Porn and Perception: Is Your Limbic Brain Distorting Your Vision?

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Porn could be changing how you see your life.

Pornography addiction can change perceptionWhen I relapse, things in social settings get awkward. It's funny. When I'm having a conversation right after a relapse, I say things in my head like, "Why am I even talking to this person? Why would they want to talk to me? What is my monetary, or sexual gain from this conversation?" It's as if when I relapse there needs to be a stone cold reason, agreed upon, about the benefits for both parties before we can speak to each other. LOL That's what the brain does to me when I PMO. It's shitty shit.

Can frequent porn use change users' perception in unexpected ways? Within a month or two of stopping porn, former users posting on my website's forum report greater clarity and optimism, and less dissatisfaction with their lives. They also see women and relationships differently. It may be that porn's effects are more invasive than generally acknowledged—even if devilishly difficult to measure. Said one guy:

Eight or nine years ago, I started to watch porn daily. Today I am 21. I masturbated at least once a day, but often up to 6 times. I truly thought it had no effect on my personality, but one day I realized that I had sort of a split personality. When horny I saw women as an objects for satisfaction, as vaginas with two legs. I know this sounds really degrading. On the other hand all my friends thought the same way, so I never got a reality check.

A perception shift is subtle. It's usually gradual and is seldom apparent to the person affected. Indeed, it may be evident only after clearer perception is restored. (Contrast such a shift with erectile dysfunction, a very tangible symptom that more and more heavy porn users report since free Internet videos became widely available some five years ago.)

It may be that comparing the outlooks of today's users during use with their outlooks a couple of months after porn use stops would reveal more than relying on snapshots in the form of self-reports, i.e., merely asking current users about porn's effects.

Here are recent excerpts from the posts of a long-time porn user. After a month without porn, he decided to stream some new porn videos without masturbating and record his impressions.

The third and fourth videos were much like the second: poorly shot and neither of the participants appeared to be engaged in what they were doing. The fourth was a close-up film that most definitely would have excited me in the past, but for some reason appeared today to be more like a cooking show in which the chef was preparing some kind of meat recipe.

The fifth video was the only one that I watched in its entirety—seven minutes. An amateur was filming his girlfriend (I sincerely hope not his wife) just prior to sex. She was protesting about the filming, asking him to turn off the camera, and to not zoom in on her genitalia, but he insisted on doing both. He then left the camera on a surface to film (against her instructions) while they fucked.

The non-consensual aspect of their interaction troubled me deeply, but I must admit that I have viewed this kind of material before and totally ignored that. Anyway, at first both appeared to be enjoying it. Then, the guy initiated anal sex, but it was essentially rape. The woman protested quite clearly. The guy did not listen to her pleading, and did not appear to change his pace/lubrication in response to her protests. Soon, the woman appeared to retreat inside herself, not saying anything but occasionally gasping (in pain, it was clear), apparently working very hard to endure. When the guy finally finished, the woman sighed with more relief than I thought possible, and began whimpering quietly. I am fully aware that there are anal-pain fetish videos, and have (regrettably) seen many, so I am confident that this was genuine pain. I know that I would have had an orgasm to this video if I had been masturbating, and I also know that I would have selectively ignored all of the disturbing consensual problems, perhaps even internalizing or normalizing them.

He shut that browser and captured his thoughts:

I now realize that much of the pornography I've been watching is either not really exciting or basically exploitation. My attitude is changing. In the past, I have typically fast-forwarded past any vaginal sex or emotionally positive interactions to the anal bits. Also, in the past, I have often felt strong resentment toward my wife for her unwillingness to emulate porn, but today I feel remorse at how I have treated her, and gratitude that she still seems to unconditionally love me. Well, not unconditionally, but rather unselfishly.

A week later he reflected further on his experience:

Until recently, I believed that I could never get enough sex, and that I was unlucky because I married a woman who prefers sex not more than once every other day and does not accommodate indiscriminate penetration of every orifice. But then I successfully got through 31 days without watching pornography, masturbating only minimally, genuinely trying to appreciate my wife for her sexuality on its own terms, and actively suppressing the fantasy/obsessive urges that have progressively insinuated themselves on my personality over the last decade.

Following this experimental reduction of my 'sexual expression,' it has become evident that the emphasis our culture places on sexual activity, or more accurately, the emphasis on sexual activity that I was 'free' to develop as a member of our culture, has been detrimental to my emotional development, to my marriage, to my fundamental attitude toward women as a category, and has restricted my breadth of experience.

