Your Brain on Porn

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Start here: Evolution has not prepared your brain for today's porn

This article is a short synopsis of some key concepts. For the science behind it, please follow all the links and read this page. Some links go to our articles, which in turn link to studies. For a more in-depth understanding and further evidence see The Research Page. For specific content explore Porn FAQs.


What happens when you drop a male rat into a cage with a receptive female rat? First, you see a frenzy of copulation. Then, progressively, the male tires of that particular female. Even if she wants more, he has had enough. However, replace the original female with a fresh one, and the male immediately revives and gallantly struggles to fertilize her. You can repeat this process with fresh females until he is completely wiped out.

This is called the Coolidge effect—the automatic response to novel mates. Interestingly, men ejaculate more motile sperm and they do it more quickly when they view a novel porn star. This powerful automatic response to erotic novelty is what started you down the road to getting hooked on internet porn.

Studies linking porn use or porn/sex addiction to sexual dysfunctions, lower arousal, and lower sexual & relationship satisfaction

Reality Check - Regardless of what you may read in some journalistic accounts, multiple studies reveal a link between porn use and sexual performance problems, relationship and sexual dissatisfaction, and reduced brain activation to sexual stimuli.

Let's start with sexual dysfunctions. Studies assessing young male sexuality since 2010 report historic levels of sexual dysfunctions, and startling rates of a new scourge: low libido. Documented in this lay article and in this literature review by the US Navy.

Brain Studies on Porn Users

This page lists all the studies assessing the brain structure and functioning of Internet porn users. To date every study offers support for the porn addiction model (no studies falsify the porn addiction model). The results of these 33 neurological studies (and upcoming studies) are consistent with 210+ Internet addiction "brain studies", many of which also include internet porn use. All support the premise that internet porn use can cause addiction-related brain changes, as do 12 recent neuroscience-based reviews of the literature:

Gary's TEDx talk - "The Great Porn Experiment"

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Critique of: "Damaged Goods: Perception of Pornography Addiction as a Mediator Between Religiosity and Relationship Anxiety Surrounding Pornography Use" (Leonhardt, Willoughby, & Young-Petersen 2017)

The “perceived pornography addiction” meme continues to infect the peer-reviewed literature, this time in a new study: “Damaged Goods: Perception of Pornography Addiction as a Mediator Between Religiosity and Relationship Anxiety Surrounding Pornography Use", 2017 (Leonhardt, et al.). The phrase "perceived pornography addiction" was promoted by Joshua Grubbs, and first used in his 2013 study. It's abundantly clear that the present study's support for invoking "perceived porn addiction" or "belief in porn addiction" rests upon Joshua Grubbs's continued promotion of the concept. Leonhardt, et al. cites 3 Grubbs studies a whopping 36 times in the body of the paper.

Age 20 - after 4 years, I am mostly all smiles and high-speed

I started this journey in 2013. I was the captain of my college, but I was not the leader I could have been. No charisma, no quick-fire wit, no humor, normal looks but minimal attractiveness. I wasted so many opportunities where I could have done good for the people. I could have been a role model to a lot of my peers, but I destroyed myself day after day, or night after night.

Age 26 - Dealt with suicidal thoughts for 12 years: 2 years after starting NoFap, my suicidal thoughts have disappeared.

I've lived with suicidal thoughts since I was a little kid, around 12 or 13, coincidentally the same time I began masturbating to porn. I used to fantasize over death, of how to kill myself, of what other people would say after I died.

ED and HOCD: It's hard to say what has been more effective in helping me; the medicine or the no-fap.

I was never really a porn user in the traditional sense. I would look at porn, sure, but what I really was addicted to was erotic roleplay. Since high school, I took pleasure in going online and becoming someone else, living out sexual fantasies through the magic of partnered creative writing.