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Skeptical of the Porn Skeptics

I totally understand people who think porn is evil i feel the same exact way 1-2 seconds after I orgasm from porn. (Tweet by comedian Sarah Silverman on April 16, 2016. https://twitter.com/SarahKSilverman)

In eSkeptic for April 13, 2016, Philip Zimbardo, Gary Wilson, and Nikita Coulombe outlined the many ways that they believe “porn is messing with your manhood.” I personally know Phil Zimbardo to be a compassionate and energetic man who is generally positive about sexuality (I don’t know his coauthor Mr. Wilson). And everyone knows that Dr. Zimbardo is a world-famous social scientist, but in my opinion this article is short on facts that are reliable and relevant. Before we get to that, however, let’s note that we agree on several things. Yes, a majority of adolescent American males look at pornography. Yes, some of them report sexual difficulties. And yes, some of them report a compulsive quality to their attachment to porn viewing. Finally, there’s plenty to be concerned about when an entire generation of young men get a substantial amount of their sex education from Internet porn.

However, Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe hypothesize effects of porn that science does not support empirically. They describe epidemics that really affect only a small number of people; they blame these alleged epidemics on neurological processes that haven’t really been established; and they stitch together a few isolated studies to conclude that porn viewing is undermining a generation’s ability to relate to real sex.

One of the key foundations of Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe’s article are the reports of high school and college students about their lack of “normal” sexual functioning. They cite studies of young guys reporting “low sexual desire” and “erection difficulties,” who blame their “condition” on porn. But obsession with “normal” sex is a hallmark of adolescence and young adulthood.1 Exactly what baseline are these 17-year-olds using to decide that their desire isn’t “normal”? Which 19-year-old actually understands enough about sexuality to gauge how much his peers desire sex, how much they enjoy it, how reliable their erections are, and how often they have sex?2

For example, it is well-known that most adolescents (and adults, for that matter) overestimate the amount of sex everyone else has. Sociologist Michael Kimmel found that a sample of male undergraduates thought 80% of their classmates were having sex every weekend.3 Kathleen Bogle found the same distorted estimates in her interviews with students.4 So adolescent concerns about the normality of their sexual function are not a good measure of their sexual function. But it does explain the popularity of online forums like NoFap—where young people enjoy the sense of community, somewhere they can talk about sex and masturbating without fear of humiliation.

One reason some physicians mistakenly think they are seeing increased ED in young men is because some young men want erection drugs for performance enhancement rather than real ED, and they know what to say to get them. This is similar to the ways that students have learned to fake the symptoms of ADHD to get prescriptions for Adderall to help them study.5

The article cites many studies purporting to show that neuroscience now proves that porn erodes young brains. They don’t mention the tiny sample sizes of these studies—literally 10 or 15 people, in some cases. Nor do they mention the most common caveat of these studies’ authors, also routinely omitted by the popular media. For example, Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe approvingly quote neuroscientist Valerie Voon discussing the results of two different studies. But contrary to how they interpret her words, she says quite clearly that “inferences about causality cannot be made.”6 Of a study she coauthored on compulsive sexual behavior (CSB), she says “significant gaps in understanding continue to complicate classification of CSB as an addiction”7

Most people, of course, are unable to read an MRI scan or evaluate claims about what neuroscience demonstrates. When Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe state that “young porn addicts exhibit brain responses that are comparable to drug addicts,” many lay people think that proves the existence of porn addiction. But this reasoning by analogy says nothing. What does the similarity in brain responses mean? Scientists themselves say they aren’t sure. Besides, our brain responds in this same observable way when we cuddle a grandchild or enjoy a sunset.

Thousands of miles apart, peer-reviewed studies challenge the idea that porn use leads to addiction, or sexual dysfunction, or worrisome brain changes. North American neuroscientists Prause and Pfaus recently published a study in which pornography use was related to greater sexual desire for one’s partner, not to ED or lower desire.8 An ocean away, European researchers Landripet and Stulhofer found that neither frequency of porn viewing nor changes in the frequency of use were related to erectile problems.9 Both published in a high-prestige medical journal, these two studies refute claims that watching porn desensitizes erectile function, which supposedly leads to decreased desire and arousal for partner sex.

Further, according to Rory C. Reid, a research psychologist at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute who is also an expert in hypersexual behavior, “Watching the NCAA playoffs is going to change your brain, eating chocolate—any time you have any kind of experience, it’s going to change your brain.” And Reid is hardly pro-porn: “Philosophically, I’ve got all sorts of problems with porn.” But as a scientist, he says, “this idea that consumption of pornography causes cortical atrophy that leads to negative consequences? We haven’t seen that.”10

Even stronger in his conviction is Bruce Carpenter, a researcher at Brigham Young University who is morally opposed to pornography because he suspects “that pornography has larger deleterious effects upon individuals, family, and society.” Nevertheless, he admits: “Now to the evidence, there is none…There is not a single study of pornography use showing brain damage or even brain changes.”11

Dr. Barry Komisaruk, a Rutgers University psychologist who has done groundbreaking neuroscience research on the brain during orgasm, also says that there are no studies demonstrating that porn’s effect on the brain resembles addiction.12

For an article about the use and impacts of pornography, there is, oddly, very little mention of masturbation—which of course accompanies most porn watching. The authors don’t seem to consider that an increase in the number of times per week, or minutes per week, spent masturbating can account for some of the changes they allege—particularly dissatisfaction (or dysfunction) with partner sex. Many sex therapists are currently discussing the possibility that young men may becoming increasingly accustomed to the special (and rather strong) grip of their own hand, making a partner’s vagina, mouth, or hand less enjoyable in comparison. This would be true, of course, whether masturbation involves porn, mental fantasy, or watching the Food Network.

When men give up pornography for a period of time (say, via the NoFap movement), the positive effects they describe are generally attributed to the lack of porn. They could just as easily be attributed to the lack of masturbation. Certainly when a young man has trouble not looking at porn for a month, the reason his resolve may weaken is the yearning to masturbate or ejaculate far more than the desire to look at sexy videos.

The article does note that porn users may experience decreased participation in offline life. In fact, it says that by 2005 “online sexual activities were also already beginning to displace normal relationship development, learned courtship, and romantic behaviors in college students.” I agree, and have been asked about this across the country when I lecture. While the authors describe this watershed as resulting from enhanced speed (and therefore availability) of porn, I propose a different explanation: widespread use of then-new smartphones (the term “CrackBerry” became popular in 2006), and the cultural norms that have placed them in the center of our lives. This is one of the most important recent developments in American society; porn is only part of this bigger story.

As a sex therapist, I am very concerned by how much trouble young people of both genders are having enjoying sex. Because of the new digital ways of relating—constantly multi-tasking, not learning to listen as carefully, not expecting as much engagement from others, diminished experiential learning about non-verbal cues—they’re not as emotionally present during two-person interactions, which makes sex hard to enjoy at any age. Given the choice of texting, young people even find the real-time give-and-take of a telephone conversation too taxing. The performative culture of selfies, sexting, Instagram and live-Tweeting encourages people to think of sex as one more performance, undermining authentic self-expression.

It isn’t simply that real sex can’t compete with porn; real sex can’t compete with the novelty and stimulation-on-demand (and mutual emotional separation) that smart phones and the Internet provide. Most young people don’t date and practice relationship skills, they “hang out” and text their respective friends while sitting near each other.

I agree with the article’s concern about “arousal addiction” (although I think that wording is unhelpful); I just think that Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe have located its locus incorrectly. It isn’t porn; it’s the internet/smart-phone/asynchronous communication nexus.

