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Friday
Aug302013

Pornography-A Big Deal?

 

I wonder if you are one of the millions of Americans who take this stance. If so you are likely a male (statistics show men are over 500% more likely than women to view porn).

This is not a soap box and I am not making a moral stand. In fact I am not even making an “anti-porn” stand.  I am, however, referring to chronic porn viewing, often referred to as “prolonged exposure.” As an addictions specialist with a special focus on sexual addiction, I am quite aware of the negative consequences that prolonged exposure to pornography brings.

First, a little biology; as a layman, I think of it this way. Viewing sexually explicit images causes a biochemical change within a person’s brain, a rush of endorphins and neurotransmitters, not unlike the use of drugs such as cocaine.  Engaging in this behavior frequently and over a long duration blazes new pathways in the brain in response to the changes.

Do you remember the story of Pavlov’s dogs? Ivan Pavlov was a scientist who figured that if he rang a bell every time he fed his dogs, they would eventually associate the sound of the bell with the food. When the dogs thought they were getting food they would salivate. The bell was associated with the food. After a while, the dogs began to salivate to the sound of the bell, whether or not the food came. I’m sorry to say, but we are much like Pavlov’s dogs.

Now, it’s is not a huge leap from dogs and food to people and porn, so far as the internal workings of the brain go. We now live in a time of unlimited instant access to explicit sexual images, and they are as close as our keyboard or smartphone.  In the past, viewing sexually explicit images involved buying a magazine, renting a video or traveling to a theatre. Today there is no delay and an endless supply.

For more than the casual infrequent viewer of porn, this a great problem. People are constantly surrounded by the items their brains are now wired to associate with a flood of endorphins. It is quite the task to purposefully avoid this biologically based drive and can lead to feelings of psychical and emotional withdrawal when it is attempted.

Here are some of the findings researchers have found in regard to prolonged exposure to porn and its effects. People who have prolonged exposure to porn have an exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society. They tend to look at everyone as a potential sexual partner and tend to (falsely) believe that most people are hyper-sexual and ready to engage in sex at any moment. Prolonged exposure leads to difficulty in maintaining trust in relationships, the (false) belief in the impossibility of monogamy, and an overall cynicism towards the importance of love and affection between sexual partners.  For those people who are in relationships, the statistics bear the sad fact that prolonged exposure porn viewers are more likely to report relationship distress and have higher rates of separation, divorce and infidelity.

My advice is to approach pornography as if it had the following label attached:

“View at your own risk.”

 

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