesity and war.”

          I also suggest reading this great book covering the mismatch between our hunter-gatherer stimuli and modern stimuli.
          Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food: Taming Our Primal Instincts
          http://www.meangenes.org/reviews/index.html

          Our following articles (with citations) explain the supernormal concept as it applies to modern food and Internet porn. Multiple experiments and research show that excessive consumption of junk food alters the reward circuitries of animal and human brains (follow the links in the articles to the supporting studies).

          Intoxicating Behaviors: 300 Vaginas = A Lot of Dopamine
          http://yourbrainonporn.com/intoxicating-behaviors-300-vaginas-a-lot-of-dopamine

          Protect Your Appetite for Pleasure
          http://yourbrainonporn.com/protect-your-appetite-for-pleasure

          Has Evolution Trained Our Brains to Gorge on Food and Sex?
          http://yourbrainonporn.com/has-evolution-trained-our-brains-to-gorge-on-food-and-sex

      • As for addiction having nothing to do with sexual orientation, read what I wrote again: how can it NOT have something to do with sexual orientation if your parameters for addiction are “self-reporting” and “dysfunctional relationships with others”?

        Practically every gay friend I’ve ever had felt guilty and depressed as hell about being gay and had HUGE dysfucntional relationships with their parents because of their sexuality?

        How does that NOT become “sexual addiction” based on that definition of yours? It fits every item on that ABCDE list you like to quote from, as it were the rosary.

        Please give me an honest answer here.

  29. This debate is great. We were just learning about all this in my philosophy class. This is like a kung fu movie with bad arguments instead of weapons. Or a pokemon card game with fallacies.

    “I make your argument a straw man and burn it.”
    “I see your straw man and raise you an ad hominem.”
    “Oh yeah? I counter your ad hominem with sarcasm.”
    “Fine, I’m wielding my authority.”
    “My authority’s bigger.”
    “Too bad, because an appeal to authority is useless.”
    “Doesn’t matter, I have you trapped in a false dichotomy.”
    “Maybe you have me trapped in a false dichotomy, maybe you don’t”
    “That’s just begging the question.”

  30. wellokaythen says:

    I’ve come across this body of work before, on GMP and elsewhere. At first I was completely skeptical, even defensive about it. (“No! Don’t take my porn away!”) I admit I was a little obnoxious about it, they met my obnoxiousness with sarcastic scorn, I reciprocated with passive aggression, egotistically comparing myself to Galileo, and it went from there. Not my proudest moment. Since then, my view has mellowed somewhat and I have come to see some merit to what they are saying, at least as the start of a conversation.

    In their favor:
    I feel comfortable saying maybe they’re onto something. There are some early, suggestive, small-scale studies with some interesting evidence that could begin to support their hypothesis about the distinct nature of habitual online porn use and its impact on brain chemistry. Some early indications, some possibly significant correlations that could be used to make more general claims. I find it a sensible hypothesis that 6 hours of internet porn would have a bigger impact on one’s mental state than a few minutes with a magazine.

    I don’t think it matters what their scientific background is, if what they are reporting is true and the studies are done using good scientific method. (I say IF.) By the same token, they don’t get to dismiss my critique of their logic because I don’t have a science degree. If the debate is not ad hominem, and if the results are truly reproducible, and if the logical argument really does flow logically, then it makes no difference who is doing the talking. That’s why scientific articles use the passive voice so much – “the mice were injected,” etc. – it shouldn’t matter who conducted the experiment if the results are reproducible.

    However:
    I’m just a little skeptical about making big generalizations yet. I think the appeal to “conclusive scientific proof” is a little premature. I’m not a scientist, but I know enough of them to know that they are usually very cautious about using the word “proof.” They tend to talk about “from what we can tell at the moment” and “best explanation we have is….” It’s safer ground, more objectively debatable ground, to talk about good evidence, clear correlations, statistically significant differences, etc. Otherwise it comes across as a statement of orthodoxy, not an invitation for analysis. Orthodoxy tends to treat any disagreement as evidence of ignorance, generally suggesting that “if you just read all the things I’ve read you will agree with me completely.”

    I think the appeal to the authority of the larger psychiatric profession is useful but comes across as a little too forced. I share Thaddeus’ ingrained skepticism about the DSM’s and the profession’s history of evaluating human sexuality. I am reminded of the 1950’s psychiatrists who warned about the danger of comic books turning boys into gay sadists and turning girls into castrating lesbians. That’s a broad brush for me to use in this case, but if the appeal is to trust in the words of the profession, I feel the need to put its track record in the balance.

    • “By the same token, they don’t get to dismiss my critique of their logic because I don’t have a science degree.”

      Really, now?

      Well that’s interesting as hell, because I’ll lay dollars to donuts that Marnia would be the first person to criticize me if I tried to defend a case in court.

      If you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about and you’re making spurrious claims based on a few marginal scientific papers which you interpret poorly, your creds SHOULD be called into question, just as if you were a “plumber” who tried to construct a sewer system out of scotch tape and drinking straws.

      • Hey Thaddy,
        You keep saying Marnia. However, I’m the co-author, and run http://www.yourbrainonporn.com.
        I have been teaching physiology, anatomy and pathology for twenty years, and carefully following the neurosceince of addiction.

        • Teaching WHERE, Gary? You’re a nursing student, according to your blog. My mom taught art for 35 years in the public school system. That doesn’t make her an expert on the neurosthetic aspects of color appeciation.

          As for you “carefully following” the neuroscience of addiction, if that’s the case, why do you make so many piss-poor claims about the studies linked on your site? You make RADICAL claims based on evidence which is considered spotty and very incomplete by the authors of the studies themselves.

          So one of two things, Gary: either you’re setting yourself up as a better and more informed expert on the neuroscience of addiction than the scientists whose work you cite, or you’re a bullshit artist extraordinaire.

          Which is it, Gary?

          • Gee, Thad now you are attacking your own mom with ad hominen BS.

            You have yet to take on any study we cited in this article, or our five articles we have linked to.

            Nora Volkow, who is the head of the NIDA, recognizes porn as an addiction. ASAM recognizes sexual behaviors as addiction. All your screeching doesn’t change that fact that the debate is over, the fat lady has sung, and top addiction researchers and medical doctors have spoken.

            Incidentally, we were saying very similar things before the ASAM statement was released, so it was heartening that the experts were analyzing the science in the same way and reaching the same conclusions. So yes, we do think we know a fair amount about this area for lay people, and we feel well qualified to blog on it.

            You are on the piss-poor side of the fence in this debate. Where’s your peer-review research refuting ASAM?

            • Gee, Gary, claiming that looking at sexual pictures on the internet overstimulates the brain and causes physical changes which are EXACTLY the same as crack or meth addiction, based on a study of 18 pedophiles in jail in Germany isn’t a claim most scientists would like to sustain.

              But this is precisely the largest bit of scientific proof you cite for your theory.

              That’s a radical claim Gary. mFrom a scientific viewpoint, it’s a piss-poor claim.

              You are jumping to HUGE conclusions based on hardly any evidence at all. What almost every scientist you cite says is “We need to do much, much more research before we can really say anything.”

              Gary and Marnia, on the other hand, think everything that needs to be said already has been said.

              That’s radical and piss-poor thinking.

              Furhtermore, I HAVE taken on the substance of your post, repeatedly. But let’s make it crystal clear here for the hard of thinking:

              1) There is no good or conclusive evidence that internet porn (which you have never defined, by the way) works on the brain in any manner different from other sorts of porn. Very few studies have been done about this and the ones that have have very low numbers of subjects, no random selection od subjects and often display HUGE assumptions (just one instance: why should we assume that different structures in pedophiles’ brains were caused by pedophilia and not by, say, the experience of being locked in a featureless box for months or years on end? Or by the experience of socially inculcated guilt?)

              2) Addiction, as defined by the ASAM, contradicts DSM-V on several points and is also functionally indistinguishable from several non-adictive but socially stigmatized behaviors (as a couple of your authors point out).

              3) We do not have good data that anything fundamental is changing in young male sexuality. Self-reporting is a very bad tool for this sort of thing as people will report whatever’s foremost in their minds. In a world where Viagra ads run during the Superbowl, I think it’s safe to say that young men will be reporting “erectile problems” at a much higher level than ever before simply because they PERCEIVE them more. That hypothesis has to be discarded before we can say anything about a presumptive link between increased porn and increased ED.

              3) Given the points above, your claim that a “perfect storm” is brewing in adolescent male sexuality seems to me to be a classic example of moral entrepeneurialship on Gary and Marnia’s part, perhaps brought about by a mid-life career crisis.

              • Gee thad, that is exactly what ASAM is saying: All addictions result in the same major brain changes, which include – (1) desensitization (numbing of the brain’s pleasure response, driving the need for more stimulation), (2) sensitization (extreme sensitivity to cues) and (3) hypofrontality (decreased activity, and even decreased gray matter in the pre-frontal cortex).
                See http://yourbrainonporn.com/toss-your-textbooks-docs-redefine-sexual-behavior-addictions

                QUOTE from the head of the committee:
                Dr. Raju Haleja, former president of the Canadian Society for Addiction Medicine and the chair of the ASAM committee that crafted the new definition, told The Fix, “We are looking at addiction as one disease, as opposed to those who see them as separate diseases. Addiction is addiction. It doesn’t matter what cranks your brain in that direction, once it has changed direction, you’re vulnerable to all addiction.” That [ASAM] has stamped a diagnosis of sex or gambling or food addiction as every bit as medically valid as addiction to alcohol or heroin or crystal meth may spark more controversy than its subtler but equally far-reaching assertions.