It’s easy for everyone—young people, researchers, critics—to blame porn, because virtually every young person having trouble with courtship looks at porn, or is involved with someone who does. But they also all own smartphones and occupy huge amounts of their time on them, spending less time learning to relate to others in ways that would eventually facilitate sexual connection. They spend less time making out (“French kissing”); instead, things go rather quickly to fellatio (often joyless for both parties), which typically doesn’t lead to closeness or erotic self-confidence for either party.

Putting aside the rare instances of people watching three hours of porn every night (a clearly self-destructive behavior that’s often more about the internet than about porn), there are reasonable concerns about young people marinating in Internet porn. For starters, most porn leaves out most of what makes sex worthwhile (kissing, laughing, caressing, feeling connected). Porn rarely shows all the off-camera preparation that makes certain depicted activities possible. It devotes a lot of attention to activities that people rarely do in real life. And it shows women as wildly orgasmic from intercourse, which most women aren’t.

Porn consumers (of all ages) need to remember that they’re watching fiction, not a documentary. Real sex does not look like the sex in porn; indeed, real sex usually doesn’t feel like the sex in porn seems to feel (that’s what actors do—they act out feelings). Attempting to re-create what’s seen in porn with a live partner generally leads to dissatisfaction for both.

That said, many of the problems young people face in launching their sexual lives are not unique to the 21st century: as in the 20th century (and before that), young people actually don’t know what’s sexually “normal,” but fear they’re not; young people want to feel desired and special, even though sexual experimentation increasingly takes place in anonymous settings (fueled by alcohol); young people want to feel sexually competent, but lack the communication skills (and often the motivation) to learn about their partners’ sexual interests and subjective experience.

So we don’t need to imagine porn-induced neurological changes or sexual dysfunction in order to be concerned about young men watching a lot of porn. And we don’t need to imagine that they have to abstain in order to “recover” from these allegedly profound effects. Finally, we shouldn’t imagine that without porn, young men will go back to some mythical pre-Internet time when their ideas about sex were realistic, their erections were always firm, and their desire always high. I was a teen way before the Internet, and life wasn’t like that at all: teen boys had distorted ideas about sex, many were terrified of “impotence,” and desire was, for a substantial minority, contingent or sporadic. Back then these young men were called “shy” or “late bloomers.”

One further way Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe shortchange us in their discussion: Talking about the detrimental effects of porn without talking about sex education or parental involvement is as short-sighted as talking about reducing abortion without talking about birth control. The state of Utah has recently declared pornography a public health crisis.13 They also recently voted down science-based school sex education.14 This shows that they’re more interested in condemning porn than in supporting the healthy sexuality of their young people. It also helps explain why Utah has the highest per capita use of porn in the country, and one of the highest rates of unwanted pregnancy.

That said, most non-violent porn (i.e., the vast majority of it) also shows sex as being about pleasure, and it shows women as having desire, even if it’s sometimes depicted unrealistically (“Thanks for delivering the pizza, Joe—how about sex instead of payment?”). It frequently shows the importance of the clitoris as a sex organ, and more often than not it shows that both men and women can touch their own genitalia during partner sex. It’s dishonest to talk about porn without acknowledging all of this.

And what exactly are people watching when they watch porn? According to PornHub, the largest porn aggregator site on the internet, the most common search terms are quite consistent across age and geography: “Lesbian” is the runaway favorite, followed by “teen,” “stepsister” and “ebony.” “Torture,” “humiliation,” “female pain” “misogyny” and others suggested by dystopian anti-porn activists like Gail Dines don’t even come close.15 And, contrary to the ugly, manipulative myths driven by activists like Pamela Paul, Rebecca Whisnant, and Melissa Farley, the rate of sexual violence in the United States has steadily decreased since broadband Internet porn began to flood the country in 2000.16,17 So the idea that porn consumption leads to rape is flatly refuted by federal crime statistics.18

Young men may be getting some wrong ideas about sex from porn, but they’re not seeking out images that reflect hatred of women or lead to hatred of women. That, in addition to the lack of evidence that porn changes brains, should hearten policymakers and concerned citizens everywhere. END

About the Author

Dr. Marty Klein has been a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Sex Therapist for over thirty years. Honored by groups such as the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex and the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists, he is one of the country’s leading experts on pornography. He testifies on sexual issues in state, federal, and international courts, and is frequently quoted by The New York Times, National Public Radio, and other media. He is the author of seven books including: Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex—and How to Get it, America’s War on Sex: The Continuing Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty, His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic with Honest Talk about Sex, and the DVD Enhancing Porn Literacy in Young People. He recently gave two Congressional briefings on sex education.

References
  1. Boyd, Dana. 2014. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  2. http://bit.ly/1c9adDV
  3. Kimmel, Michael. 2009. Guyland: The Perilous World in Which Boys Become Men. New York: Harper Perennial.
  4. Bogle, Kathleen. 2008. Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus. New York: NYU Press.
  5. Sollman, M. 2010. “Detection of Feigned ADHD in College Students,” Psychological Assessment, Vol. 22 No. 2, 325-335.
  6. Voon, Mole, Banca, et al. 2014. “Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With and Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors.” PLoS ONE 9:7, 1-10.
  7. Kraus, Shane W., Valerie Voon, and Marc N. Potenza. 2016. “Should compulsive sexual behavior be considered an addiction?” Addiction, 18 Feb. DOI: 10.1111/add.13297
  8. Prause, N. and J. Pfaus. 2015. “Viewing sexual stimuli associated with greater sexual responsiveness, not erectile dysfunction.” J Sex Med. Doi:10.1002/sm2.58
  9. Landripet I. and A. Stulhofer A. 2015. “Is pornography use associated with sexual difficulties and dysfunctions among younger heterosexual men?” J Sex Med. 12:1136-1139.
  10. http://bit.ly/1NkmXtw
  11. http://bit.ly/1NkmXtw
  12. http://bit.ly/1NkmXtw
  13. http://bit.ly/1VgGJca
  14. http://bit.ly/1TBaqSH
  15. http://bit.ly/1TFZOC5
  16. http://1.usa.gov/1qWtUqE
  17. http://1.usa.gov/1LCBEDE
  18. Rape, of course, is an under-reported crime. Not only is there no data suggesting it is more under-reported now than before 2000, if anything it is less under-reported now—that is, more accurately reported now than 20 years ago. This makes the decline in reported rape even more impressive.

34 Comments

  1. Frederick Colbourne says:

    “…the rate of sexual violence in the United States has steadily decreased since broadband Internet porn began to flood the country in 2000.”

    I recall that around 1970, Denmark was reporting a decline in sex crimes following the legalization of pornography.

    It is not yet certain how Canadian law will change as a result of the Supreme Court having struck down the criminal code provisions prohibiting certain activities related to sex work. In Canada criminal law is in the Federal list; civil law in the Provincial list.

    It now appears that Canada will legalize activities that will allow sex workers to operate as other self-employed workers with equal protection under the law.

    In time, we may discover if Canada will record a decline in sex crimes as a result of legitimating sex work.

    (I do not refer above to crimes against prostitutes. The Supreme Court held that the law as it stands facilitates victimization of sex workers, mostly women, the reason the provisions were struck down. The evidence presented to the Court strongly supports the claim that both violent crime and extortion of sex workers is facilitated by prohibition. )

    I am not suggesting that the US could or should do the same as Canada.

    Although Canada has no constitutional provision against the establishment of religion, there is generally much less appeal to religious belief in Canada when debating the the criminal code.

    For example, the criminal code has always defined marriage as the union of two persons. The Supreme Court had only to declare that the two persons need not be of different gender.

    Similarly, the debate about the euthanasia Bill now before Parliament is that it is too restrictive. Outside Parliament, there is some discussion about the moral and philosophical aspects, but the main issues are practical.

    As I see it, Canadians are not willing for the religious proscriptions of the past to reappear in the guise of medical prescriptions.

