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This Is Your Brain On Porn (Inside the Rift)

"Right now, many young guys believe their porn use has no consequences, and they are often distressed to find that when they connect with partners they aren’t aroused. They are dependent upon porn for arousal. Some are justifiably furious when they realize that their sexual health has been put at risk in order to increase ad revenue on porn sites." -Gary Wilson

This Is Your Brain On Porn: Gary Wilson On the Science of Porn Addiction, Health, and Recovery

Scholars are beginning to fear the rise of technology and its impact on human socialization and sexuality. In the contemporary Western world, consumption of pornography is just as normal and integrated into the average citizen's life as any other form of internet content. 

There are alarming statistics about the availability and usage of pornography that are surfacing today. According to this Webroot article, 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related and 34% of internet users have been exposed to unwanted porn via ads, pop-ups, etc.

With this content becoming so easily accessible, some individuals are asking questions about the long-term effects of overindulgence (and even casual usage) of pornographic material and its potential risks.

Enter Gary Wilson, founder of the popular website Your Brain On Porn. Gary's mission differs a bit from that of the prototypical anti-porn crusader. His message is neither religious (he is an atheist) nor is he for the outright banning of pornography. He simply wishes to provide information that elucidates the addictive nature and possible side effects adult-content that we seldom hear about.

Prox: Some scientists and researchers (most notably Dr. Philip Zimbardo) are horrified at what widespread porn usage could mean for future generations. Do you share this same sentiment? 

Gary: Not all internet porn users will experience problems. That said, I think there’s cause for genuine concern, given the formal evidence now coming out, and its alignment with self-reports by thousands of people on porn recovery forums. It's clear some people are having a bad experience with internet porn use, and it appears that problems are getting worse as people start using it at younger and younger ages. 

I see the tremendous rise in youthful sexual dysfunctions as a key marker for the effects of internet porn. 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 peer-reviewed paper involving 7 US Navy doctors - Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016)

Erectile dysfunction rates in these recent studies range from 14% to 35%, while rates for low libido (hypo-sexuality) range from 16% to 37%. Some studies involve teens and men 25 and under, while other studies involve men 40 and under.

Prior to the advent of free streaming porn (2006), 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 10-15 years. What variable has changed in the last 15 years that could account for this astronomical rise?

As for full blown porn addiction, in 2016, two groups of researchers (one from Europe, one from the States) assessed or questioned male porn users. Both groups reported that 28% of their subjects either met the test for problematic use (“Clinical Characteristics of Men Interested in Seeking Treatment for Use of Pornography”) or were concerned about their porn use (“Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men”). In 2017, academics also assessed US college students (some of whom were not porn users) for porn addiction.  Results indicated that 19% of the male students and 4% of the female students met the test for addiction (“Cybersex Addiction Among College Students: A Prevalence Study”).

Note: Addiction rates don’t tell the whole story. Some young men with porn-induced sexual dysfunctions are not addicts, and would not meet any formal “addiction” threshold. Nevertheless, they sometimes need months to recover from low arousal and other dysfunctions during partnered sex, such as difficulty climaxing and sustaining erections.

Prox: With data coming out now to support theories that overindulgence in this kind of behavior can actually be detrimental to the cognitive development of frequent users, do you think we may see any regulations in the future to limit consumption?

Gary: There’s already a push in Europe for age verification on porn sites, which would make it more difficult for underage viewers to access porn. I don’t foresee any regulations to limit adult viewing. The experience of the United States when it tried to prohibit the use of alcohol suggests that prohibition creates more problems than it solves. There are some lessons that humans just seem fated to learn through experience.

By the way, here’s a list of studies I gathered together that support the claim that porn can affect the user both emotionally and cognitively: Over 40 studies link porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes

Prox: While pornography is at the root of this discussion, there has been an increase in virtual addictions of all types. Would you say that you have any personal fears of how integrated technology is becoming into our daily lives? Is our obsession with screens something deeper than just a constant need for entertainment?

Gary: I’ve focused mostly on internet porn’s effects, so I don’t really have an opinion on technology in general. I do think it’s telling that researchers have seen a measurable drop in desire for sex with real partners compared with desire for internet porn use. In fact, research shows that more porn use correlates with less sexual and relationship satisfaction (Over 50 studies link porn use to less sexual and relationship satisfaction).

Soon, people will realize that if they choose internet porn, they may also be choosing to become less responsive and satisfied during partnered sex. That’s everyone’s choice, but I’d feel better if they were informed in advance so they could make informed choices. There are now 25 studies linking porn use/sex addiction to sexual problems and lower arousal to sexual stimuli (the first 5 studies in the list demonstrate causation, as participants eliminated porn use and healed chronic sexual dysfunctions). In addition to the above studies, this page contains articles and videos by over 100 experts (urology professors, urologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, sexologists, MDs) who acknowledge and have successfully treated porn-induced ED and porn-induced loss of sexual desire.

Right now, many young guys believe their porn use has no consequences, and they are often distressed to find that when they connect with partners they aren’t aroused. They are dependent upon porn for arousal. Some are justifiably furious when they realize that their sexual health has been put at risk in order to increase ad revenue on porn sites.

Prox: Do you think the data that has been coming out surrounding this topic can foster further discussion about the nature of connection and human interaction in the digital age?

Gary: I hope so. It’s certainly having that effect on some. Unfortunately, the degree of desire for attachment is often heavily influenced by childhood. Those who suffered trauma, sexual abuse or emotionally distant parents may need therapy before healthy relationships will be an option, even in the absence of excessive internet use.

Prox: Is there anything that still surprises you about the nature of this addiction even after all of the work you’ve done at this point?

Gary: I suppose the biggest surprise is the lengths to which the porn-problem deniers, usually sexologists, are willing to go in support of their pro-porn talking points. They emphasize weak research, ignore the preponderance of the evidence as well as the self-reports of those affected and the clinical reports of their caregivers and accuse others of religious and economic motives without any evidence. I’ve seen them work behind the scenes to attack researchers and therapists as well – all in the service of a multi-billion dollar industry. It all calls to mind the antics of Big Tobacco back when the harms of smoking first came to light. The same formula seems to be in play.

Prox: What are some ways that we can eliminate the stigmas associated with porn addiction? Should users just suck it up and talk about it? What are some support groups people can seek out?

Gary: I keep hearing about all the supposed “stigma and shame” associated with porn addiction or any other porn-induced problem. But where is it? It’s almost 2018, and porn use is entirely normalized. Soon it will be more shameful to be hooked on cigarettes than on porn. Users who have overconsumed it are joining recovery forums and real life support groups and many of them are speaking up publicly or even doing YouTube accounts of their benefits from quitting. The idea that people are being shamed for having problems stemming from porn use is swiftly fading away. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Internet porn is a supernormal stimulus, much like junk food. If you overconsume it and you develop unwanted symptoms, get help. It’s that simple. 

There are multiple online forums for those who want support. Some of the most popular English-speaking ones are NoFap.com, RebootNation, YourBrainRebalanced, and of course the Reddit groups – NoFap and Pornfree. There are also multiple 12-step and other recovery groups. Google 'porn recovery' for endless options. In-person groups are especially helpful for people who have been isolated by their screen use. Such groups help them learn how to enjoy connection with their fellow humans.

Prox: How do you suggest we speak to friends and family about the dangers of obsessive pornography usage without coming off as self-righteous?

Gary: Start the conversation by inviting them to watch a video or read a book about internet porn’s effects, and then ask them what they think about it and discuss it with them. There are many diverse videos on our video page - https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/videos

Prox: What's some advice you’d give to individuals who are currently struggling with this issue?

Gary: Learn more about how internet porn affects the brain, which entails learning the fascinating basics of neuroplasticity. Read the self-reports of peers who have struggled with the issue and overcome it. Www.yourbrainonporn.com has more than 4,000 of these: (1) Rebooting Accounts Page 1, (2) Rebooting Accounts Page 2.

Get support and keep trying different approaches until you figure out what works for you. The things that seem to help the most are vigorous exercise (and other beneficial stressors such as cold showers, intermittent fasting, etc.), meditation, socializing, time in nature, and inspirational or self-help material. Many diverse suggestions can be found on the following pages:

·  Support: Links to other helpful websites. YBOP has no forum. 

·  Rebooting: Read the basics before you get started. Browse the rebooting accounts.

·  Tools for Change: Tools you can use to help you in your recovery, starting with rebooting and rewiring your brain. 

Some people heal rather easily. Others need to develop increased self-control generally before they see progress on the porn front. Relapses are common, but they set you back much less if they are not binges. Abstinence for weeks followed by a binge can deepen addiction. As you progress, you may need to look at deeper issues stemming from childhood as well. YBOP has an extensive list of FAQ’s to help those who are trying to quit porn.

Prox: Final thoughts?

Gary: The only way you know how porn has affected you, is to quit for a while and see if you notice changes. As mentioned, you may feel worse before you feel the benefits. A few FAQ’s that address this:

Original article

"Adult Ideal interfere girls sexuality" (Sweden)

(Google translate) Porn does not only affect the viewing. Also partner is affected, according to two young women made a short film about pornography and sexuality. Porn ideals has made women the teeth to be object, they say.

"Porn Damaged" is the title of a recent short film where eight young women talk about how pornography affected their sexuality, self-image and relationships - including after their boyfriends looked at porn. Behind the film is Roxane von Gerber Hedayat and Moa Kjell Beach, both 22 years old and from Stockholm.

- We wanted to make this film after many conversations and discussions with friends about porn role in our society. But even our own experiences and emotions play a major role. We also thought that there was one aspect of porn debate, which usually is about how men are affected or whether the industry itself, says Roxane.

How women really affected by growing up in an over-sexualised society in which they almost always portrayed as passive objects? It's a question that Moa thought a lot about.

- Whether eyeing at porn or not, you become extremely influenced by society's messages and sexual experiences with men who probably consumed much porn, she says.

As a woman, look at porn is a different thing than to do what you believe Roxane. The course is mainly the woman who is the object of the movies, which only exists for men, she says.

- Even if I choose not to check out, I will still be influenced and get the image conveyed to me - as long as I have sexual relations with someone who consumed porn.

Both Roxanne and Moa have read parts of The inside series on "porn impotence," that young men who masturbated while viewing porn may find it difficult to have sex with a partner. Now they want to broaden the debate. How are such girls to see porn, or that their boyfriends do it?

- In addition, porn aesthetics everywhere. We are constantly surrounded by airbrushed and sexualized female bodies. So even if no one consumed just porn we would clearly understand how a woman should be and look like - but in porn pulled it to the extreme, says Roxane.

Both she and Moa has studied documentaries, including on Öland Folk High School. Preparations for the documentary "Porn Damaged" was a study of women's sexuality, they think.

- Several of the interviewed young women in the movie are offended that their partner eyeing the porn in the relationship, and feel let down and betrayed type says Moa. They wonder why there is a need to fire on anyone but themselves. When you've grown up with constantly being objectified - in such a degree that it has become an important part of one's identity - it will be a doubly even feel deselected as the object of their partner.

Roxanne says she constantly struggles to stop objectifying herself, she thinks it is a tough battle when the world looks the way it does.

- Actually, the real problem of why women should have valued as objects, both of themselves and of others. And regardless of how much I myself manage to free myself so other people will still respond to me based on this standard.

Prior to his documentary conducted Roxane and Moa thirty interviews, eight of them are in the movie. The talks revolve around how porn and the female gender role affects their self-image.

- We live in a time when porn normalize more and more. Pornography seems almost considered something healthy and fulfilling, part of a sexual liberation. But I really think it's the opposite, continues Moa.

- Yes, I think that porn puts handcuffs on our sexuality and that it creates a template for how we should behave sexually, says Roxane.

How so?

- We have learned to be stylish objects to satisfy men and even light on it themselves. It has gone so far that it's almost become more important than the physical pleasure, answers Moa.

- That we ourselves teeth to be instruments of man's pleasure is quite sick, says Roxane. Of course, we women also physical pleasure of sex, but I think most of us find it very difficult to relax and think about ourselves and how we want it.

Almost all the guys looking at porn. Can you not see it as a "private" thing, something that does not have the relationship to do?

- Men who watch porn affects not only themselves, answer Roxane.

- No, porn watching always affects a relationship, says Moa. I think everyone gets a wrong perception of reality of what sex is by taking note of the skewed image of women conveyed in movies.

Have any of you had boyfriends who looked at porn?

- Yes, replies Roxane. And it has affected my relationships much.

Have you yourself been watching porn?

- Yes, I've checked a lot, especially when I was younger. I felt a lot of shame, a shame that is associated with female sexuality in general. But I've also always felt that there was something very degrading, answers Roxane.

- And as conscious feminist, I also felt more shame in bed if I lived up to the porn-influenced ideals. At the same time I learned to turn on the right, so six is on the whole very problematic. But I'm so fucking tired of being ashamed of my sexuality, continues Roxane.

It is not the individual person's excitement as they question, underline Moa. But regardless of whether we are men or women affected us as individuals of ideals in such porn movies and commercials, she believes.

- We are surprised by society's lack of analysis of what all this really does to us.

Both Moa and Roxane believe that this influence also occurs in other ways.

- The media reports more and more often to mental illness among young girls is increasing. I think a contributing factor is the diseased conditions our bodies to live up to, and we think it is strange that this should not be taken more seriously, says Moa.

Moa and Roxane says that the number of reported rapes is increasing, that men seem to fire on all young girls and that 13 year old girls secretly photographed in the dressing room.

- We see it as a direct consequence of the messages we constantly get thrown in the face. And that a girl is raped with a wine bottle by three guys who are not convicted says a lot about society's view of sexuality, says Moa.

She and Roxane wants to sex would be more free, open and fun.

- It need not be anything wrong in that film six, but it is impossible as long as today's gender roles persist. Sexuality is so steeped in porn ideals is really just an old-fashioned expression of the patriarchal structure. In Iceland, discussed a draft law against Internet porn - maybe it's something for us in Sweden, says Roxane and Moa.

Footnote: The short film "Porn Damaged" appears on 2 June in collaboration with the Women's Lobby of the Rio Cinema in Stockholm and is followed by a call.

Thomas Lerner
thomas.lerner @ dn.se

LINK TO ARTICLE

May 23, 2013


Roxane von Gerber Hedayat

Age: 22 years old.

Family: "Siblings, parents, sisterhood."

Lives: Stockholm.

Background: Has studied television production and documentary films.

Current: The short film "Porn Damaged".

Moa Kjellstrand

Age: 22 years old.

Family: Parents, sister, girlfriend.

Lives: Stockholm.

Background: Read gender studies. He studied documentary film at both Sundbybergs college and Öland Folk High School.

Current: The short film "Porn Damaged".

"Broken relationships. Zero self-esteem. Spiralling depression. The terrible price being paid by the young women addicted to porn" (UK)

  • It's accepted that women watch porn but some can find it difficult to stop
  • At least one in three visitors to porn websites are estimated to be female
  • Unrealistic depictions of sex can have a detrimental effect on women’s love lives

    Emma Turner had always been the perfect daughter. A classic ‘good girl’, she won prizes for her academic achievements throughout her school career before being voted deputy head girl in the Sixth Form.

Now as she faced a disciplinary panel at her university, she was struggling to think how on earth she was going to explain this to her proud parents. She was about to be ‘sent down’, i.e. kicked out.

The reason? Moments earlier, Emma had stared in abject horror at a document listing every website she had visited on her laptop in her halls of residence since starting her degree at the start of the year.

It spanned ten sheets of A4, and there, highlighted in an orange pen, were all the pornographic sites she’d visited. Emma, now 24, cringes as she recalls: ‘I’d been caught red-handed by the IT department. Now all I wanted was for the ground to swallow me up.

‘I’d never kept track of the hours I spent looking at porn. Now, here was the evidence right in front of me. In my shock, I could half hear it being explained that it was in the contract of my hall of residence that I didn’t use the university computer network to use or download any pornographic material.

‘Then just as I was expecting to hear the words telling me I was out, the Warden said: “Of course, we know it wasn’t you. Do you know how any of the male students might have got your log-in and password? You realise it’s illegal to share them, don’t you?” ’

Although Emma couldn’t believe her luck at getting off the hook, it confirmed her darkest fears: there must be something terribly wrong with her, because women don’t get addicted to pornography, do they? Men do. Yet here she was, unable to go more than a day without it.

However, despite the fact that porn addiction is seen as a male problem, Emma is far from alone.

While it’s accepted that women watch porn — at least one in three visitors to such sites are estimated to be female — it’s less recognised that some find it difficult to stop.

And the sad reality is that, just like with men, being bombarded with degrading and unrealistic depictions of sex can have a detrimental effect on women’s love lives, leaving them feeling empty, not empowered.

Only now, six years after the near-miss that almost derailed her university career, can Emma, who works in TV production, finally see the effect porn had on her life.

Brought up the youngest of three children in a naval family, her curiosity was piqued when she stumbled across porn while researching an art project when she was 15 — but even more so when she borrowed a copy of Fifty Shades Of Grey.

‘I found myself turned on by the descriptions of sex and started searching online for clips. Until then, I’d thought porn was something horny teenage boys used.

‘No one would ever have suspected me because I was a classic goody two shoes.’

When she went to university to study languages, Emma’s porn use turned into a habit. ‘With no parents to hide from, and with a lock on my door, I could look at it as often as I wanted,’ she admits.

‘So I found myself looking at it when I woke up, at night to help me get to sleep and two or three times during the day.

‘The temptation was always there because of my laptop. It was like trying to wean myself off a free drug right in front of me.’

Indeed, it seems women experience the same pattern of exposure and addiction to hard-core images as men, according to Gary Wilson, author of Your Brain On Porn. ‘The key thing is that both male and female reward systems can be activated by porn.

‘Since sexual arousal releases the highest levels of (feel-good chemicals) dopamine and opioids — the potential for sexual conditioning, or even porn addiction, is possible for both sexes.’ And it’s increasingly being recognised that women may have a higher risk than men of addiction.

This is because, as women who have shared their experiences with Wilson have pointed out, they don’t need as long a recovery period after climaxing as men. As a result, women have reported going on ‘porn binges’.

But while some therapists hear young women say the violence of porn makes them too afraid to have sex, others like Emma found the constant exposure made her feel highly sexed.

‘I had lost my virginity to a boyfriend before university but after I started watching a lot more porn it was all about hook-up sex and one-night stands. Sex became like starring in my own porn film in my mind and I thought I knew exactly what to do.’

However, what at first seemed liberating, started to feel soulless, says Emma. ‘The men loved that I was up for all the things they’d seen too. For me, after a year or so, the novelty wore off.

‘I realised that here I was, an educated young woman, volunteering to behave for free like porn stars who were paid, or forced, to pretend they were enjoying it.’

Indeed, the main difference in the way men and women use porn seems to be how women feel afterwards.

According to social worker and church pastor Karin Cooke, who has spoken to young women like Emma for her book, Dangerous Honesty: Stories Of Women Who Have Escaped The Destructive Power Of Pornography, many feel desperate because they think they are struggling with porn alone.

Karin says: ‘It’s a taboo subject. One way that porn imprisons women is that they feel isolated and feel they have no one to talk to. It can start to dominate their thinking because they live with the constant fear they will be found out.

‘I’ve spoken to professional women, like teachers, who could not sleep at night unless they got their fix. Even when they try to put it out of their minds, unwanted images they have seen keep popping back in their heads.’

Another of the women Karin interviewed for her book was Sophia Thomas, a 30-year-old project manager who lives in the Midlands, who also started watching porn at university.

What began as entertainment became a habit which became hard to break when she ended up watching it up to seven times a day. Sophia says it was a sure way to achieve an orgasm and, crucially, something she could control when ‘everything else was on everyone else’s terms.’ But then it started to impact on her real sex life.

Sophia said: ‘I had to watch different porn for longer and more often. I became agitated and stressed if I couldn’t and it would play on my mind all the time.’

When she discovered her boyfriend was also using porn on his computer, she was not concerned, but relieved. There was a crucial difference in how it affected them, however: ‘While I was enough for him, soon he became too boring in bed for me.’

It was when she took an online test, which asked questions about whether she was using such material to control her mood, that Sophia realised she had a problem and joined a support group for women.

‘It didn’t feel sexy or fun any more,’ she says. ‘It wasn’t nice to see my habit for what it was.’

Karin says Sophia was a fairly typical addict, who got lured in by curiosity, but then trapped by feelings of guilt. ‘Porn provides an escape, an immediate hit of pleasure to drown out any pressures and discomforts of life. It usually starts as an avoidance technique, either for failure, depression, loneliness, stress and boredom.

‘But of course after using porn, those problems haven’t gone, and now on top of dealing with them, women are also dealing with the shame, guilt and discomfort. And so they turn to porn again.’ Yet psychosexual counsellor Krystal Woodbridge, of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists, insists that, when used in moderation and within a loving relationship, porn can benefit some women.

‘For some, it enhances their intimacy with their partners. Some couples are pleased it’s something they can do together,’ says Krystal, who is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

However, for those who are not in secure equal partnerships, porn can be destructive and dangerous, teaching vulnerable young women to comply without question with acts they see on screen.

In one academic study, it was found that nearly 90 per cent of 304 random scenes showed ‘physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping,’ while half contained ‘verbal aggression, primarily name-calling’ against women.

Which is particularly disturbing when you consider how Swedish research recently discovered that, like young boys, young girls now use pornography as their principal source of sex education. It discovered a third of 16-year-olds regularly browsed porn websites, 43 per cent fantasised about mimicking what they saw, while 39 per cent had gone on to try them.

It’s meant that violent, brutal sex acts have become the norm, at the expense of more tender gestures, like kissing.

Angela Clifton, a sex and relationship psychotherapist at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said many women are not getting the love lives they deserve: ‘What it’s not about is love, teasing, sensuality, massage, eroticism or emotion. Often young women do stuff to please the guy. It’s less about their enjoyment and more about guys saying: “If you like me, you’ll do these things.” In the long term, I think it will have emotional consequences. Women end up feeling used.’

Sociology professor Gail Dines, of Boston’s Wheelock College, says that the more porn girls watch, the more coercion becomes a feature of their relationships. Professor Dines, author of Pornland, says: ‘If girls watch it from a young age, their whole concept of what constitutes a normal sexual relationship shifts. It grooms girls into accepting male sexual mistreatment as normal.

‘The result is that women don’t become more sexual or liberated. They get more open to porn sex in which they don’t get any pleasure in return. It becomes all about pleasing the man.

For girls and young women, this can create an emotional hangover. There are fewer relationships, and more “hook-up sex” leaving them more prone to anxiety and depression.’

Indeed, according to one NSPCC survey, led by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire, as many as 40 per cent of 13 to 17-year-old girls in England said they’ve felt pressured into a sexual activity.

The human cost of trying to live up to ‘porn sex’ is obvious when you speak to young women like Philippa Bates, a 20-year-old business student from Bournemouth.

When she started dating her last boyfriend, he began turning porn on in the bedroom during sex, saying it would give them ideas. But soon her boyfriend was watching the screen more than her.

‘It didn’t make me feel sexier. I just compared myself unfavourably to the women on the screen.

‘It got to the point where I felt like I could have been anyone. I started to feel degraded.’

‘I also felt that whatever I did for my boyfriend was never going to be enough because he was logging onto more extreme things.’

Studies have found that girls subjected to sexual coercion turn their feelings of anger back on themselves.

Research by the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., found women repeatedly pressured into sex become ‘two to four times more likely to develop clinically significant symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress, and substance use than those who experienced only one incident.’

Since she left university two years ago, Emma has been single and intends to stay so until she finds a meaningful relationship in which sex is more than just a performance.

Although still embarrassed by that phase of her life, the shame has lifted now that Emma knows she is not on her own.

‘I felt such a freak. Now it’s a relief to see other women coming forward to say: “I’ve been to and come back from that place, too.”’

Original article

By TANITH CAREY FOR THE DAILY MAIL

"Coming Out as a Porn Addict" (The Atlantic)

Subscribe to The Atlantic By Isaac Abel About a year ago, I was regularly seeing a therapist. During one session, I mentioned the niche porn I had watched and how I was unsure whether or not I wanted to embrace some of the "kinkier" fantasies, like rape and incest, through role-play in my real sex life. It was the only time I could remember her telling me that certain fantasies--not acted out in real life, just imagined--could be "wrong" or considered a "sickness." In retrospect, understanding my condition as an illness might actually have been empowering if explained differently, but at the time, it shut me right up. I never brought it up to her again.

I'm not alone in feeling silenced. Every day it prevents a lot of people from recovering. From porn.

Earlier this month in The Atlantic I described how I came to identify with the porn addiction movement, if a bit unsure of where exactly I fall under that umbrella. The label made me feel comfortable reaching out to affinity groups and ultimately seeking the treatment I now felt I needed.

More immediately, it begot hours of trying to figure out: How many other people watch porn like I did? While there's no survey for porn addiction, there is a life path emerging for some percentage of the population shaded by Internet porn.

The average age a U.S. child is first exposed to porn is 11 according to Family Safe Media, though others claim it's closer to 14. According to Norton Family, of 3.5 million web searches in 2009 by kids, the sixth most commonly searched term was "porn." For children younger than eight, it was the fourth most commonly searched term.

Clearly, many like me started watching porn when they were barely pubescent, and researchers assert that there's a correlation between early porn use and sexual compulsion problems down the road.

According to a 2009 survey of 30,000 college students, over 10 percent of U.S male students are estimated to be heavy porn users (five to 20 hours per week), and 62 percent of college guys watch some Internet porn each week. At Brigham Young University in 2007, 21 percent of male college students reported watching porn "every day or almost every day."

As adults, the problems may persist. At the 2003 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers meeting, two-thirds of lawyers reported that compulsive Internet use played a significant role in divorces over that year, and 56 percent of those divorce cases included a partner who had an obsessive interest in pornographic websites. Eight years earlier, pornography had played almost no role in divorce.

And as a country, we watch a lot of porn -- 40 million people visit a porn site at least once a month (that's about one in eight Americans). And as an Internet populace, 25 percent of our search engine requests and an astounding 35 percent of our downloads are for porn.

While some studies that have surveyed the population at large conclude that Internet porn's not much of a problem, it's important to note that the percentage of Internet porn "addicts" is much higher in at-risk populations: young, Internet-connected men. (75 to 85 percent of Internet porn users are men).

And while Internet porn addiction hasn't been specifically surveyed, one study reports that Internet addiction more broadly is as high as 23 percent in some college-aged male populations, and pornography is considered to be the most addictive online stimulus.

I only watched a few hours of porn a week and haven't watched porn in years, but it continues to negatively affect my life -- so for some, the threshold isn't that high before Internet porn causes problems. Already it seems that there could be at least ten to twenty percent of college-aged guys suffering from Internet-porn related issues, and with more children watching at younger ages as high-speed Internet becomes more accessible, how big will this community be by the time my generation's kids are college-aged?

Fortunately, this community is already organizing itself.

Finding the Internet porn addiction community Forums to discuss porn use and compulsive masturbation are cropping up around the web. These include Reddit's NoFap (where members support one other's abstinence from "fapping," or masturbating), Your Brain Rebalanced (where users publish porn-quitting journals), PubMed, and a slew of bodybuilding sites (mostly related to Erectile Dysfunction specifically), as well as some forums centered around a particularly ideology for quitting porn like Feed The Right Wolf.

More so than the startling statistics, the rapid growth of these digital communities felt to me like a concrete declaration that a lot of people are, at least self-reportedly, afflicted by porn: NoFap broke 60,000 subscribers last month.

Some of these groups are gathering interesting information about "porn addicts" and crowdsourcing solutions -- using the Internet collectively to fight what it did to each user alone. For example, Reddit's "fapstronaut" community conducted a self-survey in April 2012 with over 1,500 respondents, which details their demographics, masturbation habits, and self-reported effects of masturbation abstinence.

Below is a graph from the survey describing mutable sexual tastes, a feature that some researchers claim is characteristic of Internet porn addiction:

PORNGRAPH.JPGOf course, folks are organizing in large part to figure out what has improved the lives of those who suffer from this little-recognized ailment. Towards this end, Gary Wilson and Marnia Robinson, the founders of Your Brain on Porn, have stepped in to play the roles of informer and curator.

Based on their analysis of addiction research, Wilson and Robinson suggest the experiment: no pixelated sexual stimuli for as long as it takes to "reboot." The term loosely signifies a return to a "normal" sexual functioning and libido through a weakening of neural pathways that have associated arousal with porn-based stimuli. From a neuroplasticity framework, they hypothesize that neurons that stop firing together, stop wiring together -- that we can change our brains to be sensitized or desensitized to Internet porn.

The pair publishes user experiences with the "reboot" process, which they report usually takes about two to six months. On the site, most young guys with erectile dysfunction report a quicker recovery if they give up masturbation and orgasm temporarily too, so users typically label the experiment "no PMO" (porn, masturbation, orgasm).

Your Brain on Porn compliments this suggestion with a forum of what to expect when you abstain from PMO -- based on accounts from several online communities -- like a temporary loss of libido until a "flatline," and an extended recovery time if you're younger, especially if you first masturbated using Internet porn. The tome of grateful comments on Your Brain on Porn suggests that this guidance has prevented many readers from relapsing despite discouraging symptoms.

For me, the information was explosive. I'm not the only one out there who has stopped using porn and still hasn't recovered. My condition is especially persistent because I started my sexual life with porn. And I should keep sticking it out.

Furthermore, I finally had resources to investigate my "failed" attempt at rebooting. In high school, when I felt like my porn desires were morphing in ways I didn't particularly like, I took a five-month hiatus from masturbating. But, many nights before I feel asleep, I would imagine these porn-inspired fantasies as a sort of reward to myself. When I resumed solo sex, it was easier to avoid porn, but my fantasies were still exclusively deviant with apparent roots in porn I'd watched.

I posted this on Your Brain Rebalanced, and someone pointed out the obvious to me: neurons the fire together, wire together, and if I was still indulging those fantasies, I was still keeping those reward pathways strong. Gary Wilson of Your Brain on Porn goes further, telling readers to avoid literary or audio erotica and to not even surf through dating sites or hook-up apps like Grindr or Tinder, because the delivery system of clicking through image after image in search of novelty can itself be addicting.

Although very helpful, these informal surveys and anecdotes were not substitutes for medical advice. So I turned to the psychiatric community to see if they had anything to say. Did they even know this was a problem?

Professional opinions on treating porn addiction Unfortunately, it seems that the scattered opinions on the diagnosis of porn addiction in the scientific community has left clinicians ill-equipped to treat patients.

A survey of therapists in 2009 showed that over 75 percent felt unprepared to effectively treat clients who disclosed pornography use, while 50 percent failed to identify quitting porn as a major goal of treatment, and 20 percent normalized or did not address the porn use at all.

Despite an influx of patients seeking help with porn-related behavior, many marriage and family therapists have trivialized the effects of "cybersex addiction," allowing their personal views of porn to unduly influence their patient assessments. Although there are specialized support groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous and even specially trained sex addiction therapists, in many cases, people who have sought help from professionals have had discouraging encounters.

Fortunately, some therapists saw this coming and tried to prepare their colleagues.

In the mid-1990s internationally recognized sex therapist Wendy Maltz and her husband Larry Maltz, who is a licensed clinical social worker, noticed an increase in the number of clients approaching them with porn-related problems; porn was no longer acting as a supplement for sexual intimacy but as a competing force. They contacted other therapists and found confirmation of this trend, so they began soliciting patients with porn-related concerns to interview.

In 2008, they published the authoritative book, The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography . Largely sidestepping the diagnostic imbroglio, the Maltz's spend the first half of the book describing how people fall into the "porn trap," including jarring stories of divorce, arrest, and disgrace. They dedicate the rest of the book to healing, which begins with telling someone else about your porn problem, and moves to enrolling in a treatment program, creating a "porn-free environment" to prevent relapse, establishing accountability, and finally "healing your sexuality."

Since then, some clinicians have taken a more rehabilitative approach and have even crafted new diagnostic models. Tal Croitoru, MSW/MBA, places "porn addiction" in the same category as PTSD and has been pioneering EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) with her patients -- undoing "porn trauma" by watching the traumatizing videos and reprocessing them -- and she has reported positive results. Others promote an extinction training or cognitive behavior therapy approach (even through an online program) to stop the mental "reruns" of pornography and ultimately replace those images with more appropriate ones.

Still, for some of us, porn's most significant disruption is the wedge it creates between us and our intimate partners. In recognition of this, some psychotherapists have provided narratives of successful couples-based approaches to treatment.

In her book The Men on My Couch, Dr. Brandy Engler describes how Casey suffered a "fractured sexual identity" in his relationship with his girlfriend Amy because his porn-inspired fantasies felt like a betrayal to her -- so he hid them. Dr. Engler helped the pair untangle their abstracted associations of love with sexual fantasy, allowing Casey to shed his shame and Amy to explore eroticism.

Some critics of the porn addiction model frame behavioral addiction treatment and psychotherapy as being at odds with one another. Rob Weiss, an international sex addiction expert and the founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, strongly disagrees.

Weiss explained to me that traditional addiction treatments like cognitive behavior therapy with social group-based support and accountability have clearly proven effective for curbing undesirable behavior. Which he thinks is a necessary first step. "Many of my patients don't have the ability to look at childhood problems. Addiction treatment gets people ready for psychotherapy." Perhaps more distressing, Weiss has seen patients who had been in psychotherapy only, without any behavioral intervention, who had gotten fired or divorced during therapy because they hadn't reined in their destructive porn habits.

Learning all this was making me feel less self-conscious with my own significant other about my predilection for kink and occasional issues with delayed ejaculation. She should be my partner in overcoming my shame, not the judge and jury.

Talking about porn As this gets more attention, hopefully researchers will study all kinds of treatments. But for now, the one thing that everyone agrees on -- from Reddit's fapstronauts to sex therapists -- is that talking about it helps.

On an episode of Gary Wilson's "Your Brain in the Cybersex Jungle" radio show, Wendy Maltz discussed the importance of breaking the silence on porn addiction:

The main thing is overcoming shame and coming out of isolation. Find someone to talk to -- it could be a therapist, it could be a friend, it could be a relative, it could be a spouse or a partner. If that feels like too scary a step, back up a bit and just educate yourself about today's pornography. It's really different than the Playboy magazines of the past. Education reduces the shame. You realize you're not alone and that this is a new phenomenon.

Although learning about porn addiction and finding a community to talk about it with has been liberating for some, the shame -- that goes to the heart of commonly held notions of gender roles and sexuality -- has kept many quiet. This was one response I got from a reader who watched porn like S&M, Diaper, and Furry:

As a man, talking about this issue to my closest friend only came after I took MDMA and I still couldn't mention the kinkiest of the fantasies, only S&M. It completely goes against a man's worth and expectations with women. It can be crippling at times. Because I did not know what was going on I could not communicate about it with my girlfriend and it drove us apart.

As I received more responses like this to my first piece on porn addiction, and as I started sharing my own story openly with friends, family (yep, I told my parents), and current partner, I started to understand how integral not talking about it -- the isolation -- was to the addictive experience of my Internet porn use.

Coming out to my significant other "I can't believe you find that attractive."

As part of the process of opening up to my partner about porn, we decided to watch porn together. She had never watched porn before, and after the first video, she flatly ruled that it was repulsive to her. Particularly the cumshot scenes.

2231186540_6d211f20c7_o.jpgWhen I told her that those scenes used to be a major turn-on for me, that I would fast-forward to those scenes to climax, she just couldn't understand it.

I watched myself get mad. I was confused about where the hurt and anger came from, but I knew where they were targeted -- at her. At women like her. I grew so angry I couldn't speak.

We watched a scene of a pig-tailed girl having sex with her older neighbor and the juvenile logic streamed in my head along with the video: She wouldn't say porn is disgusting. She wouldn't argue with me. She wouldn't say no. I was a pissed off teenager again, smoldering.

The height of my porn watching was my adolescence -- high school -- when each relationship felt like a splintering slat on a long rickety bridge. Porn didn't just serve as an outlet for my sexual frustration; it was a steadying beam to fall back on.

So when my partner gave a hint of rejection, my emotional complexion flushed with hostility, anxiety, and lust. I reverted. To the time when this or that girl: snuck out on a school night to smoke with me but just wanted to remain friends; dated me for almost a year but was never ready to take her shirt off; couldn't stop kissing me when she was drunk but wouldn't start when she was sober.

I had always felt guilty about watching porn and I had needed things to blame. Why not the women who "forced" me to go there?

My partner closed the browser and we had the worst sex we've ever had. She said it was the first time I'd ever "fucked her."

I realized then that the Maltz's "trap" metaphor was apt for me. As a 12-year-old and Internet neophyte, I had fallen into a positive feedback loop.

Porn sites had promoted my pornographic behavior and attitudes over and over again, and I had rapidly descended into darker, dirtier porn, which was all the more gripping because it was so taboo. At the same time, these behaviors were increasingly reviled and denounced by society, so I felt progressively unable to utter my tastes aloud, driving me to depend more and more on porn for sexual acceptance.

I looked at a soft-core Maxim magazine and I could still talk about it with my dad. I watch hard-core POV porn and I could still share it on a CD with close friends. I watched superhero cartoon porn and I'd rather just go to my computer. And once I was only with my computer, why stop there?

The computer didn't judge, just provided, and accepted: pimp, whore, mother.

Of course, my encounters with real women were stained with dejection, which made it even easier to turn to those sites that were sanitized of real life's complications. I didn't even have to think -- it just worked. Like a pill.

These intersecting forces pushed me further into isolation. This is why -- at least for me, and some others who have described it on forums around the web -- talking about porn has been so freeing.

If I tell others, then the computer isn't the only place I can go to feel sexually honest. And if others accept me, then I don't feel so ashamed. And if those desires aren't so shameful, then they lose the black lust of taboo, and I lose my feverish fixation on them. And then I don't feel like they're all I want -- need -- and I can explore sex a bit more freely.

What's more, memories associated with strong emotions like embarrassment are encoded most deeply; so killing the shame can render these dark secrets into just some videos I watched as a kid. Which is whole lot easier to let go of.

Perhaps it's unrealistic for sexuality to be viewed as a public, community-supported, and interactive attribute like playing sports or making art, but I wonder what the cost is of the privacy around it -- especially in the age of Internet porn.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/coming-out-as-a-porn-a...

"How Watching Porn Might Mean The End Of Your Sex Life As You Know It"

EliteDaily logoArousal addiction is a concept that refers to seeking out novelty in order to achieve or maintain a high level of arousal.

Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, in which someone wants more of the same alcohol or drug, a person who exhibits addictive behavior with arousing activities, like video games or porn, craves material that is constantly changing.

Simply put, it is like saying, “Give me the same but different.”

Over time, the things that turn on porn addicts when they first started watching will no longer turn them on the same way. This is because the old porn is not creating the same level of arousal.

If an image or scene isn’t doing it for a person, he or she will then look for newness and variety in the content, more hardcore material or anything unseen in order to attain a sexual climax.

Sameness is soon habituated; difference sustains attention, even if it means morphing porn tastes that don’t necessarily line up with a person’s sexual orientation.

The porn industry is supplying a virtually endless variety via instant streaming online, so porn addicts can always get their fix. Regarding porn, brains demand change, novelty, excitement and constant stimulation, as pornography is a dopamine-producing machine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with activation of the brain’s reward system. Its presence helps initiate feelings of enjoyment and pleasure.

Neutral stimuli and events that are associated with the addictive substance or its process, such as gambling or drugs, can become conditioned to generate further arousal and add to the body’s chemical addiction.

The more aroused you are, the higher your dopamine level. The higher your dopamine, the more you crave something.

Though the impact of arousal addiction on behavior and physiological responses varies from individual to individual, it is worth looking at the potential physiological, mental and emotional effects of watching too much porn because few people consider how it affects their brains and their ability to become aroused during porn-watching sessions and in real-life sexual encounters.

The subtle and not-so-subtle effects of arousal addiction can negatively impact any part of a person’s life that are analog, static or involve planning, delaying gratification or long-term goal setting (e.g. romantic relationships, school, job).

People with whom I’ve spoken who demonstrate signs of arousal addiction feel very anxious in social situations, have less motivation to set and complete goals, feel out of control and even discuss suicide.

Other symptoms can include erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, desensitization, brain fog and depression. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found,

Regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers… The reason is that porn may start a cycle of isolation… Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual.

Guys are even starting to talk about how porn has personally affected them.

Before high-speed Internet, people consumed porn much differently. Arousal addiction wouldn’t have been as possible as it is today.

First, it was small photos in National Geographic, then it was flipping through spreads in a Playboy or Penthouse magazine, or going to a theatre specifically for adult films.

Then, it was a pile of VHS tapes, followed by a burned DVD mix of selected clips. Now, you can have as many windows open as you want on your computer screen and all you have to do is click between them — or you can use tools like Pornhub’s PornIQ, which creates a custom playlist for you based on your desires.

Most remember the first sexual image or movie they saw — it leaves an ever-lasting impression. If you’re a young, sexually inexperienced person who grows up watching hardcore porn (or really, any person who watches a lot of hardcore porn) and you masturbate exclusively to it, imagine how that will affect your future sexual experiences.

If you’ve trained your brain and body to become aroused by hardcore porn scenes, most likely, real-life sex partners will not turn you on nearly as much as they would if you hadn’t watched porn. You might objectively find the other person attractive, but he or she won’t physically or mentally arouse you.

If you’re a guy, you very well could have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Even if you are aroused at first (because of the partner’s newness), several months into a romantic relationship, you might find that he or she no longer turns you on.

Dopamine, as mentioned above, is also the basis for the motivation to achieve your desires, and in the context of sex, it’s central to sexual desire and erections. An erection won’t happen if there is not enough dopamine to signal the reward circuitry.

Dopamine skyrockets with novelty, so with every new sexual partner or sex scene, you will get another surge of dopamine. If your dopamine starts to decline — that is, your erection starts to dwindle — you just click on something else to boost yourself back up.

With Internet porn, there is always something new, exciting or shocking. Watch enough porn and your reward circuitry will essentially burn out because your dopamine system has burned it out and thus, become less responsive.

At this point, you become dependent on new porn because you need more and more stimulation to become aroused and get an erection.

Eventually, the porn pathway in your brain will become so strong that you will no longer be sensitive to normal or usual stimuli, such as sex with a real person.

Viagra or Cialis won’t help these problems no matter how old you are, because they only dilate the blood vessels to sustain an erection, not create one.

The brain needs to be aroused first; without arousal, nothing can happen. And that’s what porn does over time — it kills the arousal response. If you think you may have porn-induced ED, check out these links to YourBrainOnPorn here and here.

Overcoming arousal addiction can be simple, but not necessarily easy. A lot of people have found success with the Reboot program on YourBrainOnPorn and support on the No Fap forum on Reddit.

Other people have found that the Internet itself is too tempting and have found success with 12-step programs. If you watch porn, ask yourself how much of the things that attract you are influenced by porn.

Clarify your relationship with porn so you can avoid its downsides. If you want to get aroused by being with people, porn can be a part of your fantasy life, just not the whole thing.

Original article by Nikita Coulombe

"How my porn addiction ruined my sex life" (Cosmo UK)

Daniel SimmonsDaniel Simmons, 23, tells Cosmo his story… I was 15 when I first masturbated to online porn. The high I got was immense, and it lasted about 30 minutes.

At that point in my life I'd been feeling really low, and had been for about seven years. But, for the first time, I didn't feel depressed at all – everything lifted. It made me want to do it again, and again – so I did, until I was watching online porn every day.

At the time, I didn't realise I had a problem. My friends and I talked about porn at school – it was normal, something we all did. I didn't know it could be harmful or that you could abuse it. So I continued to use porn to escape my (then undiagnosed) depression.

It was the only thing that made me feel better, and soon I was watching porn for up to two hours a day. Even if I was ill with flu, I'd find time for porn.

Eventually, I became desensitised to 'vanilla' guy-on-girl porn – it simply didn't turn me on – so I sought out more extreme porn to shock my system into being aroused again.

For the same reason, sex with real women was pretty much impossible. I didn't link it to my porn addiction – because I didn't know I had one. I just thought there was something inherently wrong with me, which made me feel more low.

To this day, I don't know how I passed my A-levels or got into uni to study music. Life was a blur.

It wasn't until the summer of 2013, when I was 21, that I reached breaking point. By then I'd been diagnosed with depression. I was seeing a therapist (who had no idea about my porn use) and was taking medication, but I didn't think it was working.

I wanted to end my life – it was either that, or I had to make a change. I chose the latter. My therapist had mentioned meditation, and I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try.

After just a few minutes, something hit me. I thought, "Wow, this is the missing puzzle piece. I have a serious problem with porn." It was as clear as day.

I went online and looked up porn addiction. I found a website called Yourbrainonporn.com, which offered advice on how to reverse the unwanted effects of heavy porn use.

It also explained that extreme internet porn can alter the brain, for example numbing the brain's pleasure response. I found a lot of support from other people who also used the site, and I wasn't alone. It was a huge relief.

From that day, I went cold turkey on porn. I had terrible withdrawals. My hands shook and I had awful mood swings, vivid nightmares and hot and cold sweats.

But I was ready to turn my life around, and aside from the side effects, I felt good and my mood was stable. I managed 100 days without porn and masturbation, and after a few months, I didn't have any desire to watch porn.

Two years on, I've moved from the UK to Berlin and am working as a piano teacher while learning German. Now, I'm able to enjoy sex with women without it feeling like a chore, which is amazing.

I do occasionally get cravings, usually when I'm bored, but I cope by changing my environment or distracting myself.

Porn addiction is a huge issue. Shockingly, nearly one in 10 children aged 12 to 13 is worried that they're addicted to porn.

That's why I want to share my story – to raise awareness and let people know porn addiction can be harmful. But the effects are reversible – and the sooner you get help, the better.

Daniel will feature in a new crowd-funded documentary about porn's effect on the human brain called 'Rewired: How pornography affects the human brain'. For more information and to support their campaign, visit here

Original article by Harriet Thurley

"I opt out of sex with a partner" (Sweden)

(Google translate) Many readers will recognize themselves in The Inside series about porn impotence and some will attempt a porno top. Others wish we would draw attention to the women a bit more.

"It's good that you focus on the young, but the problem is understood in all ages. I would like to read more interviews with psychologists and researchers who develop further how porn and masturbating intensively to create a self-sufficiency in terms of sexual satisfaction - perhaps associated with long periods of close, intimate relationships. It may in itself be empowering, but can act as a barrier when suddenly wants to establish an intimate relationship. A lot of possible explanations for the problems in my own relationship becomes exposed through the articles. "

- Lisa

"I recognize myself in the inside cover in the series porn impotence. I'm jerking off to porn and then I get about without problems, but when I have sex with my partner wants it not. I have wondered about the reason for my lack of interest in sex 'in-real-life'. Maybe I'm not in love with my boyfriend? Should I break up? Now I realize that maybe these are porn impotence. So now it gets porn top and I will give our relationship a second chance. "

- A

"Essential reading The inside articles about porn impotence, it was suddenly a light on what is 'wrong' with me. My life story is not as Kalle, an intense porn consumer who could not get a position with their partner (DN 5/9). But I could see the pattern. I'm in a different life stage than he does. I'm 50 +, I've had a pretty active sex life right until about ten years ago. Which came first, the lack of sex or porn consumption, I do not know.

I read the article today and got a lot to think about. But I can definitely see the pattern: much porn = declining potency with a partner. I'm in the stage where I was with a shrug opt out of sex with a partner, as it has not worked out so well the last few times, and think 'yes, that is well aged. I've fucked ready in my life, 'and started to settle with porn.

The inside article was an eye opener! I've never even thought about this with the reward system. And masturbation is so damn obvious reward! More than the food, I think ... Now I have to take a look back on my life situation and what I'm doing. "

- H

"I agree that much of the excitement surrounding sex disappears but do not think it only applies to people who consume large porn. I feel in anyway that I saturate all sexskildringar in media, including clothing ads and music, as well as various informational programs about sex. No, it's not fun anymore. "

Perhaps asexual

"It's great that pornography harms addressed. Something I was struck by the The inside article series, however, was that it only focused on how pornography harms men, men can become impotent if they watch porn too much, men not firing on their girlfriends and so on. Poor men who have to objectify women to be sexually stimulated!

How about paying attention to the thousands of women who are victims of the porn industry every year? As raped, exploited and forced to work in appalling conditions? As damaged during recordings and get his life ruined?

How about paying attention to women's sexuality also affected tremendously by porn community? Women are objectified constantly, and the female body is sick sexualized in our culture. How does it affect a woman to a porn addicted boyfriend do not get your dick when to lie?

Thanks to porn and sexist advertising, both men and women a sick picture of how the female body should look like, and how sex should go to (in women's case, submissiveness, etc.). Attempts to identify the problems and pay attention to this next time. "

- Male 1990

"I have now read the articles about porn that I think had a fair allocation. But I found a blaming attitude toward young men that I do not understand. A bit like 'moral rearmament' in the Fifties. And why not extend the analysis to include both genders? "

- Mats

ARTICLE - "I opt out of sex with a partner"

"Jongens gaan in rap tempo ten onder aan porno" (Dutch)

“Jongens zijn in rap tempo ten onder aan het gaan. Ze hebben vijf keer zo vaak ADHD als vrouwen, vallen dertig procent vaker uit van school en worden sociaal en seksueel weggevaagd door vrouwen”, zegt beroemd psycholoog Philip Zimbardo, tegenover het Amerikaanse TED. Hij luidt - met een groeiende groep wetenschappers - de noodklok over het jongensprobleem, waarvan er twee oorzaken zijn: gameverslaving en pornografie.
 
Pornografie is het grootste probleem. “Je ziet bij jongens een toenemende ongemakkelijkheid, vooral in contacten met mensen van het andere geslacht. Jongens weten niet wat ze moeten zeggen. Ze weten niet wat ze moeten doen. Ze weten niet welke non-verbale houding ze aan moeten nemen. Als ze samen met een meisje in een ruimte staan, overheerst een angstreactie. Elk jaar worden hier onderzoeken naar gedaan en ze geven hetzelfde aan: er is een toenemende angst voor intimiteit met het andere geslacht."
 
“Wat is de oorzaak van dit alles? Excessieve nieuwe toegang tot pornografie. Dit valt in de categorie ‘arousal addiction’, wat inhoudt dat je – in tegenstelling tot drugs – niet méér van hetzelfde wilt, maar steeds nieuwe inhoud (filmpjes). En de porno-industrie voorziet erin. Tegenover elke 400 films op Hollywood worden er 11.000 pornofilmpjes gemaakt. Het effect: hersenen worden opnieuw bedraad: met de bovenstaande symptomen als gevolg. En vrouwen – die hier in mindere mate mee te maken hebben – streven hen voorbij.”
 
Zimbardo is één van groeiende groep seculiere wetenschappers die sterk waarschuwt tegen pornografie. Andere wetenschappers, zoals de Italiaanse Carlo Foresta en vele anderen zeggen hetzelfde: porno leidt de ondergang in van mannen en jongens. De anti-pornobeweging in Amerika groeit onder seculiere mensen erg sterk. Eén hiervan is Gary Wilson, wetenschapper en schrijver van het boek ‘Your Brain On Porn’, tevens eigenaar van de website yourbrainonporn.com. Ook hij somt veel problematische bijwerkingen op: depressie, impotentie, afname van mannelijkheid, minder zelfvertrouwen. Hij vertelt op yourbrainonporn.com uitgebreid wat porno met de hersenen doet en waarom het zo verslavend is. Hieronder vier ingrijpende veranderingen in het brein door porno, die Wilson aandraagt:
 
1. Desensibilisatie
“De hersenen worden omgevormd door porno. Normaal is er een goed functionerend beloningssysteem dat ervoor zorgt dat je geluksmomenten ervaart. Dat heet dopamine.” Bij natuurlijke geluksmomenten zoals liefde, omhelzing, bidden (..), vriendschap etc. komt deze stof vrij. Het zorgt voor een aangenaam geluksgevoel.
 
“Als dopamine kunstmatig wordt opgewekt door porno, gokken, drugs of computergames, ontstaat er een probleem. Kunstmatige stimulatie zorgt voor een tijdelijke gelukspiek, maar daarna daalt het geluksniveau dieper dan voorheen. Je krijgt door het kijken van porno een lager geluksniveau, afgewisseld met piekjes als je porno kijkt. Juist door het lage geluksniveau gaat het brein wanhopig op zoek naar gelukskicks. In de praktijk zorgen die gelukskicks voor een nog lager geluksniveau en voelt de verslaafde zich alleen oké als diegene regelmatig porno kijkt.”
 
2. Overgevoeligheid
Afkickende versenen maken zenuwverbindingen aan met het beloningssysteem, waardoor de pornografie als ‘geweldig’ wordt herinnert in de hersenen, zegt yourbrainonporn.com. Het roept een grote hunkering op. Door de verlaagde dopamine-spiegel, en de verhoogde gevoeligheid, is het veel voorkomend dat mensen terug vallen.
 
3. Hypofrontality
Wilson: “Het natuurlijke brein heeft wilskracht in zich, die je gewapend maakt tegen verslavingen of verleidingen die je eigenlijk niet wil. Het kijken van porno daarentegen leidt tot veranderingen in de frontale kwab – en de verhoudingen van grijze en witte stof, wat ervoor zorgt dat de impulscontrole verminderd wordt en de mogelijkheid om gevolgen te overzien verzwakt worden. Je hebt kortom (tijdelijk) minder kracht in je om heftige verleidingen te weerstaan.
 
4. Disfunctionele spanningen
Het kijken van porno zorgt ervoor dat je – na het enkele dagen niet te kijken – een stresshormoon aanmaakt, genaamd noradrenaline. Deze stof zorgt ervoor dat je veel stress krijgt bij onthouding.
 
Hoe te stoppen met porno?
Wilson: “Aanvankelijk zorgt het stoppen met porno voor bijwerkingen. Hersenen kunnen niet langer vertrouwen op intense, kunstmatige dopamine-shots. Tegelijkertijd stijgt het stressniveau en is de controle over je gedrag verzwakt. Het geeft jongens het gevoel dat ze beter af zijn mét porno dan zonder. Maar als je de kennis hebt dat deze symptomen tijdelijk zijn, is het beter te doorstaan. Het goede nieuws is daarbij dat hersenen plastisch zijn en dat ze in enkele maanden tijd hergeprogrammeerd kunnen worden.”
 
Steekproefgewijs heeft yourbrainonporn.com onderzoek gedaan naar het geluksgevoel van mensen die afkicken. Het laat zien dat met name de eerste weken 'moeilijk' zijn. (De horizontale as beschrijft het aantal dagen, de verticale het geluksgevoel)
 
Wilson raadt aan om permanent te stoppen met elke vorm van kunstmatige stimulatie en (minstens tijdelijk) te stoppen met zelfbevrediging. “Je hersenen moeten opnieuw opstarten en dat gebeurt door ze rust te geven van elke kunstmatige stimulatie, inclusief porno, fantasieën, erotische verhalen, sekschats. Om dit gemakkelijker te kunnen doen, is het raadzaam om masturbatie drastisch te elimineren of te verminderen. Stoppen met masturbatie verdiept en versnelt het proces van afkicken. Jongens die van porno afgekomen zijn, zijn nagenoeg allemaal jongens die niet masturbeerden tijdens hun ‘reboot’."

Original article

"NoFap: Why A Growing Number Of Males Are Refusing To Masturbate"

Guy on bed with laptop and sockSubreddit NoFap Movement Takes The World By Storm

You may have wondered why internet porn has become so freely available on the internet these days, if you're a young male with a little bit of spare time on his hands, no pun intended, then it is pretty easy to fall into a dark spiral of daily wankathons in the comfort of your own bedroom.

Sites likes YouPorn, PornHub and Youjizz see millions of hits a day from males looking to feed their needs. To put it in perspective, according to Viewzone here are the figures. 

  • 420,000 pages of pornography on the internet
  • 4,200,000 pornographic websites
  • 68,000,000 search engine queries for porn every day. 

But that shouldn't be a problem right?  Maturation is natural and its actually good for you? Well, in the advent of porn sharing sites, there seems to be a huge problem emerging which is having a devastating effect on men ranging from depression, anxiety and low self esteem.

So we live in internet land, as with the nature of the internet if there is a problem, there is always a solution around the corner, that solution has come in the form of NoFap.  For those of you who are not familiar with NoFap it began with a single post of Reddit in 2011 with the title 'When men don't masturbate for seven days, their testosterone levels increase by 45.7%.   

The comments then became more focused on Reddit users challenging each other on how long they could go without masturbation, resulting in the birth of the NoFap movement and the official NoFap subreddit.

So who is benefiting from NoFap?

According to NoFappers or Fapstronauts, as they prefer to be called, the benefits far outweigh watching porn and maturation or PMO (Porn, Masturbation, Orgasm), these benefits range from increased energy, confidence, improved work performance, improved perception of women and many others. 

Fapstronauts and Reddit users said this: 

Izarst(Reddit User)

I JUST FEEL FUCKING AMAZING. No other way to express it.

T_nyDubs (Reddit user)

Love filling my mind and my heart. Love of myself, love of life. Results in more welcoming, powerful, and confident body language, which people around me absolutely love.

First I thought "well this is a great way to get laid, because I'm like a girl magnet now," but then it just became "whatever... that's not why I do this." Don't get me wrong, I love getting laid, but primary motivation is me and fixing myself in my relationship with the world, not just some part of it.

killajoy714 (Reddit User)

Insane confidence, don't give a f**k about what others think about you, easy to maintain eye contact, more respect from guys, more attention from girls, more strength and endurance in the gym, feel extremely happy and positive, brain is more efficient, less retrieval failure, clearer/brighter face and skin (cold showers and getting some sun), more productive, more energy, increased desire to study and learn, willpower increases significantly, easy to get rid of negative influences, and a deeper voice.

NoFap Isn't actually a new concept: 

So how cannot cracking one off for 250 days really be the trigger for all of the above benefits? The answer might be in understanding the body's energy points or chakras. If you dig a little deeper, NoFap is nothing new, in fact, if you go back into ancient history there where civilisations who understood the concept. An older term, which was highlighted in Napoleon Hill's bestseller 'Think and grow rich', called it 'Sex Transmutation'. 

The theory was, by not releasing your sexual energy through forms of masturbation or sex, the energy would need to find alternative routes to escape the body, resulting in the energy channeling though more productive ways ie work, creative pursuits and relationships. 

It didn't stop there; Nofap was an important form of self control for Greek athletes too. The ancient Greeks decided that sex before a contest was a bad idea, they viewed sperm as a source of masculinity and strength and they decided it was something you needed to win!

Porn and your Brain

Fapstronauts often refer to this website Yourbrainonporn.com which is used as a resource which delves into the relationship between Porn and the human brain.  It suggests the long-term problems that actually harm you and can result in your brain being rewired. A study, which was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry linked the use of pornography to reduced volume in parts of the brain that is linked to rewards and motivation. 

"We found that the volume of the so-called striatum, a brain region that has been associated with the reward processing and motivated behavior was smaller the more pornography consumption the participants reported", lead researcher Simone Kuhn told Reuters.

Conclusion

If you are a hopeless porn user and want to be successful, not depressed and confident, then it seems the odds are pretty much stacked against you. The NoFap movement is actually seeing real-time results with countless YouTube videos from Fapstronauts who have achieved over 90 days without masturbation expressing how good they feel. That coupled with the fact that it's also been tried and tested by ancient civilisations across the globe, it may actually be worth a try.

Original article




"Porn and the Threat to Virility" (TIME)

In case you missed this TIME cover story about porn-induced sexual dysfunctions, it is no longer behind a paywall. Read it here.

The text:

Noah Church is a 26-year-old part-time wildland firefighter in Portland, Ore. When he was 9, he found naked pictures on the Internet. He learned how to download explicit videos. When he was 15, streaming videos arrived, and he watched those. Often. Several times a day, doing that which people often do while watching that genre by themselves.

After a while, he says, those videos did not arouse him as much, so he moved on to different configurations, sometimes involving just women, sometimes one woman and several guys, sometimes even an unwilling woman. "I could find anything I imagined and a lot of stuff I couldn't imagine," he says. After the appeal of those waned, he moved on to the next level, more intense, often more violent.

In his senior year of high school, he had an opportunity to have actual sex, with a real partner. He was attracted to her and she to him, as demonstrated by the fact that she was naked in her bedroom in front of him. But his body didn't seem to be interested. "There was a disconnect between what I wanted in my mind and how my body reacted," he says. He simply couldn't get the necessary hydraulics going.

For a limited time, TIME is giving all readers special access to subscriber-only stories. For complete access, we encourage you to become a subscriber. Click here.

He put it down to first-timers' nerves, but six years went by, and no matter which woman he was with, his body was no more cooperative. It responded only to the sight of porn. Church came to believe that his adolescent Internet indulgence had somehow caused his problems and that he had what some are calling porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED).

A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic--more prone to permanent change--than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning. The results of the experiment, they claim, are literally a downer.

So they're beginning to push back, creating online community groups, smartphone apps and educational videos to help men quit porn. They have started blogs and podcasts and take all the public-speaking gigs they can get. Porn has always faced criticism among the faithful and the feminist. But now, for the first time, some of the most strident alarms are coming from the same demographic as its most enthusiastic customers.

Of course there are much broader concerns about porn's effect on society that go beyond the potential for sexual dysfunction, including the fact that it often celebrates the degradation of women and normalizes sexual aggression. In February, these issues led British Prime Minister David Cameron's government, which had previously asked Internet service providers to filter adult content unless a user opted in, to begin the process of requiring porn sites to verify the age of their users or face a fine. Shortly afterward, the Utah legislature unanimously passed a resolution to treat pornography as a public-health crisis. And compelling new research on visual stimuli is offering some support to the young men's theories, suggesting the combination of computer access, sexual pleasure and the brain's mechanisms for learning could make online porn acutely habit forming, with potential psychological effects.

For Gabe Deem, 28, porn was as much a part of adolescence as homework or acne. "It was normal and it was everywhere," he says. He grew up in an era when what used to be considered X-rated was becoming mainstream, and he and his friends used to watch explicit videos constantly, he says, even during class, on their school-issued laptops. "It wasn't something we were ashamed of." Deem, who lives in Irving, Texas, is the founder of Reboot Nation, a forum and online video channel that offers advice and support for young people who believe they are addicted to pornography, have sexual dysfunctions as a result and wish to quit.

He's a little different from many of the porn activists, because he was sexually active at a young age and consumed porn only as a side dish. But it came to dominate his diet, and some years after high school, "I got with a gorgeous girl and we went to have sex and my body had no response at all," he says. "I was freaked because I was young and fit and I was super attracted to the girl." He went to his doctor. "I said, I might have low T," Deem says, using slang for a testosterone deficiency. "He laughed."

Many of the details of his story are confirmed by his girlfriend at the time, who would prefer to remain anonymous. "He would try to start something, and then in the middle he would say, 'I think we should wait,'" she recalls. "I was just really confused and I would think, Does he not like me? What's going on?" It took nine months after he told her about his problem for him to be able to perform with her.

Having a partner with ED isn't the primary problem most young women face with porn, and only a fraction of women report feeling addicted, yet they are not immune to the effects of growing up in a culture rife with this content. Teen girls increasingly report that guys are expecting them to behave like porn starlets, encumbered by neither body hair nor sexual needs of their own.

In April 2015, Alexander Rhodes left a good job with Google to develop counseling and community-support sites for those who are struggling with a porn habit. He had started the NoFap subreddit--a list of posts on one subject--on the popular website Reddit and a companion website called NoFap.com in 2011, but it's now a full-time endeavor. (The name derives from fap, Internet-speak for masturbation.) The 26-year-old says his first exposure to porn was a pop-up ad--no, really, he swears!--when he was about 11. His father was a software engineer in Pennsylvania, and he had been encouraged to play with computers since he was a 3-year-old. "For as long as there had been an Internet, I had relatively unfiltered access," says Rhodes. The ad was for a site that showed rape, but he says he only understood there was a naked lady. Pretty soon he was printing out thumbnails of his image-search results for "women's tummies" or "pretty girls' boobies." By the time he was 14, he says, he was pleasuring himself to porn 10 times a day. "That's not an exaggeration," he insists. "That, and play video games, was all I did."

In his late teens, when he got a girlfriend, things did not go well. "I really hurt her [emotionally]," says Rhodes. "I thought it was normal to fantasize about porn while having sex with another person." If he stopped thinking about porn to focus on the girl, his body lost interest, he says. He quit porn a couple of times before finally swearing off it for good in late 2013. His two sites have about 200,000 members, and he says they get about a million unique users a month.

These men, and the thousands of others who populate their websites with stories of sexual dysfunction, are all at pains to make it clear that they are not antisex. "The reason I quit watching porn is to have more sex," says Deem. "Quitting porn is one of the most sex-positive things people can do," says Rhodes. One online commenter, sirrifo, put it more simply: "I just want to enjoy sex again and feel the desire for another person."

Do their claims of porn-induced ED have any merit? Recent statistics suggest some correlation. In 1992, about 5% of men experienced ED at age 40, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). A study in the July 2013 Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 26% of adult men seeking help for ED were under 40. In a 2014 study of 367 U.S. military personnel younger than 40, a third reported ED. And a 2012 Swiss study found the condition among a third of even younger men: 18 to 25.

Of course, there could be any number of reasons for these findings. Since the advent of Viagra and similar medications, awareness and acceptance of erectile dysfunction is much higher, and thanks to all those TV commercials, the stigma is correspondingly lower, so more people may be admitting to it. Diabetes, obesity, social anxiety or depression can also cause the condition, as can drug or alcohol abuse. As these have risen among the young, so may have instances of ED. But urologists aren't willing to rule out that pornography could be partly to blame. "I think it's possible," says Dr. Ajay Nangia, former president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology. "There's a kind of desensitization of these men, and they only reach the point of feeling stimulated when sex is like it is on a movie."

If the causes of the spike in ED are up for debate, the unprecedented access to porn via streaming video in the past decade is not. The advent of video sites that, like YouTube (which launched in 2005), allow users to upload, aggregate and organize videos has transformed the way people encounter porn. There's a staggeringly diverse array of free explicit content that's constantly expanding because anyone, from amateurs to professionals, can put a video online. One independent web-tracking company clocked 58 million monthly U.S. visitors to adult sites in February 2006. Ten years later the number was 107 million. One of the world's largest adult sites, Pornhub, an explicit-video-sharing site, says that it gets 2.4 million visitors per hour and that in 2015 alone, people around the globe watched 4,392,486,580 hours of its content, which is more than twice as long as Homo sapiens has spent on earth. Porn is so ubiquitous, it has spun off memes, including Rule 34, which says, "If it exists, there is porn of it." (Leprechauns? Check. Pterodactyls? Check. Pandas? Check.) The Internet is like a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant that serves every type of sex snack.

And the young are devouring it. Almost 40% of British boys ages 14 to 17 said they regularly watch, according to a February 2015 study by the University of Bristol. Chyng Sun, an associate professor of media studies at New York University, says nearly half of the 487 men she surveyed in one study had been exposed to porn before they'd turned 13. A study in the Journal of Sex Research puts first exposure at, on average, 12 years old for young men.

A massive social shift involving the health of young people usually prompts a robust round of research to assess what's really going on. But in this case, not so much. It's hard even to get funding to study how widespread porn use is, says Janis Whitlock, a former sex educator who is now a researcher in mental health at Cornell University. NIH staff reportedly advise researchers against using the word sexual in their funding applications if possible. Neuroscientist Simone Kühn, whose study on porn watching and brain structure was published in the esteemed JAMA Psychiatry, says her employers at the Max Planck Institute were unhappy to be associated with it.

The lack of research is exacerbating a bitter fight in the academic community about the effects of excessive porn use. And there's not a lot of hard science to decide the outcome.

The young porn abstainers do have an unlikely guru: Gary Wilson, 59, a former part-time adjunct biology professor at Southern Oregon University and various vocational schools and the author of Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction. His website, yourbrainonporn.com, or more commonly YBOP, is a clearinghouse for information that supports the link between heavy adolescent pornography use and sexual dysfunction. Many people find him through his 2012 TEDx talk, which has more than 6 million views.