                As always you provide no research to refute the 3000 experts of ASAM.

                It’s called neuroscience, not radicalism. The following three studies confirm that Internet addiction results in the same brain changes as drug addiction (there are many more available on our site) :
                ——————————————-
                Reduced striatal dopamine D2 receptors in people with Internet addiction.
                http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21499141
                An increasing amount of research has suggested that Internet addiction is associated with abnormalities in the dopaminergic brain system.Consistent with our prediction, individuals with Internet addiction showed reduced levels of dopamine D2 receptor availability in subdivisions of the striatum including the bilateral dorsal caudate and right putamen. This finding contributes to the understanding of neurobiological mechanism of Internet addiction.

                – This means desensitization of the reward circuitry caused by excessive Internet use

                —————————————————-
                Changes in Cue-Induced, Prefrontal Cortex Activity with Video-Game Play
                http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2009.0327
                Brain responses, particularly within the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices, to Internet video-game cues in college students are similar to those observed in patients with substance dependence in response to the substance-related cues. These changes in frontal-lobe activity with extended video-game play may be similar to those observed during the early stages of addiction.

                – This means development of sensitization addiction pathways due to excessive Internet video games

                ——————————————————————————

                Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder
                http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020708
                Recent studies suggest that internet addiction disorder (IAD) is associated with structural abnormalities in brain gray matter. However, few studies have investigated the effects of internet addiction on the microstructural integrity of major neuronal fiber pathways, and almost no studies have assessed the microstructural changes with the duration of internet addiction.

                – This means hypofrontality, which is a declined in frontal cortex volume and functioning.

                ——————————————————————————–

                Hundreds of more studies show these very same brain changes in pathological gamblers and the obese.All addicts develop the same brain changes which are correlated to the same behaviors and symptoms.

                ADDICTION QUIZ
                The following is a common test that can be applied to addiction (or you can apply ASAM’ five point criteria)
                ———————————
                Answer yes or no to the following seven questions. Most questions have more than one part, because everyone behaves slightly differently in addiction. You only need to answer yes to one part for that question to count as a positive response.

                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? Do you stop after a few drink usually, or does one drink lead to more drinks?
                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 may meet the medical definition of addiction.
                ————————————————————–

                Those with porn addiction can usually say yes to all seven questions, which mean their brains have changed.

                Lets follow your particular flavor of logic:
                Excessive gambling, eating to obesity and excessive video gaming, can eventually cause brain changes and corresponding behaviors that are the same as drug addicts. However, hours of daily Internet porn use, starting at age 11-12 cannot under any circumstance cause addiction.

                Can you explain how that’s possible when sexual stimulation elevates dopamine twice as much as any other natural reward? Please follow the links in the our above post to understand the science behind Internet porn addiction.

                PS – I’m not sure why you keep bringing up pedophiles. Very Weird.

      • welokaythen says:

        “If you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about and you’re making spurrious claims based on a few marginal scientific papers which you interpret poorly, your creds SHOULD be called into question, just as if you were a “plumber” who tried to construct a sewer system out of scotch tape and drinking straws.”

        I see your point about credentials being called into question. If someone rests on their credentials, then the credentials should be subject to analysis. If it’s based on evidence or experiments, then those should be subject to analysis.

        I was hoping to move the discussion away from the authors’ credentials because their messages are so slippery on the subject. They say they have science behind them. When you congratulate them on their discovery they are proud researchers, but when you critique their science they refer you to other scientists. The back and forth about who is more qualified and who’s a real scientist does not seem to get us anywhere.

  31. #6) Unfair, Hugo — you can be a devout Mormon AND be a leather queen!

    #16) I’m suspicious of a study that paid men $50 to look at porn and only got 24 takers. Must have been the lamest advertisement ever.

  32. The only thing that you have proven Thaddeus is that density exists. Good luck.

  33. Anonymous Male says:

    I am completely willing to believe that there has been a sharp increase in the number of men self-reporting as addicted to porn. The number of people identified as having sex addiction is shooting through the roof. I think most of us could stipulate that just for the sake of argument (This is just my anecdotal perception. I have no citations. I think most of us would agree that “sex addiction” now gets much more attention than it did 20 years ago.)

    HOWEVER, is increasing attention to something the same thing as an epidemic? A sharp increase in the number of diagnoses may mean that clinicians are paying more attention to it, handing out the diagnosis more easily or more confidently, or a bigger percentage of people are comfortable seeking help. One factor in the changing diagnostic landscape is that if you are addicted to sex/porn, there are more specialized resources for you today, more ways to get help, which results in more self-reporting. Porn viewing still has a stigma attached, but I think many of us would say that porn has gone a little more mainstream, at the same time that the definition of “addiction” has spread to include more and more activities. So, a great recipe for an apparent epidemic in porn addiction, which may be partly explained by changes in the mental health system and not changes in porn technology. Not to mention the possibility that some conditions may be over-diagnosed (Ritalin pushers, I’m talking to you.)

    I’m not saying that internet porn is the same as mags and videos (what’s a VCR?) and we’re all just as addicted as we ever were. I’m just suggesting one of the challenges of relying on self-referrals.

  34. This is surely a complex issue with multivariable effects at play – it is important to level set some of the misconceptions towards brain plasticity – in the sense that malleability should not be viewed as shape forming, but rather more like amplification of existing propensities.

    Malamuth summarizes this point well in: M. Pornography and sexual aggression: are there reliable effects and can we understand them? Annu Rev Sex Res 2000;11:26–91.

    ‘‘associations between pornography consumption and aggressiveness toward women could be explained by a circular relationship between high coercive tendencies and interest in certain content in pornography, whereby aggressive males are drawn to the images in pornography that reinforce and thereby increase the likelihood of their controlled, impersonal, and hostile orientation to sexuality.”

    A recent qualitative study using Swedish adolescents’ (Lust, love, and life: a qualitative study of Swedish adolescents’ perceptions and experiences with pornography.) summarizes:

    “Most participants had acquired the skills to navigate the pornographic landscape in a sensible manner. Most had the ability to distinguish between pornographic fantasies on the one hand, and real sexual interactions and relationships on the other.”

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Elissa. As you probably saw in the article, we don’t claim porn makes men more violent, only that some users slip into addiction-related brain changes. What we’re seeing is lots of guys who don’t have the courage to socialize…until they give up Internet porn. It seems evident that the “real guy” isn’t the isolated introvert, but rather the guy who socializes with ease – when his brain isn’t out of whack from too much stimulation. It’s fascinating, really, and the guys are delighted with the changes they experience. Here’s one from yesterday (after just 9 days without Internet porn):

      I had so much more confidence at work today. I keep recalling something that I said to myself about a year ago. For some reason it stuck in my brain. I remember saying to myself “Why am I so timid? I am like the shyest person ever. How come other people can just talk naturally and be happy? I can bench press over 300 lbs, but yet I’m so scared of people. What the heck is wrong with me???” At the time I was watching porn for a few hours every night. I had no idea what it was doing to me and how much it was depleting me.

      Well not today! I felt awesome today. I have insane amounts of energy. I got up early, worked a long 13 hour day at the office, then went to the gym for an hour, went grocery shopping on the way home, did some cooking tonight. At some point I thought “Wow, is life really this easy for most people. I can go and go and go all day.” I’m so used to being wrecked by a porn addiction for the last 15 years, I don’t know what to do with all this energy. I used to be constantly exhausted, had to force myself to do things, was in a mental fog, I had trouble concentrating, and everything in life was just a drag. Today I found myself kicking ass with little effort. It makes me wonder what people do who don’t have porn addictions? I wonder do normal people have this energy, and do this much…? Or maybe a lot of people have other types of addictions like tv or alcohol or something. Maybe it’s just the contrast. I would’ve never known how sweet real life is, without my previous life of addiction. Now I want to make the most of every moment.

      I also found myself flirting with girls at the gym again no problem. It was just so natural, I didn’t even plan anything. There was this one girl walking by and I was sitting at a machine, so I yelled hi to her. She walked over, we started talking about how fast she was running on the treadmill, I made some jokes about flying off the thing if I tried to run that fast, etc… She was all smiles, and I think I was making her blush. I seriously could not believe that was me. Yelling hi to a random hot girl at the gym I didn’t know, and getting her to walk over to me to talk… Seriously!?!? I couldn’t imagine pulling that off a year ago.

      He’s not through the woods yet, but can already see the potential in life off-line. Here’s another guy, 22 from today:

      Hi Guys, this is day 71 of no PMO. And I feel motivated. I am motivated to succeed with women. So I have met 3 young girlies, had sex with all 3 of them in the past week (something I’ve never really been able to do because of erectile dysfunction). I just generally feel very confident and motivated to get out of the house in search for REAL girls. It feels great to have an awesome sex life right now after months of nothing. 2 of them I was drunk, and my gear still worked very well.

      We’d agree young porn users don’t generally confuse fantasy with reality, but many arrive complaining they can’t engage with reality. They’ve spent so much of their adolescence squirting screens that they can’t get it up for real females. Given the unique characteristics of the adolescent brain, it looks like there could be some solid reasons for their unhappy experiences.

      • I love this “what we’re seeing” shit, Marnia: as if you and your husband were actually engaged in anything that could possibly, even remotely, be qualified as scientific research.

      • “It seems evident that the “real guy” isn’t the isolated introvert, but rather the guy who socializes with ease – when his brain isn’t out of whack from too much stimulation. ”

        Isolated introvert guy who doesn’t socialize much or is shy? Perfectly normal. Those are the people you can stick in an office with the door closed for 8 hours straight and who will complete productive work that would make the extraverted’s brain explode of pure boredom out of not having talk-time during their work. Extraverted people are good salespeople, and I guess it helps men find date, given that fewer women approach (so being shy and introverted is no issue for most women).