    Apparently in Utah there is a consensus that pornography is implicated in mental disease. This is so reminiscent of the warning that masturbation causes blindness that I expect to see soon a joke comparable to the one in which the boy asks his parent if he can keep doing it until he needs glasses.

    I wish I could think of something, but at my advanced age my sense of a good joke would not catch on anyway.

    • D.S. says:

      There’s not a “concensus” in Utah that porn is bad, there is an opinion of the leadership of one large religious organization. Adherents to that religion think and do as they are told, regardless of reality, or any oath of office they may have taken.

  2. Jerry Dwyer says:

    Totally missing from this superficial discussion is the fact that women are less interested in sex than men, porn degrades women and often includes violence against women. Let’s remember what Ted Bundy said before he was put to death for the murder of ~three dozen college females: Today I can see on television pornography that I could not see in X-rated movie theaters when I was young.

    • David Peery says:

      There’s no evidence that women are less interested in sex than men, that’s nothing more than a societal myth And the article thoroughly discusses and refutes your assertions about violence and degradation. Read the last three paragraphs.

      • a moron says:

        “David Peery says:
        April 20, 2016 at 4:16 am

        There’s no evidence that women are less interested in sex than men, that’s nothing more than a societal myth And the article thoroughly discusses and refutes your assertions about violence and degradation. Read the last three paragraphs.”

        Whether or not its a social construct, it makes (evolutionary) sense. Women would be desiring of sex with a loving partner but men desiring of sex with any partner. Women under those circumstances would be less desiring of sex with every possible male. The end result being that women are less prone to temptation toward pornography and adulterous sex than men.

        You can note that something like 40% of porn viewing is by females but their reasons for watching porn tend to be dramatically different. Namely, tehy want to gain sexual experience by proxy (i can’t remember if i read this in the Zimbardo article or somewhere else).

      • Gerald Downey says:

        Citing a single source — one that has an agenda — for baseline information is meaningless. And, any adult male who is unaware that the majority of women are less interested in sex than men are needs to pay more attention.

  3. Just who I wanted to see in this magazine says:

    Thank you Dr. Klein for this article it hit on all the parts I thought the last article was lacking in.

  4. DanVignau says:

    Before the explosion of internet porn, I was going to bars to meet cute, young guys. Due to my advanced age, all I was getting to do was give an occasional blow job, then go home to take (my) things into my own hands. I am alive because of internet porn.

  5. Dan Lynch says:

    How does this Skeptics forum resemble a proctologist’s office?

    So many things appear to have emerged from one lower digestive tract or another; Ted Bundy quotes and rape estimates notwithstanding.

  6. Esceptico says:

    I was disappointed in the Philip Zimbardo and Gary Wilson article because I thought it was either (1) not well researched or (2) driven by other than scientific motive in its obvious anti-porn bias. To me, it was below the standards usually found in Skeptic.

  7. spryduck says:

    Jerry Dwyer “Totally missing from this superficial discussion is the fact that women are less interested in sex than men, porn degrades women and often includes violence against women. Let’s remember what Ted Bundy said before he was put to death for the murder of ~three dozen college females: Today I can see on television pornography that I could not see in X-rated movie theaters when I was young.”

    That is the same crap logic handed to me by the Mormon church in my youth. Ted Bundy had way more issues than porn viewing. Plus, he wasn’t around in the era of smartphones. Your statements are baseless. Women are less interested in sex than men? Under any definition of interested, that doesn’t even pass a chuckle test. Porn often includes violence against women? Define often. That statement seems intentionally misleading. Porn depicting real or acted out violence? Do you differentiate? Are murders going up because more TV shows depict murder? Are they going up because news reports actual murders? Ted Bundy was mentally ill, but that did not make him an expert on mental illnesses. The relationship between causation and correlation are critical. If porn caused Ted Bundy to be a serial killer, the boom in porn since the mid 1990s should have caused a huge increase in the number of serial killers.

  8. What?! says:

    Hmm. . . . I am a woman. I’ve had male partners who had a lower sex drive than I. I have female friends that have higher sex drives than their male partners. I’ve found in long term relationships it’s an ebb and flow. I don’t have personal experience that indicates men have a lower or higher sex drive on average. . . . . I do take issue with the women would want one loving partner because of evolution hypothesis. Humans lived in groups for most of the past history. A single partner didn’t provide care for the young. . . the group did. Having sex with more than one male in the group wouldn’t be bad for getting pregnant. A high drive in women. . . . which means having sex.

  9. John Forester says:

    I am now 86 years old. At about the onset of puberty I read an account of the sexual behavior of the Trobriand Islanders, and the novel The Chinese Room (about the discovery of sexual pleasure by a wealthy, middle-aged English couple whose marriage had started frigidly). Both of these happened to be on bookshelves at home. Later on I discovered my father’s secret library, with much about whipping and the like, which didn’t interest me at all. My father’s tastes may have been formed when he had been an English schoolboy. At age thirteen, after some experimentation, I found that salad oil was the ideal lubricant for masturbation and achieved orgasm. From then on, whenever I had no partner, it was at least twice a day, on going to bed and before getting up.

    I have fucked with twenty ladies, and when I say ladies I mean ladies, friends I was proud to acknowledge. But my marriage was sexually unhappy; one gets into such situations even with the best of intention. I acquired a stack of Playboy magazines. After the inevitable divorce, I read many stories of unusual sexual life; shall we say Lolita, The Well of Loneliness, My Secret Life for examples. I tried what had been described as the height of pornographic video, Behind the Green Door. I found it grotesquely uninteresting. My very last lady friend, the most erotically enthusiastic of all, but who became ill and died, introduced me to the pornographic comic books, mostly produced in Southern California, that are pornographic satires upon Lil’Abner, Andy Gump, Popeye, and the like. We can guess what the teen-aged boy of their time of publication learned from them; we found them fascinatingly amusing.

    What has all this adventuring outside the official sexual channels done for me? I’ll say a life of healthy pleasure, with of course its occasional concomitant unhappinesses. I stopped having erections about my eightieth year, but masturbation is still a pleasure.

  10. Todd says:

    I’d be interested to know if computer-generated child pornography has an impact – positively or negatively – on the incidence of child sex crimes in a given society.

    My understanding is that its possession is illegal in the US.

  11. Tom in Denver says:

    To John Forester,

    Thanks for the memories, man.

  12. Gary Wilson says:

    It seems as though Marty Klein did not carefully read our article. I’ll address a few claims here and in subsequent comments.

    MARTY KLEIN: “One reason some physicians mistakenly think they are seeing increased ED in young men is because some young men want erection drugs.”

    RESPONSE: We did not cite the rates of men visiting their doctors to request ED medication. The ED rates cited refered only to peer-reviewed studies (usually anonymous) on population wide rates of sexual dysfunction. To put it another way, the ‘Viagra hypothesis’ is claiming that in every single study published between 1948 and 2010, in countries all over the world, the young male participants consistently lied about their erectile functioning. Then, all of a sudden, in 2010 all the young men (and only the young men) began to tell the truth about their ED problems. This is absurd. The tremendous rise in youthful ED (1,000% or more) and low sexual desire (400%) in the last 20 years is documented in this article – http://yourbrainonporn.com/research-confirms-sharp-rise-youthful-ed

    There is nothing in Klein’s analysis that accounts for any increase in youthful sexual dysfunctions, and certainly nothing that would explain a 1000% increase in erectile dysfunction in men under 40.

    ——————-
    MARTY KLEIN: “The article cites many studies purporting to show that neuroscience now proves that porn erodes young brains. They don’t mention the tiny sample sizes of these studies—literally 10 or 15 people, in some cases. Nor do they mention the most common caveat of these studies’ authors, also routinely omitted by the popular media.”