YBOP contends that watching too much onanistic material in adolescence affects the brain in multiple ways. "Porn trains your brain to need everything associated with porn to get aroused," Wilson says. That includes not only the content but also the delivery method. Because porn videos are limitless, free and fast, users can click to a whole new scene or genre as soon as their arousal ebbs and thereby, says Wilson, "condition their arousal patterns to ongoing, ever changing novelty."

A heavy porn schedule and the resulting sustained high levels of dopamine reinforces these patterns. "The result in some Internet porn users is higher brain activation to internet porn, and less arousal to sex with a real person," Wilson argues. And then there's habituation: the need for more to get the same hit. "Extreme novelty, certain fetishes, shock and surprise and anxiety--all those elevate dopamine," he says. "So they need those to be sexually aroused."

Other researchers are dismissive of any link between porn and erectile dysfunction."In the absence of supporting scientific data, the strength of [these young men's] belief that porn causes ED is not evidence for the validity of their belief," says David J. Ley, a clinical psychologist and the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction. "The overwhelming majority of porn users report no ill effects. A very, very small minority are reporting these concerns about ED."

Ley points to recent studies of young men who use porn, like a 2015 paper in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, in which researchers from the University of Zagreb in Croatia analyzed studies of about 4,000 sexually active heterosexual young men in three European countries and found only a very slight correlation between pornography use and erectile problems. (And only in Croatia.) Another found that porn users who were religious were more likely to think they were addicted. Nicole Prause, a psychologist and neuroscientist, as well as CEO of Liberos, a brain research company, also believes PIED is a myth: "An overwhelming number of studies have shown that the strongest predictors of ED continue to be depression and drug use."

For the young male activists, however, Exhibit A is always their own physiology. "If you can get a boner with porn and you can't get a boner without porn, that's about as hard as evidence gets in my opinion," says Deem of Reboot Nation. He crosses off every other reason for his sexual dysfunction. Inexperience? "I've been a sexually confident and experienced guy since the age of 14," he says. Obesity? He's a certified personal trainer with, he says, under 10% body fat. Drug use? He claims to have smoked about five joints in his life. And his ED couldn't have been due to performance anxiety, because he says he couldn't get aroused even when masturbating offline on a relaxed Sunday afternoon. "I ran back to my computer to double-check. I turned on porn and bam!"

Beyond the issues facing these young men, there's emerging research that should give every porn user pause. A 2014 fMRI study from the Max Planck Institute found that habitual porn use may have an effect on the brain. "The more pornography men consumed, the smaller the brain striatum, the reward center of the brain," says Kühn, the author. "And those who watched more pornography showed less response to pornographic pictures in the same area." Another study showed that more-frequent porn users were more impulsive and had less ability to delay gratification. And a brain-scan study out of the University of Cambridge in 2014 showed that men with compulsive sexual behavior responded to explicit clips in the same way users of drugs respond to drugs; they craved them, even if they didn't like them.

The lead researcher in that study, neuroscientist and neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon, says many of her heavy-porn-using subjects report having erectile issues. But she and Kühn both note that none of this is proof that porn shrinks brains; it could be that people who have smaller reward centers have to watch more porn to get the same thrill. "I would be cautious about using a single imaging study to imply that there has been 'damage' to the brain," says Voon. "We just need more studies."

The porn-addiction debate is a rancorous subset of a disagreement in the medical and scientific communities about whether it's possible to classify so-called behavioral addictions, like those to gambling and eating, in the same category as substance addictions, like those to alcohol or prescription drugs. Prause argues that using the word addiction to describe what could simply be a high sexual appetite is unhelpful and may be worsening the problem by stigmatizing it.

But to Voon, who studies addictions, compulsive porn watching sure looks like one, even though it has different properties, including a higher appetite for novelty than other addictions. "It's possible that the combination of pornographic stimuli being highly rewarding in addition to the novelty might have some kind of greater effect," she says.

Brian Anderson, a cognitive neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University, has an intriguing theory. His specialty is habit formation; in February his team released a study showing that visual stimuli that are linked to a reward are harder to ignore when they are encountered again. When the brain detects evidence of the enjoyable stimulus, it pays more attention and blocks out other stimuli. "Your brain is wired to develop those patterns, and when you tie them to something like porn it can be very disruptive and difficult to break," says Anderson.

He hypothesizes that the visual nature of porn makes it particularly appealing for the brain. "It lends itself to a strong and quick attention bias," he says. "The brain is going to learn that association very quickly." And because people's modern lives are very computer-heavy, there are reminders of porn everywhere. "There probably comes a point in time," he says, "where you open up your browser and you just start thinking about porn." (And that's before virtual-reality tech takes things to a whole new level.)

Since the teenagers guzzling all that porn are digesting it in a brain that is still developing, it's possible they are particularly susceptible. Philip Zimbardo, emeritus professor of psychology at Stanford University (and the guy who did the famous Stanford prison experiment), notes that porn often goes hand in hand with video games and is similarly finely tuned to be as habit-forming as possible.

"Porn embeds you in what I call present hedonistic time zone," he says. "You seek pleasure and novelty and live for the moment." While not chemically addictive, he says, porn has the same effect on behavior as a drug addiction does: some people stop doing much else in favor of pursuing it. "And then the problem is, as you do this more and more, the reward centers of your brain lose the capacity for arousal," he says. At a time when young men are at their physical peak, he says, all the inactivity may be contributing to the unexpected sexual dysfunction.

Noah Church devotes about 20 hours a week to trying to help others eliminate porn from their lives, or at least to cut out the habit known as PMO (porn, masturbation, orgasm). He has written a free book about it, Wack, runs addictedtointernetporn.com and counsels people via Skype for a $100 fee. Rhodes, meanwhile, tries to help guys get their mojo back by arranging "challenges," during which young people try to abstain from PMO for a certain span of time. There are different levels of abstinence: the most extreme (known, ironically, as "hard mode") is keeping away from any sexual activity, and the least extreme is having all the sexual encounters that present themselves, including those that occur alone, but without visual aids. Deem's site offers similar strategies, along with a lot of community support and educational materials. A group of young men from Utah have started an organization called Fight the New Drug, which has a free recovery program for teens called Fortify.

The young men who wish to reboot their brains describe similar consequences as they titrate off the habit. Some of them have withdrawal-like symptoms such as headaches and sleeplessness. Many of them talk about "flatlining," a period of joylessness, zero libido and even shrunken genitalia that can last several weeks. "I felt like a zombie," says Deem. Older guys have reported similar symptoms, but they generally recover faster, possibly because they had more sexual experiences in real life. Football player turned actor Terry Crews recently posted a series of Facebook videos about the damage his porn habit did to his marriage, and his life, though not his virility. He went to rehab. Others report bouncing back more quickly. "I felt more focused, awake, socially confident, connected to others, more interested in daily activities and more emotionally sensitive," says Church. "I started feeling these changes very soon after quitting."

Because consuming porn is often done on impulse, NoFap's newest product is an online emergency button, which when clicked takes users to a motivational picture, video, story or advice, like this: "PMO is not even an option. The way eating yellow snow is not an option. It doesn't even factor into the decisionmaking process." The Brainbuddy app, which was developed after a young Australian named David Endacott noticed how difficult it was for him to give up porn, offers a series of alternatives--an activity or an inspiring video. Not watching porn is only half the battle, he says. The brain has to develop new and different pleasurable associations with the computer. Like a Fitbit, the app also tracks how many days users have gone without resorting to the habit. It has had more than 300,000 downloads so far.

The one thing that these young men are not suggesting is an end to porn, even if that were possible. "I don't think that pornography should be legislated or banned or restricted," says Rhodes. In any case, legislating porn has always been fraught, and today that's not just because of the First Amendment but also because of technology. One challenge facing the British proposal to force porn sites to verify the age of their consumers is figuring out how to make that work without invading adult privacy and despite the ease with which most teenagers can subvert online filters. (Reports showed that 1.4 million unique visitors to adult sites in Britain were under the age of 18 in May 2015, after Internet providers' opt-in filters were in place.) Although one U.S.-based site, Pornhub, has pledged to adhere to the new British rules, the industry is dubious about the health claims. "My No. 1 gripe with the porn industry is that they have been generally unaccepting of the whole porn-addiction recovery movement," says Rhodes. "They really trivialize it." (Pornhub declined to answer any questions about legislation or health concerns for this story.)

"As an industry we have seen a lot of moral panics," says Mike Stabile, communications director for the Free Speech Coalition, the adult-entertainment industry's trade association. "There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of reputable science. Should something emerge it might spur discussions." The industry is not in favor of the British approach that makes Internet users opt in to adult content rather than opting out, says Stabile: "Those filters can block access to LGBTQ groups and sex-education sites." But that's exactly the model that state senator Todd Weiler is hoping will be used in Utah. "We've changed how we've approached tobacco, not by banning it but by putting reasonable restrictions in place," says Weiler. He'd like places like McDonald's and Starbucks--and even libraries--to filter their wi-fi so that they would be porn-free.

Providing a counternarrative for teens about the porn they'll inevitably encounter, despite whatever filters are put in place, is a key goal of the young activists. "Thirteen- and 14-year-olds have access to unrestricted and endlessly novel Internet porn way before they discover that it could potentially have harmful side effects," says Rhodes. Deem points out that he stayed away from cocaine because he was taught it would harm him. He'd like to see porn treated the same way, with schools teaching about the possible side effects of pornography during sex ed. "I would tell my son, I'll be straight up with you, all superstimulating things, like Internet porn, junk food and drugs, can be fun and pleasurable, temporarily," says Deem. "However, they also have the potential to desensitize you to normal, natural things and ultimately rob you of the one thing you thought they would give you, the ability to experience pleasure."

Introducing porn to sex ed at school would seem a quixotic quest. Sex education is already the source of much conflict, and schools do not wish to be accused of introducing kids to pornography, even if the science of its effects were settled. Parents too are wary of broaching the subject, afraid of what questions might be asked. But curiosity abhors a vacuum; online porn is becoming de facto sex ed for many young people.

Whitlock, the former sex educator, says she has been surprised by how reluctant her erstwhile colleagues are to speak up about porn. She believes that because sex educators were fighting a negative image of sex for so long during the years of abstinence-only education, they're allergic to anything that questions sexual appetites. She has found that even asking students to reflect on what their watching habits are doing to their mental health is met with pushback. "It makes no sense to me," she says. "It's like saying if you question the value of eating Dunkin' Donuts all the time that you're 'food negative.'"

An ideal way to deliver the message might be online, but ironically, many of these efforts are thwarted by porn blockers. That's a problem for Brainbuddy. Its creator feels it's important to get it to the 12-and-older crowd, but users must be over 17 to download it.

The shame around a compulsive porn habit makes asking for help difficult, even though neuroscientists say it could happen to anyone. Then there's the reverse stigma for young men who speak against the genre in a culture that celebrates sexuality. Deem and other advocates know they are walking into a headwind of apathy, antagonism and ridicule. But they're not dissuaded. "If anything is going to change," says Deem, "it's going to have to come through the guys who went through the trenches, who were actually clicking the tabs and watching the hardcore porn when we were 12."

One of the newer NoFap members (known as Fapstronauts), a 30-something gay man just starting a 30-day challenge, puts it this way: "When I think about it," he writes, "I've wasted years of my life looking for a computer or mobile phone to provide something it is not capable of providing."

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly characterized those who received payment for their advice.

 

 

"SuperNormal Porn" podcast

Real or synthetic?Show host Bryan: This is a frank conversation with Gary Wilson about the subject of internet porn addiction. Know this: Internet porn addiction can cause erectile dysfunction, and a host of other problems; you may want to consider removing it from your life.

Listen to podcast (scroll to bottom of that page)

"THIS" Magazine features an article on NoFap

Cover of "THIS" MagazineFOR COOPER JAMES, self-improvement isn’t masturbation. Really. As of early September, it has been 225 days since the 22-year-old Calgary radio-broadcasting graduate has masturbated. The most challenging part, he says, is kicking Internet pornography. James has a mobility impairment that confines him to a wheelchair and, living in a second-level duplex, it’s a chore for him to get in and out of his home. Unemployed, bored and sitting in front of a computer all day, he would turn to the quickest and most accessible source of entertainment he knew: Internet porn. This became part of his routine. “It was just too much. It was just getting out of hand,” he says. “It was just like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to be that person anymore.”

NoFap changed all that.

NoFap is a growing online movement comprised primarily of men, who have taken a personal challenge to abandon masturbation and, usually as a result, turn of internet pornography for a week, a month, 90 days, or even indefinitely. (Fap is Internet slang for masturbation.) Since becoming a NoFap devotee, James says he feels more confident, assertive, and sociable. He has relapsed only once, 46 days into his first vow of fapstinence. Now, James wants to see if he can go for a whole year. It sounds possible. After all, NoFap has freed up his time and rekindled his need to socialize. “I feel a lot more genuine,” James says.

These are the kinds of stories Alexander Rhodes, creator of the popular NoFap reddit website, hears daily. Rhodes, a budding actor and University of Pittsburgh biology major, discovered NoFap when he stumbled across an online thread describing a study that showed how serum testosterone levels in blood increased by 45.7 percent in men who went one week without ejaculating. “Everyone was talking about it,” he says.

Don’t touch

The NoFap movement has encouraged thousands of men and women to quit masturbation. The arguments make sense: improved self-esteem, better concentration, and no more porn. But is self-pleasure really that bad?

With NoFap lingo flooding reddit, Rhodes saw a need to create a dedicated forum for discussion. He started the website in June 2011. In little over a year, the site has exploded to include 30,000 fapstronauts—NoFap terminology for masturbation abstainers—and counting. Rhodes said the website gets more than 3 million hits each month. He’s recently launched a non-reddit website, nofappers.com.

Each fapstronaut has his or her own reasons for participating in NoFap, according to Rhodes. Some try to quit masturbation for religious purposes, while others are merely looking to test their mental resolve. In his most recent challenge, Rhodes hasn’t masturbated or had sex—a feat dubbed HardMode—in 62 days. As a result, he says he experiences increased energy and motivation, or the “Bradley Cooper effect”—a reference to the movie Limitless. (In it, the protagonist, a fledgling writer, takes a drug that unlocks the full potential of his brain, allowing him to pen a best-selling novel overnight.)

Others join NoFap because masturbation has become an unhealthy part of their lives. “In the very beginning, NoFap was just meant to be a fun test of willpower or a challenge,” says Rhodes. “It wasn’t founded under the idea that it was going to end up—or eventually evolve into—any sort of self-help website.” Despite this, he estimates that posts detailing personal struggles with masturbation and helpful tips for people taking the challenge account for 50 percent of the website’s content. A lot of NoFap users, adds Rhodes, come to the site seeking support, friendship, or somebody to talk to.

Carlyle Jansen, owner of Good for Her, a Toronto sexuality store that focuses on women and couples, commends NoFap for encouraging open discussion on a very taboo subject. Jansen conducts educational workshops that teach women how to feel comfortable self-pleasuring. She believes people, and parents especially, need to talk about masturbation without judgment—and without feeding any feelings of shame. Not only is there the stigma of masturbation, she adds, but there’s also the stigma of too much masturbation. In fact, Jansen says the question about masturbation she hears most often from clients is: “Am I normal?” “People do feel nervous that sometimes [their masturbation] is too much when it is like, maybe, three times a week or once a day,” she says. “Which, to me, is not anywhere close to a problem.”

Can masturbation become a problem though?

Rhodes doesn’t believe it is inherently unhealthy, and is careful to say that scientific research has shown that for many adults masturbation is healthy. He also doesn’t advocate NoFap to people under the age of 18. “I think that masturbation is important,” he says. “It’s something that is natural and usually occurs— and possibly should occur—in your teenage years. It’s a tool that humans use naturally to learn about their bodies and learn how things work, so that whenever they do emerge from adolescence, they know what they are doing when it comes to sex.”

Wendy Trainor, a registered sex therapist in Toronto, says masturbation is a good way to learn about your sexual responses and to satisfy needs if a partner is unavailable or does not exist. However, she says it can become unhealthy when it affects a person’s ability to focus on work or studies, or when it takes away from a person’s experiences with his/her partner. “Some women come into my ofce thinking their partner has low desire, when, in fact, their partner has been self-pleasuring several times a day,” she says. “Self-pleasuring can be an easier path to pleasure than taking time to be sexually engaged with their partner.”

Pornography can compound the problem. As James puts it: “You can have those pretty women up there for a few minutes and you can get off, but after that, what does it do for you? It doesn’t help you in your real relationships at all.”

Scan of articleThe NoFap website directs new users to yourbrainonporn.com, a website authored by physiologist Gary Wilson. Wilson argues that excessive Internet pornography use can reshape men’s—and women’s—brains by altering their ingrained reward circuitry. Arousal addiction, he continues, may be responsible for a variety of symptoms, ranging from ADHD, depression, erectile dysfunction, and social anxiety disorder. By turning off, Wilson argues users can reboot their brains and reverse some of the changes created by Internet pornography.

The science, admittedly, is still in its infancy, but Trainor says pornography-related visits are far more frequent today than when she started practicing in 1972. While she says pornography can provide useful visual cues for people who want to self-pleasure, she calls it a slippery slope. The internet, she says, can give people the “perfect mechanism” for discovering novel stimuli at the click of their mouse. That can, in turn, lead to compulsive behaviour. NoFap, on the other hand, pushes people to interact. Rhodes receives scores of emails from men, women, and couples who credit NoFap with turning their lives around and saving their marriages. “Whenever you take away the masturbation, [people] are forced to emerge from their caves,” he says. “If you are going to get off, you have to go outside.” (A recent user survey found 40 percent of NoFap members have never been in a relationship.)

Rhodes doesn’t pretend NoFap has all the answers. As Jansen says, the movement has comparisons to fad dieting: encouraging people to abstain from something enjoyable, while ignoring the underlying issues that make them feel fat. Rhodes adds there is little primary research on Internet pornography’s effect on people and even less so on NoFapping. Many of the challenge’s claimed benefits on the website are anecdotal and—in cases where superhuman powers are reported—likely exaggerated. To dissuade users from seeing NoFap as a cure all, Rhodes has added a medical disclaimer, advising people to seek help if they have serious issues in their lives. Such warnings are unlikely to deter James and the many other NoFap converts. “A lot of the people feel it is for science and I feel the same way,” James says. “It’s still an ongoing experiment.”

THIS.ORG | November/December 2012

"Talk About Sex" (interview with Gary on Santa Fe's KVSF)

"Talk About Sex" logo"Talk About Sex" host Lucien Bonnafoux and Gary discuss how today's porn differs from porn of the past and the effects on users and their relationships.

KVSF logo

They also consider such questions as, "What can parents can do to help their kids navigate?"

Listen to the show

"The ultimate guide to quitting porn. 25 powerful steps to block porn websites and beat porn for good"

collage of porn wordsPeople addicted to porn succeed in overcoming their porn addiction in two ways: First, they need an effective plan with actionable ideas to give them the tools and confidence that their recovery from porn will last. And second, they need to believe it will work.... Read this guide by Tim Simon of Stop Procrastinating.

'I Gave Up Porn Cold Turkey, and It Was the Best Thing I Ever Did '

guy with EDI couldn't get it up. It had nothing to do with my girlfriend at all. She was beautiful and sexy, but once it came time to get down to business, well, I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. And I was way too young for this shit.

Yea, waaaay to young for this to be happening. Like, WTF? Which is why I casually mentioned my little "problem" to an old friend one night as we watched football. He turned, and bluntly asked: “How much porn do you watch?” Now, I work full time from home. Asking me how much porn I watch was kinda like asking Homer Simpson how much beer he drinks. Not that I was addicted, mind you, but I was a very heavy casual pornography user.

And that, he said like a great wise oracle, was my problem. He directed me to some Internet forums about porn-induced erectile dysfunction, and I found that I wasn’t alone.

Impotence: it's not just for Stan Zbornak anymore

Sure, once upon a time impotence was only a problem for the guys who dated the Golden Girls. But lately, it's started to affect dudes who don't look like they belong in a Viagra ad.
 
A 2012 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that a terrifying 30% of men 18-25 suffered from erectile dysfunction. And that wasn’t just after a long day of popping Molly and watching Skrillex. This was up from a reported 1% in the famous Kinsey study of 1948.

Meanwhile, another study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 54% of sexually active males 16-21 reported some sort of sexual difficulty, including erectile dysfunction. A far cry from my memories of REALLY not wanting to stand up when the teacher called on me in history class. But why?

High-speed porn, that's why

When I was a teenager, we were lucky to find an old copy of Playboy under a park bench that you'd use to jerk off for, at least, a month. Now? Thanks to high-speed broadband, guys actually do read Playboy for the articles. Today, adolescents can virtually experience more people and weird sex acts in an hour than anyone not named Gene Simmons does in a lifetime. And all this exposure to rapid-fire porn means young men are becoming hardwired to get turned on by it. With one serious consequence -- they have more problems getting it up when the sex is REAL.

Dancin' with Mr. PornHub

Now for a little science lesson -- stay with me here. Porn affects your brain in two ways: through sensitization and desensitization. This video sums it up nicely, but if you're at the office and don't want to watch a movie about porn screwing up your brain with your coworkers, that's cool, I get it -- I'll run through the highlights:

Sexual arousal is the No. 1 activator of the reward center in your brain, and it leads to the release of dopamine, which makes you feel good. Eventually, though, your brain hardwires itself to know when to release said dopamine. The nerve connections in the pathways associated with watching porn get stronger, the connections in the “actual girl” pathways get weaker, and all of a sudden instead of getting turned on by your naked girlfriend, you're turned on by the startup sound on your MacBook. This is known as sensitization. 

Desensitization, on the other hand, occurs when your brain finds the constant flow of dopamine abnormal, and adjusts to the problem by either decreasing the number of dopamine receptors, the flow of dopamine, or both. What happens then, you ask? To paraphrase Axl Rose, a little won’t do. As in, watching just a little porn will no longer do it for you. No, you have to watch more and more to get your dopamine fix and before you know it, instead of clicking “Hottie Having Sex on a Pool Table” you're watching “Hottie with Four Goats and a Rabbi" 11 times before dinner.

Girls like guys who don't like porn

Once I learned this, I was done. Finished. I quit porn cold turkey. And you know what? Like some weird vodoo magic, within weeks my erection problems were GONE. Not only that, I was more aroused when I saw my girlfriend and our sex life got better. Ironically, we broke up anyway -- for completely unrelated reasons! Go figure.

But guess what, it didn't matter. Because that's when I learned that ditching porn won’t just improve your sex life in a relationship, it’ll make you downright phenomenal if you’re single. [Note: By the way, I realize right now that I probably sound more like a Ronald Regan-era anti-porn PSA than a dude, like you, who enjoys a video or two before bed. That's cool. But hear me out.]
 
Perhaps the most telling quote from the video link above is from a guy who watched a lot of anime porn; he said, “I really just prefer girls as anime characters.” Yes, it has gotten to the point where a lot of dudes prefer their women as two-dimensional objects who don’t do much but fuck. But women know when you’re only chatting them up to try to get in their pants, and let's be honest, how often has that worked out for you?
 
When you stop watching porn, you stop imagining what the woman you're talking to at the bar looks like on the Back Room Casting Couch. You start to have actual conversations, and you start to listen. Pro tip: women find listening to be very sexy. And because your brain doesn’t associate sex with sitting alone in a room all day, your confidence goes up immeasurably. Confidence is also something women find very sexy.
 
You see where I'm going with this, right? More talking, listening, confidence -- this all leads to more dates and, eventually, more sex. And when it comes time to have sex, the pathways in your brain that link arousal with porn are weaker, the ones linking arousal with real women are stronger, and the excitement of actually being naked with someone is enough to get you going. Hot damn.

Now, try THIS free trial...

Quitting porn isn’t Viagra, nor is it Funky Cold Medina. It won’t cure all your problems with women, or stop you from referencing your ComicCon costume more than one time on a date. Nor will it help you get it up when you’ve had too much to drink.
 
But what it will do is make your sex life better. And if you’re having any kind of problem in the bedroom, whether it’s impotence or simply not getting any to begin with, challenge yourself to give up porn for six months and see how much better life gets.
 
And if it doesn’t, well, your old friends will still be there waiting for you on the Bangbus.

Original article on "Thrillist.com"

'Overindulgence: How Watching Porn Is Actively Ruining Your Sex Life' (Daily Elite)

Don Jon watching pornPornography has long been a staple of young men’s lives, and it has evolved over time. It has gone from hidden issues of Playboy under beds to an easily accessible, multifaceted industry on the Internet.

I’m sure half of the male readers right now have another tab open with porn, and that’s the problem.

We are, unintentionally, the generation of overindulgence. Why? Because almost every one of our problems have been solved by previous generations. It’s no longer about how, but how much.

Porn is the same way.

In the past, it was pretty impossible to get your hairy mitts on a pair of tits. Now, you’re an effortless click away from whatever your dirty mind desires.

Here’s the thing: Men are, by nature, disgusting perverts.

We can’t help it. That’s just who we are.

We need that release, and we will go to great lengths in search of it. Ideally, ladies are helping us with the process, but men are always looking for a way to do something quicker. And porn has drastically expedited that process.

Men can take matters into their own hands. Pornography and masturbation are the perfect pair. They are the “Turner & Hooch” of filth; you can’t have one without the other.

Men, and women too, can now play with their giblets at any time. It’s easy and fun, and it’s hard not to do it whenever you are just trying to kill time.

But there is a trade-off many, including myself, are discovering the hard way: There are serious side effects to continuous porn consumption.

Generation-Y is the vanguard of cybersex, and no one is talking about the damage because we are the first generation in human history to have this problem. Some of these changes have been seen in women, but the problem is much more prevalent with men.

It rewires your brain.

According to a study by Cambridge University, researchers have found “compulsive porn users react to porn cues in the same way that drug addicts react to drug cues.”

How it works is the brain has something called the reward circuit, which developed during simpler hunter-gatherer times to produce dopamine for naturally rewarding things like food, sex and connection.

However, there are extreme versions of these rewards, like high-calorie foods or a bombardment of boobs, that provide too much dopamine and can override our natural satiation mechanisms.

The reaction that triggers in your brain from porn is extremely similar to the reaction from drug abuse.

What happens is, your brain has a molecular switch that creates a binge cycle, promoting a craving to continue receiving that reward.

This extreme binge cycle of dopamine received through porn produces the same side effects drug addicts have: a numbed pleasure response, hyper-reactivity and the erosion of will power, as your frontal cortex changes.

Crazy, huh?


It misrepresents both genders.

Guys, not every woman has huge knockers. Women, not every guy is a packing a foot-long.

Guys, not every woman likes her lady parts getting jack-hammered away at. Women, not all guys are pizza delivery boys!

But seriously, there are several misconceptions that porn conveys to its viewers.

Here is what you must remember about porn: It’s not real. Porn’s main purpose is to entertain, not to show what making love is all about.

It is just shock entertainment designed to capture the horny consumer’s attention. The producers could care less about how accurate it is to real baby-making; they just want you to watch their video. It’s click-bait to masturbate.

The false notions created through pornography have a much more significant effect on women than men. Pornography presents women as plastic pieces of meat whose sole purpose is to get objectified and screwed.

For the longest time, I was convinced the only way women had sex was with ball-gags in their mouths.

I’m joking, but there are numerous violent themes women experience in pornography that are misconstrued as desires in reality.

These themes presented in porn change the attitude each gender has for one another. The attitude of men in particular tends to be more violent and hostile toward women after watching porn.

The best way to know what your partner wants sexually is to be open with her and talk about it.

Don’t just tie her up like a luau pig. Ask her if she likes apples first! Okay, I swear that’s the last joke.


You build a tolerance.

Like anything that elicits pleasure, porn can be addictive. And like anything addictive, you can build up a tolerance for it.

Heavy porn consumption is an arousal addiction, in which you need more or different ways to keep receiving the same high from a dopamine release.

In his TED talk, physiology teacher, Gay Wilson, explains that once you’ve seen the same cookie-cutter positions, your brain wants something different, merely for novelty, shock or surprise.

It starts out with a man and a woman, and next thing you know, there are eights dudes wearing masks, one woman and, for some reason, a pelican. Don’t ask.

It is known as the Coolidge effect, and dopamine levels surge for each novel image the viewer sees. Every new babe on the screen provides a new blast of dopamine.

This is how high-speed Internet porn varies from porn of the past: You can receive a new dopamine blast with a mouse click, constantly providing yourself with more and more pleasure.

And just like with all addictions, you may be in over your head before you know it.

Porn allows you to explore all of your curiosities, including ones you never imagined being interested in. Again, porn is not real sex; it is shock entertainment.

These novel or shocking porn videos don’t reflect the nature of real sex. The problem with porn addiction is there is no one to see the damage, no one to say whether what you are doing is right or wrong.

This is because people don’t really know what you’re going through unless they snoop your browser history.

One wipe of your search history covers your tracks, and your dirty little secret is safe.


It dilutes your real sex life.

In his TED talk, Wilson describes the differences between real sex and porn. Masturbation and porn focuses on isolation, “voyeurism, clicking, searching, multiple tabs fast-forwarding” and “constant novelty.”

Real sex focuses on “courtship, touching, being touched, smells, pheromones, emotional connection and interaction with a real person.”

Over time, your brain adapts to porn because, if you’re like me, it becomes exposed to it much more often than real sex.

Excessive abuse can not only change your brain, but it can change your dick. No joke.

That same Cambridge University study found “over 50 percent of subjects (average age: 25) had difficulty achieving erections with real partners, yet could achieve erections with porn.”

Erectile dysfunction is no longer your grandfather’s problem; it’s yours. Trust me on this one, I have had a couple of awkward nights where I had to give a bullsh*t excuse as to why I couldn’t keep on keepin’ on.

It’s not you, it’s me!

Through my own habits, I have been able to realize how even seemingly routine activities can have an impact on your sex life.

As I mentioned, porn is easier to access than ever before. Our generation also has access to unlimited photos and entertainment through social media.

When you think about how often a guy’s mind is bombarded with images of beautiful women every day, those beautiful women start to lose their novelty.

It goes from, “Good God, I would give up my first born son for a night with her,” to, “Yeah, she is alright. Here check out this model I follow on Instagram.”

When I combined the time I’ve spent looking at models on Instagram or Snapchat with my daily porn consumption, I was spending over an hour every day consuming images to please the head down south.

No wonder why I’ve had problems in the sack.


How can you fix it?

The craziest thing about all of this is when researchers initially tried to conduct studies on porn use, they couldn’t find any 18- to 25-year-old men who didn’t use porn.

I can attest to this. I have been an avid porn connoisseur for a decade now, and I can guarantee most guys my age have a similar track record.

The only thing that has been proven to reverse the damage is to go cold turkey.

There hasn’t been enough evidence conducted through real scientific studies to back this data yet, but groups like Wilson’s website and Reddit’s No Fap are grassroots examples that provide testimonials of first-hand success.

Most of the folks have seen results after one to two months, including increased sensitivity in their sex organs and a reversal of their erectile dysfunction.

Another promising result from quitting porn is a decrease in anxiety. As I mentioned above, porn is an arousal addiction, and arousal addiction symptoms are easily mistaken as ADHD, social anxiety, depression, performance anxiety and OCD. That explains why every boy in school has ADHD.

Here is a different way to think about it: When you watch porn, it is you, sitting in a chair, sweaty and naked, typically trying to fornicate with yourself to a glowing screen of images.

That is a very lowly state for the human to have evolved to, and you are so much better than that.

Use your imagination, or get out of the house and find someone who will do whatever your sexuality desires with you.

An old fashioned may be old fashioned, but it’s better than screwing yourself.

'Watching Adult Films Alters Brain Activity Similar To Drug Addicts, Alcoholics' (Medical Daily)

brain holePornography is a platform where both men and women can be comfortable exploring their erotic desires.

Watching it can boost your libido and even lead to happier and better relationships. Although one in three women in the U.S. regularly watch porn and 70 percent of men aged 18 to 24 visit porn sites at least once a month, watching it still remains a controversial issue. Antiporn advocates such as YourBrainOnPorn and a group called Fight The New Drug believe that porn use is a public health issue because of its effects on the brain.

But what exactly does it do to your brain? Several studies have shown porn consumption may rewire the brain, altering its structure and function, and causing addictive behavior to emerge. But are these brain changes a cause for concern?

Brain Chemicals and Porn

Dopamine

Both having sex and watching porn cause dopamine to be released in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and learning. In fact, it’s the one neurotransmitter that becomes the most active. “The main change is the flood of dopamine. Watching pornography produces a dopaminergic response,” Joe Schrank, an addiction specialist, and founder of TheFix.com and Loft 107, a sober living facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., told Medical Daily in an email.

It is this neurotransmitter that gives you the desire for self-pleasure, as its levels surge in response to  anticipation and expectation. But the brain begins to change as we repeatedly tap into this particular pathway by viewing porn — it becomes desensitized to the effects of dopamine. These effects were shown in a 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, which produced the first-ever brain scans of porn watchers. The German researchers found that the level of changes in the brain correlated with the amount of porn a person watched — the more they watched, the lower the activity was in their brain’s reward centers after sexual images were flashed on a screen.

This causes the brain to need more dopamine each subsequent time in order to feel the same effects. As a result, it can give a person a reason to watch more porn. Sometimes, however, the brain gets “worn out” and halts the production of dopamine, which leaves the viewer wanting more satisfaction with the inability to reach it, according to Gary Wilson, a physiology teacher, who discussed the topic during a TEDx talk. This can provoke the viewer to seek out more intense porn to get the same “high.”

“Brains respond to chemical change. When the dopamine is released and there is a sense of pleasure, the primitive brain sends the message to repeat the behavior for the desired feeling,” Schrank said.

He believes this is why addictions become so difficult to break. People tend to assume this is purely a behavioral issue; however, different brains respond to different stimuli, whether it’s shopping or pornography. Within the mind of an addict, there is always a constant need to feel that strong stimulation.

Oxytocin and Vasopressin

Other brain chemicals that are released during sex or porn include oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones are what help the person recall long-term memories. They work by forming a fond connection between your memory and the object that gave you sexual pleasure. This creates a wave of sensation throughout the whole body similar to being high.

Typically, sex causes the release of serotonin levels, which in turn leads to feelings of tranquility and relaxation. However, if the brain associates these feelings with a porn experience, it will subsequently direct a person back to porn each time sexual desire arises rather than a true sexual experience.

The Pornographic Mind vs. The Addict Mind

The brain of a porn user is often compared to that of a drug addict or alcoholic. A 2014 Cambridge University study published in the journal PLOS ONE found the ventral striatum — a brain structure that plays a role in the brain’s reward center, aka its pleasure pathways — lit up when an alcoholic saw a photo of a drink. In porn addicts, the study found similar brain activity, but although they wanted porn more, they didn’t enjoy it more.

The researchers also found three regions in the brain that were more active in people with compulsive sexual behavior, including the ventral striatum, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (responsible for anticipating rewards), and the amygdala (involved in processing the significance of events and emotions). These regions are also known to be activated in drug addicts when shown their drugs of choice.

Age also seemed to affect the level of brain activity in the ventral striatum while viewing porn. The younger the patient, the higher the activity level in their ventral striatum — this effect was strongest in individuals with compulsive sexual behavior. These findings were especially important, since the frontal control regions of the brain continue to develop into a person’s mid-20s. An imbalance in these regions may increase impulsiveness and risk-taking behaviors in younger patients.

Porn and Brain Size

The pornographic brain not only mirrors the activity in addicts, it also changes size in a similar way. In the same German study, researchers found that gray matter volume in the right caudate of the striatum was smaller among frequent porn viewers. Men who watched more porn also showed less activity in another area of the striatum, known as the left putamen, which lit up when exposed to sexual stimuli.

These brain changes are similar to those seen in cocaine addicts, who develop abnormalities in areas, such as the nucleus accumbens and striatum, which are responsible for learning, memory, pleasure, and reward. Despite these findings, it’s unclear whether watching porn is what causes these brain changes or if people with certain brain types just watch more porn.

Brain After Porn

While porn is certainly useful in helping us explore and learn about our sexual desires, these studies highlight the potential consequences on the brain of watching too much. For this reason, it’s important to remember moderation is key. “As with anything in life, striving for balance is key,” Schrank advised. “Brains need diversity of activity too.”

Original article by Lizetter Borrelli

'We can use brain power to help reduce demand for internet porn'

This article appeared in Scotland's newspaper, The Herald, a couple of days ago. Click on the image to read it.

It recommends teaching people how the reward circuitry of the brain works to help them take control of their lives.

'Youth and Pornography Addiction' (The Fix)

Keyboard with "Porn" keyLetting teens get their quick fix of sex on the net could cause long-term physiological and psychological damage.

Men younger than ever are reporting difficulty achieving intimacy in relationships and are struggling well into adulthood to regain normal sexual function, according to sex addiction experts.

High-speed Internet pornography, more specifically the addiction to seeking novel and increasingly shocking images, is to blame for these sexual problems, according to therapists who counsel men and boys as young as preteens.  “There seems to be a classic pattern that is emerging which is that the addiction to pornography develops in the adolescent years, stays hidden for a time, and not until the teen grows into adulthood and experiences serious marital conflict [does he] seek treatment,” said psychotherapist Matt Bulkley, counselor at the Youth Pornography Addiction Center in St. George, Utah. 

For the young men we've treated, they literally have to go on a porn diet for three to five months to get an erection again.

Young viewers of Internet pornography are more likely to suffer long term physiological and psychological damage lasting into adulthood because the exposure happened during a time when their brains were not yet finished developing, Bulkley explained. “In some cases, erectile dysfunction is the result of the brain being trained to be aroused by pornography,” he said.

The problems arise when a younger viewer who has not yet had any real life romantic or sexual experience learns the “birds and the bees” from watching pornography. Teens may immediately experience feelings of confusion, isolation and shame when they view pornographic content. When that teen moves into adulthood seeking a relationship, he may have problems with sexual interest, arousal and monogamy. “When it comes to understanding intimacy, porn is masterful at distorting what it is that is involved in a real relationship,” Bulkley said. 

How is Internet Pornography Addictive?

Scientists are just beginning to link heavy pornography viewing with the same pleasure-reward responses that occur in drug addiction. When viewing pornography, the brain releases large amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the same chemical that drives reward-seeking behavior in substance addictions, according to Psychology Today contributor Gary Wilson.

Wilson is co-author of the book, Cupid's Arrow, and the mastermind behind YourBrainOnPorn.com, a website that explores topics relating to neuroscience, behavioral addiction and sexual conditioning. In his article, “Why Shouldn't Johnny Watch Porn if He Likes?” Wilson shows how younger brains are particularly susceptible to the thrill-seeking effect of dopamine as compared to adult viewers. Teen brains are the most sensitive to dopamine at around age 15 and react up to four times more strongly to images perceived as exciting. On top of the increased thrill-seeking, teens have a higher capacity to log long hours in front of a computer screen without experiencing burnout. Additionally, teens act based on emotional impulses rather than logical planning. These traits combined make the adolescent brain especially vulnerable to addiction.  Pornography addiction during adolescence is particularly troubling because of the way neuron pathways in the brain form during this period. The circuitry in the brain undergoes an explosion of growth followed by a rapid pruning of neuron pathways between ages 10 and 13. Wilson describes this as the “use it or lose it” period of a teen's development. 

“We restrict our options—without realizing how critical our choices were during our final, pubescent, neuronal growth spurt,” Wilson wrote. “...This is one reason why polls asking teens how Internet porn use is affecting them are unlikely to reveal the extent of porn's effects. Kids who have never masturbated without porn have no idea how it is affecting them.”

Teens are left without an understanding of normal sexual behavior because they have been repeatedly exposed to the superstimuli of constant novelty and constant searching provided by Internet pornography. 

Lasting Effects of Internet Pornography Addiction at an Early Age

The very components that define Internet pornography—isolation, voyeurism, multiplicity, variety—also explain why online porn is more addictive and damaging than the pornography of yesterday. “There was a time when people looked at pornography in print magazines and some [viewers] were specifically drawn to it more than others,” psychotherapist Alexandra Katehakis told The Fix. “Then, over time, there was video pornography and that grabbed the brain differently than print did. Now, internet pornography is so powerful that it is literally rewiring the brains of men.” 

Young viewers are unintentionally training their bodies to become aroused by the unique conditions provided by internet pornography, explained Katehakis, who is also a certified sex addiction therapist and clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles. “What happens is when these neuronal networks start to fire together, they become wired together,” she said. “With internet porn, the images are so incredibly powerful and visceral that it is shocking to the system and a person gets a massive dose of dopamine...over time, they need more and more [dopamine]."

While most of those who identify as having a pornography addiction are male, females are also susceptible and can experience lasting damage as well, Katehakis said. 

The same principles apply—sexual response is wired to what was learned by watching porn. For females, this can distort perceptions of validation, pleasure and their role in sex. “Parents need to have conversations with their kids,” Katehakis added. “They need to talk about what is the purpose of sex, what is the meaning of sex and why people have sex.” Without those conversations, teens move into adulthood without real knowledge of healthy relationships. “Later in life there may be intimacy problems, the inability to connect with another human being and the inability to maintain a long-term monogamous relationship,” she said.

Seeking Help for Pornography Addiction

The stigma surrounding pornography addiction—many treatment centers do not yet recognize it—leads many of the afflicted to feel isolated and depressed which can heighten the need for the feel-good response triggered by the addiction itself. 

The simplest treatment may also be the hardest. “The most important thing to do is to stop looking at it,” Katehakis said. “For the young men we've treated, they literally have to go on a porn diet for three to five months to get an erection again.”

“Also, stopping looking at images isn't enough,” she continued. “Often a person can find himself still looking at images in his head. Some people can look at [pornography] like some people can have a glass of wine and not have another, while other people can really never look at it again.”

Centers which treat sex addiction will often also treat pornography addiction, although the two are very different: pornography involves pixels and not another human being.

“The main thing that the general population needs to understand is that [pornography] can really become a bon-a-fide addiction and to not underestimate the potential impact of this on a teen's life,” Bulkley said. Teens who are addicted to online pornography may show symptoms such as increased time spent in isolation, increased time spent viewing technological devices, changes in attitude or behavior such as hypersexual language or dress and decreased focus in school and other activities. 

Counselors at the Youth Pornography Addiction Center in Utah help teens reset their thinking by uncovering the underlying issues that existed before or were aggravated by the addiction. "An addiction is a coping mechanism,” Bulkley explained. “Rather than solving the problem, they turn to this temporary escape.” Helping teens create an action plan to identify problems and how to overcome urges is one formula used for outpatient counseling at Bulkley's center.

For more intensive treatment, the center also has a wilderness program where teens “detox” from not only technology and internet pornography, but also from the highly sexualized images that are prevalent everywhere from bus bench advertisements to cosmetic product packaging. 

However, as with many things, problems can be averted early on by having conversations with your family, Bulkley said. “Parents need to understand, like it or not, kids are going to be exposed to pornography...You can do everything you can to protect them, but with the sexualization of our culture and the ease of access, it's not if, it's when.”

“It's about having an ongoing conversation with your kids,” Bulkley continued, “and it really has to be an early discussion and ongoing dialogue that continues through their growing-up years.”

Sarah Peters has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Daily Pilot and the California Health Report. This is her first story for The Fix.

http://www.thefix.com/content/youth-and-pornography-addiction

 

65,000+ Reddit users flock to forum founded by atheist to quit pornography, masturbation

Thou Shall Not FapJuly 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com by John Jalsevac) – They’re called “fapstronauts”: men and women who, for whatever reason, have signed up to take the “ultimate challenge” and conquer the urge to masturbate (“fap” in Internet slang) and/or use porn, whether it be for a certain, set period of time, or permanently. And joining their ranks is quickly becoming one of the hottest new trends on the social media site Reddit.

The growing phenomenon recently captured the attention of New York Magazine and Nerve.com, and currently the leadership is in serious talks with Hollywood A-lister Joseph Gordon Levitt, whose anti-porn film Don Jon is being released later this year, to have him come on the site for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session (UPDATE: This has since fallen through). Meanwhile, a short film highlighting the negative effects of porn and/or excessive masturbation is in the works on Kickstarter.

Already there are over 65,000 fapstronauts, with hundreds more joining by the day. These modern warriors against sexual temptation have gathered together under the roof of a dedicated “sub-Reddit” (/r/NoFap), where members can request publicly viewable badges (operated on the honor system) that track how many consecutive days of “fapstinence” they’ve clocked in, share their favorite tips on how to resist the urge, encourage newcomers by describing the benefits of a life of Spartan-like self-discipline, and seek solace and encouragement to get up and dust off when they fall back into old habits. 

The rules are few and simple: read the disclaimer (participants take a noFap challenge “at their own risk”); be respectful; don’t post pornography or links to the same; be sensitive in describing the details of your sex life in deference to the more easily “triggered”; and finally, only mention religion when it directly relates to your motivation to take up the NoFap challenge. 

The unlikely beginnings of NoFap: founded by an atheist

The last rule surprises a lot of people, says Alexander Rhodes, the unlikely founder of the forum, and along with it a burgeoning anti-porn social movement (although he readily admits that the general idea of quitting masturbating for a period of time online long predated the creation of the forum). Most people naturally assume that any group that takes a negative view of porn, let alone masturbation, must have close ties to the Christian/conservative social right. But Rhodes can confidently assure them that this is not the case: he himself is an atheist.  

While it might seem odd that an atheist is leading a crusade against “fapping,” the first thing that Rhodes explained in an interview with LifeSiteNews is that that’s exactly not what he’s doing. While he acknowledges there are plenty of noFap members who might disagree (and they’re welcome to their opinion) he believes masturbation can be healthy in moderation. Porn, on the other hand, he takes a darker view of.

Like a large number of (arguably most) young men his age, the 23-year-old Rhodes grew up on porn, which he discovered online at an early age. While admitting that he’s unsure if the smut is to blame, he describes himself, without elaborating, as having been a “hyper-sexual” adolescent. When he eventually became sexually involved with real women, he says he found the sex shallow and unfulfilling, and, in time, he began suffering from delayed ejaculation (the inability to orgasm during normal sex with a real life partner - an increasingly common complaint amongst heavy porn users).

That all changed one day in June of 2011. That’s when a thread about a study that found that men who don’t masturbate for 7 days experience a 45.7% increase in testosterone levels hit the front page of a popular forum on Reddit, sparking intense discussion. The conclusions of the study appealed to the budding biologist (Rhodes recently finished a B.S. degree in the science), and after several Redditors floated the possibility of founding a NoFap forum, Rhodes took the initiative and did so, “in the 23rd hour of June 20, 2011” (in the somewhat dramatic wording of a brief history of the forum penned by Rhodes).

The rest, as they say, is history. In the beginning NoFap ran weekly and monthly NoFap challenges for a small handful of devotees. But as the numbers of fapstronauts rapidly grew, the administrators hit on the idea of the badge system, and now forum members have the freedom to set their own challenges based upon their own personal goals.

“Superpowers” for fapstronauts

But what’s the point of it all? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Rhodes prides himself on the diversity of NoFap’s membership, ranging from atheists like himself to die-hard fundamentalist Christians. “I think that nofap may be the most supportive community on the Internet,” he says. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Regardless of who you are or what your goals are, the members of nofap will try to support you and genuinely care for you and try to push you to succeed.” Even the aforementioned rule about religion isn’t meant to discourage religious fapstronauts, who are more than welcome to discuss their beliefs when relevant, but simply to reduce heated and tangential religious debates that detract from the core goal of NoFap.

It’s the dedication to the core goal, says Rhodes, that unites all the users: that shared commitment to quitting porn and masturbation for some higher cause, whatever that might be. And those higher causes can vary dramatically from user to user. For some - the extreme cases - it’s quite simply a question of “do or die.” As Rhodes describes it, “they’ve never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend and they sit in their basements all the time looking at porn and masturbating and they never go outside and they don’t have jobs.” 

For others it’s as simple as the novelty of seeing if they can do it, or, somewhat controversially, the belief that abstaining from masturbation will give them the confidence they need to “get laid” with a real-life partner (A common theme on NoFap is the back-and-forth exchange between those who complain about the “get laid” crowd, and those who complain about the complainers, arguing that there’s no “bad” reason to take up a NoFap challenge). For most, the motivations fall somewhere in between: a desire to take control of their sexuality, or to make better use of their time, or to enhance their personal relationships, or to follow the teachings of their religion, or all of the above. 

By all accounts, for most people it works. Many users even tout what they call the “superpowers” they acquired during a successful NoFap challenge. These include (but are not limited to): dramatic increases in social confidence, energy levels, concentration levels, mental acuity, motivation, self-esteem, emotional stability, happiness, sexual prowess, and attractiveness to the opposite sex. A surprising number of users also express relief that they no longer feel “creepy” when they meet or see girls on the street, and that they are less likely to discover sexual subtexts in totally innocent conversations or situations. Some credit NoFap with literally saving their lives after years of crushing guilt, failed attempts to reform, and hopelessness. 

Some do experience such dramatic results, admits Rhodes. But he is careful not to promise anything at all to fledgling fapstronauts. For him, the benefits were well worth it, but didn’t amount to anything like “superpowers.” The most noticeable effect was an almost immediate cure for his delayed ejaculation. On top of that, he experienced elevated motivation, and, perhaps most importantly, a significantly greater sense of intimacy in his real-life romantic relationships. Some others, he says, don't experience any benefits at all. 

As a scientist, Rhodes is hesitant to speculate about why he or other fapstronauts might experience any positive effects, explaining that what he and the other moderators are really holding out for is a large controlled study into the phenomenon by a well-known university. In his explanations he’s more comfortable using the language of evolutionary biology than philosophy or theology, and he promptly sends new fapstronauts to Youtube to check out the neuro-chemistry-based TedX talk, “Your Brain on Porn.” However, when pressed on why he thinks NoFap has enhanced his romantic relationships, he reluctantly responds. 

“As for me personally, it’s just a relationship is so much more than…it’s really hard to put into words. A relationship is so much more than sex, because sex….By taking away masturbation you are relying on your partner,” he says hesitantly. “I just felt a stronger bond, a stronger attachment. Like an infatuation, like a schoolboy crush. It just does something. 

“I’m not really sure what it is. You’re devoting yourself completely to your significant other instead of random pixilated girls on the internet who you've never met. It’s about enhancing your meaningful relationship, instead of establishing five-minute relationships with virtual girls online.” 

He then lapses into silence, and adds: “I don’t really know why. It’s science.” 

NoFap will “save the world”

Not all of NoFap's leadership team is equally circumspect. One of Rhodes’ fellow forum moderators - who, because of the amount of deeply personal information available on the forum, prefers to be known simply by his Reddit user name, FaplessAndFancyFree (“FAFF,” for brevity’s sake) - has more definite ideas about why NoFap is changing people’s lives.

(Read the complete interview with FAFF here: Can a Reddit forum change the world? This Catholic, and recovering porn addict, thinks so)

FAFF describes himself as NoFap’s “resident Catholic/conservative weirdsmobile,” and is as quick to cite (from memory) specific passages from the Catholic Catechism and Thomas Aquinas as Rhodes is to speak about evolutionary psychology.  But despite being surrounded with all the wealth of Catholic theology, including Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, from an early age, FAFF says he found himself in the same humiliating position as his atheist colleague: obsessed to the point of addiction with pornography and masturbation.

Ironically, he stumbled on NoFap the same way many other users do – while searching for porn to use for masturbating. What he found amazed him, and revolutionized his life: a group of mostly atheist and agnostic Reddit users who, without ever reading a lick of Catholic theology, were independently discovering, simply through personal experience, everything that he had learned from years of reading the writings of the Church. 

“They were -- often without realizing it -- reaching in the direction of sexual truths that I recognized from my catechism,” he says. “But they hadn't read this stuff in a catechism, hadn't been taught it from a pulpit or an NFP class or their parents. They were discovering it (slowly, in pieces) by having lived through it.  They were stunned by what they were finding, which went against what they'd been taught.  And they were no less stunned to discover, all of a sudden, that they were not alone in feeling this way.”  

But the thing that struck FAFF the most, was quite simply what he describes as the “joy” of NoFap users, “the joy of people who have just heard the good news of freedom from pornography for the first time.” This contrasted with what he had experienced in many religious-based sex addiction recovery programs, which he says tended to be too full of guilt and “self-flagellation” for “joy to take root.” While he wouldn’t necessarily recommend sending a Catholic teen with a porn problem to NoFap, due to some of the uncouth material and more bizarre ideas in circulation on the forum, he says that it proved to be exactly what he needed to get a handle on his problem. 

“I found the spirit of NoFap very attractive -- holy, in its violent and sometimes graceless way -- and their hope and joy proved a little infectious,” he says. “So, every time I felt the urge to read some erotica, I went there instead and dispensed advice and encouragement.” In time, the moderators of the community noticed their new highly active member, and invited him to join them in moderating the forum. The result, he says, has been “a time of unparalleled success in my long battle to learn chastity.” 

Much of the power of NoFap, says FAFF, is precisely its secular nature – the fact that, without ever even explicitly mentioning morality or ethics, its users are discovering profound moral truths, and making them available in an unthreatening manner to others who are deeply hurting and in need of those truths, but who might not be willing to listen if those same truths were told them by their local pastor. 

“NoFap does not impose,” he explains. “Officially, it does not even propose -- the mod team is scrupulous about keeping our Official Seal of Approval off any particular version of the program.  There is a lot of debate, but no doctrines.  We simply provide a space for thousands of young men and women to tell their stories, and then we invite readers to ask themselves: does any of this sound familiar to me?  NoFap does not cite the authority of revelation or philosophy or history or science.  Our sole authority is one's own experience, and, though that authority has a hard time reaching the clean, universally applicable conclusions we find in, say, the Summa Contra Gentiles, it's also the hardest authority in the world to impeach.” 

Which immediately brings to mind a famous quote from C.S. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, about the renowned Christian apologist's own failed and miserable youthful experiments with illicit sexual pleasure: “What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing," he wrote. "You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it.” 

At the same time, FAFF admits that NoFap, on its own, isn’t necessarily enough. As a Catholic, he says, he feels that he has been given an advantage over many of his fellow users. While they are left to fall back on their own willpower and resources, he knows that he of himself cannot possibly win the fight for sexual purity, and that ultimately it is an operation of gratuitous Grace. “One of the great cruelties of secular humanism is its suggestion that a person can shape himself into anything he wants simply by putting his mind to it,” he says. “NoFap is a great help for the 99% of the process that is simply putting your mind to it, but sometimes it misses that last 1% that has to come from somewhere else.” 

"I know I can't resist this temptation all on my own.  I am not in control of it.  Without help from some factor outside my control -- I recognize it as grace, others may call it good luck -- I will fail."

But for all of NoFap's flaws, FAFF can barely contain his enthusiasm for what the forum is accomplishing. “I think this movement is (slowly) going to change the world,” he says, with what might seem like a hint of hyperbole. But when pressed on the point he stands by his declaration, and explains:

“As more and more people experience the terrible effects of pornography on their communities, their families, and their spirits, arguments about science and scripture and philosophy and sex are going to continue, as they always have.  But lived experience bypasses the porn industry's stranglehold on academic sexology, skips right past teleological arguments about genitalia.  

“In the end, NoFap changes the world without ever winning an argument or even taking a position on anything.  We change the world just by asking the right questions.”

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/65000-reddit-users-flock-to-forum-found...

A Compelling Argument for Changing Your Porn Viewing Habits, by James Fell

hand on a computer mouseQuestion: When you read about Nike using child labor, did you stop buying their shoes? When you heard about how Wal-Mart pays some of the lowest wages in the U.S., and that they use nefarious business practices to put the competition out of business, did you cease shopping there? (Link to Original article)

Or what about McDonalds? They’ve been in the news recently about abhorrent working conditions. Will it stop you from quenching your McNugget thirst?

What about the building collapse in Bangladesh? Did you start checking labels to ensure you didn’t buy clothes made there?

I’m sure you’re a good person. You don’t think companies should be treating their workers so poorly. But if you continue to support these companies with a portion of your paycheck, then you’re helping to perpetuate the problems.

Welcome to cognitive dissonance: the stress that results from having your actions be in conflict with your beliefs.

And the solution to cognitive dissonance is often self-justification. It is a bit of mental gymnastics you use to diminish your responsibility, providing you with excuses to keep on doing what you do.

Wow. That whole intro was a serious downer, wasn’t it?

We humans excel at justifying our own behaviors. Now before you go thinking I’m some kind of guilt-tripping prince of guy who never does anything wrong, I have bought Nike, shopped at Wal-Mart, eaten Big Macs, and not cared where my clothes were made. Also, speed limits are for other people.

Now, let’s talk about porn.

Why? Why is fitness author James Fell talking to you about porn? Because it’s a health issue, and this is a health website. I wrote about how to find and keep a girlfriend already, and that was popular, so let’s see if we can drive some clicks.

By the way, I’m going to try and keep things kind of PG-13 here just in case my kids end up reading this. As an added bonus, perhaps you’ll feel more comfortable sharing it with someone who needs to read it.

So, I suppose I should tell you a bit about my history with porn. Never in my life have I watched it. Not once. Also, I can hold my breath for 15 minutes, I am Elvis’ love child, and I can fly.

It’s pervasive. After perusing a number of studies the data reveal that 70-80% of all men watch porn on a regular basis. Plenty of women like it too.

I’m writing this piece because a friend of mine posted a video entitled “Why I stopped watching porn” on Facebook, and a lengthy, contentious argument took place in the comments section. I witnessed plenty of butt-hurt; since we’re discussing porn here I should qualify that it was of the figurative variety.

The argument focused on the moral aspect of porn watching. Just like shopping at Wal-Mart, eating McDonalds, or running in Nikes, you’re supporting an industry that mistreats people. There is a dark, dirty and awful side to pornography production that sometimes involves rape, sexual slavery, abuse … I’m harshing up your next viewing session, aren’t I?

Eh, probably not. Sure, you love women and think they should be treated as equals and not abused or mistreated or objectified, but … cognitive dissonance! Enter: self-justification. Everyone else is doing it. The stuff is already out there. I only watch nice porn. I’m not into that rapey stuff.

Guilt-tripping to cease porn consumption has been around ever since that first photographer took an old-timey black and white photo of a naked lady. God is watching every time you touch yourself, and He is judging you. That’s someone’s daughter/sister/mother. It objectifies women. She’s on drugs. She’s faking it.

And it falls on deaf ears. I don’t expect any of these arguments to convince you to change your viewing habits. That’s why I used the words “compelling argument” in the title of this post; I’m choosing a different tack.

But what can compel you? The answer could be: self-interest.

I will repeat: this is about health. We’ve already established that you can justify your way out of caring about the health of the performers, just as you can not care about the child laborers who made your T-shirt, but what about your health? What if I could show you that there can be direct, negative consequences associated with certain porn viewing habits? Would it convince you to change them?

And I’m focusing on the word “change” and not “cease” because I’m realistic. I’m not asking you to desist all porn watching. I mean, if you want to stop completely after reading this, go big. But it’s sort of like alcohol: For most, I think it’s more realistic to focus on a path of moderation and limitation; an occasional indulgence that doesn’t create negative consequences in the rest of your life.

First, the Big Picture

Porn usage has a tendency to escalate towards more extreme versions. When I was a young teen, Playboy bunnies with a hint of pubic hair showing was awesome. Then one of my friends stole a Penthouse from his older brother, and that was even better. Then HOLY CRAP HUSTLER LOOK AT THAT!

Then, movies. Then, harder movies. Then … you get the idea. We build up a tolerance for the lighter stuff, and we seek something more extreme. After a while, you’re favorite stuff is watching redacted slamming redacted into redacted while redacted and she redacted then he redacted all over redacted.

Compare that to what happens in real life.

Say you’re an average guy with an average personality and an average income. Ergo, the myth perpetuated by pick-up artists of beautiful nymphomaniacs lining up to copulate with you ain’t happening.

Instead, you have an average girlfriend. Her sexual interests are fairly mainstream, and you have a happy sex life, because traditional sex with a real live woman is usually light years better than being alone with an Internet connection, no matter what’s happening on the other end of your high-speed wireless.

(Note: I’m referencing male-female relationships as my example because I’m a heterosexual male and this is what I know. I don’t judge anyone based on gender or orientation. Whatever floats your boat.)

But what happens when, after the initial thrill of your relationship wears off, you start to wonder why she doesn’t look like those implanted, perfectly made up, half-starved Barbies in the videos you watch? Female porn actors are known to engage in things like labiaplasty, bleaching of certain orifices and waxing to achieve some kind of camera-friendly ideal. How do you think your girlfriend feels about being compared to that? How does it make you feel when you make the comparison? And what about the fact that she’s uninterested in doing any of that “redacted” stuff? Will it make you bitter?

But what if you don’t have a girlfriend? Should you just go big on the porn usage?

Well, probably not. Because, one day, you may get that girlfriend you’re after. And she may become your wife, and those porn habits you developed when you were single might not be so good for your relationship.

Like I said, this is just the big picture. Now it’s time for …

The Science of How Porn Affects Your Brain

I’m going to encapsulate the work of the folks at www.YourBrainOnPorn.com as succinctly as possible. If you want more information on the subject, I suggest you check out their site. Here is some telling information from their About page:

This site is secular, although everyone’s views are welcome. It is primarily science-based, and no one here is trying to ban porn. This is not a commercial site, so don’t go looking for something to buy. You won’t find it.

The brain-on-porn is not a religious organization trying to guilt trip you. As I pointed out at the beginning of this piece, guilt isn’t going to help you change. This entire article is about helping you change by appealing to your self-interest, and Your Brain On Porn is about the science of how porn negatively affects you.

Okay, here are the basics:

  • Put a rat in a cage and give him a female to mate with, and he’ll go at her until he’s tired of that particular female.
  • Give him new females, however, and all of sudden he’s in rampant fornication mode again. You can keep giving him novel female subjects until he’s completely drained.
  • Humans aren’t that different, where novel mates compel us much more than a previous mate.
  • Each new mate creates a rush of dopamine. But reward circuitry in the brain generates less and less dopamine with the current female, and to get a bigger rush of dopamine again – something our brains are hardwired to seek – we need a new female.
  • Internet porn is especially problematic because novel females are easily accessed via a single click. At least when I was a teen you had to fast-forward the VHS tape for a while if you were bored with the scene you were watching.
  • It’s not just new females that Internet porn compels us to seek out, but new situations. Regular old missionary isn’t doing it for you any longer. You thirst for something even more novel. Hence, more extreme. Hence, redacted.

And here are some of the potential consequences.

First, you become desensitized to normal stimulation. The seeking of more extreme types of pornographic material makes it so that’s what you need to get your rush. And by “rush” I mean achieve erection and ejaculation.

Sure, it doesn’t happen overnight, but over years you may find that girlfriend less and less enticing because your porn-viewing habits have changed your brain so that she just doesn’t do it for you any more. That erectile dysfunction isn’t because of anything below the waist or even below the neck. It’s because you’ve trained your brain to seek supra-normal stimuli that practically doesn’t exist in the real world or in real relationships.

It can also lead to “hypofrontality,” which is an eroding of willpower. You have a decreased ability to control impulses and poorer decision-making abilities. Now we’re going beyond negative relationship consequences, this can be bad for how you conduct your entire life.

Your Brain on Porn alleges that you can become addicted it. Just like with food, I doubt that porn meets the full criteria to qualify as a true addiction. Nevertheless, it can be compelling, and breaking the habit is often challenging. If you need some added motivation to try, read this article to learn more about all the potential negative consequences associated with Internet porn.

Why Less is More

Again, I’m not trying to convince you to quit entirely, because I just don’t see that as realistic in most cases. If you’re a young man, chances are you watch the stuff pretty regularly, and maybe this article speaks to you about your viewing habits. Maybe you recognize some of the details provided as affecting your own life. Or maybe everything is just peachy. But if you’ve read this far, perhaps it is because deep down, you think there could be a problem.

Or maybe not. But just because there isn’t a problem today doesn’t mean there might not be a problem one day. I personally am a big fan of long-term relationships with one person. Heavy porn usage is not conducive to such a relationship being sexually satisfying. Probably. I’d much rather have no (or much less) porn and a great sex life than lots of porn and a mediocre or poor sex life.

So, ease off there young fella. Or old fella. Or woman.

You are not a rat. You do not have a rat’s limited cognitive capabilities. You have a highly developed brain. You can decide to retrain it. How? Well, here are a lot of details. But it basically boils down to: “take a break.”

Just stop for a while with watching it. Give your brain a chance to “reboot.” Again, I’m not trying to purge it from your life 100%, although if it has it’s hooks in you deep you may find that you need to go completely without if you find future viewing rapidly takes you back down the rabbit hole.

But after you feel like you’ve gone through a reboot, then what? Well, like I said, you can still use it as an occasional indulgence, but with a newfound understanding of the dangers it can pose, and how to use it “wisely.” There is a big difference between a couple of beers on the weekend and lining up tequila shots at the bar every night. So it also is with porn.

And yes, I know this flies in the face of the guilt-inducing abolitionist approach because porn actors are often mistreated. We already established that such an argument isn’t going to convince many people, so I’m focusing on self-interest and feasibility here. The side benefit is that if everyone dramatically cuts their porn usage, the industry will wither. It allows for less harm.

If you decide to go back to it after your reboot, use it with caution. Understand how it can lead to more extreme viewing. Decide to select just a single scene that is more in line with something that might actually happen in real life. A.K.A. 80s porn.

I’m only partially kidding about that last part.

If you take a break for a month or two and then use it infrequently, watching tamer stuff – and even watching the same scene more than once – can be plenty of stimulation. It’s when you become a frequent user and permit yourself to taste the full, sometimes horrific rainbow of what the naked Internet has to offer that it leads to problems.

So make the decision not to go down that road again. Keep your porn “a couple of beer on the weekend” instead of “daily tequila shots.”

And reap benefits.

Benefits? What Benefits?

Well, you’re probably going to be hornier for a real woman, and that’s a good thing.

If you’re single, it can get you out of the house. It can motivate you to go find someone to spend time with; someone who likes touching your fun stuff. Want some advice on that? Here’s my find and keep a girlfriend article again.

And if you already have a girlfriend – or a wife – it can improve your sex life with her, because you want to improve it. If you’re not continually sated via porn, and more importantly, if you’re brain is no longer programmed to rely on porn for sexual stimulation and release, then you’re going to be more willing to put some effort into your relationship, because your desire for a real person is higher.

I’m not talking about constantly pawing at her and begging for sex because you’re not jerking off nearly so much. I’m talking about treating her in such a way, both outside and inside the bedroom, that makes her want more sex and want to please you more, because you’re doing things that please her.

This is worth the effort, because while some may read things like “80s porn” and “mainstream” in reference to sexual interests as boring or lame, you need to go through a reality check. The first part is that all the wild stuff you’re seeing on your computer likely is never going to happen for you anyway, so all you’re giving up is a fantasy. And what you’re gaining goes far beyond the physical, and into developing a mental and emotional connection with someone else.

Sex is a lot more than just in and out. It’s tickling and talking and laughing and cuddling. It’s showers together and winks and smiles and comments like “I have plans for you later” that enhance blood flow better than Viagra.

And unlike what happens after you slam the laptop shut, real sex is something that can leave you with a lasting glow of happiness and satisfaction.

Link to Original article by James Fell - Follow James on Facebook and Twitter.

An Open Letter on Porn (John Gottman)

Pornography in relationships has been an issue for a long time. Even today, professional recommendations on how to manage the use of pornography still vary widely. I attended one workshop in a couples therapy conference that recommended to merely accept porn use, especially by men, as natural and harmless. While this may be an extreme view, many clinicians have suggested that if a couple uses pornography as a stimulus for intimacy, or if they both agree to read or view pornographic materials together, then porn use is fine. In fact, many professionals have thought it might increase relationship connection and intimacy. In the Bringing Baby Home new parents workshop, we initially took this view since our research had demonstrated that, after a baby arrives, relationship intimacy decreases and measures were needed to strengthen intimate sexual connection.

Recently however, research on the effects of pornography use, especially one person frequently viewing pornographic images online, shows that pornography can hurt a couple’s relationship. The effect may be true, in part, because pornography can be a “supernormal stimulus” (see Supernormal Stimuli by Deirdre Barrett). Nikko Tinbergen, a Nobel Prize winning ethologist, described a supernormal stimulus as a stimulus that evokes a much larger response than one that has evolutionary significance. One effect of a supernormal stimulus is that interest wanes in normal stimuli. Tinbergen studied male stickleback fish who would naturally attack a rival male that entered their territory during mating season. He created an oval object with a very red belly, more intensely red than the natural fish. The fish fiercely attacked the mock up and subsequently lost interest in attacking its real male rival. Now the supernormal stimulus evoked a reaction, but not the normal stimulus.