I have not yet calculated the amount of time I devoted to masturbating, pornography, fantasy, projecting sexual dissatisfaction as dissatisfaction with life, etc., but I have probably lost years. I'm not yet free from sexual compulsion, but I truly feel, for the first time in probably 16 years, that my life still has the potential to offer deep, meaningful experience without also including a hyperactive sexual component. This vision of freedom from compulsion is completely novel.

The fantasies and the basic dissatisfaction with my sex life have not returned with any of their usual force. My perception of my wife is changing, too. She looks increasingly attractive. That can only be a positive development!

Read more perception shifts recorded by past users. Also see Lance Tracy's Adult Entertainment: Disrobing an American Idol, a clever, humorous documentary about an experiment that revealed the same phenomenon.

How can viewing porn change perception? Probably by desensitizing the reward circuitry in the limbic brain. This primitive region of the brain colors how we see the world. When it's in balance we tend to see things with greater clarity and optimism. When it's out of balance our impressions are often distorted.

Pharmaceuticals, stress and over-stimulation can alter our perception. When this occurs, our focus, priorities and even our values can shift—all without our awareness. In the case of too much stimulation, the shift is in the direction of overvaluing superstimuli. As biologist Robert Sapolsky explained in Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers:

Porn addiction can make life seem boringUnnaturally strong explosions of synthetic experience and sensation and pleasure evoke unnaturally strong degrees of habituation. This has two consequences. As the first, soon we hardly notice anymore the fleeting whispers of pleasure caused by leaves in autumn, or by the lingering glance of the right person, or by the promise of reward that will come after a long, difficult, and worthy task. The other consequence is that, after awhile, we even habituate to those artificial deluges of intensity. ... Our tragedy is that we just become hungrier.

Thanks to the way our brains work, chronic over-stimulation fails to satisfy; it can leave a person nearly insatiable. Someone may find himself wondering automatically about every woman, "Would she engage in...?" Also, any resentment that arises from the mismatch between his virtual reality and his physical reality may raise doubts about his partner/union, making him uncharacteristically irritable and self-absorbed. He'll focus on what his relationship doesn't offer, not on what it does. Nor does dissatisfaction necessarily stop there. Humans tend to project such feelings automatically onto other aspects of life as well. Existential angst anyone?

Sadly, distorted perception born of neurochemical dysregulation can make a person extremely resistant to understanding what's really driving him or what would ease his misery. His limbic brain has him firmly convinced that only his drug of choice will restore his good feelings.

It can take an uncomfortable month or two to restore normal perception after habitual overstimulation. But as ravenous feelings ease, it's easier to find satisfaction in every aspect of life.


Growing scientific evidence of a lingering post-orgasm cycle (studies)

Studies on the overlap between sex and drugs in the brain    

Comments

For the first two weeks after connecting with a new partner, they just engaged in foreplay, not sex.

Right around the time we were engaging in our sex play, I went through a two-week period in which I did not masturbate. I also had a sudden repulsion to the soft-core porn images that predated her. So that was very interesting. I began to hate the stuff on my own, before she gave me a "reason" to, and also I had not experienced orgasm in two weeks, which is pretty much unprecedented -- and I didn't much mind.

With the knowledge that I now possess, it's like my eyes are finally open to what this compulsive behavior has been doing to me for the majority of my life. This morning I woke up very erect, after having a pretty erotic dream.

The dream was rather bizarre, but for the first time in a very long time I think I know what it was trying to tell me. In part of it, I was with some beautiful woman. It was a very erotic scenario- she was lying in some kind of sheet with a naked breast exposed and I was really horny. I went up to her and started gently sucking on her breast, but as soon as I tried to put my hands on her body underneath the sheet, all I felt were a bunch of metal poles and wires. Right before my very eyes this beautiful living, breathing being was reduced to some kind of machine.

I think this is a perfect metaphor for how I have related to women for much of my adult life. Seeking pleasure and satiety via masturbation and pornography, I have "mechanized" what should in reality be a beautiful, give-and-take, alive kind of interaction. It had become this machine, and the machine got out of control.

The last thing that I feel porn taught me is that everything is sexual, if that makes any sense. I really feel porn mixed up cute, hot, sexy and many other things in my head. In fact, they seem so interchangeable that real life is really weird. It almost feels like the fact that someone was a woman and was thin in my head was reason enough for me to consider them attractive. Those were literally the only criteria I have for determining attractiveness.

Consider the basis for one of my latest OCD fears, the fear of being a pedophile. I remember a few porn videos I've seen that have featured petite women that my mind tells me actually look like kids. It's hard not to check (since not checking generates anxiety but checking would just lead to other problems anyways) but I still feel like those women must look younger then they actually are. My mind uses this as a basis for "You must like young teenagers or children" and is fairly relentless in terms of this regard.