    RESPONSE: In our article we cited 24 neuroscience studies on porn users, along with 5 recent reviews of the literature. The up to date list is here – http://yourbrainonporn.com/brain-scan-studies-porn-users

    Klein addresses only a single study (Voon et al. 2014), and refutes nothing about its findings. Every study listed above lends supports the porn addiction model. This is not disputable.

    The claim that some studies had 10 – 15 subjects in is false. The lowest number of subjects was 19, with the highest being 67. It should be noted that fMRI studies tend to smaller due to the high cost. Once again, we list 24 studies (and 5 reviews) that support the porn addiction model.

    As for caveats, all good scientists present caveats. However, the authors of every paper cited stated that their findings mirror the findings seen in drug addiction studies. This is not disputable.

    As for cherry-picking a single caveat from the Kraus, Voon, Potenza review, readers should know that the paper covered both sex and porn addiction (which are separate entities). In addition, the Kraus review largely dealt with assessment criteria and definitions, which accounts for the caveat. However, the Neurobiological Basis Of CSB section of the review was very clear: Porn addiction looks like drug addiction. An excerpt:

    “Overlapping features exist between CSB and substance use disorders. Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to CSB and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases. Similar pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments may be applicable to CSB and substance addictions”

    Since we are quoting recent reviews of the literature on porn addiction, here are a few more:

    1) “Compulsive Sexual Behaviour as a Behavioural Addiction: The Impact of the Internet and Other Issues” (2016).
    Excerpt: “more emphasis is needed on the characteristics of the internet as these may facilitate problematic sexual behaviour.” and “clinical evidence from those who help and treat such individuals should be given greater credence by the psychiatric community.”

    2) Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science (2016).
    Excerpt: “Arguably the most important development in the field of CSB and sex addiction is how the internet is changing and facilitating CSB [2, 8, 9]. This was not mentioned until the concluding paragraph, yet research into online sex addiction (while comprising a small empirical base) has existed since the late 1990s, including sample sizes of up to almost 10 000 individuals [10-17]. In fact, there have been recent reviews of empirical data concerning online sex addiction and treatment [4, 5]. These have outlined the many specific features of the internet that may facilitate and stimulate addictive tendencies in relation to sexual behaviour (accessibility, affordability, anonymity, convenience, escape, disinhibition, etc.). The internet may also facilitate behaviours that an individual would never imagine engaging in offline”

    3) Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015). Excerpt:
    “Within this review, we give a summary of the concepts proposed underlying addiction and give an overview about neuroscientific studies on Internet addiction and Internet gaming disorder. Moreover, we reviewed available neuroscientific literature on Internet pornography addiction and connect the results to the addiction model. The review leads to the conclusion that Internet pornography addiction fits into the addiction framework and shares similar basic mechanisms with substance addiction.”

    All of the neuroscience points in one direction: Porn addiction exists and involves the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as seen in substance addiction.

  13. OldNassau says:

    Several observations:
    1. “world-famous”. Given that all the studies and all the opinions deal with the USA and Europe, I wonder what the other two-thirds of the world’s population does with/about pornography.
    2. And, to the rest of the world, what is pornography?
    “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. SCOTUS Justice Potter Stewart, Jacobellis v. Ohio
    3. Are not females allowed to watch porn?
    4. In the 50’s, comic books were far more sinful than mere pornography. Dr. Fredrick Wertham, M.D., in his book, “Seduction of the Innocent”, argued that comic books led to juvenile delinquency, scientific ignorance (Superman could fly), homosexuality (faithfully devoted Robin’s bare legs were often wide open), and Wonder Woman misled girls about the role in society.
    5. And then, of course, masturbation led to blindness, impotence, and, worst of all, poor sports performance.

  14. Eric says:

    I would like Mr. Klein and Mr. Wilson to have a debate.

    I found most of Mr. Klein’s rebuttal a little tenuous. He has challenged the research and data and I would very much like Mr. Wilson to respond.

  15. Gary Wilson says:

    Eric – Scroll up to see my first comment. I would love to debate Klein. Below I address more statements by Klein. Since the system only allows 2 links, I will add a few more comments.
    ————
    KLEIN SAID: “North American neuroscientists Prause and Pfaus recently published a study in which pornography use was related to greater sexual desire for one’s partner, not to ED or lower desire.8 An ocean away, European researchers Landripet and Stulhofer found that neither frequency of porn viewing nor changes in the frequency of use were related to erectile problems.9″

    MY RESPONSE: First, there’s only one way to confirm whether erectile dysfunction is porn-induced (PIED) or not: Eliminate porn use for an extended period of time and see if the sufferer regains normal erectile functioning. Only one study had a subject with suspected porn-induced sexual problems abstain from porn. Guess what? In 8 months the man recovered from anorgasmia, low libido and porn-related fetishes, and resumed normal sexual relations with his girlfriend. That’s one-for-one on studies assessing porn-induced sexual problems. (The study – Unusual Masturbatory Practice As An Etiological Factor In The Diagnosis And Treatment Of Sexual Dysfunction In Young Men”, 2014).

    RE: PRAUSE & PFAUS:
    First, the paper wasn’t a study at all. Instead Nicole Prause claimed to have gathered data from four of her earlier studies, none of which had anything to do with erectile dysfunction. Jim Pfaus was not involved in those 4 earlier studies. None of the data from the Prause & Pfaus (2015) paper matched the four earlier studies. The discrepancies were not small and still have not been explained. Prause & Pfaus has been so roundly criticized for missing data, unsupported claims, poor methodology, and statements that are in direct opposition of its data, that it is, in effect, discredited. A comment by researcher Richard A. Isenberg MD, published in Sexual Medicine Open Access, points out several (but not all) of the discrepancies, errors, and unsupported claims – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sm2.71/full

    Klein also claimed that the Prause & Pfaus paper reported “pornography use was related to greater sexual desire for one’s partner”. That’s not really true. If you look at Table 2 – those who watched the most porn had the greatest desire to masturbate, yet had slightly less desire for sex with a partner than the moderate porn users.

    In addition, Klein misspoke by claiming the finding was “greater desire for sex with ONE’S partner”. However, the actual question was “greater desire for sex with A [any] partner”. That could easily mean wanting to have sex with imaginary partners. This may be the case, as about half of the subjects had no partner.

    Finally, Nicole Prause’s two EEG studies actually contradict Klein’s claims about Prause & Pfaus:
    1) “Steele et al. 2013” – reported that individuals with greater cue-reactivity to porn had less desire for sex with a partner (but not lower desire to masturbate to porn). To put another way, it found that individuals with more brain activation and cravings for porn would rather masturbate to porn than have sex with a real person.

    2) “Prause et al., 2015” – Reported that “porn addicts” (compared to controls) had muted brain response to one-second exposure to photos of vanilla porn. The lead author, Nicole Prause, inexplicably claims these results debunk porn addiction. However, these findings align perfectly with Kühn & Gallinat (2014), which found that more porn use correlated with less brain activation in response to pictures of vanilla porn. Desensitization is a telltale sign of addiction. In short, Prause et al., 2015 supports the hypotheses that chronic porn use down regulates sexual arousal.

    ————————————–
    RE: LANDRIPET AND STULHOFER
    This paper has also been formally criticised in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by Gert Martin Hald (pay only) – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25974236

    In addition to the many criticisms, it should be noted that Landrpet and Stulhofer actually found correlations between ED and porn use. The abstract doesn’t mention a pretty important correlation: Only 40% of the Portuguese men used porn “frequently”, while the 60% of the Norwegians used porn “frequently”. The Portuguese men had far less sexual dysfunction than the Norwegians.