Pornography may be just such a supernormal stimulus. With pornography use, much more of a normal stimulus may eventually be needed to achieve the response a supernormal stimulus evokes. In contrast, ordinary levels of the stimulus are no longer interesting. This may be how normal sex becomes much less interesting for porn users. The data supports this conclusion. In fact, use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.

There are many other factors about porn use that can threaten a relationship’s intimacy. First, intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people.  But when one person becomes accustomed to masturbating to porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse (see Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski). This is unrealistic as well. Research has revealed that genital engorgement leads to a desire for sex only 10% of the time in women and 59% of the time in men. Fourth, some porn users rationalize that pornography is ok if it does not involve partnered sexual acts and instead relies only on masturbation. While this may accomplish orgasm the relationship goal of intimate connection is still confounded and ultimately lost.

Worse still, many porn sites include violence toward women, the antithesis of intimate connection. Porn use can become an actual addiction with the same brain mechanism activated in other behavioral addictions, like gambling (see Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson). Pornography can also lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs outside the relationship. Many porn sites now offer an escalation of sexual activity beyond simply viewing porn that includes actually having sex with other individuals. Finally, the support of porn use is reinforcing an industry that abuses the actors employed to create the pornography (see The Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges).  

We applaud major media outlets like Time Magazine that have joined the anti-pornography movement. Their April cover story titled Porn and the Threat to Virility dives into how modern men who grew up watching porn as children and teenagers have started a movement against it, hoping to shed light on the sexual material’s power to harm Americans.

In summary, we are led to unconditionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our readers around the world to understand what is at stake.

Original article

An in-depth look at porn addiction by projectknow.com

By its very design, online pornography is meant to be highly titillating to visitors. It's easy to understand why internet porn poses a significant risk of addiction: it induces a state of hyper-stimulation, provides constant novelty, is highly accessible, costs nothing, and can be used in the privacy of one's home. Online porn is so stimulating, it can make existing sexual relationships seem inadequate in comparison, and the quality of porn addicts' relationships - and lives - may suffer as a result. Visit progectknow.com for the full article and infographic

A community support group on Reddit.com, known as NoFap, has begun to push back against their own addictions by voluntarily abstaining from porn use. These participants recognize that porn use has become a problem in their lives and, together, they're making an effort to regain a sense of normalcy and control over their addictions. Here, we'll explore the demographics of these users, the consequences porn addiction has had for them, and their experiences with giving up porn.

The highly addictive elements of online porn

What makes net porn different?

Internet porn has several aspects that distinguish it it from other pornography as well as other addictive substances. Unlike porn in other media, net porn doesn't come in physical formats that must be acquired (and concealed), carry a high cost of ownership, and offer little in the way of variety before becoming "stale". Online porn is potentially endless, and often free – users are not limited to whichever magazines or DVDs they can afford. And unlike addictive drugs, for instance, most internet porn is fully legal to view. The barriers to accessing net porn anytime, anywhere, are largely nonexistent: it's always just a click away.

The internet is ubiquitous, its contents on-demand, making it the perfect medium for the porn industry. It has also demolished any social barrier of having to purchase porn in-person from a shop or adult store – internet porn allows its viewers to remain safely anonymous (or as anonymous as anyone can be online) in the comfort of their own homes. WebMD reports that an astounding 420 MILLION web pages contain pornographic material. YouPorn.com, the second-largest porn site on the web, receives 100 million page views a day, and serves 4,000 VIDEOS a second during its peak hours. This one site receives an astounding 2% of the internet’s total traffic.

Our novelty-seeking sex drive

Male sexual response follows a well-established pattern known as the Coolidge effect. As demonstrated in rats and other animals, a male will enthusiastically have sex with a female he's been newly placed with – but before long, he'll become accustomed to her, and less interested in sex. However, if she's replaced with a new female, the process restarts, and the male will once again be just as enthusiastic about having sex with her as he had been with his previous mate.

This is a novelty-seeking behavior: a new female mate is largely more stimulating and exciting than mates that the male has been with before. The effect is so pronounced that, with new females, the post-sex refractory period of males is substantially reduced - allowing them to have more sex, more frequently. While this effect is most prominent in males, it's also been observed in females to a lesser extent. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/doing-what-you-evolved-to-do)

How these elements combine

The features of internet porn are perfectly poised to take advantage of the Coolidge effect. Were it not for this novelty-seeking effect, net porn viewers would settle on the first few scenes they enjoyed, and never seek out anything else. But this isn't the pattern that's observed, as indicated by the continuing boom in the online porn business. Porn viewers have the opportunity to browse through as much new porn - “new mates” - as they wish, for as long as they wish. This provides a constant source of novelty.

This pattern of response to porn has been scientifically proven. In one study, sexual response steadily decreased as men were shown the same adult film 18 times in a row, but their arousal once again peaked as they were shown a new film the 19th time around. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/doing-what-you-evolved-to-do) With the vast amount of porn online, and all of the different niches available, viewers will never run out of novel porn, and this state of heightened sexual response can be maintained indefinitely. This phenomenon, where modern technologies take advantage of our evolutionary tendencies in an exaggerated way, is known as a supernormal stimulus, or “superstimulus”. It is the kind of overwhelming stimulus that the human mind simply did not evolve to cope with – just as unnaturally sweet foods drive us to keep eating unhealthy amounts of them. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/garys-research-intense-sweetness-surpasses-cocaine)

The endless stimulus of porn has a real impact. Today, 42% of male college students report that they regularly visit porn sites, one in five feel controlled by their own sexual desires, and 12% of them spend 5 or more hours watching internet porn every week.

Its impact on sexual behavior and relationships

Like any addictive stimulus, continued use of net porn appears to induce a degree of tolerance and desensitization. This heightened state of arousal becomes normal - a new baseline. Acquiring the same “high” now requires more effort. This further perpetuates the cycle of seeking out new porn, and the addiction is real: using internet porn is the single strongest predictor of compulsive internet use. It’s more addicting than any game or social website, striking right at the heart of one of our evolutionary imperatives.

The behavior of porn users precisely matches the predictions of the Coolidge effect. Against this desire for novelty, traditional monogamous relationships with a single partner often cannot compete. This normal stimulus, a single mate, is not enough for someone who's used to the constant novelty of online porn. Just as with the rats, porn users can experience delayed ejaculation, as well as a selective impotence – one that occurs while with their partner, even when this is not an issue for them when viewing porn. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/dr-oz-show-addresess-porn-induced-ed) Even their porn use may become less satisfying to them, no matter how frequently they use it, often leading to more fetishistic or deviant porn content. Their addiction leaves them unable to stop, and all of this can greatly compromise their relationships as well as their enjoyment of sex. (http://yourbrainonporn.com/doing-what-you-evolved-to-do

Reddit's NoFap community and their goals

Why NoFap?

The Reddit community NoFap is a support group for users who have chosen to abstain from masturbating – what they describe as “the ultimate challenge”. The users of NoFap now number over 73,000, with 4,000 joining in the past month alone - over 140 each day. These users have given up masturbation for a variety of reasons, including:

  • They believe their masturbation is causing undesirable psychological effects, such as depression and social anxiety  
  • They feel it’s sabotaging their chances of finding a partner
  • They feel masturbation is compromising the quality of sex in their current relationship
  • They feel their masturbation or porn use represents an undesirable lack of self control

Cooperatively, NoFap users aim to fight back against the ill effects of internet porn addiction.

NoFap is not a religious or moralistic movement, and the NoFap board specifically prohibits posting material pertaining to religion. Rather than being devout, NoFap exists as a community outpost which stands in contrast to the prevailing attitude of wider culture: that porn use is normal and healthy.

NoFap as a support method

The NoFap board largely functions as a support group for its participants. Given the difficulty of resisting innate sexual urges, as well as sharing a common struggle with giving up porn, this community support is crucial to helping its visitors be successful in their attempts. Many who post are newcomers, and they are celebrated and welcomed with open arms. Others post of their struggles with relapsing and tales of how masturbation has caused problems for them. Still more share their success stories of how forgoing masturbation has improved their enjoyment of their lives.

The attitude of NoFap users is largely one of sympathy: these are all users sharing in the same experience and struggle, and they know how difficult it can be. Support and camaraderie are the prevailing atmosphere on NoFap. It is also completely voluntary: NoFap users participate of their own initiative, without trying to recruit others to abstain from porn.

Speaking the language of NoFap

NoFap users have developed their own jargon to describe their shared experiences of abstaining from porn. Their new vocabulary includes: (http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/wiki/index#wiki_glossary)

  • Fapping - the act of masturbation.  
  • Fapstronaut/Femstronaut - a male or female NoFap participant.
  • PMO - “porn, masturbation, orgasm”, the ongoing cycle of porn use that NoFap seeks to escape.
  • Death grip (male)/Death schlick (female) - excessive physical stimulation during porn use, potentially causing a decrease in sensitivity.
  • The surge - a peak in energy and sex drive that occurs after 1 – 2 weeks of abstaining from masturbation
  • Flatlining - a period of almost-absent libido that occurs after 2 – 6 weeks of abstinence.
  • Chaser effect - an urge to masturbate that occurs 1 – 3 days after having sex.
  • Reboot - the quoted amount of time it takes for the brain to return to normal after abstaining from porn, about 2-4 months.

NoFap users also vary in their goals: while some aim to retrain themselves to focus on sex with a partner, others believe that breaking their addiction requires abstaining from any sexual release in any context. It's common for NoFap users to keep a running total of how many days they've avoided masturbating, listed next to their usernames.

Who are the Fapstronauts

In response to a 2012 survey, 603 NoFap participants provided their demographic information, reasons for participating, perspective on porn use, and their sex lives before and after the NoFap program.

The demographics of NoFap

The NoFap userbase is overwhelmingly male - 90% are straight men. Most Fapstronauts are in their teen years or early 20s: 58% are aged 20-29, and a further 31% are aged 13-19. Remarkable as it is, nearly one third of users are teenagers, already struggling with the effects of porn addiction. Only 11% of users are in their 30s or older - porn addiction is largely a problem of youth.

The sexual habits and symptoms of porn addicts

Most NoFap users are either between relationships, or have never been in a relationship: 75% are currently single, and almost 50% have never had sex in their lives. Fapstronauts report becoming regular porn users at a surprisingly young age. 53% developed a regular porn habit during age 12-14, and a further 16% started before they were 12 - their problem often begins before they’re even out of middle school.

A majority, 59%, spend a remarkable 4-15 hours per week on porn, while another 24% spend 1-3 hours a week. 64% report that their tastes in porn have become more extreme or deviant - and among them, about half are ashamed of this. Most notably, an early start predicts a worse porn habit in the long term. Fapstronauts who started watching porn before age 10 were 3 times more likely than others to masturbate four or more times a day.  

The most common sexual symptoms experienced by NoFap users include erectile dysfunction, decreased sensitivity and pleasure, disinterest in sex, and difficulty reaching orgasm during sex with a partner. Among 27-31 year olds on NoFap, 19% suffer from premature ejaculation, 25% are disinterested in sex with their partner, and 31% have difficulty reaching orgasm. 34% experience erectile dysfunction, and 37% have decreased sexual sensitivity. Sexual dysfunction is the norm on this community; only 27% of Fapstronauts have never experienced any of these symptoms as a result of their porn addiction.

Not all Fapstronauts consider themselves addicts, and those who do have rather different experiences with porn. Among those who do see themselves as addicted, 72% watch over 4 hours of porn weekly; only 40% of non-addicts do. While 42% of addicts masturbate twice or more daily, this falls to 20% among those who don’t feel they have an addiction. And although 40% of addicts report that their porn preferences have become more deviant and extreme, a mere 20% of non-addicts say the same. Many Fapstronauts are clearly aware that the extent and severity of their habit has become a serious problem.

The reboot: Detoxing from net porn

When Fapstronauts give up porn, they often have similar experiences with their recovery. 35% say that they clearly experienced a “surge” of energy and sexual drive about 1 - 2 weeks after quitting porn, while a mere 31% said they didn’t feel this at all. And a further 30% report the “flatlining” of their libido during the 2 - 6 week period - the downward adjustment of their sex drive to a normal level after an extended period of porn-induced overstimulation.

Most experienced a notable reduction in their sexual symptoms of porn use - 60% of them felt their sexual dysfunctions had improved due to following the NoFap program. And their recovery wasn’t limited to sex. 56% of self-reported addicts became more willing to flirt with women, and 60% of Fapstronauts overall felt that they had gained a better knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses. 67% even had an increase in their energy levels, as well as their productivity. For these former porn users, giving up this habit seemed to free them to accomplish more with their time and energy, and their lives improved as a result.

Recovery is possible

Internet porn is, in many ways, the perfect trap for the human sex drive, feeding its viewers as much instant stimulation as they can handle and making them hungry for more. For today’s generation of young adults, porn use has become an accepted norm - but it may not be as innocuous as most people believe. Porn has a dark side for many of its viewers, an impact measured in countless hours spent in front of a screen, widespread sexual dysfunction, and an overall lack of fulfillment.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As shown by a community that’s taken the initiative in recognizing their problematic porn habits, this need not be a lifelong addiction. Not only are an increasing number of people choosing to quit using porn - they’re proving that they’re better off for it, in their relationships, their happiness, and their personal success. Porn isn’t the only option here, and as our intrepid Fapstronauts demonstrate, recovery can be the greatest pleasure of all.

Survey Data:;

  1. http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/updy4/rnofap_survey_data_complete_datasets
  2. http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/porn-novelty-and-the-coolidge-effect
  3. http://men.webmd.com/features/is-pornography-addictive
  4. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/123929-just-how-big-are-porn-sites/2
  5. http://www.covenanteyes.com/2009/11/24/why-are-so-many-christians-addicted-to-porn/
  6. http://www.nofap.in/glossary/
  7. http://stattit.com/r/nofap/
  8. http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/wiki/faq#Benefits
  9. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2428861/Porn-addicts-brain-activity-alcoholics-drug-addicts.html

Andrew Sullivan on "The Great Porn Experiment"

Andrew Sullivan's logoFrom Technology vs Writing And Thinking

... Reading this and watching this riveting Tedx talk on the impact of online porn on young male brains – essentially numbing them to actual sex with real human beings and creating an epidemic of young men with floppy dicks (I refuse to use the term “erectile dysfunction” when simpler English can do) – has woken me up a bit.

Writing and editing and producing 50 posts a day – and doing something very similar almost every day since Bill Clinton was president – must be affecting my brain. It’s not as powerful as the effect on the younger, developing brain, but, yes, skittishness, dissatisfaction, and constant stress have doubtless changed my entire mindset. And I can see the point about online porn making physical sex more difficult – especially if you spent your most formative sexual adolescence under the spell of constant, dizzying varieties of sexual imagery and video. How can one woman or one man even begin to replace that cornucopia of dopamine?

Our brains were designed to be turned on. But not this often, this instantly, this pleasurably and without any consequences at all. Once again, our frontal cortex is getting way ahead of our primate DNA. And the Tower of Babel grows ever taller.


From Being Master Of Your Own Domain, Ctd - In this post Sullivan quotes several guys involved in the NoFap movement:

First guy

... The NoFap “movement” is much more about Internet porn than it is about fapping, whether the participants are aware of this or not.  It’s not that frequent masturbating in itself is detrimental to sexual performance; it’s that frequent masturbation to online pornography is detrimental to sexual performance.  For the first time in human history, a male can view more sexually arousing females in one hour than our ancestors did in a lifetime.  The ubiquitous nature of Internet porn has provided a level of sexual novelty that our brains have not evolved to handle.  The key here is dopamine and the brain’s reward circuitry.  It’s one thing if you masturbate to mental images.  It’s another if you just look at porn.  Combine the two to orgasm, day after day, and you will have very real, very detrimental consequences to sexual performance. And once you do this for years on end, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain boner-levels of dopamine when you’re with just one, 3-dimensional woman.

There is an epidemic of younger guys who are struggling with erectile dysfunction, seemingly due to the over consumption of Internet porn. Check out Gary Wilson explaining the problem in his TEDx talk [above].  So you get this group of guys who can’t get aroused by a real girl (or guy), maybe throw in some other issues such as depression and social anxiety, and due the psychological and social aspects of masturbation, they misinterpret cause-and-effect and quite “fapping” when they should be quitting porn.

Another confesses:

I can’t even maintain an erection in a condom anymore, and during sex often think about the porn scene I watched the previous (or that same) day.  Refraining from porn, deleting our downloaded collections, is an attempt to get some control back in our lives.

Another:

... I can tell you from experience – as a 33-year-old gay man who’s been on Viagra for seven years, who was given my first tablet from a 30-year-old man who was dependent on them, who has a handful of straight and gay friends who “can’t stay hard with condoms”, who knows guys who fight ED in their early 20s, and knows guys who can only come if it’s on someone’s face – there’s something happening to young men these days.

A lot of guys find the forum from the website yourbrainonporn.com. It features Gary Wilson’s TedX talk “The Great Porn Experiment” and Philip Zimbardo’s “The Demise of Guys”. It’s compelling stuff; the idea that Internet porn is not your father’s Playboy collection, that our brains aren’t equipped to handle what we’re putting them through, and the effects of tying dopamine reception to internet porn daily, for years at a time.

I encourage you guys to check out the site. It’s an interesting subject, and it deserves better than what New York magazine and Gawker gave it.

At Its Core, We Kind Of Surprisingly Support The No-Masturbation Movement

guy and computerBy
Wait, wait, wait: Before you light your Internet on fire, we don't mean we are anti actual masturbation. No one loves you quite like yourself, of course. But we do think that there is an interesting point to be examined in the "anti-masturbation movement," which is currently being discussed by websites such as Reddit or Andrew Sullivan.

Okay, here's a deep (and maybe uncomfortable for some) section of the Web — on Reddit, there is a new movement called the "NoFap" forum. (For those of us who aren't quite exposed to the wonders of the darkest corners of the Internet, "fap" is a colloquial term for masturbation.) The idea of abstaining has very little to do with morality or purity, but instead points out how, with the information superhighway, any type of sexuality, performance, kink, or taste can be easily accessed and catered to, without a moment's hesitation. Which, according to science, might be a problem when it comes to being a happy person. 

According to the TED talk given by Gary Wilson, the absolute onslaught of Internet porn means that the basic brain is being rewired. He says, "With Internet porn a guy can see more hot babes in 10 minutes than his ancestors would see in several lifetimes. The problem is, he's got a hunter-gatherer brain. A heavy-user's brain rewires itself to this genetic bonanza, so it carefully becomes associated with this 'porn harem.'" Which isn't exactly great for the brain.

Wilson points out that Internet porn and real sex are vastly, vastly different. In particular, in porn, body parts are segmented and disembodied, and the quick, fast-forward-rewind nature of watching Net porn doesn't prepare one for, say, intimacy or considering a person beyond just their naughty bits. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, according to a Dutch study called "Predicting Compulsive Internet Use: It's All About Sex," of all the activities on the Internet, porn is the most addictive. This is because our brains have evolved to treat sex, companionship, and food as rewards — which means "hot, novel babes" feels like a real treat. That "treat," in the form of dopamine, can literally promote "binging and craving," like, well, like an addict. (Whatever happened to a good, old-fashioned fantasy?)

As a reader writes in to Andrew Sullivan says, "I can’t even maintain an erection in a condom anymore, and during sex often think about the porn scene I watched the previous (or that same) day." Which is why the, erm, "NoFap" participants have decided to voluntarily give up watching Internet porn. The same reader concludes, "Refraining from porn, deleting our downloaded collections, is an attempt to get some control back in our lives."So, from our understanding, this isn't about being "anti-masturbation" — it is more about limiting the stimuli and intensity of the information those of us consume when they decide to engage in a little self love. And this awareness — plus the idea that a lot of porn promotes unrealistic ideas about sex — is an experiment that makes a bit of sense. Too much of a good thing is, well, never good at all. (Andrew Sullivan

CBC Radio - Winnipeg Interviews Gary

porn userCanada is considering requiring Internet providers to filter porn content. Radio host Marcy Markusa and Gary discuss the unique aspects of today's Internet porn.

Listen to 8-minute interview

Carson Bench interviews Gary on Community Connections

kskq logoWondering what effect today's highspeed Internet porn is having on heavy users?

Carson Bench interviews Gary on Community Connections

Could You Give Up Porn For 90 Days? (Esquire - UK)

Porn screen"... Increasing numbers of men who have reached their early twenties having grown up on this diet of unlimited porn are reporting some draw backs, including a decreased interest in “real” sex, an inability to ejaculate during it and – worst of all for most – erectile dysfunction. ... None of these fears about pornography are new. The difference is that they’re not being voiced by a Mary Whitehouse figure or the Church. They’re coming from young men themselves. From us."

Article: "No single vice causes so much mental and physical debility,” began a section of a popular home medical guide published in 1921, “than masturbation. It impairs the intellect, weakens the memory, debases the mind, ruins the nervous system and destroys body, mind and soul."

Its author, Isaac D Johnson, wasn’t saying anything particularly new. At the turn of the 20th century, moral panic about masturbation was so widespread, everyone from the Boy Scouts of America to Kellogg’s – who sold Cornflakes on the basis they were a “non-stimulating” dietary option for adolescent boys – was telling young men to keep their hands out of their pants.

Believing it to cause everything from acne to depravity, the anti-masturbation movement saw the creation in 1876 of such devices as the “Stephenson Spermatic Truss”, a metal cage that fitted like a pair of boxer shorts and made an erection physically impossible (or at least, extremely painful).

Like something from a Game of Thrones torture scene, there was even, in 1903, the development of an electrified version that would frazzle your penis like a fly if it dared venture upwards.

Then came a couple of world wars, and fears for young men shifted from whether they were pulling the chicken, beating the bishop or indeed spanking the monkey to whether they would be killed overseas.

The sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies also left the Church and other self-appointed moral arbitrators, at least in the West, with far bigger enemies to battle than the humble tug – pre-marital sex, the pill and a softening of attitudes towards homosexuals to name just a few.

By the Eighties and Nineties, masturbation was viewed – and taught in schools – as being a healthy part of human sexuality. The war on jerking off was over, and boys and men of all ages could relax.

Until now. In 2014, a new kind of anti-masturbation movement is beginning to stir across the US and Europe. Thousands of young men are again starting to believe that wanking is bad for them, and they’re voluntarily opting to quit.

They don’t consider it immoral. They don’t think it’ll drive them insane. Instead they’re hopeful it will empower them to have more and better sex. And the reason is a desire to escape what has become utterly intrinsic to masturbation in the internet age: free, unlimited, high-speed hard-core pornography.

For most men, our earliest memories of porn are a source of amusing nostalgia. The Penthouse found under your dad’s bed. Freeze-framing Basic Instinct to get a better peek between Sharon Stone’s legs. Staying up late to watch Eurotrash with the sound down.

For me, now a 29-year-old, it was my friends at school circulating a floppy disc containing images of Geri from the Spice Girls’ early glamour modelling days, downloaded via the painfully slow 56k dial modems we’d just begun to acquire.

My generation were on the very cusp of the internet age, when access was still restricted to a shared family computer and PornHub, RedTube and the rest were still just a twinkle in some Californian entrepreneurs’ eyes.

But here’s the thing about the generation of 10-13 year old boys who came just after me – those born after, say, 1992 – and all 10-13 year old boys since: chances are any one of them can see more naked women on their phone in 10 minutes than most grown men in history saw in their entire lifetimes.

They can also, of course, see women performing acts most men in history would never have dreamt up, let alone witnessed. And unsurprisingly, in overwhelming numbers, this is precisely what they choose do.

The government, slowly waking up to the issue, issued a cross-party report in 2012 that revealed one in three boys of this age had viewed explicit material online, with four out of five becoming regular uses by the time they were 16.

One reaction to this is a sort of generational jealousy, like looking at PlayStations and iPads and ruefully remembering you had to make do with a Commodore 64.

But increasing numbers of men who have reached their early twenties having grown up on this diet of unlimited porn are reporting some draw backs, including a decreased interest in “real” sex, an inability to ejaculate during it and – worst of all for most – erectile dysfunction.

At the same time, the young women they’re sleeping with are reporting their own problems, chiefly unrealistic expectations for things like anal sex, facials and general “porn star” behaviour: pressure to look and perform in ways they’re often not comfortable with.

None of these fears about pornography are new. The difference is that they’re not being voiced by a Mary Whitehouse figure or the Church. They’re coming from young men themselves. From us.

On 16 May 2012, a video of a Ted Talk called “The Great Porn Experiment” was placed on YouTube, and has been watched two-and-half-million times since. In it, a retired physiology teacher called Gary Wilson claims: “The widespread use of internet porn is one of the fastest moving global experiments every conducted.”

His argument is that we don’t know what happens to young men when they can watch an unlimited amount of pornography – both in terms of volume and variety – before they’ve had any kind of real-life sexual experience, because it has no precedent in history. Only now are the “guinea pigs” of the internet era reaching the age where they can tell us.

One of the biggest places they’re gathering to do so is on an online community hosted on the popular social media website Reddit, called “NoFap” (“fap” is an American term for masturbating).

NoFap is an online support group and resource for anyone jaded by their porn use. It sets a challenge of giving up internet porn and masturbating altogether for 90 days (for the internet generation, one barely exists without the other, and any attempt to masturbate will almost inevitably lead to watching porn).

During this period of abstinence, users say, men can expect to first “flat line” – where their interest in sex vanishes almost altogether – then begin to experience “superpowers”, which include everything from a greater interest in the opposite sex and improved self-confidence to more energy and alertness in everyday life.

By internet standards, NoFap is an incredibly positive and earnest place to hang out. The users, of which there are now more than 100,000, post updates on their progress, share their difficulties and ask for help when they fear a “relapse” is imminent.

The language they use is steeped in both self-help jargon and amateur-psychology – “Porn has made people like puppies and this place is like reclaiming back our lionhood. Bravo lions,” reads one comment, “Our dopamine receptors start healing, our sensitivity is coming back,” claims another. (With such a rapturous following, NoFap is sometimes accused of being like a cult.)

But buried beneath all the cheerleading and posturing are some genuinely upsetting and often quite touching anecdotes from young men who believe porn is bad for them, usually in two ways: the amount of time it takes up – often several hours at a time, usually late at night – and the nature of the material they are viewing.

One member I speak to, Will, is a 25-year-old risk analyst from the UK. He explains how, growing up, he found himself attracted to “big women”, a predilection that escalated thanks to his internet use.

“I found myself gravitating towards the darker side of that particular fetish – things like force-feeding and men being ‘squashed’,” he explains. “There are videos online of porn actresses who are so overweight they can barely walk. The thought of these women being so large turned me on.” He adds: “Afterwards, I felt incredibly guilty. Being so big you can't walk more than a few yards? There's no enjoyment in that life.”

Will’s story is typical of those you read on NoFap, where young men claim to have “graduated” over the years from looking up naked pictures or vanilla videos to extreme or niche tastes.

Another YouTube video that has become required viewing in NoFap circles is of a Ted talk by an annoyingly young and handsome Israeli gender studies student called Ran Gavrieli, who sets out to explain why he decided to quit.

“I stopped watching porn because it brought anger and violence into my sexual fantasies that were not there originally,” he begins. “What porn is showing us 80–90 per cent of the time is sex with no hands involved. No touching, no caressing, no kissing. Porn cameras have no interest in sensual activities. They are only into penetration. This is not how we authentically desire.

“Before porn, I used to fantasise about a scenario in which I would meet a woman, what I would say to her and what she would say to me. But porn conquered my mind. I lost my ability to imagine. […] I found myself closing my eyes trying to masturbate, trying desperately to think about something human and not making it, because my mind was bombarded with all those images of women being violated.”

The reaction in the comments below the video is a typical mix of gratitude and support and dismissive anger (“clueless pawn of the femino-christian mindset”), though with more than 2.4 million views and strong endorsements throughout the NoFap community, it’s an experience that is clearly hitting a nerve. The question now confronting the scientific community is why exactly this modern phenomenon is occurring. Could evolutionary biology be to blame?

Dr Thaddeus Birchard is an expert in psychosexual therapy and the founder of the UK's first sex addiction treatment programme at the Marylebone Centre. From his office in central London, lined with hundreds of books on human sexuality (and a copy of JK Rowling’s <The Casual Vacancy>, presumably as light relief from all the Freud), he treats men with all forms of sexual addiction, including internet pornography.

“The human brain craves novelty,” he explains, with the soft-spoken but assertive tone people in his current profession (and his previous one in the pastoral ministry) require. “That’s why couples have sex when they go away for the weekend, when they’ve not had sex for months. And you get endless novelty on the internet.”

Birchard likens it to playing a slot machine (the mental state of a sex addict is highly comparable to that of a gambling addict). "You go on internet porn and you don't know when you are going to get the hit. You could look at a dozen pictures or videos, and suddenly there is a hit. Or look at a hundred, and there isn't."

This quest for new experience explains why heavy porn users eventually explore fresh versions of what has aroused them in the past – and online, "fresh" usually means "more extreme". What makes it even more powerful is that during sex, solo or otherwise, we're programmed not to think about whether we'll regret what we're doing later.

To help me understand what happens to the human brain while watching porn, he draws a rough outline of a head on a large sheet of paper. He sketches the limbic system – the bit that processes our impulses; and the frontal cortex – the bit we need to override those impulses with rational thought.

Porn appeals to the former, and his job, in a pitiful oversimplification, is to help people get better at using the latter. (By the end, my own head feels it has been scribbled in, but I gratefully take the sketch and fold it into my pocket.)

“Arousal shuts down our capacity to think about consequences,” Birchard  says. “It’s designed to do that. Mother Nature intends for you to maximise your DNA, and you do that by frequent ejaculation in as many places as possible. It’s a literal shutting down, so you stop thinking about your wife, or going to work in the morning at seven, and stay on the internet until four in the morning.”

Even still, the amount of time internet porn takes up or how much men regret the nature of what they look at isn’t the real problem for most of the young men on NoFap. The real problem is how it affects their behaviour with women.

Alexander Rhodes launched NoFap as a bit of joke a few years ago, but now takes the task of helping men quit pornography very seriously. A 24-year-old web developer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he views pornography as his generation’s version of cigarettes — something harmful and addictive that we’re learning the consequences of in retrospect.

His own story, which he discusses openly, exemplifies what really horrifies the young guys who have followed him into abstinence. While many of the NoFap community are clearly social misfits who, whether it is placebo or otherwise, have found quitting porn has given them the confidence to approach women for the first time, others are more like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in Don Jon, his film on the topic of porn addiction – normal guys who bag hot girls (well, perhaps not quite as hot as Scarlett Johansson, but that’s Hollywood) and then find they prefer porn to what’s waiting for them in bed.

Like almost every man of his generation, Alex started looking for porn around 11 and by the time he was 19 “was watching the highest-resolution and most extreme stuff available.” Specifically, this meant “Gang-bangs and many other niches of hard-core porn. I liked watching women be degraded.”

“For years I was never able to orgasm from sex – I had to masturbate myself to orgasm with my partners, often while fantasising about porn,” he continues. “There was no focus on the actual beautiful woman in front of me – it was strictly a race to orgasm. Although I would consider myself a good boyfriend outside of the bedroom, I simply detached and depersonalised my partners as tools to achieve orgasm.

“My mind completely separated emotion, empathy, intimacy, love, affection, and all other virtues from sex. And my expectations made my partners feel objectified, used, and ‘not enough’”.

Rhodes – like risk analyst Will and most of the men I spoke to through NoFap – says his porn use did not just cause the end of his relationship, but ruined his enjoyment of sex altogether.

These are all men who have not yet reached their late twenties.

Despite all the depressing accounts of relationships ruined and sex drives scuppered, the dominant message that emerges from NoFap and similar male-led anti-porn websites is actually positive. More than anything, they want to talk about how quitting porn has turned their lives around.

These are the excitable declarations that make up most of the forum posts – men reaching new milestones in abstinence and wanting to brag about it, in the nicest possible way.

They range from seemingly plausible claims to a reinvigorated mojo and greater vigour, energy and alertness, to frankly daftly assertions like “my posture is better” and “my immune system has gone through the roof”.

Key to this message is the belief, shared by NoFap and yourbrainonporn.com, the website run by Gary Wilson, that by quitting men can “reset” their brains and return their sexuality to “normal” levels, diminishing the appetites artificially encouraged by heavy porn use.

This is something there is very little scientific consensus about, partly because case studies are only just beginning to emerge.

Dr Birchard, for one, is dubious that abstinence alone can work. “I think [NoFap] is a simplification of the work that we do,” he says. “Twelve step programs suggest a celibacy or abstinence contract as a temporary measure, really just to help you realise you’re not going to die if you stop doing the thing you’re addicted to.

In my experience, some people find it helpful, some people don’t, but it’s rarely enough to solve a deeper rooted problem on its own.”

Nor does he subscribe to the idea upheld in NoFap that certain porn viewing habits – watching gay porn when you’re straight, for example – can be the result of novelty seeking and “too much porn” alone.

“It could be someone has a sliver in their sexual template of, say, an interest in transsexual people, but because they can look at lots of pictures of transsexual people, they will find it being reinforced. But I don’t believe any sexual tastes come from nowhere,” he says.

Some NoFap users would vehemently disagree, but for Dr Birchard as well as their other critics there’s a smack of American puritanism to it all, a mind-set that still sees desire – particularly certain types of desire – as sinful, and in his words, “presents a value system in pseudo-scientific language.”

And yet NoFap and its associated groups claim to be secular. As Rhodes puts it: “I encourage people to have tons of awesome pre-marital sex – how is that possibly religious? Or anti-sex?”

Could it be that the scientific community simply doesn’t understand the scale of what young men are dealing with, something that, according to yourbrainonporn.com is “about as comparable to the porn older men grew up with as today’s computer games are to playing chequers”?

Mark Queppet, the founder of scheme linked to NoFap called the “Sacred Sexuality Project”, believes so. “I’m continually disappointed in sex therapists,” he tells me. “They seem to be largely ignorant of how high-speed internet pornography has the ability to affect our brains.”

A shaven-headed 24-year-old from Massachusetts who recovered from his own porn addiction and now works as a life coach, Queppet has a world-weary air and a self-possessed manner unusual for his age (he is a Christian, but like Rhodes, insists it doesn’t inform his project, despite its name).

In discussing his work and aims, he makes one particularly sad observation: “Today people use porn as a mood modifier,” he says. “If you are feeling bored, anxious, lonely, angry, sad or have any other negative emotion, you can turn some porn on and instantly escape from that discomfort.”

In other words, men are not seeking out porn when they’re happy and horny and in need of some relief, but using it to anesthetise themselves from the emotional ups and downs that come with being young.

According to psychology, the male sexual template is set between the ages of seven and nine, before being activated in adolescence. It is during these tender years that a lifetime of sexual tastes and expectations are set.

Whenever I discuss internet porn with men of my own age, a familiar sense of having "dodged a bullet" always emerges: a quiet gratitude that we grew up in the final years of the pre-internet age, when we’d discreetly scan the shelves of Blockbuster for a film with "sex/nudity: strong" on the spine and flick hastily through the Sunday Sport desperate to see a pair of breasts.

Gratitude, more importantly, that by the time internet porn arrived, we had already clumsily navigated being alone and naked with a woman for the first time, stunned with wonder rather than dumbstruck with disappointment.

Original article by Sam Parker

 

Do You Need A Sexual Reboot?

"The Guardian reported on research that suggests porn addicts experience brain changes similar to drug addicts."

Sometimes studies and research can bring amazing news to light — like how beer actually has some health benefits — but other times, they can dispel ideas we've held as truth for years.

For example, there are several misconceptions about masturbation and, unfortunately, many of the positive assumptions have inaccurate foundations. Masturbation doesn't necessarily help your sex life or ward off prostate cancer, and there is such a thing as too much of it. Just like most things in life, it’s possible to do something to an excess, and it can become detrimental to your health.

Consequences of Excess

If you spend too much time masturbating, you might start experiencing some not-easily-recognizable side effects. For example, your testosterone levels may be lower, which means that when you’re out at a bar, you’ll be less likely to approach women. You also might find it harder to reach orgasm with your partner (which is a little more noticeable).

If you suspect your frequency of masturbation may be having a negative influence on your life, it’s important to look into what these effects may be and what you can do about them. Even if you consider yourself an addict, there are ways to cut back and help alleviate your problems.

The Science of Addiction

The Guardian reported on research that suggests porn addicts experience brain changes similar to drug addicts. The study, done by Cambridge University neuropsychiatrist Dr. Valerie Voon, also found that porn addiction can actually cause an alteration of sexual tastes.

In the pleasure center of the brain, dopamine is released when goals are accomplished. It’s also released when someone is sexually excited or sees something sexually novel. Because pornography is full of novel sexual “partners,” it fires the reward center of the brain.

Changes in the brain can occur after repeated mental experiences; when dopamine is released while watching porn, the images get reinforced, which can change sexual taste. Porn allows the viewers to experience “sex” without having to go through the work of courting someone, so there’s no work to accomplish the goal usually associated with dopamine release.

Meet the Fapstronauts

A group of people on Reddit are striving to meet their personal goals, whether they’re cutting back on masturbation or eliminating porn from their lives. More than 75,000 people subscribe to the subreddit (a specific sub-page of the site) called /r/NoFap (“fap” meaning “masturbation”) where they offer each other support and share their advice on how to give up masturbation, porn or both.

Check out the ProjectKnow infographic about the NoFap survey's findings.

A survey of 1,500 /r/NoFap participants reveals interesting insights about the subreddit's users and their experiences. For example, 90% of respondents are men, and 69% started watching porn before age 14. Before taking on /r/NoFap-related goals, 59% of respondents watched porn for four to 15 hours a week.

The Cycle of Rebooting

A large number of subscribers “reboot” in order to break out of their typical masturbation or porn-viewing routines. Rebooting involves between two to four months of abstinence from masturbation and porn in order to “reset” the way you think about sex.

Many of the survey respondents experienced similar effects while in the process of rebooting. For example, 35% said they went through “the surge,” which involves an increase in energy and sex drive about one to two weeks after the person stops masturbating.

Another common occurrence is “flatlining,” which involves a temporary and dramatic decrease of libido. About 30% of respondents experienced this two to six weeks into their abstinence from masturbation. This stage can be alarming as most people don’t want to lose their sex drives altogether. But others have found flatlining meaningful.

Reddit user “nowboarding” posted in /r/NoFap about his flatlining experience and said: “Flatlining has actually turned out to be a godsend for me… It tells me I’m doing something right. For the first time since I started masturbating, I feel like I’m on top of my sexual arousal in non-sexual situations!”

Rebooting Benefits

So when /r/nofap participants accomplish whatever particular goals they set for themselves, what is the result? Why is it all worth it? For starters, 60% of survey respondents said they experienced improvements in their sexual disfunction, while 67% reported increased levels in their overall productivity and energy.

Their social and personal lives benefited, too. Sixty percent said they developed a better understanding of what their strengths and weaknesses were. Of the addicts who took the survey, 56% were more willing to talk to women. 

If your habits regarding porn or masturbation are negatively affecting your life, it may be time to explore ways to reduce your participation in those activities — you may find yourself healthier and reinvigorated.

ProjectKnow.com is a resource site for learning about addiction, and a service to connect those suffering from addictions and other compulsive disorders to treatment providers. Part of the goal of ProjectKnow is to create compelling content that helps to generate awareness around addictions of many types.

Original article

Does internet porn ruin relationships? Or is it another way for couples to try new things in the bedroom? (Daily Mail-UK)

Porn is spiraling in popularity - but do we truly know the consequences it could have on our relationships? Curious husbands looking at sexual fantasy videos online have often been the cause of many painful divorces and break-ups.

But research has also found pornography increases sexual knowledge and makes people more open-minded about trying different things in the bedroom.

Sam Carr, lecturer in education from the University of Bath, says it's all a matter of perspective.

The world of internet pornography is a pervasive and wide reaching technology, growing at a breathtaking rate. It is a $13 billion-a-year industry in the US. 

Nine out of 10 boys in America are exposed to it before the age of 18, and men are 543 per cent more likely to be users than women. 

By 2017, over a quarter of a billion people will use mobile porn sites worldwide.

With such an enormous audience, it is not possible to make generalisations about whether internet pornography is good or bad. 

Clearly, it's a matter of perspective. Reviews have linked pornography consumption with positive effects such as increased sexual knowledge and more liberal sexual attitudes. 

But how does it shape our intimate relationships?

British Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed concern that internet pornography could be warping ideas about sex and relationships, and scientific evidence in this area tends to support his view. 

Links between pornography consumption and intimate relationship problems (although data typically refer to heterosexual, monogamous relationships) are well established.

Pornography consumption has been associated with increased marital distress, risk of separation, decreased romantic intimacy and sexual satisfaction, a higher chance of infidelity, and compulsive or addictive sexual behaviour. 

However, this does not automatically imply that internet pornography causes relational difficulties. 

Pornography consumption may equally be caused by them.

But if consumption does dampen romantic intimacy then it will be important to understand how. 

Harvard Psychology Professor Deirdre Barrett has suggested that internet pornography is a version of what scientists call a 'supernormal stimulus'. 

That is, an artificial exaggeration of the environmental factors from which we have naturally evolved to become sexually aroused.

Instinctive behaviour across a range of species can be hijacked when researchers create supernormal versions of normal stimuli. 

For example, while a female bird's natural instinct is to nurture her small, speckled eggs, she will abandon them when presented with the option of larger, more heavily patterned artificial exaggerations of her eggs. 

Over time, she will lose interest completely in the normal eggs, as though her instinct towards them has been overridden by the supernormal ones.

In a similar (but more complex) way, internet pornography offers users a supernormal sexual experience. 

On one level, they become aroused by watching supernormal bodies having supernormal sex. 

On another level, they become accustomed to selecting these supernormal, virtual experiences from seemingly infinite options and have the possibility to refine, replay, pause, and rewind these virtual sexual experiences at will.

A major concern for sex and relationship therapists and researchers is that real people's responses to real sex can indeed be dampened by overexposure to virtual sex. 

In his TED Talk, The Great Porn Experiment, Gary Wilson discusses arguments and evidence in support of porn induced erectile dysfunction. 

He highlights issues such as a numbed pleasure response and addictive craving for 'hits' of pornographic material in heavy users.

The ways in which family life can be affected by these issues can be very powerful, too. A paper by sex therapist, Paula Hall, outlines the following typical case.

Tim was a 36-year-old man, married with two children aged one and three. 

He initially presented with erectile dysfunction but detailed assessment revealed that he had no problems with erections to pornography which he was now accessing most evenings for three or four hours at a time.

He was very aware that his pornography use was getting in the way of him having sex with his wife and realised he'd got himself into a Catch 22. 

Watching increasingly hard-core porn was making him feel numb when having sex with his wife, but because sex with his wife was now so difficult, he was watching even more porn. 

In fact, the only times he could get an erection with his wife now was if he fantasised about porn which left him feeling guilty and distant from her.

Dampened responses to normal sex can result in intense feelings of guilt for users when sex with their partner isn't as arousing as supernormal sex. 

There can also be attempts by users to make normal sex supernormal, either through fantasy or by manipulating reality.

Studies have also documented a deep rooted breakdown in trust and attachment, connected to the fact that partners frequently experience pornography consumption as a deceptive form of betrayal and infidelity. 

In the above study, one wife described her husband's use of pornography as indiscriminate, virtual philandering and said that she felt like 'he's had a million affairs'.

Ultimately, as cultural anthropologist, Mizuko Ito, has suggested: 'We have created these technologies but it's not obvious how they evolve in and shape our culture.' 

Paradoxically, as connecting as technology may be, it is vital that we also understand and debate its role in creating and exacerbating disconnection.

 

Don Jon & Your Brain On Porn… Is Porn Making You Bad In Bed? by Alex Allman

The short answer to the question posed in the subject of this article is, “Yes, porn is probably making you bad in bed.”

For about 7 years now I’ve been thinking that the sex apocalypse is coming. And it seems like I’m not the only one who has noticed.

Now a lot of folks are waking up to what’s going on, and it’s becoming more common knowledge that porn is causing erectile dysfunction (and all kinds of other sexual dysfunction) in men. It’s also teaching men how to be bad in bed… but more on that later.

The new movie, “Don Jon”, written, directed, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the first time that porn addiction has made it into popular culture, and I think it’s an important and positive development that, if nothing else, will bring the conversation more into the mainstream. [informal review by guy on Reddit]

In the movie, Jon, a handsome lady’s-man, alpha-male admits that he likes porn better than sex with real women.  After sex, he always sneaks off after the girl has fallen asleep and has another quickie with his laptop.

I started noticing this 7 years ago, when I first sent a newsletter about women who can’t have orgasms during sex, and I got back a tsunami of emails from MALE readers asking if I could write a newsletter for MEN who couldn’t have orgasms during sex.

Just so you understand where I was coming from at the time… I had never even HEARD of men who couldn’t have orgasms during intercourse.  It was virtually unheard of in my generation. Sure, of course, men who couldn’t get erections for sex, I had been talking to them for years with great success.  And, sure, men who came too quickly during sex… I created an entire program for them…

But men who had trouble, or even found it impossible to have orgasms with real women was something new to me, but it wasn’t going to stay new.  3 of my 20-something friends called me up in the following week to ask the same thing.

One of them said he had trouble ejaculating with real women, and 2 said they always had to “finish themselves off” afterwards.  One of them also told me that in 6 years of sexual activity with many partners and 3 long term girlfriends, he had NEVER had intercourse without Viagra.

I recommended a list of things for these guys to try.  Everything I could think of.  One of them was, “maybe you should quit porn.”

Now, years later, the evidence is in and it’s clear:  Porn is re-wiring men’s brains to be bad in bed.

For the record, I enjoy porn as much as the next guy… Which is to say, I find it absolutely irresistible.

As the comedian said: “If you’ve seen one woman naked, you wanna seem them all.”

I have talked to men that don’t like porn and don’t watch it.  They do exist.  But the majority of men simply love looking at lots and lots of naked chicks involved in lots and lots of different sexual acts.  This, of course, turns out to be genetically wired into us.  

I don’t have exact numbers, but it appears that the majority of men who have consumed high-speed-internet porn are like me:  They find porn to be highly enjoyable, highly stress-relieving, highly escapist, and highly addictive.

Because high-speed internet porn didn’t arrive in my life until my late 30s, I was able to notice and track the changes it was making in my life.

I was in a relationship with a beautiful woman, but I would still regularly “binge” on porn, not only at the expense of my sex-drive for my partner, but also at the expense of my work and social engagements.

Perhaps I had more attention on noticing because of what I do for a living:  I was writing a sex advice newsletter… So I started examining what was going on, and I quit.

For men who don’t notice what’s happening, or for men who are young enough to have grown up on ‘net porn, their entire reality and their future ability to forge sexual relationships with women can be stolen without them ever realizing it happened.

Like most men, when Don Jon starts dating his “perfect 10″ woman, he still can’t stop watching his porn.  The fiction chose to ignore the usual facts though… Don Jon has no problems getting hard, he has no problem ejaculating, and the women he is with are sexually impressed with him.

That’s not generally the way it goes in the real world.

Right now there is excellent information out there raising awareness for men about how porn is causing ED (they can’t get hard or stay hard), and excellent information on how to quit porn and regain your libido, and re-wire your brain back to its normal state.  

The most important thought leader in this area is Gary Wilson, whose site, “Your Brain On Porn” is the center of the quitting-your-porn-addiction universe.

If you’re even a little bit interested in the science, the proof, and the results of what’s going on with men (especially young men) and porn, you will absolutely want to watch Gary’s TED talk:

There is an entirely other problem with young men, women, and couples that is also coming from porn… and that’s the massive dis-education about how good sex is done.

Young people learn everything they know about sex from porn with sad results.

As Cindy Gallop said in her 2009 TED talk, “Hardcore porn has become the de facto sex education.”

She talks about her experiences with younger lovers who had been badly educated by porn here:

Unfortunately, while she offers an alternative on her “Make Love, Not Porn” site, I think that in the end, while adding intelligence and a different idea for visual sex, she is also contributing to the library of home-made porn, which is it’s own “amateur” sub-genre.

In other words, I have some fear that she’s created a site that gives men permission to just watch more porn.

The fact is, porn is exquisitely well crafted for visual stimulation.  Unfortunately, that does not equate with what actually works for making each other FEEL great.

While masturbating to porn is a visual activity, sex is only partially a visual activity.  The other 4 senses are intimately involved, chief among them being touch.  And all 5 senses combined don’t make up even half of what fuels GREAT SEX…

Which is the emotional and mental aspects of love making.

I talked about this in one of my weekly videos, and Gary Wilson was kind enough to re-post it on the “Your Brain On Porn” Blog here:  Alex Allman On How To Masturbate

This conversation is really just beginning however.

We don’t know the full extent of the damage, or how much worse it might get.

As I write this I have at least 4 “colleagues” selling programs with porn stars teaching how to have better sex… based on the marketing premise that young people believe that porn stars would be experts on the subject of good sex… A very scary thought…

But damn good marketing, and they are making millions of dollars while men continue to get the wrong information about how to really have a great sex life and great sexual relationships with women.

Is porn the devil?

Nope, I’m sure it’s not.

Should it be censored?

I’m against censorship in general. But I do agree with anti-hate speech laws and I think we just don’t understand this problem well enough yet to have a ready answer. Like guns, I think pornography ought to at least be better controlled… and hopefully in a way that does not present an invasion of privacy for those adults that decide they want to continue to consume porn.

Can some men watch porn without it having a negative impact on their lives?

Probably. There are people who can do cocaine recreationally once in a while without it affecting their lives too. Though it does seem clear that porn has a much higher addiction potential than coke, and it ought to at least be treated with caution by any man.

Don Jon talks about a bunch of reasons for why he prefers porn to real women. He sums it up by saying that he can just “lose himself” with porn. What he never mentions is how EASY it is. How relaxing and calming it is to just let yourself be sexually stimulated without having to worry about judgement. Your computer never judges you for your kinks and proclivities.

There’s probably something important to learn there for lovers wanting to take Julianne Moore’s character’s advice in the movie, when she tells Don Jon that the best sex is when you “lose yourself in another person, and they lose themselves in you.”

The only way THAT KIND OF SEX happens is when you really feel free to be yourself. And that takes something special from your partner.

Using this article to judge your partner or make them wrong for their porn use is probably not going to be helpful in that regard.

Link to original post

Sex Advice For Men, Sex Advice For Women

Entrevista Con Andrés Lomeña Cantos (Spain)

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ANDRÉS LOMEÑA: Algunos problemas sexuales como la disfunción eréctil no responden a motivos psicológicos, sino físicos. El incremento brutal en el consumo de porno habría modificado sensiblemente nuestras respuestas cerebrales al placer. ¿Cómo llegó a esas conclusiones?

GARY WILSON: Es evidente que la disfunción eréctil existe, así que también existen las causas psicológicas de la disfunción eréctil. Sin embargo, la disfunción eréctil por el consumo excesivo de porno en Internet también existe. Sabemos esto porque muchos hombres se recuperan al cabo de un tiempo cuando dejan de ver porno en la red.

Descubrimos esto cuando los hombres empezaban a recuperarse de la disfunción eréctil sin cambiar ninguna otra variable, sólo quitando la pornografía de Internet. ¿Cómo sabíamos que estaba en el cerebro? Había muchos médicos que lo probaron para la disfunción eréctil orgánica; algunos vieron que no era útil el asesoramiento en los episodios de ansiedad.

            El problema no es el clásico episodio de ansiedad porque las personas afectadas podían conseguir erecciones cuando veían porno en la red, pero no cuando se masturbaban sin esos vídeos. Al final, algunos no podían lograr erecciones, ni siquiera con la ayuda del porno en Internet. El episodio de ansiedad se limita a la incapacidad de hacerlo con otra persona.

            Esto se descubrió por un proceso de eliminación. Las únicas opciones que quedaban en los hombres saludables era el condicionamiento sexual y/o la adicción al porno. Había cambios estructurales y biomecánicos en el circuito de recompensas del cerebro.

            Hay más evidencias de que esta condición se da en el cerebro: casi todos los hombres experimentaron síndromes de abstinencia y patrones de recuperación similares. A los hombres les lleva de 2 a 12 meses recuperarse después de haber dejado el porno. Aquellos que empezaron antes con el porno tienden a necesitar más tiempo que quienes empezaron más tarde.

            Los hombres que surgieron en primer lugar se identificaron a sí mismos como adictos. Experimentaron síndromes de abstinencia severos cuando dejaron el porno. La mayoría pasó a materiales más extremos (un signo de un proceso de adicción llamado “tolerancia”).

                                                       

A.L.: ¿Es el efecto Coolidge y su conexión con la pornografía su mayor contribución a este cmapo?

G.W.: Creo que la comprensión de que lo novedoso libera dopamina en el circuito de recompensas del cerebro es importante para el entendimiento de todas las variedades de adicciones de Internet. La estimulación sexual libera más dopamina que cualquier otra recompensa natural. Como resultado, la novedad sexual es especialmente atractiva.

            El porno en Internet puede definirse como un estímulo superior a lo normal por sus novedades sexuales ilimitadas. A diferencia de los mamíferos durante la época de celo, los consumidores pueden ver horas de porno sin activar un mecanismo innato para saciarse. Esto provoca un exceso de consumo crónico casi sin esfuerzo. Mírate esto: Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, 2010, by Deidre Barrett,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernormal_stimulus.

 

A.L.: ¿Cómo define el consumo de porno en su investigación? Lo digo porque el propio porno ha evolucionado en la red. Fabian Thylmann, fundador de sitios como Youporn, Pornhub o Tube8, podría ilustrarnos en este aspecto.

G.W.: El circuito de recompensa no sabe lo que es el “porno”. Sólo entiende de niveles de estimulación. Para una persona algo inocuo puede tener un alto voltaje sexual. Para otro, eso mismo puede causar aversión. Para otro, un material clasificado como X puede no provocarle nada a menos que haya algún fetiche. No hay forma de definir lo que es el porno.

            Cuando la gente “reinicia”, elimina (idealmente) toda excitación artificial para ayudar a reconectar su respuesta con las parejas reales.

            El acceso al porno ha tenido un gran impacto, por no hablar de la estimulación de la novedad “a un click”. Creo que la alta definición, el streaming, la abundancia de porno gratis, los smartphones (los jóvenes pueden obtener privacidad), en definitiva, el acceso ilimitado incrementa el porcentaje de la población en riesgo de desarrollar condicionamientos sexuales no deseados o adicciones. En otras palabras, cuanto más “caliente” es el porno, más fuerte es el estímulo... y más usuarios empiezan a competir con el sexo real en términos de estimulación.

            Los vídeos han tenido mucho más impacto que las imágenes. Con una imagen, el consumidor tiene que continuar usando su imaginación y a menudo verse como protagonista, pero con el vídeo está viendo a gente real hacer cosas reales. No sólo el vídeo le deja en el papel pasivo de voyeur, además condiciona su sexualidad sin ser plenamente consciente.

 

A.L.: Seguro que le han acusado de ser un moralista porque parece que propone la castidad.

G.W.: Sí, las personas me acusan de ser un moralista y de ser religioso, y muchas otras cosas que no son ciertas. No estoy seguro de cómo has llegado a la conclusión de que se propone la “castidad”. Tal y como yo lo veo, trata sobre personas volviendo a un funcionamiento sexual saludable. Los hombres pasan de no tener sexo (disfunción eréctil) o de tener un sexo insatisfactorio (eyaculación tardía, libido baja) a tener relaciones sexuales de nuevo con erecciones normales, deseo sexual normal y mucho más placer.

            Creo que la confusión procede del hecho de que la mayoría de los tíos (especialmente los jóvenes) con disfunción eréctil inducida por el porno tienen que dejar de masturbarse temporalmente. Para muchos, el uso del porno está tan asociado (“conectado”) a la masturbación que ni siquiera pueden masturbarse sin porno o fantasías porno. Eso retrasa la recuperación. La idea es dar a los circuitos relacionados con el porno un descanso mientras el cerebro vuelve a la normalidad para que los estímulos cotidianos lleguen a ser más excitantes. Esto es temporal y una vez que se han recuperado, la gente elige su propio camino.

 

A.L.: ¿Cuál es su disciplina exactamente y quiénes investigan temas similares al suyo?

G.W.: Lo que hago es fundamentalmente neurobiología. Mis ideas no son nuevas. De hecho, ni siquiera son mis ideas. Por ejemplo, en 2011 la American Society of Addiction Medicine (3000 médicos e investigadores sobre adicción) hicieron públicamente una nueva definición de adicción. Dijeron que la adicción es una única enfermedad cerebral, ya sea algo químico o del comportamiento. Todas las adicciones comparten los mismos cambios cerebrales fundamentales, los cuales pueden diagnosticarse por signos, síntomas y comportamientos específicos. Estos médicos mencionaron específicamente la comida y las adicciones del comportamiento sexual. Mira estos enlaces: http://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2011/12/15/the-definition-of-addiction y http://www.asam.org/docs/publicy-policy-statements/20110816_defofaddiction-faqs.pdf?sfvrsn=0

            Desde mi punto de vista, la adicción al porno de Internet es sólo un subconjunto de la adicción a Internet, más que un subconjunto de la adicción al sexo. Ya hay estudios sobre el cerebro de los adictos a Internet, muchos de los cuales incluyen el consumo de porno. Todos muestran los mismos cambios cerebrales relacionados con la adicción vistos en otros tipos de adicciones. Mírate los estudios sobre adicción a Internet.

            En esto me acompañan: Norman Doidge, autor de El cerebro se cambia a sí mismo. Carlo Foresta, jefe del departamento de antropología de Padua o Donald L. Hilton MD, autor de Pornography addiction: a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity.

 

A.L.: ¿Tan importantes son sus diferencias con el psicólogo Philip Zimbardo?

G.W.: Eso es un malentendido. Mi conferencia TED extendía su llamada a la acción para controlar la adicción a las diversas excitaciones. No le contradije, más bien le apoyé. Zimbardo recomienda mi web en su libro y respetamos sus esfuerzos para alertar al mundo de este problema.

 

A.L.: ¿Qué piensa del DSM-V? ¿Debería incluirse la adicción al porno en el manual de trastornos psiquiátricos?

G.W.: Sí, creo que hay una gran evidencia para incluir la adicción a Internet (y de este modo la adicción al porno de Internet) en la sección de adicciones del comportamiento del DSM-V. El DSM-V está siendo demasiado conservador. En parte, esto parece deberse a una falta de voluntad por categorizar cualquier comportamiento sexual como una adicción. Esto puede sonar a política, como ya digo en el artículo Porn and DSM-5: Are Sexual Politics At Play?

            En general, estamos de acuerdo con los National Institutes of Mental Health: los científicos necesitan considerar la psicología de la adicción y del condicionamiento sexual antes que adherirse a la visión del DSM. Lee el artículo sobre el anuncio del NIMH acerca de los fallos del DSM: http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/national-institute-mental-health-nimh-dsm-flawed-and-outdated

 

A.L.: Participará en la revista que van a sacar sobre porn studies?

G.W.: No soy un académico y es muy improbable que el comité de esa revista esté interesado en algo de lo que tengo que decir. Mírate mi artículo: Drumroll: An Academic Journal For Porn Fans.

 

A.L.: ¿Va a publicar un libro de todo esto?

G.W.: No. El fenómeno del porno en Internet y sus efectos en el cerebro de los usuarios va demasiado rápido como para codificarlo en un libro. Todo lo que puedo hacer es actualizar las cosas en mi web. No sólo está cambiando rápidamente la tecnología de transmisión del porno; también lo hace la nueva ciencia del cerebro y del condicionamiento sexual.

            Además, quienes necesitan esta información no necesitan leer libros. Buscan las respuestas en Internet.

 

A.L.: ¿Con qué nos quedamos como conclusión?

G.W.: Lo que suelen ignorar los expertos en porno mainstream es:

1. Las revelaciones de la neurociencia en el cerebro adolescente y sus vulnerabilidades.

2. Las revelaciones de la neurociencia en el condicionamiento sexual (la adicción interrumpe ciertos mecanismos cerebrales).

            Ésta es la información que los jóvenes usuarios del porno (y sus tutores) necesitan comprender cuanto antes. Mira el vídeo de Internet: Adolescent Brain Meets Highspeed Internet Porn.

1 de julio de 2013

Andrés Lomeña

More items in Spanish:

Spanish Translation of YBOP Presentation

¡¡¡Fap, fap, fap!!!

Pornografia online pode se converter em vício e destruir vida afetiva e social

Exploring The Impact of Internet Pornography on The Brain with Gary Wilson (Shrink Rap Radio)

Shrink Rap Radio logoDavid Van Nuys, Ph.D. interviews Gary about internet porn, its effects on adolescents, neuroplasticity, "Don Jon" and more.

Visit "Shrink Rap Radio" for more programs.

Gary's TEDx talk - "The Great Porn Experiment" (2012)

Captions also available for other languages, including 한국의, Chinese, Português, Czech, Deutsch, Estonian, עברית, Hungarian, Italian, Polski, Serbian, Slovak. Vietamese. To see them, click on the 'YouTube' logo to watch on YOUTube. Then, when you get there, click on "CC" for captions (bottom right of screen). Ver YBOP series in Español. Make captions in your own language!

Or use this transcript of "The Great Porn Experiment" to create captions through TED for your own language. Note, one translator said, "The TEDx system is very buggy, unfortunately first draft that I worked on for few hours wasn't saved so I had to start from beginning. The best way to translate is just to upload finished work in srt captions file format."

Empirical support for "The Great Porn Experiment" (2012)

For comprehensive support for the claims presented in each slide see these two pages:

It’s important to note that The Great Porn Experiment was completed and sent to TEDx in December 2011, while the talk was given in March, 2012. This TEDx talk was a direct response to Philip Zimbardo's "Demise of Guys" TED talk, which the Glasgow audience viewed just prior to the talk.

Since December 2011, a large body of supporting research and clinical evidence has arrived to support The Great Porn Experiment's three primary assertions, which were:

  1. Internet porn can cause sexual dysfunctions;
  2. Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions; and
  3. Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions (concentration problems, social anxiety, depression, etc.).  

The following is a short summary of empirical and clinical evidence supporting claims made in The Great Porn Experiment (See the above 2 pages for slide-by-slide support).

1) Internet porn use can cause sexual dysfunctions:

2) Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions:

The Great Porn Experiment listed ten internet addiction “brain studies,” which supported my thesis that internet addiction (and internet addiction subtypes such as gaming and porn) exists and involves the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as other addictions. This field of study is growing exponentially. As of 2017, there are some 250 internet addiction "brain studies." All of them report neurological findings and brain changes in internet addicts consistent with the addiction model (the list of Internet addiction "brain studies"). In addition, the design of several internet addiction studies supports the claim that internet use is causing (in some) symptoms such as depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc. The list of such studies: Studies demonstrating Internet use & porn use causing symptoms & brain changes.

The Great Porn Experiment described three major brain changes that occur with porn addiction: (1) Sensitization, (2) Desensitization, and (3) Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (hypofrontality). Since March, 2012, much neurological research on porn users and porn addicts has been published. All three of these brain changes have been identified among the 37 neuroscience-based studies on frequent porn users and sex addicts:

  • Studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
  • Studies reporting desensitization or habituation in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Studies reporting poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) or altered prefrontal activity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

The 37 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal) provide strong support for the addiction model, as do the 13 recent literature reviews by some of the top neuroscientists in the world.

I also described escalation or habituation in my TEDx talk (which can be an indication of addiction). Three studies have now asked porn users specifically about escalation into new genres or tolerance, confirming both (1, 2, 3). Employing various indirect methods, an additional 16 studies have reported findings consistent with habituation to "regular porn" or escalation into more extreme and unusual genres.

Finally, it wasn’t until 2017 that two research teams asked internet-porn users directly about withdrawal symptoms. Both reported withdrawal symptoms in “problematic porn users” (1, 2).

What about neurological studies that debunk porn addiction? There are none. While the lead author of Prause et al., 2015 claimed her lone EEG study falsified pornography addiction, six peer-reviewed papers disagree: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The neuroscientists on these six papers state that Prause et al. actually found desensitization/habituation (consistent with the development of addiction), as less brain activation to vanilla porn (pictures) was related to greater porn use. Unbelievably, the Prause et al. team boldly claimed to have falsified the porn addiction model with a single paragraph taken from this 2016 "letter to the editor." In reality the Prause letter falsified nothing, as this extensive critique reveals: Letter to the editor “Prause et al. (2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions" (2016).

But ‘porn addiction’ isn’t in the APA's DSM-5, right? When the APA last updated the manual in 2013 (DSM-5), it didn’t formally consider “internet porn addiction,” opting instead to debate “hypersexual disorder.” The latter umbrella term for problematic sexual behavior was recommended for inclusion by the DSM-5’s own Sexuality Work Group after years of review. However, in an eleventh-hour “star chamber” session (according to a Work Group member), other DSM-5 officials unilaterally rejected hypersexuality, citing reasons that have been described as illogical.

Just prior to the DSM-5’s publication in 2013, Thomas Insel, then Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, warned that it was time for the mental health field to stop relying on the DSM. Its "weakness is its lack of validity," he explained, and "we cannot succeed if we use DSM categories as the "gold standard." He added, "That is why NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories." In other words, the NIMH planned to stop funding research based on DSM labels (and their absence).

Major medical organizations are moving ahead of the APA. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) hammered what should have been the final nail in the porn-addiction debate coffin in August, 2011, a few months before I prepared my TEDx talk. Top addiction experts at ASAM released their carefully crafted definition of addiction. The new definition makes some of the major points I made in my talk. Foremost, behavioral addictions affect the brain in the same fundamental ways as drugs do. In other words, addiction is essentially one disease (condition), not many. ASAM explicitly stated that sexual behavior addiction exists and must necessarily be caused by the same fundamental brain changes found in substance addictions.

The World Health Organization appears poised to set right the APA’s excessive caution. The next edition of its diagnostic manual, the ICD, is due out in 2018. The beta draft of the new ICD-11 includes a diagnosis for “Compulsive sexual behavior disorder,” as well as one for “Disorders due to addictive behaviors.”

3) Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions

The Great Porn Experiment described “The Other Porn Experiment” in which young men who eliminated porn use reported remission of emotional and cognitive problems. TGPE also described "arousal addiction" (internet addiction and its subtypes) exacerbating or causing symptoms such as brain fog, concentration problem, generalized anxiety, depression and social anxiety. As of 2017 there exist hundreds of correlative studies and a few dozen causation studies supporting this assertion.

In 2016 Gary Wilson published two peer-reviewed papers:


 

Empirical support for "The Great Porn Experiment" - TEDx Glasgow (2012): Page 1

Introduction

This page, and a second page, provide empirical support for claims put forth in The Great Porn Experiment | Gary Wilson | TEDxGlasgow. Each PowerPoint slide and associated text is accompanied by (1) the original supporting citations/sources, followed by (2) supporting studies and clinical evidence published in the intervening years. Slides 1 through 17 are below. This second page contains slides 18 through 35.

It’s important to note that The Great Porn Experiment was completed and sent to TEDx in December 2011, while the talk was given in March, 2012. This TEDx talk was a direct response to Philip Zimbardo's "Demise of Guys" TED talk, which the Glasgow audience viewed just prior to the talk.

Since December 2011, a large body of supporting research and clinical evidence has arrived to support The Great Porn Experiment's three primary assertions, which were:

  1. Internet porn can cause sexual dysfunctions;
  2. Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions; and
  3. Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions (concentration problems, social anxiety, depression, etc.).  

The following is a short summary of empirical and clinical evidence supporting claims made in The Great Porn Experiment. Scroll down below it for slide-by-slide support.

1) Internet porn use can cause sexual dysfunctions:

2) Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions:

The Great Porn Experiment listed ten internet addiction “brain studies,” which supported my thesis that internet addiction (and internet addiction subtypes such as gaming and porn) exists and involves the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as other addictions. This field of study is growing exponentially. As of 2017, there are some 250 internet addiction "brain studies." All of them report neurological findings and brain changes in internet addicts consistent with the addiction model (the list of Internet addiction "brain studies"). In addition, the design of several internet addiction studies supports the claim that internet use is causing (in some) symptoms such as depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc. The list of such studies: Studies demonstrating Internet use & porn use causing symptoms & brain changes.

