5 Ways Internet Porn is Uniquely Toxic to Consumers and their Brains

By KC

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We see tweets like this pretty often on comment threads around the internet.

Or like this guy’s.

And, we hear you; what’s the big deal with porn after all? “It’s not like it’s harmful, it’s been around for ages,” or so the argument goes.

And while porn has existed in some form for quite a long time, there’s no denying the industry and the content it produces has changed quite a bit in recent years. And the evolution from magazines and books, to video streaming and hardcore digital content reveal that not only porn “back then” was unhealthy, but the effects of today’s porn on consumers’ relationships, brain, and the world are unthinkable in comparison.

Still not convinced? We get it. You want all the facts before you make a decision. To help you out, here are 5 ways porn just isn’t what it what it used to be…Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.

1. More access than ever

Before, porn was something relatively difficult to get and keep, due to social stigma, accessible providers, and privacy. But those days are long gone since the internet came along. [1]

Now, anyone in the entire world can have free and constant access any day, any time. The internet pulls no brakes when it comes to the 5,000 centuries worth of porn consumed in 2016 alone. This is a stark contrast to the days of catching a glimpse two times a year at a Playboy magazine, or reading a steamy paragraph in a romance novel.

Related: How Porn Changes The Brain

When the internet was born, we officially entered the age of unrestricted porn content and consumption.

2. More degrading content than ever

Here’s where porn takes a serious turn. The porn of our forefathers is not the porn of today. Ancient shunga sexual images have nothing to with the twisted things depicted in today’s hentai category, for example. [2]

Porn has become increasingly degrading, violent—especially toward women—and extreme. In fact, when clinical associate professor Chyng Sun dug a little deeper into the attraction behind one of porn’s most famous yet most degrading acts, this was the response: “It is about controlling women, doing something disgusting to them. It’s like spitting or urinating on them.” How is this acceptable?

Related: A Teen’s Brain Hasn’t Fully Developed Yet, So How Does Hardcore Porn Affect It?

Studies from the Journal of Sex Research also show that violence has increased from magazines to videos, and that magazines often showed women as the victimizers rather than men. No violence is healthy, but when we talk about how porn shapes negative attitudes toward women, we see that unlike days of magazines, one study found that 88% of top-rated videos on porn sites are violent.

Also, we often hear testimonies of people who say, “How did I end up watching this kind of violent stuff?” upon knowingly seeking out and consuming extreme content. But there’s a scientific reason for this.

Dutch uro-neurologist Gert Holstege offers his theory. Based on the evidence that when watching extreme erotic videos, less blood is sent to the primary visual cortex, causing focus to be on arousal and not on visual processing. This means while someone consumes, all signs say “go, go, go, keep watching,” with no real processing of the content they’re taking in. Once they stop, the consumer’s brain kicks back into gear and says “what did I just watch?”

3. Constant novelty, limitless new stuff

We’ve already seen that there’s a limitless amount of porn available today. Producers, webcammers, you name it. There’s even artificially created porn. The types may vary, but the point is…there’s a lot.

The reality is, the internet provides a constant supply of new porn, every day. Webcammers and amateur porn producers have especially lowered the production costs, while increasing the amount of content.

But here’s the catch. According to sexual dysfunction clinical reports, “Novel sexual visuals have been shown to trigger greater arousal, faster ejaculation, and more semen and erection activity compared with familiar material.” This means that novel content equals more intense and quicker arousal.

Related: Quitting Porn? Learning The Brain Science Behind Compulsivity Can Be A Game-Changer

The trouble is, how can reality and natural, real-life sexual experiences compete with that?

Unlike magazines, internet is the perfect platform for providing constant innovation, the key to maintaining or elevating arousal levels in porn consumers. It allows for instantly tailored content selection, on demand with one click. Why is this all an issue? It is the perfect recipe for addiction.

4. Increased capacity for addiction

Check out what this Reddit discussion illuminates about today’s high tech porn. Porn has become more intense, and more potentially addictive, but why? In one word: dopamine.

Hits of the neurochemical dopamine can slowly change porn consumers’ brains through a re-wiring of the reward systems. It can get a little complicated, but the breakdown is like this:

Internet porn is constantly feeding consumers new explicit material (novelty), a key component in motivation, learning, and memory. Every new video someone sees triggers bursts of dopamine in regions of the brain strongly associated with reward and goal-directed behavior. This constantly changing porn can get increasingly more intense because the consumer’s brain needs constantly crazier stimuli to get the same level of arousal.

Watch: Episode 1 of Fight the New Drug’s three-part documentary uncovers the scientific effect of porn on the brain

The internet is the perfect provider for fulfilling this craving, which is one of the most powerful desire motors humans have biologically—the need to reproduce. So with the porn of today, consumers get a never-ending stream of hit upon hit of dopamine, training the reward systems to kick in every time they consume.

This constantly enhanced sexual arousal, something the human brain is not adapted for, causes an overload, distorting consumers’ pleasure-numbed brains, and boom—there’s a problem.

Often times, it’s not even a question of quantity consumed. Treatment seekers of porn consumption often do so because of the negative effects in their relationships, sex performance, social life, not because of their frequency of consumption. It’s about the novelty, not just the numbers. If you want over 40 neurological studies that explain this underlying porn addiction model, check this out.

5. The medium has completely changed

It’s clear that internet porn is nothing like the porn of magazine and books. It’s more accessible, more extreme, and there’s simply more of it.

Content is different. Books before, “[wove] sexual content into stories and ideas.” [3] Now, plots are flimsy and the focus is on exaggerated sex that doesn’t involve intimate touch or healthy partner communication. The potential for addiction is very real, and the human brain has not evolved to match the overload porn videos provide consumers with. This Reddit commenter sums it up well:

“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. 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.”

Related: Scientists Discover Brain Structure Differences In Frequent Porn Consumers

Even if they don’t know the specifics, porn consumers know something is up with the porn of today.

So there you have it. Five fact-packed ways today’s porn is uniquely toxic and unhealthy.

Still not convinced?

Check out all these personal testimonies—science isn’t the only thing that backs this up, people’s stories do too. They’ve recognized the harmful effects of porn in their lives, and they’re kicking it out.

Whether it’s the effect on your brain, your relationships, its relationship to sex trafficking porn has been proven to be unhealthy. And while we still hear troubling things like the tweets above, we know that the best option is no porn at all.

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Citations

[1] “The Oldest Impression.” The Erotic Engine, by Patchen Barss, Anchor Canada, 2012, pp.6.
[2] Ibid., pp. 39.
[3] Ibid., pp. 32.

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