  35. I mention your credentials because they happen to play quite a large role in determining the scientific aspects of what you call “porn addiction”, at least as presented by yourself.

    First of all, that page you link us to leads to your own site. I very much doubt that you’ve read – let alone understood – even half of the studies that are cited there. But let’s quote your OWN WORDS on porn addiction, which are right there on that page for everyone to read:

    “To date, however, there are very few studies on the effects of Internet porn on the user. In my opinion, most existing porn studies (based on sociologists’ questionnaires) are outdated (before high-speed, free, ever-novel porn), and poorly designed.”

    So, first of all you admit that there are few studies regarding the specific “addiction” your on about. Secondly, it’s your opinion that such studies as exist are “poorly designed”. Based on what is this opinion, exactly? Your long experience with designing social-scientific studies as a corporate lawyer?

    Given your dismisal of these studies, I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that they don’t support your opinion that “internet porn” (again, a very wide variable which you repeatedly treat as if it were a scientific constant) is harmful.

    But finally, all of this is quite interesting in that you yourself, above, claim that the evidence that “internet porn” causes harm is solid enough that the burden of proof should be on us who disbelieve your claims. Yet on your own site, you admit that there’s not much data out there on this topic.

    So which is it, Marnia? Lots of proof or none at all? Or does the claim change according to your audience, as it would if one were a lwayer arguing before a court of law and not a scientist weighing evidence?

    Now I’m going to look at EVERY ONE of those links on your site re: porn and the brain and see what actually exist as proof and I’m going to bring the results back here. I’ll make three predictions before I do. Let’s see how good I am at extrapolating social realities from your “personal reports”, shall we?

    I bet…

    1) That less than half of those links actually connect us to peer-reviewed scientific studies.

    2) That, of the ones that do, the studies in question have results that are a hell of a lot more ambiguous than what you make them out to be.

    3) That even the peer-reviewed scientific studies whose results are unambiguous are based on an incredibly low number of samples and that their results have by and large not been reproduced.

    So let’s take a look and find out how much of a bullshitter you are, Marnia, shall we?

    • Nice distortion Thaddueus, but the links to our articles (“not peer-reviewed”), contain multiple links to peer-reviewed studies, or to other articles with links to peer reviewed studies. Everything is backed up with the same science that ASAM used to determine that sexual behaviors are real addictions.

      As an ethnographer (with no background in neuroscience), you know that scientists are a very cautious and conservative group. They hate going out on a limb. Yet ASAM declared sexual behavior addictions as structurally and biochemically similar to drug addictions. No limb needed, just mountains of research on behavioral addictions, and a basic understanding of evolutionary conserved mechanisms. Note that the ASAM documents use sex or sexual behaviors ten times in their definition. That is more than all addictive drugs combined. Think they were trying to get a point across?

      ————————–
      1) All addiction involves the same basic brain changes

      From the head of the ASAM committee:
      The new definition leaves no doubt that all addictions—whether to alcohol, heroin or sex, say—are fundamentally the same. Dr. Raju Haleja, former president of the Canadian Society for Addiction Medicine and the chair of the ASAM committee that crafted the new definition, told The Fix, “We are looking at addiction as one disease, as opposed to those who see them as separate diseases. Addiction is addiction. It doesn’t matter what cranks your brain in that direction, once it has changed direction, you’re vulnerable to all addiction.” …Sex or gambling or food addiction [are] every bit as medically valid as addiction to alcohol or heroin or crystal meth.
      ——————————-

      2) Hypofrontality is involved with all addictions, and ASAM included sexual behaviors in their definition, which means hypofrontality occurs during porn addiction.

      ASAM statement of frontal cortex involvement:

      “The frontal cortex of the brain and underlying white matter connections between the frontal cortex and circuits of reward, motivation and memory are fundamental in the manifestations of altered impulse control, altered judgment, and the dysfunctional pursuit of rewards (which is often experienced by the affected person as a desire to “be normal”) seen in addiction–despite cumulative adverse consequences experienced from engagement in substance use and other addictive behaviors. The frontal lobes are important in inhibiting impulsivity and in assisting individuals to appropriately delay gratification. When persons with addiction manifest problems in deferring gratification, there is a neurological locus of these problems in the frontal cortex. Frontal lobe morphology, connectivity and functioning are still in the process of maturation during adolescence and young adulthood, and early exposure to substance use is another significant factor in the development of addiction. Many neuroscientists believe that developmental morphology is the basis that makes early-life exposure to substances such an important factor.”

      Put simply: Hypofrontality occurs with all addictions, including sexual behavior addiction.

      ————————

      Just to let you know, it is common knowledge in the addiction science field that hypofrontality occurs with all addictions, including gambling, food, and Internet addiction. The ASAM definition is based on this addiction review by the head of NIDA, Nora Volkow Addiction: Decreased Reward Sensitivity and Increased Expectation Sensitivity Conspire to Overwhelm the Brain’s Control Circuit (2010)
      http://yourbrainonporn.com/garys-research-addiction-general-3-dysfunctions-2010

      This is a snippet from NIDA’s review:
      Lowered Dopamine Receptor (DR2) Levels Impair The Control Of Impulsivity By The Prefrontal Cortex: It has been hypothesized that the impaired control over compulsive drug taking behaviors that characterizes addiction may be due in part to specific dysfunctions in frontal regions of the brain. There is now a significant amount of evidence that supports this notion.

      In addition to ASAM stating that addictions to sexual behaviors exist, Nora Volkow specifically stated that porn addiction and other behavioral addictions exist. From this article http://www.sciencemag.org/content/317/5834/23.1.citation
      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. “She would like to send the message that [we should] look at the whole field.”
      ————————————–

      Learn a few of the basics, by reading the thousands of research studies published in the last 30 years that lead to ASAM’s new definition. Once you have completed that assigment, you can take your grievances to ASAM and the head of NIDA. I’m sure they would be very interested in your “brain wave” theory of addiction.

      • I just read all your scited sources. You apparently haven’t. With regards to what the ASAM says, seeing as how you are the self-proclaimed expert on all things addictive, how does their definition of “sex addiction” jibe with the definition for “hypersexual disorder” proposed for DSM-V? Because it’s interesting to note that said proposal flat out claims that the previous work of “sexual compulsion” that you and the ASAM apparently set so much store by doesn’t jibe with the new criteria for diagnosis.

        So who’s the better authority here, Marnia? The ASAM or DSM-V? Or again, is it simply a case of whether or not a given article is politically useful to you?

        I think you need to take DSM-V’s warning to heart: to wit, it’s incredibly easy to cinfuse socially stigmatized sexual behaviors with supposed biologically-based psychiatric disorders. You are intentionally attempting to smear a definition that ethical scientists go to some pains to make crystal clear due to the horrific history of the misuse of psychiatry as a tool for disciplining the socially stigmatized.

    • It’s great that you’re getting educated, Thaddeus. The studies we think are often poorly designed are questionnaires. Unlike brain scans of addicts, questionnaires are heavily influenced by the biases of the researchers. Also, most do not ask questions that would reveal the brain changes associated with addiction, because most sexologists haven’t been trained in brain science.

      You seem to be trying to argue from authority to dismiss our post, but we’re relying on the work of the top addiction specialists in the world. What are you relying on?

      Since you believe you are so much more knowledgeable than we are: What is the mechanism behind the addiction-like behaviors many heavy cyberporn users are reporting? Are you saying they don’t have the symptoms they report? Where are your qualifications compared with the doctors of ASAM or the head of NIDA? Do you know even know your frontal cortex from your limbic system? ‘Cause it seems like you’re operating from the latter at the moment.

      • Yeah. Pity that what I’m mostly learning is that you’re trying to wrap a political opinion about what you call “internet porn” (but for some reason can’t even define) in a patina of misused science.

        But that’s part of my job as a public intellectual, Marnia: debunking the bad use of science.

        Maybe you should go back to school and get a degree in biochem if you really were interested in this topic? Have you ever considered that? Or are you just going to surf the “ZOMG! INTERNET PORN!!1!!!ONE!” panic until it’s no longer profitable to write about it and then move on to something else?

    • Thaddeus. Are you picking up a sword to battle that porn addiction does not exist? Or are you only denying that you, yourself, are not addicted? Because I can tell you right now that I’ve been in serious therapy for several years trying to end my addiction to it. I personally know of 100’s of others who are at least as addicted as I.
      Because I could not stop, even while watching my world collapse around me, destroying mt fiancee, and taking 1000’s of important hours away from my business and self-care (like sleep), I still could not stop. That is addiction. If you are not having a problem with it then congratulations. You likely do not have kids or any reason to stop or educate yourself about addiction. But if you are denying that this is true, please stop. You have no idea. You’re embarrassing yourself and insulting the 1000’s and likely millions of those of us who know otherwise.

      • I’m claiming that porn addiction is a construct, Scott. I’m willing to believe that there are people who become compulsive users of porn. People can become compulsive about ANYTHING and things that really interest us (food and sex) are great attractors for compulsive behavior.

        What I am against is the arbitrary definition of a sexual standard (as set by certain of the scientists Marnia quotes) where “productive” heterosexual monogamy is taken as “normal behavior” with everything else medicalized and labeled a disease.

        I think Marnia’s shockingly lax standards when it comes to drawing conclusions from scientific data creates a dangerous precedent when it’s combined with the sort of ethnocentric values that she and several of her favorite scientists seem to share about sex.