The Great Porn Experiment described three major brain changes that occur with porn addiction: (1) Sensitization, (2) Desensitization, and (3) Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (hypofrontality). Since March, 2012, much neurological research on porn users and porn addicts has been published. All three of these brain changes have been identified among the 37 neuroscience-based studies on frequent porn users and sex addicts:

  • Studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
  • Studies reporting desensitization or habituation in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Studies reporting poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) or altered prefrontal activity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

The 37 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal) provide strong support for the addiction model, as do the 13 recent literature reviews by some of the top neuroscientists in the world.

I also described escalation or habituation in my TEDx talk (which can be an indication of addiction). Three studies have now asked porn users specifically about escalation into new genres or tolerance, confirming both (1, 2, 3). Employing various indirect methods, an additional 16 studies have reported findings consistent with habituation to "regular porn" or escalation into more extreme and unusual genres.

Finally, it wasn’t until 2017 that two research teams asked internet-porn users directly about withdrawal symptoms. Both reported withdrawal symptoms in “problematic porn users” (1, 2).

What about neurological studies that debunk porn addiction? There are none. While the lead author of Prause et al., 2015 claimed her lone EEG study falsified pornography addiction, six peer-reviewed papers disagree: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The neuroscientists on these six papers state that Prause et al. actually found desensitization/habituation (consistent with the development of addiction), as less brain activation to vanilla porn (pictures) was related to greater porn use. Unbelievably, the Prause et al. team boldly claimed to have falsified the porn addiction model with a single paragraph taken from this 2016 "letter to the editor." In reality the Prause letter falsified nothing, as this extensive critique reveals: Letter to the editor “Prause et al. (2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions" (2016).

But ‘porn addiction’ isn’t in the APA's DSM-5, right? When the APA last updated the manual in 2013 (DSM-5), it didn’t formally consider “internet porn addiction,” opting instead to debate “hypersexual disorder.” The latter umbrella term for problematic sexual behavior was recommended for inclusion by the DSM-5’s own Sexuality Work Group after years of review. However, in an eleventh-hour “star chamber” session (according to a Work Group member), other DSM-5 officials unilaterally rejected hypersexuality, citing reasons that have been described as illogical.

Just prior to the DSM-5’s publication in 2013, Thomas Insel, then Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, warned that it was time for the mental health field to stop relying on the DSM. Its "weakness is its lack of validity," he explained, and "we cannot succeed if we use DSM categories as the "gold standard." He added, "That is why NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories." In other words, the NIMH planned to stop funding research based on DSM labels (and their absence).

Major medical organizations are moving ahead of the APA. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) hammered what should have been the final nail in the porn-addiction debate coffin in August, 2011, a few months before I prepared my TEDx talk. Top addiction experts at ASAM released their carefully crafted definition of addiction. The new definition makes some of the major points I made in my talk. Foremost, behavioral addictions affect the brain in the same fundamental ways as drugs do. In other words, addiction is essentially one disease (condition), not many. ASAM explicitly stated that sexual behavior addiction exists and must necessarily be caused by the same fundamental brain changes found in substance addictions.

The World Health Organization appears poised to set right the APA’s excessive caution. The next edition of its diagnostic manual, the ICD, is due out in 2018. The beta draft of the new ICD-11 includes a diagnosis for “Compulsive sexual behavior disorder,” as well as one for “Disorders due to addictive behaviors.”

3) Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions

The Great Porn Experiment described “The Other Porn Experiment” in which young men who eliminated porn use reported remission of emotional and cognitive problems. TGPE also described "arousal addiction" (internet addiction and its subtypes) exacerbating or causing symptoms such as brain fog, concentration problem, generalized anxiety, depression and social anxiety. As of 2017 there exist hundreds of correlative studies and a few dozen causation studies supporting this assertion.

Note: some of the links are to versions of the studies that appear on www.yourbrainonporn.com. Links there, lead to abstracts and full studies elsewhere.


POWERPOINT SLIDES 1-17 & ASSOCIATED TEXT


SLIDE 1

The widespread use of Internet porn is one of the fastest moving, most global experiments ever unconsciously conducted.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Common sense. Before the internet it was rare for those under 18 to have unfettered access to hard-core pornographic videos. The experiment gained momentum with the invention of porn tube sites (2006), and Smartphones (2008), and now VR porn.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research (2012) - An excerpt:

The recent proliferation of Internet-enabled technology has significantly changed the way adolescents encounter and consume sexually explicit material.

Sexual Media and Childhood Well-being and Health (2017) - Excerpts:

Sexual content is highly prevalent in traditional media, and portrayals rarely depict the responsibilities and risks (eg, condom use, pregnancy) associated with sexual activity. Exposure to such content is linked with shifts in attitudes about sex and gender, earlier progression to sexual activity, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection among adolescents. However, little information is available about moderators and mediators of these effects. We also know little about digital media, their sex-related content, and their potential influence on youth. Data from a few studies of older youth indicate that sexual displays on social media sites are related to problematic beliefs and behaviors among those who post this content and among viewers. Online pornography appears to be more problematic for youth than off-line sources. Given the vast and increasing amount of time youth spend online and their developmental openness to influence, more research attention to digital sexual media is needed.

Online Pornography: A Special Case. New technologies have expanded adolescents’ access to pornography. Online pornography differs from the pornography of the past in some critically important ways. Online content is always “on” and is portable, allowing access at any time and in any place. It can be interactive and more engaging, so there is potentially increased learning and exposure time. Extreme forms of violent or sexual content are more prevalent on the Internet than in other popular media. Participation is private and anonymous, which allows children and adolescents to search for materials they could not search for in traditional media. Finally, online media exposure is much more difficult for parents to monitor than media exposure in traditional venues. National and international studies reveal that exposure to online pornography is common among boys and not uncommon among girls.


SLIDE 2

Nearly every young guy with Internet access becomes an eager test subject.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Just stating the obvious: streaming internet porn is available to every young man with Internet access.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

Rates of porn use have continued to rise. This 2017 study on Australians ages 15-29 found that 100% of the men had viewed porn. It also reported that increased pornography viewing frequency correlated with mental health problems.

This 2017 Swedish study reported that 98% of 18-year old males had watched pornography (The Relationship between Frequent Pornography Consumption, Behaviors, and Sexual Preoccupancy among Male Adolescents in Sweden). An excerpt from the study:

Our findings show that frequent users more often report behaviours associated with sexual risk taking including earlier age at sexual debut, anal sex, and having tried acts seen in pornography..... Based on the 3AM, if frequent users are more likely to test out sexual acts seen in pornography, it is not far-fetched to presume that the risky manner in which they have seen the acts performed might also be internalized (acquired) and applied (application) in real-life scenarios.

Results indicate that frequent users of pornography have sexual debuts at younger ages, engage in a broader range of sexual encounters, and are more likely to struggle with sexual preoccupancy and problematic pornography use. This study contributes to a growing body of research providing evidence that pornography may have negative effects on adolescents.


SLIDE 3

 

Canadian researcher Simon Lajeunesse found most boys seek pornography by age 10 - driven by a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex. Users perceive Internet porn as far more compelling than porn of the past. Why is that? Unending novelty.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Age boys seek pornography: Original article on Science Daily, where Lajeunesse said that most boys seek out pornography by age 10. It must be noted that Lajeunesse was asking twenty-somethings in 2009 to recall what had occurred 10-15 years earlier (mid to late 1990's), in an era when few young men possessed their own computer and everyone had dial-up.

Internet porn is more compelling due to novelty and other factors:

1) Studies reporting that pornographic films are more arousing than other types of pornography:  

2) Hundreds of animal and human studies have established that novelty is rewarding and increases mesolimbic dopamine. A few recent studies:

Novelty Seeking and Drug Addiction in Humans and Animals: From Behavior to Molecules (2016) - An excerpt:

On the molecular level, both novelty seeking and addiction are modulated by the central reward system in the brain. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter involved in the overlapping neural substrates of both parameters.

Neurotransmitters and Novelty: A Systematic Review (2016) - An excerpt:

Our brains are highly responsive to novelty. Here, we systematically review studies on human participants that have looked at the neuromodulatory basis of novelty detection and processing. While theoretical models and studies on nonhuman animals have pointed to a role of the dopaminergic, cholinergic, noradrenergic and serotonergic systems, the human literature has focused almost exclusively on the first two. Dopamine was found to affect electrophysiological responses to novelty early in time after stimulus presentation....

Dopamine Modulates Novelty Seeking Behavior During Decision Making monkeys (2014) - An excerpt:

The idea that dopamine modulates novelty seeking is supported by evidence that novel stimuli excite dopamine neurons and activate brain regions receiving dopaminergic input. In addition, dopamine is shown to drive exploratory behavior in novel environments.

Novelty increases the mesolimbic functional connectivity of the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA) during reward anticipation: Evidence from high-resolution fMRI (2011) - An excerpt:

We demonstrate that distinct clusters within the caudal portion of the medial SN/VTA and the lateral portion of the right SN are predominantly modulated by the anticipation of reward, while a more rostral part of the medial SN/VTA was exclusively modulated by novelty.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

While it's very difficult to establish the average age males first seek out internet pornography, the age of first access is dropping. For example, a 2008 study reported that 14.4 percent of boys were exposed to porn prior to age 13. By the time stats were gathered in 2011, early exposure had jumped to 48.7 percent. A 2017 cross-sectional study of Australians age 15-29 reports that 69 percent of males and 23 percent of females first viewed porn at age 13 or younger. All of the males and 82 percent of the females had viewed pornography at some point.

Further support for streaming Internet porn as unique stimulus:

Other slides providing support for streaming internet porn as a unique stimulus: slide 6, slide 7, slide 8, slide 18.

An excerpt from this 2016 peer-reviewed review of the literature I wrote with 7 US Navy doctors "Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports", which highlights several unique properties of streaming internet pornography:

3.2. Internet Pornography as Supernormal Stimulus

Arguably, the most important development in the field of problematic sexual behavior is the way in which the Internet is influencing and facilitating compulsive sexual behavior [73]. Unlimited high-definition sexual videos streaming via “tube sites” are now free and widely accessible, 24 h a day via computers, tablets and smartphones, and it has been suggested that Internet pornography constitutes a supernormal stimulus, an exaggerated imitation of something our brains evolved to pursue because of its evolutionary salience [74,75]. Sexually explicit material has been around for a long time, but (1) video pornography is significantly more sexually arousing than other forms of pornography [76, 77] or fantasy [78]; (2) novel sexual visuals have been shown to trigger greater arousal, faster ejaculation, and more semen and erection activity compared with familiar material, perhaps because attention to potential novel mates and arousal served reproductive fitness [75, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84]; and (3) the ability to self-select material with ease makes Internet pornography more arousing than pre-selected collections [79]. A pornography user can maintain or heighten sexual arousal by instantly clicking to a novel scene, new video or never encountered genre. A 2015 study assessing Internet pornography’s effects on delay discounting (choosing immediate gratification over delayed rewards of greater value) states, “The constant novelty and primacy of sexual stimuli as particularly strong natural rewards make internet pornography a unique activator of the brain’s reward system. ... It is therefore important to treat pornography as a unique stimulus in reward, impulsivity, and addiction studies” [75] (pp. 1, 10).

Novelty registers as salient, enhances reward value, and has lasting effects on motivation, learning and memory [85]. Like sexual motivation and the rewarding properties of sexual interaction, novelty is compelling because it triggers bursts of dopamine in regions of the brain strongly associated with reward and goal-directed behavior [66]. While compulsive Internet pornography users show stronger preference for novel sexual images than healthy controls, their dACC (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) also shows more rapid habituation to images than healthy controls [86], fueling the search for more novel sexual images. As co-author Voon explained about her team’s 2015 study on novelty and habituation in compulsive Internet pornography users, “The seemingly endless supply of novel sexual images available online [can feed an] addiction, making it more and more difficult to escape” [87]. Mesolimbic dopamine activity can also be enhanced by additional properties often associated with Internet pornography use such as, violation of expectations, anticipation of reward, and the act of seeking/surfing (as for Internet pornography) [88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93]. Anxiety, which has been shown to increase sexual arousal [89, 94], may also accompany Internet pornography use. In short, Internet pornography offers all of these qualities, which register as salient, stimulate dopamine bursts, and enhance sexual arousal.

Excerpts from a 2017 peer-reviewed review of the literature, Pornography, Pleasure, and Sexuality: Towards a Hedonic Reinforcement Model of Sexually Explicit Internet Media Use, which describes unique properties of streaming internet pornography.

Hedonic Reinforcement:

In the second point of the model, we posit that IP serves as a particularly potent reinforcement of hedonic sexual motives. Whereas sexual activity of any kind is likely rewarding on some level, IP presents the potential for a combination of specific, easily obtainable, continually novel, and virtually immediate rewards in a manner that is uniquely and intensely rewarding (e.g., Gola et al., 2016). Many popular, non-empirical works have suggested as much (e.g., Foubert, 2016; Wilson, 2014; Struthers, 2009). Additionally, some limited reviews have considered the possibility that IP represents an abnormally rewarding stimulus (e.g., Barrett, 2010; Hilton, 2013; Grinde, 2002) in the context of human evolution. However, to date, there has been no systematic review examining the possibility that pornography represents an especially powerful hedonic reward. In the following sections, we review evidence for this second step.

Summary of Unique Reinforcement:

Collectively, the reviewed literature suggests that IP is indeed a unique and potent reward for hedonic sexual motives. IP is an easily accessible form of sexual stimuli that requires little effort or time on the part of the consumer. In contrast with partnered sexual activity, or even non-internet-based sexually explicit media, IP is a low cost and functionally instantaneous reward. Not surprisingly, the low-cost nature of IP (i.e., low financial and energy expenditures) is often reported as a motivating factor for consumption. IP is also highly customizable to the user’s preferences, fantasies, and desires. The functionally unlimited variety of IP available allows users to discover, explore, and cultivate nuanced and highly specific sexual desires. As hedonic sexual motives are the primary driving factor in IPU, the customizable and continually novel nature of IP represents a unique and potent reward for these motives.

A neurological paper published after the TEDx talk: Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity (2013). An excerpt:

While pathological gambling (PG) and obesity have received greater attention in functional and behavioral studies, evidence increasingly supports the description of CSBs [compulsive sexual behavior] as an addiction. This evidence is multifaceted and is based on an evolving understanding of the role of the neuronal receptor in addiction-related neuroplasticity, supported by the historical behavioral perspective. This addictive effect may be amplified by the accelerated novelty and the ‘supranormal stimulus’ (a phrase coined by Nikolaas Tinbergen) factor afforded by Internet pornography.

Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015) – Researchers divided subjects into 2 groups: Half tried to abstain from their favorite food; half tried to abstain from internet porn. The subjects who tried to abstain from porn experienced significant changes: they scored better on their ability to delay gratification. The researchers said:

"The finding suggests that Internet pornography is a sexual reward that contributes to delay discounting differently than other natural rewards. It is therefore important to treat pornography as a unique stimulus in reward, impulsivity, and addiction studies and to apply this accordingly in individual as well as relational treatment.”


SLIDE 4

As you can see from this Australian experiment, it's not mere nudity, but novelty that sends arousal skyrocketing. Subjects watched 22 porn displays. See that spike? That’s where researchers switched to porn the guys hadn't seen before. The result: subjects' brains and boners fired up.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

The study presented in slide #4: Allocation of attentional resources during habituation and dishabituation of male sexual arousal (1999). Additional human studies aligning with Australian study's findings:

  1. Changes in the Magnitude of the Eyeblink Startle Response During Habituation of Sexual Arousal (2000) - "Repeated display of the film segment resulted in a progressive decrease in sexual arousal. Replacing the familiar stimulus by a novel erotic stimulus increased in sexual arousal and absorption and reduced startle (novelty effect)."
  2. Habituation and Dishabituation of Male Sexual Arousal (1993) - "Sixteen men were tested under conditions where they viewed the same segment of erotic film on many occasions... Increases in sexual arousal when novel erotic stimulation was introduced following habituation"
  3. Habituation and dishabituation of male sexual arousal - "increases in sexual arousal when novel erotic stimulation was introduced following habituation"
  4. Changes in erectile response to repeated audiovisual sexual stimulation (1998) - "Rigidity on the third day was significantly decreased compared to that on the first day in both patients with psychogenic impotence and normal controls"...
  5. The Long Term Habituation of Sexual Arousal in The Human Male (1991) - "in the constant stimulus conditions the criteria for long-term habituation generally were met. By contrast, responses to variable stimuli remained consistently high."
  6. Focusing “Hot” or Focusing “Cool”: Attentional Mechanisms in Sexual Arousal in Men and Women (2011) - "sexual feelings diminished during repeated erotic stimulation, and increased with the introduction of novel stimulation, indicating habituation and novelty effects. Contrary to the expectations, the hot attentional focus did not preclude habituation of sexual arousal."
  7. The Habituation of Sexual Arousal (1985) - "These results were interpreted as supporting the notions that sexual arousal to erotic stimuli decreases with repeated stimulus presentations"
  8. Repeated exposure to sexually explicit stimuli: novelty, sex, and sexual attitudes (1986) "Analyses showed that negative affect significantly increased with film repetition and returned to original levels with the introduction of novelty....with males becoming more aroused and concerned by novelty consisting of different actors, and females becoming more aroused and concerned by the same actors performing different acts."

UPDATED SUPPORT:

1) Habituation of sexual responses in men and women: a test of the preparation hypothesis of women's genital responses (2013) - Excerpt:

Men and women displayed very similar patterns of genital responses, consistent with habituation and novelty effects. Effects of habituation and novelty were eliminated once subjective reports of attention were covaried.

2) A review of the literature on animals and humans (includes studies employing pornography): Hormones and the Coolidge effect. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology (2017) - An excerpt:

In both, males and females, there is a decline of sexual arousal after repeated exposition to the same sexual stimulus. This effect seems to be general to the whole range of species studied, including humans, although the results in women have to be further explored. Sexual novelty increases motivational aspects of sexual behavior in males, evidenced by the Coolidge effect.... The molecular mechanisms underlying sexual satiety are poorly understood; recent experimental data in rats suggest that dopamine may play a similar role in both sexes


SLIDE 5

Why all the excitement? (A slide with sheep.) Mother nature likes to keep a male fertilizing willing females - as long as any new ones are around. A ram needs more and more time to mate with the same old ewe. But if you keep switching females, he can get the job done in two minutes – and keep going until he is utterly exhausted. This is known as the "Coolidge effect.“ Without the Coolidge effect…there would be no Internet porn.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

1) Glenn Wilson on the Coolidge Effect, and 2) Copulatory behaviour of the ram, Ovis aries. I. A normative study (1969).

The previous two slides provided the bulk of the support for the concepts of habituation to the same old stimulus and the introduction of sexual novelty increasing sexual arousal and motivation. A few more studies considered when producing this slide:

UPDATED SUPPORT:

Further evidence of the "Coolidge Effect" in humans now exists.

1) Specific to pornography - men ejaculate more motile sperm and they do it more quickly when they view a novel porn star: Men Ejaculate Larger Volumes of Semen, More Motile Sperm, and More Quickly when Exposed to Images of Novel Women (2015)

2) Role of Partner Novelty in Sexual Functioning: A Review (2014). An excerpt:

This review investigates whether sexual desire and arousal decline in response to partner familiarity, increase in response to partner novelty, and show differential responding in men and women.... The current literature best supports the predictions made by sexual strategies theory in that sexual functioning has evolved to promote short-term mating. Sexual arousal and desire appear to decrease in response to partner familiarity and increase in response to partner novelty in men and women. Evidence to date suggests this effect may be greater in men. 

3) Another recent review of the literature on animals and humans (includes studies employing pornography): Hormones and the Coolidge effect. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology (2017). An excerpt:

In both, males and females, there is a decline of sexual arousal after repeated exposition to the same sexual stimulus. This effect seems to be general to the whole range of species studied, including humans, although the results in women have to be further explored. Sexual novelty increases motivational aspects of sexual behavior in males, evidenced by the Coolidge effect.... The molecular mechanisms underlying sexual satiety are poorly understood; recent experimental data in rats suggest that dopamine may play a similar role in both sexes


SLIDE 6

This old mammalian program perceives each novel "mate" on a guy's screen as an opportunity to pass on his genes. To keep a guy fertilizing the screen, his brain releases the "go get it!" neurochemical dopamine for each new image or scene. Eventually the ram will tire, but as long as a guy can keep clicking, he can keep on going – and so will his dopamine. With Internet porn, a guy can see more hot babes in ten minutes than his hunter-gatherer ancestors could in several lifetimes. The problem is we have a hunter-gatherer brain.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

The previous 2 slides contain supporting materials. It's well established that both sexual arousal and novelty increase mesolimbic dopamine, and that exogenous dopamine can increase sexual arousal and motivation. A few supporting reviews of the literature:

UPDATED SUPPORT:

1) An excerpt from a peer-reviewed review of the literature that explains the role of dopamine in sexual arousal, motivation, and erections - Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016):

3.1. Male Sexual Response in the Brain

While male sexual response is complex, several key brain regions are critical for achieving and maintaining erections [61]. Hypothalamic nuclei play an important role in regulating sexual behavior and erections by acting as an integration center for brain and peripheral input [62]. The hypothalamic nuclei that facilitate erections receive pro-erectile input from the mesolimbic dopamine pathway, which comprises the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAc) [62]. The VTA-NAc circuit is a key detector of rewarding stimuli, and forms the core of a broader, more complex set of integrated circuits commonly called the “reward system” [63]. An individual’s response to natural rewards, such as sex, is largely regulated by the mesolimbic dopamine pathway, which receives excitatory and inhibitory input from other limbic structures and the prefrontal cortex [64]. Erections are dependent upon activation of dopaminergic neurons in VTA and dopamine receptors in the NAc [65, 66]. Excitatory glutamate inputs from other limbic structures (amygdala, hippocampus) and the prefrontal cortex facilitate dopaminergic activity in the VTA and NAc [62]. Reward responsive dopamine neurons also project into the dorsal striatum, a region activated during sexual arousal and penile tumescence [67]. Dopamine agonists, such as apomorphine, have been shown to induce erection in men with both normal and impaired erectile function [68]. Thus, dopamine signaling in the reward system and hypothalamus plays a central role in sexual arousal, sexual motivation and penile erections [65, 66, 69].

We propose that chronic Internet pornography use resulted in erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation in our servicemen reported above. We hypothesize an etiology arising in part from Internet pornography-induced alterations in the circuits governing sexual desire and penile erections. Both hyper-reactivity to Internet pornography cues via glutamate inputs and downregulation of the reward system’s response to normal rewards may be involved. These two brain changes are consistent with chronic overconsumption of both natural rewards and drugs of abuse, and are mediated by dopamine surges in the reward system [70, 71, 72].

2) This 2017 review of the literature, Pornography, Pleasure, and Sexuality: Towards a Hedonic Reinforcement Model of Sexually Explicit Internet Media Use, supports the thesis that endless novelty and instant customizability (novel genres) drives internet porn use:

Novelty and Customizable Nature of IP

Another facet of highly rewarding stimuli is the alignment of the stimuli with a person’s preferences. Within the desire and motivation literature, there is often a distinction made between “liking” or “wanting” something (Berridge, 1996; Voon et al., 2014). Liking refers to the pleasure derived from a stimulus or the degree to which a stimulus satisfies a hedonic urge (Berridge, 1996). In contrast, wanting refers to the rewarding value of a stimulus or the degree to which a stimulus satisfies a biological or appetitive drive (Berridge, 1996), or in the case of addiction, a dependence on a substance. Although such a distinction has been most often studied in regards to food (e.g., Berridge, 2009; Finlayson, King, & Blundell, 2007), similar understandings of liking vs. wanting have been proposed for alcohol use (Hobbs, Remington, & Glautier, 2005) other substances (e.g., cocaine, Goldstein et al., 2008), and also for compulsive use of pornography (Voon et al., 2014). Oftentimes, the rewards thought to be most powerful are those that involve both liking and wanting. Stimuli that satisfy a drive (e.g., hunger) in a way that also satisfies the person’s individual, specific preferences (e.g., specific flavor combinations), are likely to be considered more rewarding than stimuli that meet only one such criteria (Berridge & Robinson, 2003). A similar understanding may also be applied to IPU.

Content analyses of online forums note that pornography preferences are often the subject of entire online-communities, with significant effort being devoted to the categorization and accurate indexing of pornographic materials according to users’ preferences (Smith, 2015). This is accomplished both on non-pornographic web-sites (e.g., reddit.com, Smith, 2015), as well as more popular IP websites (Fesnak, 2016; Hald & Štulhofer, 2015; Mazieres, Trachman, Cointet, Coulmont, & Prieur, 2014; Vincent, 2016). By design alone, these categorizations represent an important way in which IP is customized to user preferences. IP categories allow users to immerse themselves in content that specifically matches their sexual desires, giving them a custom reward for a specific sexual desire, and it allows individuals to do this with limited social effort or risk.

Several works in the social sciences (e.g., Cusack & Waranious, 2012; Vannier, Currie, & O’Sullivan, 2014) as well as the humanities (e.g., Strager, 2003) have expounded upon the customizable nature of IPU. The immense variety of content in IP allows users to explore and encounter a functionally infinite amount of novel and unique materials (Ogas & Goddam, 2013; Barratt, 2014; Tyson, Elkhatib, Sastry, & Uhligh, 2013), which is particularly relevant given humans’ preference for and responsiveness to novel sexual partners (Morton & Gorzalka, 2015). Various factors, such as current events and individual differences, predict the types of content that are searched for by IPU consumers (e.g., Markey & Markey, 2010, 2011). Furthermore, many content analyses have found that a large variety of specific fantasies, fetishes, and sexual desires are well-represented in IP (Downing, Scrimshaw, Antebi, & Siegel, 2014; Glasscock, 2005; Michael & Plaza, 1997; Vannier et al., 2014; Sun, Bridges, Wosnitzer, Scharrer, & Liberman, 2008; Zhou & Paul, 2016). While this may allow users the freedom to explore new aspects of their sexual curiosities and fantasies (Ley, 2016), it also presents users with the option to focus their IPU on highly specific sexual stimuli that both satisfy their sexual drive (i.e., wanting, Svedin, Akerman, & Priebe, 2011) and their sexual preferences (i.e., liking, Half & Štulhofer, 2015). Essentially, the variety of content available in IP allows for highly custom rewards for hedonic sexual desires.

Prior theoretical works (e.g., Keilty, 2012; Patterson, 2004), have expounded upon the tendency of some IP consumers to engage in prolonged searches for “perfect” or highly-stimulating images or videos that are suitable for fulfilling a sexual fantasy. Unstructured, qualitative interviews have found similar themes among IP consumers, again suggesting that customization and control are important aspects of IP’s rewarding nature (Philaretou et al., 2005).

Moving beyond clear theoretical arguments, there is also empirical evidence to suggest that IPU is highly customized to the users’ preferences, representing a unique and potentially potent reward for hedonic desires. In two studies of young adult men in the U.S. (Study 1 N=103, Study 2 N=88), IPU (yes/no to current use) was found to be moderately-to-strongly associated with the presence of atypical sexual fantasies (e.g., fetishism, frotteurism, exhibitionism; Williams, Cooper, Howell, Yullie, & Paulhus, 2009). Similarly, in a cross-sectional study of middle-aged and older (40+ years old) German men (N=367), IPU was again associated with paraphilic sexual desires and arousal (Ahlers et al., 2011). In both examples, causality is not specified, given their cross-sectional natures. However, given that there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that pornography use may lead to paraphilia (for a review, see Fisher, Kohut, Di Gioacchino, & Fedoroff, 2013), these studies may be understood as evidence that IPU is positively associated with highly specific preferences.

Similarly, in a study of Croatian adults (N=2,337; 43% men; 64-65.7% heterosexual), a wide variety of pornography preferences were identified (Hald & Štulhofer, 2015). More specifically, among 27 types of IP, Hald and Štulhofer found that participants often endorsed highly specific preferences that varied by gender and sexual orientation. Across these groups and within individuals, there were noted differences in preferences for the focus of IP (e.g., individual performer vs. couple vs. group), the physical features of the performers (both male and female), and the types of sexual acts being displayed. Collectively, these findings provide further evidence for the idea that IPU is often tailored to the consumer’s specific preferences, presenting the opportunity for a unique and powerful reward.


SLIDE 7

Internet porn registers as a genetic bonanza - so, a heavy porn user’s brain carefully wires his sexual response to everything associated with his porn viewing. Being alone, Voyeurism, Clicking, Searching, Multiple tabs, Constant novelty, Shock or surprise. As one young guy asked: "Are we the first generation to masturbate left-handed?"

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

The claim is that a chronic porn user can condition his sexual arousal to everything associated with his porn use, rather than to partnered sex. "Wiring" one's sexual arousal to internet porn is most evident in men developing porn-induced sexual problems. See the "Updated Support" section of slide 32 for a large body of evidence supporting this assertion.

Much original support came from anecdotal evidence: (1) porn users describing escalation of porn use into "shocking" genres or porn that induced anxiety; (2) development of porn-induced sexual problems where men could only become aroused by porn; (3) needing constant visual novelty to stay aroused; (4) searching for just the right visual to finish the session. These observations aligned with psychiatrist Norman Doidge's 2007 bestseller "The Brain That Changes Itself", which also claimed that internet porn use can alter sexual scripts. Excerpts in support of slide 7:

During the mid- to late 1990s, when the internet was growing rapidly and pornography was exploding on it, I treated or assessed a number of men who all had essentially the same story. They reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses, or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive. The content of what patients found exciting changed as the web sites introduced themes and scripts that altered their brains without their awareness. Because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them. Today, young men who surf porn are tremendously fearful of impotence, or "erectile dysfunction" as it is euphemistically called. The misleading term implies that these men have a problem in their penises, but the problem is in their heads. It rarely occurs to them that there may be a relationship between the pornography they are consuming and their impotence.

A 2007 study by the Kinsey Institute supports the thesis that chronic porn use can lead to the user "needing" the porn to become sexually aroused (The Dual Control Model - The Role Of Sexual Inhibition & Excitation In Sexual Arousal And Behavior). In an experiment employing video porn, 50% of the young men couldn't become aroused or achieve erections with porn (average age was 29). The shocked researchers discovered that the men's erectile dysfunction was,

"related to high levels of exposure to and experience with sexually explicit materials."

The men experiencing erectile dysfunction had spent a considerable amount of time in bars and bathhouses where porn was "omnipresent," and "continuously playing." The researchers stated:

"Conversations with the subjects reinforced our idea that in some of them a high exposure to erotica seemed to have resulted in a lower responsivity to "vanilla sex" erotica and an increased need for novelty and variation, in some cases combined with a need for very specific types of stimuli in order to get aroused."

Shifting Preferences In Pornography Consumption (1986) - Six weeks of exposure to nonviolent pornography resulted in subjects having little interest in vanilla porn, electing to almost exclusively watch "uncommon pornography" (bondage, sadomasochism, bestiality). An excerpt:

Male and female students and nonstudents were exposed to one hour of common, nonviolent pornography or to sexually and aggressively innocuous materials in each of six consecutive weeks. Two weeks after this treatment, they were provided with an opportunity to watch videotapes in a private situation. G-rated, R-rated, and X-rated programs were available. Subjects with considerable prior exposure to common, nonviolent pornography showed little interest in common, nonviolent pornography, electing to watch uncommon pornography (bondage, sadomasochism, bestiality) instead. Male nonstudents with prior exposure to common, nonviolent pornography consumed uncommon pornography almost exclusively. Male students exhibited the same pattern, although somewhat less extreme. This consumption preference was also in evidence in females, but was far less pronounced, especially among female students.

Use of pornography in a random sample of Norwegian heterosexual couples (2009) - Porn use correlated with more sexual dysfunctions in the men and negative self-perception in the women. The couples who did not use porn had no sexual dysfunctions. A few excerpts from the study:

In couples where only one partner used pornography, we found more problems related to arousal (male) and negative (female) self-perception.

In those couples where one partner used pornography there was a permissive erotic climate. At the same time, these couples seemed to have more dysfunctions.

The couples who did not use pornography... may be considered more traditional in relation to the theory of sexual scripts. At the same time, they did not seem to have any dysfunctions.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

First, a few excerpts from a review of the literature on sexual conditioning, Who, what, where, when (and maybe even why)? How the experience of sexual reward connects sexual desire, preference, and performance (2012):

Although sexual behavior is controlled by hormonal and neurochemical actions in the brain, sexual experience induces a degree of plasticity that allows animals to form instrumental and Pavlovian associations that predict sexual outcomes, thereby directing the strength of sexual responding. This review describes how experience with sexual reward strengthens the development of sexual behavior and induces sexually-conditioned place and partner preferences in rats… Thus, a critical period exists during an individual's early sexual experience that creates a "love map" or Gestalt of features, movements, feelings, and interpersonal interactions associated with sexual reward.

We propose that the development of sexual ‘‘Gestalts’’ and sexual ‘‘scripts’’ (from the standpoint of both movements and language) are affected strongly by early formative experiences with sexual arousal and reward that feed forward to create desire for distal, proximal, and interactive features that predict the reward state. This occurs to some extent uniquely in the development of everyone’s sexual preferences, although some commonalities may be easy to detect in terms of species-specific behavior or stimulation patterns, or as distal features of ‘‘attractiveness’’, such as the gender of the desired individual, race, age, body type, hair or eye color, facial features, and even the intergenerational styles of personal presentation (e.g., differences in facial structure, hair style, presence or absence of pubic, body, and facial hair of pin-ups from the first half of the twentieth century relative to the second half; see Gabor, 1973)   

Building on the concept of critical widows of development (early adolescence), the following paper found that early sexual experience can influence an individual's sexual trajectory (i.e. porn addiction or sex addiction): Human Sexual Development is Subject to Critical Period Learning: Implications for Sexual Addiction, Sexual Therapy, and for Child Rearing (2014) - Excerpts:

To our knowledge, ours is the first study to directly investigate whether learning to function sexually is subject to critical period learning in humans. The results of our statistical analyses were highly consistent in both men and women with a critical period learning effect because the scores on subscales measuring both adult interest in sex (Hypersexuality Subscale) and the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviors (Risky Sexual Behavior Subscale) tended to be increased if participant’s first experience with partner sex had occurred early in life and if they had started masturbating early in life. Our findings, with regard to masturbation, were supported by other studies on the adult effects of early masturbatory experiences (e.g., Brody et al., 2013; Carvalheira & Leal, 2013; Das, 2007; Hogarth & Ingham, 2009). The age that our participants reported having first masturbated had the largest effect size as a predictor of their adult interest in sex as measured by the Hypersexuality Subscale, and the earliest age participants reported having engaged in sexual behavior of any kind with a partner had the second largest effect size. Participants who began these behaviors before 13 years of age had the highest interest in sex as adults.

The results of our study provided a new theoretical and developmental basis for both origins of sexual addiction on the one hand and hypoactive sexual desire on the other hand. The higher interest in sex observed in those who had early experience with partner sex and masturbation can be explained by the combined action of Pavlovian conditioning, operant conditioning, and critical period learning initiated by early experience with partner sex with or without the synergistic effect of an early experience with masturbation (Beard et al., 2013; O’Keefe et al., 2014; also see Hoffmann, 2012 and Pfaus et al., 2012 for a reviews of conditioning theories and experimental data). On the other hand, a low interest in sex appeared to be the result when both such experiences were lacking. Sexual imprinting would provide a third etiological explanation. Sexual imprinting is the kind of critical period learning (Desmarais et al., 2012; Fox & Rutter, 2010; Fox et al., 2010; Uylings, 2006) initially used to explain the observation that birds raised by foster-parents of other species preferred mates of the foster-parent’s species (for review see Irwin & Price, 1999). In humans, sexual imprinting has been invoked to explain sexual preferences for partners who resemble their opposite sex parents (Bereczkei, Gyuris, & Weisfeld, 2004; Nojo, Tamura, & Uhara, 2012), some men’s preferences for lactating or pregnant women (Enquist, Aronsson, Stefano, Jansson, & Jannini, 2011), and willingness to accept sexual partners who smoke (Aronsson, Lind, Ghirlanda, & Enquist, 2011). It is highly likely that many other kinds of learning are involved in producing the phenomenology described in our article, but cataloging all of the types of learning involved is a project beyond the scope of the present research.

Excerpts from Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016) underscore how internet porn use conditions the sexual response to variables not seen in real life sexual encounters. From the abstract:

This review also considers evidence that Internet pornography’s unique properties (limitless novelty, potential for easy escalation to more extreme material, video format, etc.) may be potent enough to condition sexual arousal to aspects of Internet pornography use that do not readily transition to real-life partners, such that sex with desired partners may not register as meeting expectations and arousal declines.

From the discussion section:

3.4.3. Internet Pornography and Sexual Conditioning

Given that our servicemen reported that they experienced erections and arousal with Internet pornography, but not without it, research is needed to rule out inadvertent sexual conditioning as a contributing factor to today’s rising rates of sexual performance problems and low sexual desire in men under 40. Prause and Pfaus have hypothesized that sexual arousal may become conditioned to aspects of Internet pornography use that do not readily transition to real-life partner situations. “It is conceivable that experiencing the majority of sexual arousal within the context of VSS [visual sexual stimuli] may result in a diminished erectile response during partnered sexual interactions...When high stimulation expectations are not met, partnered sexual stimulation is ineffective” [50]. Such inadvertent sexual conditioning is consistent with the incentive-salience model. Several lines of research implicate increased mesolimbic dopamine in sensitization to both drugs of abuse and sexual reward [100,103]. Acting through dopamine D1 receptors, both sexual experience and psychostimulant exposure induce many of the same long-lasting neuroplastic changes in the NAc critical for enhanced wanting of both rewards [103].

Today’s Internet pornography user can maintain high levels of sexual arousal, and concomitant elevated dopamine, for extended periods due to unlimited novel content. High dopamine states have been implicated in conditioning sexual behavior in unexpected ways in both animal models [176, 177] and humans. In humans, when Parkinson’s patients were prescribed dopamine agonists, some reported uncharacteristic compulsive pornography use and demonstrated greater neural activity to sexual picture cues, correlating with enhanced sexual desire [178]. Two recent fMRI studies reported that subjects with compulsive sexual behaviors are more prone to establish conditioned associations between formally neutral cues and explicit sexual stimuli than controls [86, 121]. With repeated Internet pornography exposure, “wanting” may increase for Internet pornography’s expected novelty and variety, elements difficult to sustain during partnered sex. In line with the hypothesis that Internet pornography use can condition sexual expectations, Seok and Sohn found that compared to controls hypersexuals had greater DLPFC activation to sexual cues, yet less DLPFC activation to non-sexual stimuli [120]. It also appears that Internet pornography use can condition the user to expect or “want” novelty. Banca et al. reported that subjects with compulsive sexual behaviors had greater preference for novel sexual images and showed greater habituation in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex to repeated viewing of the same sexual images [86]. In some users, a preference for novelty arises from the need to overcome declining libido and erectile function, which may, in turn, lead to new conditioned pornographic tastes [27].

When a user has conditioned his sexual arousal to Internet pornography, sex with desired real partners may register as “not meeting expectations” (negative reward prediction) resulting in a corresponding decline in dopamine. Combined with the inability to click to more stimulation, this unmet prediction may reinforce an impression that partnered sex is less salient than Internet pornography use. Internet pornography also offers a voyeur's perspective generally not available throughout partnered sex. It is possible that if a susceptible Internet pornography user reinforces the association between arousal and watching other people have sex on screens while he is highly aroused, his association between arousal and real-life partnered sexual encounters may weaken.

Research on conditioning of sexual response in humans is limited, but shows that sexual arousal is conditionable [179, 180, 181], and particularly prior to adulthood [182]. In men, arousal can be conditioned to particular films [183], as well as to images [184]. Sexual performance and attraction in male (non-human) animals can be conditioned to an array of stimuli that are not typically sexually salient for them, including fruit/nut scents, aversive scents, such as cadaverine, same-sex partners, and the wearing of rodent jackets [177, 185, 186, 187]. For example, rats that had learned sex with a jacket did not perform normally without their jackets [187].

In line with these conditioning studies, the younger the age at which men first began regular use of Internet pornography, and the greater their preference for it over partnered sex, the less enjoyment they report from partnered sex, and the higher their current Internet pornography use [37]. Similarly, men reporting increased consumption of bareback anal pornography (in which actors do not wear condoms) and its consumption at an earlier age, engage in more unprotected anal sex themselves [188, 189]. Early consumption of pornography may also be associated with conditioning tastes to more extreme stimulation [99,190].

A review by Pfaus points to early conditioning as critical for sexual arousal templates: “It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a critical period of sexual behavior development that forms around an individual’s first experiences with sexual arousal and desire, masturbation, orgasm, and sexual intercourse itself” [191] (p. 32). The suggestion of a critical developmental period is consistent with the report of Voon et al. that younger compulsive Internet pornography users showed greater activity in the ventral striatum in response to explicit videos [31]. The ventral striatum is the primary region involved in sensitization to natural and drug reward [103]. Voon et al. also reported that compulsive Internet pornography subjects first viewed Internet pornography much earlier (mean age 13.9) than healthy volunteers (mean age 17.2) [31]. A 2014 study found that nearly half of college-age men now report they were exposed to Internet pornography prior to age 13, as compared with only 14% in 2008 [37]. Could increased Internet pornography use during a critical developmental phase increase the risk of Internet pornography-related problems? Might it help explain the 2015 finding that 16% of young Italian men who used Internet pornography more than once a week reported low sexual desire, compared with 0% in non-consumers [29]? Our first serviceman was only 20 and had been using Internet pornography since he gained access to high-speed Internet.

Males can successfully condition their sexual response in the laboratory with instructional feedback, but without further reinforcement, such laboratory-induced conditioning disappears in later trials [176]. This inherent neuroplasticity may suggest how two of our servicemen restored attraction and sexual performance with partners after abandoning a sex toy and/or cutting back on Internet pornography. Decreasing or extinguishing conditioned responses to artificial stimuli potentially restored attraction and sexual performance with partners.

Excerpts from a 2017 review of the literature (Pornography, Pleasure, and Sexuality: Towards a Hedonic Reinforcement Model of Sexually Explicit Internet Media Use) describe a different set of criteria to explain how internet pornography use shapes sexual expectations (i.e. less desire for partnered sex, less sexual satisfaction, poorer relationships):

Summary and Implications of the Present Model

The present work represents a novel organization of the research literature related to IPU and the proposition of a new theoretical model. In proposing this model and reviewing the literature, we have attempted to demonstrate how IPU may be related to specific aspects of sexual motivation. We have shown that IPU is primarily driven by hedonic sexual motives, that it is uniquely reinforcing of those motives, and that it is likely contributing to a strengthening of those motives in individual sexual motivation. Several implications flow naturally from our model, which we review below.

Social Sexual Orientation

A clear implication of the model is that IPU might ultimately be associated with a decreased social or relational orientation, particularly in the context of sexual relationships and intimacy. Early empirical research on IP showed that it might be associated with infidelity, reduced commitment, and weakened partner bonds (Young, Griffin-Shelley, Cooper, O’mara, & Buchanan, 2000), and more recent research has demonstrated that pornography may impact romantic partners in various ways (Syzmanski, Feltman, & Dunn, 2015; Tylka & Kroon Van Diest, 2015). Furthermore, a large percentage of both men and women report that IPU is currently or will likely be a part of their romantic relationships, either being used by one or by both partners (Carroll, Busby, Willoughby, & Brown, 2016; Olmstead, Negash, Pasley, & Fincham, 2013).  Historically, pornography has been linked to diminished love for and attraction to a partner (Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg, 1989).

There is indeed evidence that IPU is associated with weakened commitment to a romantic partner (Lambert et al., 2012). Across five studies, there was consistent evidence for the notion that IPU is broadly predictive of weakened commitment and fidelity to one’s romantic partner. In cross-sectional study data (Lambert et al., 2012; Study 1), participants that reported greater IPU also reported lower levels of commitment to the partner. Moving forward (Study 2), third person observers accurately rated IP consumers as demonstrating less commitment to their romantic partners in social interactions. These findings were further supported by experimental data (Study 3) in which those who refrained from IPU for a period of time were likely to report greater commitment to their romantic partners than IP consumers. Finally, using behavioral observation, it was found that IPU was associated with greater flirtatiousness in online conversation (Study 4) and with a greater likelihood to commit infidelity over time (Study 5). Collectively, these findings paint a consistent picture in which IPU is associated with reduced relational commitment.

There is also some evidence that IPU is associated with greater openness toward extramarital sexual engagements, which may be seen as a proxy for weakened relational commitment. Specifically, in a previously reviewed nationally representative sample of men in the U.S. (General Social Survey from 2000 & 2002; Wright, 2012b), IPU was associated with greater openness to a variety of uncommitted sexual behaviors, including extramarital sexual engagements. Additionally, in analyses of women from the same sample (General Social Survey data from 2000 & 2002; Wright, 2013b), IPU was associated with more positive attitudes toward extramarital sex for women who were less educated and less religious.

Links between pornography use and diminished relational orientation or commitment are also evident longitudinally. In at least one longitudinal study, there were associations between IPU and extra-dyadic behaviors (Maddox et al., 2013). Specifically, among a large sample of unmarried heterosexuals in relationships (N=993), self-reported IPU with a partner was predictive of greater likelihood of extra dyadic behaviors over a 20-month time period, suggesting that it may play a causal role in leading to diminished sexual commitment. Furthermore, these results are supported by analyses of the Portraits of American Life study—a nationally representative sample of American adults—which found that pornography use was associated with reduced marital quality over time (Perry, 2016, 2017), and with analyses of General Social Survey data from 2006-2014 which found that individuals who initiated pornography use over the course of the panel study were at approximately twice the risk of divorce over the study’s 8 year time period (Perry & Schleifer, 2017).

In addition to nationally representative samples, experimental methods have also found that IPU is associated with more positive attitudes toward extra-dyadic behavior. Specifically, in a sample of undergraduates in monogamous committed relationships (Gwinn, Lambert, Fincham, & Maner, 2013; Study 1; N=74, 36% men, Median Age=19), reflecting on IPU (e.g., writing a description of a pornographic video watched in the past 30 days) was associated with believing that one had higher quality relationship alternatives. In a follow-up study of undergraduates in committed monogamous relationships (Gwinn et al., 2013; Study 2; N=291, 18% men, Median Age=20), IPU was longitudinally associated with engaging in extra-dyadic behaviors, so that, IPU reported at baseline was predictive of extra-dyadic behavior 12 weeks later.

Collectively, results from cross-sectional, longitudinal, nationally-representative, and experimental studies support the conclusion that pornography use in general and IPU specifically are associated with reduced relational commitment and quality. These findings are also consistent with the contention of the present model, that IPU is associated with increases in self-focused hedonic sexual motivation, often at the expense of other-oriented or social sexual motivations.

Sexual Satisfaction

Another domain in which the present model may also have implications is sexual satisfaction. As hedonic sexual motives are often focused on obtaining sexual satisfaction, one would expect an increase in such motives to be associated with sexual satisfaction outcomes. However, given the immense number of factors that contribute to sexual satisfaction (e.g., relational intimacy, commitment, self-confidence, self-esteem), it also likely that these relationships between IPU and satisfaction will be complex. For some individuals, an increase in hedonic sexual motives may be associated with actual decreases in sexual satisfaction, as high levels of desire may be met with frustration, particularly if such increases are not met with increases in the satisfaction associated with partnered sexual activity (Santtila et al., 2007). Alternatively, if one were to start with low levels of hedonic sexual motivation, an increase in such motivation may be associated with greater sexual satisfaction as the individual becomes more focused on obtaining pleasure in a sexual encounter.

In contrast to many of the previously discussed domains related to IPU and motivations, in which research is still burgeoning, the relationships between IPU and sexual satisfaction have been extensively studied, with dozens of publications addressing the topic. Rather than exhaustively review the list of studies examining IPU and sexual satisfaction, the findings of these studies are summarized in Table 1.

In general, as indicated in Table 1, the relationships between IPU and personal sexual satisfaction are complex, but consistent with the supposition that IP may promote more hedonic sexual motivations, particularly as use increases. Among couples, there is limited support for the idea that IPU may enhance sexual satisfaction, but only when it is incorporated into partnered sexual activities. On an individual level, there is consistent evidence that IPU is predictive of lower sexual satisfaction in men, with both cross-sectional and longitudinal works pointing to the associations of such use with diminished satisfaction for men. Regarding women, scattered evidence suggests that IPU may enhance sexual satisfaction, have no effect on satisfaction, or diminish satisfaction over time. Despite these mixed findings, the conclusion of no significant effect of IPU on sexual satisfaction in women is the most common finding. These results have also been confirmed by a recent meta-analysis (Wright, Tokunaga, Kraus, & Klann, 2017). Reviewing 50 studies of pornography consumption and various satisfaction outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction, personal satisfaction, relational satisfaction, sexual satisfaction), this meta-analysis found that pornography consumption (not internet-specific) was consistently related to and predictive of lower interpersonal satisfaction variables, including sexual satisfaction, but for men only. No significant findings were found for women. Collectively, such mixed results preclude definitive conclusions about the role of IP in influencing satisfaction for women.

One of the most important findings of recent works examining IPU and sexual satisfaction is that there appears to be a curvilinear relationship between use and satisfaction, so that satisfaction decreases more sharply as IPU becomes more common (e.g., Wright, Steffen, & Sun, 2017; Wright, Brigdes, Sun, Ezzell, & Johnson, 2017). The details of these studies are reflected in Table 1. Given clear evidence across multiple international samples, it seems reasonable to accept the conclusion that as IPU increases to more than once per month, sexual satisfaction decreases. Furthermore, although these studies (Wright, Steffen, et al., 2017; Wright, Bridges et al., 2017) were cross-sectional, given the number of longitudinal studies (e.g., Peter & Valkenburg, 2009) linking IPU to lower sexual satisfaction, it is reasonable to infer that these associations are causal in nature. As IPU increases, interpersonal sexual satisfaction appears to decrease, which is consistent with the present model’s contention that IPU is associated with more hedonic and self-focused sexual motivation.

As of 2017 there 24 studies linking porn use/sex addiction to sexual problems and lower arousal to sexual stimuli. Wiring or conditioning one's sexual arousal to internet porn is also seen in escalation into new genres, or needing new and unusual genres to become aroused. Three studies have now asked porn users specifically about escalation into new genres or tolerance, confirming both (1, 2, 3). Employing various indirect methods, an additional 16 studies have reported findings consistent with habituation to "regular porn" or escalation into more extreme and unusual genres. The following studies, selected from the two lists, demonstrate porn users conditioning their arousal template to internet porn:

1) Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016). This an extensive review of the literature related to porn-induced sexual problems include 3 clinical reports of servicemen who developed porn-induced sexual dysfunctions. Two of the three servicemen healed their sexual dysfunctions by eliminating porn use while the third man experienced little improvement as he was unable to abstain from porn use. Two of the three servicemen reported habituation to current porn and escalation of porn use. The first serviceman describes his habituation to "soft porn" followed by escalation into more graphic and fetish porn: 

A 20-year old active duty enlisted Caucasian serviceman presented with difficulties achieving orgasm during intercourse for the previous six months. It first happened while he was deployed overseas. He was masturbating for about an hour without an orgasm, and his penis went flaccid. His difficulties maintaining erection and achieving orgasm continued throughout his deployment. Since his return, he had not been able to ejaculate during intercourse with his fiancée. He could achieve an erection but could not orgasm, and after 10–15 min he would lose his erection, which was not the case prior to his having ED issues.

Patient endorsed masturbating frequently for “years”, and once or twice almost daily for the past couple of years. He endorsed viewing Internet pornography for stimulation. Since he gained access to high-speed Internet, he relied solely on Internet pornography. Initially, “soft porn”, where the content does not necessarily involve actual intercourse, “did the trick”. However, gradually he needed more graphic or fetish material to orgasm. He reported opening multiple videos simultaneously and watching the most stimulating parts.

The second serviceman describes increased porn use and escalation into more graphic porn. Soon thereafter sex with his wife “not as stimulating as before":

A 40-year old African American enlisted serviceman with 17 years of continuous active duty presented with difficulty achieving erections for the previous three months. He reported that when he attempted to have sexual intercourse with his wife, he had difficulty achieving an erection and difficulty maintaining it long enough to orgasm. Ever since their youngest child left for college, six months earlier, he had found himself masturbating more often due to increased privacy. He formerly masturbated every other week on average, but that increased to two to three times per week. He had always used Internet pornography, but the more often he used it, the longer it took to orgasm with his usual material. This led to him using more graphic material. Soon thereafter, sex with his wife was “not as stimulating” as before and at times he found his wife “not as attractive”. He denied ever having these issues earlier in the seven years of their marriage. He was having marital issues because his wife suspected he was having an affair, which he adamantly denied.

2) Unusual masturbatory practice as an etiological factor in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual dysfunction in young men (2014) – One of the 4 case studies in this paper reports on a man with porn-induced sexual problems (low libido, fetishes, anorgasmia). After 8 months the man reported increased sexual desire, successful sex and orgasm, and enjoying “good sexual practices. Excerpts from the paper:

"When asked about masturbatory practices, he reported that in the past he had been masturbating vigorously and rapidly while watching pornography since adolescence. The pornography originally consisted mainly of zoophilia, and bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism, but he eventually got habituated to these materials and needed more hardcore pornography scenes, including transgender sex, orgies, and violent sex. He used to buy illegal pornographic movies on violent sex acts and rape and visualized those scenes in his imagination to function sexually with women. He gradually lost his desire and his ability to fantasize and decreased his masturbation frequency."

In conjunction with weekly sessions with a sex therapist, the patient was instructed to avoid any exposure to sexually explicit material, including videos, newspapers, books, and internet pornography..... After 8 months, the patient reported experiencing successful orgasm and ejaculation. He renewed his relationship with that woman, and they gradually succeeded in enjoying good sexual practices.

3) How difficult is it to treat delayed ejaculation within a short-term psychosexual model? A case study comparison (2017) - A report on "composite cases" illustrating the causes and treatments for delayed ejaculation (anorgasmia). "Patient B" represented several young men treated by the therapist. Interestingly, the paper states that Patient B's "porn use had escalated into harder material", "as is often the case". The paper says that porn-related delayed ejaculation is not uncommon, and on the rise. The author calls for more research on porn's effects of sexual functioning. Patient B's delayed ejaculation was healed after 10 weeks of no porn. Excerpts:

The cases are composite cases taken from my work within the National Health Service in Croydon University Hospital, London. With the latter case (Patient B), it is important to note that the presentation reflects a number of young males who have been referred by their GPs with a similar diagnosis. Patient B is a 19-year-old who presented because he was unable to ejaculate via penetration. When he was 13, he was regularly accessing pornography sites either on his own through internet searches or via links that his friends sent him. He began masturbating every night while searching his phone for image…If he did not masturbate he was unable to sleep. The pornography he was using had escalated, as is often the case (see Hudson-Allez, 2010), into harder material (nothing illegal)…

Patient B was exposed to sexual imagery via pornography from the age of 12 and the pornography he was using had escalated to bondage and dominance by the age of 15.

We agreed that he would no longer use pornography to masturbate. This meant leaving his phone in a different room at night. We agreed that he would masturbate in a different way….

Patient B was able to achieve orgasm via penetration by the fifth session; the sessions are offered fortnightly in Croydon University Hospital so session five equates to approximately 10 weeks from consultation. He was happy and greatly relieved. In a three-month follow-up with Patient B, things were still going well.

Patient B is not an isolated case within the National Health Service (NHS) and in fact young men in general accessing psychosexual therapy, without their partners, speaks in itself to the stirrings of change.

4) 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 as a result of using porn, yet could achieve erections with porn. From the study (CSB is compulsive sexual behaviours):

CSB subjects reported that as a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials.....[they] 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.

5) Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men (2016) - This Belgian study from a leading research university found problematic Internet porn use was associated with reduced erectile function and reduced overall sexual satisfaction. Yet problematic porn users experienced greater cravings (sensitization). The study reports escalation, as 49% of the men viewed porn that "was not previously interesting to them or that they considered disgusting." Excerpt:

Forty-nine percent mentioned at least sometimes searching for sexual content or being involved in OSAs that were not previously interesting to them or that they considered disgusting, and 61.7% reported that at least sometimes OSAs were associated with shame or guilty feelings.

This Belgian study also found problematic Internet porn use was associated with reduced erectile function and reduced overall sexual satisfaction. Yet problematic porn users experienced greater cravings. (OSA's = online sexual activity, which was porn for 99% of subjects.) Interestingly, 20.3% of participants said that one motive for their porn use was "to maintain arousal with my partner." An excerpt:

"This study is the first to directly investigate the relationships between sexual dysfunctions and problematic involvement in OSAs. Results indicated that higher sexual desire, lower overall sexual satisfaction, and lower erectile function were associated with problematic OSAs (online sexual activities). These results can be linked to those of previous studies reporting a high level of arousability in association with sexual addiction symptoms (Bancroft & Vukadinovic, 2004; Laier et al., 2013; Muise et al., 2013)."

6) Adolescents and web porn: a new era of sexuality (2015) - This Italian study analyzed the effects of Internet porn on high school seniors, 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% of those who consume less than once a week).

7) Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards" (2015). Cambridge University fMRI study reported greater habituation to sexual stimuli in compulsive porn users. An excerpt:

Online explicit stimuli are vast and expanding, and this feature may promote escalation of use in some individuals. For instance, healthy males viewing repeatedly the same explicit film have been found to habituate to the stimulus and find the explicit stimulus as progressively less sexually arousing, less appetitive and less absorbing (Koukounas and Over, 2000). ... We show experimentally what is observed clinically that Compulsive Sexual Behavior is characterized by novelty-seeking, conditioning and habituation to sexual stimuli in males.

From the related press release:

They found that when the sex addicts viewed the same sexual image repeatedly, compared to the healthy volunteers they experienced a greater decrease of activity in the region of the brain known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, known to be involved in anticipating rewards and responding to new events. This is consistent with 'habituation', where the addict finds the same stimulus less and less rewarding – for example, a coffee drinker may get a caffeine 'buzz' from their first cup, but over time the more they drink coffee, the smaller the buzz becomes.

This same habituation effect occurs in healthy males who are repeatedly shown the same porn video. But when they then view a new video, the level of interest and arousal goes back to the original level. This implies that, to prevent habituation, the sex addict would need to seek out a constant supply of new images. In other words, habituation could drive the search for novel images.

"Our findings are particularly relevant in the context of online pornography," adds Dr Voon. "It's not clear what triggers sex addiction in the first place and it is likely that some people are more pre-disposed to the addiction than others, but the seemingly endless supply of novel sexual images available online helps feed their addiction, making it more and more difficult to escape."

8) Men's Sexual Life and Repeated Exposure to Pornography. A New Issue? (2015)

Mental health specialists should take in consideration the possible effects of pornography consumption on men sexual behaviors, men sexual difficulties and other attitudes related to sexuality. In the long term pornography seems to create sexual dysfunctions, especially the individual’s inability to reach an orgasm with his partner. Someone who spends most of his sexual life masturbating while watching porn engages his brain in rewiring its natural sexual sets so that it will soon need visual stimulation to achieve an orgasm.

Many different symptoms of porn consumption, such as the need to involve a partner in watching porn, the difficulty in reaching orgasm, the need for porn images in order to ejaculate turn into sexual problems. These sexual behaviors may go on for months or years and it may be mentally and bodily associated with the erectile dysfunction, although it is not an organic dysfunction. Because of this confusion, which generates embarrassment, shame and denial, lots of men refuse to encounter a specialist

Pornography offers a very simple alternative to obtain pleasure without implying other factors that were involved in human’s sexuality along the history of mankind. The brain develops an alternative path for sexuality which excludes “the other real person” from the equation. Furthermore, pornography consumption in a long term makes men more prone to difficulties in obtaining an erection in a presence of their partners.

9) Masturbation and Pornography Use Among Coupled Heterosexual Men With Decreased Sexual Desire: How Many Roles of Masturbation? (2015) - Frequent porn was related with decreased sexual desire and low relationship intimacy. Excerpts:

Among men who masturbated frequently, 70% used pornography at least once a week. A multivariate assessment showed that sexual boredom, frequent pornography use, and low relationship intimacy significantly increased the odds of reporting frequent masturbation among coupled men with decreased sexual desire.

Among men [with decreased sexual desire] who used pornography at least once a week [in 2011], 26.1% reported that they were unable to control their pornography use. In addition, 26.7% of men reported that their use of pornography negatively affected their partnered sex.

10) Associative pathways between pornography consumption and reduced sexual satisfaction (2017) - While this paper links porn use to lower sexual satisfaction, it also reported that frequency of porn use was related to a preference (or need?) for porn over people to achieve sexual arousal. Excerpt:

Finally, we found that frequency of pornography consumption was also directly related to a relative preference for pornographic rather than partnered sexual excitement. Participants in the present study primarily consumed pornography for masturbation. The more frequently pornography is used as an arousal tool for masturbation, the more an individual may become conditioned to pornographic as opposed to other sources of sexual arousal.

11) “I think it has been a negative influence in many ways but at the same time I can’t stop using it”: Self-identified problematic pornography use among a sample of young Australians (2017) - Online survey of Australians, aged 15-29. Those who had ever viewed pornography (n=856) were asked in an open-ended question: ‘How has pornography influenced your life?’ Excerpt:

Among participants who responded to the open-ended question (n=718), problematic usage was self-identified by 88 respondents. Male participants who reported problematic usage of pornography highlighted effects in three areas: on sexual function, arousal and relationships.

12) Study sees link between porn and sexual dysfunction (2017) - The findings of an upcoming study presented at the American Urological Association's annual meeting. A few excerpts:

Young men who prefer pornography to real-world sexual encounters might find themselves caught in a trap, unable to perform sexually with other people when the opportunity presents itself, a new study reports. Porn-addicted men are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and are less likely to be satisfied with sexual intercourse, according to survey findings presented Friday at the American Urological Association's annual meeting, in Boston.

The rates of organic causes of erectile dysfunction in this age cohort are extremely low, so the increase in erectile dysfunction that we have seen over time for this group needs to be explained," Christman said. "We believe that pornography use may be one piece to that puzzle.

13) Exploring the effect of sexually explicit material on the sexual beliefs, understanding and practices of young men: A qualitative survey (2016). A qualitative study reports escalation into extreme material. An excerpt:

Findings suggest that the key themes are: increased levels of availability of SEM, including an escalation in extreme content (Everywhere You Look) which are seen by young men in this study as having negative effects on sexual attitudes and behaviours (That's Not Good). Family or sex education may offer some ‘protection’ (Buffers) to the norms young people see in SEM. Data suggests confused views (Real verses Fantasy) around adolescents’ expectations of a healthy sex life (Healthy Sex Life) and appropriate beliefs and behaviours (Knowing Right from Wrong). A potential causal pathway is described and areas of intervention highlighted.

14) Shifting Preferences In Pornography Consumption (1986) - Six weeks of exposure to nonviolent pornography resulted in subjects having little interest in vanilla porn, electing to almost exclusively watch "uncommon pornography" (bondage, sadomasochism, bestiality). An excerpt:

Male and female students and nonstudents were exposed to one hour of common, nonviolent pornography or to sexually and aggressively innocuous materials in each of six consecutive weeks. Two weeks after this treatment, they were provided with an opportunity to watch videotapes in a private situation. G-rated, R-rated, and X-rated programs were available. Subjects with considerable prior exposure to common, nonviolent pornography showed little interest in common, nonviolent pornography, electing to watch uncommon pornography (bondage, sadomasochism, bestiality) instead. Male nonstudents with prior exposure to common, nonviolent pornography consumed uncommon pornography almost exclusively. Male students exhibited the same pattern, although somewhat less extreme. This consumption preference was also in evidence in females, but was far less pronounced, especially among female students.

15) The Relationship between Frequent Pornography Consumption, Behaviors, and Sexual Preoccupancy among Male Adolescents in Sweden (2017) - Porn use in 18-year old males was universal, and frequent porn users preferred hard-core porn. Does this indicate escalation of porn use?

Among frequent users, the most common type of pornography consumed was hard core pornography (71%) followed by lesbian pornography (64%), while soft core pornography was the most commonly selected genre for average (73%) and infrequent users (36%). There was also a difference between the groups in the proportion who watched hard core pornography (71%, 48%, 10%) and violent pornography (14%, 9%, 0%).

The authors suggest that frequent porn may ultimately lead to a preference for hard-core or violent pornography:

It is also noteworthy that a statistically significant relationship was found between fantasizing about pornography several times a week and watching hard core pornography. Since verbal and physical sexual aggression is so commonplace in pornography, what most adolescents considered hard core pornography could likely be defined as violent pornography. If this is the case, and in light of the suggested cyclical nature of sexual preoccupancy in Peter and Valkenburg, it may be that rather than ‘purging’ individuals of their fantasies and inclinations of sexual aggression, watching hard core pornography perpetuates them, thereby increasing the likelihood of manifested sexual aggression.

16) Out-of-control use of the internet for sexual purposes as behavioural addiction? An upcoming study (presented at the 4th International Conference on Behavioral Addictions, February 20–22, 2017) which also directly asked about tolerance and withdrawal. It found both in "pornography addicts". 

Background and aims: There is an ongoing debate whether excessive sexual behaviour should be understood as a form of behavioural addiction (Karila, Wéry, Weistein et al., 2014). The present qualitative study aimed at analysing the extent to which out-of-control use of the internet for sexual purposes (OUISP) may be framed by the concept of behavioural addiction among those individuals who were in treatment due to their OUISP.

Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews with 21 participants aged 22–54 years (Mage = 34.24 years). Using a thematic analysis, the clinical symptoms of OUISP were analysed with the criteria of behavioural addiction, with the special focus on tolerance and withdrawal symptoms (Griffiths, 2001).

Results: The dominant problematic behaviour was out-of-control online pornography use (OOPU). Building up tolerance to OOPU manifested itself as an increasing amount of time spent on pornographic websites as well as searching for new and more sexually explicit stimuli within the non-deviant spectrum. Withdrawal symptoms manifested themselves on a psychosomatic level and took the form of searching for alternative sexual objects. Fifteen participants fulfilled all of the addiction criteria.

Conclusions: The study indicates a usefulness for the behavioural addiction framework

Finally, a porn user "wiring his sexual response to internet porn" is seen not only in porn-induced sexual dysfunctions and escalation, but neurologically in sensitization (cue-reactivity, cravings, compulsion to use). Sensitization results in increased "wanting" or craving while liking or pleasure diminishes. There are now 20 studies reporting sensitization, cravings, or cue-reactivity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.


SLIDE 8

Real sex, in contrast, is: Courtship, Touching, Being touched, Smells, Pheromones, Less forceful stimulation, Emotional connection, Interaction with a person. What happens when our guy finally gets with a real partner?

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

This slide contends that masturbating to streaming porn via tube sites is not the same as sex with a real partner. While this is common sense, the core concept is that young men who use streaming porn can condition their sexual arousal to everything associated with their porn use. The disparity between real sex and masturbating to Internet porn is a key factor behind porn-induced sexual dysfunctions (erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia, low libido, delayed ejaculation), as addressed in later slides. The original support came from hundreds of thousands of self reports taken from porn recovery forums and forums unrelated to porn where men posted about porn use affecting their sexual functioning (list of such forums). Again, these thousands of accounts aligned with psychiatrist Norman Doidge's 2007 bestseller, "The Brain That Changes Itself," which also pointed out that internet porn use can alter the sexual template. Excerpts in support of this slide:

The current porn epidemic gives a graphic demonstration that sexual tastes can be acquired. Pornography, delivered by high-speed Internet connections, satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change. ...

Pornography seems, at first glance, to be a purely instinctual matter: sexually explicit pictures trigger instinctual responses, which are the product of millions of years of evolution. But if that were true, pornography would be unchanging. The same triggers, bodily parts and their proportions, that appealed to our ancestors would excite us. This is what pornographers would have us believe, for they claim they are battling sexual repression, taboo, and fear and that their goal is to liberate the natural, pent-up sexual instincts.

