Pornography, like it or not, has become a regular part of American society. It is prevalent, to varying degrees, in television, movies, magazines, even literature. 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography, one-quarter of all search engine queries are related to pornography, one-third of pornography consumers are female. You’re probably wondering why you should care, why this is worth noting, or why this is detrimental; let me explain to you why.
How does porn affect the mind?
Dopamine: http://www.psychologytoday.com defines dopamine as the following,
“… a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction…”
The release of dopamine is associated with the following (among other things): pleasure and bonding. Pleasure. Different pleasure stimuli result in various levels of dopamine release for different people. For example, something I enjoy doing (probably more than anything else) is SCUBA diving. The feeling of near-weightlessness combined with the need for constant alertness provides for both euphoria and mental and physical exertion. In short, it is a unique experience that applies fantasy-world-like visuals with the practice of legitimate skills. My mother, unfortunately, is mildly claustrophobic. This fear, combined with the underwater setting, provides for a very distasteful experience that leaves her frustrated with herself afterward. Despite this, every few years, she makes it out to go diving with my dad and I. This discrepancy between my mother’s and my reaction towards SCUBA diving results in a difference between our level of dopamine while participating in the activity. Thus, I associate SCUBA with pleasure, while my mother does not. To be blunt, an orgasm is a sexual pleasure; thus, you get a dopamine “hit” when you orgasm, and you want to do it again.
Bonding. Humans are often referred to as “pack animals.” In that, our natural state is to be with one another; if you ask a Catholic, like me, this means we are naturally inclined to spend time with a particular member of the opposite sex and bond with him/her. Interpersonal bonding, at the chemical level, results from dopamine release during a shared experience. For example, my relationship with my parents is strong and healthy because, during my childhood, we spent a significant amount of time enjoying the outdoors (something we all find pleasurable). Your familial bonds might be close, or not, for different reasons. If you grew up playing sports in your hometown, you likely have a strong relationship with those kids whom you had to do pushups and run wind-sprints together. Pleasure releases dopamine; dopamine causes bonding, bonding is the basis of all intimate relationships. If you watch porn if you orgasm while looking at a video of people having sex or masturbating, with whom, or what, are you bonding with?
“Already, a growing number of studies have correlated use of internet porn with arousal, attraction, and sexual performance problems. [See notes 15-22, below] Results link its use with diminished libido or erectile function, delayed ejaculation, a preference for using porn to achieve and maintain arousal over having sex with a partner, adverse effects on partnered sex, decreased enjoyment of sexual intimacy, and lower brain activation to sexual images.” – http://www.yourbrainonporn.com
The question shouldn’t be “what are you bonding with?” It should be “does watching porn desensitize you to healthy bonding through sexual intimacy?” From what we know, yes, it does.
How does porn affect our behavior?
“Our research shows, among college-aged heterosexual men, 51 percent masturbated to pornography several times per week, 19 percent use it several times per month and 13.5 percent use it daily. Men who watched more pornography deliberately conjured up pornographic images to maintain arousal during sex and preferred pornography over real-life sexual encounters. In other words, pornography is not mere fantasy for men; instead, it shapes how they engage in intimate behaviors.” – Jennifer Johnson, Ph.D. VCU Department of Sociology
Pornography influences behavior, in that it provides its consumers with a precedent that revolves around sex. Not sex in the intimate, healthy, manner I alluded to before, but in a mechanical and rehearsed manner seen in porn. This precedent perverts our perspective on relationships. Personally, I struggle with this in that I find myself objectifying women I meet in class, at church, or any other aspect of my life. My former addiction to pornography has left me with sexual memories of women whom I have never met, nor will I likely ever meet. Imagine you date someone for a significant amount of time, maybe your relation becomes intimate, and then you break up. You will remain emotionally attached to that person for a considerable amount of time after said breakup. Now, imagine you see a man or women on the street that bears a resemblance to your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, that can cause you to pause for a moment. Whether that pause causes you to recall positive or negative memories of your past relationship, it will elicit an emotional response of some kind. Now, imagine that you have the same moment of recognition for someone you meet on the street, only this time they bear a resemblance to a porn star you’ve watched before. I can’t speak for all of you, and maybe you have no experience such as this, perhaps this is unique to me; but, that is not to say this couldn’t happen. Imagine feeling the same emotion you would from seeing your ex, as you would from seeing a perfect stranger; is that not perverted?
How does porn effect society?
Desensitize is defined as to “make less sensitive.” To numb one’s reaction to something. If you’ve ever walked down the streets of Vegas, you’ve seen advertisements on taxis, billboards, clubs, of nude or scantily-clad women with a number you can call. This might sound shocking to you, but, as someone who has passed through Vegas on road-trips several times, I am used to seeing such advertisements. It is often the source of crude jokes between some of my friends who were with me, and an awkward conversation with my mother (she felt the need to explain what they were all about, much to my discomfort, I was eight at the time, I’m sure you can empathize). These kinds of advertisements are not prevalent in much of the United States, or are they? The statistics I cited in my first paragraph illustrate the prevalence of pornography on the internet. Why do we tolerate this? Is desensitization beneficial to society?
“Pornography is more than a personal choice related to speech, expression or sexuality. It is a global industry that trades on the bodies of men, women and children for profit. It is the public face of a larger network of sexual exploitation which deliberately recruits from foster homes, shelters serving various desperate populations and otherwise seeks out poor people from across the world to feed a supply chain with a constant need for fresh bodies due to the level of physical punishment and degradation associated with the production of pornographic material.” – Jennifer Johnson, Ph.D. VCU Department of Sociology