New York Magazine article "Hands Off": What a mess

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My letter of April 15, 2013 to the journalist who had contacted me about this article.


Hi Molly,

RE: "New York Magazine" article "Hands Off"

I'm quite disappointed with the article and what was attributed to me. The main problem is that the article conflates masturbation with Internet porn use. As a result, the quotation attributed to me reads as though I've claimed masturbation causes a decline in dopamine receptors, rather than claiming that Internet porn addiction causes a decline in dopamine receptors. (We know it does, because the Internet addiction research shows this is so.)

The entire focus of the article is on "anti-masturbators", however, on my site I emphatically state that porn addiction, not masturbation, can cause a decline in dopamine signaling. See - START HERE: Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction.

From the "Hands Off" article:

"Comparing the body to a computer is a common analogy among those in the anti-masturbation community, a subset of which includes the self-proclaimed “biohackers” and “quantified self” enthusiasts who collect data regarding the input and output of their bodies. If the body is a series of systems, the thinking seems to be, then whatever problems exist can be repaired like a piece of hardware. Wilson, the guru of “Your Brain on Porn,” suggests that dopamine receptors will regenerate and dopamine levels increase after a withdrawal period of “flatlining”—total uninterest in sex. Some anti-masturbators even use video-gamespeak when they talk about abstaining on “hard mode,” which means declining sex with a partner as well as with oneself."

The article continues by asking "experts" about ED and delayed ejaculation. Nowhere is Internet porn mentioned:

THE ARTICLE: "Every doctor and psychologist I spoke with informed me that “there’s no evidence” to link masturbation to sexual performance, and that it’s an over­simplification to think that frequent masturbation is the cause of delayed ejaculation."

In my TEDx talk and on my site, and in our "Psychology Today" articles these conditions are referred to as 'porn-induced sexual dysfunctions,' not 'masturbation-induced sexual dysfunctions.' Below is an excerpt from the beginning of my START HERE: Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction:

Internet porn causes ED, not "excessive masturbation" or "sexual exhaustion"

Really get this: Internet porn (or rather its constant novelty) is the cause of ED - not ejaculation or "sexual exhaustion". I've never heard of masturbation causing chronic ED in healthy young men, unless one employs a serious "death grip" or traumatic masturbation techniques. Another myth is that masturbation or orgasm depletes or lowers testosterone leading to "sexual exhaustion." Porn-induced ED has absolutely nothing to do with blood testosterone levels. (See: Any connection between orgasm, masturbation, and testosterone levels?)

So many of today's "NoFappers" experiment with the challenge because of Internet porn overconsumption that they confuse the source of their problems, just as your author has. But masturbation, traditionally, did not cause the kinds of severe sexual performance problems seen today; Internet porn overuse is the culprit. In fact, The Dr. Oz show did a show on porn-induced ED not long ago, with a urologist and psychiatrist explaining the brain changes that produce the problems: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/can-porn-cause-erectile-dysfunction-pt-1.

So your author could certainly have found experts who would have confirmed what is on my website had she looked. As it stands, the article misleads porn users that "because masturbation can't cause sexual performance problems, any amount of Internet porn use is also safe." There's plenty of science that explains why this assumption is wrong, and a range of experts who would agree.

It's ironic that your magazine has taken this position, given that "New York" earlier published a major piece by a guy who wrote about his porn-induced sexual performance problems (needing to fake orgasm), and how stopping porn corrected the problem. "He’s Just Not That Into Anyone

My wife tried to post a polite comment in the comment section explaining the fundamental error in the article, and it has not yet been approved. Instead, only comments supporting the article as written have been approved. This is very unsettling for anyone trying to set the record straight.

Is there anything that can be done about the errors or the refusal to approve comments that correct them?

Best regards,

Gary