But in fact the content of pornography is a dynamic phenomenon that perfectly illustrates the progress of an acquired taste. Thirty years ago, "hardcore" pornography usually meant the explicit depiction of sexual intercourse between two aroused partners, displaying their genitals. "Softcore" meant pictures of women, mostly, on a bed, at their toilette, or in some semi-romantic setting, in various states of undress, breasts revealed.

Now hardcore has evolved and is increasingly dominated by the sadomasochistic themes of forced sex, ejaculations on women's faces, and angry anal sex, all involving scripts fusing sex with hatred and humiliation. Hardcore pornography now explores the world of perversion, while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago, explicit sexual intercourse between adults, now available on cable TV. The comparatively tame softcore pictures of yesteryear—women in various states of undress—now show up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.

Hardcore porn unmasks some of the early neural networks that formed in the critical periods of sexual development and brings all these early, forgotten or repressed elements together to form a new network, in which all the features are wired together. Porn sites generate catalogs of common kinks and mix them together in images. Sooner or later the surfer finds a killer combination that presses a number of his sexual buttons at once. Then he reinforces the network by viewing the images repeatedly, masturbating, releasing dopamine and strengthening these networks. He has created a kind of "neosexuality," a rebuilt libido that has strong roots in his buried sexual tendencies. Because he often develops tolerance, the pleasure of sexual discharge must be supplemented with the pleasure of an aggressive release, and sexual and aggressive images are increasingly mingled--hence the increase in sadomasochistic themes in hardcore porn.

Typically, while I was treating one of these men for some other problem, he would report, almost as an aside and with telling discomfort, that he found himself spending more and more time on the Internet, looking at pornography and masturbating. He might try to ease his discomfort by asserting that everybody did it. In some cases he would begin by looking at a Playboy-type site or at a nude picture or video clip that someone had sent him as a lark. In other cases he would visit a harmless site, with a suggestive ad that redirected him to risque sites, and soon he would be hooked. ...

A number of these men also reported something else, often in passing, that caught my attention. They reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive. When I asked if this phenomenon had any relationship to viewing pornography, they answered that it initially helped them get more excited during sex but over time had the opposite effect. Now, instead of using their senses to enjoy being in bed, in the present, with their partners, lovemaking increasingly required them to fantasize that they were part of a porn script. Some gently tried to persuade their lovers to act like porn stars, and they were increasingly interested in “fucking” as opposed to “making love.” Their sexual fantasy lives were increasingly dominated by the scenarios that they had, so to speak downloaded into their brains, and these new scripts were often more primitive and more violent than their previous sexual fantasies. I got the impression that any sexual creativity these men had was dying and that they were becoming addicted to Internet porn.

The changes I observed are not confined to a few people in therapy. A social shift is occurring.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

This large section from a 2017 review of the literature, Pornography, Pleasure, and Sexuality: Towards a Hedonic Reinforcement Model of Sexually Explicit Internet Media Use, contends that internet porn use (IPU) might lead to preference over partnered sex:

Why IPU might increase self-focused, hedonic sexual motivations?

Central to the notion that IPU increases self-focused and hedonic sexual motivations is the supposition that IP, because of its uniquely rewarding properties, alters the relative reinforcement of partnered sexual activity. Humans engage in calculations of the effort required to obtain a specific reward (Green & Myerson, 2004; Kahneman, 2003). When the reward is deemed worthy of a certain amount of effort, the effort is undertaken. When adjustments to this ratio are made, behaviors and motivations change as a result. Returning to our parallel example of hunger drive and food, there is abundant evidence that changes to the rewarding nature of food changes behavior that is readily observable on a cultural/societal scale. The proliferation of highly palatable foods in the form of low-cost, easily accessible “junk food” is well documented in the literature (see Monteiro, Moubarac, Cannon, Ng, & Popkin, 2013). The abundance of highly palatable foods has been associated with increased consumption of such foods and a per-capita decrease in consumption of healthy—but more expensive and less palatable—options (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004; Hardin-Fanning & Rayens, 2015). In short, the popularity of easily accessible and intensely rewarding highly palatable foods has had cultural impacts on the way in which people approach food.

It is likely that a similar process is occurring with IPU. Although solitary sexual activity (e.g., IPU) and dyadic sexual activity both involve a cue/stimulus (e.g., sexually explicit imagery or sexual partner) and a clear goal of sexual gratification (e.g., orgasm), the methods by which that gratification is obtained are different, with solitary sexual activity clearly implying a self-focused hedonic process (e.g., masturbation). Although one might speculate that viewing IP or masturbating are less preferred relative to partnered sexual activity, the ease and accessibility of IP may make them more appealing to some individuals (e.g., Wright, Sun, Steffen, & Tokunaga, 2017), as may the novelty and customizability of IP.

Importantly, if this supposition—that IPU predicts an increase in self-focused and hedonic sexual motives— is true, it should be evident in the sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with IPU. Specifically, we would expect to find an association between IPU and more pleasure-focused attitudes toward sexuality, such as openness to casual sexual encounters and a focus on personal pleasure preferences. We would also expect IPU to be associated with more objectifying or instrumental views of prospective sexual partners, as sexual objectification is inherently self-focused and hedonistic, viewing prospective partners as means to an end (e.g., sexual pleasure) rather than relational investments (Wright & Tokunaga, 2016). There would also be associations with greater individual emphasis on personal sexual satisfaction. Finally, we would expect to find that IPU is associated with more diverse and potentially risky sexual behaviors and more specific sexual preferences that are all in service of enhancing personal sexual pleasure.

Evidence of IPU’s Impacts on Sexual Motivation

We have made the theoretical argument that IPU is likely associated with changes in human sexual motivation. Below, we seek to review the known attitudinal and behavioral correlates and outcomes of IPU in order to evaluate whether they support the hypothesized relationship.

Casual Sexual Behavior.

One particular evidence of a more hedonic and self-focused approach to sexuality would be increases in uncommitted sexual behaviors (e.g., casual sex with consenting partners). Uncommitted sexual behavior is commonly associated with pleasure-seeking motives (Garcia & Reiber, 2008; Kruger & Fisher, 2008; Sirin, McCreary, & Mahalik, 2004). People who engage in uncommitted sexual behavior often describe hedonistic goals as the primary motivation for such encounters (Armstrong & Reissing, 2015; Lyons, Manning, Longmore, & Giordano, 2014; Regan & Dreyer, 1999) and often explicitly deny social sexual motivations as reasons for such encounters (Lyons et al., 2014). As such, uncommitted sexual behavior is likely a strong indication of greater hedonic or self-focused sexual motivation, particularly among men (Regan & Dreyer, 1999), although women also frequently report hedonic motivations for such encounters (Lyons et al., 2014).

In a longitudinal panel study of General Social Survey (GSS) participants in the U.S. (Wright, Tokunaga, & Bae, 2014), two samples were surveyed at two time-points over two years (Sample 1, N=269, Mage=47.0, SD=14.8, 37% men, sampled at 2006 and 2008; Sample 2, N=282, Mage=49.9, SD=14.0, 50.1% men, sampled at 2008 and 2010). Over time, the use of sexually explicit media (not directly defined as internet use only) was associated with increases in sexual permissiveness and more open attitudes toward extramarital sexual behaviors. Notably, this association persisted, above and beyond baseline attitudes, suggesting that pornography use is predictive of such attitudes. Additionally, the pattern was not evident in reverse (e.g., extramarital openness did not predict pornography use over time), suggesting that the relationship between the two variables is not bidirectional.

These findings also extend to actual behaviors as well. Analyses from nationally representative samples (General Social Survey) have linked increased use of sexually explicit materials to more engagement in casual sexual behaviors over time (Wright, 2012). Notably, these associations were not observable in reverse: Pornography use was associated with increasing engagement in casual sexual encounters, but casual sexual encounters were not reciprocally associated with increased pornography use. Although these findings cannot confirm a direct, causal relationship between IPU and casual sex, they do show that increases in IPU precede greater engagement in casual sexual behaviors over time. This temporal relationship is consistent with our model which suggests that IPU leads to a marked increase in hedonic sexual motives and behaviors.         

Evidence supporting a link between IPU and increased casual sexual behavior has also been observed in adolescents. In a study of adolescents in the Southeastern United States (N=967, 49.9% male, Mage=13.6, SD=0.7), greater use of sexually explicit media (5-point ordinal; more than once a week—never) was cross-sectionally associated with more permissive sexual norms and greater acceptance of casual sexual behavior in both men and women (Brown & L’Engle, 2009). Importantly, when sampled again two years later, IPU at baseline was associated with continued tendencies toward greater sexual permissiveness, as well as greater engagement in a variety of sexual behaviors. Such a finding extends previous research that has shown that IPU is predictive of attitudes toward and engagement in non-committed sexual encounters by demonstrating this relationship in adolescence.

In a study of “friends with benefits” (FWB) relationships (Braithwaite, Aaron, Dowdle, Spjut, & Fincham, 2015), in which partners engage in both casual, non-romantic friendship while also being sexually active with one another, IPU emerged as a consistent predictor of non-committed sexual behaviors. Specifically, in a cross-sectional study of undergraduates in the U.S. (Study 1, N=850, 23% men, Mage=19.3, SD=1.3), IPU (8-point ordinal; never—several times a day) was associated with greater likelihood of having engaged in a FWB relationship, greater number of partners with which one had engaged in such relationships, and greater plan to continue such relationships in the future. Additionally, these findings were directly replicated cross-sectionally (Study 2, N=992, 30% men, Mage=19.5., SD=1.3) in another sample of undergraduates, with all associations falling within expected confidence intervals. When these findings were examined longitudinally over a roughly three-month period, the association between IPU and FWB relationships again held, and was stronger than the cross-sectional association between the two behaviors, after adjusting for the stability of FWB relationships. Collectively, these findings point to the conclusion that IPU is a unique and potentially causal factor that influences the likelihood of engaging in casual sexual behaviors.

The links between IPU and casual sexual behavior also appear among college students, for whom casual sexual behavior is generally thought to be more common (Garcia, Reiber, Massey, & Merriwether, 2012). In a study of “hook-up” culture in college campuses (Braithwaite, Coulson, Keddington, & Fincham, 2015), in which college students engage in one-time sexual encounters with non-romantic partners, links were again found between IPU (8-point ordinal; never—several times a day) and casual sexual behaviors. Using the same samples as described above (Braithwaite, Aaron, et al., 2015), IPU was associated with casual sexual behavior in the form of hookups both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. IPU predicted both the likelihood of having engaged in a hookup, the number of previous hookup partners, and the planned likelihood of engaging in future hookups. As such, there is evidence that IPU is predictive of casual sexual behavior in multiple forms (e.g., non-committed FWB relationships and non-committed one-time sexual encounters).

Beyond these compelling longitudinal findings, there is additional, cross-sectional support for the notion that IPU is associated with increases in casual sexual behaviors. In a cross-sectional study of young adults in the U.S. (N=813, 38% men; Mage=20, SD=1.8), IPU (6-point ordinal; non—every day or almost every day) was commonly reported by both genders (more so among men: 86.1% men vs. 31% of women) and positively associated with acceptance of non-committed sexual behaviors (Carroll et al., 2008). Similarly, in a study of adolescents in the U.S. (Braun-Courville & Rojas, 2009; N=433, 85% women, Mage= 18; SD=2.1) IPU (4-point ordinal; none—more than 10 times) was associated with a greater history of casual sexual encounters and more permissive attitudes toward future casual sexual encounters. Finally, in a large, cross-sectional study of Dutch adolescents (Peter & Valkenburg, 2009; N=2,343, 51% men; Mage=16.4, SD=2.29), IPU (7-point ordinal; neverseveral times per day) was associated with greater sexual permissiveness and acceptance of non-committed sexual exploration in the future.

Outside of Western contexts, these findings persist. In a cross-sectional study of university students (N=556; 73.4% women) in a predominantly Muslim society with strict anti-pornography laws (Indonesia; Hald & Mulya, 2013), IPU (standardized index of frequency and time spent) was predictive of non-committed sexual behaviors and extramarital sexual behaviors. Notably, these findings were evident for male participants only, despite no differences in incident rates in men and women for sexual behaviors in general. Additionally, in a sample of Taiwanese adolescents (N=2,001; 50% male; Mage=15.6, SD=0.9) found that internet pornography exposure (Lo & Wei, 2005; 5-point ordinal scale; nevernearly every day) was cross-sectionally associated with and predictive of more sexually permissive attitudes and behaviors (e.g., casual sex). Finally, in a cross-sectional analysis of men in Hong Kong (Lam & Chan, 2007; N=229, Mage=21.5, SD=1.8), IPU (4-point ordinal scale; NeverFrequently) was positively associated with sexual permissiveness and proclivity to engage in sexual harassment.

Collectively, these findings indicate that there is likely an association between IPU and both attitudes toward and engagement in casual sexual behavior. Furthermore, given that many of these findings are longitudinal and nationally representative in nature, they provide stronger evidence for the conclusion that IPU is predictive of increased hedonic motivations for sexual activity.

Sexual Objectification.

More evidence of IP’s influence on egocentric and hedonic sexual motivation may be found in research related to IP and sexual objectification. Sexual objectification, by nature, involves the devaluation of the personhood of prospective sexual partners and the view of them as objects for personal pleasure enhancement (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). This is especially true of heterosexual men, for whom sexual objectification has been primarily researched (e.g., Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; Szymanski, Moffit, & Carr, 2010). However, both men and women may view others as sexual objects (Strelan & Hargreaves, 2005), and, although understudied in LGBTQ populations, there is evidence that such individuals may also objectify prospective partners (Wilson et al., 2009). Should one approach partnered sexual activity from an exclusively self-focused and hedonic perspective, it is quite likely that one would also view prospective sexual partners as sexual objects by which greater sexual pleasure can be obtained (Wright & Tokunaga, 2015, 2016). Therefore, one indicator of the association between IPU and increased hedonic motivation would be an increase in sexual objectification associated with such use.

Published literature on the use of sexually explicit media and attitudes toward women generally shows that the use of sexually explicit media is associated with greater acceptance of violence toward women (Allen, Emmers, Gebhardt, & Giery, 1995; Demare, Briere, & Lips, 1988; Hald, Malamuth, & Yuen, 2010), particularly among men already predisposed to engage in sexual violence (Malamuth, Hald, & Koss, 2012). Moreover, in a meta-anaytic study of the effects of pornography use on sexual attitudes (Wright, Tokunaga, & Kraus, 2016), pornography consumption in both men and women was associated with more sexually aggressive attitudes. Building on this, in a longitudinal study of Dutch adolescents (N=962, Range=14-20; Peter & Valkenburg, 2009), IPU (7-point ordinal; neverseveral times a day) predicted general notions of women as sexual objects among both men and women. However, it was noted that only among men did such increased views of women as sexual objects then predict increases in IPU. In short, for male participants, IPU was longitudinally linked to greater sexual objectification of women, which was, in turn, longitudinally linked to greater IPU.

Pornography exposure has also been shown to predict sexually objectified attitudes toward women in experimental and correlational research conducted with collegiate males in the United States (Wright & Tokunaga, 2015, 2016). For instance, in a sample of undergraduate men (N=133, Mage=20.91, SD=1.84), participants who did not generally consume sexually explicit media and who were shown digital images of centerfolds from a popular pornographic website (compared to individuals shown images of sports) reported increased desires for non-relational sex, increased importance of physical attractiveness in prospective partners, and more views of women as sexual objects for the purpose of gaining pleasure (Wright & Tokunaga, 2015).

Internationally, IPU (6-point ordinal; never—every day) specifically has also been correlated with objectifying women among college students (N=476; 40.3% men, Mage=19.5, SD=1.3) in Japan (Omori et al., 2011). Collectively, these findings suggest that, particularly for heterosexual men, IPU is cross-sectionally, longitudinally, and experimentally associated with increases in sexual objectification, which is consistent with more self-focused and hedonic views of sexual activity.

Sexual Preferences.

An increase in hedonic sexual motivation because of IPU would also be evident in individual’s sexual preferences. Hedonic drives are known to be associated with a desire for variety and novelty (Kashdan & Steger, 2007; Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982). A similar understanding may also be applied to sexual preferences and practices (discussed later). Specifically, increases in hedonic sexual drives may also be associated with increases in specific, novel, varied, and self-focused sexual preferences.

In a cross-sectional study (Morgan, 2011) of college students in the Northwest (N=782, 41.7% men, Mage=19.9, Range=18-30), regular IPU (10-point ordinal; nevermore than once a day) was associated with greater variety in sexual preferences and a greater preference for a variety of sexual practices (e.g., using toys or props; playful domination/submission; trying novel positions). Notably, IPU was robustly predictive of a variety of sexual preferences that extended beyond real life sexual experience history. Regular users tended to report a desire to engage in a wide variety of sexual experiences, even if they had previously had no experience with such behaviors. Such a finding indicates that IPU may be influencing sexual desire and motivation or that people who report a variety of sexual preferences are also more open to IP.

Building on this, in a cross-sectional study (Sun, Bridges, Johnson, & Ezzell, 2016) of undergraduate men (N=479, Range=18-29), IPU (8-point ordinal; never—daily or almost daily) was substantially associated with various sexual preferences and scripts that are hedonically driven. IPU predicted the likelihood that an individual would request specific sexual acts seen in IP from a real-life partner and the likelihood that pornography would be integrated into sexual encounters as a supplement to enhance arousal. In short, IPU was associated with a desire to recreate or incorporate what was seen in partnered sexual interaction.

Similarly, in cross-sectional samples of internet using undergraduates (Bridges, Sun, Ezzell, & Johnson, 2016; N=1,883; 38.6% men; Mage=22.6, SD=8.0), IPU (8-point ordinal; never—daily or almost daily) was associated with the desire to try specific sexual practices commonly seen in pornographic content (e.g., men spanking their partners, facial ejaculation, anal penetration). Similar findings have also been observed in cross-sectional studies of German men (Wright, Sun, Steffen, & Tokunaga, 2015; N=384, Mage=32.1, SD=9.1) and women (Sun, Wright, & Steffen, 2017; N=392, Mage=27.5, SD=6.7), with IPU (8-point ordinal; never—daily or almost daily) in both genders being associated with a desire to engage in specific sexual practices seen in IP. Furthermore, in studies of Dutch adolescents (Hald, Kuyper, Adam, & Wit, 2013; N=4,600; 30.5% men; Range= 15-25), IPU (5-point ordinal; neverdaily) was positively predictive of a desire to have more “adventurous sex” in real life (e.g., multiple partners at the same time; meeting online partners for real-life encounters), even when other explanatory variables (e.g., thrill-seeking, sexual sensation-seeking, assertiveness, sexual self-esteem, religiousness) were controlled.

Experimentally there is also evidence that IPU is associated with increased hedonic sexual motivation. For example, in early work on this topic (E.g., Zillman & Bryant, 1988a, 1988b), pornography use in general (not necessarily just IP) has been linked with greater preference for sexual novelty, new sexual partners, and non-committed sexual relationships. Regarding IP specifically, in previously described experimental procedures (Wright & Tokunaga, 2015) found that exposure to IP predicted more hedonistic preferences as well, such as more attractive partners. Collectively, such findings suggest that IP may be causing increases in hedonic sexual preferences.

These findings are further substantiated in both quantitative and qualitative research samples. In a cross-sectional, interview-based study of undergraduates (N=172; 41% men; Mage=21.3; Range=18-34; Weinberg, Williams, Kleiner, & Irizarry, 2010), IP exposure was associated with increased openness to a variety of sexual acts, including oral-genital contact, the use of mechanical enhancements (i.e., sex toys), openness to anal sexual stimulation, and the desire to engage in multi-partner sexual encounters (i.e., three-way sexual encounters). Notably, these findings were particularly consistent for heterosexual men and women. Moreover, in a follow-up, qualitative study with undergraduates (N=73, 26% men; Weinberg et al., 2010), responses to open-ended questionnaires reflected similar relationships between IP exposure and openness to a variety of sexual acts. Free response answers from both men and women reflected a causal understanding of the relationship between their IPU and sexual preferences, noting that IP had normalized a wide range of sexual behaviors and enhanced their personal openness to engaging in such behaviors. In short, although the majority of literature linking IPU to more hedonic sexual preferences is cross-sectional, retrospective reports suggest that people understand such links as causal in nature. Although the biases of retrospective self-report are well-known (Chan, 2009), IP consumers seem to believe that their use has altered their behavior in hedonic ways, which provides some support to our model.

Sexual Risk-Taking.

Studies associating pornography consumption with sexual risk behavior may also be indicative of self-focused and hedonic motivations, as risky sexual behaviors are often motivated by a desire for short-term sexual pleasure with little regard for potential consequences (Cooper et al., 1998). With greater hedonism, people are more likely to take risks to experience pleasure (Broadbeck, Vilén, Bachmann, Znoj, & Alasker, 2010; O’Leary et al., 2005). As such, links between IPU and sexual risk-taking can be cited as further evidence for the relationship between IPU and reinforced hedonic motivation.

Longitudinally, results from a nationally representative, 2008, two-wave panel study of adults (N=833) and adolescents (N=1,445) in Holland (Peter & Valkenburg, 2011b) suggested that, for both adults and adolescents, IPU (7-point ordinal; never—several times a day) was associated with greater sexual risk taking. Cross-sectionally, within both samples, there were small positive correlations between IPU and unsafe sexual practices (i.e., unprotected sex). Over a six-month period, IPU was unrelated to risky sexual behaviors in adolescents, but positively predictive of risky sexual behavior in adults, above and beyond the predictive influence of baseline risky sexual behaviors. Additionally, no reciprocal relationship was found (i.e., risky sexual behavior did not predict IPU over time), suggesting that IPU may be driving increases in risky sexual behavior, but not the inverse.

In a study of men in the U.S. who have sex with men (N=149), a notable association between IPU and risky sexual behavior was found (Eaton, Cain, Pope, Garcia, & Cherry, 2012). Specifically, in a sample of HIV negative men participating in a risk-reduction intervention, IPU (weekly use in minutes; 8-point ordinal; 0 minutes—180 minutes or more) was associated with a greater likelihood of having had recent unprotected sex and a greater number of partners with whom unprotected sex had occurred. Additionally, IPU was associated with greater substance use (a potential facilitator of risky sexual behavior; Cooper, 2002) and decreased estimation of HIV infection risk.

In a large-scale, cross-sectional study of non-monogamous men who have sex with men (N=751; Median Age =32; Range=18-68), there was a positive association between viewing risky sexual behaviors in IP and real-life engagement in such risky sexual behaviors (Stein, Silvera, Hagerty, & Marmor, 2012). Specifically, men who reported having witnessed unprotected anal intercourse in IP were also more likely to endorse engaging in such behaviors in their real-life sexual encounters.

Building on these findings, in a qualitative study of men who have sex with men (N=79; Mage=not reported), structured interviews revealed three mechanisms by which IPU may lead to riskier sexual behaviors (Wilkerson et al., 2012). Specifically, iterative coding procedures using standard techniques (e.g., industry standard coding software, multiple reporters, quality checks, and debriefing with participants) revealed that the likelihood that a sexual behavior or risky sexual practice witnessed in IP might lead to a real life sexual behavior was a function of the participants’ arousal when watching that specific IP, their perceptions of pleasure from watching the IP, and the availability and willingness of a trusted sexual partner to engage in that IP. When participants found acts depicted in IP to be arousing and pleasurable (in appearance), and when a trusted sexual partner was available, riskier sexual behaviors were reported as a likely result.

In a cross-sectional study of adolescents in New York City (N=433; 85% female; Mage=18, SD=2.1, Range=12-22), IPU (4-point ordinal; none—more than 10 times) was associated with a wide variety of risky sexual behaviors (Braun-Courville & Rojas, 2009). Specifically, IPU was positively associated with greater frequency of sexual intercourse, more lifetime partners, more partners within the past three months, greater likelihood of using alcohol or illicit substances during intercourse, greater likelihood to have had anal sex, and with overall sexual risk scores. No association was found between IPU and condom use. However, cross-sectional research in other samples (e.g., Wright, Tokunaga, & Kraus, 2016; Study 1, N=310, 54.5% men; Mage=20.4, SD= 1.8; Study 2, N=418, 78.7% women; Mage=21.2, SD=2.8) has found that pornography use (predominately IP) was associated with less frequent use of condoms during sexual encounters and lower estimation of peer condom use (i.e., believing that condom use is generally less common).

These findings also extend beyond Western contexts. In a large-scale study of college students in China (N=19,123; 48.7% male, Mage=20.8, SD=1.5), IPU (unspecified measurement) was associated with several sexual behaviors and attitudes that might be considered risky (Sun et al., 2013). Specifically, for both men and women IPU was associated positive attitudes toward risky sexual behaviors such as not using condoms. Similarly, in a large-scale study of male migrant workers in India (N=11,219, 100% men, Mage=26.6, SD=5.5), having viewed pornographic videos in general was associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in paid sex, experience of an STI, and inconsistent use of condoms (Mahapatra & Saggurti, 2014).

Beyond standard convenience samples, these findings are also apparent in nationally representative studies. Regarding IPU specifically, in analyses based on the 2000, 2002, and 2004 General Social Surveys (Wright & Randall, 2012), male participants (N=1,079; Mage=14.2; SD=14.1) who acknowledged viewing IP (4-point ordinal, past 30 days; never—more than five times) also endorsed a variety of other riskier sexual behaviors including having multiple partners, engaging extramarital sex, and paying for sex. Analyses of women during the same time period (2000-2004) found that women who acknowledged IPU were more likely to report having multiple sexual partners (Wright & Arroyo, 2013). Interestingly, for men, there was no association between IPU and condom use (Wright & Randall, 2012), a metric typically used as a benchmark for safe sexual practices (Albarracin, Johnson, Fishbein, & Muellerleile, 2001). Similarly, in an analysis of over 37 years of data from the GSS (1973-2010; Wright, 2013a), pornography use in general—not just IP— in men was associated with more sexual partners over the lifetime and greater likelihood of having solicited or paid for a sexual encounter. Analyses of women’s use of pornography in the GSS over the same time period (1973-2010) found that women who used pornography were also more likely to report having extramarital sex, having paid sex, and having multiple sexual partners (Wright, Bae, & Funk, 2013).

Similar patterns are also observable in regards to substance use during sexual encounters and condom use during sexual encounters (Braithwaite, Givens, Brown, & Fincham, 2015). In a cross-sectional study of college students (N=1216; 37% men; Men-Mage=19.6, SD=1.4; Women-Mage=19.2, SD=1.15), IPU (8-point ordinal; never—several times a day) was associated with intoxication during uncommitted sexual encounters, with men specifically demonstrating a pattern of greater IPU being associated with greater intoxication. Additionally, it was also associated with a higher incidence of unprotected (e.g., no condom) penetrative sexual encounters while intoxicated, a particularly risky sexual behavior.

In contrast to the above findings, findings that include samples from other countries have been less convincing in identifying a relationship between IPU and risky sexual behaviors. In a study of internet-using Swiss adolescents (N=7,458, 51.5% male; Luder et al., 2011), there were no associations found between IP exposure (intentional or unintentional) and risky sexual behaviors for either male or female participants, except for condom use among males. For males, intentional exposure to IP was associated with a reduced likelihood to have used a condom during the most recent sexual encounter. Similarly, in a previously described study of Croatian young adults (N=1,005), there were again unclear links between IPU and risky sexual behaviors (Sinkovic et al., 2013). Within this sample, frequency of IPU and personal importance of IPU were not predictors of various risky sexual behaviors. However, age at first exposure to IP was a significant, but weak, predictor of sexual risk taking, with earlier age of exposure being associated with greater risk taking. These two studies do represent an important divergence from the previously described literature that links IPU with greater sexual risk taking. However, given that these two studies occurred among adolescents and young adults in two European countries and represent two cross-sectional divergences from a clear and compelling body of longitudinal and cross-sectional research, we are hesitant to speculate about the natures of the differences. Furthermore, data involving Swiss adolescents (Luder et al., 2011) was collected in 2002, which predates the widespread promulgation of streaming pornography services that allow for the novelty and variety in IP previously described.

Collectively, across several studies using a variety of samples and methodologies, IPU seems to be consistently, positively related to risky sexual behaviors. Although some unclear findings are present (e.g., Sinkovic et al., 2013; Luder et al., 2011) the majority of studies find positive and predictive associations between IPU and sexual risk taking. Given this body of evidence, it is perhaps not surprising that previous systematic reviews have similarly concluded that there is a notable, positive relationship between the use of sexually explicit media and risky sexual behavior (Harkness, Mullan, & Blaszcynski, 2015) and that this link is possibly causal in nature.

Delay Discounting.

Finally, if IPU were to be associated with changes in sexual motivation toward more hedonic and self-focused drives, we would expect to find that there are basic changes in hedonic self-regulation. We have previously contended that the instantaneous and easily accessible nature of IPU reinforces the instant gratification of sexual desire and drive. There is also evidence that such use may influence individuals’ ability to delay gratification in general (Negash, Sheppard, Lambert, & Fincham, 2016). In a longitudinal study of college students (N=123, 32 men, 91 women; Median Age=20, Range=18-27), IPU was associated with greater propensity to discount future rewards (Negash et al., 2016, Study 1). These findings were further tested in a small experimental study of regular consumers of IP (Negash et al., 2016, Study 2; N=37; 24 men, 13 women). In this study, 16 participants were randomly assigned to refrain from IPU for three weeks, and the remaining 21 were asked to refrain from eating their favorite food for three weeks. After the study period, those who had abstained from IPU demonstrated diminished delay discounting (i.e., an increased ability to choose larger, future rewards, moderate effect, partial η2=.11) compared to those who refrained from their favorite food. These preliminary findings point to a potential tentative links between IPU and delay discounting in general.

Recently, in an experimental study of Taiwanese college students (Cheng & Chiou, 2017; Study 1, N=122, 51% men, Mage=20.9, SD=1.5), IP exposure was again associated with delay discounting. Specifically, compared to controls, individuals exposed to sexually themed online images were more likely to discount the value of future rewards in favor of smaller, immediate rewards, again demonstrating a means by which IPU may be associated with more hedonic motivations.

Summary of Enhanced Hedonic Sexual Motives

In the final step of this proposed model, IP influences sexual motivation, attitudes, and behaviors by strongly reinforcing hedonic sexual motivation. By influencing the relative reinforcement value of sexual reward, IP alters the way that consumers approach sexual activity in both solitary and partnered contexts. Evidence of this alteration is seen in numerous domains.

IPU is associated with more permissive attitudes toward casual sex and more engagement in casual sex, both of which are known to be hedonically motivated. IPU users are more likely to endorse sexually objectifying prospective sexual partners, viewing them as instruments for personal pleasure. IP consumers are also likely to report hedonic sexual motives and preferences that they attribute to their IPU, suggesting that IPU leads to more hedonic sexual preferences. IPU cross-sectionally and longitudinally predicts sexual risk taking, which is another pleasure-focused sexual drive. Finally, IP consumers display greater tendencies toward preferring immediate small rewards, as opposed to future, greater rewards (i.e., delay discounting). Collectively, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that IPU is driving increases in self-focused, hedonic sexual motives. Finally, given that many of these linkages are longitudinal and others are experimental, these results suggest an understanding of IPU as a causal factor in increasing hedonic sexual motivation.

From an update by Norman Doidge published in a peer-reviewed journal: Sex on the Brain: What Brain Plasticity Teaches About Internet Porn (2014), here are a few excerpts explaining how porn use shapes sexual arousal tastes, especially during critical periods of development:

But the main point is that in our critical periods we can acquire sexual and romantic tastes and inclinations that get wired into our brains and can have a powerful impact for the rest of our lives. And the fact that we can acquire different sexual tastes contributes to some of the tremendous sexual variation between us.

The idea that a critical period helps shape sexual desire in adults contradicts the currently popular argument that what attracts us is not so much the product of our personal history, but solely the effect of our common biology. Models and movie stars, for instance – are widely regarded as universally beautiful or sexy. A certain strand of biology teaches us that some people are attractive because they exhibit biological signs of robustness, which promise fertility and strength: a clear complexion and symmetrical features mean a potential mate is free from disease; an hourglass figure is a sign a woman is fertile; a man’s muscles predict he will be able to protect a woman and her offspring.

“Acquired tastes” are by definition learned, unlike “tastes”, which are inborn. A baby needn’t acquire a taste for milk, water, or sweets; these are immediately perceived as pleasant. Acquired tastes are initially experienced with indifference or dislike but later become pleasant – the odours of cheeses, Italian bitters, dry wines, coffees, pâtés, the hint of urine in a fried kidney. Many delicacies that people pay dearly for, that they must “develop a taste for”, are the very foods that disgusted them as children.

In Elizabethan times lovers were so enamoured of each other’s body odours that it was common for a woman to keep a peeled apple in her armpit until it had absorbed her sweat and smell. She would give this “love apple” to her lover to sniff at in her absence. We, on the other hand, use synthetic aromas of fruits and flowers to mask our body odour from our lovers. Many tastes we think “natural” are acquired through learning and become “second nature” to us. We are unable to distinguish our “second nature” from our “original nature” because our neuroplastic brains, once rewired, develop a new nature, every bit as biological as our original.

Pornography seems, at first glance, to be a purely instinctual matter, and it would seem that there is nothing acquired about it; sexually explicit pictures, of people in their most natural condition, nudity, trigger instinctual responses, which are the product of millions of years of evolution. Furthermore, the mammalian male’s interest in different partners, called “the Coolidge effect”, seems part of our evolutionary heritage. But if that were all there was to it, pornography would be unchanging, except for the fact that men would want new partners. The same triggers, body parts and their proportions, that appealed to our ancestors would excite us. This is what pornographers would have us believe, for they claim they are battling sexual repression, taboo and fear, and that their goal is to liberate the natural, pent-up sexual instincts.

But in fact the content of pornography is a dynamic phenomenon that perfectly illustrates the progress of an acquired taste.


SLIDE 9

Well, researchers don't know much about the effects of Internet porn - for several reasons. In 2009 when Lajeunesse tried to study porn's impact on users, he couldn't find any college-age males who weren't using it. So, the first serious dilemma is that studies have no control groups. This creates a huge blind spot. Imagine if all guys started smoking heavily at age 10 - and there were no groups who didn't. We'd think lung cancer was normal for guys.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Original article on Science Daily, where Lajeunesse said he couldn't find any college-age males who weren't using it.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

1) This 2017 study on Australians ages 15-29 found that 100% of the men had viewed porn. It also reported that more frequent pornography viewing correlated with mental health problems.

2) This 2017 Swedish study reported that 98% of 18-year old males had watched pornography (The Relationship between Frequent Pornography Consumption, Behaviors, and Sexual Preoccupancy among Male Adolescents in Sweden).


SLIDE 10

Undaunted by his lack of non-users, Lajeunesse asked 20 male students - "Is Internet porn affecting you or your attitudes toward women?" Their answer? "Nah, I don't guess it is." But they'd been using it for about a decade…pretty much nonstop. This is like asking a fish what it thinks about water.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Original article on Science Daily, where Lajeunesse said  "Is Internet porn affecting you or your attitudes toward women?"

In 2012 there existed a tremendous amount anecdotal evidence that men's attitudes towards women shift following elimination of porn (pages of such reports are here: Guys Who Gave Up Porn: On Sex and Romance). In addition, the preponderance of empirical evidence at the time reported links between porn use and poorer attitudes towards women. For example:

1) Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies (2010) – A review of the literature. An excerpt:

A meta-analysis was conducted to determine whether nonexperimental studies revealed an association between men's pornography consumption and their attitudes supporting violence against women. The meta-analysis corrected problems with a previously published meta-analysis and added more recent findings. In contrast to the earlier meta-analysis, the current results showed an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in nonexperimental studies. In addition, such attitudes were found to correlate significantly higher with the use of sexually violent pornography than with the use of nonviolent pornography, although the latter relationship was also found to be significant.

2) Pornography and Sexual Callousness and the Trivialization of Rape (1982) – Excerpt:

Explored the consequences of continued exposure to pornography on beliefs about sexuality in general and on dispositions toward women in particular. Found that massive exposure to pornography resulted in a loss of compassion toward women as rape victims and toward women in general.

3) Exposure to pornography and attitudes about women and rape: A correlational study (1986) – Excerpt:

Compared to a group that had watched a control film, male subjects who were shown the violent film agreed more with items endorsing interpersonal violence against women than did the control subjects. However, contrary to predictions, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in their acceptance of rape myths, although there was a trend in the predicted direction.

4) Use of pornography and self-reported engagement in sexual violence among adolescents (2005) – Excerpt:

This cross-sectional study examined 804 adolescents, boys and girls, aged from 14 to 19 years, attending different types of high schools in the northwest of Italy. The main goals were: (i) to investigate the relationship between active and passive forms of sexual harassment and violence and the relationship between pornography (reading magazines and viewing films or videos) and unwanted sex among adolescents; (ii) to explore the differences in these relationships with respect to gender and age; and (iii) to investigate the factors (pornography, gender and age) that are most likely to promote unwanted sex. The findings showed that active and passive sexual violence and unwanted sex and pornography were correlated.

5) Relationships among cybersex addiction, gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents (2007) – Excerpt:

This study was done to investigate cybersex addiction, gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents, and to identify the relationships among these variables. The participants were 690 students from two middle schools and three high schools in Seoul. Cybersex addiction, gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents were different according to general characteristics. Gender egalitarianism, sexual attitude and the allowance of sexual violence in adolescents were influenced by cybersex addiction.

6) Adolescents’ Exposure to a Sexualized Media Environment and Their Notions of Women as Sex Objects (2007) – Excerpt:

This study was designed to investigate whether adolescents’ exposure to a sexualized media environment is associated with stronger beliefs that women are sex objects [on-line survey of 745 Dutch adolescents aged 13 to 18]. More specifically, we studied whether the association between notions of women as sex objects and exposure to sexual content of varied explicitness (i.e., sexually non-explicit, semi-explicit, or explicit) and in different formats (i.e., visual and audio-visual) can be better described as cumulative or as hierarchical. Exposure to sexually explicit material in on-line movies was the only exposure measure significantly related to beliefs that women are sex objects in the final regression model, in which exposure to other forms of sexual content was controlled. The relationship between exposure to a sexualized media environment and notions of women as sex objects did not differ for girls and boys

7) The use of cyberpornography by young men in Hong Kong some psychosocial correlates (2007) – Excerpt:

This study examined the prevalence of online pornography viewing and its psychosocial correlates among a sample of young Chinese men in Hong Kong. Moreover, participants who reported to have more online pornography viewing were found to score higher on measures of premarital sexual permissiveness and proclivities toward sexual harassment.

8) X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media (2009) – Excerpt:

Correlates of use and subsequent sexual attitudes and behaviors predicted by exposure to sexually explicit content in adult magazines, X-rated movies, and the Internet were examined in a prospective survey of a diverse sample of early adolescents (average age at baseline = 13.6 years; N = 967).

Longitudinal analyses showed that early exposure for males predicted less progressive gender role attitudes, more permissive sexual norms, sexual harassment perpetration, and having oral sex and sexual intercourse two years later. Early exposure for females predicted subsequently less progressive gender role attitudes, and having oral sex and sexual intercourse.

9) Adolescents' Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Notions of Women as Sex Objects: Assessing Causality and Underlying Processes (2009) – Excerpt:

The aim of this study was to clarify causality in the previously established link between adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit Internet material (SEIM) and notions of women as sex objects. On the basis of data from a three-wave panel survey among 962 Dutch adolescents, structural equation modeling initially showed that exposure to SEIM and notions of women as sex objects had a reciprocal direct influence on each other. The direct impact of SEIM on notions of women as sex objects did not vary by gender. However, the direct influence of notions of women as sex objects on exposure to SEIM was only significant for male adolescents. Further analyses showed that, regardless of adolescents’ gender, liking of SEIM mediated the influence of exposure to SEIM on their beliefs that women are sex objects, as well as the impact of these beliefs on exposure to SEIM.

10) Japanese College Students’ Media Exposure to Sexually Explicit Materials, Perceptions of Women, and Sexually Permissive Attitudes (2011) – Excerpt:

The present study examined Japanese college students’ (N  = 476) use of sexually explicit material (SEM) and associations with perceptions of women as sex objects and sexually permissive attitudes. Results indicate that Japanese college students used print media most frequently as a source for SEM followed by the Internet and the television/video/DVD. Male participants used SEM significantly more than females. In addition, sexual preoccupancy mediated the relationship between exposure to SEM and perceptions of women as sex objects, whereas exposure to SEM in mass media had a direct association with Japanese participants’ sexually permissive attitudes.

11) The influence of sexually explicit Internet material and peers on stereotypical beliefs about women’s sexual roles: similarities and differences between adolescents and adults (2011) – Excerpt:

We used data from two nationally representative two-wave panel surveys among 1,445 Dutch adolescents and 833 Dutch adults, focusing on the stereotypical belief that women engage in token resistance to sex (i.e., the notion that women say "no" when they actually intend to have sex). Finally, adults, but not adolescents, were susceptible to the impact of SEIM on beliefs that women engage in token resistance to sex.

12) Pornography Viewing among Fraternity Men: Effects on Bystander Intervention, Rape Myth Acceptance and Behavioral Intent to Commit Sexual Assault (2011) – Excerpt:

The present study surveyed 62% of the fraternity population at a Midwestern public university on their pornography viewing habits, bystander efficacy, and bystander willingness to help in potential rape situations. Results showed that men who view pornography are significantly less likely to intervene as a bystander, report an increased behavioral intent to rape, and are more likely to believe rape myths.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

First, a 2016 review of the literature - Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015 (2016) - Abstract:

Sexually objectifying portrayals of women are a frequent occurrence in mainstream media, raising questions about the potential impact of exposure to this content on others’ impressions of women and on women’s views of themselves. The goal of this review was to synthesize empirical investigations testing effects of media sexualization. The focus was on research published in peer-reviewed, English-language journals between 1995 and 2015. A total of 109 publications that contained 135 studies were reviewed. The findings provided consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.

Studies published since 2012 that link Internet pornography use to sexist attitudes, objectification, less egalitarian views of women, etc:

1) Pornography and Sexist Attitudes Among Heterosexuals (2013) – Excerpt:

Using a probability-based sample of young Danish adults and a randomized experimental design, this study investigated effects of past pornography consumption, experimental exposure to nonviolent pornography, perceived realism of pornography, and personality (i.e., agreeableness) on sexist attitudes (i.e., attitudes toward women, hostile and benevolent sexism). Further, sexual arousal mediation was assessed. Results showed that, among men, an increased past pornography consumption was significantly associated with less egalitarian attitudes toward women and more hostile sexism. Further, lower agreeableness was found to significantly predict higher sexist attitudes. Significant effects of experimental exposure to pornography were found for hostile sexism among low in agreeableness participants and for benevolent sexism among women.

2) Activating the Centerfold Syndrome: Recency of Exposure, Sexual Explicitness, Past Exposure to Objectifying Media (2013) – Excerpt:

This experimental study tested whether exposure to female centerfold images causes young adult males to believe more strongly in a set of beliefs clinical psychologist Gary Brooks terms “the centerfold syndrome.” The centerfold syndrome consists of five beliefs: voyeurism, sexual reductionism, masculinity validation, trophyism, and nonrelational sex. Past exposure to objectifying media was positively correlated with all five centerfold syndrome beliefs. Recent exposure to centerfolds had immediate strengthening effects on the sexual reductionism, masculinity validation, and nonrelational sex beliefs of males who view objectifying media less frequently. These effects persisted for approximately 48 hours.

3) Pornography Consumption and Opposition to Affirmative Action for Women: A Prospective Study (2013) – Excerpt:

Our study investigated a potential source of social influence that has often been hypothesized to reduce compassion and sympathy for women: pornography. National panel data were employed. Data were gathered in 2006, 2008, and 2010 from 190 adults ranging in age from 19 to 88 at baseline. Pornography viewing was indexed via reported consumption of pornographic movies. Attitudes toward affirmative action were indexed via opposition to hiring and promotion practices that favor women. Consistent with a social learning perspective on media effects, prior pornography viewing predicted subsequent opposition to affirmative action even after controlling for prior affirmative action attitudes and a number of other potential confounds. Gender did not moderate this association. Practically, these results suggest that pornography may be a social influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women.

4) Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships (2014) – Excerpt:

The purpose of this study was to examine theorized antecedents (i.e., gender role conflict and attachment styles) and consequences (i.e., poorer relationship quality and sexual satisfaction) of men's pornography use among 373 young adult heterosexual men. Findings revealed that both frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use were related to greater gender role conflict, more avoidant and anxious attachment styles, poorer relationship quality, and less sexual satisfaction. In addition, the findings provided support for a theorized mediated model in which gender role conflict was linked to relational outcomes both directly and indirectly via attachment styles and pornography use.

5) A National Prospective Study of Pornography Consumption and Gendered Attitudes Toward Women (2015) – Excerpt:

The present study explored associations between pornography consumption and nonsexual gender-role attitudes in a national, two-wave panel sample of US adults. Pornography consumption interacted with age to predict gender-role attitudes. Specifically, pornography consumption at wave one predicted more gendered attitudes at wave two for older—but not for younger—adults.

6) Antecedents of adolescents’ exposure to different types of sexually explicit Internet material: A longitudinal study (2015) - Shows correlation between violent porn use and assessment of hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine attitudes. An excerpt:

The present two-wave panel survey among 1557 Dutch adolescents addressed these lacunae by studying exposure to affection-themed, dominance-themed and violence-themed SEIM. Younger adolescents were more often exposed to affection-themed SEIM, while older adolescents and adolescents with higher levels of academic achievement were more frequently exposed to dominance-themed SEIM. Hyper masculine boys and hyper feminine girls were more frequently exposed to violence-themed SEIM.

7) ‘It’s always just there in your face’: young people’s views on porn (2015) – Excerpt:

Findings highlight that many young people are exposed to porn both intentionally and unintentionally. Furthermore, they are concerned about gendered norms that reinforce men's power and subordination over women. A link between porn exposure, young men's sexual expectations and young women's pressure to conform to what is being viewed, has been exposed.

8) What Is the Attraction? Pornography Use Motives in Relation to Bystander Intervention (2015) – Excerpt:

We found that several motivations to view pornography were associated with suppression of willingness to intervene as a bystander, even after controlling for frequency of pornography use. This study joins others in suggesting an association between pornography use and callousness toward sexual violence.

9) An experimental analysis of young women's attitude toward the male gaze following exposure to centerfold images of varying explicitness (2015) – Women exposed to explicit centerfolds had greater acceptance of men staring at them sexually. An excerpt:

This study measured young women's attitude toward the male gaze following exposure to centerfolds of varying explicitness. Explicitness was operationalized as degree of undress. Women exposed to more explicit centerfolds expressed greater acceptance of the male gaze than women exposed to less explicit centerfolds immediately after exposure and at a 48 hour follow-up. These results support the view that the more media depictions of women display women's bodies, the stronger the message they send that women are sights to be observed by others. They also suggest that even brief exposure to explicit centerfolds can have a nontransitory effect on women's sociosexual attitudes.

10) Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women (2016) – Excerpt:

Guided by the concepts of specific and abstract sexual scripting in Wright's sexual script acquisition, activation, application model of sexual media socialization, this study proposed that the more men are exposed to objectifying depictions, the more they will think of women as entities that exist for men's sexual gratification (specific sexual scripting), and that this dehumanized perspective on women may then be used to inform attitudes regarding sexual violence against women (abstract sexual scripting).

Data were gathered from collegiate men sexually attracted to women (N = 187). Consistent with expectations, associations between men's exposure to objectifying media and attitudes supportive of violence against women were mediated by their notions of women as sex objects. Specifically, frequency of exposure to men's lifestyle magazines that objectify women, reality TV programs that objectify women, and pornography predicted more objectified cognitions about women, which, in turn, predicted stronger attitudes supportive of violence against women.

11) Soft-core pornography viewers 'unlikely to hold positive attitudes towards women' (2016) – Excerpt:

Frequent viewers of soft-core pornography, such as photographs of naked and semi-naked female models, are unlikely to think positively about women and are likely to have become desensitised to soft-core pornography common in newspapers, advertising and the media. The results indicated that people who frequently viewed soft-core pornographic images were less likely to describe these as pornographic than people who had low levels of exposure to these images.  People who were desensitised to these images were more likely than others to endorse rape myths. Furthermore, people who frequently viewed these images were less likely to have positive attitudes to women.

12) Pornography, Sexual Coercion and Abuse and Sexting in Young People's Intimate Relationships: A European Study (2016) – Excerpt:

New technology has made pornography increasingly accessible to young people, and a growing evidence base has identified a relationship between viewing pornography and violent or abusive behavior in young men. This article reports findings from a large survey of 4,564 young people aged 14 to 17 in five European countries which illuminate the relationship between regular viewing of online pornography, sexual coercion and abuse and the sending and receiving of sexual images and messages, known as "sexting." In addition to the survey, which was completed in schools, 91 interviews were undertaken with young people who had direct experience of interpersonal violence and abuse in their own relationships.

Rates for regularly viewing online pornography were very much higher among boys and most had chosen to watch pornography. Boys' perpetration of sexual coercion and abuse was significantly associated with regular viewing of online pornography. In addition, boys who regularly watched online pornography were significantly more likely to hold negative gender attitudes. The qualitative interviews illustrated that, although sexting is normalized and perceived positively by most young people, it has the potential to reproduce sexist features of pornography such as control and humiliation.

13) Age of first exposure to pornography shapes men's attitudes toward women (2017) – Excerpt:

Participants (N = 330) were undergraduate men at a large, Midwestern university, ranging in age from 17-54 years (M = 20.65, SD = 3.06). Participants predominantly identified as White (84.9%) and heterosexual (92.6). After providing informed consent, participants completed the study online.

Results indicated that lower age of first exposure to pornography predicted higher adherence to both the Power over Women and the Playboy masculine norms. Additionally, regardless of the nature of the men’s first exposure to pornography (i.e., intentional, accidental, or forced), participants adhered equally to the Power over Women and the Playboy masculine norm. Various explanations may exist to understand these relationships, but the results show the importance of discussing age of exposure in clinical settings with men.

What about this recent anomalous study -"Is Pornography Really about "Making Hate to Women"? Pornography Users Hold More Gender Egalitarian Attitudes Than Nonusers in a Representative American Sample"? It has been heavily cited as strong evidence that porn use leads to greater egalitarianism and less sexist attitudes. Actually, this Taylor Kohut study (like a second 2016 Kohut paper) provides an instructive example of how to twist methodology to achieve a desired result. Namely, that porn use is only beneficial. The authors of this study framed egalitarianism as support for the following: Feminist identification, Women holding positions of power, Women working outside home, and Abortion. Secular populations, which tend to be more liberal, have far higher rates of porn use than religious populations. By choosing these criteria and ignoring endless other relevant variables, lead author Kohut knew he would end up with porn users scoring higher on his study’s carefully chosen selection of what constitutes “egalitarianism.” Then he chose a title that spun it all.


SLIDE 11

Which brings us to a second problem: researchers haven't asked porn users about the kinds of symptoms Zimbardo described in The Demise of Guys [TED talk]. “Arousal addiction" symptoms are easily mistaken for other conditions, such as: ADHD, social anxiety, depression, performance anxiety, OCD, and so on. Healthcare providers assume these conditions are primary - perhaps the cause of addiction, but never the result of addiction. As a consequence, they medicate these guys without inquiring about the possibility of Internet addiction. So, many guys never realize that they could reverse their symptoms by changing their behavior.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

"Arousal addiction" (internet addiction and its subtypes):

Zimbardo defined "arousal addiction" as addiction to novelty, as opposed to substance addiction, which is an addiction to more of the same. Zimbardo was referring to "Internet addiction" focusing on its two main subtypes, pornography and video games. Since The Great Porn Experiment was a direct response to Philip Zimbardo's "Demise of Guys" TED talk, I employed the same terminology as Zimbardo (“arousal addiction“) to describe compulsive internet use (video gaming, viewing porn) by young men. In Slide 20, I provided 10 internet-addiction "brain studies" to support the existence of internet addiction and its subtypes. However, already by 2011 (when I prepared my talk), many more psychological studies existed supporting the existence of internet addiction.

"Arousal addiction" exacerbating or causing symptoms (ADHD, social anxiety, anxiety, depression, etc.):

This claim was in large part supported by the thousands of young porn users who reported various symptoms and conditions abating after eliminating porn. Many such accounts appear on the following pages:

The claim that "arousal addiction" can cause or exacerbate mental/emotional problems was also supported by the many published studies already linking internet use (pornography, video gaming) to emotional and cognitive problems. Note: A Google Scholar search for the years 1990-2011 returns nearly 16,000 citations for "internet addiction" + psychiatric symptoms. See Studies published prior to The Great Porn Experiment that reported links between porn use and poorer mental and emotional health. Here are some of them:

1) Variations in internet-related problems and psychosocial functioning in online sexual activities: implications for social and sexual development of young adults (2004) - Excerpts:

Students who did not participate in either online sexual activity were more satisfied with their offline life and more connected to friends and family. Those who engaged in both online sexual activities were more dependent on the Internet and reported lower offline functioning. Despite students' common participation in online sexual activities (OSA) as a venue for social and sexual development, those relying on the Internet and the affiliations it provides appear at risk of decreased social integration.

2) Internet Pornography and Loneliness: An Association? (2005) - Excerpt:

Results showed a significant association between Internet pornography usage and loneliness as evidenced by the data analysis.

3) Use of Internet Pornography and Men's Well-Being (2005) - Excerpt:

Although most individuals utilize the Internet for occupational, educational, recreational, and shopping purposes, a sizable male minority exists, known as Cybersex compulsives and at-risk users, who invest an inordinate amount of their time, money, and energy in the pursuit of Cybersex experiences with negative intrapersonal ramifications in terms of depression, anxiety, and problems with felt intimacy with their real-life partners.

4) Adolescent pornographic internet site use: a multivariate regression analysis of the predictive factors of use and psychosocial implications (2009) - Excerpt:

Compared to non-pornographic Internet site users, infrequent pornographic Internet site users were twice as likely to have abnormal conduct problems; frequent pornographic Internet site users were significantly more likely to have abnormal conduct problems. Thus, both infrequent and frequent pornographic Internet site use are prevalent and significantly associated with social maladjustment among Greek adolescents.

5) Social bonds and Internet pornographic exposure among adolescents (2009) – Summary from a review:

The study found that adolescents with higher degrees of social interaction and bonding were not as likely to consume sexually explicit material as were their less social peers (Mesch, 2009). Additionally, Mesch found that greater quantities of pornography consumption were significantly correlated with lower degrees of social integration, specifically related to religion, school, society, and family. The study also found a statistically significant relationship between pornography consumption and aggressiveness in school....

6)  Frequent users of pornography. A population based epidemiological study of Swedish male adolescents (2010) - Excerpts

Frequent use was also associated with many problem behaviours. High frequent viewing of pornography may be seen as a problematic behaviour that needs more attention from both parents and teachers and also to be addressed in clinical interviews.

7) Mental-and physical-health indicators and sexually explicit media use behavior by adults (2011) - Excerpt:

After adjusting for demographics, Pornography (SEMB) users, compared to nonusers, reported greater depressive symptoms, poorer quality of life, more mental- and physical-health diminished days, and lower health status.

8) Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011) - Scores on a porn addiction questionnaire (IATsex) correlated with higher levels of psychological problems such as: interpersonal sensitivity, depression, paranoid thinking and psychoticism. Excerpts:

We found a positive relationship between subjective sexual arousal when watching Internet pornographic pictures and the self-reported problems in daily life due to the excessiveness of cybersex as measured by the IATsex. Subjective arousal ratings, the global severity of psychological symptoms, and the number of sex applications used were significant predictors of the IATsex score, while the time spent on Internet sex sites did not significantly contribute to explanation of variance in the IATsex score.

In our sample, the global symptom severity (SCL GSI), as well as interpersonal sensitivity, depression, paranoid thinking and psychoticism, were correlated particularly with the IATsex score.

Studies published prior to The Great Porn Experiment that reported links between porn use and poorer cognitive functioning:

1) Is students’ computer use at home related to their mathematical performance at school? (2008) - Excerpt:

Also, students’ cognitive abilities were positively linked to their achievement in mathematics. Finally, watching television had a negative relationship with students’ performance. Particularly, watching horror, action, or pornographic films was associated with lower test scores.

2) Self-reported differences on measures of executive function and hypersexual behavior in a patient and community sample of men (2010) – "Hypersexual behavior" was correlated with poorer executive function (arising primarily from the prefrontal cortex). An excerpt:

Patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior often exhibit features of impulsivity, cognitive rigidity, poor judgment, deficits in emotion regulation, and excessive preoccupation with sex. Some of these characteristics are also common among patients presenting with neurological pathology associated with executive dysfunction. These observations led to the current investigation of differences between a group of hypersexual patients (n = 87) and a non-hypersexual community sample (n = 92) of men using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult Version  Hypersexual behavior was positively correlated with global indices of executive dysfunction and several subscales of the BRIEF-A. These findings provide preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis that executive dysfunction may be implicated in hypersexual behavior.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

"Arousal addiction" (internet addiction and its subtypes):

In support of his TED talk Dr. Philip Zimbardo published two books (each with hundreds of citations):

Studies supporting the existence of Internet addiction and its subtypes (gaming, social media, pornography):

Two recent reviews of the literature (with hundreds of citations) argue for diagnostic categories for internet addiction subtypes (gaming, social media, pornography):

The World Health Organization's next edition of its diagnostic manual, the ICD, is due out in 2018. In alignment with the preponderance of the evidence the new ICD-11 proposes a diagnosis for “Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder,” as well as one for “Disorders due to addictive behaviors.” The ICD-11 is also slated to include "Gaming Disorder" (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline. Another "arousal addiction," gambling addiction, is already in the DSM.

Part 1(a) - "Arousal addiction" exacerbating or causing symptoms (ADHD, social anxiety, anxiety, depression, etc.). Studies published after The Great Porn Experiment that report links between porn use and poorer mental and emotional health:

1) When is Online Pornography Viewing Problematic Among College Males? Examining the Moderating Role of Experiential Avoidance (2012) - Excerpt:

The current study examined the relationship of Internet pornography viewing and experiential avoidance to a range of psychosocial problems (depression, anxiety, stress, social functioning, and problems related to viewing) through a cross-sectional online survey conducted with a non-clinical sample of 157 undergraduate college males. Results indicated that frequency of viewing was significantly related to each psychosocial variable, such that more viewing was related to greater problems.

2) Women, Female Sex and Love Addicts, and Use of the Internet (2012) - This study compared female cybersex addicts to female sex addicts, and female non-addicts. The cybersex addicts experienced higher levels of depression. An excerpt:

For each of these variables, the pattern was that participants in the cybersex group and participants in the addicted/no cybersex group were more likely to experience depression, attempt suicide, or have withdrawal symptoms than participants in the non-addicted/no cybersex group. Participants in the cybersex group were more likely to report being depressed than participants in the addicted/no cybersex group.

3) Consumption of Pornographic Materials among Hong Kong Early Adolescents: A Replication (2012) - Excerpts:

In general, higher levels of positive youth development and better family functioning were related to a lower level of pornography consumption. The relative contribution of positive youth development and family factors to consumption of pornographic materials was also explored.

The present study attempted to explore the linkage between family functioning and pornography consumption. Three features of family functioning, mutuality, communication and harmony were negatively related to pornography consumption.

4) Emerging Adult Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors: Does Shyness Matter? (2013) - Excerpt:

Shyness was positively associated with solitary sexual behaviors of masturbation and pornography use for men.

5) Narcissism & Internet Pornography Use (2014) - Excerpt:

The hours spent viewing Internet pornography use was positively correlated to participant's narcissism level. Additionally, those who have ever used Internet pornography endorsed higher levels of all three measures of narcissism than those who have never used Internet pornography.

6) Pornography and Marriage (2014) - Porn use correlated with less overall happiness. An excerpt:

We found that adults who had watched an X-rated movie in the past year were more likely to be divorced, more likely to have had an extramarital affair, and less likely to report being happy with their marriage or happy overall. We also found that, for men, pornography use reduced the positive relationship between frequency of sex and happiness.

7) Pornography consumption, psychosomatic health and depressive symptoms among Swedish adolescents (2014) - Excerpts:

The aims of the study were to investigate predictors for frequent use of pornography and to investigate such use in relation to psychosomatic and depressive symptoms among Swedish adolescents. .....we found that being a girl, living with separated parents, attending a vocational high school program, and being a frequent user of pornography at baseline had major effects on psychosomatic symptoms at follow-up.

Frequent use of pornography at baseline predicted psychosomatic symptoms at follow-up to a higher extent compared to depressive symptoms.

8) Use of Pornography and its Associations with Sexual Experiences, Lifestyles and Health among Adolescents (2014) - Excerpts:

In the longitudinal analyses frequent use of pornography was more associated to psychosomatic symptoms compared with depressive symptoms. Male frequent users of pornography more often reported peer-relationship problems than their peers.

9) Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships (2014) - Higher porn use and problematic porn use was linked to more avoidant and anxious attachment styles. Excerpt:

Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine theorized antecedents (i.e., gender role conflict and attachment styles) and consequences (i.e., poorer relationship quality and sexual satisfaction) of men's pornography use among 373 young adult heterosexual men. Findings revealed that both frequency of pornography use and problematic pornography use were related to greater gender role conflict, more avoidant and anxious attachment styles, poorer relationship quality, and less sexual satisfaction.

10) Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) - Even though Voon et al., 2014 excluded individuals with major psychiatric conditions, the porn addicted subjects scores higher on depression and anxiety assessments. Excerpt:

CSB subjects [porn addicts] had higher depression and anxiety scores (Table S2 in File S1) but no current diagnoses of major depression

11) No Harm in Looking, Right? Men’s Pornography Consumption, Body Image, and Well-Being (2014) - Excerpt:

Path analyses revealed that men’s frequency of pornography use was (a) positively linked to muscularity and body fat dissatisfaction indirectly through internalization of the mesomorphic ideal, (b) negatively linked to body appreciation directly and indirectly through body monitoring, (c) positively linked to negative affect indirectly through romantic attachment anxiety and avoidance, and (d) negatively linked to positive affect indirectly through relationship attachment anxiety and avoidance.

12) Patient Characteristics by Type of Hypersexuality Referral: A Quantitative Chart Review of 115 Consecutive Male Cases (2015) - Study placed "hypersexuals" into 2 categories: "chronic adulterers" and "avoidant masturbators" (who were chronic porn users).

The avoidant masturbator subtype was operationalized as those cases who reported more than 1 hr (or one episode) of masturbation per day or more than 1 hr of pornography viewing per day, or more than 7 hr (or episodes) per week.

With respect to the mental health and sexological variables, the avoidant masturbator subtype [compulsive porn users] was significantly more likely to report a history of anxiety problems and of sexual functioning problems (71% vs. 31%) with delayed ejaculation being the most commonly reported sexual functioning problem.

13) Perceived Addiction to Internet Pornography and Psychological Distress: Examining Relationships Concurrently and Over Time (2015) - Ignore the phrase "perceived addiction, as it really means the total score on the Grubbs's CPUI-9, which is an actual porn addiction questionnaire (see YBOP full critique of the perceived porn addiction concept). Put simply, porn addiction is correlated with psychological distress (anger, depression, anxiety, stress). An excerpt:

At the outset of this study, we hypothesized that "perceived addiction" to Internet pornography would be positively associated with psychological distress. Using a large cross-sectional sample of adult web users and a large cross-sectional sample of undergraduate web users, we found consistent support for this hypothesis. Additionally, in a 1-year longitudinal analysis of undergraduate pornography users, we found links between perceived addiction and psychological distress over time. Collectively, these findings strongly underscore the claim that "perceived addiction" to Internet pornography likely contributes to the experience of psychological distress for some individuals.

14) An Online Assessment of Personality, Psychological, and Sexuality Trait Variables Associated with Self-Reported Hypersexual Behavior (2015) - Porn/sex addiction was not only related to fear of experiencing erectile dysfunction, it was also linked to depression and anxiety. An excerpt:

Hypersexual" behavior represents a perceived inability to control one's sexual behavior. To investigate hypersexual behavior, an international sample of 510 self-identified heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual men and women completed an anonymous online self-report questionnaire battery. In addition to age and sex (male), hypersexual behavior was related to higher scores on measures of sexual excitation, sexual inhibition due to the threat of performance failure, trait impulsivity, and both depressed mood and anxiety.

15) Lower Psychological Well-Being and Excessive Sexual Interest Predict Symptoms of Compulsive Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material Among Adolescent Boys (2015) - Excerpt:

This study investigated whether factors from three distinct psychosocial domains (i.e., psychological well-being, sexual interests/behaviors, and impulsive-psychopathic personality) predicted symptoms of compulsive use of sexually explicit Internet material among adolescent boys. Longitudinally, higher levels of depressive feelings and, again, excessive sexual interest predicted relative increases in compulsive use symptoms 6 months later.

16) Psychological, Relational, and Biological Correlates of Ego-Dystonic Masturbation in a Clinical Setting (2016) - The original paper (here) used the phrase "Compulsive Masturbation" to describe the subjects' activity. The paper's publisher (Sexual Medicine Open) changed "Compulsive Masturbation" to "Ego-Dystonic Masturbation." In 2016, compulsive masturbation, in a clinical setting, is synonymous with compulsive porn use. An excerpt:

Our data confirm previous observations that psychiatric comorbidities, especially mood, anxiety, and personality disorders, are the rule rather the exception for people with compulsive sexual behaviors. 21, 22, 23, 24 However, EM could be associated with a non-specific anxious activation.

17) Men’s pornography consumption in the UK: prevalence and associated problem behaviour (2016) - Excerpt:

Those who reported pornography addiction were much more likely to engage in a variety of risky antisocial behaviours, including heavy drinking, fighting, and weapon use, using illegal drugs gambling and viewing illegal images to name but a few. They also reported poorer physical and psychological health.

18) Mood changes after watching pornography on the Internet are linked to symptoms of Internet-pornography-viewing disorder (2016) - Excerpt:

Internet-pornography-viewing disorder (IPD) is considered one type of Internet-use disorder. For IPD's development, it was assumed theoretically that a dysfunctional use of Internet pornography to cope with depressive mood or stress might be considered as a risk factor. Data showed that tendencies towards IPD were associated negatively with feeling generally good, awake, and calm and positively with perceived stress in daily life and using Internet pornography for excitation seeking and emotional avoidance. Moreover, tendencies towards IPD were negatively related to mood before and after Internet-pornography use.

19) Problematic sexual behavior in young adults: Associations across clinical, behavioral, and neurocognitive variables (2016) - Individuals with Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB) exhibited several neuro-cognitive deficits and psychological problems. A few excerpts:

This analysis also indicated that PSB was associated with worse quality of life, lower self-esteem, and higher rates of comorbidities across several disorders. Furthermore, the PSB group showed deficits across several neurocognitive domains, including motor inhibition, spatial working memory, and an aspect of decision making. Thus, it is possible that PSB gives rise to a host of secondary problems, ranging from alcohol dependence and depression to deteriorations in quality of life and self-esteem.

20) Problematic internet pornography use: The role of craving, desire thinking, and metacognition (2017) - While not so clear in the text, this study found correlations between cravings for pornography and scores on depression & anxiety questionnaires (negative affect). An excerpt:

The present study tested the metacognitive model of desire thinking and craving for problematic pornography use, and expanded upon the same model to include negative affect related to desire thinking.

21) Effect of internet on the psychosomatic health of adolescent school children in Rourkela - A cross-sectional study (2017) - Excerpts:

Visiting porn sites were associated with interest in sex, low mood, lack of concentration, and unexplained anxiety.

Pornography was significantly associated with several psychological problems in adolescents. Due to the structural immaturity of the adolescent brain and relative inexperience, they are unable to process the myriad nature of sexual content online which may lead to attention problems, anxiety, and depression.

22) Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bi-Directional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation (2017) - Excerpt:

Theoretically and empirically, we examine loneliness as it relates to pornography use in terms of pornography's relational scripting and its addictive potential. Results from our analyses revealed significant and positive associations between pornography use and loneliness for all three models. Findings provide grounds for possible future bidirectional, recursive modeling of the relation between pornography use and loneliness.