        I’m no psychiatrist, Scott, but given what I’ve just read in all these studies Marnia points us to, I’d hazard a guess that porn was far from your only problem: substance addiction, depression and several other issues are probably also present in your life. Am I right or wrong?

        • Thaddeus- Yes, there were other stressors involved with my addiction, and these are common stressors in the modern world, meaning that millions, even billions of people are entwined with the same issues. To put blame on social stressors and eliminate the affects of pornography is ridiculous. The same models run throughout all forms of addiction. Try telling recovering alcoholics that they are not addicted to alcohol, that they’re only depressed,and their “addiction is a construct”. You should write about what you know about, and I’m not sure what that is, but an authority you are not.

          • What you should say then is not that alcohol addiction doesn’t exist, but don’t try to ban alcohol, or say alcohol is objectively bad in any amount period.

            If we avoided everything that could cause addiction we wouldn’t work, drive, walk, have sex, play anything, have any kind of activity, drink or eat anything. Because we might become addicted to it.

  36. It’s not an insult if it’s true, Marnia Robinson.

    Perhaps you’d like to show this community exactly what you and your husband’s scientific credentials actually are? What peer-reviewed stuff have you published in the fields in which you are claiming expertise?

    That would be what you term “addiction science” and its presumative connections to porn.

    • Ad hominem attacks are pointless, substance-less distractions. If you think the researchers whose work we have cited are wrong, take it up with them.

      • It’s not thjat their work is wrong, Marnia: it’s that their work does not strongly (or in some cases even weakly) support the claims you are making. You are hijacking scientists’ research for your own political purposes and reading things into it that said scientists themselves often go out of their way to disclaim.

        To hear you talk, this corpus of research is well-nigh concensus among researchers into brain chemistry and addiction. When nyou actually dive into it and read it, however, what you find is studyu after study where the scientists say “Hey, this is one guy we’re talking about here: don’t jump to conclusions”, or “Look, we’re just beginning to peer into this stuff and have no idea what we might find yet, so take it easy”.

        Like most moral entrepeneurs, you exagerate scientific findings by several orders of magnitude so that bthey support your particular political agenda.

        Finally, it is not an ad hominem to state that someone who has no training whatsoever in a complex field like brain chemistry is perhaps not the best person to make sweeping statemnents about that field, ESPECIALLY when said person crows in their Psych Today bio about their “interdisciplinary background”.

        You are a pop psych writer with an axe to grind about sexual behavior, Marnia. You are not a scientist and are hardly a brain chemistry specialist. In my view, you are misleading people as to what the research you cite proves and disproves and you are hiding behind a series of cheap psychological and rhetorical tricks to make your layman’s, politicized interpretation of the data seem as if it were the result of pondered scientific research into the hypothesis you’d like your public to accept as proven.

        The fact that Scott up there thinks your article is some sort of scientific study instead of a hash of bits and pieces drawn from several studies (one can’t even dignify it with the name “review of the literature”) is an unfortunate indication of how effective your rhjetorical strategy is.

        I’ll state it once more so we’re crystal clear on this: you are an ex-corporate attorney who has become a pop science writer. Good on you. That does not mean that the claims you make are backed up by the evidence you cite. Your CV doesn’t indicate that you have the training to make the sort of scientific claims you are making and a brief review of the literature you use indicates that it doesn’t support the claims you make to the degree that you are making them.

    • Thaddeus, why don’t you prove them wrong by posting your own credentials and citations, scientific studies, etc that proof this science false? You have not offered anything to your position but hubris.

      • Proving studies false is not what’s at issue, Scott, because there is no one study which Marnia can point to which proves anything like the claims she makes. The question is “Do the studies Marnia cites support her hypothesis and, if so, to what degree?” The answer is that most don’t and those that do are weak reeds. indeed.

        What Marnia has done is hobbled together a hodge-podge of studies, most of which have oustanding methodological issues, in order to make it seem like her radical claim (Internet porn (undefined) causes addiction and physical brain changes in youth) is sustained by a vast and deep corpus of scientific material. I’ve gone through her references one by one and shown what they prove (or more often do not prove) below.

        As for my creds, I have a PhD in social anthropology and work as a professor in a post-graduate biology program. My wife and I have done close to a decade of research into sexual tourism and prostitution in Brazil, studying in situ, as it were, the “porn addicts” Marnia talks about. You can check out some of my peer-reviewed articles through the links on our (sadly out of date) blog.

  37. Insults don’t cut it here, Thaddeus. However learned you may be in your fields, you apparently are not up to speed on the addiction-related brain science of recent years. We’re not talking about “brain waves,” my friend, but about actual changes in receptor density and brain activity. These and other physical changes have already been measured and compared with controls for various behavioral addictions: gambling, videogaming, eating, and lots of abused substances.

    You can find many of the ‘hundreds of studies’ referred to in the links at the bottom of this page: http://yourbrainonporn.com/research-articles-and-abstracts Please read them – and the links to articles that explain the brain science of addiction – before you make any further accusations that our views are not based on science. As we say at the beginning of that page:

    Understanding Internet porn addiction means understanding addiction mechanisms. The heart of all addictions involves hijacking the same neurocircuitry, which runs on the same neurochemicals (even though each addiction also involves additional neural circuits and neurochemicals that differ between addictions).

    A basic physiological principle is that drugs do not create anything new or different – they simply increase or decrease normal brain functions. In essence, we already possess the machinery for addiction (mammalian bonding/love circuitry), and for binging (storing calories, mating season).

    When we link to our articles, it’s because they have links to the relevant medical abstracts and other supporting evidence, so they are a more efficient way to reference diverse support. By the way, I am a science journalist and lawyer (a profession heavily trained in considering and analyzing diverse evidence, including scientific evidence). Where have I claimed to be a scientist? Gary has taught anatomy and physiology for years. We have been analyzing medical research and other input relevant to the effects of sex on the brain for ten years. Our book is primarily on this subject, by the way. It’s not a book on porn.

  38. I should point out that the authors of this piece have little to no scientific training in the fields they claim to speak for, that the “proof” they’re offerring up so far seems to come from non-peer reviewed pop science articles – some of which they’ve apparently written themselves – and that they apparently approach the question of porn from an a priori position that it is bad.

    This isn’t science, folks: its bullshit. Scientifically-wrapped rhetoric designed to persuade an audience.

    I challenge Mary Robinson to link us to SIX peer-reviewed scientific studies of the “hundreds” she claims exist which show that “sexual behavior addictions are defined by… hypofrontality”.

    Just six.

  39. You’ll never convince teenage boys to limit their porn use with the argument that it’s hurting their chances for true intimacy with their partners. You won’t convince them with appeals to evolutionary mammalian biology, nor with warnings about how plastic their brains are.

    You just might get their attention, though, if you tell them that if they go overboard with their porn use it could be more and more difficult to reach an orgasm when viewing it. They would also listen to you if you told them there was more than one way to masturbate. Did anyone else notice the “Iron Fist” reference? There’s your problem right there, buddy….

    • Funny how the brain is supposedly simultaneously so plastic and yet once porn hits it – BLAM! It’s set in stone for life.

      Also funny how people who are trying to wrap the tattered mantle of ev-psych around their arguments use socially, culturally and historically defined variables as “intimacy” as if these were transcultural, biologicval constants.

    • Actually kids seem to like learning about their brains. Are you familiar with the MindUp effort? http://www.thehawnfoundation.org/mindup We quite often watch young men on forums teach each other the brain science of addiction as related to Internet porn. Many sense that today’s cyber erotica isn’t as harmless as they are told, and they’re not inclined to wait until the experts work out all the details.

      That said, you’re right that most heavy porn users will not reevaluate porn’s effects on them until they run into sexual performance problems. This is too bad, because most develop telltale symptoms of addiction-related brain changes before then. They just aren’t connecting such symptoms (unaccustomed social anxiety, trouble concentrating, morphing porn tastes, etc.) with heavy porn use, because like any addiction, porn use always offers short-term relief. So it seems like “the cure” not “the problem.” A longer list of symptoms that self-identified porn users report are here: http://yourbrainonporn.com/are-you-hooked-on-porn-ask-asam If kids were educated about these symptoms, they could experiment with stopping porn use sooner, and wouldn’t have to slide all the way into the severe brain changes associated with porn-induced sexual performance problems to realize they have a serious problem.

  40. Anonymous Male says:

    I would say that for many people there are times when good masturbation is better than bad sex. It’s not necessarily only porn versus only sex. There clearly are men who have the chance for in-person sex and choose porn instead, but I’m guessing they are in the minority. I’m not so sure that they’re lonely, loser addicts destined for horrible lives. Their wives and girlfriends may find it unacceptable, but maybe that’s their problem as much as his problem.

    And, if we’re talking about teenagers, I’m not so sure there are very many “real sex” alternatives to watching porn. It’s not like teen boys have an equal option between porn and in-person sex. When I was 15, I was nowhere near the possibility of a chance that any young woman was going to have sex with me anytime soon. Anyway, I’ m not sure I want to encourage every 14 year old boy to turn off the porn and find a real girl to have sex with. I’d rather those boys keep their paws on themselves instead of my teenage daughter (if I had one).

    I do think it’s a tragedy when people become desensitized to pleasure, and I think hardcore porn use can contribute to that in some cases. That sounds like a reasonable possibility. Especially when you consider that many young men masturbate exactly the same way every time, which combined with watching porn all day is a good recipe for hitting a dead end. I just wonder how to balance that “danger” with the freedom to explore new things and with the right to claim your own sexual preferences. And balance that with the fact that people go through phases in their lives where their drives, preferences, and pleasures change over time.