Their bodies look fully matured (I know this) but when they are clothed I find them unattractive. I almost feel like internet porn lets you neglect aspects of a woman you would find unattractive in favour of just finding something you find really attractive. In this case, although I do not find their face or certain aspects of them attractive, their really toned body is enough. I can focus on clips that emphasize that... I can pick and choose the clips I really want.

I almost feel like I've created a frankenstein monster of attractions. Some piece-wise aberration of features I like that when looked at objectively are unattractive. Basically, porn creates a visual disconnect. It has all the wham bams of nature with the ability to focus only on your favorite wham bams and without a need to actually care about an entire package.

Why I love porn....

I started to list the reasons why I loved porn, but realized that I was starting to sing its praises and that's not what this subreddit is about. So I'm flipping your question on its head and listing why I HATE porn.

  1. It creates an unrealistic standard to live up to. I'm talking body image for both genders here. Generally, we want to watch attractive people having sex, and porn disproportionately employs extremely attractive people. This has created problems for me where I feel that I don't measure up while I simultaneously cannot find guys who measure up to my standards.
  2. It's a huge waste of time. I can find as much porn as I want whenever and wherever I want. It's an endless supply of distraction. I could be bettering myself, but instead I'm watching people better than me have sex.
  3. It prevents me from making human connections. By watching porn instead of going out in search of sex and working on my game, I feel I have become emotionally stunted and immature.
  4. It creates a feedback loop of mediocrity. Take the three reasons above: I don't feel like I'm attractive, I don't feel like people I could realistically meet and bed are attractive, it eats up free time that I could be using to better myself, and it stunts my emotional growth. There have been times when I've felt there's not even a reason to focus on self-improvement because self-gratification is literally at my fingertips 24/7.

So to answer your question, what I hate about porn is what I loved about it: the escape it provided from my life. I'm much happier giving it up and working on myself than perpetually stagnating while I watch other people have, do and be things I want to have, do and be myself.

wrote this:

When we're rebooting, a lot of time is spent on the journals talking about how much the women are so much more attractive when we go without PMO and normally we talk about attractiveness as in physical attractiveness. I'm just wondering if anyone else is noticing other qualities that make a woman attractive?

I was watching the Olympic Games and something weird happened when I'm watching female sports. I ogled at fit and hot bodies. For once I started to think that the fact that female athletes are hot not only because they're attractive but because they're good at their sport. If you take tennis as an example. Short skirts and legs are good and everything, but I never noticed how sexy they are when they've got that focused look when waiting for their opponent to serve.

And I'm finding that's increasingly the case around me as well. I saw a hot and attractive older woman the other day and started thinking "Cougar" or "milf". Then I saw that she's holding hands with and smiling at her waddling three year old son. She was, in other words, just being the m in milf and her hotness went off the charts. I've saw a cute university student walked past me the other day to the train station and got a boner off the fact that she was holding a thick economics textbook (Looks like I dig smart girls).

Not saying that a hot ass or a nice rack doesn't attract my attention. But I guess that's a byproduct of watching porn. You see a girl walk into the scene and you don't give a rat's ass about what she's like, what her interests are, all you know is that she's got a nice (insert body part here) and she's going to get nailed. And then that mindset transfers itself to how you see women in real life. Then you go rebooting and this mindset starts to wear off.

What does everybody else think?

The other night, I hung out with some old friends from high school. I graduated college this spring, but they're still in uni. I headed down to their frat house for drinks and shenanigans and a chance to catch up with people I hadn't seen in years. (LINK to thread)

For context, I should mention that I've been largely isolated from people my own age this summer. I've been working a LOT (dem student loans don't pay themselves), and my few coworkers are significantly older than me. So this night was the first time I had been in a relaxed, social situation since I started my NoFap journey in May.

Walking around and meeting people, I could SEE porn addiction in certain people's postures, their heads trying to withdraw into the protection of raised shoulders. I could HEAR it in their mumbling voices. I could sense some defense mechanism within them shutting down their ability to keep eye contact.

I learned a powerful lesson: if you're addicted to porn, you absolutely project that. It infuses its essence into our actions in ways too subtle for us to consciously avoid.

I get it now when I read about Fapstronauts reporting that they're mysteriously starting to have women approach them. They've stopped telegraphing their dependence on jacking off.

I'm never going back to my old habit, because now I know a terrible truth: You can fastidiously hide your wank stash in a labyrinth of folders within folders disguised as inconspicuous files; you can fap in the utmost of secrecy; but when you go out and interact with your fellow humans, you might as well have your dick in hand, because your habits are visible.