23) How Abstinence Affects Preferences (2016) [preliminary results] – Excerpts from the article:

Results of the First Wave - Main Findings

  1. The length of the longest streak participants performed before taking part in the survey correlates with time preferences. The second survey will answer the question if longer periods of abstinence render participants more able to delay rewards, or if more patient participants are more likely to perform longer streaks.
  2. Longer periods of abstinence most likely cause less risk aversion (which is good). The second survey will provide the final proof.
  3. Personality correlates with length of streaks. The second wave will reveal if abstinence influences personality or if personality can explain variation in the length of streaks.

Results of the Second Wave - Main Findings

  1. Abstaining from pornography and masturbation increases the ability to delay rewards
  2. Participating in a period of abstinence renders people more willing to take risks
  3. Abstinence renders people more altruistic
  4. Abstinence renders people more extroverted, more conscientious, and less neurotic

24) Viewing Sexually Explicit Media and Its Association with Mental Health Among Gay and Bisexual Men Across the U.S. (2017) - Excerpts

Gay and bisexual men (GBM) have reported viewing significantly more sexually explicit media (SEM) than heterosexual men. There is evidence that viewing greater amounts of SEM may result in more negative body attitude and negative affect. However, no studies have examined these variables within the same model. 

Greater consumption of SEM was directly related to more negative body attitude and both depressive and anxious symptomology. There was also a significant indirect effect of SEM consumption on depressive and anxious symptomology through body attitude. These findings highlight the relevance of both SEM on body image and negative affect along with the role body image plays in anxiety and depression outcomes for GBM.

25) Pornography use in sexual minority males: Associations with body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, thoughts about using anabolic steroids and quality of life (2017) - Excerpts:

A sample of 2733 sexual minority males living in Australia and New Zealand completed an online survey that contained measures of pornography use, body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms, thoughts about using anabolic steroids and quality of life.

Almost all (98.2%) participants reported pornography use with a median use of 5.33 hours per month. Multivariate analyses revealed that increased pornography use was associated with greater dissatisfaction with muscularity, body fat and height; greater eating disorder symptoms; more frequent thoughts about using anabolic steroids; and lower quality of life.

26) Young Australians' use of pornography and associations with sexual risk behaviours (2017) - Excerpt:

Younger age at first pornography viewing was associated with ... recent mental health problems.

Part 1(b) - Studies published after "The Great Porn Experiment" that reported links between porn use and poorer cognitive functioning:

1) Pornographic picture processing interferes with working memory performance (2013) - German scientists have discovered that Internet erotica can diminish working memory. In this porn-imagery experiment, 28 healthy individuals performed working-memory tasks using 4 different sets of pictures, one of which was pornographic. Participants also rated the pornographic pictures with respect to sexual arousal and masturbation urges prior to, and after, pornographic picture presentation. Results showed that working memory was worst during the porn viewing and that greater arousal augmented the drop. An excerpt:

Results contribute to the view that indicators of sexual arousal due to pornographic picture processing interfere with working memory performance. Findings are discussed with respect to Internet sex addiction because working memory interference by addiction-related cues is well known from substance dependencies.

2) Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity (2013) - Study found that viewing pornographic imagery interfered with decision making during a standardized cognitive test. This suggests porn use might affect executive functioning, which is a set of mental skills that help with meeting goals. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.

Decision-making performance was worse when sexual pictures were associated with disadvantageous card decks compared to performance when the sexual pictures were linked to the advantageous decks. Subjective sexual arousal moderated the relationship between task condition and decision-making performance. This study emphasized that sexual arousal interfered with decision-making, which may explain why some individuals experience negative consequences in the context of cybersex use.

3) Arousal, working memory capacity, and sexual decision-making in men (2014) - Excerpts:

This study investigated whether working memory capacity (WMC) moderated the relationship between physiological arousal and sexual decision making. A total of 59 men viewed 20 consensual and 20 non-consensual images of heterosexual interaction while their physiological arousal levels were recorded using skin conductance response. Participants also completed an assessment of WMC and a date-rape analogue task for which they had to identify the point at which an average Australian male would cease all sexual advances in response to verbal and/or physical resistance from a female partner. Participants who were more physiologically aroused by and spent more time viewing the non-consensual sexual imagery nominated significantly later stopping points on the date-rape analogue task. Consistent with our predictions, the relationship between physiological arousal and nominated stopping point was strongest for participants with lower levels of WMC. For participants with high WMC, physiological arousal was unrelated to nominated stopping point. Thus, executive functioning ability (and WMC in particular) appears to play an important role in moderating men’s decision making with regard to sexually aggressive behavior.

4) Getting stuck with pornography? Overuse or neglect of cybersex cues in a multitasking situation is related to symptoms of cybersex addiction (2015) - Subjects with a higher tendency towards porn addiction performed more poorly of executive functioning tasks (which are under the auspices of the prefrontal cortex). A few excerpts: 

We investigated whether a tendency towards cybersex addiction is associated with problems in exerting cognitive control over a multitasking situation that involves pornographic pictures. We used a multitasking paradigm in which the participants had the explicit goal to work to equal amounts on neutral and pornographic material. We found that participants who reported tendencies towards cybersex addiction deviated stronger from this goal.

The results of the current study point towards a role of executive control functions, i.e. functions mediated by the prefrontal cortex, for the development and maintenance of problematic cybersex use (as suggested by Brand et al., 2014). Particularly a reduced ability to monitor consumption and to switch between pornographic material and other contents in a goal adequate manner may be one mechanism in the development and maintenance of cybersex addiction

5) Problematic sexual behavior in young adults: Associations across clinical, behavioral, and neurocognitive variables (2016) - Individuals with Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB) exhibited several neuro-cognitive deficits. These findings indicate poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) which is a key brain feature occurring in drug addicts. Excerpts:

From this characterization, it is be possible to trace the problems evident in PSB and additional clinical features, such as emotional dysregulation, to particular cognitive deficits…. If the cognitive problems identified in this analysis are actually the core feature of PSB, this may have notable clinical implications.

6) Effects of Pornography on Senior High School Students, Ghana. (2016) - Excerpt:

The study revealed that majority of the students admitted to watching pornography before. Furthermore, it was observed that majority of them agreed that pornography affects students’ academic performance negatively...

7) Executive Functioning of Sexually Compulsive and Non-Sexually Compulsive Men Before and After Watching an Erotic Video (2017) - Exposure to porn affected executive functioning in men with "compulsive sexual behaviors," but not healthy controls. Poorer executive functioning when exposed to addiction-related cues is a hallmark of substance disorders (indicating both altered prefrontal circuits and sensitization). Excerpts:

This finding indicates better cognitive flexibility after sexual stimulation by controls compared with sexually compulsive participants. These data support the idea that sexually compulsive men do not to take advantage of the possible learning effect from experience, which could result in better behavior modification. This also could be understood as a lack of a learning effect by the sexually compulsive group when they were sexually stimulated, similar to what happens in the cycle of sexual addiction, which starts with an increasing amount of sexual cognition, followed by the activation of sexual scripts and then orgasm, very often involving exposure to risky situations.

8) Exposure to Sexual Stimuli Induces Greater Discounting Leading to Increased Involvement in Cyber Delinquency Among Men (2017) - In two studies exposure to visual sexual stimuli resulted in: 1) greater delayed discounting (inability to delay gratification), 2) greater inclination to engage in cyber-delinquency, 3) greater inclination to purchase counterfeit goods and hack someone's Facebook account. Taken together this indicates that porn use increases impulsivity and may reduce certain executive functions (self-control, judgment, foreseeing consequences, impulse control). Excerpt:

These findings provide insight into a strategy for reducing men's involvement in cyber delinquency; that is, through less exposure to sexual stimuli and promotion of delayed gratification. The current results suggest that the high availability of sexual stimuli in cyberspace may be more closely associated with men's cyber-delinquent behavior than previously thought.

Finally for this section, Psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley has reported dramatic improvements in her young patients who take a hiatus from interactive devices.

Part 2 - "Arousal addiction" exacerbating or causing symptoms (ADHD, social anxiety, anxiety, depression, performance anxiety, etc.). Studies demonstrating that internet use appeared to cause mental, cognitive, or emotional problems.

While most of the preceding studies are correlational, the following studies involve various methodologies that suggest or confirm causation.

A) Pornography studies demonstrating  or suggesting causation:

Here are a handful of Internet pornography studies where porn users eliminated porn use and described outcomes. Abstaining from porn to ascertain its effects is the core concept in my TEDx talk, and in this peer-reviewed paper I wrote in 2016: Eliminate Chronic Internet Pornography Use to Reveal Its Effects. Here are the studies that I know of where porn users attempted to abstain from porn. All of them reported significant results. Five of the eight studies had compulsive porn users with severe sexual dysfunctions abstain from porn. Those 5 studies demonstrate causation as patients healed chronic sexual dysfunctions by removing a single variable (pornography):

  1. Male masturbation habits and sexual dysfunctions (2016)
  2. Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016)
  3. Unusual masturbatory practice as an etiological factor in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual dysfunction in young men (2014)
  4. Situational Psychogenic Anejaculation: A Case Study (2014)
  5. How difficult is it to treat delayed ejaculation within a short-term psychosexual model? A case study comparison (2017)

The other three studies:

6) Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015) - The more pornography that participants consumed, the less able they were to delay gratification. This unique study also had porn users reduce porn use for 3 weeks. The study found that continued porn use was causally related to greater inability to delay gratification (note that the ability to delay gratification is a function of the prefrontal cortex). Excerpt from the first study (median subject age 20) correlated subjects' pornography use with their scores on a delayed gratification task:

"The more pornography that participants consumed, the more they saw the future rewards as worth less than the immediate rewards, even though the future rewards were objectively worth more."

A second study (median age 19) was performed to assess if porn use causes delayed discounting, or the inability to delay gratification. Researchers divided current porn users into two groups:

  1. One group abstained from porn use for 3 weeks,
  2. A second group abstained from their favorite food for 3 weeks.

All participants were told the study was about self-control, and they were randomly chosen to abstain from their assigned activity. The clever part was that the researchers had the second group of porn users abstain from eating their favorite food. This ensured that 1) all subjects engaged in a self-control task, and 2) the second group's porn use was unaffected. At the end of the 3 weeks, participants were involved in a task to assess delay discounting. Important note: While the "porn abstinence group" viewed significantly less porn than the "favorite food abstainers," most did not completely abstain from porn viewing. Even so, the results:

"As predicted, participants who exerted self-control over their desire to consume pornography chose a higher percentage of larger, later rewards compared to participants who exerted self-control over their food consumption but continued consuming pornography."

The group that cut back on their porn viewing for 3 weeks displayed less delay discounting compared with the group that simply abstained from their favorite food. Put simply, abstaining from internet porn increases porn users' ability to delay gratification. From the study:

Thus, building on the longitudinal findings of Study 1, we demonstrated that continued pornography consumption was causally related to a higher rate of delay discounting. Exercising self-control in the sexual domain had a stronger effect on delay discounting than exercising self-control over another rewarding physical appetite (e.g., eating one’s favorite food).

7) How Abstinence Affects Preferences (2016) [preliminary results] – Excerpts from the article:

Results of the First Wave - Main Findings

  1. The length of the longest streak participants performed before taking part in the survey correlates with time preferences. The second survey will answer the question if longer periods of abstinence render participants more able to delay rewards, or if more patient participants are more likely to perform longer streaks.
  2. Longer periods of abstinence most likely cause less risk aversion (which is good). The second survey will provide the final proof.
  3. Personality correlates with length of streaks. The second wave will reveal if abstinence influences personality or if personality can explain variation in the length of streaks.

Results of the Second Wave - Main Findings

  1. Abstaining from pornography and masturbation increases the ability to delay rewards
  2. Participating in a period of abstinence renders people more willing to take risks
  3. Abstinence renders people more altruistic
  4. Abstinence renders people more extroverted, more conscientious, and less neurotic

8) A Love That Doesn’t Last: Pornography Consumption and Weakened Commitment to One’s Romantic Partner (2012) – The study had subjects try to abstain from porn use for 3 weeks. When the two groups were compared, those who continued using pornography reported lower levels of commitment than those who tried to abstain. Excerpts:

The intervention proved effective at reducing or eliminating pornography consumption for the duration of the three-week study, yet did not deter control participants from continuing their consumption. Our hypothesis was supported as participants in the pornography consumption condition reported a substantial reduction in commitment compared to participants in the abstain from pornography condition.

Also, the effect of continued pornography consumption on commitment cannot be explained by a difference in the depletion of self-regulatory resources from exercising greater self-control, as participants in both conditions abstained from something pleasurable (i.e., pornography or a favorite food).

In addition, several longitudinal studies strongly suggest causation:

9) Longitudinal study on porn use in young males and academic performance: Early adolescent boys’ exposure to internet pornography: Relationships to pubertal timing, sensation seeking, and academic performance (2014) - Excerpts:

This two-wave panel study aimed to test an integrative model in early adolescent boys (Mean age = 14.10; N = 325) that (a) explains their exposure to Internet pornography by looking at relationships with pubertal timing and sensation seeking, and (b) explores the potential consequence of their exposure to Internet pornography for their academic performance..... Moreover, an increased use of Internet pornography decreased boys’ academic performance six months later.

10) Internet pornography and relationship quality: A longitudinal study of within and between partner effects of adjustment, sexual satisfaction and sexually explicit internet material among newly-weds (2015) - Longitudinal study. Excerpt:

The data from a considerable sample of newlyweds showed that SEIM use has more negative than positive consequences for husbands and wives. Importantly, husbands’ adjustment decreased SEIM use over time and SEIM use decreased adjustment. Furthermore, more sexual satisfaction in husbands predicted a decrease in their wives’ SEIM use one year later, while wives’ SEIM use did not change their husbands’ sexual satisfaction.

11) Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence from Longitudinal Data (2016) - First longitudinal study on a representative cross-section of married couples. It found significant negative effects of porn use on marriage quality over time. Excerpt:

This study is the first to draw on nationally representative, longitudinal data (2006-2012 Portraits of American Life Study) to test whether more frequent pornography use influences marital quality later on and whether this effect is moderated by gender. In general, married persons who more frequently viewed pornography in 2006 reported significantly lower levels of marital quality in 2012, net of controls for earlier marital quality and relevant correlates. Pornography's effect was not simply a proxy for dissatisfaction with sex life or marital decision-making in 2006. In terms of substantive influence, frequency of pornography use in 2006 was the second strongest predictor of marital quality in 2012

12) Till Porn Do Us Part? Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorce (2017) - This longitudinal study used nationally representative General Social Survey panel data collected from thousands of American adults. Respondents were interviewed three times about their pornography use and marital status -- every two years from 2006-2010, 2008-2012, or 2010-2014. Excerpts:

Beginning pornography use between survey waves nearly doubled one's likelihood of being divorced by the next survey period, from 6 percent to 11 percent, and nearly tripled it for women, from 6 percent to 16 percent. Our results suggest that viewing pornography, under certain social conditions, may have negative effects on marital stability. Conversely, discontinuing pornography use between survey waves was associated with a lower probability of divorce, but only for women.

Additionally, the researchers found that respondents' initially reported level of marital happiness played an important role in determining the magnitude of pornography's association with the probability of divorce. Among people who reported they were "very happy" in their marriage in the first survey wave, beginning pornography viewership before the next survey was associated with a noteworthy increase -- from 3 percent to 12 percent -- in the likelihood of getting divorced by the time of that next survey.

Additional analyses also showed that the association between beginning pornography use and the probability of divorce was particularly strong among younger Americans, those who were less religious, and those who reported greater initial marital happiness.

13) Pornography Use and Marital Separation: Evidence from Two-Wave Panel Data (2017) – Longitudinal study. Excerpts:

Drawing on data from the 2006 and 2012 waves of the nationally representative Portraits of American Life Study, this article examined whether married Americans who viewed pornography in 2006, either at all or in greater frequencies, were more likely to experience a marital separation by 2012. Binary logistic regression analyses showed that married Americans who viewed pornography at all in 2006 were more than twice as likely as those who did not view pornography to experience a separation by 2012, even after controlling for 2006 marital happiness and sexual satisfaction as well as relevant sociodemographic correlates. The relationship between pornography use frequency and marital separation, however, was technically curvilinear. The likelihood of marital separation by 2012 increased with 2006 pornography use to a point and then declined at the highest frequencies of pornography use.

14) Are Pornography Users More Likely to Experience A Romantic Breakup? Evidence from Longitudinal Data (2017) – Longitudinal study. Excerpts:

This study examined whether Americans who use pornography, either at all or more frequently, are more prone to report experiencing a romantic breakup over time. Longitudinal data were taken from the 2006 and 2012 waves of the nationally representative Portraits of American Life Study. Binary logistic regression analyses demonstrated that Americans who viewed pornography at all in 2006 were nearly twice as likely as those who never viewed pornography to report experiencing a romantic breakup by 2012, even after controlling for relevant factors such as 2006 relationship status and other sociodemographic correlates. This association was considerably stronger for men than for women and for unmarried Americans than for married Americans. Analyses also showed a linear relationship between how frequently Americans viewed pornography in 2006 and their odds of experiencing a breakup by 2012.

B) Internet use studies demonstrating causation:

While hundreds of studies link internet use and internet addiction to psychological and cognitive problems, the following studies strongly suggest internet use can cause mental and emotional disorders:

1) Online communication, compulsive internet use, and psychosocial well-being among adolescents: A longitudinal study (2008) – Longitudinal study. Excerpt: “Instant messenger use and chatting in chat rooms were positively related to compulsive Internet use and depression 6 months later.

2) Effect of Pathological Use of the Internet on Adolescent Mental Health (2010) - A prospective study. Excerpt: “Results suggested that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the Internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence.

3) Precursor or Sequela: Pathological Disorders in People with Internet Addiction Disorder (2011) - The unique aspect in this study is that the research subjects had not used the Internet prior to enrolling in college. The study followed first year university students to ascertain what percentage develop Internet addiction, and what risk factors may be in play. After one year of school a small percentage were classified as Internet addicts. Those who developed Internet addiction were initially higher on the obsessive scale, yet lower on scores for anxiety depression, and hostility. An excerpt:

After developing Internet addiction significantly higher scores were observed for depression, anxiety, hostility, interpersonal sensitivity, and psychoticism, suggesting that these were outcomes of Internet addiction disorder. We cannot find a solid pathological predictor for Internet addiction disorder. Internet addiction disorder may bring some pathological problems to the addicts in some ways.

4) Effects of electroacupuncture combined psycho-intervention on cognitive function and event related potentials P300 and mismatch negativity in patients with internet addiction (2012) - After 40 days of reducing internet use and treatments subjects scored better on cognitive tests, with corresponding EEG changes.

5) P300 change and cognitive behavioral therapy in subjects with Internet addiction disorder: A 3 month follow-up study (2011) – Altered EEG readings (indicating cognitive deficits) returned to normal levels after 3 months of treatments.

6) Internet abusers associate with a depressive state but not a depressive trait (2013) - High-risk Internet abusers exhibited a stronger depressive state but did not show a depressive trait (this means internet use probably caused depression).

7) The exacerbation of depression, hostility, and social anxiety in the course of Internet addiction among adolescents: A prospective study (2014) – Longitudinal study (1 year). Adolescents who became addicted exhibited increased depression and hostility. In contrast, the internet addiction remission group showed decreased depression, hostility, and social anxiety.

8) Health officials and university experts in Swansea have found new evidence that excessive use of the internet can cause mental health problems (2015) Excerpt: “We are now beginning to see the psychological impacts of internet misuse on a group of young people. These effects include them becoming much more impulsive, and unable to produce long term plans, which is concerning.

9) Effects of craving behavioral intervention on neural substrates of cue-induced craving in Internet gaming disorder (2016) – Intervention resulted in reversal of brain changes and reduced symptoms of addiction.

10) Changes of quality of life and cognitive function in individuals with Internet gaming disorder: A 6-month follow-up (2016) – Excerpt:  “The IGD patients had more symptoms of depression and anxiety, higher degrees of impulsiveness and anger/aggression, higher levels of distress, poorer QOL, and impaired response inhibition. After 6 months of treatment, patients with IGD showed significant improvements in the severity of IGD, as well as in QOL, response inhibition, and executive functioning.”

11) Effect of electro-acupuncture combined with psychological intervention on mental symptoms and P50 of auditory evoked potential in patients with internet addiction disorder (2017) – Intervention resulted in normalization of EEG readings and decreased symptoms of somatization, obsession and the mental symptoms of depression or anxiety.

12)  The Facebook Experiment: Quitting Facebook Leads to Higher Levels of Well-Being (2016) –Excerpt: “it was demonstrated that taking a break from Facebook has positive effects on the two dimensions of well-being: our life satisfaction increases and our emotions become more positive.”

13) Electro-acupuncture treatment for internet addiction: Evidence of normalization of impulse control disorder in adolescents (2017) – Intervention resulted in significant decrease impulsiveness and psychological symptoms.

14) The Dark Side of Internet Use: Two Longitudinal Studies of Excessive Internet Use, Depressive Symptoms, School Burnout and Engagement Among Finnish Early and Late Adolescents (2016) – Longitudinal study reported that excessive internet use can be a cause of school burnout that can later spill over to depressive symptoms.

15) Effectiveness of Brief Abstinence for Modifying Problematic Internet Gaming Cognitions and Behaviors (2017) – Excerpt: “Brief voluntary abstinence was successful in reducing hours of gaming, maladaptive gaming cognitions, and IGD symptoms.”

16) Craving Behavior Intervention in Ameliorating College Students' Internet Game Disorder: A Longitudinal Study (2017) – Intervention resulted in a significant decrease in the severity of IGD, which manifested as less depression and a shift of psychological needs from the Internet to real life.

17) Differential physiological changes following internet exposure in higher and lower problematic internet users (2017) – Excerpt: “Individuals who identified themselves as having problematic internet use displayed increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, as well as reduced mood and increased state of anxiety, following cessation of the internet session. There were no such changes in individuals with no self-reported PIU. These changes were independent of levels of depression and trait anxiety. These changes after cessation of internet use are similar to those seen in individuals who have ceased using sedative or opiate drugs.

18) Reciprocal Relationship between Internet Addiction and Network-Related Maladaptive Cognition among Chinese College Freshmen: A Longitudinal Cross-Lagged Analysis (2017) – Excerpt: “A short-term longitudinal survey…. The results revealed that IA can significantly predict the generation and development of network-related maladaptive cognition, and that when such maladaptive cognitions have been established, they can further adversely affect the extent of the students’ IA.”

19) Association between childhood and adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in Korean young adults with Internet addiction (2017) - Study suggests that adult-onset ADHD may be related to internet addiction.

20) Montreal researchers find 1st link between shooter games, loss of grey matter in hippocampus (2017) - Participants were all healthy 18- to 30-year-olds with no history of playing video games. Brain scans conducted on the participants before and after showed that first person-shooter games resulted in the loss of hippocampal grey matter.

21) Taking Facebook at face value: why the use of social media may cause mental disorder (2017) – Excerpt: “Is it plausible that a negative effect of Facebook use on mental well-being contributes to development of outright mental disorder? The answer to this question is most likely yes.”

22) Orbitofrontal gray matter deficits as marker of Internet gaming disorder: converging evidence from a cross-sectional and prospective longitudinal design (2017) - Longitudinal study found that internet gaming caused the loss of OFC gray matter in both gaming addicts and subjects who were not gamers.

23) Outcome of the Psychological Intervention Program: Internet Use for Youth (2017) - 157 teenage problematic internet users completed eight weekly sessions. Excerpt: An overwhelming majority of participants were able to manage PIU symptoms... Not only did it addresses the PIU behaviour but also helped in reducing social anxiety and increasing social interaction.

24) Internet Addiction Creates Imbalance in the Brain (2017) - Compared with a control group, internet addicts had elevated levels of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter that has been linked with other addictions and psychiatric disorders. After 9 weeks of reduced internet use, and cognitive behavioral therapy, GABA levels "normalized".

25) Effects of Video-Game Ownership on Young Boys’ Academic and Behavioral Functioning: A Randomized, Controlled Study (2010) - The boys who received the video game system experience a drop in their reading and writing scores.


SLIDE 12

Third, as a culture, we can’t believe that sexual activity could lead to addiction--because "sex is healthy." But today's Internet porn is not sex. It’s as different from real sex as "World Of Warcraft" is from checkers. Watching a screen full of naked body parts won’t magically protect a guy from arousal addiction. On the contrary, this Dutch study found that--of all online activities--porn has the most potential to become addictive.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Note: Slides 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 provide support for the claim that internet pornography (via tube sites) is qualitatively different from porn of the past.

The study cited in the slide supports the claim that internet porn has the highest potential to be addictive: Predicting Compulsive Internet Use: It's All About Sex! (2006) - An excerpt from this longitudinal study:

The objective of this research was to assess the predictive power of various Internet applications on the development of compulsive Internet use (CIU). The study has a two-wave longitudinal design with an interval of 1 year. The first measurement contained 447 adult heavy Internet users who used the Internet at least 16 h per week and had Internet access at home for at least 1 year. For the second measurement, all participants were invited again, of whom 229 responded. By means of an online questionnaire, the respondents were asked about the time spent on various Internet applications and CIU. On a cross-sectional basis, gaming and erotica seem the most important Internet applications related to CIU. On a longitudinal basis, spending a lot of time on erotica predicted an increase in CIU 1 year later. The addictive potential of the different applications varies; erotica appears to have the highest potential.

Other studies in support of this 2011 claim:

1) Cybersex and the E-teen: What Marriage and Family Therapists Should Know (2008) - An excerpt:

Adolescents who use the Internet regularly (the “e-teen”) present a new set of challenges for marriage and family therapists.  Marriage and family therapists cannot ignore the role the Internet plays in adolescent sexual development and its implication for the family. This article will serve as a primer for the marriage and family therapist when presented with adolescents who engage in online sexual behaviors.

2) Adolescents' Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material and Sexual Preoccupancy: A Three-Wave Panel Study (2008) - Exposure to porn increases sexual preoccupancy. An excerpt:

Sexualized media environment may affect adolescents' sexual development beyond traditionally studied variables, such as sexual attitudes and sexual behavior.

The more frequently adolescents used SEIM, the more often they thought about sex, the stronger their interest in sex became, and the more frequently they became distracted because of their thoughts about sex.

3) Adolescents and Internet Sex Addiction (2009) - An excerpt:

Very little thought or research has been directed to the topic of adolescents and sex addiction. Adolescents who use the Internet regularly present a new set of challenges for therapists. This article examines (a) the basic concepts and unique psychological characteristics of the Internet that relates to adolescents’ online sexual behaviors, (b) the etiology of adolescents’ Internet sex addiction, and (c) treatment and prevention when dealing with problematic online sexual behavior in adolescents. It is concluded that therapists cannot ignore the role that the media, particularly the Internet, plays in adolescents’ life and its impact on the family and society.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

Studies including "porn addiction" rates are still quite rare. However, three recent studies assessing male porn users reported addiction rates of 27.6%, 28%, and 19%: 

1) Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men (2016) - This Belgian study (Leuven) found that 27.6% of subjects who had used porn in the last 3 months self-assessed their online sexual activities as problematic. An excerpt (OSA’s mean internet pornography):

The proportion of participants who reported experiencing concerns regarding their involvement in OSAs was 27.6% and of these, 33.9% reported that they had already thought to ask for help for OSA use.

2) Clinical Characteristics of Men Interested in Seeking Treatment for Use of Pornography (2016) - A study on men over 18 who had viewed pornography at least once in the last 6 months. The study reported that 28% of men scored at (or above) the cutoff for possible hypersexual disorder.

3) Cybersex Addiction Among College Students: A Prevalence Study (2017) - In a cross-disciplinary survey of students (avg. age 23), 10.3% scored in the clinical range for cybersex addiction (19% of men and 4% of women). It's important to note that this survey did not limit its participants to porn users.

The following studies describe a new type of "sex addiction," namely, young people without serious comorbidities who are addicted only to internet porn (they don't act out with people):

1) A New Generation of Sexual Addiction (2013). Clinicians have begun to see a "new type" of young sex addict who is addicted to internet porn, yet quite distinct from traditional "sex addicts":

In contrast, a “contemporary” form of rapid-onset sexual addiction has emerged with the explosive growth of Internet technology and is distinguished by “3Cs”: chronicity, content, and culture. Of particular concern is early exposure to graphic sexual material that disrupts normal neurochemical, sexual, and social development in youth.

2) Adolescent hypersexuality: Is it a distinct disorder? (2016) - Again, describing a new type of sex addict": young persons who don't have comorbidities or pre-existing psychopathology (as do traditional sex addicts).

Adolescent hypersexuality, and its position within personality dispositions, is the subject of this presentation. The personality dispositions examined were attachment style, temperament, gender, religiosity, and psychopathology. To do so, 311 high school adolescents (184 boys, 127 girls) between the ages 16–18  most of whom (95.8%) were native Israelis. Five possible empirical models were examined, all based on current theory and research on hypersexuality. The fourth model was found to be compatible with the data, indicating that psychopathology and hypersexuality are independent disorders and are not related by a mediating process.

3) The assessment and treatment of adult heterosexual men with self-perceived problematic pornography use: A review (2017) - The following introduction section of a review provides strong support for the claims put forth in Slide 12 and in The Great Porn Experiment:

Burgeoning neurobiological research has called into question the concept of addiction, which has traditionally been associated with the problematic consumption of alcohol and other substances (Love, Laier, Brand, Hatch, & Hajela, 2015). Evidence suggests, however, that various behaviors can also be classified as an addiction because of the common neurobiological mechanisms and motivational processes at play with both substances and addictive behaviors (Grant, Brewer, & Potenza, 2006; Koob & Le Moal, 2008; Robinson & Berridge, 2008). This radical shift in the understanding of addiction has been accompanied by significant implications for clinical and therapeutic assessment and treatment (Love et al., 2015). This is evidenced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) acknowledging one behavioral addiction, Gambling Disorder, with its own official classification and another, Internet Gaming Disorder, as a ‘Condition for Further Study’ within the DSM 5 (APA, 2013). The APA has not, however, provided researchers and clinicians with an overarching framework for evaluating other emerging and potentially addictive behaviors. One such behavior is compulsive pornography use, which may have the highest addictive potential of all Internet-related behaviors (Griffiths, 2012; Meerkerk, Van Den Eijnden, & Garretsen, 2006).

Problematic pornography consumption, often referred to as ‘porn addiction’ or ‘internet porn addiction’, can be conceptualized as any use of pornography that leads to and/or produces significant negative interpersonal, vocational, or personal consequences for the user (Grubbs, Exline, Pargament, Hook, & Carlisle, 2015; Grubbs, Volk, Exline, & Pargament, 2015). Increasing evidence suggests that excessive and compulsive pornography consumption has similar effects to substance-dependencies, including interference with working memory performance (Laier, Schulte, & Brand, 2013), neuroplastic changes that reinforce use (Hilton, 2013; Love et al., 2015), and the significant negative association between consumption and grey matter volume in the brain (Kühn & Gallinat, 2014). Indeed, brain scan studies have shown that the brains of self-perceived pornography addicts are comparable to individuals with substance dependence in terms of brain activity as monitored by functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) data (Gola et al., 2017; Voon et al., 2014).

Sexual disorders, in general, have been excluded from formal classification in the DSM-5. In 2010, Kafka's proposal for hypersexual disorder (Kafka, 2010), even though a subsequent field trial supported the reliability and validity of criteria for hypersexual disorder (Reid et al., 2012). Much of the current scientific research pertaining to problematic pornography viewing has been conceptualized as sexual addiction (Orzack & Ross, 2000), sexual impulsivity (Mick & Hollander, 2006), sexual compulsivity (Cooper, Putnam, Planchon, & Boies, 1999), or hypersexual behavior (Rinehart & McCabe, 1998), suggesting there may be similarities among the criteria of these other, related classifications. Kraus and colleagues have suggested the adoption of the term Compulsive Sexual Behavior (CSB) to reflect a broader category of problematic sexual behaviors (including pornography use) that incorporates all of the above terms (Kraus, Voon, et al., 2016). Despite similarities, however, literature suggests that problematic pornography use may be distinct and different from other sexual disorders (Duffy, Dawson, & das Nair, 2016). For example, problematic pornography use can differ from general sexual addiction because sexual activity involving human contact may be more anxiety-provoking than the ease of anonymously, privately, and inexpensively consuming pornography online (Short, Wetterneck, Bistricky, Shutter, & Chase, 2016).

Even though problematic pornography use can impact sexual behaviors, create sexual difficulties, and negatively alter attitudes related to sexuality (Cotiga & Dumitrache, 2015), therapists and clinicians are underprepared when it comes to managing problematic pornography use. Individuals who perceive themselves to have problematic use of pornography face a difficult situation in which therapists lack the sufficient training necessary to manage pornography use (Ayres & Haddock, 2009), even though clinicians believe such consumption patterns are worthy of treatment and intervention (Pyle & Bridges, 2012) and clients continue to regularly disclose habitual pornography use in sessions (Ayres & Haddock, 2009). Without an appropriate understanding of the assessment and treatment of problematic pornography use, the possibility for unethical treatment increases since therapist treatment approaches are more likely to be influenced by personal biases and beliefs (Ayres & Haddock, 2009).

Self-perceived problematic pornography use (SPPPU), or self-perceived pornography addiction, has increasingly emerged as a topic in scientific research, despite lacking formal recognition as a disorder and continued disagreements about its definition, or even existence (Duffy et al., 2016). An individual can experience pornography use as problematic for a myriad of reasons. These include personal or moral, social and relationship, time spent viewing, or viewing in inappropriate contexts such as at work (Twohig & Crosby, 2010). Consequently, even though the consumption habits and behaviors may not be inherently problematic, the costs for individuals for whom it is problematic may be significant (Twohig & Crosby, 2010).

SPPPU refers to the extent to which an individual self-identifies as addicted to pornography and feels they are unable to regulate their pornography use. This definition relies on the user's subjective selfperception and experiences when determining the extent to which the pursuit and subsequent consumption of pornography interferes with everyday life (Grubbs, Exline, et al., 2015; Grubbs, Volk, et al., 2015). Many individuals perceiving themselves to suffer from problematic pornography use feel they do not have viable treatment options; otherwise they would seek help (Ross, Månsson, & Daneback, 2012). This is typically because they feel their pornography use is out of control and have experienced failed attempts at either cutting back or quitting (Kraus, Martino, & Potenza, 2016). Of the small percentage of individuals who seek treatment, most indicated treatment was only marginally helpful (Kraus, Martino, et al., 2016). The purpose of this literature review is to gather, synthesize, and analyze the current literature addressing the treatment of SPPPU in adult heterosexual men, with the principle aim of contributing towards recommendations for clinicians, therapists, and future research in the field.


SLIDE 13

 

Here’s why. This ancient brain circuit evolved to drive us toward food, sex and bonding. As a consequence, extreme versions of these natural rewards register as uniquely valuable. That is, we get extra dopamine for high-calorie food and novel hot babes. Too much dopamine can override our natural satiation mechanisms.

ORIGINAL & UPDATED SUPPORT:

The two claims put forth in slide 13:

  1. The reward circuit evolved to drive us toward food, sex and bonding.
  2. Extreme (supernormal) versions of natural rewards can elevate dopamine. The stimulus responsible registers as potentially valuable and thus can override natural satiation mechanisms.

As the 2 claims put forth in Slide 13 are well supported by decades of research and considered to be common knowledge, I created only one section.

Claim #1: This is common knowledge and not in dispute. See this power point slide from The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or this page from The Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Claim #2: First, phasic dopamine coding for potential value or salience is fully supported in the literature and considered to be a fundamental neuroscience tenet. A Google scholar search for "dopamine signals reward value" returns 59,000 citations. In simple terms, potential reward value is assessed via phasic mesolimbic dopamine (the reward circuit). A few reviews that support this claim:

1) Dopamine invigorates reward seeking by promoting cue-evoked excitation in the nucleus accumbens (2014) – Excerpt:

The dopamine projection from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the NAc is an essential component of the neural circuit that promotes reward-seeking behavior (Nicola, 2007). If NAc dopamine function is reduced experimentally, animals are less likely to exert effort to obtain reward (Salamone and Correa, 2012) and often fail to respond to reward-predictive cues (Di Ciano et al., 2001; Yun et al., 2004; Nicola, 2007, 2010; Saunders and Robinson, 2012). These deficits are due to impairment of a specific component of reward seeking: the latency to initiate approach behavior is increased, whereas the speed of approach, the ability to find the goal and perform the necessary operant behavior required to earn reward, and the ability to consume reward are unaffected (Nicola, 2010). Dopamine must promote approach by influencing the activity of NAc neurons, but the nature of this influence remains unclear. Large proportions of NAc neurons are excited or inhibited by reward-predictive cues (Nicola et al., 2004a; Roitman et al., 2005; Ambroggi et al., 2008, 2011; McGinty et al., 2013), and the excitations begin before onset of cued approach behavior and predict the latency to initiate locomotion (McGinty et al., 2013). Therefore, this activity has the characteristics required of a dopamine-dependent signal that promotes cued approach….

In summary, regardless of the specific pharmacological mechanism, our results demonstrate that NAc dopamine promotes reward-seeking behavior by elevating the excitation of NAc neurons to salient environmental stimuli. The magnitude of this excitation sets the latency of the subject to initiate an approach response. Via this mechanism, dopamine regulates both the vigor and probability of cued reward-seeking.

2) Dopamine signals for reward value and risk: basic and recent data (2010) - Excerpt:

Dopamine neurons show phasic activations to external stimuli. The signal reflects reward, physical salience, risk and punishment, in descending order of fractions of responding neurons. Expected reward value is a key decision variable for economic choices. The reward response codes reward value, probability and their summed product, expected value. The neurons code reward value as it differs from prediction, thus fulfilling the basic requirement for a bidirectional prediction error teaching signal postulated by learning theory….

Large proportions of dopamine neurons are also activated by intense, physically salient stimuli. This response is enhanced when the stimuli are novel; it appears to be distinct from the reward value signal. Dopamine neurons show also unspecific activations to non-rewarding stimuli that are possibly due to generalization by similar stimuli and pseudoconditioning by primary rewards. These activations are shorter than reward responses and are often followed by depression of activity. A separate, slower dopamine signal informs about risk, another important decision variable. The prediction error response occurs only with reward; it is scaled by the risk of predicted reward….

Neurophysiological studies reveal phasic dopamine signals that transmit information related predominantly but not exclusively to reward. Although not being entirely homogeneous, the dopamine signal is more restricted and stereotyped than neuronal activity in most other brain structures involved in goal directed behavior.

3) Dopamine in Motivational Control: Rewarding, Aversive, and Alerting (2010) - Excerpt

Midbrain dopamine neurons are well known for their strong responses to rewards and their critical role in positive motivation. It has become increasingly clear, however, that dopamine neurons also transmit signals related to salient but nonrewarding experiences such as aversive and alerting events. Here we review recent advances in understanding the reward and nonreward functions of dopamine. Based on this data, we propose that dopamine neurons come in multiple types that are connected with distinct brain networks and have distinct roles in motivational control. Some dopamine neurons encode motivational value, supporting brain networks for seeking, evaluation, and value learning. Others encode motivational salience, supporting brain networks for orienting, cognition, and general motivation. Both types of dopamine neurons are augmented by an alerting signal involved in rapid detection of potentially important sensory cues. We hypothesize that these dopaminergic pathways for value, salience, and alerting cooperate to support adaptive behavior.

4) The Mysterious Motivational Functions of Mesolimbic Dopamine (2012) - Excerpt:

Nucleus accumbens dopamine (DA) has been implicated in several behavioral functions related to motivation. Yet the specifics of this involvement are complex and at times can be difficult to disentangle. An important consideration in interpreting these findings is the ability to distinguish between diverse aspects of motivational function that are differentially affected by dopaminergic manipulations. Although ventral tegmental neurons have traditionally been labeled “reward” neurons and mesolimbic DA referred to as the “reward” system, this vague generalization is not matched by the specific findings that have been observed. The scientific meaning of the term “reward” is unclear, and its relation to concepts such as reinforcement and motivation is often ill defined. Pharmacological and DA depletion studies demonstrate that mesolimbic DA is critical for some aspects of motivational function, but of little or no importance for others. Some of the motivational functions of mesolimbic DA represent areas of overlap between aspects of motivation and features of motor control, which is consistent with the well known involvement of nucleus accumbens in locomotion and related processes. Furthermore, despite an enormous literature linking mesolimbic DA to aspects of aversive motivation and learning, a literature which goes back several decades (e.g., Salamone et al., 1994), the established tendency has been to emphasize dopaminergic involvement in reward, pleasure, addiction, and reward-related learning, with less consideration of the involvement of mesolimbic DA in aversive processes. The present review will discuss the involvement of mesolimbic DA in diverse aspects of motivation, with an emphasis

5) Dopamine reward prediction error coding (2016) - Excerpt:

Reward prediction errors consist of the differences between received and predicted rewards. They are crucial for basic forms of learning about rewards and make us strive for more rewards—an evolutionary beneficial trait. Most dopamine neurons in the midbrain of humans, monkeys, and rodents signal a reward prediction error; they are activated by more reward than predicted (positive prediction error), remain at baseline activity for fully predicted rewards, and show depressed activity with less reward than predicted (negative prediction error). The dopamine signal increases nonlinearly with reward value and codes formal economic utility. Drugs of addiction generate, hijack, and amplify the dopamine reward signal and induce exaggerated, uncontrolled dopamine effects on neuronal plasticity.

Claim # 2: That supernormal versions of natural rewards elevate phasic dopamine and override satiation mechanisms is well established, as dopamine provides the motivation to pursue a reward. Highly palatable foods (concentrated sugars/fats/salt), video games, and internet porn are recognized as supernormal stimuli (as discussed on Slide 3). First, a few studies exploring internet applications (porn, video games, Facebook) as supernormal stimuli:

1) Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update (2015) - Excerpt:

Some internet activities, because of their power to deliver unending stimulation (and activation of the reward system), are thought to constitute supernormal stimuli [24], which helps to explain why users whose brains manifest addiction-related changes get caught in their pathological pursuit. Nobel Prize winning scientist Nikolaas Tinbergen [25] posited the idea of “supernormal stimuli,” a phenomenon wherein artificial stimuli can be created that will override an evolutionarily developed genetic response. To illustrate this phenomenon, Tinbergen created artificial bird eggs that were larger and more colorful than actual bird eggs. Surprisingly, the mother birds chose to sit on the more vibrant artificial eggs and abandon their own naturally laid eggs. Similarly, Tinbergen created artificial butterflies with larger and more colorful wings, and male butterflies repeatedly tried to mate with these artificial butterflies in lieu of actual female butterflies. Evolutionary Psychologist Dierdre Barrett took up this concept in her recent book Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose [26]. “Animals encounter supernormal stimuli mostly when experimenters build them. We humans can produce our own.” [4] (p. 4). Barrett’s examples range from candy to pornography and highly salted or unnaturally sweetened junk food to highly engaging interactive video game playing. In short, generalized internet chronic overuse is highly stimulating. It recruits our natural reward system, but potentially activates it at higher levels than the levels of activation our ancestors typically encountered as our brains evolved, making it liable to switch into an addictive mode [27].

2) Measuring Preference for Supernormal Over Natural Rewards: A Two-Dimensional Anticipatory Pleasure Scale (2015) - Excerpt:

Supernormal (SN) stimuli are artificial products that activate reward pathways and approach behavior more so than naturally occurring stimuli for which these systems were intended. Many modern consumer products (e.g., snack foods, alcohol, and pornography) appear to incorporate SN features, leading to excessive consumption, in preference to naturally occurring alternatives. No measure currently exists for the self-report assessment of individual differences or changes in susceptibility to such stimuli. Therefore, an anticipatory pleasure scale was modified to include items that represented both SN and natural (N) classes of rewarding stimuli. Exploratory factor analysis yielded a two-factor solution, and as predicted, N and SN items reliably loaded on separate dimensions. Internal reliability for the two scales was high, ρ =.93 and ρ =.90, respectively. The two-dimensional measure was evaluated via regression using the N and SN scale means as predictors and self-reports of daily consumption of 21 products with SN features as outcomes. As expected, SN pleasure ratings were related to higher SN product consumption, while N pleasure ratings had either negative or neutral associations to consumption of these products. We conclude that the resulting two-dimensional measure is a potentially reliable and valid self-report measure of differential preference for SN stimuli. While further evaluation is needed (e.g., using experimental measures), the proposed scale may play a useful role in the study of both trait- and state-based variation in human susceptibility to SN stimuli.

Processed foods, psychoactive substances, some retail goods, and various social media and gaming products are readily overconsumed, presenting numerous population health challenges (Roberts, van Vught, & Dunbar, 2012). Evolutionary psychology provides a persuasive explanation of excessive consumption. Animals, including humans, tend to approach (i.e., gather, acquire, and consume) stimuli that provide the highest relative reward for their efforts, thereby optimizing their utility (Chakravarthy & Booth, 2004; Kacelnik & Bateson, 1996). Neurological reward mechanisms evolved to promote adaptive behavior by reinforcing stimuli that send signals of promoting fitness, such as providing nutrients or reproductive opportunities. Tinbergen (1948) coined the term “Supernormal Stimulus” upon finding that animals tend to exhibit heightened responses to exaggerated versions of natural stimuli. This “selection asymmetry” (Staddon, 1975; Ward, 2013) is not maladaptive in natural environments in which exaggerated versions of the stimulus are rare—but presents problems when artificial and exaggerated alternatives exist. For example, the newly hatched herring gull prefers to peck at a fabricated thin red rod with white bands at its tip, rather than its mother’s naturally red spotted thin beak (Tinbergen & Perdeck, 1951). In the context of resource selection, the outcome is a behavioral heuristic of “get all you can”: an adaptive strategy in natural environments where resource supply is scarce or unreliable. In the modern human environment, many highly rewarding experiences exist in the form of artificial consumer products that have been designed or refined to be supernormal. That is, they stimulate an evolved reward system to a degree not found in natural stimuli (Barrett, 2010). For example, psychoactive substances (Nesse & Berridge, 1997), commercial fast-food products (Barrett, 2007), gambling products (Rockloff, 2014), television shows (Barrett, 2010; Derrick, Gabriel, & Hugenberg, 2009), digital social networking and the Internet (Rocci, 2013; Ward, 2013), and various retail products, such as expensive cars (Erk, Spitzer, Wunderlich, Galley, & Walter, 2002), high-heeled shoes (Morris, White, Morrison, & Fisher, 2013), cosmetics (Etcoff, Stock, Haley, Vickery, & House, 2011), and children’s toys (Morris, Reddy, & Bunting, 1995) have all been discussed as forms of modern day supernormal stimuli. For some of these stimuli, neurological evidence has shown that they tend to activate dopamine pathways intensely, hijacking the reward response designed for natural rewards, thereby promoting excess consumption and in some cases, addiction (Barrett, 2010; Blumenthal & Gold, 2010; Wang et al., 2001).

To varying degrees, supernormal stimuli tend to be unhealthy. The ready availability of high-calorie takeaway meals and snacks, the toxicity of alcohol and other substances, the sedentary activity involved in watching television, using digital media and gaming products, and the expense of retail items or gambling, all serve to provide an environment that fosters unhealthy behavioral choices, leading to harms (Barrett, 2007, 2010; Birch, 1999; Hantula, 2003; Ward, 2013). This makes the study of susceptibility of modern humans to supernormal stimuli of practical significance. In the current report, we use the term supernormal stimuli to refer to modern human products and experiences that are characterized by asymmetric selectivity (uncontrolled approach to more intense variants) and being made artificially abundant in the modern world. These products are often processed, refined, or synthesized consumer goods including snack foods or substances. Less obvious examples include messages received via social media. Although at times less stimulating than a face-to-face conversation, this communication method provides prolonged enhanced visual, speed, and delivery characteristics. Similarly, most modern day clothing and other retail products exhibit similar enhanced signifiers of rarity or desirability, with attendant implications for sexual or social status. Consumption or acquisition of these products is theorized to provide immediate reward due to being interpreted as fitness enhancing.

It has been suggested a preference for supernormal reward could be the result of differences in dopamine functioning. Dopamine deficiency has been found to be related to various forms of excess consumption including alcohol abuse, binge eating, problem gambling, and Internet addiction (Bergh, Eklund, Södersten, & Nordin, 1997; Blum, Cull, Braverman, & Comings, 1996; Johnson & Kenny, 2010; Kim et al., 2011). The concept of supernormal susceptibility is consistent with an interpretation in terms of individual variability in the dopamine functioning. Dopaminergic pathways, evolved to prioritize resource acquisition and consumption in a resource-scarce environment, are likely to be particularly sensitive to psychoactive substances, energy-dense food, and other modern day consumer products exhibiting exaggerated reward properties (Barrett, 2010; Nesse & Berridge, 1997; Wang et al., 2001). If this is the case, then the two-dimensional NPS/SNPS described here would be expected to discriminate individuals with dopamine dysfunction. Future research might profitably employ neurophysiological techniques in conjunction with self-report measures, in order to confirm the correspondences between these two levels of description.

Supernormal experiences are inherently unhealthy and amenable to excess consumption due to their processed characteristics (e.g., snacks and take away foods) and encouraging prolonged sedentary behavior (e.g., social networking and gaming). Therefore, the ability to identify individuals who prefer these types of reward provides a valuable contribution to those researching, treating, and preventing population health problems caused by over consumption.

3) Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity (2013) - Excerpt:

Addiction has been a divisive term when applied to various compulsive sexual behaviors (CSBs), including obsessive use of pornography. Despite a growing acceptance of the existence of natural or process addictions based on an increased understanding of the function of the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward systems, there has been a reticence to label CSBs as potentially addictive. While pathological gambling (PG) and obesity have received greater attention in functional and behavioral studies, evidence increasingly supports the description of CSBs as an addiction. This evidence is multifaceted and is based on an evolving understanding of the role of the neuronal receptor in addiction-related neuroplasticity, supported by the historical behavioral perspective. This addictive effect may be amplified by the accelerated novelty and the ‘supranormal stimulus’ (a phrase coined by Nikolaas Tinbergen) factor afforded by Internet pornography….

It is surprising that food addiction would not be included as a behavioral addiction, despite studies demonstrating dopaminergic receptor downregulation in obesity (Wang et al., 2001), with reversibility seen with dieting and normalization of body mass index (BMI) (Steele et al., 2010). The concept of a ‘supranormal stimulus’, invoking Nikolaas Tinbergen's term (Tinbergen, 1951), has recently been described in the context of intense sweetness surpassing cocaine reward, which also supports the premise of food addiction (Lenoir, Serre, Laurine, & Ahmed, 2007). Tinbergen originally found that birds, butterflies, and other animals could be duped into preferring artificial substitutes designed specifically to appear more attractive than the animal's normal eggs and mates. There is, of course, a lack of comparable functional and behavioral work in the study of human sexual addiction, as compared to gambling and food addictions, but it can be argued that each of these behaviors can involve supranormal stimuli. Deirdre Barrett (2010) has included pornography as an example of a supranormal stimulus…..

Pornography is a perfect laboratory for this kind of novel learning fused with a powerful pleasure incentive drive. The focused searching and clicking, looking for the perfect masturbatory subject, is an exercise in neuroplastic learning. Indeed, it is illustrative of Tinbergen's concept of the ‘supranormal stimulus’ (Tinbergen, 1951), with plastic surgery–enhanced breasts presented in limitless novelty in humans serving the same purpose as Tinbergen's and Magnus's artificially enhanced female butterfly models; the males of each species prefer the artificial to the naturally evolved (Magnus, 1958; Tinbergen, 1951). In this sense, the enhanced novelty provides, metaphorically speaking, a pheromone-like effect in human males, like moths, which is ‘inhibiting orientation’ and ‘disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere’ (Gaston, Shorey, & Saario, 1967)…..

Even public opinion seems to be trying to describe this biologic phenomenon, as in this statement from Naomi Wolf; ‘For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today real naked women are just bad porn’ (Wolf, 2003). Just as Tinbergen's and Magnus's ‘butterfly porn’ successfully competed for male attention at the expense of real females (Magnus, 1958; Tinbergen, 1951), we see this same process occurring in humans.

4) Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016) - Excerpt:

3.2. Internet Pornography as Supernormal Stimulus

Arguably, the most important development in the field of problematic sexual behavior is the way in which the Internet is influencing and facilitating compulsive sexual behavior [73]. Unlimited high-definition sexual videos streaming via “tube sites” are now free and widely accessible, 24 h a day via computers, tablets and smartphones, and it has been suggested that Internet pornography constitutes a supernormal stimulus, an exaggerated imitation of something our brains evolved to pursue because of its evolutionary salience [74,75]. Sexually explicit material has been around for a long time, but (1) video pornography is significantly more sexually arousing than other forms of pornography [76,77] or fantasy [78]; (2) novel sexual visuals have been shown to trigger greater arousal, faster ejaculation, and more semen and erection activity compared with familiar material, perhaps because attention to potential novel mates and arousal served reproductive fitness [75,79,80,81,82,83,84]; and (3) the ability to self-select material with ease makes Internet pornography more arousing than pre-selected collections [79]. A pornography user can maintain or heighten sexual arousal by instantly clicking to a novel scene, new video or never encountered genre. A 2015 study assessing Internet pornography’s effects on delay discounting (choosing immediate gratification over delayed rewards of greater value) states, “The constant novelty and primacy of sexual stimuli as particularly strong natural rewards make internet pornography a unique activator of the brain’s reward system. ... It is therefore important to treat pornography as a unique stimulus in reward, impulsivity, and addiction studies” [75] (pp. 1, 10).

Novelty registers as salient, enhances reward value, and has lasting effects on motivation, learning and memory [85]. Like sexual motivation and the rewarding properties of sexual interaction, novelty is compelling because it triggers bursts of dopamine in regions of the brain strongly associated with reward and goal-directed behavior [66]. While compulsive Internet pornography users show stronger preference for novel sexual images than healthy controls, their dACC (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) also shows more rapid habituation to images than healthy controls [86], fueling the search for more novel sexual images. As co-author Voon explained about her team’s 2015 study on novelty and habituation in compulsive Internet pornography users, “The seemingly endless supply of novel sexual images available online [can feed an] addiction, making it more and more difficult to escape” [87]. Mesolimbic dopamine activity can also be enhanced by additional properties often associated with Internet pornography use such as, violation of expectations, anticipation of reward, and the act of seeking/surfing (as for Internet pornography) [88,89,90,91,92,93]. Anxiety, which has been shown to increase sexual arousal [89,94], may also accompany Internet pornography use. In short, Internet pornography offers all of these qualities, which register as salient, stimulate dopamine bursts, and enhance sexual arousal.

For obvious reasons animal studies on the neurological effects of internet porn and video gaming will never be done. However, numerous animal studies revealing the neurological effects highly palatable foods (concentrated sugars/fats), have been published. Here are a few examples that support the assertion that hyper-palatable food (supernormal stimuli) alters the brain in ways regular diet cannot:

1) Food Addiction (2013) - Excerpts:

Throughout history, people were concerned with eating sufficiently to survive and reproduce. It is only recently with the advent of the modern food industry that the mass consumption of easily accessible high-calorie, tasty foods (e.g., high in sugars and/or fats) has produced an evolutionarily novel state in which many people eat too much and become too fat. In the modern food environment, people report consuming hyperpalatable foods no longer only to get calories but also to experience rewarding sensations, to cope with stress or fatigue, to enhance cognition, and/or to ameliorate mood. Highly processed foods containing high concentrations of refined macronutrients are no longer viewed solely from the angle of energy balance. Some refined ingredients, such as sugars, are progressively more viewed, by laypeople and scientists alike, as addictive substances and their chronic overconsumption as food addiction. Once a controversial concept, food addiction is now considered as serious as other forms of addiction, including cocaine or heroin addiction. The present chapter describes established research, involving both animal models and clinical research, on the neurobiology of sugar addiction. The focus on sugar addiction as a paradigmatic example is all the more important in view of the inexorable “sweetening of the world’s diet.” Much daily gratification that people derive from food consumption comes from the sweet taste of highly sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. In addition, there is growing evidence linking increased sugar availability and consumption, particularly in infants, to the current worldwide obesity epidemic. Despite the focus on sugar addiction, some of the main conclusions drawn can be generalized to other types of food addiction.

2) Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward (2008) - Excerpts:

Refined sugars (e.g., sucrose, fructose) were absent in the diet of most people until very recently in human history. Today overconsumption of diets rich in sugars contributes together with other factors to drive the current obesity epidemic. Overconsumption of sugar-dense foods or beverages is initially motivated by the pleasure of sweet taste and is often compared to drug addiction. Though there are many biological commonalities between sweetened diets and drugs of abuse, the addictive potential of the former relative to the latter is currently unknown.

Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals. We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastants. In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.

3) Examining the addictive-like properties of binge eating using an animal model of sugar dependence (2007) - Excerpts:

The increase in the incidence of obesity and eating disorders has encouraged research efforts aimed at understanding the etiology of abnormal eating behaviors. Clinical reports have led to the suggestion that some individuals may develop addictive-like behaviors when consuming palatable foods. Binge eating is a behavioral component of bulimia and obesity and has also become increasingly common in nonclinical populations in our society. This review summarizes the behavioral and neurochemical similarities between binge eating of palatable foods and the administration of drugs of abuse. An animal model of bingeing on sugar is used to illustrate behaviors found with some drugs of abuse, such as opiate-like withdrawal signs, enhanced intake following abstinence, and cross-sensitization. Related neurochemical changes commonly observed with drugs of abuse, including changes in dopamine and acetylcholine release in the nucleus accumbens, can also be found with bingeing on sugar.

4) Animal Models of Sugar and Fat Bingeing: Relationship to Food Addiction and Increased Body Weight (2012) - Excerpts:

Binge eating is a behavior that occurs in some eating disorders, as well as in obesity and in nonclinical populations. Both sugars and fats are readily consumed by human beings and are common components of binges. This chapter describes animal models of sugar and fat bingeing, which allow for a detailed analysis of these behaviors and their concomitant physiological effects. The model of sugar bingeing has been used successfully to elicit behavioral and neurochemical signs of dependence in rats; e.g., indices of opiate-like withdrawal, increased intake after abstinence, cross-sensitization with drugs of abuse, and the repeated release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens following repeated bingeing. Studies using the model of fat bingeing suggest that it can produce some, but not all, of the signs of dependence that are seen with sugar binge eating, as well as increase body weight, potentially leading to obesity.

5) Homeostatic and Hedonic Signals Interact in the Regulation of Food Intake (2009) - Excerpts:

As might be expected, prolonged activation of the limbic system by drugs of abuse leads to cellular and molecular adaptations that serve in part to maintain homeostasis in dopamine signaling (2). Within the dopaminergic neurons of the VTA, chronic drug use is associated with decreased basal dopamine secretion, decreased neuronal size, and increased activity of tyrosine hydroxylase (the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine biosynthesis) and of the transcription factor cyclic AMP response element binding protein (CREB) (2,10). Within target neurons in the striatum, chronic drug use increases levels of CREB as well as those of another transcription factor, deltaFosB, both of which alter neuronal responsiveness to dopamine signaling (2). These adaptations are thought to be important for the aberrant motivation to obtain drugs of abuse observed in addicted patients. For instance, increasing deltaFosB levels in the striatum increases sensitivity to the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse such as cocaine and morphine and increases incentive motivation to obtain them (2).

Similar cellular and molecular changes have been described in rodents exposed to highly palatable foods. Mice exposed to a high-fat diet for 4 wk and then abruptly withdrawn to a less palatable semipurified diet showed decreased levels of active CREB in the striatum up to 1 wk after the switch (11). These findings are consistent with the work of Barrot et al. (12) who reported that decreasing CREB activity in the ventral striatum increases the preference for both a sucrose solution (a natural reward) and for morphine, a well-characterized drug of abuse. In addition, mice exposed to 4 wk of high-fat diet exhibited a significant elevation in the level of deltaFosB in the nucleus accumbens (11), similar to changes observed following exposure to drugs of abuse (2). Furthermore, increased expression of deltaFosB in this brain region enhances food-reinforced operant responding, demonstrating a clear role for deltaFosB in increasing motivation to obtain food rewards (13). Taken together, these studies demonstrate that limbic regions experience similar neuroadaptations following exposure to both food and drug rewards and that these adaptations alter the motivation to obtain both types of rewards.

6) Adaptations in brain reward circuitry underlie palatable food cravings and anxiety induced by high-fat diet withdrawal (2013) - Excerpts:

Six weeks of HFD resulting in significant weight gain elicited sucrose anhedonia, anxiety-like behaviour and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPA) hypersensitivity to stress. Withdrawal from HFD but not LFD-potentiated anxiety and basal corticosterone levels and enhanced motivation for sucrose and high-fat food rewards. Chronic high-fat feeding reduced CRF-R1 and increased BDNF and pCREB protein levels in the amygdala and reduced TH and increased ΔFosB protein in NAc and VTA. Heightened palatable food reward in mice withdrawn from HFD coincided with increased BDNF protein levels in NAc and decreased TH and pCREB expression in the amygdala.

Anhedonia, anxiety and sensitivity to stressors develops during the course of HFD and may have a key role in a vicious cycle that perpetuates high-fat feeding and the development of obesity. Removal of HFD enhances stress responses and heightens vulnerability for palatable foods by increasing food-motivated behaviour. Lasting changes in dopamine and plasticity-related signals in reward circuitry may promote negative emotional states, overeating and palatable food relapse.

7) ΔFosB-Mediated Alterations in Dopamine Signaling Are Normalized by a Palatable High-Fat Diet (2008) - Excerpts:

Sensitivity to reward has been implicated as a predisposing factor for behaviors related to drug abuse as well as overeating. However, the underlying mechanisms contributing to reward sensitivity are unknown. We hypothesized that a dysregulation in dopamine signaling might be an underlying cause of heightened reward sensitivity whereby rewarding stimuli could act to normalize the system.

We used a genetic mouse model of increased reward sensitivity, the ΔFosB-overexpressing mouse, to examine reward pathway changes in response to a palatable high-fat diet. Markers of reward signaling in these mice were examined both basally and following 6 weeks of palatable diet exposure. Mice were examined in a behavioral test following high-fat diet withdrawal to assess the vulnerability of this model to removal of rewarding stimuli.

Our results demonstrate altered reward pathway activation along the nucleus accumbens-hypothalamic-ventral tegmental area circuitry resulting from overexpression of ΔFosB in the nucleus accumbens and striatal regions. Levels of phosphorylated cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) response element binding protein (pCREB), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and dopamine and cyclic adenosine monophosphate regulated phosphoprotein with a molecular mass of 32 kDa (DARPP-32) in the nucleus accumbens were reduced in ΔFosB mice, suggestive of reduced dopamine signaling. Six weeks of high-fat diet exposure completely ameliorated these differences, revealing the potent rewarding capacity of a palatable diet. ΔFosB mice also showed a significant increase in locomotor activity and anxiety-related responses 24 hours following high-fat withdrawal.

These results establish an underlying sensitivity to changes in reward related to dysregulation of ΔFosB and dopamine signaling that can be normalized with palatable diets and may be a predisposing phenotype in some forms of obesity.

8) Diet-induced obesity promotes depressive-like behaviour that is associated with neural adaptations in brain reward circuitry (2013) - Excerpts:

To determine the impact of a palatable high-fat diet (HFD) on depressive-like behaviour and biochemical alterations in brain reward circuitry in order to understand the neural processes that may contribute to the development of depression in the context of diet-induced obesity (DIO).

Our results demonstrate that chronic consumption of high-fat food and obesity induce plasticity-related changes in reward circuitry that are associated with a depressive-like phenotype. As increases in striatal BDNF and CREB activity are well implicated in depressive behaviour and reward, we suggest these signalling molecules may mediate the effects of high-fat feeding and DIO to promote negative emotional states and depressive-like symptomology.

The claim that elevated dopamine can function to override natural satiation mechanisms is widely accepted and the basis for the current model of addiction, called the incentive-sensitization theory of addiction. The following reviews describe dopamine's role in increased wanting or craving, and thus overconsumption of drugs and natural rewards:

1) The incentive sensitization theory of addiction: some current issues (2008) - Excerpts:

It is easy to get the impression from the literature that behavioural sensitization might be equivalent to ‘sensitization of locomotor activity’, but locomotion is only one of many different psychomotor effects of drugs that undergo sensitization, most of which are dissociable (Robinson & Becker 1986). It is important to remember that in this context the word sensitization simply refers to an increase in a drug effect caused by repeated drug administration. What is critical for the incentive sensitization theory is not ‘locomotor sensitization’, or even ‘psychomotor sensitization’, but incentive sensitization. Insofar as psychomotor activation is thought to reflect the engagement of brain incentive systems, including mesotelencephalic dopamine systems (Wise & Bozarth 1987), psychomotor sensitization may often be used as evidence (albeit indirect evidence) for hypersensitivity in relevant motivation circuitry. But it is the hypersensitivity in this motivation circuitry, not the locomotion circuitry, which contributes most to addictive wanting for drugs.

2) Addiction: A Disease of Learning and Memory (2007) - Excerpts:

A large body of work, including pharmacological, lesion, transgenic, and microdialysis studies, has established that the rewarding properties of addictive drugs depend on their ability to increase dopamine in synapses made by midbrain ventral tegmental area neurons on the nucleus accumbens (3840), which occupies the ventral striatum, especially within the nucleus accumbens shell region (41). Ventral tegmental area dopamine projections to other forebrain areas such as the prefrontal cortex and amygdala also play a critical role in shaping drug-taking behaviors (42).

Addictive drugs represent diverse chemical families, stimulate or block different initial molecular targets, and have many unrelated actions outside the ventral tegmental area/nucleus accumbens circuit, but through different mechanisms (e.g., see references 43, 44), they all ultimately increase synaptic dopamine within the nucleus accumbens….

Memory disorders are often thought of as conditions involving memory loss, but what if the brain remembers too much or too powerfully records pathological associations? During the last decade, advances in understanding the role of dopamine in reward-related learning (8) have made a compelling case for a “pathological learning” model of addiction that is consistent with long-standing observations about the behavior of addicted people (6). This work, along with more recent computational analyses of dopamine action (9, 10), has suggested mechanisms by which drugs and drug-associated stimuli might attain their motivational power. At the same time, cellular and molecular investigations have revealed similarities between the actions of addictive drugs and normal forms of learning and memory (1114), with the caveat that our current knowledge of how memory is encoded (15) and how it persists (15, 16) is far from complete for any mammalian memory system. Here I argue that addiction represents a pathological usurpation of the neural mechanisms of learning and memory that under normal circumstances serve to shape survival behaviors related to the pursuit of rewards and the cues that predict them (11, 17–20).

3) Dopamine Signaling in reward-related behaviors (2013) - Excerpts:

Dopamine (DA) regulates emotional and motivational behavior through the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway. Changes in DA mesolimbic neurotransmission have been found to modify behavioral responses to various environmental stimuli associated with reward behaviors. Psychostimulants, drugs of abuse, and natural reward such as food can cause substantial synaptic modifications to the mesolimbic DA system. Recent studies using optogenetics and DREADDs, together with neuron-specific or circuit-specific genetic manipulations have improved our understanding of DA signaling in the reward circuit, and provided a means to identify the neural substrates of complex behaviors such as drug addiction and eating disorders.

Regulation of the DA system in reward-related behaviors has received a great deal of attention because of the serious consequences of dysfunction in this circuit, such as drug addiction and food reward linked obesity, which are both major public health issues. It is now well accepted that following repeated exposure to addictive substances, adaptive changes occur at the molecular and cellular level in the DA mesolimbic pathway, which is responsible for regulating motivational behavior and for the organization of emotional and contextual behaviors (Nestler and Carlezon, 2006; Steketee and Kalivas, 2011). These modifications to the mesolimbic pathway are thought to lead to drug dependence, which is a chronic, relapsing disorder in which compulsive drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviors persist despite serious negative consequences (Thomas et al., 2008).

Considerable evidence now suggests that substantial synaptic modifications of the mesolimbic DA system are associated with not only the rewarding effects of psychostimulants and other drugs of abuse, but also with the rewarding effects of natural reward, such as food; however, the mechanism by which drugs of abuse induce the modify synaptic strength in this circuit remains elusive. In fact, DA reward signaling seems extremely complex, and is also implicated in learning and conditioning processes, as evidenced by studies revealing a DAergic response coding a prediction error in behavioral learning....

