Education & Porn

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Brain educationEducating kids about porn is vital, because streaming porn will be with us as long as the internet is around. However, educators must teach pupils how brain plasticity works.

Too often one reads in the media that educators should focus on:

  1. distinguishing "good porn" from "bad porn," or
  2. reducing the problem to "the need to obtain consent before urging porn sex on a partner," or
  3. how "porn sex isn't like real sex."

All of these fall short of what is needed, as many educators already realize. Let's take them in order.

Just tell them to watch "good porn"

The "good porn/bad porn" concept embroils everyone in an unending debate about "values," and whose preferred porn genres are "good" or "bad." This is a distraction, not a step forward in preparing kids for today's sexual environment.

Moreover, even when amateur porn and "realistic" porn are available, teen brains will seek out the weird and wacky. This is because their brains are uniquely responsive to novelty and shock, and yet less responsive to familiar stimulation - which more swiftly becomes "boring." This adolescent-brain programming is found across mammal species. It evolved to encourage adolescents to seek new territories and mates of their own (without inbreeding). But this means teens are uniquely vulnerable to streaming porn's unending flood of novel, extreme, erotic stimulation.

Riskier still, for the first time in human evolution, youngsters can escalate to more extreme material while they are masturbating, that is while the signals to their rational brains are somewhat drowned out by louder signals from primitive arousal/reward circuits in the brain. The result is that today's porn users can end up climaxing to (reinforcing) all kinds of fetish material they would have been unlikely to look for when they started masturbating to porn. Over time, many find they can no longer climax to earlier tastes. In 2016, researchers reported that half of porn users had escalated to material they previously found "uninteresting" or "disgusting": Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men.

This can cause today's young porn users to panic about their sexual tastes, or even their sexual orientation. For example, we have heard from guys who escalate to illegal porn and wonder "Is that who I really am??" We've heard from gay people who end up watching straight rape porn, and straight guys who end up watching transgender or gay porn. Both groups sometimes panic when they wire their brains to these new tastes, and then can't climax to earlier tastes. See Can You Trust Your Johnson?

Others wonder if they're "asexual" because they respond only to porn and not to real partners. Or they wonder if they're "omnisexual" because they've been climaxing to such a wide range of porn from such an early age that they have no clear concept of what their underlying orientation is. These problems were unheard of in earlier generations and seem to be a consequence of young malleable brains colliding with unending novel stimulation via streaming porn on their smartphones.

Fortunately, months without climaxing to internet porn tastes tend to make these superficial porn-driven tastes recede, and people can then figure out their innate sexuality. (Interestingly, the younger one starts on streaming porn, the longer it tends to take to restore one's innate sexuality.)

The point is that, if kids aren't informed about how conditioning works (remember Pavlov's dogs?), they have no framework for understanding what's going on, or how to reverse it. They aren't taught what signals to look for, such as inability to use a condom because erections fade with real partners, delayed ejaculation or anorgasmia, escalation to uncharacteristic tastes, etc. Instead, they're often taught that porn can't change a viewer's tastes, and that it only helps the viewer find his innate, "true" sexuality. This is absurd. Brains, especially young brains, are especially plastic. Besides, if this were the case, half of porn viewers wouldn't be reporting escalation to more extreme material when researchers think to ask.

And if users aren't warned of the nasty withdrawal symptoms (headaches, panic attacks, insomnia, flashbacks, brain fog, mood swings, temporary loss of libido, etc.) that can occur after they quit, they often rush back to porn to "medicate" their misery - instead of going on through the process to return their brains to a healthy set point.

How many of today's educators are equipped to teach kids these things? None, unless they have been educated themselves by experts in brain plasticity, such as addiction experts. Sadly, the typical school counselor is not educated to do this job.

Just teach them to get consent

The idea about teaching kids rules for obtaining consent, sounds good, but if a young man can only get an erection when he's engaging in a porn fetish, then his perception of consent is likely to be distorted. Besides, too many young girls have no concept of their right to say 'no' to the kinds of activities that are common in porn. It takes a strong will and adult confidence to tell a guy you really like that you're not interested in engaging in the kind of practices he has conditioned himself to need in order to climax. Even adult women have trouble with this challenge.

Girls who understand that the real issue is unhealthy sexual conditioning, and who meet guys who want to experiment with quitting porn, can, if they choose, help speed the process. But not by acting like porn stars. Boyfriend Quitting Porn? 5 Tips

In any case, kids need more than consent rules to understand the risks of porn use. They need to understand the kinds of symptoms chronic users sometimes report. And what it's like to be on the receiving end of someone else's porn-fetish driven behavior. As one young man said,

I wonder if you can take a page out of drug education's playbook. Knowing how messed up heroin can make you is a good enough incentive for (most) people to never touch the stuff. Not necessarily "scare tactics" per se (maybe a little lol), but simply an understanding of the potential consequences of heavy use. I know that if I knew about the potential consequences of chronic porn use, there's a pretty good chance I would have never let my habit get to the point of an addiction.

Just tell them porn isn't like real sex

Teaching kids that "porn sex is not like real sex," sounds logical, but will not solve the problem. Kids already know that porn sex isn't "real" (although they have no experience of their own with which to compare it). Some are even hooked on Japanese cartoon porn. They certainly know that isn't "real."

However, the more serious problem is that they are conditioning their sexual arousal to porn sex. A surprising number of young men can't get/sustain erections unless they're watching porn. Others cannot become erect unless they are engaging in a porn fetish and objectifying their partners. See Research confirms enormous rise in youthful ED.

This happens because many youngsters have never masturbated without porn and have conditioned their arousal to screens, constant novelty, seeking and searching for shocking material, voyeurism, fetishes, etc. They are ill-prepared to find partnered sex arousing or sustainable, and more and more girls who masturbate to internet erotica are reporting the same issue. 

In effect, young people are training for the wrong sport. Worse yet, they have little realization that they have trained for the wrong sport unless they experiment with stopping internet porn for months and experience for themselves that real partners become more arousing.

Why will brain education work?

This site was founded at the beginning of 2011. Since then many young people have found this information both interesting and useful in learning to manage appetites heightened by today's supernormal stimuli. They enjoy learning about the brain, its evolutionary drives, warning signs of imbalance, and how cutting back can help the brain return to normal sensitivity. They like making their own experiments once they understand the basics, and they like teaching each other through recovery forum posts. You can read thousands of their recovery stories here and here. Or watch this young man's video. As a recovering user said,

In school they taught me how to cut wood, stich a towel and make a clay pot... Funnily enough I do not need these skills in ANY way for my everyday life. It would have been nice just to have one or two classes on neuroscience where I could learn to actually develop my own brain and mental capacity. That would have been so powerful at 13.

Sex education today is incomplete until it addresses how pathological learning occurs. Porn education calls for teaching teens about the unique vulnerabilities of the teen brain and how sexuality can end up conditioned to stimuli that have nothing to do with real partners. This video explains more: Adolescent Brain Meets Highspeed Internet Porn - YouTube