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About this week’s feature article

Is porn viewing really changing young brains, skewing our views of “normal” sexuality, causing sexual dysfunction, and undermining our ability to relate to real sex? In this week’s eSkeptic, certified sex therapist and one of the United States’ leading experts on pornography, Marty Klein, responds to the article we published last week by Philip Zimbardo, Gary Wilson, and Nikita Coulombe.

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.

Skeptical of the Porn Skeptics

by Marty Klein, Ph.D

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

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A Serpent’s Tale

Tales of enormous snakes have been a part of folklore for thousands of years. From myths to legends, to eyewitness testimony and photographs, these stories slither through our culture and seem inescapable. Prepare to recoil in horror as we talk about giant snakes with John C. Murphy, co-author of the fascinating book Tales of Giant Snakes. Do giant man-eating snakes lurk out there waiting to swallow the unwary? The answer is more complicated than you might suspect.

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The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

Stephon Alexander (photo by Lendel Marshal)

Photo by Lendel Marshal

In The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe, physicist and jazz saxophonist Dr. Stephon Alexander revisits the ancient realm where music, physics, and the cosmos were one. This cosmological journey accompanies Alexander’s own tale of struggling to reconcile his passion for music and physics, from taking music lessons as a boy in the Bronx to studying theoretical physics at Imperial College. […]

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The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters

For those who could not make it to Pasadena, California for the Science Salon with award-winning biologist and author Sean B. Carroll, we have made a video recording of the event available to you. Watch it online for free.

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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

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Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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