Hard porn can make you soft

Sunday, 7 October 2012 - 11:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
To give people a better understanding of how porn affects us, psychologist Gary Wilson started a website called Your Brain On Porn (YBOP), that compiles research and provides analysis on the subject.

“You know what blows my mind? Women can see breasts any time they want. You just look down and there they are. How you get any work done is beyond me.”

Any guy who’s hit puberty will nod in vigorous agreement with this statement by Joey, one of the lead characters of the sitcom, Friends. It’s the boobs that get guys started on porn, for most of us anyway.

Growing up in the ’90s, when internet had not yet penetrated our homes, porn was a rare commodity. Even faded images on pages torn from a porn magazine that a friend got his hands on generated much excitement in our group. Even when internet arrived, the speeds were patchy. Moreover, it was on the ‘family computer’, which meant we were constantly watching our backs, deleting browsing histories, and taking pains to hide downloaded files.

Porn was much more precious, and accessing it was dangerous. Which explains why guys guard their porn stash zealously and are awfully proud of it.

But in the age of broadband speeds and personal gadgets, the porn stash has become a relic. Free porn videos can be streamed via websites such as Red Tube, Porn Hub, and Live Jasmine. New clips are added every day, which are categorised into different sections. The effort to access all this is close to zero.

However, too much porn is taking its toll on the male (and increasingly female) brain. To give people a better understanding of how porn affects us, psychologist Gary Wilson started a website called Your Brain On Porn (YBOP), that compiles research and provides analysis on the subject. The articles detail why porn addiction is as bad as, say, heroin addiction, as well as offers guidance on getting off of it.

Wilson writes that dopamine is the reason we feel motivation of any kind. Since the human body is wired to make the transmission of DNA to the next generation its top priority, the dopamine released at the end of sex is the highest. This is coupled with another factor called the Coolidge Effect, which basically says that we get more aroused at the prospect of ‘doing it’ with different people (Scientists conducted formal experiments on rats to conclude this, but duh!).

Online porn feeds both these tendencies. Not only is a dopamine rush just a click away, we get endless variety — bored of one-on-one, watch anal; bored of anal, check out gangbang; and so on. Actual sex takes too much effort, and the experience cannot match up to the stuff we see on videos.

As time progresses, the continuous dosage of dopamine makes the brain less sensitive to it. So, the body needs different and more extreme forms of porn to reach an orgasm. Eventually, some people are unable to have sex, a condition called porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

According to Wilson, the brain can be rewired, and people can once again find satisfaction in real life relationships. This involves going off porn and avoiding masturbation for some time — though Wilson repeatedly points out that the problem isn’t too much masturbation, it’s too much porn. A section on the website lists some tools that can be used to self-regulate porn consumption.

More important than regulation, however, is education, especially for teens. Wilson points out in one of the articles that the developing teen brain is more susceptible to the effects of porn since the areas that help them exercise judgement are still developing.

All this doesn’t mean that we need to stop watching porn (whew). But things aren’t simple anymore. In the good ol’ days, any porn that came our way was welcome. Today, there’s too much of it, and so we need to make conscious choices.


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