Sex: Excessive pornographic exposure can screw you in the sack (Daily Emerald)
She was on the cover of a glossy magazine he’d found while playing in the neighborhood with his friends. “Playboy,” he read. Little did he know, "Playboy" Magazine would be the beginning of Gabe’s excessive consumption of pornography.
In middle school, he would stay up watching late-night music videos on MTV and BET and softcore porn on HBO.
In high school, the world of pornography opened up with high-speed Internet — he could suddenly look at multiple websites at once, could explore different fetishes and watch hardcore videos. Gabe and his friends would sometimes look at porn together — even at school.
At the time, Gabe didn’t think anything of his habit. Sure, a day didn’t often go by without him looking at it. But it was like any other media he consumed, such as video games or television. Besides, most adolescents did it, and he was curious, too.
However, when Gabe was in college, something strange happened. Whenever he tried to have sex with his girlfriend, he couldn’t. As attractive as she was, he couldn’t get aroused. Erectile dysfunction at 23? Gabe didn’t understand.
“It was like my soul was ripping out of me,” Gabe said. “I didn’t have performance anxiety, I wasn’t nervous, I knew it had to be the porn. Sure enough, when I started watching porn, I would instantly get an erection. It was then that I decided to stop … the pornography was doing more to my brain than I’d thought.”
Pornography: It’s the entertainment of choice for millions of Americans. In 2006, its estimated revenues were just under $13 billion per year. Every second, the public spends $3,075.64 on its erotic allure.
“It’s a billion-dollar industry, one that’s now more widespread than ever,” said Wendy Maltz, a sex therapist from Eugene.
Maltz is the author of the book The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. Maltz began writing the book after she noticed a prevalent trend in her practice, something she hadn’t seen before: Clients started walking into her office with problems caused by pornography — perhaps a man would come professing an unhealthy obsession with porn, or a woman would admit she was addicted to cybersex. Maltz attributes this trend to the arrival of high-speed Internet.
“Pornography shifted from something we used as a way to add some spice to your love life, to something affordable that people can use anonymously — anytime, anywhere … it’s like vibrators are hanging from the ceiling,” she said.
There has been heavy debate on whether porn is unhealthy. Can it be called an addiction? Can it be similar to an addiction to cocaine, gambling or alcohol? Can it really produce the porn-induced erectile dysfunction Gabe experienced?
Maltz believes so.
“I believe it’s similar to other forms of pleasure, such as alcohol or drugs,” Waltz said. “Heck, if I were having sex with my computer, I wouldn’t stop either.”
Gabe believes the term “addiction” itself can be confusing. Whether it’s technically an addiction or not, he said, it definitely carries consequences. Instead, Gabe wants to focus on how pornography’s intense stimulation alters the human brain.
“The brain gets flooded with arousing images and video,” Gabe said. “And it over stimulates your mind, and I don’t think it can ever satisfy you.”
And there is research that suggests Gabe might be right. Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE made the video, “The Science of Pornography,” in which they narrate the possible changes in the brain that occur while a person watches porn. Sexual arousal releases dopamine in our brains — a chemical that motivates us to perform many actions necessary for survival: eating, exercising and even reproducing. So, when we experience high levels of dopamine in our brains, our brains communicate “more, more, more,” paving the way for addiction.
Although it’s not a physical substance, Moffit and Brown say the fact that pornography hits these pleasure circuits so directly means we react in some of the same ways as we would to a drug — we develop a tolerance to it, which perhaps forces us to explore more and more extreme images to satisfy our sexual appetite — and we can develop withdrawal for a period of time if we suddenly stop using it.
Gabe’s experience with pornography might be a testament to the medium’s messages. For him, it got to a point where pornography not only became an obsession, but something he couldn’t do without.
“It started with the pictures of the naked girls, then the softcore stuff, then the hardcore videos. It ended up getting to a point in which I was watching stuff I didn’t even want to watch, just for the shock value.”
“The Science of Pornography” not only talks about pornography’s addictive qualities, but also its ability to actually “mold our tastes and desires.”
Because pornography is so powerful, Carol Stabile, director of the Center of the Study of Women in Society, says that mainstream pornography could actually be used to our benefit. To Stabile, there is a lot of untapped potential in the realm of pornography. The medium, she thinks, can be used as an educational tool for both men and women. The problem, she said, is that mainstream porn caters to a very specific audience: men. It also produces unlikely expectations for sex.
Instead of producing porn in which both men and women are equally satisfied, mainstream porn tends to exaggerate the female orgasm (she always gets off during penetration) and glorify the male’s power and pleasure. The woman isn’t seen so much as a strong sexual agent herself; instead, she becomes the object upon which sex is completed.
“As a feminist, I have always been caught between the sex education and the sexual liberation dimensions of pornography — and then there’s also the overtly oppressive uses of it,” Stabile said. “But I think it’s true that most kids’ introduction to sex is through pornography — it’s accessible, it’s always there, it’s ubiquitous. And I don’t think that’s great. I think pornography, like other forms of media, has these unrealistic representations and norms. If that’s the first representation of sexuality, it’s problematic.”
April Haynes, a University of Oregon sexual historian, would agree with Stabile but takes it even further, saying diversification is what the porn industry is missing the most. Its limiting nature doesn’t even allow us to become as powerful sexual agents.
“Ultimately, I wish the porn industry included different sexual possibilities” said Haynes. “Now, you tend to see the same scene reproduced over and over — everyone is instantly aroused, there is a rush to penetration and orgasm is automatic. I think we should imagine what sex is in a more expansive way.”
It has been two years since Gabe stopped watching porn and he is happier than ever because of it. Today he dreams of becoming a public speaker, telling both men and women his story of pornography-induced ED with the hopes of communicating the “dark side” of pornography.
“I think it’s a very unhealthy habit, and I want to embrace sex naturally without porn influences,” Gabe said. “I’ve seen how it can affect me, and I want others to know about the possible dangers, too.”
Whether it’s the medium’s effects on the brain or its effects on our society, maybe there’s more to the world of pornography than we think.
http://dailyemerald.com/2013/06/06/sex-the-dark-side-of-pornography/ (Daily Emerald, University of Oregon)