A silent epidemic is sweeping across the western world. Pornography, once viewed as a harmless yet crude form of entertainment, has solidified its worth amongst males of all ages. Gone are the days when a responsible adult would purchase a Playboy magazine with a few nude cover photos. In 2013, we have pre-teens with porn habits and millions of websites to choose from. Porn – a means to relieve stress, or an addiction waiting to happen?
The answer may not be so promising for those hardcore porn fans out there. Various studies on the effects of years of porn usage have shown evident neurological changes in many users, similar to those of a drug addict. Judith Reisman, Ph.D and president of The Institute for Media Education, described porn as “chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction.”
Porn is one of the few ‘super-stimulants’ out there, aptly named due to its ability to flood our brains with feel-good chemicals upon climax. This creates a strong connection between the act of viewing pornographic material and intense feelings of pleasure. However, our caveman-like brains cannot tell the difference between a naked person in front of us and one on the screen. Evolution did not factor in high-speed internet connections and plasma screens.
Therefore, users may over-consume because the visual junk food never fully satisfies them. Porn is going to satiate a person’s desire for sex just about as much as Facebook chat will cure a person’s need for social interaction. It’s just not the same, but our unconscious mind is fooled into thinking that it is. It’s an unfulfilling act, potentially leading to repetitive behaviour and a hunt for variety. This is where porn differs from any other drug: in terms of availability and novelty, the supply is limitless.
Of course, it would be naïve to say that every user becomes an addict. However, pornography is viewed behind closed doors, and many would hesitate to own up to overconsumption. If it is seen as something relatively normal by male social circles, how can we identify it as a problem? If a person is embarrassed about admitting to their problem, how likely are they to seek help?
Ironically, the internet seems to be the place most users turn to. In recent years many anti-porn websites have popped up, quickly being filled with males sharing their accounts of their compulsive habits and uncontrollable desire to continue ‘browsing’. Yourbrainonporn.com offers help to its users, also listing a number of scientific articles explaining what goes on inside our heads when we view pornography. This website and others are life savers for thousands of people, whose problems range from mild depression and social anxiety to broken marriages.
It’s not easy to spot a porn addict. Yes, it can be enjoyed responsibly, and moderation is extremely important in this regard. One does not have to have an addictive personality to fall prey to the allure of porn, because the need for sexual gratification is as natural as the need for food and water.