The porn industry knows how your brain works. Do you?
Porn. Viewing pleasure. Recreational activity. Singles’ and couples’ turn on. Just a bit of fun. Right?
See Monday’s introductory post here.
In this series, we will explain the ways in which pornography has been found to be more than this. In essence, how it has been found to be poison. I suggest three significant ‘varieties’ of poison here, all of which are interlinked with each other: addictive, insatiating and desensitising. Porn is, of course, harmful in other ways as well – but as we begin to delve into what exactly is damaging about it and how it is so, these are what we will focus on. There is still a part of society that believes that pornography is not problematic (rather worryingly and relevant to today’s discussion, XXXChurch report that only 10% of porn consumers would say they are addicted) and it is important that, if indeed, pornography is addictive, or insatiating, or desensitising, this notion is challenged.
Today, an addictive poison. If the pornography industry is sustained and increasing, ‘customers’ must be returning. It is thought that 72 million people visit ‘adult sites’ each month. Because of the tremendous artistic merit or cultural education porn provides? No. It is addictive. As I mentioned before, it has been suggested that pornography is equal to cocaine or gambling in its addictiveness.
Pornography has been given its own name in the science of addiction: “eroto-toxin”. Scientists refer to it as dangerous – author of The Drug of the New Millennium, the Brain Science Behind Internet Pornography Use Mark Kastleman suggests it is the “most powerful drug in history“. So what is going on when porn is viewed?
Pornography triggers a response in the brain similar to those stimulated by addictive substances (the trigger mechanisms and symptoms, as well as withdrawal processes, do differ). It makes the most of intense emotional, physical and chemical connections in the brain and body and takes advantage of the natural, ‘programmed’ response to sexual stimulation which causes endogenous chemicals to be released.
I introduce you also to what have been dubbed the “fearsome four”.These are: dopamine (causes focused attention), norepinephrine (boosts natural adrenaline and causes increased memory ability), oxytocin (natural tranquiliser) and serotonin (induces a sense of calm). In addition to these, testosterone is released in the process – a chemical which causes craving and increased desire. Furthermore, opioids (causing euphoria) are released during orgasm (due to pornography often being teamed with masturbation, this is also worth noting) and are thought to be the most “perfect drug” in their natural state. These are all released in the brain when pornography is viewed. They are natural chemicals, they are powerful, and they have been found to be what, at a chemical level, strengthens the bond between sexual partners (in this context, they are called the “fearsome four” are renamed as the “fabulous four”). So if there is no sexual partner, what are our bodies being attached to?
Whilst on the topic of the brain and pornography, it is worth mentioning the recovery from pornography addiction. Whilst it is possible and favourable (and we will spend time on this in later posts), consider this: where a drug addict may not be able to reverse some of the effects of their drug abuse, they are able to become ‘clean’ and get the drug out of their system. A pornographic image, however, stays in the brain forever, suggest Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy and other experts.
It comes down to this: if pornography truly is addictive – is it something we are willing to submit ourselves to the control of? Is it really what we want our brains to crave and our actions to be dictated by? Is what we are becoming attached to worth our attachment?
// I am not a scientist, and this post may be rather heavy in technical terms. However: the porn industry is smart. It knows how our brains work, and how to manipulate them. So it’s important for us to know our brains well, and to be aware of how they are being taken advantage of.