    Elsewhere, the authors acknowledge a statistically significant association between more frequent porn use and ED, but claim the effect size was small. However, this claim may be misleading according to an MD who is a skilled statistician and has authored many studies: “Analyzed a different way (Chi Squared), … moderate use (vs. infrequent use) increased the odds (the likelihood) of having ED by about 50% in this Croatian population. That sounds meaningful to me, although it is curious that the finding was only identified among Croats.”

    The authors blow this finding off and ignore it in reaching their conclusions, as they also ignore Danish porn researcher Gert Martin Hald’s formal commentary about the study, in which he says:
    “However, in pornography research, the interpretation of “size” may depend as much on the nature of the outcome studied as the magnitude of the relationship found. Accordingly, if the outcome is to be considered “sufficiently adverse” (e.g., sexual aggressive behaviors), even small effect sizes may carry considerable social and practical significance [2].”

    Gert Martin Hald’s editorial comments emphasize the need to assess more variables (mediators, moderators) than just frequency per week in the last 12 months:
    “Third, the study does not address possible moderators or mediators of the relationships studied nor is it able to determine causality. Increasingly, in research on pornography, attention is given to factors that may influence the magnitude or direction of the relationships studied (i.e., moderators) as well as the pathways through which such influence may come about (i.e., mediators). Future studies on pornography consumption and sexual difficulties may also benefit from an inclusion of such focuses.”

    In other words, using only a single, limited variable such as “hours of use in the last month” and comparing it with only one sexual dysfunction (ED, rather than difficulty orgasming and abnormally low sexual desire) may not reveal anything. It’s already established in studies on both internet porn addiction and internet video-gaming addiction that symptoms do not correlate with “hours of use.” Instead of just current hours of use, a combination of variables appears to correlate best with porn-induced sexual dysfunctions. These may include:
    1) Ratio of masturbation to porn versus masturbation without porn
    2) Ratio of sexual activity with a person versus masturbation to porn
    3) Gaps in partnered sex (where one relies only on porn)
    4) Virgin or not
    5) Total hours of use
    6) Years of use
    7) Age started using porn
    8) Escalation to new genres
    9) Development of porn-induced fetishes (from escalating to new genres of porn)
    10) Level of novelty per session (i.e. compilation videos, multiple tabs)
    11) Addiction-related brain changes or not
    12) Presence of hypersexuality/porn addiction

    The better way to research the phenomenon of porn-induced sexual dysfunctions is to remove the variable of internet porn use and observe the outcome. Such research reveals causation instead of correlations open to misinterpretation. My site (yourbrainonporn) has documented a few thousand men who removed internet porn and recovered from chronic sexual dysfunctions.

  16. JustWondering says:

    I’d like to believe Klein, but most all his evidence comes from a 2012 article by pro-porn journalist Tracy Clark-Flory, who was riled up about Santorum. Quite honestly, Zimbardo and Wilson seem to have countered all the statements she trotted out with recent, solid research. Maybe Klein needs to update his playbook.

    • Solid rebuttal says:

      Actually, Klein cites numerous scientific studies with links to them that show Zimbardo cherry-picked and even grossly (intentionally) misinterpreted the science. Don’t mislead people who bothered to read this far in the comments, it is hardly one article, but overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  17. Gary Wilson says:

    FOLLOW UP ON PREVIOUS COMMENT
    In our original article we listed several studies that found relationships between porn use in young men and ED, anorgamsia, low sexual desire, delayed ejaculation, and lower brain activation to sexual images. See this page – http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/porn-induced-ed-media
    In addition, this page contains articles and videos by about 60 experts (urology professors, urologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, sexologists, MDs) who acknowledge and have successfully treated porn-induced ED and porn-induced loss of sexual desire.

    1) “Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours” (2014) – This fMRI study by Cambridge University found sensitization in porn addicts which mirrored sensitization in drug addicts. It also found that porn addicts fit the accepted addiction model of wanting “it” more, but not liking “it” more. The researchers also reported that 60% of subjects (average age: 25) had difficulty achieving erections/arousal with real partners, yet could achieve erections with porn. From the study:

    “CSB subjects reported that as a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials….. experienced diminished libido or erectile function specifically in physical relationships with women (although not in relationship to the sexually explicit material)”

    “Compared to healthy volunteers, CSB subjects had greater subjective sexual desire or wanting to explicit cues and had greater liking scores to erotic cues, thus demonstrating a dissociation between wanting and liking. CSB subjects also had greater impairments of sexual arousal and erectile difficulties in intimate relationships but not with sexually explicit materials highlighting that the enhanced desire scores were specific to the explicit cues and not generalized heightened sexual desire.”

    2) “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn” (2014)
    A Max Planck study which found 3 significant addiction-related brain changes correlating with the amount of porn consumed. It also found that the more porn consumed correlated with less reward circuit activity in response to brief exposure (.530 second) to vanilla porn. Again, lead author Simone Kühn remarked on the uncharacteristic sluggish response to sexual stimuli seen in heavy porn users:

    “That could mean that regular consumption of pornography more or less wears out your reward system.”

    Simone Kühn continued:

    “We assume that subjects with a high porn consumption need increasing stimulation to receive the same amount of reward. That would fit perfectly the hypothesis that their reward systems need growing stimulation.”

    3) “Adolescents and web porn: a new era of sexuality” (2015)– An Italian study analyzed the effects of Internet porn on high school students, co-authored by urology professor Carlo Foresta, president of the Italian Society of Reproductive Pathophysiology. The most interesting finding is that 16% of those who consume porn more than once a week report abnormally low sexual desire compared with 0% in non-consumers (and 6% for those who consume less than once a week).

    4) “Patient Characteristics by Type of Hypersexuality Referral: A Quantitative Chart Review of 115 Consecutive Male Cases” (2015) – Study on men (average age 41.5) with hypersexuality disorders, such as paraphilias and chronic masturbation or adultery. 27 were classified as “avoidant masturbators,” meaning they masturbated (typically with porn use) one or more hours per day or more than 7 hours per week. 71% reported sexual functioning problems, with 33% reporting delayed ejaculation. What sexual dysfunction do 38% of the remaining men have? The study doesn’t say, and the authors have publicly dismissed requests for the ED rates.

    5) “Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with ‘Porn Addiction'” (2015) – An EEG study comparing the subjects from an earlier study by the same research lab to an actual control group. The results: Compared to controls, porn addicts had less response to one-second exposure to photos of vanilla porn. The lead author, Nicole Prause, claims these results debunk porn addiction. However, these findings align perfectly with Kühn & Gallinat (2014), which found that more porn use correlated with less brain activation in response to pictures of vanilla porn. In other words, “porn addicts” appear to be desensitized and to need greater stimulation than non-addicts to become aroused. Three peer-reviewed papers agree with this analysis of the study.

    6) “Erectile Dysfunction, Boredom, and Hypersexuality among Coupled Men from Two European Countries” (2015) – Survey reported a strong correlation between erectile dysfunction and measures of hypersexuality (sex/porn addiction).

    7) “Altered Appetitive Conditioning and Neural Connectivity in Subjects With Compulsive Sexual Behavior” (2016) – “Compulsive Sexual Behaviors” (CSB) means the men were porn addicts, because CSB subjects averaged nearly 20 hours of porn use per week. The controls averaged 29 minutes per week. Interestingly, 3 of the 20 CSB subjects suffered from “orgasmic-erection disorder,” while none of the control subjects reported sexual problems.

    8) “Sexual Desire, not Hypersexuality, is Related to Neurophysiological Responses Elicited by Sexual Images” (2013) – This EEG study was touted in the media as evidence against the existence of porn addiction. Not so. In line with the Cambridge studies, this EEG study reported greater cue-reactivity to porn correlated with less desire for partnered sex, not less desire to masturbate to porn.