    • Teen boys and young men (and women too) have always had to resort to fantasy and masturbation, sometimes enhanced with visual or other aids (the Sears catalogue, Playboy, spicy romance novels). There is nothing wrong with that. However, nothing in the history of the human race can match the level of stimulation of internet porn. Even 20 years ago, guys had to find someplace to rent a video, and find a time when parents weren’t home to watch it. Mostly they had to use their imagination. Now they can sit in their rooms jerking off tom the computer for 6 hours every night. The sex drive is an overpowering drive that evolution has created for the purpose of perpetuating the species, and I think the vast quantity of porn, instantly available, has hijacked that drive. Men, especially, are driven by biology to have as much sex as they can when it is available. Mostly, it is not available as much as they like, so they feel frustrated, but this is an incentive to search for opportunities for sex. We know that men have always thought about sex — some of the earliest cave art ever found are depictions of female genitalia. We don’t really know how our prehistoric ancestors lived but some theories suggest they were polyamorous and men probably sought sexual favors from women through social interaction, forging emotional bonds, and proving themselves to be successful at tasks valued in their culture (maybe hunting, or storytelling, or music, or creating impressive artwork, or communicating with spirits or whatever). In other words, it was a lot like it is today, even though our culture is different.

      The point is, we are not designed to constantly pig out on sex any more than we are designed to pig out on high calorie food every day. Those are innate survival drives that evolved in times of scarcity, which are now used against us to turn us into numbed out consumers. The loss of opportunities for healthy social interaction seems concerning although I can completely understand why a guy might feel that porn is easier than all the hassle and disappointment of meeting women.

      Cave men probably would have felt the same. Why spend hours trying to impress the cave ladies by carving a flute if you can get the same (or better) physical satisfaction some other way? This is not to say than viewing porn is per se bad, but an explanation for why excessive use of porn, like excessive eating, may not be healthy in the long run even though it I’d pleasurable in the short run.

      • “However, nothing in the history of the human race can match the level of stimulation of internet porn.”

        Proof, please. Personally, I find internet porn to be rather banal. I should also point out that 30 years ago, these same anti-porn movements were making the very same claims about published and televised porn. Supposedly, the novelty effect of that stuff was going to create a world of sexualoly unsocialized and unsocializable men. In fact, you can find the EXACT SAME argumennt being used ANY TIME a new porn format has come into play.

        In other words, Jill, this particular Chicken Little story was probably old already back when Jesus was a cowboy.

        And yet in spite of all that rhetoric, we’ve seen no reproducible, solid, peer-reviewed proof whatsoever that the new generation of boys and girls is having any more or less trouble with sexuality than folks did back in the 19th century.

        “We know that men have always thought about sex — some of the earliest cave art ever found are depictions of female genitalia.”

        How do you know men painted those pictures, pray tell?

        By the way, I love how you admit that we really don’t know sweet fuck-all about early human sexual life (and we don’t), but in your conclusion, you sweep all that away with a categorical statement about what humans are designed to do or not do.

        • Boy, that’s a hostile response. Defensive much? I said we don’t know much about the sex life of prehistoric humans, but there is a lot of research, which probably has some truth to it (see the book, Sex at Dawn). Ironic, usually I’m the one preaching caution about drawing too many conclusions from untested evo-psych. Nevertheless, we can draw parallels to modern hunter gatherers, however. As for who painted cave art, sure we don’t know, could be women, but most anthropologists think the paintings were made by men. In some cases, the artists left handprints and I suppose that gives a clue to gender. Finally, I’m not the one saying there is a generation of unsocialized men, it’s other people (including men themselves) who are pointing to rising rates of ED in young men as well as men themselves posting comments about how they have less interest in real sex due to porn use. I think if someone feels compelled to masturbate to porn several hours a day, you can see that as an example of over-stimulation hijacking biological drives.

          If you love porn and want to watch porn 24 hours a day, personally I couldn’t care less (as long as you aren’t my boyfriend, husband, or son), any more than I care if someone wants to stuff themselves with 20 pizzas a day and balloon up to 600 pounds. I don’t care, personally, if you think sex with your girlfriend is boring and you prefer to watch handcuffed women in mousketeer outfits taking it up the butt with garden tools. Or whatever. But I think it is interesting to consider what factors lead some people to lose control of their biological drives in that fashion and what impact it has on people. I think it a legitimate topic for discussion.

          • It’s a sharp response, Jill, not a hostile one. If it were hostile, I’d be personally attacking you. Instead, I’m saying that the idea that you are espousing is a tremendously bad one that’s not supported by the evidence. I’d say that being “defensive” is taking an attack on your idea as if it were an atttack on yourself. Your mileage obviously varies.

            I do indeed get irritated when people make claims about what anthropology has “proven” as its my field and I can tell you, flat out, that there is no coincensus at all regarding the gender of stone-age cave painters, let alone the gender of the people who SPECIFICALLY painted things that may (or may not) be representations of vaginas. Simple logic should tell you that there’s also no way to know if the person who’s hand was painted over wqas also the person doing that particular painting, let alone the paintings in general. No trained anthropologist would make that sort of generalization. Thus the sharpness of my reply.

            After just reading tons of material on Marnia’s website, I can tell you that all that’s been shown so far is that a smal minority of men and women (5% and 2%, specifically) from a non-random and non-diverse sample claim that they have had “problems” because of their internet porn use. Said “problems” are very widely defined and, as the best article on Marnia’s site shows, none of the definitions used for “sexual compulsion” in these studies match the clinical definition for said disorder according to DSM-V.

            So all we can say for sure right now is that a lot of people are saying a lot of shit about the internet, porn and its supposed linkage to male sexual problems.

            What I am against is the scientific posings of amateurs with a political agenda. Think away all you want about how porn might possibly affect the mnale sex drive. Postulate the existence of Atlantis and Space Gods for all I care. Just don’t tell me that this is something that’s scientifically proven when all you can point to are a handful of very poorly designed studies which don’t even support your claims for the nmost part.

            • I should alsao point out here that if seeing female genitalia was really so biologically awe-inspiring for men, then one would assumje that the males of certain Amazonian peoples, whose women walk around naked as a matter of course, would be pulling their puds all day long. It doesn’t seem to happen that way, though, does it?

              Get over it folks: the vagina simply doesn’t have the power to turn males into masturbatory monkeys.

              • Hmm, sarcasm now. Look, you obviously have way more time than I do to post lengthy comments and I don’t think I can keep up. You sound like a person who feels very personally invested in the idea that porn is A- okay. That’s fine with me. Have at it. If you read my comments you will find I am not an absolutist on anything I’ve said, I’m merely saying these are legitimate questions to discuss. On the issue of cave art, which really seems to get your goat for some reason, I was merely pointing out that men (presumably) have enjoyed sexual images since time immemorial. You are free to disagree with me. If you don’t like the cave art idea, we can still go back to erotic paintings in ancient Egypt and Rome. So maybe men AREN’T fascinated by pussy. The billions of dollars spent on porn every year might undermine that argument. If they aren’t fascinated by pussy why are they watching porn? Is there some other reason? You seem very dedicated to the idea that (a) porn is harmless and (b) watching a lot of porn doesn’t prove that men are obsessed with sex! No siree bob! You said you are an anthropologist who studies the sex trade so maybe you can explain what is motivating men to watch porn then, if not a biological sexual drive that is focused (in the case of heterosexual men) by a desire to insert their penis in a female’s vagina (or other orifice), at least in fantasy if not reality.

                • I’m a person who’s very heavily invested in the idea that social policy shouldn’t be based on piss-poor science.

                  I would thus like to see the beef, please, regarding porn. Reproducible results with large and diverse samples of subjects in peer-reviewed journals.

                  So far, there’s precious little of that out there.

                  Given that the anti-porn people in the world seem to be pushing for legislation and stigmatization of a segment of the population, I am against THAT unless a lot more evidence comes in.

                  Frankly, my position here is VERY conservative: freedom of speach and all that shit, even for people whose speach I find offensive. You seem to believe that such a position – based on principals rather than on a visceral attraction or repulsion to porn – is impossible. Frankly, I think that says more about you, Jill, than it does about me.

                  “So maybe men AREN’T fascinated by pussy.”

                  Men are fascinated by sex and by what is prohibitted, Jill. In our western culture, from Greece on down, openly showing the feminine genitals has been a big no-no. In other cultures, that’s not the case and men don’t fall to the ground masturbating in those cultures simply because a pussy gets flashed. In fact, they don’t do it in our culture either.

                  Get over your vagina, sister: it simply isn’t that big a deal to most men.

                  • You know, Thad, I think it is probably apparent to most people reading these comments that you are the one who is emotionally invested in this issue to the point of, frankly, irrationality. I am imagining at your computer all day here just positively freaking out by the idea that some people disagree with you.

                    Now you are fallen to the level of insulting my vagina. Wow, I’m so hurt. I must say that’s a really impressive argument from someone with your elite academic credentials.

                    I guess my poor sad pussy and I will take our toys and go home now. Hope you don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome from all the … typing. Have a nice day.

                    P.s. Did I say anything about banning porn? No.

  41. So now the Good Men Project is anti-porn? Time to stop pretending your anything but a bunch of doctrinal feminist dogmatists guys. Though I’m not sure you were ever even pretending otherwise.

    • Oh, I forgot to say. My alternative response to everything asserted in this article:

      CITATION NEEDED

      • You evil man, Debris. Didn’t you see all the pop articles and documentaries they linked us to? Why, an incautious person might be pushed to claim that you think science should be peer-reviewed or something and not simply blogged.

        • Empty claim.

          Our above article has citations, along with the links to our articles explaining how Internet porn is different from pre-internet porn. Those three articles contain multiple links to peer reviewed addiction research.

