Posted Jul 6, 2011 in All Things Sex | 0 Comments

Porn: What’s the big deal?

As a therapist, at least 70% of the calls I get for individual therapy are from men who struggle with porn addiction (which is why I’m starting a men’s group ).  By the time they decide to consult a sex therapist, their porn habit has taken over much of their lives, causes problems in their relationships, and is jeopardising their jobs.  So what is it about porn that makes it so addictive?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely against porn. It has its place in people’s sexual lives.  It can be thrilling for couples who watch it together, it helps relieve tension and fuels fantasies.  I even recommend for women to watch quality porn, because I really think it is important for women to see other women of all shapes, size, and age being sexual, wild and messy. The only time women see sex is in movies, where the characters are flawless skinny actresses and the sex is predictable and clean.  But still there is this dark side to the porn industry that makes it a highly addictive and destructive substance not unlike many hard drugs.


This is your brain on porn. Your brain can’t make the difference between a two dimensional sex scene and the real thing.  When we watch porn, the same pleasure center in our brain gets activated and releases a slew of chemicals: serotonin, endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine, etc.  The dopamine spike alone caused by viewing porn has been compared to that of using crack cocaine. What’s the problem? : It’s too easy and our brains are lazy…  Visual Stimulus + Dopamine spike = Porn Rush. Done!  Over time, our brains will lose the ability to produce that wonderful chemical cocktail in real life circumstances.

“But it’s not like I’m having an affair?” Well although you’re not actually having sex with someone, your brain and body don’t know that.  On top of the cocktail of neurotransmitters, let’s not forget the powerful hormones that your body releases during orgasm.  Oxytocin, for example, is referred to as the “bonding” hormone, and is part of the reason we feel emotionally connected to people we have sex with.  It’s the “love” hormone, so one can absolutely 100% fall in love with the gyrating divas in the porn videos.

Remember, you still have a body. With the constant stimuli of visual input that porn provides, you end up bypassing your body and its sensations entirely.  You are so completely focused on the images and what’s happening “out there”, that things like your skin moving and getting warmer, increased salivation, vasocongestion, all the physical cues of sexual arousal are completely ignored.  Which means that eventually, when you are in a real life situation where you are getting aroused by your partner, your brain might not even recognize those bodily sensations as indications that it’s time to feel excited.

The good news is that the brain is flexible, it can be retrained.  It might take some time but people who are addicted to porn can literally re-rewire their brains to enjoy sex and intimacy with a partner instead of the images in their minds or on the screen.  Obviously the trick is to not get addicted in the first place but that might be easier said than done.  With over 400 million porn sites on the internet, and let’s not forget all the sex imagery in mainstream media alone, it’s no easy task to stay away from porn completely.

With this information in hand, you now have the tools to be a more aware porn consumer.  Try to make educated choices when it comes to the porn you consume and how much of it you watch.  Don’t forget about your body if you masturbate to porn.  Be conscious of your breathing, make sounds, move around, and look away from the sex scene once in a while to give a chance to your brain to notice its environment. If you think your porn habit is getting out of control, know that you are not alone, and seek the help you need.

 

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