    9) (not peer-reviewed) Here’s a popular article about an extensive analysis of comments and questions posted on MedHelp concerning erectile dysfunction. What’s shocking is that 58% of the men asking for help were 24 or younger. Many suspected that internet porn could be involved in their dysfunction, as described in the results from the study – https://onlinedoctor.superdrug.com/semantic-analysis-erectile-dysfunction/ – An excerpt:

    The most common phrase is “erectile dysfunction” – which is mentioned more than three times as often as any other phrase – followed by “internet porn,” “performance anxiety,” and “watching porn.” Clearly, porn is a frequently discussed subject: “I have been viewing internet pornography frequently (4 to 5 times a week) for the past 6 years,” one man writes. “I am in my mid-20s and have had a problem getting and maintaining an erection with sexual partners since my late teens when I first started looking at internet porn.”

    Reality check: All studies assessing young male sexuality since 2010 report historic levels of sexual dysfunctions, and startling rates of a new scourge: low libido. Erectile dysfunction rates ranged from 27 to 33%, while rates for low libido (hypo-sexuality) ranged from 16% to 37%. The lower ranges are taken from studies involving teens and men 25 and under, while the higher ranges are from studies involving men 40 and under.

    Prior to the advent of free streaming porn, cross-sectional studies and meta-analysis consistently reported erectile dysfunction rates of 2-5% in men under 40. That’s nearly a 1000% increase in youthful ED rates in the last 20 years. What variable has changed in the last 20 years that could account for this astronomical rise?

  18. JustWondering says:

    Marty, what do you make of this article, “How to Lie with Rape Statistics: America’s Hidden Rape Crisis” (2014)? It looks like there has been heavy pressure on the official sources on which your sources rely to under report rape stats.

    Might internet porn be increasing aggression in some users, thus accounting for the recent metastudy associating porn use with increased aggression, while also putting downward pressure on acting out in the many young men who are reporting abnormally low sexual desire and sexual dysfunctions?

    From “A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies”

    “Pornography consumption was associated with sexually aggressive behavior in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. “

    • LawReview says:

      That paper appears in the Iowa Law Review, a student journal with no impact factor:
      http://ilr.law.uiowa.edu/about

      I would value multiple meta-analyses from high-impact journals over a student project any day.

      • JustWondering says:

        Guess you can’t take on the substance, eh? Cory Yung is a full professor at the Univ of Kansas with a law degree from UVA. He has published over a dozen papers on sexuality and assault, including in the Columbia Law Review.

        • Fraud says:

          Which must be why he couldn’t get his little analysis published in any big-boy journals, eh?

  19. Gary Wilson says:

    A FEW MORE POINTS
    Mary Klein’s primary arguments against porn addiction consist of quotations excerpted from a March, 2012 Salon.com article about Rick Santorum. It seems as though Klein did not closely read our article, as it contains links to 24 neuroscience-based studies published in the last five years. All lend support for the porn addiction model, and have found the brain changes that Rory Reid, Bruce Carpenter, Barry Komisaruk once said didn’t exist. The up-to-date list of studies and reviews – http://yourbrainonporn.com/brain-scan-studies-porn-users

    “Together these brain studies found
    1) The 3 major addiction-related brain changes: sensitization, desensitization, and hypofrontality.
    2) More porn use correlated with less grey matter in the reward circuit (dorsal striatum).
    3) More porn use correlated with less reward circuit activation when briefly viewing sexual images.
    4) More porn use correlated with disrupted neural connections between the reward circuit and prefrontal cortex.
    5) Addicts had greater prefrontal activity to sexual cues, but less brain activity to normal stimuli (matches drug addiction).
    6) 60% of porn addicted subjects in one study experienced ED or low libido with partners, but not with porn: all stated that internet porn use caused their ED/low libido.
    7) Enhanced attentional bias comparable to drug users. Indicates sensitization (a product of DeltaFosb).
    8) Greater wanting & craving for porn, but not greater liking. This aligns with the accepted model of addiction – incentive sensitization.
    9) The younger the porn users the greater the cue-induced reactivity in the reward center.
    10) Higher EEG (P300) readings when porn users were exposed to porn cues (which occurs in other addictions).
    11) Less desire for sex with a person correlating with greater cue-reactivity to porn images.
    12) More porn use correlating with lower LPP amplitude when briefly viewing sexual photos: indicates habituation or desensitization.
    13) Dysfunctional HPA axis, which reflects altered brain stress circuits, matching results of drug addiction studies.

    The 24 studies on porn users also align with over 140 internet addiction “brain studies” (PET, MRI, fMRI, EEG) published in the last few years. Without exception, these studies report the same addiction-related brain changes as seen in substance addicts. Internet porn addiction is, in fact, a sub-type of internet addiction, as this recent review of the neuroscience literature pointed out – “Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015)”

    Recent research reveals that behavioral addictions (food addiction, pathological gambling, video gaming, Internet addiction and porn addiction) and substance addictions share many of the same fundamental mechanisms leading to a collection of shared alterations in brain anatomy and chemistry consistent with addiction. This is not surprising as addictive drugs work by enhancing or inhibiting existing physiological functions that evolved for natural rewards like sexual arousal.

    Instead of quoting Reid and Carpenter, who have formally written papers denouncing porn addiction, how about asking the medical doctors of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)? In 2011 ASAM published its new definition of addiction and stated that all addiction is one condition and that “sexual behavior addictions” not only exist, but involve the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as do drug addictions. ASAM’s 3,000 medical doctors are many of the addiction researchers who provide the hard data, such head of NIDA, Nora Volkow, MD. PhD, and Eric Nestler MD, PhD. Link to ASAM definition – http://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2011/12/15/the-definition-of-addiction

    FROM ASAM FAQS –
    5. QUESTION:

    “This new definition of addiction refers to addiction involving gambling, food, and sexual behaviors. Does ASAM really believe that food and sex are addicting?

    ANSWER:

    “Addiction to gambling has been well described in the scientific literature for several decades. In fact, the latest edition of the DSM (DSM-V) will list gambling disorder in the same section with substance use disorders. “The new ASAM definition makes a departure from equating addiction with just substance dependence, by describing how addiction is also related to behaviors that are rewarding. This is the first time that ASAM has taken an official position that addiction is not solely “substance dependence.”“This definition says that addiction is about functioning and brain circuitry and how the structure and function of the brains of persons with addiction differ from the structure and function of the brains of persons who do not have addiction. It talks about reward circuitry in the brain and related circuitry, but the emphasis is not on the external rewards that act on the reward system. “Food and sexual behaviors and gambling behaviors can be associated with the pathological pursuit of rewards described in this new definition of addiction.”

    ———————————

    I would like to expand on Rory Reid’s comment.

    Further, according to Rory C. Reid, a research psychologist at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute who is also an expert in hypersexual behavior, “Watching the NCAA playoffs is going to change your brain, eating chocolate—any time you have any kind of experience, it’s going to change your brain.”

    First, Reid gives the false impression that all brain changes are equal. If this were the case then Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are no big deal because, “Hey, everything changes the brain.” In reality, the brain changes caused by addiction are very specific and have profound negative consequences. Addiction-related brain changes include:
    1) Sensitization: a powerful Pavlovian memory makes the addiction more compelling than other activities in the addict’s life. Cues, such as turning on the computer, seeing a pop-up, or being alone, trigger intense cravings for porn.

    2) Desensitization (“a numbed pleasure response”): Among other changes, dopamine and opioids decline, as do certain dopamine receptors and opioid receptors. Desensitization often manifests as the need for greater and greater stimulation to achieve the same buzz (‘tolerance’).

    3) Hypofrontality: alterations in frontal-lobe grey matter and white matter correlate with reduced impulse control and the weakened ability to foresee consequences.

    4) Dysfunctional stress circuits: These can make even minor stress lead to cravings and relapse because they activate powerful sensitized pathways.