          Since you refuse take on this article, or our other articles, or read ASAM’s new definition, I’ll provide some recent brain research on Internet addiction with excerpts from one of the links
          “Ominous News for Porn Users: Internet Addiction Atrophies Brains”

          A short sentence describes what the study means. As stated the 3 characteristics of addiction recognized by NIDA and ASAM are sensitization, desensitization, and an inhibited frontal cortex.
          —————————–
          Enhanced Reward Sensitivity and Decreased Loss Sensitivity in Internet Addicts: An fMRI Study During a Guessing Task.
          As the world’s fastest growing “addiction”, Internet addiction should be studied to unravel the potential heterogeneity. The results suggested that Internet addicts have enhanced reward sensitivity and decreased loss sensitivity than normal comparisons.

          Those with internet addiction have both sensitization and desensitization of reward circuitry pathways.
          —————————————————
          Confirmation of the Three Factor Model of Problematic Internet Use on Off Line Adolescent and Adult Samples. (2011)
          As the Internet became widely used, problems associated with its excessive use became increasingly apparent. Although for the assessment of these problems several models and related questionnaires have been elaborated, there has been little effort made to confirm them. Using latent profile analysis, we identified 11 percent of adults and 18 percent of adolescent users characterized by problematic use

          Study found problematic Internet porn use in 18% of adolescents…in a sample that was more than half girls! What would it have been had the sample been all male?
          ——————————————————————-
          Reduced striatal dopamine D2 receptors in people with Internet addiction.
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21499141
          An increasing amount of research has suggested that Internet addiction is associated with abnormalities in the dopaminergic brain system.Consistent with our prediction, individuals with Internet addiction showed reduced levels of dopamine D2 receptor availability in subdivisions of the striatum including the bilateral dorsal caudate and right putamen. This finding contributes to the understanding of neurobiological mechanism of Internet addiction.

          This means desensitization of the reward circuitry was caused by excessive Internet use.
          —————————————————-
          Changes in Cue-Induced, Prefrontal Cortex Activity with Video-Game Play
          http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2009.0327
          Brain responses, particularly within the orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices, to Internet video-game cues in college students are similar to those observed in patients with substance dependence in response to the substance-related cues. These changes in frontal-lobe activity with extended video-game play may be similar to those observed during the early stages of addiction.

          This means excessive Internet gamming led to sensitization of addiction pathways.
          ——————————————————————————
          Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder
          http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020708
          Recent studies suggest that internet addiction disorder (IAD) is associated with structural abnormalities in brain gray matter. However, few studies have investigated the effects of internet addiction on the microstructural integrity of major neuronal fiber pathways, and almost no studies have assessed the microstructural changes with the duration of internet addiction.

          This mean hypofrontality or a decrease in frontal cortex volume and functioning, developed fwith Internet Addiction.
          ———————————————–
          Male Internet Addicts Show Impaired Executive Control Ability Evidence From A Color-Word: Stroop Task.
          Both of the behavioral performance and ERP results indicate that people with IAD show impaired executive control ability than the normal group.

          This means those with Internet addiction have decreased functioning of frontal cortex, which is associated with inhibited impulse control.

          ———————————————–
          As you can see Thadd, we are providing the research. However, you keep commenting as a way to avoid discussing the evidence.

          Feel free to:
          1) Cite research saying that behavioral addictions, such as Internet Addiction, do NOT cause the same brain changes as drug addictions.

          2) Explain how watching Internet porn (hundreds of scenes per sessions) for hour’s every day, from the age 12 to 24, would not have an effect at least equal to video game/Internet addiction.

  42. Okay, so I don’t think that porn is quite the awful thing these authors make it out to be. That said, I have recently had conversations with a number of young men (19-23 year olds) who have been honest about their porn use and the difficulties it has caused them.

    Perhaps a good strategy as a parent would be to allow some materials to be found around the house which would satisfy his curiosity without narrowing or closing down his sexuality and keep him interested in relationships with real people. Perhaps through keeping collections of erotic short stories around, having soft-core porn, and porn that shows real women’s desire, agency, and pleasure around. Parental controls on the internet might be a good plan.

  43. Nice bunch of biodeterminist theory. Pity it’s not supported epistemologically.

    Look, Gary and Marina, if this “Porn rewires the brain” stuff were true, then one would logically think we could rewire other basic aspects of our sexuality through exposure to porn – say turn gay kids straight or whatever.

    It doesn’t work out that way, though, does it?

    Also, in spite of all of “the sky is falling rhetoric”, porn has shown a HUGE increase in availability and distribution over the last 30 years – something on the order of several magnitudes – and yet, somehow, young men and women’s sexuality seems to be basically about where it was back in 1985, when I was an 18 year old.

    Anecdotal evidence about how porn “hooks” people from self-proclaimed “addicts” is not a scientific base for the claims you are attempting to make.

    But there is indeed one thing you cerebral specialists can indeed help me with: what exactly is “addiction to porn”? How does one measure it? Where’s the cut-off line from “normality”? What indeed IS normal when it comes to porn use?

    What bothers me is that biodeterminists always gloss over these questions as if they were no nevermind, when they are, in fact, the basic variables which must be clearly set before any quantitative work on human behavior is done. (Perhaps this aversion to qualitatively defining variables is caused by an unbalanced brain chemistry during adolescence? But I digress…)

    So how about breaking free from normal biodeterminist behavior and take a shot at clearly and concisely defining “porn addiction” for us?

    • The article clearly states that porn is an addiction when it starts interfering with your life.

      • Amber, ANY activity interferes with your life, by definition. Cooking dinner interferes with your life.

        That’s not a definition, that’s a cop-out designed to quell nasty qualitative issues raised by people who’ve actually had some degree of scientific training, no matter how small.

        So how about a real, clear-cut, measurable definition that’s not so vague that it could possibly be anything at all?

        • If porn doesn’t I reefers with you then you are not addicted, and this nueral chemistry obviously hasn’t affected you. You are immune it seems, so why take such a staunch defense of something harmless? Why care?

          • Why care?

            Because it’s not harmless, that’s why.

            It is not at all harmless to naturalize a sexual minority’s behavior as a “disease” and then stigmatize said minority, placing them – as Marnia and her pal Hilton does – in the same neurological category as pedophiles and meth addicts.

            If you’ve read anything about the history of psychiatry and homosexuality, you’d know this.

        • Thaddeus: “So how about a real, clear-cut, measurable definition that’s not so vague that it could possibly be anything at all?”

          You continue to avoid reading ASAM’s new definition.

          The following is ASAM’s behavioral criteria for addiction, which a qualified health care practitioner uses to asess a patient.

          Addiction is characterized by ABCDE
          a. Inability to consistently Abstain;
          b. Impairment in Behavioral control;
          c. Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences;
          d. Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships; and
          e. A dysfunctional Emotional response

          As stated by ASAM, the presence of these criteria reflect changes in structure and physiology sahred by all addictions. This includes sexual behavioral addictions.

          Your endless attempt at spin will not alter these facts.

          • Who sets what the limits of “normal” abstinence are, Marnie?

            Who decides what is “impairment”?

            What is “craving” and what is “hunger”? In other words, what’s the difference between unnatural and natural desire?

            What happens if one’s interpersonal relationships are dysfunctional through no fault of one’s own but because OTHER people have problems? Should you still have a “functional” response to them as a normal condtion of affairs?

            What exactly is a “functional” emotional response and how does one judge that?

            All of these are issues that your pals at the ASAM seem to gloss over. But you’re an expert on this topic, correct? Perhaps you could enlighten us by taking a crack at answering these very simple and fundamental questions?

            • All good questions, however, these guidelines are for health care practitioners, not lay a person such as yourself. Medical doctors and addiction counselors not only use these guidelines, but take a history, ask questions, run tests, along with other assessments, in a patient evaluation.

              The medical doctors and researchers at ASAM have already “taken a crack at it” (for the last 50 years), and their new definition is the culmination. If you want your questions answered read the rest of the ASAM definition, as it expands on the criteria.

    • Thaddeus,
      Have you seen the new statement of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)? Like any addiction, sexual behavior addictions are defined by well-established brain changes: (1) desensitization (numbing of the brain’s pleasure response, driving the need for more stimulation), (2) sensitization (extreme sensitivity to cues) and (3) hypofrontality (decreased activity, and even decreased gray matter in the pre-frontal cortex). See http://yourbrainonporn.com/toss-your-textbooks-docs-redefine-sexual-behavior-addictions

      All of these physical changes have already been tracked in Internet addicts, gambling addicts, food addicts and drug addicts. For more, see http://marnia.scienceblog.com/50/ominous-news-for-porn-users-internet-addiction-atrophies-brains/ While porn users’ brains haven’t been scanned, that is largely because control groups of non-porn-using Western males can’t be found, not because experts doubt that such changes would be seen. This is why ASAM confidently included sexual behavior addictions in its recent statement. By the way, it’s my understanding that ASAM’s action (finally) brings American addiction medicine into alignment with the position of international and Canadian addiction-medicine societies.

      On our forum, we’ve heard from gay porn viewers troubled by their escalation to straight rape porn, and many straight viewers troubled by their escalation to gay/transexual porn. It’s likely that sexual orientation is *not* the same as more superficial plastic tastes engendered by escalation to new porn content. It would be great to see some research done on this. Right now, the meme that “What you masturbate to IS your sexual orientation” is so strong that some porn users are genuinely confused/alarmed about their underlying orientation when they no longer get erections to porn they used to watch, and only (now) get erections to porn they associate with another sexual orientation. The good news is that when they stop using Internet porn, their brains apparently return to normal sensitivity, and their tastes gradually shift back toward their fundamental orientation (over the next several months). Of course, if they don’t know of, or don’t opt for, this option they’re stuck.