4) The Influence of ΔFosB in the Nucleus Accumbens on Natural Reward Related Behavior (2008) - Excerpt:

The transcription factor deltaFosB (ΔFosB), induced in nucleus accumbens (NAc) by chronic exposure to drugs of abuse, has been shown to mediate sensitized responses to these drugs. However, less is known about a role for ΔFosB in regulating responses to natural rewards. Here, we demonstrate that two powerful natural reward behaviors, sucrose drinking and sexual behavior, increase levels of ΔFosB in the NAc. We then use viral-mediated gene transfer to study how such ΔFosB induction influences behavioral responses to these natural rewards. We demonstrate that overexpression of ΔFosB in the NAc increases sucrose intake and promotes aspects of sexual behavior. In addition, we show that animals with previous sexual experience, which exhibit increased ΔFosB levels, also show an increase in sucrose consumption. This work suggests that ΔFosB is not only induced in the NAc by drugs of abuse, but also by natural rewarding stimuli. Additionally, our findings show that chronic exposure to stimuli that induce ΔFosB in the NAc can increase consumption of other natural rewards.

5) Neuroplasticity in the Mesolimbic System Induced by Natural Reward and Subsequent Reward Abstinence. (2010) – Excerpts:

Natural reward and drugs of abuse converge on the mesolimbic system, where drugs of abuse induce neuronal alterations. Here, we tested plasticity in this system after natural reward and the subsequent impact on drug responses.

Sexual experience induces functional and morphological alterations in the mesolimbic system similar to repeated exposure to psychostimulants. Moreover, abstinence from sexual behavior after repeated mating was essential for increased reward for drugs and dendritic arbors of NAc neurons, suggesting that the loss of sexual reward might also contribute to neuroplasticity of the mesolimbic system. These results suggest that some alterations in the mesolimbic system are common for natural and drug reward and might play a role in general reinforcement.

Additional support for the concept that dopamine overrides normal satiation mechanisms in humans comes from studies on patients given dopamine agonists. A few such studies:

1) Dopamine agonist-triggered pathological behaviors: surveillance in the PD clinic reveals high frequencies (2011). Excerpt:

Of 321 PD patients taking an agonist, 69 (22%) experienced compulsive behaviors, and 50/321 (16%) were pathologic. However, when the analysis was restricted to patients taking agonist doses that were at least minimally therapeutic, pathological behaviors were documented in 24%. The subtypes were: gambling (25; 36%), hypersexuality (24; 35%), compulsive spending/shopping (18; 26%), binge eating (12; 17%), compulsive hobbying (8; 12%) and compulsive computer use (6; 9%).

2) Frequency of new-onset pathologic compulsive gambling or hypersexuality after drug treatment of idiopathic Parkinson disease (2009). Excerpt:

Among the study patients with PD, new-onset compulsive gambling or hypersexuality was documented in 7 (18.4%) of 38 patients taking therapeutic doses of dopamine agonists but was not found among untreated patients, those taking subtherapeutic agonist doses, or those taking carbidopa/levodopa alone.

3) Compulsive eating and weight gain related to dopamine agonist use (2006). Excerpt:

Dopamine agonists have been implicated in causing compulsive behaviors in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). These have included gambling, hypersexuality, hobbyism, and other repetitive, purposeless behaviors ("punding").

4) Reports of pathological gambling, hypersexuality, and compulsive shopping associated with dopamine receptor agonist drugs (2014). Excerpt:

Severe impulse control disorders involving pathological gambling, hypersexuality, and compulsive shopping have been reported in association with the use of dopamine receptor agonist drugs in case series and retrospective patient surveys. These agents are used to treat Parkinson disease, restless leg syndrome, and hyperprolactinemia. Our findings confirm and extend the evidence that dopamine receptor agonist drugs are associated with these specific impulse


SLIDE 14

For example, give rats unlimited access to enticing junk food and almost all of them will binge to obesity. This is also why 4 out of 5 adult Americans are overweight and half of them obese - that is, addicted to food. In contrast to natural rewards, drugs - such as alcohol or cocaine, will only hook about 10-15% of users, whether humans or rats.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Claim #1: Support for "give rats unlimited access to enticing junk food and almost all of them will binge to obesity" came from this 2010 study: Addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats: Role for dopamine D2 receptors (2010) – Abstract:

We found that development of obesity was coupled with the emergence of a progressively worsening brain reward deficit. Similar changes in reward homeostasis induced by cocaine or heroin is considered a critical trigger in the transition from casual to compulsive drug-taking. Accordingly, we detected compulsive-like feeding behavior in obese but not lean rats, measured as palatable food consumption that was resistant to disruption by an aversive conditioned stimulus. Striatal dopamine D2 receptors (D2R) were downregulated in obese rats, similar to previous reports in human drug addicts. Moreover, lentivirus-mediated knockdown of striatal D2R rapidly accelerated the development of addiction-like reward deficits and the onset of compulsive-like food seeking in rats with extended access to palatable high-fat food. These data demonstrate that overconsumption of palatable food triggers addiction-like neuroadaptive responses in brain reward circuitries and drives the development of compulsive eating. Common hedonic mechanisms may therefore underlie obesity and drug addiction.

A lay article about the above study (2010) – Excerpts:

Brains of rats that gorged themselves on human fatty foods changed.

Dopamine appears to be responsible for the behavior of the overeating rats.

Scientists have finally confirmed what the rest of us have suspected for years: Bacon, cheesecake, and other delicious yet fattening foods may be addictive.

A new study in rats suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found.

Doing drugs such as cocaine and eating too much junk food both gradually overload the so-called pleasure centers in the brain, according to Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular therapeutics at the Scripps Research Institute, in Jupiter, Florida. Eventually the pleasure centers "crash," and achieving the same pleasure--or even just feeling normal--requires increasing amounts of the drug or food, says Kenny, the lead author of the study.

In previous studies, rats have exhibited similar brain changes when given unlimited access to cocaine or heroin. And rats have similarly ignored punishment to continue consuming cocaine, the researchers note.

The fact that junk food could provoke this response isn't entirely surprising, says Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York.

"We make our food very similar to cocaine now," he says.

The neurotransmitter dopamine appears to be responsible for the behavior of the overeating rats, according to the study. Dopamine is involved in the brain's pleasure (or reward) centers, and it also plays a role in reinforcing behavior. "It tells the brain something has happened and you should learn from what just happened," says Kenny.

Overeating caused the levels of a certain dopamine receptor in the brains of the obese rats to drop, the study found. In humans, low levels of the same receptors have been associated with drug addiction and obesity, and may be genetic, Kenny says.

Claim #2: This page contains support for: "4 out of 5 adult Americans are overweight and half of them obese."

Claim #3: This PDF and this study contains support for: "In contrast to natural rewards, drugs - such as alcohol or cocaine, will only hook about 10-15% of users, whether humans or rats." 

Claim #4: In 2011, there was very strong neurobiological support (animal & human studies) for the existence of "food addiction." Neurobiological support continues to accumulate at remarkable rate (see next section and this list of over 300 neurological studies). A few selected reviews published prior to the 2012 TEDx talk:

1) Natural rewards, neuroplasticity, and non-drug addiction (2011) – Abstract:

There is a high degree of overlap between brain regions involved in processing natural rewards and drugs of abuse. “Non-drug” or “behavioral” addictions have become increasingly documented in the clinic, and pathologies include compulsive activities such as shopping, eating, exercising, sexual behavior, and gambling. Like drug addiction, non-drug addictions manifest in symptoms including craving, impaired control over the behavior, tolerance, withdrawal, and high rates of relapse. These alterations in behavior suggest that plasticity may be occurring in brain regions associated with drug addiction. In this review, I summarize data demonstrating that exposure to non-drug rewards can alter neural plasticity in regions of the brain that are affected by drugs of abuse. Research suggests that there are several similarities between neuroplasticity induced by natural and drug rewards and that, depending on the reward, repeated exposure to natural rewards might induce neuroplasticity that either promotes or counteracts addictive behavior.

2) Common cellular and molecular mechanisms in obesity and drug addiction (2011) – Abstract:

The hedonic properties of food can stimulate feeding behaviour even when energy requirements have been met, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Similarly, the hedonic effects of drugs of abuse can motivate their excessive intake, culminating in addiction. Common brain substrates regulate the hedonic properties of palatable food and addictive drugs, and recent reports suggest that excessive consumption of food or drugs of abuse induces similar neuroadaptive responses in brain reward circuitries. Here, we review evidence suggesting that obesity and drug addiction may share common molecular, cellular and systems-level mechanisms.

3) Can Food Be Addictive? Public Health And Policy Implications (2011) – Excerpts:

Data suggest that hyperpalatable foods may be capable of triggering an addictive process. Although the addictive potential of foods continues to be debated, important lessons learned in reducing the health and economic consequences of drug addiction may be especially useful in combating food-related problems.

Although there exist important differences between foods and addictive drugs, ignoring analogous neural and behavioral effects of foods and drugs of abuse may result in increased food-related disease and associated social and economic burdens. Public health interventions that have been effective in reducing the impact of addictive drugs may have a role in targeting obesity and related diseases.

4) Neural Correlates of Food Addiction (2011) – Excerpts:

Research has implicated an addictive process in the development and maintenance of obesity. Although parallels in neural functioning between obesity and substance dependence have been found, to our knowledge, no studies have examined the neural correlates of addictive-like eating behavior.

Similar patterns of neural activation are implicated in addictive-like eating behavior and substance dependence: elevated activation in reward circuitry in response to food cues and reduced activation of inhibitory regions in response to food intake.

5) Food And Addiction: Sugars Fats And Hedonic Overeating. (2011) – Excerpts:

Clearly, not all foods would be candidates for addiction: Gearhardt et al. argue that ‘hyperpalatable’ foods rich in fats, sugars and/or salts, which are often comprised of synthetic combinations of many ingredients, may have greater addictive potential than traditional foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean protein. We know from studies of feeding behavior that different nutrients can affect specific brain neuropeptide and neurotransmitter systems [14,15]. Further, preclinical studies suggest that overeating sugar produces different addiction-like behaviors compared with overeating fat [5].

6) Overeating, Obesity, and Dopamine Receptors (2010) – Excerpts:

The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a key role in the brain reward circuit. The intake of highly addictive drugs such as cocaine causes an increase in dopamine levels in the limbic brain including the nucleus accumbens of the striatum, which leads to reinforcement of associated behaviors (1). Recent studies have also shed light on the involvement of the striatum in feeding in obese humans. Notably, positron emission tomography studies have shown that striatal dopamine D2 receptors are reduced in obese individuals compared with D2 receptors from their leaner counterparts (2). In addition, it has also been demonstrated that obese individuals tend to overeat to compensate for blunted striatal sensitivity (3). Analogous deficiencies in striatal dopamine signaling have also been observed in individuals addicted to drugs. Because pathological overeating is also driven by pleasure and the compulsion to continue despite known negative effects, like drug addiction, it is thought to involve dopamine neurotransmission. However, whether these deficiencies in D2 receptor signaling drive obesity or whether obese individuals develop deficiencies as a result of reward dysfunction is an open question.

7) Obesogenic diets may differentially alter dopamine control of sucrose and fructose intake in rats (2011) – Excerpts:

Chronic overeating of obesogenic diets can lead to obesity, reduced dopamine signaling, and increased consumption of added sugars to compensate for blunted reward. Thus, it appears that obesity due to the consumption of combinations of dietary fat and sugar rather than extra calories from dietary fat alone may result in reduced D2 receptor signaling. Furthermore, such deficits seem to preferentially affect the control of fructose intake.

These findings demonstrate for the first time a plausible interaction between diet composition and dopamine control of carbohydrate intake in diet-induced obese rats. It also provides additional evidence that sucrose and fructose intake is regulated differentially by the dopamine system.

9) Reward Mechanisms in Obesity: New Insights and Future Directions (2011) – Excerpt:

Food is consumed in order to maintain energy balance at homeostatic levels. In addition, palatable food is also consumed for its hedonic properties independent of energy status. Such reward-related consumption can result in caloric intake exceeding requirements and is considered a major culprit in the rapidly increasing rates of obesity in developed countries. Compared with homeostatic mechanisms of feeding, much less is known about how hedonic systems in brain influence food intake. Intriguingly, excessive consumption of palatable food can trigger neuroadaptive responses in brain reward circuitries similar to drugs of abuse. Furthermore, similar genetic vulnerabilities in brain reward systems can increase predisposition to drug addiction and obesity. Here, recent advances in our understanding of the brain circuitries that regulate hedonic aspects of feeding behavior will be reviewed. Also, emerging evidence suggesting that obesity and drug addiction may share common hedonic mechanisms will also be considered.

10) The dark side of food addiction (2011) - Excerpt:

In drug addiction, the transition from casual drug use to dependence has been linked to a shift away from positive reinforcement and towards negative reinforcement. That is, drugs ultimately are relied on to prevent or relieve negative states that otherwise result from abstinence (e.g., withdrawal) or from adverse environmental circumstances (e.g., stress). Recent work has suggested that this “dark side” shift also is key in the development of food addiction. Initially, palatable food consumption has both positive reinforcing, pleasurable effects and negative reinforcing, “comforting” effects that can acutely normalize organism responses to stress. Repeated, intermittent intake of palatable food may instead amplify brain stress circuitry and downregulate brain reward pathways such that continued intake becomes obligatory to prevent negative emotional states via negative reinforcement. Stress, anxiety and depressed mood have shown high comorbidity with and the potential to trigger bouts of addiction-like eating behavior in humans. Animal models indicate that repeated, intermittent access to palatable foods can lead to emotional and somatic signs of withdrawal when the food is no longer available, tolerance and dampening of brain reward circuitry, compulsive seeking of palatable food despite potentially aversive consequences, and relapse to palatable food-seeking in response to anxiogenic-like stimuli. The neurocircuitry identified to date in the “dark” side of food addiction qualitatively resembles that associated with drug and alcohol dependence. The present review summarizes Bart Hoebel’s groundbreaking conceptual and empirical contributions to understanding the role of the “dark side” in food addiction along with related work of those that have followed him

UPDATED SUPPORT:

Hundreds of animal and human studies supporting claim #4 (existence of food addiction) have been published since 2011. For example "food addiction" returns 7,400 citations from Google scholar, while "food addiction" + neurobiology returns 3,330 citations from Google scholar. From this list of over 300 neurological studies, I've selected a few recent reviews to further support the food-addiction model:

  1. Obesity And Addiction: Neurobiological Overlaps (2012) Nora Volkow
  2. Obesity is associated with altered brain function: sensitization and hypofrontality (2012)
  3. The obesity epidemic and food addiction: clinical similarities to drug dependence (2012)
  4. The obesity epidemic: the role of addiction (2012)
  5. Striatocortical Pathway Dysfunction in Addiction And Obesity: Differences and Similarities (2013) Nora Volkow
  6. The overlap between binge eating disorder and substance use disorders: Diagnosis and neurobiology (2013)
  7. A common biological basis of obesity and nicotine addiction (2013)
  8. The Addictive Dimensionality of Obesity (2013)
  9. Animal Models of Compulsive Eating Behavior (2014)
  10. Are Certain Foods Addictive? - A reply (2014)
  11. Food Addiction in the Light of DSM-5 (2014)
  12. Binge eating in pre-clinical models (2015)
  13. Current considerations regarding food addiction (2015)
  14. Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load (2015)
  15. Neurobiological features of binge eating disorder (2015)
  16. Aberrant mesolimbic dopamine-opiate interaction in obesity (2015)
  17. Food addiction as a new piece of the obesity framework (2015)
  18. Addiction-like Synaptic Impairments in Diet-Induced Obesity (2016)
  19. Allostasis in health and food addiction: fMRI (2016)
  20. Behavioral sensitization of the reinforcing value of food: What food and drugs have in common (2016)
  21. Food Addiction as a new behavioral addiction (2016)
  22. Psychological and Neurobiological Correlates of Food Addiction (2016)
  23. The Influence of Palatable Diets in Reward System Activation: A Mini Review (2016)
  24. Largely overlapping neuronal substrates of reactivity to drug, gambling, food and sexual cues: A comprehensive meta-analysis (2016)
  25. The Neurobiology of "Food Addiction" and Its Implications for Obesity Treatment and Policy (2016)
  26. Food and drug addictions: Similarities and differences (2017)
  27. Food for Thought: Reward Mechanisms and Hedonic Overeating in Obesity (2017)
  28. Overlapping Neural Endophenotypes in Addiction and Obesity (2017)
  29. Palatable Hyper-Caloric Foods Impact on Neuronal Plasticity (2017)
  30. Pathological Overeating: Emerging Evidence for a Compulsivity Construct (2017)

Interestingly, a 2017 review of the literature proposed a model of compulsive internet porn use that parallels the very simple model presented in Slides 13-17 (Pornography, Pleasure, and Sexuality: Towards a Hedonic Reinforcement Model of Sexually Explicit Internet Media Use). It proposes that both highly palatable foods and streaming internet porn contain unique properties that may be perceived as especially rewarding to the consumer. Put simply both junk food and streaming internet porn can override satiation mechanisms and supplant traditional versions of sex and food. A few excerpts from the review:

Theoretical rationale

Whereas prior works have conceptualized IPU as analogous to gambling (e.g., King, 1999) or even substance use (e.g., Park et al., 2016), the theoretical rationale for the present model is strongly supported by recent work on another physiological drive: hunger. Theories and models of hunger and food consumption serve as a logical comparison that could inform the conceptualization of sexual motives and behaviors, given that both have similarities in evolutionary development, that both sexual activity and food consumption are required for survival, that both provide hedonic rewards, that both are centrally motivating to many human behaviors, and that both seem to be only be temporarily satiated when indulged. Working from this analogue, a body of recent literature has popularized the notions of hedonic hunger (Lowe & Butryn, 2007). Rather than being motivated by caloric need, hedonic hunger refers specifically to the desire for food due to the pleasure that it brings the consumer (Lowe & Butryn, 2007). Although hedonic motives have likely always been a part of the hunger drive, this distinction between hedonic hunger and physiological hunger has increased with recent advances in the production of hyperpalatable foods, or foods that are designed to powerfully appeal to specific evolutionarily derived flavor preferences (e.g., salty, fatty, sweet; Avena & Gold, 2011; Gearhardt, Davis et al., 2011; Gearhardt, Davis, Kuschner, & Brownell, 2011). These foods are relatively recent (in the context of human evolution) developments that both reward individuals powerfully and promote behavior change.

On an individual level, hyperpalatable foods can promote change in behaviors, but they are also likely responsible for cultural dietary changes in developed countries (Fortuna, 2012). As food has become more palatable, eating has also become more rewarding, and consequently, pleasure-seeking motivations for food consumption have risen. Collectively, these factors have changed the way in which many people approach hunger and food on both individual and cultural levels (for a review, see Pinel et al., 2000), with Western societies—particularly the U.S.—becoming more hedonic in their approach to food.

Throughout the present work, we posit that IP represents a similar cultural phenomenon to hyperpalatable food and hedonic hunger in regards to sexual motivation and sex-related goals. Each component of our proposed model parallels findings in the eating literature, and the comparisons will be discussed in more detail below. In sum, prior literature indicates that hedonic hunger is reinforced via indulgence in uniquely reinforcing hyperpalatable foods, thereby leading to more hedonic approaches to food and eating. In like fashion, we argue that IP is consumed primarily for hedonic reasons; that it is uniquely reinforcing due to its accessibility, customizability, novelty, and variety; and that it is likely promoting more hedonic approaches to sexuality

Sexual Addiction

As was reviewed at the outset of this work, much of the previous literature on IPU has focused on themes of addiction, compulsivity, and impulsivity (Short et al., 2012). More to the point, there is a clear contention in early academic (e.g., Cooper et al., 1998) and current popular (e.g., Foubert, 2016; Wilson, 2014) literature that IP has addictive qualities. Indeed, the research literature is replete with case studies and clinical examples of individuals who have sought treatment for IP addiction (e.g., Ford, Durtschi, & Franklin, 2012; Gola & Potenza, 2016; Griffiths, 2000; Kraus, Meshberg-Cohen, Martino, & Potenza, 2015), often describing individuals experiencing profound disruption and negative consequences associated with IPU. Furthermore, the notion of problematic or excessive IPU is not controversial, with several empirical studies documenting how some individuals may become compulsive or excessive in their use (e.g., Crosby & Twohig, 2016; For et al., 2014; Sirianni & Vishwanath, 2016). Despite this, numerous peer-reviewed syntheses have concluded that referring to typical IPU as addictive is a premature judgement (e.g., Duffy et al., 2016; Kraus, Voon, & Potenza, 2016; Reid, 2016).

Rather than engaging with the nuances of such a debate, the present model organizes the literature in a way that might more accurately account for addiction or compulsivity than previous models have. This conjecture is supported by recent work with our model’s theoretical parallel: hunger. A highly rewarding stimulus that satiates a biological drive clearly has the potential for excessive use or abuse (e.g., Gearhardt, Yokum, et al., 2011). Within appetite and obesity literature, the notion of food addiction has recently garnered much attention (e.g., Gearhardt, White, Masheb, & Grilo, 2013; Hebebrand et al., 2014; Smith & Robbins, 2013). Although this model for understanding compulsive food consumption is not without controversy (e.g., Benton & Young, 2016; Ziauddeen & Fletcher, 2013), it has proven to be a useful concept for the understanding and classification of problematic, compulsive, or excessive eating behaviors (Avena, Gearhardt, Gold, Wang, & Potenza, 2012). Using this literature as an exemplar then, it is likely that addiction and compulsivity models of problematic of IPU also have some utility in accounting for excessive or disruptive IPU.

It is likely that the debate over the correct classification of problematic IPU as an addiction, a compulsion, or an impulse control disorder will continue for many years (e.g., Reid, 2016). However, the present model seeks to frame IPU in a way that does not rely on notions of IP as inherently addictive. As a highly-rewarding stimulus, IPU will likely influence different individuals in unique ways. In much the same way that some individuals may be more prone to food addiction or other behavioral dysregulations such as pathological gambling, certain people may be more sensitive to the highly rewarding nature of IP, which may result in problematic behavior patterns developing.


SLIDE 15

This "binge mechanism" for food and sex was once an evolutionary advantage. It helped us “get it while the getting was good”. Think of wolves stowing away 20 pounds of meat per kill. Or it’s mating season and you’re the alpha male.

ORIGINAL & UPDATED SUPPORT:

The claim: That "binge mechanism" for food and sex exists.

Binge mechanisms involve chronically elevated dopamine inducing sensitization, and perhaps desensitization (expanded upon in Slide 18, Slide 13, Slide 14, and Slide 16). Here I present a synopsis of how sensitization and desensitization promote bingeing. In addition, other recently identified "binge mechanisms" for highly palatable foods are provided.

Sensitization leads to increased wanting, cravings, and inability to control use. This is sufficient to induce bingeing (as it does with fully developed addictions). Desensitization can amplify the cravings induced by sensitization.

Sensitization: As described in other slides, continued over-consumption of natural rewards (sex, sugar, high-fat, aerobic exercise) or chronic administration of virtually any drug of abuse causes DeltaFosB to slowly accumulate in much of the reward system (PFC, nucleus accumbens). DeltaFosB activates certain genes which initiate several brain changes, primarily sensitization. This manifests as cue-reactivity, severe cravings, and difficulty controlling use. Cue reactivity and strong cravings to use are markers for addiction, and can be assessed via brain imaging and neuropsychological assessments or self-reports. As of 2017, twenty studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity/cravings in porn users or sex addicts have been published: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.

Desensitization: As increased cravings compel the user to binge on porn, overstimulation of the reward circuitry leads to a localized rebellion. If DeltaFosB is the gas pedal for bingeing, the molecule CREB functions as the brakes. CREB dampens our pleasure response. It inhibits dopamine. CREB is trying to take the joy out of bingeing so that you give it a rest.

Oddly enough, high levels of dopamine stimulate the production of both CREB and DeltaFosB. But the glitch in the CREB/DeltaFosB balancing act is that it evolved long before humans were exposed to powerful reinforcers such as whiskey, cocaine, ice cream, or porn tube sites. All have the potential to override evolved satiation mechanisms, including CREB’s brakes. Continued overconsumption may also lead to a fairly rapid decline in dopamine D2 receptors (as occurred with rats binging on junk food). This can intensify cravings as D2 receptors function to inhibit over-consumption of drugs and natural rewards. Desensitization leads to tolerance, which is the need for a higher does to achieve the same effect. As of 2017 six studies on porn users report findings consistent with desensitization or habituation: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

You may be wondering how chronic overstimulation can induce two seemingly opposite effects. First, it can increase dopamine activity (sensitization via DeltaFosB). Second, it can decrease dopamine activity (desensitization via CREB). The answer is that it’s mostly about timing. But it’s also about the neurological differences between wanting and liking.

Sensitization leads to high spikes of dopamine in response to cues and triggers associated with use. The dopamine spikes occur before ingesting the drug or masturbating to porn, and are experienced as cravings to use. However, on exposure to the same old stimuli less dopamine (and less opioids) are released (desensitization). This dampening of pleasure occurs during drug use or while masturbating to porn. The activity is experienced as less pleasurable, increasing cravings for more.

The following studies describe diverse mechanisms by which highly palatable food induces sensitization and resultant bingeing:

1) Study Finds Why We Crave Chips & Fries (2011) - Excerpts:

Fatty foods like chips and fries trigger the body to produce chemicals much like those found in marijuana, researchers report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). These chemicals, called "endocannabinoids," are part of a cycle that keeps you coming back for just one more bite of cheese fries, the study found.

The results showed that fat on the tongue triggers a signal to the brain, which then relays a message down to the gut via a nerve bundle called the vagus nerve. This message commands the production of endocannabinoids in the gut, which in turn drives a cascade of other signals all pushing the same message: Eat, eat, eat!

This message would have been helpful in the evolutionary history of mammals, Piomelli said. Fats are crucial to survival, and they were once hard to come by in the mammalian diet. But in today's world, where a convenience store full of junk food sits on every corner, our evolutionary love of fat easily backfires.

2) Insulin action in the brain can lead to obesity (2011) – High fat diet induces neurochemical cascade that promotes consumption and reduces energy expenditure. Excerpts:

Fat-rich food makes you fat. Behind this simple equation lie complex signalling pathways, through which the neurotransmitters in the brain control the body's energy balance.

The consumption of high-fat food causes more insulin to be released by the pancreas. This triggers a signalling cascade in special nerve cells in the brain, the SF-1 neurons, in which the enzyme P13-kinase plays an important role. Over the course of several intermediary steps, the insulin inhibits the transmission of nerve impulses in such a way that the feeling of satiety is suppressed and energy expenditure reduced. This promotes overweight and obesity.

The hypothalamus plays an important role in energy homeostasis: the regulation of the body's energy balance. Special neurons in this part of the brain, known as POMC cells, react to neurotransmitters and thus control eating behaviour and energy expenditure. When high-fat food is consumed, more insulin is produced in the pancreas, and its concentration in the brain also increases. The interaction between the insulin and the target cells in the brain also plays a crucial role in the control of the body's energy balance.

"Therefore, in overweight people, insulin probably indirectly inhibits the POMC neurons, which are responsible for the feeling of satiety, via the intermediary station of the SF-1 neurons," supposes the scientist. "At the same time, there is a further increase in food consumption." The direct proof that the two types of neurons communicate with each other in this way still remains to be found, however.

With normal food consumption, the researchers discovered no difference between the two groups. This would indicate that insulin does not exercise a key influence on the activity of these cells in slim individuals. However, when the rodents were fed high-fat food, those with the defective insulin receptor remained slim, while their counterparts with functional receptors rapidly gained weight. The weight gain was due to both an increase in appetite and reduced calorie expenditure. This effect of insulin could constitute an evolutionary adaptation by the body to an irregular food supply and extended periods of hunger: if an excess supply of high-fat food is temporarily available, the body can lay down energy reserves particularly effectively through the action of insulin.

3) Intestinal lipid–derived signals that sense dietary fat (2014) - Here researchers found that short-term ingestion of concentrated fats induces chemical signals promoting satiation, while prolonged consumption of dietary fat reduces satiation mechanisms. Excerpt:

In summary, the available data indicate that OEA, generated by small-intestinal enterocytes during the digestion of fat-containing foods, causes satiety through a paracrine PPARα-mediated mechanism that requires the recruitment of afferent sensory fibers. This response also depends on the presence of an intact sympathetic nervous system — which may function to facilitate fat-induced OEA production in the gut — and engages oxytocin, histamine, and dopamine transmission in the CNS. The intriguing but as yet unexplained observation that prolonged exposure to dietary fat lowers small intestinal OEA levels (124, 125) raises questions about the mechanism regulating OEA signaling in the gut and the possible role it might play in overeating and obesity.

4) How junk food primes the brain's food-seeking behavior (2015) - Consumption of extremely palatable food—specifically, sweetened high-fat food— induces neuroplastic changes of dopamine producing neurons. In essence, sensitization. This led to greater seeking. Excerpts:

(Medical Xpress)—The current epidemic of obesity in developed countries should be a warning for health officials in the developing world with newly opened markets. Food manufacturers, restaurant franchising companies, food supply chains and advertisers collaborate to create environments in which extremely palatable, energy-dense foods and their related cues are readily available; however, people still have adaptive neural architecture best suited for an environment of food scarcity. In other words, the brain's programming may make it difficult to handle the modern food ecosystem in a metabolically healthy way.

Humans, like all animals, have ancient genetic programming adapted specifically to ensure food intake and food-seeking survival behaviors. Environmental cues strongly influence these behaviors by altering neural architecture, and corporations have refined the science of leveraging human pleasure response and perhaps inadvertently reprogramming people's brains to seek surplus calories. In an environment that is rich in highly palatable, energy-dense foods, the pervasiveness of food-related cues can lead to food seeking and overeating regardless of satiety, a likely driver of obesity.

A group of Canadian researchers at the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia recently published the results of a mouse study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which they explored the neural mechanisms behind these changes in food-seeking behavior.

They report that the short-term consumption of extremely palatable food—specifically, sweetened high-fat food—actually primes future food approach behaviors. They found that the effect is mediated by the strengthening of excitatory synaptic transmission onto dopamine neurons, and lasts for days after initial 24-hour exposure to sweetened high-fat foods.

These changes occur in the brain's ventral tegmental area (VTA) and its mesolimbic projections, an area involved in adapting to environmental cues used for predicting motivationally relevant outcomes—in other words, the VTA is responsible for creating cravings for stimuli found to be rewarding in some way.

The researchers write, "Because enhanced excitatory synaptic transmission onto dopamine neurons is thought to transform neutral stimuli to salient information, these changes in excitatory synaptic transmission may underlie the increased food-approach behavior observed days after exposure to sweetened high-fat foods and potentially prime increased food consumption."

The enhanced synaptic strength lasts for days after exposure to high-energy-density food, and is mediated by increased excitatory synaptic density. The researchers found that introducing insulin directly to the VTA suppresses excitatory synaptic transmission onto dopamine neurons and completely suppresses food-seeking behaviors observed after 24-hour access to sweetened high-fat food.

More information: Consumption of palatable food primes food approach behavior by rapidly increasing synaptic density in the VTA. PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print February 16, 2016, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1515724113

5) Do Orexins contribute to impulsivity-driven binge consumption of rewarding stimulus and transition to drug/food dependence? (2015) – Bingeing on addictive drugs and junk food involve the same mechanisms (meaning that drugs hijack the evolutionary mechanisms in place for bingeing on food).

Orexins (OX) are neuropeptides synthesized in the lateral hypothalamic region which play a fundamental role in a wide range of physiological and psychological functions including arousal, stress, motivation or eating behaviors. This paper reviews under the addiction cycle framework (Koob, 2010), the role of the OX system as a key modulator in compulsivity-driven consumption of rewarding stimulus including ethanol, palatable food and drugs and their role in impulsivity and binge-like consumption in non dependent organisms as well.

We propose here that drug/food binge-like consumption in vulnerable organisms increases OX activity which, in turn, elicits enhanced impulsivity and further impulsivity-driven binge consumption in a positive loop that would promote compulsive-driven binge-consumption and the transition to drug/food disorders over time.

6) Escalation in high fat intake in a binge eating model differentially engages dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area and requires ghrelin signaling (2015) - High fat diet induces bingeing via dopamine-based mechanisms. Excerpts:

Binge eating is a behavior observed in a variety of human eating disorders. Ad libitum fed rodents daily and time-limited exposed to a high-fat diet (HFD) display robust binge eating events that gradually escalate over the initial accesses. Intake escalation is proposed to be part of the transition from a controlled to a compulsive or loss of control behavior. Here, we used a combination of behavioral and neuroanatomical studies in mice daily and time-limited exposed to HFD to determine the neuronal brain targets that are activated - as indicated by the marker of cellular activation c-Fos - under these circumstances. Also, we used pharmacologically or genetically manipulated mice to study the role of orexin or ghrelin signaling, respectively, in the modulation of this behavior.

We found that four daily and time-limited accesses to HFD induce: (i) a robust hyperphagia with an escalating profile, (ii) an activation of different sub-populations of the ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons and accumbens neurons that is, in general, more pronounced than the activation observed after a single HFD consumption event, and (iii) an activation of the hypothalamic orexin neurons, although orexin signaling blockage fails to affect escalation of HFD intake. In addition, we found that ghrelin receptor-deficient mice fail to both escalate the HFD consumption over the successive days of exposure and fully induce activation of the mesolimbic pathway in response to HFD consumption. Current data suggest that the escalation in high fat intake during repeated accesses differentially engages dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area and requires ghrelin signaling.

7) Opioid system in the medial prefrontal cortex mediates binge-like eating (2013) – Highly palatable food activated an opioid based binge mechanism in rats. Excerpts:

Binge eating disorder is an addiction-like disorder characterized by excessive food consumption within discrete periods of time.

This study was aimed at understanding the role of the opioid system within the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in the consummatory and motivational aspects of binge-like eating. For this purpose, we trained male rats to obtain either a sugary, highly palatable diet (Palatable rats) or a chow diet (Chow rats) for 1 hour/day.

We then evaluated the effects of the opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone, given either systemically or site-specifically into the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) or the mPFC on a fixed ratio 1 (FR1) and a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement for food.

Finally, we assessed the expression of the genes proopiomelanocortin (POMC), pro-dynorphin (PDyn) and pro-enkephalin (PEnk), coding for the opioids peptides in the NAcc and the mPFC in both groups.

Palatable rats rapidly escalated their intake by four times. Naltrexone, when administered systemically and into the NAcc, reduced FR1 responding for food and motivation to eat under a progressive ratio in both Chow and Palatable rats; conversely, when administered into the mPFC, the effects were highly selective for binge eating rats. Furthermore, we found a twofold increase in POMC and a ∼50% reduction in PDyn gene expression in the mPFC of Palatable rats, when compared to control rats; however, no changes were observed in the NAcc.

Our data suggest that neuroadaptations of the opioid system in the mPFC occur following intermittent access to highly palatable food, which may be responsible for the development of binge-like eating.


SLIDE 16
 

 What if mating season never ends? All those hits of dopamine do 2 things:

  • First, they tell your brain that you’ve hit the evolutionary jackpot.
  • Second, (very important) they trigger a molecular switch called…

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Slide 16 has no specific claims. It's a transition between slides 14/15 and slide 17.


SLIDE 17

DeltaFosB – which starts to accumulate in your brain's reward circuit. With excess chronic consumption of drugs or natural rewards, this build-up of DeltaFosB (starts to change brain and) promotes a cycle of bingeing and craving.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

The slide's claim: Chronically elevated dopamine, in response to a rewarding stimulus, can cause the build-up DeltaFosB, which induces wanting (sensitization).

This slide's claim is supported in the scientific literature. Excess chronic consumption of addictive drugs or natural rewards (including sexual rewards) can lead to the accumulation of DeltaFosB, which in turn leads to sensitization and cravings to use. See the following lists of 130 studies:

Specifically, neurological studies have found that all addictions, both chemical and behavioral, appear to share a key molecular switch: DeltaFosB. Studies reveal that both sexual arousal/orgasm and addictive drugs (cocaine, meth) induce the same molecular mechanisms, which generate similar fundamental brain changes within the same reward system neurons. Put simply, chronically elevated phasic dopamine triggers the production of DeltaFosB. This in turn produces sensitization – the core brain change in both addiction and sexual conditioning.

Here are a few of the many studies published prior to 2012 that supported this slide's assertions:

1) DeltaFosB: A sustained molecular switch for addiction (2001) - Excerpt:

Together, these early findings suggest that ΔFosB, in addition to increasing sensitivity to drugs of abuse, produces qualitative changes in behavior that promote drug-seeking behavior. Thus, ΔFosB may function as a sustained “molecular switch” that helps initiate and then maintain crucial aspects of the addicted state.

2) DeltaFosB: A Molecular Gate to Motivational Processes within the Nucleus Accumbens? (2006) - Excerpt:

The nucleus accumbens (NAc) has long been seen as the interface between limbic and motor systems on the basis of its convergent glutamatergic inputs from many limbic cortical structures, such as the prefrontal cortex, and its outputs to structures involved in motor control, such as the pallidum. The NAc also receives a major dopaminergic innervation from the ventral tegmental area via the mesolimbic pathway that is intimately involved in reward-related processes and addiction. Within the NAc, dopaminergic and glutamatergic inputs might interact to control goal-directed instrumental behavior (response–outcome processes) driven by natural rewards (food, water, sex) or drugs of abuse, and conditioned stimuli associated with them.

Repeated drug exposure induces long-lasting cellular and molecular changes within the NAc that are thought to contribute to the protracted compulsive behavior associated with addiction. Among such adaptations, the induction of the transcription factor ΔFosB within the dynorphin-positive medium spiny neurons is of major interest. ΔFosB has been the first long-lasting transcriptional regulator shown to be involved in the plastic processes associated with the transition to addiction.

These results clearly show that overexpression of ΔFosB in the NAc enhances instrumental responding and increases motivation for food. ΔFosB is thus suggested to be a general molecular switch involved in the modulation of motivational aspects of goal-directed behavior.

3) Sexual experience in female rodents: cellular mechanisms and functional consequences (2006) - Excerpt:

The elevation in dopamine release in experienced female hamsters is reminiscent of the effects of repeated exposure of animals to drugs of abuse [75]. In this literature, the heightened level of dopamine in response to a fixed dose of drug is termed “sensitization” [75]. Drug sensitization is accompanied by a variety of cellular responses thought to enhance synaptic efficacy and information flow through the mesolimbic pathway. Repeated administration of a variety of abused substances with different pharmacological profiles will increase dendritic length and/or spine density in the terminal dendritic branches of medium spiny neurons [13,23,44,45,64,76,77,78]...... Far fewer examples exist for behavioral experience producing comparable effects on dendrites, though induction of salt appetite [79], male sexual behavior [24] and female sexual behavior [59] will alter dendritic morphology in medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens.

4) The Influence of ΔFosB in the Nucleus Accumbens on Natural Reward Related Behavior (2008) - Excerpt:

The transcription factor deltaFosB (ΔFosB), induced in nucleus accumbens (NAc) by chronic exposure to drugs of abuse, has been shown to mediate sensitized responses to these drugs. However, less is known about a role for ΔFosB in regulating responses to natural rewards. Here, we demonstrate that two powerful natural reward behaviors, sucrose drinking and sexual behavior, increase levels of ΔFosB in the NAc. We then use viral-mediated gene transfer to study how such ΔFosB induction influences behavioral responses to these natural rewards. We demonstrate that overexpression of ΔFosB in the NAc increases sucrose intake and promotes aspects of sexual behavior This work suggests that ΔFosB is not only induced in the NAc by drugs of abuse, but also by natural rewarding stimuli. Additionally, our findings show that chronic exposure to stimuli that induce ΔFosB in the NAc can increase consumption of other natural rewards.

5) Transcriptional mechanisms of addiction: role of ΔFosB (2008) - Excerpt:

The effects of ΔFosB may extend well beyond the regulation of drug sensitivity per se to more complex behaviours related to the addiction process. Mice overexpressing ΔFosB work harder to self-administer cocaine in progressive ratio self-administration assays, suggesting that ΔFosB may sensitize animals to the incentive motivational properties of cocaine and thereby lead to a propensity for relapse after drug withdrawal (Colby et al. 2003). ΔFosB-overexpressing mice also show enhanced anxiolytic effects of alcohol (Picetti et al. 2001), a phenotype that has been associated with increased alcohol intake in humans. Together, these early findings suggest that ΔFosB, in addition to increasing sensitivity to drugs of abuse, produces qualitative changes in behaviour that promote drug-seeking behaviour, and support the view, stated above, that ΔFosB functions as a sustained molecular switch for the addicted state.

These findings suggest that ΔFosB in this brain region sensitizes animals not only for drug rewards but for natural rewards as well, and may contribute to states of natural addiction.

6) DeltaFosB Overexpression In The Nucleus Accumbens Enhances Sexual Reward In Female Syrian Hamsters (2009) - Excerpt:

Repeated activation of the mesolimbic dopamine system results in persistent behavioral alterations accompanied by a pattern of neural plasticity in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). As the accumulation of the transcription factor ΔFosB may be an important component of this plasticity, the question addressed in our research is whether ΔFosB is regulated by sexual experience in females. We have shown that female Syrian hamsters given sexual experience exhibit several behavioral alterations including increased sexual efficiency with naïve male hamsters, sexual reward, and enhanced responsiveness to psychomotor stimulants (e.g., amphetamine).

We recently demonstrated that sexual experience increased the levels of ΔFosB in the NAc of female Syrian hamsters. The focus of this study was to explore the functional consequences of this induction by determining if the constitutive overexpression of ΔFosB by adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors in the NAc could mimic the behavioral effects of sexual experience.

Animals with AAV-mediated overexpression of ΔFosB in the NAc showed evidence of sexual reward in a conditioned place preference paradigm under conditions in which control animals receiving an injection of AAV-green fluorescent protein (GFP) into the NAc did not. Sexual behavior tests further showed that males paired with the AAV-ΔFosB females had increased copulatory efficiency as measured by the proportion of mounts that included intromission compared to males mated with the AAV-GFP females. These results support a role for ΔFosB in mediating natural motivated behaviors, in this case female sexual behavior, and provide new insight into the possible endogenous actions of ΔFosB.

7) Neuroplasticity in the Mesolimbic System Induced by Natural Reward and Subsequent Reward Abstinence (2010) - Excerpt:

Sexual experience induces functional and morphological alterations in the mesolimbic system similar to repeated exposure to psychostimulants. Moreover, abstinence from sexual behavior after repeated mating was essential for increased reward for drugs and dendritic arbors of NAc neurons, suggesting that the loss of sexual reward might also contribute to neuroplasticity of the mesolimbic system. These results suggest that some alterations in the mesolimbic system are common for natural and drug reward and might play a role in general reinforcement.

8) DeltaFosB in The Nucleus Accumbens is Critical For Reinforcing Effects of Sexual Reward (2010) - Excerpt:

Sexual experience was shown to cause ΔFosB accumulation in several limbic brain regions including the nucleus accumbens (NAc), medial prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area and caudate putamen but not the medial preoptic nucleus. Finally, ΔFosB levels and its activity in the NAc were manipulated using viral-mediated gene transfer to study its potential role in mediating sexual experience and experience-induced facilitation of sexual performance. Animals with ΔFosB overexpression displayed enhanced facilitation of sexual performance with sexual experience relative to controls. Together, these findings support a critical role for ΔFosB expression in the NAc for the reinforcing effects of sexual behavior and sexual experience-induced facilitation of sexual performance.

Again, Professor Norman Doidge's 2007 bestseller, "The Brain That Changes Itself" suggested that internet pornography addiction exists, and likely involves the buildup of DeltaFosB. Excerpts in support of this slide:

The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor. Not all addictions are to drugs or alcohol. People can be seriously addicted to gambling, even to running. All addicts show a loss of control of the activity, compulsively seek it out despite negative consequences, develop tolerance so that they need higher and higher levels of stimulation for satisfaction, and experience withdrawal if they can't consummate the addictive act.

All addiction involves long-term, sometimes lifelong, neuroplastic change in the brain. For addicts, moderation is impossible, and they must avoid the substance or activity completely if they are to avoid addictive behaviors. Alcoholics Anonymous insists that there are no "former alcoholics" and makes people who haven't had a drink for decades introduce themselves at a meeting by saying, "My name is John, and I am an alcoholic." In terms of [brain] plasticity, they are often correct.

In order to determine how addictive a street drug is, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland train a rat to press a bar until it gets a shot of the drug. The harder the animal is willing to work to press the bar, the more addictive the drug. Cocaine, almost all other illegal drugs, and even nondrug addictions such as running make the pleasure-giving neurotransmitter dopamine more active in the brain. Dopamine is called the reward transmitter, because when we accomplish something—run a race and win—our brain triggers its release. Though exhausted, we get a surge of energy, exciting pleasure, and confidence and even raise our hands and run a victory lap. The losers, on the other hand, who get no such dopamine surge, immediately run out of energy, collapse at the finish line, and feel awful about themselves. By hijacking our dopamine system, addictive substances give us pleasure without our having to work for it.

Dopamine, as we saw in Merzenick's work, is also involved in plastic change. The same surge of dopamine that thrills us also consolidates the neuronal connections responsible for the behaviors that led us to accomplish our goal. When Merzenick used an electrode to stimulate an animal's dopamine reward system while playing a sound, dopamine release stimulated plastic change, enlarging the representation for the sound in the animal's auditory map. An important link with porn is that dopamine is also released in sexual excitement, increasing the sex drive in both sexes, facilitating orgasm, and activating the brain's pleasure centers. Hence the addictive power of pornography.

Eric Nestler, at the University of Texas, has shown how addictions cause permanent changes in the brains of animals. A single dose of many addictive drugs will produce a protein, called delta FosB that accumulates in the neurons. Each time the drug is used, more delta FosB accumulates until it throws a genetic switch, affecting which genes are turned on or off. Flipping this switch causes changes that persist long after the drug is stopped, leading to irreversible damage to the brain’s dopamine system and rendering the animal far more prone to addiction. Non-drug addictions, such as running and sucrose drinking, also lead to the accumulation of deltaFosB and the same permanent changes in the dopamine system.

Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it. The usual view is that an addict goes back for more of his fix because he likes the pleasure it gives and doesn't like the pain of withdrawal. But addicts take drugs when there is no prospect of pleasure, when they know they have an insufficient dose to make them high, and will crave more before they begin to withdraw. Wanting and liking are two different things.

An addict experiences cravings because his plastic brain has become sensitized to the drug or the experience. Sensitization leads to increased wanting. It is the accumulation of deltaFosB, caused by exposure to an addictive substance or activity, that leads to sensitization.

Pornography is more exciting than satisfying because we have two separate pleasure systems in our brains, one that has to do with exciting pleasure and one with satisfying pleasure. The exciting system relates to the "appetitive" pleasure that we get imagining something we desire, such as sex or a good meal. Its neurochemistry is largely dopamine-related, and it raises our tension level.

The second pleasure system has to do with the satisfaction, or consummatory pleasure, that attends actually having sex or having that meal, a calming, fulfilling pleasure. Its neurochemistry is based on the release of endorphins, which are related to opiates and give a peaceful, euphoric bliss.

Pornography, by offering an endless harem of sexual objects, hyperactivates the appetitive system. Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated. Just as our muscles become impatient for exercise if we've been sitting all day, so too do our senses hunger to be stimulated.

The men at their computers looking at porn were uncannily like the rats in the cages of the NIH, pressing the bar to get a shot of dopamine or its equivalent. Though they didn't know it, they had been seduced into pornographic training sessions that met all the conditions required for plastic change of brain maps. Since neurons that fire together wire together, these men got massive amounts of practice wiring these images into the pleasure centers of the brain, with the rapt attention necessary for plastic change. They imagined these images when away from their computers, or while having sex with their girlfriends, reinforcing them. Each time they felt sexual excitement and had an orgasm when they masturbated, a "spritz of dopamine," the reward neurotransmitter, consolidated the connections made in the brain during the sessions. Not only did the reward facilitate the behavior; it provoked none of the embarrassment they felt purchasing Playboy at a store. Here was a behavior with no “punishment,” only reward.

The content of what they found exciting changed as the Web sites introduced themes and scripts that altered their brains without their awareness. Because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them—the reason, I believe, they began to find their girlfriends less of a turn-on.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

It's important to note that DeltaFosB rapidly degrades, which means it must be assessed in active addicts. Moreover, DeltaFosB levels can only be ascertained post mortem. Due to this limitation, human reward system levels of DeltaFosB have only been measured in one study on cocaine addicts who committed suicide or died without prolonged illnesses: Behavioral and Structural Responses to Chronic Cocaine Require a Feed-forward Loop Involving ΔFosB and Calcium/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II in the Nucleus Accumbens Shell (2013). As expected, the cocaine addicts' reward systems contained abnormally high levels of DeltaFosB.

As described, chronically elevated dopamine triggers DeltaFosB, which in turns produces sensitization – the core brain change in both addiction and sexual conditioning. Sensitization leads to cue-reactivity, severe cravings, and difficulty controlling use once use is initiated. Cue-reactivity and strong "cravings to use" are markers for addiction, and can be assessed via brain imaging and neuropsychological assessments or self reports. Since December 2011, twenty studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity in porn users or sex addicts have been published: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. This alone fully supports the claims made in Slide 17.

A neurological paper published after my TEDx talk discusses the significance of DeltaFosB in compulsive sexual behaviors: Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity (2013). An excerpt:

To accept the evidence supporting the concept of sexual addiction, it is necessary to have an understanding of the current concepts of cellular learning and plasticity. Dendritic arborization and other cellular changes precede gyral sculpting (Zatorre, Field, & Johansen-Berg, 2012 Zatorre R. J, Field R. D, Johansen-Berg H. Plasticity in gray and white: Neuroimaging changes in brain structure during learning. Nature Neuroscience. 2012; 15: 528–536. [Google Scholar]) with learning, and reward-based learning is no different. Addiction thus becomes a powerful form of learning, with the associated neuroplasticity being detrimental (Kauer & Malenka, 2007 Kauer J. A, Malenka J. C. Synaptic plasticity and addiction. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2007; 8: 844–858. [Google Scholar]). Addiction-related learning is merely an extension of reward-based learning in this model, and it therefore involves similar transcription factors and neurotransmitters. For instance, DeltaFosB was found over a decade ago to be chronically elevated specifically in the medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens in the brains of drug-addicted laboratory animals (Kelz et al., 1999 Kelz M. B, Chen J, Carlezon W. A, Whisler K, Gilden L, Beckmann A. M, et al. Expression of the transcription factor deltaFosB in the brain controls sensitivity to cocaine. Nature. 1999; 401: 272–276. [Google Scholar]). Subsequent studies have shown it to be elevated in these same cells in animals manifesting pathologic overconsumption of natural rewards, including food and sex (Nestler, 2005 Nestler E. J. Is there a common molecular pathway for addiction?. Nature Neuroscience. 2005; 9(11): 1445–1449. [Google Scholar]).

Supraphysiologic levels of DeltaFosB appear to portend hyperconsumptive states of natural addiction (Nestler, 2008 Nestler E. J. Transcriptional mechanisms of addiction: Role of DFosB. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 2008; 363: 3245–3256. [Google Scholar]). That DeltaFosB is not only a marker but also a facilitator of hyperconsumptive behavior (as a neuroplasticity enabler) has been well demonstrated. Two closely related mechanisms have been used to genetically manipulate DeltaFosB independent of behavioral variables. One involves producing lines of bitransgenic mice that selectively overexpress DeltaFosB specifically in the striatal reward areas, and the second involves the transfer of genes through adeno-associated viral vectors into adult animals, which then induce over- or underexpression of DeltaFosB. These genetically altered animals exhibit addictive hyperconsumptive behavior involving food (Olausson et al., 2006 Olausson P, Jentsch J. D, Tonrson N, Neve R. L, Nestler E. J, Tayor J. R. DeltaFosB in the nucleus accumbens regulates food reinforced instrumental behavior and motivation. Journal of Neuroscience. 2006; 26(36): 9196–9204. [Google Scholar]), wheel running (Werme et al., 2002 Werme M, Messer C, Olson L, Gilden L, Thoren P, Nestler E. J, et al. DeltaFosB regulates wheel running. Journal of Neuroscience. 2002; 22(18): 8133–8138. [Google Scholar]), and sex (Wallace et al., 2008 Wallace D. L, Vialou V, Rios L, Carle-Florence T. L, Chakravarty S, Arvind Kumar A, et al. The influence of DeltaFosB in the nucleus accumbens on natural reward-related behavior. Journal of Neuroscience. 2008; 28(4): 10272–19277. [Google Scholar]). For instance, when overexpression of DeltaFosB was imposed through these viral vectors in laboratory animals, they exhibited a supraphysiologic enhancement of sexual performance (Hedges, Chakravarty, Nestler, Meisel, 2009 Hedges V. L, Chakravarty S, Nestler E. J, Meisel R. L. Delta FosB overexpression in the nucleus accumbens enhances sexual reward in female Syrian hamsters. Genes Brain and Behavior. 2009; 8(4): 442–449. [Google Scholar]; Wallace et al., 2008 Wallace D. L, Vialou V, Rios L, Carle-Florence T. L, Chakravarty S, Arvind Kumar A, et al. The influence of DeltaFosB in the nucleus accumbens on natural reward-related behavior. Journal of Neuroscience. 2008; 28(4): 10272–19277. [Google Scholar]). Conversely, repression of DeltaFosB decreases performance (Pitchers et al., 2010 Pitchers K. K, Frohmader K. S, Vialou V, Mouzon E, Nestler E. J, Lehman M. N, et al. ΔFosB in the nucleus accumbens is critical for reinforcing effects of sexual reward. Genes Brain and Behavior. 2010; 9(7): 831–840. [Google Scholar]), thus confirming that it has a role in normal physiologic homeostasis.

It now appears that DeltaFosB is a molecular transcription switch that turns on other gene sets, which then mediate neuroplastic change in these neurons; in other words, they promote neuronal learning. DeltaFosB increases dendritic spine density in medium spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens in addicted animals during extended periods of abstinence through stimulation of the protein Cdk5, thus becoming a bridge to more extended neuroplasticity (Bibb et al., 2001 Bibb J. A, Chen J, Taylor J. R, Svenningsson P, Nisha A, Snyder G. L, et al. Effects of chronic exposure to cocaine are regulated by neuronal protein Cdk5. Nature. 2001; 410(6826): 376–380. [Google Scholar]; Norrholm et al., 2003 Norrholm S. D, Bibb J. A, Nestler E. J, Ouimet C. C, Taylor J. R, Greengard P. Cocaine-induced proliferation of dendritic spines in nucleus accumbens is dependent on the activity of cyclin-dependent kinase-5. Neuroscience. 2003; 116: 19–22. [Google Scholar]). DeltaFosB has been shown to function in a positive feedback loop with Calcium/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II to effect neuroplastic cellular responses in cocaine addiction. Significantly, this association was also demonstrated, for the first time, in human cocaine addiction (Robison et al., 2013 Robison A. J, Violou V, Mazei-Robison M, Feng J, Kourrich S, Collins M, etal. Behavioral and structural responses to chronic cocaine require a feedforward loop involving DeltaFosB and Calcium/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II in the nucleus accumbens shell. Journal of Neuroscience. 2013; 33(10): 4295–4307. [Google Scholar]).

Recent evidence has demonstrated that DeltaFosB is critical to this dendritic plasticity through its effect on the mesolimbic reward system in both sexual and drug rewards, an effect that is mediated by the D1 dopamine receptor in the nucleus accumbens (Pitchers et al., 2013 Pitchers K. K, Vialou V, Nestler E. J, Laviolette S. R, Lehman M. N, Coolen L. M. Natural and drug rewards act on common neural plasticity mechanisms with DeltaFosB as a key mediator. Journal of Neuroscience. 2013; 33(8): 3434–3442. [Google Scholar]). Dopamine is critical in assigning salience to sexual cues (Berridge & Robinson, 1998 Berridge K. C, Robinson T. E. What is the role of dopamine in reward: Hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience?. Brain Research Reviews. 1998; 28: 309–369. [Google Scholar]), and recent studies support a physiologic role in sexual function as well through its effect on and interaction with the hypothalamic oxytocinergic systems (Baskerville, Allard, Wayman, & Douglas., 2009 Baskerville T. A, Allard J, Wayman C, Douglas A. J. Dopamine oxytocin interactions in penile erection. European Journal of Neuroscience. 2009; 30(11): 2151–2164. [Google Scholar]; Succu et al., 2007 Succu S, Sanna F, Melis T, Boi T, Argiolas A, Melis M. R. Stimulation of dopamine receptors in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus of male rates induces penile erection and increases extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens: Involvement of central oxytocin. Neuropharmacology. 2007; 52(3): 1034–1043. [Google Scholar]). This influence has been broadly conserved across phyla (Kleitz-Nelson, Dominguez, & Ball, 2010 Kleitz-Nelson H. K, Dominguez J. M, Ball G. F. Dopamine release in the medial preoptic area is related to hormonal action and sexual motivation. Behavioral Neuroscience. 2010; 124(6): 773–779. [Google Scholar]; Kleitz-Nelson, Dominguez, Cornil, & Ball, 2010 Kleitz-Nelson H. K, Dominguez J. M, Cornil C. A, Ball G. J. Is sexual motivation state linked to dopamine release in the medial proptic area?. Behavior Neuroscience. 2010; 124(2): 300–304. [Google Scholar], Pfaus, 2010 Pfaus J. G. Dopamine: Helping males copulate for at least 200 million years: Theoretical comment of Kleitz-Nelson et al. (2010). Behavioral Neuroscience. 2010; 124(6): 877–880. [Google Scholar]), ensuring that sex, which is essential to species survival, remains salient. Hypersexuality as a consequence of dopaminergic pharmacologic intervention is a known morbidity of such treatment, and it is related to ‘exaggerated cue-triggered incentive salience-based motivation’ (Politis et al., 2013 Politis M, Loane C, Wu K, O'Sullivan S. S, Woodhead Z, Kiferle L, etal. Neural response to visual sexual cues in dopamine treatment-linked hypersexuality in Parkinson's disease. Brain. 2013; 136(Pt. 2): 400–411. [Google Scholar]). Addiction, of course, can be described as disordered salience. Instead of wanting that which will enhance survival, the addicted are motivated to want even when it is clearly harmful, a neuroplastic process that recalibrates the hedonic set point.

We see this neuroplasticity at the cellular level through dendritic arborization and other cellular changes that provide a neuroplastic ‘scaffolding’ of sorts for new synapses to form. Severe craving states associated with subsequent satiation have produced these micromorphologic changes, as demonstrated by such diverse depletion–repletion models as cocaine (Robinson & Kolb, 1999 Robinson T. E, Kolb B. Alterations in the morphology of dendrites and dendritic spines in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex following repeated treatment with amphetamine of cocaine. European Journal of Neuroscience. 1999; 11: 1598–1604. [Google Scholar]), amphetamine (Li, Kolb, & Robinson, 2003 Li Y, Kolb B, Robinson T. E. The location of persistent amphetamine-induced changes in the density of dendritic spines on medium-spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens and caudate-putamen. Neurospsychopharmacology. 2003; 28: 1082–1085. [Google Scholar]), salt (Roitman, Na, Anderson, Jones, & Berstein, 2002 Roitman M. F, Na E, Anderson G, Jones T. A, Berstein I. L. Induction of a salt appetite alters dendritic morphology in nucleus accumbens and sensitizes rats to amphetamine. Journal of Neuroscience. 2002; 22 (11): RC225:1–5. [Google Scholar]), and sex (Pitchers, Balfour et al., 2012 Pitchers K. K, Balfour M. E, Lehman M. N, Richtand N. M, Yu L, Coolen L. M. Neuroplasticity in the mesolimbic system induced by natural reward and subsequent reward abstinence. Biological Psychiatry. 2012; 67: 872–879. [Google Scholar]). Salt depletion–repletion craving models have been shown to robustly mobilize the same gene sets activated by cocaine models, and this mobilization is attenuated by dopamine antagonists, suggesting that drug addiction usurps ancient incentive pathways that are essential to survival (Liedtke et al., 2011 Liedtke W. B, McKinley M. J, Walker L. L, Zhang H, Pfenning A. R, Drago J, etal. Relation of addiction genes to hypothalamic gene changes subserving genesis and gratification of a classic instinct, sodium appetite. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2011; 108(30): 12509–12514. [Google Scholar]).

Glutamate receptor trafficking is indicative of synaptic plasticity. Sex, as a powerful brain reward, has shown evidence of increasing silent synapses, which manifest as an increase in the NMDA–AMPA receptor ratio, a harbinger of subsequent synaptic plasticity and learning as these synapses are subsequently unsilenced, similar to what occurs with cocaine use (Pitchers, Schmid et al., 2012 Pitchers K. K, Schmid S, Sebastiano A. R, Wang X, Laviolette S. R, Lehman M. N, etal. Natural reward experience alters AMPA and NMDA receptor distribution and function in the nucleus accumbens. PloS One. 2012; 7 (4): e34700. [Google Scholar]). Specifically, this ratio change was immediate and long-lasting, and it was found in nucleus accumbens neurons afferent to the prefrontal cortex, an area that is important in mediating CSBs (Pitchers, Schmid et al., 2012 Pitchers K. K, Schmid S, Sebastiano A. R, Wang X, Laviolette S. R, Lehman M. N, etal. Natural reward experience alters AMPA and NMDA receptor distribution and function in the nucleus accumbens. PloS One. 2012; 7 (4): e34700. [Google Scholar]). In this, sex is unique among natural rewards, in that food reward did not cause this same persistent change in synaptic plasticity (Chen et al., 2008 Chen B. T, Bowers M. S, Martin M, Hopf F. W, Guillory A. M, Carelli R. M, etal. Cocaine but not natural reward self-administration nor passive cocaine infusion produces persistent LTP in the VTA. Neuron. 2008; 59: 288–297. [Google Scholar]). Critically, neuroplastic changes in both dendritic morphology and glutamate receptor trafficking were correlated with increased sexual experience and increased amphetamine sensitivity, another hallmark of addiction. Even after 28 days, when these changes receded, the sex-induced hypersensitivity to amphetamine persisted (Pitchers et al., 2013 Pitchers K. K, Vialou V, Nestler E. J, Laviolette S. R, Lehman M. N, Coolen L. M. Natural and drug rewards act on common neural plasticity mechanisms with DeltaFosB as a key mediator. Journal of Neuroscience. 2013; 33(8): 3434–3442. [Google Scholar]), further strengthening the evidence for natural addiction.

A few selected studies on sexual reward and DeltaFosB published after The Great Porn Experiment TEDx talk, and since the above review.

1) DeltaFosB: A Molecular Switch for Reward (2013) - Excerpts:

Such a prolonged induction of ΔFosB, within the brain's reward regions, has been implicated in animal models of drug addiction, with a wealth of evidence indicating that ΔFosB promotes reward and motivation and serves as a key mechanism of drug sensitization and increased drug self-administration. This has been validated in humans postmortem, with elevated ΔFosB levels seen in reward regions of the addicted brain….

These findings suggest that ΔFosB in this brain region sensitizes animals not only for drug rewards, but for natural rewards as well, and thereby drives a higher motivational state for rewards in general and could possibly contribute to syndromes of natural addiction…..

If this hypothesis is correct, it raises the interesting possibility that levels of ΔFosB in NAc or perhaps other brain regions could be used as a biomarker to assess the state of activation of an individual’s reward circuitry, as well as the degree to which an individual is “addicted,” both during the development of an addiction and its gradual waning during extended withdrawal or treatment. The use of ΔFosB as a marker of a state of addiction has been demonstrated in animal models. Adolescent animals show much greater induction of ΔFosB compared to older animals, consistent with their greater vulnerability for addiction.

2) Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with ΔFosB as a Key Mediator (2013) - This study examined the effects of sexual reward on DeltaFosB and the effects of DeltaFosB on sexual behavior and reward. The standard molecular changes known to occur with drug addiction were found to be the same as occur with sexual reward. Same circuits, same mechanisms, same cellular changes, same associated behaviors - with minor differences. Excerpts:

Drugs of abuse induce neuroplasticity in the natural reward pathway, specifically the nucleus accumbens (NAc), thereby causing development and expression of addictive behavior. Recent evidence suggests that natural rewards may cause similar changes in the NAc, suggesting that drugs may activate mechanisms of plasticity shared with natural rewards, and allowing for unique interplay between natural and drug rewards.

Together, these findings demonstrate that drugs of abuse and natural reward behaviors act on common molecular and cellular mechanisms of plasticity that control vulnerability to drug addiction, and that this increased vulnerability is mediated by ΔFosB and its downstream transcriptional targets.

Thus, natural [sexual] and drug rewards not only converge on the same neural pathway, they converge on the same molecular mediators (Nestler et al., 2001; Wallace et al., 2008; Hedges et al., 2009; Pitchers et al., 2010b), and likely in the same neurons in the NAc (Frohmader et al., 2010b), to influence the incentive salience and the “wanting” of both types of rewards (Berridge and Robinson, 1998).

3) Delta JunD overexpression in the nucleus accumbens prevents sexual reward in female Syrian hamsters (2013) - Excerpts:

Motivated behaviors, including sexual experience, activate the mesolimbic dopamine system and produce long-lasting molecular and structural changes in the nucleus accumbens. The transcription factor ΔFosB is hypothesized to partly mediate this experience-dependent plasticity.

We found that overexpression of ΔJunD prevented the formation of a conditioned place preference following repeated sexual experiences. These data, when coupled with our previous findings, suggest that ∆FosB is both necessary and sufficient for behavioral plasticity following sexual experience. Furthermore, these results contribute to an important and growing body of literature demonstrating the necessity of endogenous ΔFosB expression in the nucleus accumbens for adaptive responding to naturally rewarding stimuli.

4) Nucleus accumbens NMDA receptor activation regulates amphetamine cross-sensitization and deltaFosB expression following sexual experience in male rats (2015) - Excerpts:

Sexual experience in male rats followed by a period of abstinence causes sensitization to d-Amphetamine (Amph) reward, evidenced by an increased conditioned place preference (CPP) for low doses of Amph. Moreover, sexual experience induces neural plasticity within the nucleus accumbens (NAc), including induction of deltaFosB, which plays a key role in Amph reward cross-sensitization.

Together, these results provide evidence that NAc NMDA receptor activation during sexual behavior plays a key role in mating-induced cFos and deltaFosB expression and subsequent experience-induced cross-sensitization to Amphetamine reward.

6) Ventral Tegmental Area Dopamine Cell Activation during Male Rat Sexual Behavior Regulates Neuroplasticity and d-Amphetamine Cross-Sensitization following Sex Abstinence (2016) - Excerpts:

Drugs of abuse act on the neural pathways that mediate natural reward learning and memory. Exposure to natural reward behaviors can alter subsequent drug-related reward. Specifically, experience with sexual behavior, followed by a period of abstinence from sexual behavior, causes increased reward for amphetamine in male rats. This study demonstrates that activation of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons during sexual experience regulates cross-sensitization of amphetamine reward. Finally, ventral tegmental area dopamine cell activation is essential for experience-induced neural adaptations in the nucleus accumbens, prefrontal cortex, and ventral tegmental area. These findings demonstrate a role of mesolimbic dopamine in the interaction between natural and drug rewards, and identify mesolimbic dopamine as a key mediator of changes in vulnerability for drug use after loss of natural reward.

Finally, it must be noted that critics of The Great Porn Experiment, such as Nicole Prause, Jim Pfaus, David Ley, and Marty Klein have all claimed that sexual arousal/orgasm is no different neurobiologically than other natural rewards (food, water). In this HuffPost article, Nicole Prause suggested that masturbating to porn and watching puppies play are neurologically equivalent.

I mention this here because Prause has stated that she has contacted TED several times to complain about The Great Porn Experiment. TED should be aware of the unsupported claims put forth by those claiming to be the real experts. The spurious claim that viewing puppies is no different neurologically from masturbating to porn was addressed by Don Hilton MD in this article: Correcting Misunderstandings About Neuroscience and Problematic Sexual Behaviors. The relevant excerpt:  

While playing with puppies might activate the reward system (unless you are a cat person), such activation doesn’t support the claim that all natural rewards are neurological equivalents. First, sexual arousal and orgasm induce far higher levels of dopamine and endogenous opioids than any other natural reward. Rat studies reveal that the dopamine levels occurring with sexual arousal equal those induced by the administration of morphine or nicotine.