TL;DR: If you unplug from the matrix, you can see the code.

Fapping and porn can screw you up with women.

So I made it to 32 days without PMO. Then I finally gave in to the cravings yesterday. I want to share an experience I had today, because I thought it was an important thing I learned.

So I fapped last night, and went out with a girl I've been seeing recently. We've been only dating about a month (coinciding with my not fapping). Usually when I'm with her we have a really good time, I find her super attractive, and very sexy. We fooled around a lot in the last month and since I always got turned on and rock hard during these times.

Well today was very different. I found her kind of annoying, I was looking forward to going home, I didn't even feel like fooling around with her. It became clear to me quickly that the porn I had looked at last night was still more exciting to me then a real person, which frankly is sad.

Although I wish I had not relapsed, I'm glad that I can at least learn from it. PMO screws up the way you look at women, completely messes it up. I'm back on board though guys! Screw the chaser effect, I'm making it to 90 days.

Edit: I'm adding this after reading the comments. I want to emphasize that YMMV - this is a girl that I went from caring about to suddenly feeling like she was just bad porn. So yeah, I can't help but see a correlation for me between looking at porn last night and suddenly not caring about her as a person.

A 65-year old guy wrote:

The rebalancing process for me has been very real. In 70 days my brain is working differently than it has since I can remember especially in the area of sex. For me, it's 3 dimensional sex vs. 2 dimensional sex. I haven't yet experienced 3 dimensional sex since I've been rebalancing but am preparing for the opportunity.

A positive byproduct of rebalancing is that interpersonal relationships (again, for me) are improved because I'm focused on what's real not simply what I imagine. 2 dimensional sex (porn, fantasy, masturbation etc.) crept into all my relationships in a way. I thought that the way I "saw" things was the way they actually were. My brain provided explanations of other people's behavior, rightly or wrongly, and there was no one to tell me otherwise since this was all going on in my head alone like 2 dimensional sex is an invention which only I created. This lead me to filter what went on in my life through my preconceived notions of the way things were, or more accurately, the way I saw them or wanted them to be. It's pretty lonely living one's life inside your own head all the time.

where the super powers come from 

I have just hit 91 days. that was 91 days with no fapping and no porn. my goal hasn't been achieved yet, but my goal is to never masturbate or look at porn again. i don't feel like i have reset yet but that doesn't concern me. my relationship with my wife is tons better then it has been in the past couple of years. better on both a physical and emotional level.

as we continue further with nofap the way we veiw women and sex starts to revert to 'normal' women are no longer simple boobs and a vagina for our use, but become complete actual people worthy of friendship and respect. if we allow ourselves to evolve beyond being total douche bags we start to change our desire for meaningless random sex to one of wanting a deeper relationship with an actual companion. someone we can trust and connect with on a deeper level then we have ever achieved before.

It's really cool being able to have female friends now and not be thinking about sex with them constantly. I've realized I no longer objectify women like I used to when I was addicted.

I've heard horror stories of Dad's no longer being comfortable giving their teenage daughters hugs anymore because it makes them feel dirty. Not only that, the idea of checking out my daughter's friends is way too creepy for me.

I am so thankful that I won't have to deal with that. Your whole view of porn changes once you have a daughter.

90 days - Welcome To The Real World

NoFap is an ever-present battle that has profoundly beneficial effects on the mind. During the twelve months that I had not been intimate with anyone else, people had tried to get involved with me. Every one of them failed to meet my expectations, because I was used to seeing everything and anything I desired on-screen. /r/iasip/ had a great picture of Mac with a caption stating "Maybe if you drop your standards a little, you will get laid more".

It's true, and it's great too. Since quitting porn I am so easily aroused by people, and everybody is beautiful. Blemishes are present on every person, and that's ok, in fact it's fucking beautiful how imperfect we all are.

My image of women in my brain is slowly being re-wired from unrealistic voluptuous whore to natural beauty. This is probably why I am suddenly attracted to random girls on the street and am propelled to engage with them. This urge would never possess me before, as I could find something I'd much rather have in 1080p on my laptop.

Strangely, my increased lust for life also coincides with how the average woman appeals to me sexually. NoFap is slowly and steadily making me into a functional member of civilization.

I have never met a woman who I could not have found at least something beautiful about. It's not about what SHE looks like; it's about my ability to see it. Porn warped that part of me for so many years, but I am slowly but surely coming out of that place - and I see more and more beauty around me every single day that I stay away from the big lie.

Here's to truth, and beauty, and love. Everything else is just a waste of my life..

http://www.yourbrainrebalanced.com/index.php?topic=7772.0