    Are these the only brain changes? No. Each of these broad-brush indicators reflects multiple subtler addiction-related cellular and chemical alterations—just as the scan of a cancer tumor wouldn’t show associated subtler cellular/chemical changes. Most of the subtler changes can’t be assessed in human subjects due to the invasiveness of the technologies required. However, they have been identified in animal models. See this review describing brain changes in both drug and behavior addictions: “Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions” (2011).

    Second, Rory Reid appears to be claiming that watching TV or eating chocolate is no different biologically from sexual stimulation. However, there are biological reasons scientists can distinguish eating a Hershey kiss from a mind blowing orgasm:
    1) Sexual stimulation releases far higher amounts of dopamine and opioids than any other natural reward.

    2) Reproduction is our genes’ number-one priority. To that end all mammals possess specific circuits and limbic centers devoted to sexual arousal, sexual behaviors, erections, and sexual activity. They are not activated in the same way by other rewards.

    3) Sexual stimulation and addictive drugs activate the exact same reward system nerve cells. In contrast, there’s only a small percentage of nerve-cell activation overlap between addictive drugs and other natural rewards such as food or water. Turning on the same nerve cells that make sexual stimulation so compelling helps explain why meth, cocaine, and heroin can be so addictive (compared with chocolate or TV).

    4) Both sex and drug use can lead to the accumulation of DeltaFosB, a protein that activates genes involved with addiction. The molecular changes it generates are nearly identical for both sexual conditioning and chronic use of drugs. Whether its sex or drugs of abuse, high levels of DeltaFosB rewire the brain to crave “IT”, whatever “IT” is. In other words, addictive drugs hijack the same nerve cells and mechanisms that evolved to make sex so appealing.

    Taken together, addictive drugs like meth and heroin are compelling because they hijack the precise nerve cells and mechanisms that evolved to make sex compelling.

  20. WilliamOneAndDone says:

    I have nothing negative to say about Klein, or his comments. I will say he thinks of porn in a way I long ago abandoned, and that is porn as an extension of, or expression of, actual sexuality, and sex. Porn is not sex, sex is not porn. Porn addiction is not sex addiction, sex addiction is not porn addiction. Sex and sexuality can be healthy; it is not always healthy, but it can be. Porn consumption is never healthy.

    Porn, and porn addiction, has to be considered on its own, as an act that we naturally associate with sex and sexuality, because, hey, that is what is being depicted, but, as an event, it simply is not. We have sex for a purpose; to reproduce. We can, and often do, have recreational sex, meaning for fun, but porn has no other purpose than the dopamine rush it gives us, and, Mr. Kein, (probably not a porn addict, because he does not believe in it), does not understand that, unlike sex, porn can be used (get ready, inexact, non scientific language to follow) to induce much greater and prolonged dopamine highs than sex ever could or ever will. In western society, a young guy can watch porn, for hours, every day, but, we cannot have sex that much, and even if we could, we probably would not want to. Sure we like sex, because we like the dopamine high it gives us, but the high we get from porn is much higher, and, also, much more readily available, and with practically no cost or effort. We don’t have to flirt with, and court, porn before we get the dopamine high, and we don’t have to be expected to cuddle up with porn after we are done with it. Point being, that while sex and porn, on the surface, look a bit similar, they are actually, radically, different mechanisms to obtain a dopamine high, and porn is a much better trigger than sex is, for that.

    Klien does not mention dopamine. He does not note that dopamine highs happen, naturally, without external stimulation, in response to thoughts of sex and thoughts of food. Klein does not appear to recognize that for the “porn addict”, (which in reality is a “dopamine addict”), that person has learned how to use porn, almost like a tool, to abuse the sexual reward system into getting a sexual reward, a dopamine reward high, via artificial sexual stimulation. Klien makes no distinction between “porn” and “high speed internet porn.” Old fashioned porn, like Playboy, Penthouse, etc., is not addictive. It is not addictive because it is finite. It might be fascinating to us, totally, totally spell binding, but only for a while, as in, maybe a few hours, or even a few days, but it you were trapped on a desert island with the June 2000 issue of Playboy, you would very shortly become indifferent to it, because it is not thinking about the pictures you see in the magazine that gives you a dopamine high, it is thinking about new pictures, and searching for new ones, that give a maximum dopamine response, and there are only so many pictures in the magazine. Due to desensitization (really another way of saying “due to becoming bored with it”), that one magazine could never be the basis of an addiction.

    Klein has not learned, or, does not accept, that porn addiction, aka dopamine addiction, is 100% a brain problem, a brain condition, a brain reaction. Klein has not made the distinction, in the article, that porn really has nothing to do with sex, and that the models we use to understand sex addictions, as well as normal or abnormal sexuality, are not really applicable to porn addiction.

    At one point Klein states:

    When Zimbardo and Wilson state that “young porn addicts exhibit brain responses that are comparable to drug addicts,” many lay people think that proves the existence of porn addiction. But this reasoning by analogy says nothing. What does the similarity in brain responses mean? Scientists themselves say they aren’t sure. Besides, our brain responds in this same observable way when we cuddle a grandchild or enjoy a sunset.

    Excuse me but, no. The dopamine reward system naturally (meaning without external stimulation) rewards two things over all others: thinking of sex and thinking of food. Notice I said thinking of, not actually having sex or eating. Now, yes, we ride a dopamine high when we engage in the actual act of sex and/or eating, but our systems are designed to reward not merely the acts, but, thinking of them, anticipating them, searching for them.

    Do I like cuddling people I love or sunsets? Yes, but those things cannot and do not allow for the prolonged, powerful, dopamine high that, for a dopamine addict, porn does. If they did, we would spend hours doing things other than watching porn, and if it did not do it when watching porn, we would not watch porn. Without a dopamine rush, porn would be boring. Those other things are fun, but they do not create the dopamine rush that artificial sexual stimulation can. Nothing but artificial sexual stimulation can do that, unless you fall back to actual drugs, or, for some persons with eating disorders, food.

    If watching paint peel gave us a dopamine rush, we would constantly search for peeling paint. It does not, porn does. Just that simple. That is an evolved response to encourage reproduction, but nature did not anticipate High Speed Internet Porn. Nature will be making adjustments, and education is the big adjustment Nature is making, through people like Wilson. We may be the one species on the planet that can do that: Make adjustments, adapt, to over come.

    Part of understanding the addiction is understanding things that are quite obvious when stated, and are simple, but, sometimes are overlooked, such as: addiction is only possible when it is possible. Duh, obvious right, but if the trigger that gets us high, constantly, is not readily available, the addiction does not happen. So, a brain inclined to drug addiction will not become addicted if the drug is not readily available. A brain inclined to sex addiction will not become addicted if sex is not readily available. A brain inclined to artificial sex addiction will not become addicted if artificial sex is not readily available. It is only recently that sex addiction was possible, in any significant number of people, because it is only since the industrial age, and probably since the “sexual revolution” of the sixties, that having sex, with multiple, new, partners, as in recreational sex, was accepted as a viable lifestyle and was doable, meaning it became acceptable for men and women to co-mingle in bars, in the western societies, and pair off at closing time.

    Same with porn addiction. Only with the invention of High Speed Internet Porn (available only as a result of the industrial revolution, the internet technology revolution, and the sexual revolution) is the addiction possible, because only now do we have the means and the time to endlessly think of sex, resulting in the dopamine rush it brings.

