PORN: Drinking From A Poisoned Stream

25 11 2015

The pornified brain sounds a lot like Mick Jagger; it can’t get no satisfaction.

drinking piss - Copy

On the surface it sounds absurd. Pornography offers endless opportunities for arousal. If a human masturbates to a wider range of images or videos, shouldn’t that satiate? The simple answer is no.

 

Dr. Norm Doidge explains that porn is more exciting than satisfying because we have two separate pleasure systems in our brains: one for exciting pleasure and another for satisfying pleasure.

The exciting system, fueled by dopamine and anticipation, is all about appetite, such as imagining your favorite meal or a sexual episode.

The satisfying system involves actually having the meal or having sex, which provides a calming, fulfilling pleasure. This system releases opiate-like endorphins that provide feelings of peace and euphoria.

Pornography, Doidge writes, hyperactivates the appetite system. But the satisfying system is left starving for the real thing, which includes actual touching, kissing, caressing, and a connection not only with the body but also the mind and soul. The satisfying system releases oxytocin and endorphins, and bellows, in the words of Marvin Gaye, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby.”

The porn-saturated brain is fixated on sex, Dr. William Struthers explains, but real sex is intended for intimacy. The pornified brain is ready for multiple partners, images, and sexual possibilities, but it is intended for a narrow focus of exclusive sharing. Porn’s neurological superhighway is built for speed, but satisfying sex is designed for the slow and evolving discovery and appreciation of a loving partner. Porn provides few off-ramps (masturbation) that offer fleeting escapes that hasten the need for more. Meanwhile a committed couple can have long and satisfying encounters with many off ramps for creative expressions of intimacy that are not genitally oriented.

Doidge writes:

Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it.

How porn hurts marital sex

Pornographers want people to believe that viewing porn is harmless entertainment and that it can even spice up one’s love life, but the opposite is true. Rather than encouraging intimacy, research shows that porn steals it away.

Porn encourages selfishness rather than an exchange of intimacy. Especially among men, who are more visually stimulated than women, porn teaches that women are objects for their lust. Women are just body parts, used for personal gratification.

Pornography trains men to be consumers, to treat sex as a commodity, to think about sex as something on-tap and made-to-order. As Dr. Mary Anne Layden writes, “It is toxic miseducation about sex and relationships.”6

  • In Dr. Gary Brooks’ book, The Centerfold Syndrome, he explains that because the women in porn are only glossy magazine pictures or pixels on the screen, they have no sexual or relational expectations of their own. This trains men to desire the cheap thrill of fantasy over a committed relationship that requires them to connect to another human being. Pornography essentially trains men to be digital voyeurs: looking at women rather than seeking genuine intimacy.
  • According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, after only a few prolonged exposures to pornographic videos, men and women alike reported less sexual satisfaction with their intimate partners, including their partners’ affection, physical appearance, and sexual performance.
  • Another study that appeared in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found similar results. When men and women were exposed to pictures of female centerfold models from Playboy and Penthouse, this significantly lowered their judgments about the attractiveness of “average” people.
  • Dr. Victor Cline’s research has shown that sexual arousal and excitement diminish with repeated exposure to sexual scenes, leading people to seek out greater variety and novelty in the pornography they view.
  • French neuroscientist Serge Stoleru reports on how overexposure to erotic stimuli actually exhausts the sexual responses of healthy young men.
  • Dr. Dolf Zillmann reports when young people are repeatedly exposed to pornography, it can have a long-lasting impact on their beliefs and behaviors. Frequently, men who habitually view pornography develop cynical attitudes about love and the need for affection between partners. They begin to view the institution of marriage as sexually confining. Often, men develop a “tolerance” for sexually explicit material, leading them to seek out more novel or bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal.

Dr. Judith Reisman summarizes it well: Pornography causes impotence — an inability to function with your own sexual power. “If he has to imagine a picture, if he has to imagine a scene, in order to actually reach the heights of completion with this person, then he’s no longer with his own power, is he? He has been stripped. He has been hijacked. He has been emasculated. He has, in effect, been castrated visually.”

Porn and Erectile Dysfunction

If the concerns above were not enough, many men become so habituated to pornography that they experience erectile dysfunction when they are with their spouse. Rather than performing better, as pornography promises, many men find that they can only achieve consistent and sustained erections with porn.

Drs. Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson explained in Psychology Today that overstimulation with pornography creates changes in the brain that make a man less responsive to the physical pleasure of a real woman and hyper-responsive to Internet porn. Men become sensitized to Internet porn, but desensitized to sex in general, which requires more and more stimulation to achieve arousal. When preparing for real sex, the pornified brain fails to get its dopamine surge and the signal to the penis is too weak to achieve erection. But turn on an Internet device with unlimited pages of novelty, and boom, the plumbing works.

Fast-growing online communities of people who call themselves “Fapstronauts” complain that porn is the root of their problems with ED and premature ejaculation. “Fapping,” slang for masturbating to Internet porn, is causing these people so many troubles they banded together for support. One online community claims 50,000 members, and their goal is to encourage each other to avoid pornography and masturbation for 90 days in the hope of never going back.

Real satisfaction

Because of the brain’s plasticity, people once consumed by porn can rearrange their neural networks to enjoy only sexual intimacy with their spouse, and studies show these relationships to be the most satisfying.

For instance, male porn users often believe more partners will bring greater satisfaction. But a 2011 study of long-term committed relationships (with a median duration of 25 years) showed the opposite. The study showed that the longer a man was in a relationship, the more likely he enjoyed relational happiness and sexual satisfaction. Women, in turn, enjoyed sex less during the early years of their relationships and experienced greater satisfaction later.

Another study in 2010 showed that couples who delay sex until their wedding night enjoy more stable and happier marriages. They also rated the quality of sex and the satisfaction in their relationships 15% and 20% higher respectively than couples who had premarital sex.

The results of these studies are nothing new, Dr. Weiss says. Studies and surveys of married couples have shown positive sexual satisfaction results for decades.

Weiss says:

The research shows that people who have consistent sex inside of a marriage — spiritually connected sex — have the best sexual satisfaction over time. The person that has the most sexual partners has the least level of sexual satisfaction as adults.

Unlike a porn video or a magazine, sex with a real-life committed partner has many points of arousal and satisfaction, from words and tones of voice, to touch, to the temperature of skin, and many other interactions. Yes, dopamine likes novelty. For the porn user that means more porn, but in a committed relationship novelty never has to end.

“Fortunately, lovers can stimulate their dopamine, keeping the high alive, by injecting novelty into their relationship,” Dr. Doidge writes. “When a couple go on a romantic vacation or try new activities together, or wear new kinds of clothing, or surprise each other, they are using novelty to turn on the pleasure centers, so that everything they experience, including each other, excites and pleases them.”

For minds and marriages wounded by porn, great sex and true intimacy will not arrive overnight. Repairing brokenness in marriage requires real work and determination. Building trust takes time.

Photo credit: ephotography29

Download and read the rest of the book, The Porn Circuit: Understand Your Brain and Break Porn Habits in 90 Days.

Author, Sam Black

 


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