      On what do you base your claim that young people’s sexuality is basically where it was in the mid-80s? It used to be uncommon for young men to experience chronic ED; now it’s not. For hundreds of self-reports in support of this observation, follow the links in this article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201108/porn-then-and-now-welcome-brain-training It’s likely this situation is moving too fast for researchers to keep up with. Today’s porn has changed radically in terms of its potential effects on the brain. See “Porn Then and Now: Welcome to Brain Training” http://yourbrainonporn.com/porn-then-and-now-welcome-to-brain-training

      Self-reports aren’t unscientific. They’re simply evidence. Most research arises from similar observations, which are then ideally tested in controlled studies. We, too, would like to see controlled studies in this area. However, since researchers’ hands are somewhat tied when it comes to investigating the effects of heavy porn use on adolescents, self-reports may be the best evidence available. The situation is reminiscent of the debate about the effects of smoking in the last century. What ethics committee would sanction research calling for youngsters to watch hours of hardcore porn (as many of them are now doing) – even assuming control groups could be found?

      In any case, the absence of controlled brain studies on porn users doesn’t mean there’s no evidence of how extreme stimuli cause addiction-related brain changes in some brains. There’s ample evidence of that, which is why ASAM acted. At this point, the burden of proof is on the porn-is-harmless crowd to show the rest of us why the extreme stimulation of today’s ever-novel Internet porn would be the exception to the rule. Now there’s an epistemologial mystery.

      • I’d like to see a straight, epístemologically correct and clear definiton of “addiction” please, one that’s backed up by non-anecdotal evidence. One that is as clear cut in its observable effects as, say, alchohol addiction. One which is not so vague and meaningless that literally anything – up to and including breathing – might be included within its purview.

        “Shifts in tastes” is so damned vague it could mean anything at all and you as a scientist should damned well know that.

        Also, important-sounding “proof” like “increased activity, and even decreased gray matter in the pre-frontal cortex” is almost completely meaningless in this context unless you can show that there’s a clear causal link between this and something that can be clearly and non-tautologically defined as “addiction” – a definiton, which, I should add, you have yet to provide. I should also point out that said “proof” is FAR from clear cut or reproducible. Show me SIX studies where porn caused “grey matter” to decrease and I’ll admit you might be on to something. As is, I’m betting that what you can point to is one or two dodgy studies produced by scientists with a political axe to grind in the porn wars.

        Maybe I’m wrong, though. Show me instead of referring to these “literally hundreds of studies” which no one’s ever seen.

        Pointing to changes in brainwave patterns and seeing “See? That’s addiction!” is slightly more scientific than phrenology, but only just. Have you folks bothered to read any critical literature regarding what brainwaves actually measure? Cordelia Fine, just for starters? I’d suggest it.

        What I find alarming is the vague – almost tautological – definition of “addiction” that you folks are tossing out here and the fact that you support it not with scientific literature, but with pop science blogs, alarmist magazine articles and anecdotal evidence.

        That’s not science, folks: that’s what Harry Frankfurter calls “bullshit”.

        Now, you ask “On what do you base your claim that young people’s sexuality is basically where it was in the mid-80s?” Good question, except that’s not how science works. I can’t prove a negative, can I? I can’t very well prove that things have NOT changed. It’s up to you to prover they have. So far, all you’ve given is this: “It used to be uncommon for young men to experience chronic ED; now it’s not.”

        Huh? Where’s the evidence of that? Thirty years ago, young people didn’t even TALK about erectile disfunction. If you couldn’t get a boner, it was presumably because you drank too much or were stressed. Erectile disfunction was for old people. In today’s post-viagra world, men are convinced that they have a problem if they can’t get a boner on command. What proof, then, is there that this “problem” hasn’t been created by an increased awareness of said issue?

        And let’s be clear on this: a pop journalism piece in Psychology Today does not qualify as a study. Show us the beef or admit that you’re simply banging the moral panic drum because you, personally, think porn is evil.

        As for self-reports and their scientific validity, I’m an anthropologist and an ethnographer, so I know very well what one CAN and CANNOT do with annecdotal data. What one CANNOT do is use it to project societal trends and make claims that there are “epidemics” of this or that disease going about. Self-reporting tells us alot about what that particular person is going through. Without a whole HELL of a lot more contexual social data, you can’t tell shit about what such reports mean to society at large. So please bull me no shit about how your “personal reporting” somehow conflates to a largescale epedemic of society-threatening behavior.

        By the way, self-reports aren’t the only or best sort of data one can get here: ethnography is quite useful, too. You can observe the public culture of so-called “hard-core porn users”. I do this, by the way. I interact on a daily basis with prostitutes’ clients here in Brazil. Most of them are what you’d call “hard-core porn users” and while I would agree that they have a different sexuality than many other people, their sexuality is hardly classifiable as a disease which is PRECISELY what you’re trying to do here.

        What pisses me off is that you seem to be trying to create a new sexual minority while simultaneously trying to medicalize said sexual minority. This doesn’t remind me so much of scientific studies of smoking as it does psychology’s long and extremely tarnished history of stigmatization of “non-normative sexual behavior”.

        And is it someone who’s actually had some scientific training in biology, sexuality, sociology or neurology who’s producing this attempted shift in our perceptions of porn users? No: it’s an ex-corporate lawyer who seems to be trying to make a name for herself as a pop writer and sell books as a porn expert. and her husband a “neuroscience enthusiast”, which is a polite way of saying a hobbyist.

      • One final bit:

        “At this point, the burden of proof is on the porn-is-harmless crowd to show the rest of us why the extreme stimulation of today’s ever-novel Internet porn would be the exception to the rule. Now there’s an epistemologial mystery.”

        And you claim to be a scientist, Marnia Robinson?

        How can ANYONE prove a negative, that some poorly defined thing (“internet porn”) has no effect?

        Can you even define your variables in that supposed experiment? “Internet porn”? That’s not a scientific category: that’s bullshit and you would realize that if your career had actually involved scientific research and not aiding corporations to socialize their expenses via the res publica.

  44. I thought this was a great article – certainly gave me something to think about. Those of us with young children do need to think about the unintended consequences of the constant stimulation available to our kids – from television to the internet. Do we realize how different our own childhood was?
    Am I terrified for my 5 and 2 year olds and their future – no. But, I don’t think cautionary tales should always be considered fear-mongering.

  45. jfpbookworm says:

    Sex-tinged alarmism about kids these days? Check.
    Spurious, unsourced evo-psych? Check.
    Untraceable testimonial found nowhere but the author’s own sites? Check.
    Homophobia, transphobia and kinkphobia? Check.
    Addiction specialists finding addictions wherever they look, thus justifying their specialty? Check.
    Descriptions of human nature that don’t describe people’s lived experience? Check.
    One True Way-ism? Giant novelty check.
    Gratuitous mention of degree in completely unrelated field? Check.

    C’mon, GMP, even if you insist on anti-porn as part of being a “good man” you can do better than this.

    • I guess I’m not the only one who failed to be alarmed by today’s dose of fearmongering. Yawn.

      Oh, and the fact that some people prefer masturbation to sex with a partner? Why, that sounds a lot like an individual sexual preference. The horror… the horror… something MUST be done! Won’t someone think of the children???

    • Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable that in Marnia Robinson we have an ex-corporate lawyer (a truly ethical profession if ever there was one) trying to build a career for herself as a porn guru?

    • You guys, or whatever you are, do not understand much about brain chemistry. If you’re not interested that’s one thing, and means you maybe ought to not comment. But to not understand or know of the brain science and then brush it off as nonsense, attack the authors and label proven science as bogus is the height of hubristic arrogance. That also reeks of defending a shadow in yourselves that you don’t want to see, and admit to.
      Brain science is real. It is proven, just as is you’re ignorance about a subject that you seem fearful to know about. You do not need to stop being a wanker, and I do not read that anyone is suggesting this. This article is for those who may want a little education. Thanks for your your opinion though. It helps me to realize how far from healthy our humanity is.

      • Scott, it’s not that I push brain chemistry science off as nonsense: I push an untrained ex-corporate lawyer’s views that brain chemistry “proves” that internet addiction is a threat off as science.

        I just read through every article Marnia has posted on her site re: sex and internet addiction and NONE of them strongly support the radical and sweeping claims she’s making. Just because Marnia knows how to cut and paste strategic excerpts from a few well-selected scientific papers does not mean that she knows sweet f$%k all about the science of brain chemistry.

        What I DO know about said science is this:

        1) It is very complex.
        2) It has historically been used to “prove” things that are not at all provable (the view, for example, that homosexuals are sick).
        3) It routinely gets manipulated by every half-bright hack with a socio-political agenda who thinks its findings “prove” whatever their favorite hobby horse is.

        Given the above, the operative word is to be very cautious withclaims that “brain science” proves anything at all when it comes to social behaviors. That’s the non-arrogant position, Scott.

        “Arrogance” is when you purposely misread scientific studies on brain chemistry in order to “prove” your theories regarding social engineering.

        • So, Thaddius, you seem to be the empirical evidence type. Porn addiction (seems to be) rapidly changing the landscape of the collective psyche. What you do not seem to understand is that, obviously, not everyone who looks at porn is addicted to it. But that there are those of us (a growing percentage) that can not stop despite the negative consequences that our behavior has presented in our lives. This is not a fondness of porn or a love of porn. This is an addiction. My diagnosis was from a PH.D, not a self diagnosis or some “half-bright hack with a socio-political agenda”.
          Furthermore, you seem to be on an agenda of your own. Nobody here is gay-bashing or calling alternative lifestyles “sick”. There is probably a great deal of support here for these, and all other, civil rights. It may be wise for you to be able to separate your own fight and issues from information that is clearly provided to promote social awareness.