    Lastly, I largely agree with Klein that porn is not destroying society, and that the people who say it is, are wrong. But, Wilson is not saying porn is destroying society. His message is much narrower, and can be summed up as follows: High Speed Internet Porn is capable of delivering a dopamine rush more powerful and prolonged than sex itself, and with far less effort. Because it is, practically, infinite, and because, due to the Coolidge Effect, we get a high, not just from thinking about sex, but searching for new sexual thoughts, and because we, as a society, now have a lot of time to search to new images, thus new thoughts, some of us can, unwittingly, teach our brains to love the artificial sexual stimulation pathways, so much, it becomes an addiction. Wilson is not saying “the sky is falling,” rather, more like, “it sometimes rains in summer, carry an umbrella.” Wilson is educating people about the potential cause and effect of using artificial sexual stimulation to rewire brain reward pathways, all while doing it unconsciously. This is hardly a concept that should threaten anyone.

    The brain is only, really, beginning to be understood. I would ask Dr. Klein to admit the possibility, that, for a percentage of the population, exposure to High Speed Internet Porn, can lead to dopamine addiction. I would also encourage Dr. Klein to encourage education about that possibility. I did not become addicted to drugs, because I knew it was possible. I did not become an alcoholic, because I knew it was possible. No one told me porn addiction, aka dopamine addiction, was possible, until after I was. Realizing that sucked. I am not judging porn, I am not judging sex, I am simply stating, there is a reason we “like” them, and the reason for both is the dopamine reward high we get when exposed to both. Porn is a much purer trigger for than than sex, at least for those addicted to the dopamine rush. I did not believe in porn addiction until I came to understand I was addicted. That day sucked. I am just suggesting Dr. Klein take another look at it. Stating porn addiction is possible is not an attack on pornography or sex, it is simply recognizing the human brain is very complex, and we may not, yet, understand, all the ways we, humans, can, wittingly, or not, abuse it to ride a dopamine high.

    Peace.

    Billy the Kid.

    NoFap. RebootNation.

  21. JW says:

    Much of the discussion here has been about porn in general, but, there are many different kinds of porn. Some porn is closer to real sex than other porn. Some people watch porn and do not masturbate to it. Some may watch porn, not masturbate and then have sex with their partner. What are the various reasons people watch porn? Some are just curious about it. One distinction I thought Dr. Klein made that was important was between porn and masturbation. Is it masturbation that lessens the sexual desire for a partner or is porn the cause of less sexual desire? If someone watches porn and does not masturbate lessen the desire for sex with their partner?

    Also, I would be interested if there is a connection to the lack of sexual desire for one’s partner as a result of guilt and shame over watching porn. What is religiously caused guilt, shame and stress’ relation to sexual satisfaction? I still think there is much more to be considered before passing judgment on all porn viewing.

  22. WilliamOneAndDone says:

    While there are many different “types” of porn, it is probably easier to just think of all types of porn as one thing: A button. Porn is a button we push to get a dopamine rush, a dopamine high, a neurochemical brain reaction that we “like”. We like dopamine. We like the rush of it, the high of it. We don’t just get it from porn, we get it from healthy activities as well. But, for a porn addict, it is the best place to get it.

    Picture a man stranded on a desert island for a few years, like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. He has been living on raw fish and coconuts. Now, he is saved. He is given the choice between blanched green beans and a milk shake. That guy is picking the milk shake. Has nothing to do with nutritional value, and all about what he “likes”. Turns out the milkshake gives him more of a dopamine high than the green beans do. Nothing against green beans, but the milk shake tastes better, is more satisfying, we like it more. Ask yourself, why do we like the milkshake more, and what is the nature of “liking”? When it comes to food, as well as sex (and porn), we like what gives us a dopamine rush. Crude, but true. By the way, we are not slaves to this, but it helps to know what is going on in there. I still, routinely, pick blanched green beans over milkshakes, but, a couple times a year, I still have a milkshake. I could have a milkshake, everyday, and love it, but, knowing the adverse consequences of that, I make a conscious choice not to.

    As for religion, and guilt, and morality, and shame, when it comes to viewing porn, those considerations are unhelpful and distracting. The question is why do we like to watch porn? Another way, why do we find it interesting? Why do we find anything interesting, and why don’t we find everything interesting? For those who find porn interesting, it is interesting because the brain’s sexual reward system rewards it with a dopamine rush. Our brains reward thoughts of sex because, thoughts of sex lead often to…the real deal. This is nature’s, evolved, means of encouraging reproduction, and thus perpetuation of the species. If our brains gave us a dopamine rush, rewarded us, with watching paint peel, we would spend a lot of time watching paint peel. Ask yourself, why do I find porn interesting, and why don’t I find watching paint peel interesting? The simple answer, watching porn (a means of having sexual thoughts) is rewarded with the brain reaction of a dopamine rush. Watching paint peeling, not so much.

    Put it in terms of drug addiction. I don’t think any person woke up one day and said “today is the day I start working on becoming addicted.” People become addicted unconsciously, unwittingly. Let’s say, on a Tuesday, a guy goes out with his friends. One says, this is heroin, it feels pretty good, give a try. The guy says, no…I don’t think so, I have heard bad things about it. The friend says, hey, it’s OK, I have been using it for over a year now, no prob. The guy says, OK, I’ll give it a try, and, he “likes” it. He likes it because his brain likes it, meaning his brain rewards it with the neurochemical reaction that humanity associates with the concept of “like.” It is cause and effect. Put X in, the brain reacts to X, putting X in is rewarded. Cause and effect. Next day, guy goes out with friend again. Friend say, how about some more? Guy balks, friend insists, guy says, OK, sure, his brain likes it again. Thursday comes. Guy goes out alone, no friend. Something is missing. He finds a guy who sells heroin, buys some, takes it, his brain likes it again.

    It’s all fun and games, of course, until someone loses an eye.

    Take it day sixty for our guy who discovered heroin. What began with a fun “like”, has changed. Now his brain is telling him he “needs” it, as in, if he does not get it, he will die, as in, he needs it to live. He, really, does not need it to live, but his brain is telling he does. That is the definition of addiction. Every addict on the planet could be taken off whatever thing they are addicted to now, and still live. Taking them off it would not kill them. But, they think it will, or, rather, their brains have told them it will.

    But I digress. Viewing porn should not be judged. It should, however, be understood. There is a reason many of us like viewing porn, as opposed to doing other things, and that is because porn is a button we push to get a dopamine rush. That is not bad, that is not good, that is a simple fact. Push that button enough, especially when you do not know what is happening, and, eventually, over time, you can come to love pushing that button over many other things in life, a la, addiction.

    As for preferring porn over sex, or porn diminishing sexual desire, that is where one is flirting with addiction. It is not so much that porn diminishes sexual desire, but when it gets to the point where an individual begins to prefer it over actual sex, that individual has trained their sexual reward center to give a greater dopamine high to porn, over sex. And that, is where the addiction begins. The brain is not a “fixed” thing. It can be trained, it can be changed. For people who watch porn a lot, they can change their preference to porn, as in to prefer it over sex. Sex gives a dopamine rush, yes, but, for some people, nothing gives a dopamine rush like porn, which is another way of saying, nothing creates sexual thoughts like viewing porn.

    Don’t judge porn, but know it for what it is, and what it is, is not bad or good. It is, and only is, a button we push to get a dopamine rush. We love that rush. It happens naturally via other means, including sex. It is not good or bad, but it can be abused. Being aware of that goes a long way to avoiding it becoming a problem.

  23. Sally says:

    Are there any studies addressing porn viewing without masturbation? I realize that would be difficult. Are there any studies about the effects of porn viewing on women’s sexual desire/sexual enjoyment? Are there any studies addressing people who never view porn but otherwise spend copious amounts of time online and have a largely virtual social life (as opposed to face to face interactions) and the effects on sexual desire/sexual enjoyment?

  24. Fair Witness says:

    Please stop your moral bible thumping. Just because someone says porn is unhealthy does not mean they are sex negative. This is a religious article and should be taken down.

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