Pornography, and the way it is delivered to our brains, has changed significantly throughout the last fifty years. As this represents a very small amount of time in comparison to the millions of years humans have been evolving, our brains haven’t yet adapted, and it is creating unexpected problems for some users.
“There’s a difference between today’s online porn and that of just a couple decades ago. Now, you can go to a variety of websites and find more free porn than you could watch if you quit your job and dedicated your life to it—all in living color and high-def. You can even pick your favorite fetish, whatever you find the most intense, and just watch video after video of it. If the intensity wanes for a few seconds, or you get bored with watching the same bodies for two minutes straight, you can jump to a new set doing new things. It has the potential to be far more destructive to your appreciation for the real thing than ever before.”
Today’s Internet porn, like some of today’s fast food, registers as a supernormal stimulus in many brains, driving consumption beyond natural libido. It’s more enticing than anything our ancestors conjured up during the course of evolution. Users can watch porn in multiple windows, search endlessly, view constant novel content, fast-forward to the bits they find hottest, switch to live sex chat, fire up their mirror neurons with video action or cam-2-cam, or escalate to extreme genres and anxiety-producing material (which also registers as arousing). It is easy to access, available within seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be viewed on smartphones at any age. Before long, the porn industry might come up with other novelties such as enhancement with sex toys that simulate physical contact.
Why is constant stimulation so addictive? As neuroscientist David Linden explains, smoking hooks a far greater percentage of users than heroin, even though heroin furnishes a bigger neurochemical blast. Why? It’s a question of brain training. Every puff of each of those 20 cigarettes per pack is training the smoker that cigarettes are rewarding. In contrast, how often can someone shoot up? At base addiction is “pathological learning.” Unfortunately, adolescent brains are primed for this kind of learning, and even more vulnerable than adults to unwanted sexual conditioning and addiction.
The belief that “porn use can cause no harm” arose in the era of monthly Playboy. Like it or not, Internet porn is as different from past erotica as Call of Duty is from tic-tac-toe. Instead of being “just porn,” or even just a masturbation aid for coping with normal libido, Internet porn is a new phenomenon, for which evolution has not prepared many brains.
“Back in the day of dial-up, I was only able to download the occasional picture (very soft-porn) due to bad/slow Internet and not knowing where to find all the smuttery. But now with high-speed, even to mobile phones, it has made me continuously watch more and more and at higher resolution. It sometimes becomes a whole day affair looking for the perfect one to finish on. It never, ever satisfies. ‘Need more’ the brain always says…such a lie.”
It’s easy to over-consume today’s Internet porn, and many fapstronauts report that it leads leads to symptoms: loss of attraction to real partners, difficulty reaching (or inability to) orgasm, weak erections or erectile dysfunction during real sex, morphing sexual tastes and escalation to extreme material, unaccustomed social anxiety, brain fog, and so forth.
How do you know if you have a problem? Can you masturbate without porn or porn fantasy (that is, by using touch and thoughts of real potential partners only)? Can you only sustain an erection (or female equivalent) when using porn? Are you noticing these kinds of symptoms of excessive porn use?
Fortunately, the mainstream is beginning to recognize the connection between some of these symptoms and over-consumption of Internet porn: Dr. Oz Show addresses porn-induced erectile dysfunction. The best news is that many fapstonauts who quit using Internet porn rebound within months. Some have dubbed the natural improvements they see “super powers.” No one can say if you’ll see major improvements in social skills, mental clarity, mojo, and sexual performance, but take the challenge and find out for yourself.