          • Scott, there’s no proof at all that the percentage of people who can’t stop pulling their puds is growing. I’m sorry. Not a single study Marnia cites says that and I’m unable to find any elsewhere. I realize that as a self-defined porn addict you want to feel that your numbers are growing. That may or may not be the case. We. Just. Do. Not. Know.

            Read my bit below about Bobby the porn addict if you want to know what I think about certain diagnoses. But hey, if being a recovering porn addict makes you feel better than what you were before, by all means go for it! I just happen to take such claims in the same vein that I take claims about “recovering gays”.

            And I’ll fully admit to having an agenda of my own. Unlike Marnia, however, I put that agenda out front in my writing so that readers can judge for themselves whether or not my ideological filters have kicked in. Furhtermore, I don’t try to hide my political and social concerns behind the marginal results of a science I barely understand and have no training in.

            Finally, Scott, I’m not the one making sweeping claims about how the sky is falling here: Marnia is. I’m saying things are basically as they always were: she’s the one who claims that there’s a “perfect storm” brewing. It’s incumbent on her, then, to show her work, not me. So far, all she’s shown is that she knows how to bullshit rather well by cutting and pasting snippets from unconnected research in a field she’s never studied.

  46. Transhuman says:

    Jill, porn is simply a sensory stimulus; you no doubt have preferred foods. Do you feel your mind is cluttered with all the memories of all the foods you’ve eaten? I doubt it, the human mind has its own ‘garbage collection’ system and we do not remember every single stimulus we experience.

    • Not quite the right analogy. More like what if there was an intense sensory substitute for food, and you spent hours a day using it over an over, could you still enjoy real food? (That might be a great weight loss method, but I digress.) Anyway, I don’t know. I haven’t watched much porn so when I think about the fact that guys have probably watched 1000’s of times more sex acts than they’ve actually experienced, I just don’t know how it might affect them. I have noticed, in my own life (I’m in my 40’s) that sex seems to have become a lot more pornified than it was in my 20’s, 20 years ago — guys seem to do a lot more porn moves and make more fetishy type requests. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, if both people enjoy it, But I don’t really like the feeling that now it’s my job to make sex more like a guy’s porn fantasy.

      Also, while most guys probably do not suffer adverse effects from porn (other than becoming n
      bad lovers due to unrealistic ideas about what women enjoy), apparently there are guys who find sex to be a poor substitute for porn. In a way I don’t care — I’d rather not be in a relationship with a guy like that, so let him stay in his bedroom and out of the dating world (and gene pool).

      • I know lots of guys who prefer porn to actual sex, though I’m not one of them. Porn is easier, cheaper, and less risky than pursuing a real woman. Plus, masturbating to porn is usually just as pleasurable as actual sex(sometimes more so). The only thing porn is lacking is the emotional connection and the cuddling afterwards. Two things that just aren’t important to some guys.

        • Don’t men enjoy the full body sensory experience of real sex? Isn’t that better than jerking off to a computer screen? Wow. As a woman who became sexually active in the mid-1980’s, before the porn explosion (although the explosion was just starting, with VCR’s), the idea that libidinous young men would not want to have sex is just astounding to me. I have got to say, that is a huge change. I don’t know about actual “addiction” or how prevalent it is, but it does seem that young men are missing out on the kinds of social, real world experiences that are necessary if one is going to be capable of mature, nuanced and emotionally satisfying relationships. If some men view having sex with an actual women as just an inferior way to jerk off — that’s really sad.

          • Most men I know who prefer masturbation over porn claim to do so because they are tired of dealing with young women’s contradictory and unresolvable emotional demands.

            That statement is at least as “scientific” as any “self-reporting” used by Marnia Robinson to prove that porn is a threat to de youf of Americuh.

            • Yes, and not every sexual encounter is the “full body sensory experience” that Derbis mentions. I’m not sure all sex is better than all forms of masturbation. I don’t want this to devolve into a debate between an idealized, romantic view of sex and that evil porn drug.

              • I was responding to the comment that the only advantage that sex has over porn is the emotion and cuddling afterwards. In other words, that the sensation on the penis is the only pleasure a man gets from sex. Really? That seems absurd. I would agree that masturbation is better than bad sex, but masturbation can’t compare to good sex.

                • Ah. And in your professional estimation, Jill. do you believe most sex in the world actuially involves much emotion and cuddling afterwards? Masturbation can’t compare to good sex, but it’s hell and away better than BAD sex.

                  • Isn’t that exactly what I said? You seem to insist on ascribing absolutist positions to me that I’m not even taking. Also, if you are saying that men really do only care about the sensations in their penis, and sex has no other meaning or pleasure for men, I think that’s a very anti-male statement. And untrue based on my experience. Not just “cuddling” but also the whole physical experience of having sex. If you don’t get what I’m saying, you must be pretty lousy in bed.

                • I take your meaning. Good point. I see I also wrote “Derbis” instead of “Jill.” Oops.

                  Personally I find great in-person sex much better than great masturbation. I just don’t think that’s always the choice that these men are facing.

                  Sorry to go here, but: who says masturbation only involves touch on the penis?

          • It’s not that these men DON’T want sex. If an attractive woman walked up to these guys and asked them if they would like to have sex with her immediately, I have no doubt that almost all of them would say “yes.”

            However, if said women asked them to have sex with her AFTER: taking her to dinner, getting to know her as a friend, showing her a good time, etc. Then I suspect said men would go back to their porn. You have to understand that for many men sex is more an itch to be scratched than anything else. The male sex drive can be downright overwhelming at times, and it’s sometimes better to just find quick release than make a big enterprise out of relieving you urges.

            Also, for men, sex really IS all about the penis. At least 95% of it is.

    • I wouldn’t be so confident that humans do not collect a lot of garbage upstairs.

      Actually we do have memories of food, along with preferences, that when accessed either activate dopamine within the reward circuitry (ice cream, pizza) or depress dopamine and the reward circuitry (spinach, liver). In this one way sexual appetites or preferences may mimic food consumption.

      Since you are using a food analogy, keep in mind that the issue is not merely a matter of memories, but whether excess consumption physically alters the brain in ways that indicate addiction processes at work. Pigging out on junk food to the point of obesity alters the addiction centers of the brain. Researchers have found brain changes in obese animals and humans that mimic those seen in drug addicts. These major brain addiction changes include: desensitization (decline in dopamine and D2 receptors), sensitization (increase in DeltafosB and D1 receptors), and hypofrontality (decline in volume and functioning of frontal cortex).

      See the following articles for an understanding of these processes, along with citations.
      Intoxicating Behaviors: 300 Vaginas = A Lot of Dopamine

      http://yourbrainonporn.com/intoxicating-behaviors-300-vaginas-a-lot-of-dopamine
      Protect Your Appetite for Pleasure
      http://yourbrainonporn.com/has-evolution-trained-our-brains-to-gorge-on-food-and-sex

      In addition, this past August, The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released their sweeping new definition of addiction, which states that behavioral addictions affect the brain just as drugs do—in all key respects. ASAM emphasizes that the behaviors and symptoms that manifest in all addictions, reflect common underlying brain changes. See new definition: http://www.asam.org/DefinitionofAddiction-LongVersion.html

      The following FAQ is from ASAM’s new definition:

      QUESTION: This new definition of addiction refers to addiction involving gambling, food, and sexual behaviors. Does ASAM really believe that food and sex are addicting?

      ANSWER:
      Addiction to gambling has been well described in the scientific literature for several decades. In fact, the latest edition of the DSM (DSM-V) will list gambling disorder in the same section with substance use disorders. The new ASAM definition makes a departure from equating addiction with just substance dependence, by describing how addiction is also related to behaviors that are rewarding. This the first time that ASAM has taken an official position that addiction is not solely “substance dependence.”

      This definition says that addiction is about functioning and brain circuitry and how the structure and function of the brains of persons with addiction differ from the structure and function of the brains of persons who do not have addiction. It talks about reward circuitry in the brain and related circuitry, but the emphasis is not on the external rewards that act on the reward system. Food and sexual behaviors and gambling behaviors can be associated with the “pathological pursuit of rewards” described in this new definition of addiction.

  47. I don’t have a problem with occasional porn use, but it is hard to understand that there are guys out there who think that real sex is “too much work” or less pleasurable than whacking off to porn. Wow. They seem destined for lonely and unsatisfying lives. That said, I’ve never dated a guy who didn’t love sex regardless of any prior porn use! Hopefully the men quoted in this article are a small minority, probably in the category of people who are prone to addiction. If it wasn’t porn, they’d probably be addicted to something else.

    It does weird me out a bit to think that my boyfriend (who I love dearly), being a normal American male, has probably seen thousands of porn images in his lifetime. I can’t imagine having my brain stuffed with that many sexual images. I’ve always wondered if it would be like spending years watching movies about, I don’t know, the city of Rome, every day, for several hours a day. When you finally visit Rome in real life, what would it be like? Would it be a letdown? Would it be boring? After all, you’ve already seen it from every angle, thousands of times. Would you have a feeling like, “This isn’t really Rome”? Would you think, “Wow this is noisier, and smellier, and more work than the city that I imagined! Maybe I’ll go back to the hotel — after all, I’ve seen all the sights already.” Most guys now must be so saturated with porn, I can’t even imagine how it must color their mental experiences.

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