Sexual arousal is also unique because it activates precisely the same reward system nerve cells as do addictive drugs.  In contrast, there’s only a small percentage of nerve-cell activation overlap between addictive drugs and natural rewards such as food or water. Not surprisingly, researchers have also established that the natural reward of food does not cause the same persistent change in synaptic plasticity as sexual activity (Chen et al., 2008).

However, this is not to say that gustatory reward cannot become addictive or disruptive to individuals and precipitate public health concerns, or cause brain changes in reward circuits. Any physician knows that obesity is a tremendous health concern consuming billions in medical costs, and dopamine receptor depletion in the brain’s reward center returns to more normal density with weight loss after gastric banding surgery. Also, the DNA transcripts which produce reward system proteins important in the craving states that are evoked with salt depletion/repletion are identical to those produced with drug craving (Leidke et al., 2011, PNAS).  A National Geographic article on this paper said drugs “hijack” these natural reward pathways, and this is true for all addiction, whether to poker, porn, or popcorn.

Addictive drugs not only hijack the precise nerve cells activated during sexual arousal, they co-opt the same learning mechanisms that evolved to make us desire sexual activity. Activation of the same nerve cells that make sexual arousal so compelling helps explain why meth, cocaine, and heroin can be so addictive. Also, both sex and drug use can induce transcription factor DeltaFosB, resulting in neuroplastic alterations that are nearly identical for both sexual conditioning and chronic use of drugs.

While far too complex to elucidate in detail, multiple temporary neurological and hormonal changes occur with orgasm that do not occur with any other natural rewards. These include decreased brain androgen receptors, increased estrogen receptors, increased hypothalamic enkephalins, and increased prolactin. For example, ejaculation mimics the effects of chronic heroin administration on reward system nerve cells (the ventral tegmental area, or VTA). Specifically, ejaculation temporarily shrinks the same dopamine producing nerve cells that shrink with chronic heroin use, leading to temporary down-regulation of dopamine in the reward center (nucleus accumbens).

A 2000 fMRI study compared brain activation using two different natural rewards, one of which was porn. Cocaine addicts and healthy controls viewed films of: 1) explicit sexual content, 2) outdoor nature scenes, and 3) individuals smoking crack cocaine. The results: cocaine addicts had nearly identical brain activation patterns when viewing porn and viewing cues related to their addiction. (Incidentally, both cocaine addicts and healthy controls had the same brain activation patterns for porn.) However, for both the addicts and controls, brain activation patterns when viewing nature scenes were completely different from the patterns when viewing for porn. In short, there are multiple biological reasons we experience an orgasm differently from playing with puppies or viewing sunsets.  Millions of adolescent boys and increasingly girls are not just watching puppies on the Internet, and Mindgeek knows that to make billions in ad revenues you name a site “Pornhub,” not “PuppyHub!”


This second page contains slides 18 through 35


 

Empirical support for "The Great Porn Experiment" - TEDx Glasgow (2012): Page 2

Introduction

This page, and a second page, provide empirical support for claims put forth in The Great Porn Experiment | Gary Wilson | TEDxGlasgow. Each PowerPoint slide and associated text is accompanied by (1) the original supporting citations/sources, followed by (2) supporting studies and clinical evidence published in the intervening years. Slides 18 through 35 are below. The first page contains slides 1 through 17.

It’s important to note that The Great Porn Experiment was completed and sent to TEDx in December 2011, while the talk was given in March, 2012. This TEDx talk was a direct response to Philip Zimbardo's "Demise of Guys" TED talk, which the Glasgow audience viewed just prior to the talk.

Since December 2011, a large body of supporting research and clinical evidence has arrived to support The Great Porn Experiment's three primary assertions, which were:

  1. Internet porn can cause sexual dysfunctions;
  2. Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions; and
  3. Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions (concentration problems, social anxiety, depression, etc.).  

The following is a short summary of empirical and clinical evidence supporting claims made in The Great Porn Experiment. Scroll down below it for slide-by-slide support.

1) Internet porn use can cause sexual dysfunctions:

2) Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions:

The Great Porn Experiment listed ten internet addiction “brain studies,” which supported my thesis that internet addiction (and internet addiction subtypes such as gaming and porn) exists and involves the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as other addictions. This field of study is growing exponentially. As of 2017, there are some 250 internet addiction "brain studies." All of them report neurological findings and brain changes in internet addicts consistent with the addiction model (the list of Internet addiction "brain studies"). In addition, the design of several internet addiction studies supports the claim that internet use is causing (in some) symptoms such as depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc. The list of such studies: Studies demonstrating Internet use & porn use causing symptoms & brain changes.

The Great Porn Experiment described three major brain changes that occur with porn addiction: (1) Sensitization, (2) Desensitization, and (3) Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (hypofrontality). Since March, 2012, much neurological research on porn users and porn addicts has been published. All three of these brain changes have been identified among the 37 neuroscience-based studies on frequent porn users and sex addicts:

  • Studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
  • Studies reporting desensitization or habituation in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Studies reporting poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) or altered prefrontal activity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

The 37 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal) provide strong support for the addiction model, as do the 13 recent literature reviews by some of the top neuroscientists in the world.

I also described escalation or habituation in my TEDx talk (which can be an indication of addiction). Three studies have now asked porn users specifically about escalation into new genres or tolerance, confirming both (1, 2, 3). Employing various indirect methods, an additional 16 studies have reported findings consistent with habituation to "regular porn" or escalation into more extreme and unusual genres.

Finally, it wasn’t until 2017 that two research teams asked internet-porn users directly about withdrawal symptoms. Both reported withdrawal symptoms in “problematic porn users” (1, 2).

What about neurological studies that debunk porn addiction? There are none. While the lead author of Prause et al., 2015 claimed her lone EEG study falsified pornography addiction, six peer-reviewed papers disagree: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The neuroscientists on these six papers state that Prause et al. actually found desensitization/habituation (consistent with the development of addiction), as less brain activation to vanilla porn (pictures) was related to greater porn use. Unbelievably, the Prause et al. team boldly claimed to have falsified the porn addiction model with a single paragraph taken from this 2016 "letter to the editor." In reality the Prause letter falsified nothing, as this extensive critique reveals: Letter to the editor “Prause et al. (2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions" (2016).

But ‘porn addiction’ isn’t in the APA's DSM-5, right? When the APA last updated the manual in 2013 (DSM-5), it didn’t formally consider “internet porn addiction,” opting instead to debate “hypersexual disorder.” The latter umbrella term for problematic sexual behavior was recommended for inclusion by the DSM-5’s own Sexuality Work Group after years of review. However, in an eleventh-hour “star chamber” session (according to a Work Group member), other DSM-5 officials unilaterally rejected hypersexuality, citing reasons that have been described as illogical.

Just prior to the DSM-5’s publication in 2013, Thomas Insel, then Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, warned that it was time for the mental health field to stop relying on the DSM. Its "weakness is its lack of validity," he explained, and "we cannot succeed if we use DSM categories as the "gold standard." He added, "That is why NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories." In other words, the NIMH planned to stop funding research based on DSM labels (and their absence).

Major medical organizations are moving ahead of the APA. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) hammered what should have been the final nail in the porn-addiction debate coffin in August, 2011, a few months before I prepared my TEDx talk. Top addiction experts at ASAM released their carefully crafted definition of addiction. The new definition makes some of the major points I made in my talk. Foremost, behavioral addictions affect the brain in the same fundamental ways as drugs do. In other words, addiction is essentially one disease (condition), not many. ASAM explicitly stated that sexual behavior addiction exists and must necessarily be caused by the same fundamental brain changes found in substance addictions.

The World Health Organization appears poised to set right the APA’s excessive caution. The next edition of its diagnostic manual, the ICD, is due out in 2018. The beta draft of the new ICD-11 includes a diagnosis for “Compulsive sexual behavior disorder,” as well as one for “Disorders due to addictive behaviors.”

3) Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions

The Great Porn Experiment described “The Other Porn Experiment” in which young men who eliminated porn use reported remission of emotional and cognitive problems. TGPE also described "arousal addiction" (internet addiction and its subtypes) exacerbating or causing symptoms such as brain fog, concentration problem, generalized anxiety, depression and social anxiety. As of 2017 there exist hundreds of correlative studies and a few dozen causation studies supporting this assertion.

Note: some of the links are to versions of the studies that appear on www.yourbrainonporn.com. Links there, lead to abstracts and full studies elsewhere.


POWERPOINT SLIDES 18-35 & ASSOCIATED TEXT


SLIDE 18

If the bingeing continues, it can lead to the brain changes seen in all addicts:

  1. First a numbed pleasure response kicks in - so everyday pleasures leave our porn addict dissatisfied (desensitization).
  2. At the same time, other physical changes make him hyper-reactive to porn (sensitization). Everything else in his life seems boring, but porn really fires up his reward circuit.
  3. Finally, his willpower erodes – as the CEO of his brain, the frontal cortex changes

 I can’t emphasize this enough: All addictions share these same brain changes and are triggered by the same molecular switch - DeltaFosB.

ORIGINAL SUPPORT:

Slide 18 claims that chronic bingeing on internet porn can leads to the same fundamental brain changes as seen in other types of addictions. The Great Porn Experiment described three major brain changes that occur with porn addiction: (1) Sensitization, (2) Desensitization, and (3) Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (poorer executive functioning). The claim about DeltaFosB's role in cravings, compulsive consumption, and addiction was addressed on the previous slide.

The major brain changes involved with both drug and behavioral addictions (sensitization, desensitization, and dysfunctional prefrontal circuits/poorer executive function) had been delineated in several reviews of the literature, such as this paper by the head of NIDA, Nora Volkow: Addiction: Decreased Reward Sensitivity and Increased Expectation Sensitivity Conspire to Overwhelm the Brain's Control Circuit.

The claim that these same 3 brain changes occur in non-drug addictions was supported by hundreds of neurological studies showing that behavioral addictions (food addiction, pathological gambling, video gaming, and 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. This was not surprising as drugs can only enhance or inhibit existing physiological functions.

For example, all addictive drugs and potentially addictive behaviors share one important mechanism of action: elevation of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (also called the reward center). Chronic overconsumption, and associated dopamine spikes, cause ΔFosB to accumulate gradually in key areas of the brain. (ΔFosB is a transcription factor, i.e., a protein that binds to your genes and turns them on or off.)  DeltaFosB alters our genes' responses, bringing on measurable, physical brain changes. These begin with sensitization, i.e., hyper-reactivity of the brain's reward circuitry—but only in response to the specific cues it associates with the developing addiction. According to researcher Eric Nestler,

[ΔFosB is] almost like a molecular switch. ... Once it's flipped on, it stays on for a while and doesn't go away easily. This phenomenon is observed in response to chronic administration of virtually any drug of abuse. It is also observed after high levels of consumption of natural rewards (exercise, sucrose, high fat diet, sex).

I'll include a few reviews of the literature supporting the existence of behavioral addictions (for simplicity, some published after my talk are also listed):

  1. The Neurobiology and Genetics of Impulse Control Disorders: Relationships to Drug Addictions (2008)
  2. Shared Brain Vulnerabilities Open The Way For Nonsubstance Addictions: Carving Addiction at a New Joint? (2010)
  3. Introduction to Behavioral Addictions (2010)
  4. Probing Compulsive and Impulsive Behaviors, from Animal Models to Endophenotypes: A Narrative Review (2010)
  5. Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions (2011)
  6. A Targeted Review of the Neurobiology and Genetics of Behavioral Addictions: An Emerging Area of Research (2013)
  7. A neurocognitive approach to understanding the neurobiology of addiction (2013)
  8. The functional anatomy of impulse control disorders (2013)
  9. Perspective: Behavioural Addictions Matter, Mark Potenza (2015)
  10. Behavioral addictions in addiction medicine: from mechanisms to practical considerations (2016)
  11. Dimensionality of Cognitions in Behavioral Addiction (2016)
  12. Roles of "Wanting" and "Liking" in Motivating Behavior: Gambling, Food, and Drug Addictions (2016)
  13. Transitionality in addiction: A “temporal continuum” hypotheses involving the aberrant motivation, the hedonic dysregulation, and the aberrant learning (2016)
  14. Behavioural addiction and substance addiction should be defined by their similarities not their dissimilarities (2017)
  15. Substance and behavioral addictions may share a similar underlying process of dysregulation (2017)

The following pages contain hundreds of neurological studies describing mechanisms and brain changes consistent with the addiction model:

As described earlier, Norman Doidge's 2007 bestseller The Brain That Changes Itself claimed that behavioral addictions (including internet pornography) exist. Excerpt in support of this slide:

The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor. Not all addictions are to drugs or alcohol. People can be seriously addicted to gambling, even to running. All addicts show a loss of control of the activity, compulsively seek it out despite negative consequences, develop tolerance so that they need higher and higher levels of stimulation for satisfaction, and experience withdrawal if they can't consummate the addictive act.

All addiction involves long-term, sometimes lifelong, neuroplastic change in the brain. For addicts, moderation is impossible, and they must avoid the substance or activity completely if they are to avoid addictive behaviors.

In 2011, only three neurological studies had been published (two on "hypersexuals", one on internet porn users). All three reported neurological markers consistent with the addiction model:

1) Preliminary Investigation of The Impulsive And Neuroanatomical Characteristics of Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2009) - (poorer executive functioning) Primarily sex addicts. Study reports more impulsive behavior in a Go-NoGo task in sex addicts (hypersexuals) compared to control participants. Brain scans revealed that sex addicts had greater disorganized prefrontal cortex white matter. This finding is consistent with hypofrontality, a hallmark of addiction.

2) Self-reported differences on measures of executive function and hypersexual behavior in a patient and community sample of men (2010) - (poorer executive functioning). Excerpt:

Patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior often exhibit features of impulsivity, cognitive rigidity, poor judgment, deficits in emotion regulation, and excessive preoccupation with sex. Some of these characteristics are also common among patients presenting with neurological pathology associated with executive dysfunction. These observations led to the current investigation of differences between a group of hypersexual patients (n = 87) and a non-hypersexual community sample (n = 92) of men using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult Version  Hypersexual behavior was positively correlated with global indices of executive dysfunction and several subscales of the BRIEF-A. These findings provide preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis that executive dysfunction may be implicated in hypersexual behavior.

3) Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011) - (poorer executive functioning). Excerpt:

Results indicate that self-reported problems in daily life linked to online sexual activities were predicted by subjective sexual arousal ratings of the pornographic material, global severity of psychological symptoms, and the number of sex applications used when being on Internet sex sites in daily life, while the time spent on Internet sex sites (minutes per day) did not significantly contribute to explanation of variance in IATsex score. We see some parallels between cognitive and brain mechanisms potentially contributing to the maintenance of excessive cybersex and those described for individuals with substance dependence

Finally, the claims of Slide 18 were based on a principle put forth by a large organization devoted to addiction medicine and research, The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), in their 2011 “New Definition of Addiction": Exhibiting the signs, symptoms and behaviors consistent with addiction indicates a constellation of underlying brain changes has occurred (such as: Sensitization, Desensitization, Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (hypofrontality), Dysfunctional stress circuits). I felt ASAM's new definition ended the debate over whether sex and porn addictions are "real addictions." From the ASAM press release:

The new definition resulted from an intensive, four‐year process with more than 80 experts actively working on it, including top addiction authorities, addiction medicine clinicians and leading neuroscience researchers from across the country. ... Two decades of advancements in neurosciences convinced ASAM that addiction needed to be redefined by what's going on in the brain.

Research showed that both behavioral and chemical addictions entail the same major alterations in brain anatomy and physiology. An ASAM spokesman explained:

The new definition leaves no doubt that all addictions—whether to alcohol, heroin or sex, say—are fundamentally the same. Dr. Raju Haleja, former president of the Canadian Society for Addiction Medicine and the chair of the ASAM committee that crafted the new definition, told The Fix, "We are looking at addiction as one disease, as opposed to those who see them as separate diseases. Addiction is addiction. It doesn't matter what cranks your brain in that direction, once it has changed direction, you're vulnerable to all addiction." ...Sex or gambling or food addiction [are] every bit as medically valid as addiction to alcohol or heroin or crystal meth.

An excerpt from ASAM's FAQs

QUESTION: What's different about this new definition?

ANSWER: The focus in the past has been generally on substances associated with addiction, such as alcohol, heroin, marijuana, or cocaine. This new definition makes clear that addiction is not about drugs, it's about brains. It is not the substances a person uses that make them an addict; it is not even the quantity or frequency of use. Addiction is about what happens in a person's brain when they are exposed to rewarding substances or rewarding behaviors, and it is more about reward circuitry in the brain and related brain structures than it is about the external chemicals or behavior that "turn on" that reward circuitry.

A brief summary of ASAM's major points:

  1. Addiction reflects the same general brain changes whether it arises in response to chemicals or behaviors.
  2. Addiction is a primary illness. It's not necessarily caused by mental health issues such as mood or personality disorders. This puts to rest the popular notion that addictive behaviors are always a form of "self-medication" to ease other disorders.
  3. Both behavioral and substance addictions cause the same major changes in the same neural circuitry: Hypofrontality, sensitization, desensitization, altered stress circuits, etc.
  4. The new definition eradicates the old "addiction vs. compulsion" distinction, which was often used to deny the existence of behavioral addictions, including “sexual behavior addictions.”

Excerpts from ASAM's FAQs related to sex and pornography addiction (ASAM mentioned “sexual behavior addiction” 10 times in its 2011 definition and FAQs - more than all other addictions combined.):

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-5) 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 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.

QUESTION: Who has food addiction or sex addiction?

ANSWER: We all have the brain reward circuitry that makes food and sex rewarding. In fact, this is a survival mechanism. In a healthy brain, these rewards have feedback mechanisms for satiety or 'enough.' In someone with addiction, the circuitry becomes dysfunctional such that the message to the individual becomes 'more', which leads to the pathological pursuit of rewards and/or relief through the use of substances and behaviors.

UPDATED SUPPORT:

The claims put forth on Slide 18 are now fully supported by the research. "Updated support" for Slide 18 is divided into four sections:

  1. Neurological studies on porn users and "sex addicts"
  2. Reviews of the literature or narrative reviews
  3. Behavioral addictions and the DSM and ICD
  4. Unsupported claims

Neurological studies on porn users and "sex addicts":

This landmark review by the Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) George F. Koob, and the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Nora D. Volkow, was published in The New England Journal of Medicine: Neurobiologic Advances from the Brain Disease Model of Addiction (2016)." The paper describes the major brain changes involved with both drug and behavioral addictions, while stating in its opening paragraph that sex addiction exists:

"We conclude that neuroscience continues to support the brain disease model of addiction. Neuroscience research in this area not only offers new opportunities for the prevention and treatment of substance addictions and related behavioral addictions (e.g., to food, sex, and gambling)...."

The Volkow & Koob paper outlined the three brain changes presented in Slide 18 (sensitization, desensitization, dysfunctional prefrontal circuits), along with a fourth - dysfunctional stress system. Since March, 2012, much neurological research on porn users and porn addicts has been published. All four of these brain changes have been identified among the 37 neuroscience-based studies on frequent porn users and sex addicts:

  • Studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
  • Studies reporting desensitization or habituation in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Studies reporting poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) or altered prefrontal activity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
  • Studies indicating a dysfunctional stress system in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3.

Each neurological study contains a description or excerpt and lists which of the 4 addiction-related brain change(s) just listed that its findings endorse (I've included the 3 studies published before 2012):

1) Preliminary Investigation of The Impulsive And Neuroanatomical Characteristics of Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2009) - [dysfunctional prefrontal circuits/poorer executive function] – fMRI study involving primarily sex addicts. Study reports more impulsive behavior in a Go-NoGo task in sex addicts (hypersexuals) compared to control participants. Brain scans revealed that sex addicts had disorganized prefrontal cortex white matter compared to controls. Excerpts:

In addition to the above self-report measures, CSB patients also showed significantly more impulsivity on a behavioral task, the Go-No Go procedure.

Results also indicate that CSB patients showed significantly higher superior frontal region mean diffusivity (MD) than controls. A correlational analysis indicated significant associations between impulsivity measures and inferior frontal region fractional anisotrophy (FA) and MD, but no associations with superior frontal region measures. Similar analyses indicated a significant negative association between superior frontal lobe MD and the compulsive sexual behavior inventory.

2) Self-reported differences on measures of executive function and hypersexual behavior in a patient and community sample of men (2010) - [poorer executive function] – An excerpt:

Patients seeking help for hypersexual behavior often exhibit features of impulsivity, cognitive rigidity, poor judgment, deficits in emotion regulation, and excessive preoccupation with sex. Some of these characteristics are also common among patients presenting with neurological pathology associated with executive dysfunction. These observations led to the current investigation of differences between a group of hypersexual patients (n = 87) and a non-hypersexual community sample (n = 92) of men using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult Version  Hypersexual behavior was positively correlated with global indices of executive dysfunction and several subscales of the BRIEF-A. These findings provide preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis that executive dysfunction may be implicated in hypersexual behavior.

3) Watching Pornographic Pictures on the Internet: Role of Sexual Arousal Ratings and Psychological-Psychiatric Symptoms for Using Internet Sex Sites Excessively (2011) - [greater cravings/sensitization and poorer executive function] – An excerpt:

Results indicate that self-reported problems in daily life linked to online sexual activities were predicted by subjective sexual arousal ratings of the pornographic material, global severity of psychological symptoms, and the number of sex applications used when being on Internet sex sites in daily life, while the time spent on Internet sex sites (minutes per day) did not significantly contribute to explanation of variance in IATsex score. We see some parallels between cognitive and brain mechanisms potentially contributing to the maintenance of excessive cybersex and those described for individuals with substance dependence.

4) Pornographic Picture Processing Interferes with Working Memory Performance (2013) [greater cravings/sensitization and poorer executive function] – An excerpt:

Some individuals report problems during and after Internet sex engagement, such as missing sleep and forgetting appointments, which are associated with negative life consequences. One mechanism potentially leading to these kinds of problems is that sexual arousal during Internet sex might interfere with working memory (WM) capacity, resulting in a neglect of relevant environmental information and therefore disadvantageous decision making. Results revealed worse WM performance in the pornographic picture condition of the 4-back task compared with the three remaining picture conditions. Findings are discussed with respect to Internet addiction because WM interference by addiction-related cues is well known from substance dependencies.

5) Sexual Picture Processing Interferes with Decision-Making Under Ambiguity (2013) [greater cravings/sensitization and poorer executive function] – An excerpt:

Decision-making performance was worse when sexual pictures were associated with disadvantageous card decks compared to performance when the sexual pictures were linked to the advantageous decks. Subjective sexual arousal moderated the relationship between task condition and decision-making performance. This study emphasized that sexual arousal interfered with decision-making, which may explain why some individuals experience negative consequences in the context of cybersex use.

6) Cybersex addiction: Experienced sexual arousal when watching pornography and not real-life sexual contacts makes the difference (2013) - [greater cravings/sensitization and poorer executive function] – An excerpt:

The results show that indicators of sexual arousal and craving to Internet pornographic cues predicted tendencies towards cybersex addiction in the first study. Moreover, it was shown that problematic cybersex users report greater sexual arousal and craving reactions resulting from pornographic cue presentation. In both studies, the number and the quality with real-life sexual contacts were not associated to cybersex addiction. The results support the gratification hypothesis, which assumes reinforcement, learning mechanisms, and craving to be relevant processes in the development and maintenance of cybersex addiction. Poor or unsatisfying sexual real life contacts cannot sufficiently explain cybersex addiction.

7) Sexual Desire, not Hypersexuality, is Related to Neurophysiological Responses Elicited by Sexual Images (2013) - [greater cue-reactivity correlated with less sexual desire: sensitization and habituation] -This EEG study was touted in the media as evidence against the existence of porn/sex addiction. Not so. Steele et al. actually lends support to the existence of both porn addiction and porn use down-regulating sexual desire. How so? The study reported higher EEG readings (relative to neutral pictures) when subjects were briefly exposed to pornographic photos. Studies consistently show that an elevated P300 occurs when addicts are exposed to cues (such as images) related to their addiction.

However, due to methodological flaws the findings are in doubt: 1) the study had no control group for comparison; 2) subjects were heterogeneous (males, females, non-heterosexuals); 3) subjects were not screened for mental disorders or addictions; 4) the questionnaires were not validated for porn addiction.

In line with the Cambridge University brain scan studies, this EEG study also reported greater cue-reactivity to porn correlating with less desire for partnered sex. To put it another way - individuals with greater brain activation to porn would rather masturbate to porn than have sex with a real person. Shockingly, study spokesperson Nicole Prause claimed that porn users merely had "high libido," yet the results of the study say the exact opposite (subjects' desire for partnered sex was dropping in relation to their porn use). Five peer-reviewed papers explain the truth: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Also see an extensive YBOP critique.

8) Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014) – [desensitization, habituation, and dysfunctional prefrontal circuits]. This Max Planck Institute fMRI study reported 3 neurological findings correlating with higher levels of porn use: (1) less reward system grey matter (dorsal striatum), (2) less reward circuit activation while briefly viewing sexual photos, (3) poorer functional connectivity between the dorsal striatum and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. The researchers interpreted the 3 findings as an indication of the effects of longer-term porn exposure. Said the study,

This is in line with the hypothesis that intense exposure to pornographic stimuli results in a down-regulation of the natural neural response to sexual stimuli.

In describing the poorer functional connectivity between the PFC and the striatum the study said,

Dysfunction of this circuitry has been related to inappropriate behavioral choices, such as drug seeking, regardless of the potential negative outcome

Lead author Simone Kühn commenting in an article about the findings said:

We assume that subjects with a high porn consumption need increasing stimulation to receive the same amount of reward. That could mean that regular consumption of pornography more or less wears out your reward system. That would fit perfectly the hypothesis that their reward systems need growing stimulation.

9) Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) – [sensitization/cue-reactivity and desensitization] The first in a series of Cambridge University studies found the same brain activity pattern in porn addicts (CSB subjects) as seen in drug addicts and alcoholics – greater cue-reactivity or sensitization. Lead researcher Valerie Voon said:

There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers. These differences mirror those of drug addicts.

Voon et al., 2014 also found that porn addicts fit the accepted addiction model of wanting "it" more, but not liking "it" any more. Excerpt:

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

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. This indicates sensitization or habituation. Excerpts:

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)…

CSB subjects compared to healthy volunteers had significantly more difficulty with sexual arousal and experienced more erectile difficulties in intimate sexual relationships but not to sexually explicit material.

10) Enhanced Attentional Bias towards Sexually Explicit Cues in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) - [sensitization/cue-reactivity] - The second Cambridge University study. An excerpt:

Our findings of enhanced attentional bias... suggest possible overlaps with enhanced attentional bias observed in studies of drug cues in disorders of addictions. These findings converge with recent findings of neural reactivity to sexually explicit cues in [porn addicts] in a network similar to that implicated in drug-cue-reactivity studies and provide support for incentive motivation theories of addiction underlying the aberrant response to sexual cues in [porn addicts]. This finding dovetails with our recent observation that sexually explicit videos were associated with greater activity in a neural network similar to that observed in drug-cue-reactivity studies. Greater desire or wanting rather than liking was further associated with activity in this neural network. These studies together provide support for an incentive motivation theory of addiction underlying the aberrant response towards sexual cues in CSB.

11) Cybersex addiction in heterosexual female users of internet pornography can be explained by gratification hypothesis (2014) - [greater cravings/sensitization] - An excerpt:

We examined 51 female IPU and 51 female non-Internet pornography users (NIPU). Using questionnaires, we assessed the severity of cybersex addiction in general, as well as propensity for sexual excitation, general problematic sexual behavior, and severity of psychological symptoms. Additionally, an experimental paradigm, including a subjective arousal rating of 100 pornographic pictures, as well as indicators of craving, was conducted. Results indicated that IPU rated pornographic pictures as more arousing and reported greater craving due to pornographic picture presentation compared with NIPU. Moreover, craving, sexual arousal rating of pictures, sensitivity to sexual excitation, problematic sexual behavior, and severity of psychological symptoms predicted tendencies toward cybersex addiction in IPU. Being in a relationship, number of sexual contacts, satisfaction with sexual contacts, and use of interactive cybersex were not associated with cybersex addiction. These results are in line with those reported for heterosexual males in previous studies. Findings regarding the reinforcing nature of sexual arousal, the mechanisms of learning, and the role of cue reactivity and craving in the development of cybersex addiction in IPU need to be discussed.

12) Empirical Evidence and Theoretical Considerations on Factors Contributing to Cybersex Addiction From a Cognitive Behavioral View (2014) - [greater cravings/sensitization] - An excerpt:

The nature of a phenomenon often called cybersex addiction (CA) and its mechanisms of development are discussed. Previous work suggests that some individuals might be vulnerable to CA, while positive reinforcement and cue-reactivity are considered to be core mechanisms of CA development. In this study, 155 heterosexual males rated 100 pornographic pictures and indicated their increase of sexual arousal. Moreover, tendencies towards CA, sensitivity to sexual excitation, and dysfunctional use of sex in general were assessed. The results of the study show that there are factors of vulnerability to CA and provide evidence for the role of sexual gratification and dysfunctional coping in the development of CA.

13) Novelty, Conditioning and Attentional Bias to Sexual Rewards (2015) - [greater cravings/sensitization and habituation/desensitization] - Another Cambridge University fMRI study. Compared to controls porn addicts preferred sexual novelty and conditioned cues associated porn. However, the brains of porn addicts habituated faster to sexual images. Since novelty preference wasn't pre-existing, it is believed that porn addiction drives novelty-seeking in an attempt to overcome habituation and desensitization.

Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) was associated with enhanced novelty preference for sexual, as compared to control images, and a generalized preference for cues conditioned to sexual and monetary versus neutral outcomes compared to healthy volunteers. CSB individuals also had greater dorsal cingulate habituation to repeated sexual versus monetary images with the degree of habituation correlating with enhanced preference for sexual novelty. Approach behaviors to sexually conditioned cues dissociable from novelty preference were associated with an early attentional bias to sexual images. This study shows that CSB individuals have a dysfunctional enhanced preference for sexual novelty possibly mediated by greater cingulate habituation along with a generalized enhancement of conditioning to rewards. An excerpt:

An excerpt from the related press release:

They found that when the sex addicts viewed the same sexual image repeatedly, compared to the healthy volunteers they experienced a greater decrease of activity in the region of the brain known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, known to be involved in anticipating rewards and responding to new events. This is consistent with 'habituation', where the addict finds the same stimulus less and less rewarding – for example, a coffee drinker may get a caffeine 'buzz' from their first cup, but over time the more they drink coffee, the smaller the buzz becomes.

This same habituation effect occurs in healthy males who are repeatedly shown the same porn video. But when they then view a new video, the level of interest and arousal goes back to the original level. This implies that, to prevent habituation, the sex addict would need to seek out a constant supply of new images. In other words, habituation could drive the search for novel images.

"Our findings are particularly relevant in the context of online pornography," adds Dr Voon. "It's not clear what triggers sex addiction in the first place and it is likely that some people are more pre-disposed to the addiction than others, but the seemingly endless supply of novel sexual images available online helps feed their addiction, making it more and more difficult to escape."

14) Neural Substrates of Sexual Desire in Individuals with Problematic Hypersexual Behavior (2015) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization and dysfunctional prefrontal circuits] - This Korean fMRI study replicates other brain studies on porn users. Like the Cambridge University studies it found cue-induced brain activation patterns in sex addicts, which mirrored the patterns of drug addicts. In line with several German studies it found alterations in the prefrontal cortex which match the changes observed in drug addicts. What's new is that the findings matched the prefrontal cortex activation patterns observed in drug addicts: Greater cue-reactivity to sexual images yet inhibited responses to other normally salient stimuli. An excerpt:

Our study aimed to investigate the neural correlates of sexual desire with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-three individuals with PHB and 22 age-matched healthy controls were scanned while they passively viewed sexual and nonsexual stimuli. The subjects' levels of sexual desire were assessed in response to each sexual stimulus. Relative to controls, individuals with PHB experienced more frequent and enhanced sexual desire during exposure to sexual stimuli. Greater activation was observed in the caudate nucleus, inferior parietal lobe, dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus, thalamus, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the PHB group than in the control group. In addition, the hemodynamic patterns in the activated areas differed between the groups. Consistent with the findings of brain imaging studies of substance and behavior addiction, individuals with the behavioral characteristics of PHB and enhanced desire exhibited altered activation in the prefrontal cortex and subcortical regions

15) Modulation of Late Positive Potentials by Sexual Images in Problem Users and Controls Inconsistent with "Porn Addiction" (2015) – [habituation] - A second EEG study from Prause's team. This study compared the 2013 subjects from Steele et al., 2013 to an actual control group (yet it suffered from the same methodological flaws named above). The results: Compared to controls "individuals experiencing problems regulating their porn viewing" had lower brain responses to one-second exposure to photos of vanilla porn. The lead author claims these results "debunk porn addiction." What legitimate scientist would claim that their lone anomalous study has debunked a well established field of study?

In reality, the findings of Prause et al. 2015 align perfectly with Kühn & Gallinat (2014), which found that more porn use correlated with less brain activation in response to pictures of vanilla porn. Prause et al findings also align with Banca et al. 2015 which is #13 in this list. Moreover, another EEG study found that greater porn use in women correlated with less brain activation to porn. Lower EEG readings mean that subjects are paying less attention to the pictures. Put simply, frequent porn users were desensitized to static images of vanilla porn. They were bored (habituated or desensitized). See this extensive YBOP critique. Six peer-reviewed papers agree that this study actually found desensitization/habituation in frequent porn users (consistent with addiction): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

16) HPA Axis Dysregulation in Men With Hypersexual Disorder (2015) - [dysfunctional stress response] - A study with 67 male sex addicts and 39 age-matched controls. The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis is the central player in our stress response. Addictions alter the brain's stress circuits leading to a dysfunctional HPA axis. This study on sex addicts (hypersexuals) found altered stress responses that mirror the findings with substance addictions. Excerpts from press release:

The study involved 67 men with hypersexual disorder and 39 healthy matched controls. The participants were carefully diagnosed for hypersexual disorder and any co-morbidity with depression or childhood trauma. The researchers gave them a low dose of dexamethasone on the evening before the test to inhibit their physiological stress response, and then in the morning measured their levels of stress hormones cortisol and ACTH. They found that patients with hypersexual disorder had higher levels of such hormones than the healthy controls, a difference that remained even after controlling for co-morbid depression and childhood trauma.

"Aberrant stress regulation has previously been observed in depressed and suicidal patients as well as in substance abusers," says Professor Jokinen. "In recent years, the focus has been on whether childhood trauma can lead to a dysregulation of the body's stress systems via so-called epigenetic mechanisms, in other words how their psychosocial environments can influence the genes that control these systems." According to the researchers, the results suggest that the same neurobiological system involved in another type of abuse can apply to people with hypersexual disorder.

17) Prefrontal control and internet addiction: a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings (2015) - [dysfunctional prefrontal circuits/poorer executive function and sensitization] – Excerpt:

Consistent with this, results from functional neuroimaging and other neuropsychological studies demonstrate that cue-reactivity, craving, and decision making are important concepts for understanding Internet addiction. The findings on reductions in executive control are consistent with other behavioral addictions, such as pathological gambling. They also emphasize the classification of the phenomenon as an addiction, because there are also several similarities with findings in substance dependency.  Moreover, the results of the current study are comparable to findings from substance dependency research and emphasize analogies between cybersex addiction and substance dependencies or other behavioral addictions.

18) Implicit associations in cybersex addiction: Adaption of an Implicit Association Test with pornographic pictures. (2015) - [greater cravings/sensitization] – Excerpt:

Recent studies show similarities between cybersex addiction and substance dependencies and argue to classify cybersex addiction as a behavioral addiction. In substance dependency, implicit associations are known to play a crucial role, and such implicit associations have not been studied in cybersex addiction, so far. In this experimental study, 128 heterosexual male participants completed an Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) modified with pornographic pictures. Further, problematic sexual behavior, sensitivity towards sexual excitation, tendencies towards cybersex addiction, and subjective craving due to watching pornographic pictures were assessed. Results show positive relationships between implicit associations of pornographic pictures with positive emotions and tendencies towards cybersex addiction, problematic sexual behavior, sensitivity towards sexual excitation as well as subjective craving. Moreover, a moderated regression analysis revealed that individuals who reported high subjective craving and showed positive implicit associations of pornographic pictures with positive emotions, particularly tended towards cybersex addiction. The findings suggest a potential role of positive implicit associations with pornographic pictures in the development and maintenance of cybersex addiction. Moreover, the results of the current study are comparable to findings from substance dependency research and emphasize analogies between cybersex addiction and substance dependencies or other behavioral addictions.

19) Symptoms of cybersex addiction can be linked to both approaching and avoiding pornographic stimuli: results from an analog sample of regular cybersex users (2015) - [greater cravings/sensitization] – Excerpt:

Some approaches point toward similarities to substance dependencies for which approach/avoidance tendencies are crucial mechanisms. Several researchers have argued that within an addiction-related decision situation, individuals might either show tendencies to approach or avoid addiction-related stimuli. In the current study 123 heterosexual males completed an Approach-Avoidance-Task (AAT; Rinck and Becker, 2007) modified with pornographic pictures. During the AAT participants either had to push pornographic stimuli away or pull them toward themselves with a joystick. Sensitivity toward sexual excitation, problematic sexual behavior, and tendencies toward cybersex addiction were assessed with questionnaires.

Results showed that individuals with tendencies toward cybersex addiction tended to either approach or avoid pornographic stimuli. Additionally, moderated regression analyses revealed that individuals with high sexual excitation and problematic sexual behavior who showed high approach/avoidance tendencies, reported higher symptoms of cybersex addiction. Analogous to substance dependencies, results suggest that both approach and avoidance tendencies might play a role in cybersex addiction. Moreover, an interaction with sensitivity toward sexual excitation and problematic sexual behavior could have an accumulating effect on the severity of subjective complaints in everyday life due to cybersex use. The findings provide further empirical evidence for similarities between cybersex addiction and substance dependencies. Such similarities could be retraced to a comparable neural processing of cybersex- and drug-related cues.

20) Getting stuck with pornography? Overuse or neglect of cybersex cues in a multitasking situation is related to symptoms of cybersex addiction (2015) - [greater cravings/sensitization and poorer executive control] – Excerpt:

Some individuals consume cybersex contents, such as pornographic material, in an addictive manner, which leads to severe negative consequences in private life or work. One mechanism leading to negative consequences may be reduced executive control over cognition and behavior that may be necessary to realize goal-oriented switching between cybersex use and other tasks and obligations of life. To address this aspect, we investigated 104 male participants with an executive multitasking paradigm with two sets: One set consisted of pictures of persons, the other set consisted of pornographic pictures. In both sets the pictures had to be classified according to certain criteria. The explicit goal was to work on all classification tasks to equal amounts, by switching between the sets and classification tasks in a balanced manner.

We found that less balanced performance in this multitasking paradigm was associated with a higher tendency towards cybersex addiction. Persons with this tendency often either overused or neglected working on the pornographic pictures. The results indicate that reduced executive control over multitasking performance, when being confronted with pornographic material, may contribute to dysfunctional behaviors and negative consequences resulting from cybersex addiction. However, individuals with tendencies towards cybersex addiction seem to have either an inclination to avoid or to approach the pornographic material, as discussed in motivational models of addiction.

21) Trading Later Rewards for Current Pleasure: Pornography Consumption and Delay Discounting (2015) - [poorer executive control: causation experiment] – Excerpts:

Study 1: Participants completed a pornography use questionnaire and a delay discounting task at Time 1 and then again four weeks later. Participants reporting higher initial pornography use demonstrated a higher delay discounting rate at Time 2, controlling for initial delay discounting. Study 2:  Participants who abstained from pornography use demonstrated lower delay discounting than participants who abstained from their favorite food.

Internet pornography is a sexual reward that contributes to delay discounting differently than other natural rewards do, even when use is not compulsive or addictive. This research makes an important contribution, demonstrating that the effect goes beyond temporary arousal.

Pornography consumption may provide immediate sexual gratification but can have implications that transcend and affect other domains of a person’s life, especially relationships.

The finding suggests that Internet pornography is a sexual reward that contributes to delay discounting differently than other natural rewards. It is therefore important to treat pornography as a unique stimulus in reward, impulsivity, and addiction studies and to apply this accordingly in individual as well as relational treatment.

22) Sexual Excitability and Dysfunctional Coping Determine Cybersex Addiction in Homosexual Males (2015) - [greater cravings/sensitization] – Excerpt:

Recent findings have demonstrated an association between CyberSex Addiction (CA) severity and indicators of sexual excitability, and that coping by sexual behaviors mediated the relationship between sexual excitability and CA symptoms. The aim of this study was to test this mediation in a sample of homosexual males. Questionnaires assessed symptoms of CA, sensitivity to sexual excitation, pornography use motivation, problematic sexual behavior, psychological symptoms, and sexual behaviors in real life and online. Moreover, participants viewed pornographic videos and indicated their sexual arousal before and after the video presentation. Results showed strong correlations between CA symptoms and indicators of sexual arousal and sexual excitability, coping by sexual behaviors, and psychological symptoms. CA was not associated with offline sexual behaviors and weekly cybersex use time. Coping by sexual behaviors partially mediated the relationship between sexual excitability and CA. The results are comparable with those reported for heterosexual males and females in previous studies and are discussed against the background of theoretical assumptions of CA, which highlight the role of positive and negative reinforcement due to cybersex use.

23) The Role of Neuroinflammation in the Pathophysiology of Hypersexual Disorder (2016) - [dysfunctional stress response and inflammation] - This study reported higher levels of circulating Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) in sex addicts when compared to healthy controls. Elevated levels of TNF (a marker of inflammation) have also been found in substance abusers and drug-addicted animals (alcohol, heroin, meth). There were strong correlations between TNF levels and rating scales measuring hypersexuality.

24) Methylation of HPA Axis Related Genes in Men With Hypersexual Disorder (2017) - [dysfunctional stress response] - This is a follow-up of #8 above which found that sex addicts have dysfunctional stress systems - a key neuro-endocrine change caused by addiction. The current study found epigenetic changes on genes central to the human stress response and closely associated with addiction. With epigenetic changes, the DNA sequence isn't altered (as happens with a mutation). Instead, the gene is tagged and its expression is turned up or down (short video explaining epigenetics). The epigenetic changes reported in this study resulted in altered CRF gene activity. CRF is a neurotransmitter and hormone that drives addictive behaviors such as cravings, and is a major player in many of the withdrawal symptoms experienced in connection with substance and behavioral addictions, including porn addiction.

25) Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Prefrontal And Limbic Volume and Interactions (2016) - [dysfunctional prefrontal circuits and sensitization] - This is an fMRI study. Compared to healthy controls CSB subjects (porn addicts) had increased left amygdala volume and reduced functional connectivity between the amygdala and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex DLPFC. Reduced functional connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex aligns with substance addictions. It is thought that poorer connectivity diminishes the prefrontal cortex's control over a user's impulse to engage in the addictive behavior. This study suggests that drug toxicity may lead to less grey matter and thus reduced amygdala volume in drug addicts. The amygdala is consistently active during porn viewing, especially during initial exposure to a sexual cue. Perhaps the constant sexual novelty and searching and seeking leads to a unique effect on the amygdala in compulsive porn users. Alternatively, years of porn addiction and severe negative consequences are very stressful - and chronic social stress is related to increased amygdala volume. Study #16 above found that "sex addicts" have an overactive stress system. Could the chronic stress related to porn/sex addiction, along with factors that make sex unique, lead to greater amygdala volume? An excerpt:

Our current findings highlight elevated volumes in a region implicated in motivational salience and lower resting state connectivity of prefrontal top-down regulatory control networks. Disruption of such networks may explain the aberrant behavioral patterns toward environmentally salient reward or enhanced reactivity to salient incentive cues. Although our volumetric findings contrast with those in SUD, these findings may reflect differences as a function of the neurotoxic effects of chronic drug exposure. Emerging evidence suggests potential overlaps with an addiction process particularly supporting incentive motivation theories. We have shown that activity in this salience network is then enhanced following exposure to highly salient or preferred sexually explicit cues [Brand et al., 2016; Seok and Sohn, 2015; Voon et al., 2014] along with enhanced attentional bias [Mechelmans et al., 2014] and desire specific to the sexual cue but not generalized sexual desire [Brand et al., 2016; Voon et al., 2014]. Enhanced attention to sexually explicit cues is further associated with preference for sexually conditioned cues thus confirming the relationship between sexual cue conditioning and attentional bias [Banca et al., 2016]. These findings of enhanced activity related to sexually conditioned cues differ from that of the outcome (or the unconditioned stimulus) in which enhanced habituation, possibly consistent with the concept of tolerance, increases the preference for novel sexual stimuli [Banca et al., 2016]. Together these findings help elucidate the underlying neurobiology of CSB leading toward a greater understanding of the disorder and identification of possible therapeutic markers.

26) Ventral Striatum Activity When Watching Preferred Pornographic Pictures is Correlated With Symptoms of Internet Pornography Addiction (2016) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization] – A German fMRI study. Finding #1: Reward center activity (ventral striatum) was higher for preferred pornographic pictures. Finding #2: Ventral striatum reactivity correlated with the internet sex addiction score. Both findings indicate sensitization and align with the addiction model. The authors state that the "Neural basis of Internet pornography addiction is comparable to other addictions." An excerpt:

One type of Internet addiction is excessive pornography consumption, also referred to as cybersex or Internet pornography addiction. Neuroimaging studies found ventral striatum activity when participants watched explicit sexual stimuli compared to non-explicit sexual/erotic material. We now hypothesized that the ventral striatum should respond to preferred pornographic compared to non-preferred pornographic pictures and that the ventral striatum activity in this contrast should be correlated with subjective symptoms of Internet pornography addiction. We studied 19 heterosexual male participants with a picture paradigm including preferred and non-preferred pornographic material.

Pictures from the preferred category were rated as more arousing, less unpleasant, and closer to ideal. Ventral striatum response was stronger for the preferred condition compared to non-preferred pictures. Ventral striatum activity in this contrast was correlated with the self-reported symptoms of Internet pornography addiction. The subjective symptom severity was also the only significant predictor in a regression analysis with ventral striatum response as dependent variable and subjective symptoms of Internet pornography addiction, general sexual excitability, hypersexual behavior, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, and sexual behavior in the last days as predictors. The results support the role for the ventral striatum in processing reward anticipation and gratification linked to subjectively preferred pornographic material. Mechanisms for reward anticipation in ventral striatum may contribute to a neural explanation of why individuals with certain preferences and sexual fantasies are at-risk for losing their control over Internet pornography consumption.

27) Altered Appetitive Conditioning and Neural Connectivity in Subjects With Compulsive Sexual Behavior (2016) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization and dysfunctional prefrontal circuits] - This German fMRI study replicated two major findings from Voon et al., 2014 and Kuhn & Gallinat 2014. Main Findings: The neural correlates of appetitive conditioning and neural connectivity were altered in the CSB group. According to the researchers, the first alteration - heightened amygdala activation - might reflect facilitated conditioning (greater "wiring" to previously neutral cues predicting porn images). The second alteration - decreased connectivity between the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex - could be a marker for impaired ability to control impulses. Said the researchers, "These [alterations] are in line with other studies investigating the neural correlates of addiction disorders and impulse control deficits." The findings of greater amygdalar activation to cues (sensitization) and decreased connectivity between the reward center and the prefrontal cortex (hypofrontality) are two of the major brain changes seen in substance addiction. In addition, 3 of the 20 compulsive porn users suffered from "orgasmic-erection disorder." An excerpt:

In general, the observed increased amygdala activity and the concurrently decreased ventral striatal-PFC coupling allows speculations about the etiology and treatment of CSB. Subjects with CSB seemed more prone to establish associations between formally neutral cues and sexually relevant environmental stimuli. Thus, these subjects are more likely to encounter cues that elicit approaching behavior. Whether this leads to CSB or is a result of CSB must be answered by future research. In addition, impaired regulation processes, which are reflected in the decreased ventral striatal-prefrontal coupling, might further support the maintenance of the problematic behavior.

28) Compulsivity Across the Pathological Misuse of Drug and Non-Drug Rewards (2016) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization, enhanced conditioned responses] - This Cambridge University fMRI study compares aspects of compulsivity in alcoholics, binge-eaters, video game addicts and porn addicts (CSB). Excerpts:

In contrast to other disorders, CSB compared to HV showed faster acquisition to reward outcomes along with a greater perseveration in the reward condition irrespective of outcome. The CSB subjects did not show any specific impairments in set shifting or reversal learning. These findings converge with our previous findings of enhanced preference for stimuli conditioned to either sexual or monetary outcomes, overall suggesting enhanced sensitivity to rewards (Banca et al., 2016). Further studies using salient rewards are indicated.

29) Subjective Craving for Pornography and Associative Learning Predict Tendencies Towards Cybersex Addiction in a Sample of Regular Cybersex Users (2016) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization, enhanced conditioned responses] – This unique study conditioned subjects to formerly neutral shapes, which predicted the appearance of a pornographic image. Excerpts:

There is no consensus regarding the diagnostic criteria of cybersex addiction. Some approaches postulate similarities to substance dependencies, for which associative learning is a crucial mechanism. In this study, 86 heterosexual males completed a Standard Pavlovian to Instrumental Transfer Task modified with pornographic pictures to investigate associative learning in cybersex addiction. Additionally, subjective craving due to watching pornographic pictures and tendencies towards cybersex addiction were assessed. Results showed an effect of subjective craving on tendencies towards cybersex addiction, moderated by associative learning. Overall, these findings point towards a crucial role of associative learning for the development of cybersex addiction, while providing further empirical evidence for similarities between substance dependencies and cybersex addiction. In summary, the results of the current study suggest that associative learning might play a crucial role regarding the development of cybersex addiction. Our findings provide further evidence for similarities between cybersex addiction and substance dependencies since influences of subjective craving and associative learning were shown.

30) Exploring the Relationship between Sexual Compulsivity and Attentional Bias to Sex-Related Words in a Cohort of Sexually Active Individuals (2017) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization, desensitization] - This study replicates the findings of this 2014 Cambridge University study, which compared the attentional bias of porn addicts to healthy controls. Here's what's new: The study correlated the "years of sexual activity" with 1) the sex addiction scores and also 2) the results of the attentional bias task. Among those scoring high on sexual addiction, fewer years of sexual experience were related to greater attentional bias (explanation of attentional bias). So higher sexual compulsivity scores + fewer years of sexual experience = greater signs of addiction (greater attentional bias, or interference). But attentional bias declines sharply in the compulsive users, and disappears at the highest number of years of sexual experience. The authors concluded that this result could indicate that more years of "compulsive sexual activity" lead to greater habituation or a general numbing of the pleasure response (desensitization). An excerpt from the conclusion:

One possible explanation for these results is that as a sexually compulsive individual engages in more compulsive behaviour, an associated arousal template develops [36–38] and that over time, more extreme behaviour is required for the same level of arousal to be realised. It is further argued that as an individual engages in more compulsive behaviour, neuropathways become desensitized to more ‘normalised’ sexual stimuli or images and individuals turn to more ‘extreme’ stimuli to realise the arousal desired. This is in accordance with work showing that ‘healthy’ males become habituated to explicit stimuli over time and that this habituation is characterised by decreased arousal and appetitive responses [39]. This suggests that more compulsive, sexually active participants have become ‘numb’ or more indifferent to the ‘normalised’ sex-related words used in the present study and as such display decreased attentional bias, while those with increased compulsivity and less experience still showed interference because the stimuli reflect more sensitised cognition

31) Mood changes after watching pornography on the Internet are linked to symptoms of Internet-pornography-viewing disorder (2016) - [greater cravings/sensitization, less liking] - Excerpts:

The main results of the study are that tendencies towards Internet Pornography Disorder (IPD) were associated negatively with feeling generally good, awake, and calm as well as positively with perceived stress in daily life and the motivation to use Internet pornography in terms of excitation seeking and emotional avoidance.  Furthermore, tendencies towards IPD were negatively related to mood before and after watching Internet pornography as well as an actual increase of good and calm mood. The relationship between tendencies towards IPD and excitement seeking due to Internet-pornography use was moderated by the evaluation of the experienced orgasm's satisfaction. Generally, the results of the study are in line with the hypothesis that IPD is linked to the motivation to find sexual gratification and to avoid or to cope with aversive emotions as well as with the assumption that mood changes following pornography consumption are linked to IPD (Cooper et al., 1999 and Laier and Brand, 2014).

32) Problematic sexual behavior in young adults: Associations across clinical, behavioral, and neurocognitive variables (2016) - [poorer executive functioning] - Individuals with Problematic Sexual Behaviors (PSB) exhibited several neuro-cognitive deficits. These findings indicate poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) which is a key brain feature occurring in drug addicts. A few excerpts:

One notable result from this analysis is that PSB shows significant associations with a number of deleterious clinical factors, including lower self-esteem, decreased quality of life, elevated BMI, and higher comorbidity rates for several disorders…

…it is also possible that the clinical features identified in the PSB group are actually the result of a tertiary variable which gives rise to both PSB and the other clinical features. One potential factor filling this role could be the neurocognitive deficits identified in the PSB group, particularly those relating to working memory, impulsivity/impulse control, and decision making. From this characterization, it is be possible to trace the problems evident in PSB and additional clinical features, such as emotional dysregulation, to particular cognitive deficits…

If the cognitive problems identified in this analysis are actually the core feature of PSB, this may have notable clinical implications.

33) Executive Functioning of Sexually Compulsive and Non-Sexually Compulsive Men Before and After Watching an Erotic Video (2017) - [poorer executive functioning, greater cravings/sensitization] - Exposure to porn affected executive functioning in men with "compulsive sexual behaviors," but not healthy controls. Poorer executive functioning when exposed to addiction-related cues is a hallmark of substance disorders (indicating both altered prefrontal circuits and sensitization). Excerpts:

This finding indicates better cognitive flexibility after sexual stimulation by controls compared with sexually compulsive participants. These data support the idea that sexually compulsive men do not to take advantage of the possible learning effect from experience, which could result in better behavior modification. This also could be understood as a lack of a learning effect by the sexually compulsive group when they were sexually stimulated, similar to what happens in the cycle of sexual addiction, which starts with an increasing amount of sexual cognition, followed by the activation of sexual scripts and then orgasm, very often involving exposure to risky situations.

34) Can Pornography be Addictive? An fMRI Study of Men Seeking Treatment for Problematic Pornography Use (2017) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization, enhanced conditioned responses] – An fMRI study involving a unique cue-reactivity paradigm where formerly neutral shapes predicted the appearance of pornographic images. Excerpts:

Men with and without problematic porn use (PPU) differed in brain reactions to cues predicting erotic pictures, but not in reactions to erotic pictures themselves, consistent with the incentive salience theory of addictions. This brain activation was accompanied by increased behavioral motivation to view erotic images (higher 'wanting'). Ventral striatal reactivity for cues predicting erotic pictures was significantly related to the severity of PPU, amount of pornography use per week and number of weekly masturbations. Our findings suggest that like in substance-use and gambling disorders the neural and behavioral mechanisms linked to anticipatory processing of cues relate importantly to clinically relevant features of PPU. These findings suggest that PPU may represent a behavioral addiction and that interventions helpful in targeting behavioral and substance addictions warrant consideration for adaptation and use in helping men with PPU.

35) Conscious and Non-Conscious Measures of Emotion: Do They Vary with Frequency of Pornography Use? (2017) - [habituation or desensitization] - Study assessed porn users' responses (EEG readings & Startle Response) to various emotion-inducing images - including erotica. The study found several neurological differences between low frequency porn users and high frequency porn users. Excerpts:

Findings suggest that increased pornography use appears to have an influence on the brain’s non-conscious responses to emotion-inducing stimuli which was not shown by explicit self-report.

4.1. Explicit Ratings: Interestingly, the high porn use group rated the erotic images as more unpleasant than the medium use group. The authors suggest this may be due to the relatively “soft-core” nature of the “erotic” images contained in the IAPS database not providing the level of stimulation that they may usually seek out, as it has been shown by Harper and Hodgins [58] that with frequent viewing of pornographic material, many individuals often escalate into viewing more intense material to maintain the same level of physiological arousal. The “pleasant” emotion category saw valence ratings by all three groups to be relatively similar with the high use group rating the images as slightly more unpleasant on average than the other groups. This may again be due to the “pleasant” images presented not being stimulating enough for the individuals in the high use group. Studies have consistently shown a physiological downregulation in processing of appetitive content due to habituation effects in individuals who frequently seek out pornographic material [3, 7, 8]. It is the authors’ contention that this effect may account for the results observed.

4.3. Startle Reflex Modulation (SRM): The relative higher amplitude startle effect seen in the low and medium porn use groups may be explained by those in the group intentionally avoiding the use of pornography, as they may find it to be relatively more unpleasant. Alternatively, the results obtained also may be due to a habituation effect, whereby individuals in these groups do watch more pornography than they explicitly stated—possibly due to reasons of embarrassment among others, as habituation effects have been shown to increase startle eye blink responses [41, 42].

36) Exposure to Sexual Stimuli Induces Greater Discounting Leading to Increased Involvement in Cyber Delinquency Among Men (2017) - [poorer executive functioning, greater impulsivity - causation experiment] - In two studies exposure to visual sexual stimuli resulted in: 1) greater delayed discounting (inability to delay gratification), 2) greater inclination to engage in cyber-delinquency, 3) greater inclination to purchase counterfeit goods and hack someone's Facebook account. Taken together this indicates that porn use increases impulsivity and may reduce certain executive functions (self-control, judgment, foreseeing consequences, impulse control). Excerpt:

People frequently encounter sexual stimuli during Internet use. Research has shown that stimuli inducing sexual motivation can lead to greater impulsivity in men, as manifested in greater temporal discounting (i.e., a tendency to prefer smaller, immediate gains to larger, future ones).

In conclusion, the current results demonstrate an association between sexual stimuli (e.g., exposure to pictures of sexy women or sexually arousing clothing) and men’s involvement in cyber delinquency. Our findings suggest that men’s impulsivity and self-control, as manifested by temporal discounting, are susceptible to failure in the face of ubiquitous sexual stimuli. Men may benefit from monitoring whether exposure to sexual stimuli is associated with their subsequent delinquent choices and behavior. Our findings suggest that encountering sexual stimuli can tempt men down the road of cyber delinquency

The current results suggest that the high availability of sexual stimuli in cyberspace may be more closely associated with men's cyber-delinquent behavior than previously thought.

37) Predictors for (Problematic) Use of Internet Sexually Explicit Material: Role of Trait Sexual Motivation and Implicit Approach Tendencies Towards Sexually Explicit Material (2017) - [greater cue reactivity/sensitization/cravings] - Excerpts: 

The present study investigated whether trait sexual motivation and implicit approach tendencies toward sexual material are predictors of problematic SEM use and of the daily time spent watching SEM. In a behavioral experiment, we used the Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT) for measuring implicit approach tendencies towards sexual material. A positive correlation between implicit approach tendency towards SEM and the daily time spent on watching SEM might be explained by attentional effects: A high implicit approach tendency can be interpreted as an attentional bias towards SEM. A subject with this attentional bias might be more attracted to sexual cues on the Internet resulting in higher amounts of time spent on SEM sites.

Recent reviews of the literature:

The first two peer-reviewed papers below provide greater context for many of the preceding neurological studies. The first excerpt from Park et al., 2016 explains how internet pornography functions as a powerful and self-reinforcing stimulus (many of the above studies are cited within):

3.3. Internet Pornography Use as Self-Reinforcing Activity

As the reward system encourages organisms to remember and repeat critical behaviors, such as sex, eating, and socializing, chronic Internet pornography use may become a self-reinforcing activity [95]. The reward system is vulnerable to pathological learning [96], particularly in adolescents, such as greater risk of addiction [97, 98] and greater future use of “deviant pornography” (bestiality and child pornography) [99]. Several lines of research have begun to elucidate the overlap in the neural substrates of sexual learning and addiction [100, 101]. For example, sexual behaviors and addictive drugs activate the same sets of neurons within the same reward system structures (NAc, basolateral amygdala, anterior cingulated area) [102]. In contrast, very little overlap exists between other natural rewards (food, water) and addictive drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine [102]. Thus, methamphetamine use recruits the same mechanisms and neural substrates as does the natural reward of sexual stimulation [103]. In another study, cocaine addicts had nearly identical brain activation patterns when viewing pornography and cues related to their addiction, but brain activation patterns when viewing nature scenes were completely different [104].

Furthermore, both repeated sexual behaviors and repeated psychostimulant administration induce up regulation of Delta FosB, a transcription factor that promotes several neuroplastic changes that sensitize the mesolimbic dopamine system to the activity in question [103]. In both addictive drug use and sexual reward, this up regulation in the same NAc neurons is mediated via dopamine receptors [103]. This process renders the individual hyper-sensitized to stimuli associated with the activity (increased incentive salience) [105]. Exposure to related cues then triggers cravings to engage in the behavior (increased “wanting”), and may lead to compulsive use [106]. In comparing sexual reward to substances of abuse, researchers Pitchers et al. concluded that, “Natural and drug rewards not only converge on the same neural pathway, they converge on the same molecular mediators, and likely in the same neurons in the NAc, to influence the incentive salience and the “wanting” of both types of rewards” [103]. In the same vein, a 2016 review by Kraus, Voon and Potenza affirmed that, “Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to [compulsive sexual behavior] and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases” [107].

To date, the potential health risks of Internet pornography are not as well understood as those for alcohol and tobacco use, and Internet pornography use is widely portrayed as both ordinary behavior and increasingly socially acceptable [108,109]. Perhaps this is why men are slow to connect their pornography viewing with their sexual difficulties. After all, “Who doesn’t watch porn these days?” as one of our servicemen asked his physician. He regarded his problematic progression as normal, perhaps even evidence of high libido [110]. However, there is growing evidence that it was an indication of addiction-related processes [31, 52, 54, 73, 86, 107, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122]. Finnish researchers found “adult entertainment” to be the most common reason for compulsive Internet use [123], and a one-year longitudinal study of Internet applications revealed that Internet pornography may have the highest potential for addiction [124], with Internet gaming a close second in both studies. To date, Internet gaming disorder (IGD) has been slated for further study in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) [125], while Internet pornography addiction disorder has not. However, in the view of UK researcher Griffiths, “the empirical base for sex addiction is arguably on a par with IGD” [73]. In fact, various addiction experts are calling for Internet addiction to be recognized as a generalized problem with more specific subtypes such as gaming and pornography [118, 126, 127, 128]. A 2015 review also concluded that Internet pornography addiction should be recognized as a subtype of Internet addiction, which belongs in the DSM [118].

Interestingly, our second serviceman meets many of the criteria proposed for IGD in the DSM-5, adjusted for Internet pornography use. He exhibited the following: (1) preoccupation with Internet pornography; (2) loss of interest in sex with his real-life partner as a consequence; (3) withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and resentment; (4) seeking pornography to relieve his bad feelings; (5) inability to quit despite severe problems; and (6) escalation to more graphic material.

Excerpts from Pornography, Pleasure, and Sexuality: Towards a Hedonic Reinforcement Model of Sexually Explicit Internet Media Use (2017), which explores why internet porn might be particularly reinforcing:

Hedonic Reinforcement

In the second point of the model, we posit that IP serves as a particularly potent reinforcement of hedonic sexual motives. Whereas sexual activity of any kind is likely rewarding on some level, IP presents the potential for a combination of specific, easily obtainable, continually novel, and virtually immediate rewards in a manner that is uniquely and intensely rewarding (e.g., Gola et al., 2016). Many popular, non-empirical works have suggested as much (e.g., Foubert, 2016; Wilson, 2014; Struthers, 2009). Additionally, some limited reviews have considered the possibility that IP represents an abnormally rewarding stimulus (e.g., Barrett, 2010; Hilton, 2013; Grinde, 2002) in the context of human evolution. However, to date, there has been no systematic review examining the possibility that pornography represents an especially powerful hedonic reward. In the following sections, we review evidence for this second step.

Why might IP be particularly reinforcing?

The notion of highly rewarding stimuli has been thoroughly discussed in various literatures for decades. Gambling (Zuckerman & Kuhlman, 2000; Fauth-Buhler, Mann, & Potenza, 2016), narcotics (Nesse & Berridge, 1997), and even video games (Koepp et al., 1998) have all been suggested as extremely rewarding stimuli that exploit evolutionary drives. In each of the aforementioned examples, the behavior (e.g., gambling) exploits an evolutionarily developed drive (e.g., sensation-seeking/risk-taking) and produces an intense reward (e.g., win-loss potential) that directly and instantaneously rewards the drive. Also, as previously discussed, this pattern is particularly well-documented in literature on hunger.

 Hunger is an evolutionarily-selected drive that is necessary for survival (Pinel, Assanand, & Lehman, 2000; van de Pos & Ridder, 2006). Similar to sexual drive, hunger also involves a hedonic component (Lowe & Butrin, 2007). Humans derive pleasure from consuming foods that meet basic biological needs (Mela, 2006). However, humans also have a unique ability to create ever-more-intense rewards for themselves that bypass many of the energy and effort expenditures that would have, historically, been necessary for a drive to be satiated. This is particularly evident in the recent (in human evolution) advent of highly palatable foods. These foods often involve potent combinations of sweet, savory, and salty flavors that are intensely rewarding to evolutionarily developed hunger drives (Gearhardt, Davis, Kuschner, & Brownell, 2011). Over time, the propagation of such foods, alongside the ease with which they are now accessed, both in price and prevalence, have resulted in general cultural changes in food consumptions habits (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004; Hardin-Fanning & Rayens, 2015), more hedonic consumption of food (Monteiro et al., 2013), increased obesity (Gearhardt et al., 2011), and, in extreme cases, patterns of food consumption that seem addictive or compulsive (Gearhardt et al., 2011). Prior works have also suggested similar parallels with problematic IPU (Hall, 2013; Love, Laier, Brand, Hatch, & Hajela, 2015).

Similar to hunger, pornography likely taps into humans evolutionarily derived sexual drive (Malamuth, 1996; Salmon, 2012). Sexual drive is a fundamental human instinct, necessary for the survival of the species. As has been argued elsewhere (e.g., Salmon, 2012), pornography has developed in such a way as to satisfy that drive in a unique way. Specifically, pornography exploits evolutionary drives to pursue fitness and novelty in sexual partners (Salmon, 2012), while still allowing for conservation of effort and energy through minimal social effort. Although sexual media has existed for over a century now, the variety, continuous novelty, availability, and accessibility of IP make it a unique stimulus in the context of human evolution in a way similar to hyperpalatable food. Collectively, these factors point toward a stimulus that is highly and uniquely rewarding to evolutionary derived sexual drives.

Accessibility of IP

For many people, quickly and easily obtained rewards are often rated as being preferable to delayed rewards, even when those delayed rewards may be objectively better (e.g., delayed gratification, delay discounting; Bickel & Marsch, 2001). This is one component of what makes many pleasure-inducing, psychoactive substances habit-forming (e.g., Bickel & Marsch, 2001): Although other factors might contribute to addictive behavior patterns (e.g., physiological dependence, genetic predisposition), the association between stimulus and instant reward can be habit forming. Building on this, prior theoretical work has contended that the instantaneous nature of online technology in general produces rewards of internet behaviors at a rate unprecedented by other, non-chemical stimuli (Davis, 2001).

From the outset, research on IP has repeatedly emphasized the instantaneous nature of the online environment as representing a new and potentially problematic adjustment to the standard rewarding nature of sexually explicit media more generally (Cooper et al., 1998; Schwartz & Southern, 2000). Whereas partnered sexual interaction typically requires social effort and whereas conventional, printed or recorded sexually explicit media required at least some effort and cost to obtain (e.g., driving to and spending money an adult theatre or store), IP is quickly and easily accessible, giving it advantages as a relative reinforcement of a specific behavior for the satisfaction of sexual desire and drive.

IP likely represents a uniquely easy way to obtain sexual gratification that has been previously unprecedented in