Sexual Conditioning

sexual conditioning

Many of the unwanted effects of porn are caused by conditioning one’s sexual response to the internet porn’s content and delivery system. Examples include some users’ morphing sexual tastes, porn-induced ED, loss of attraction to real partners (even belief in one’s asexuality), delayed ejaculation, anorgasmia, needing greater stimulation to achieve the same arousal state. For years experts have endeavored to call attention to this phenomenon. See for example:

Although a preference for functional sex with a partner was expressed by participants, our data suggest that masturbation dependence develops as a result of their sexual response having become conditional on a discrete set of behaviours, and is reinforced by cognitive components displaying different characteristics during masturbation and partner sex.

Given that our [patients] 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.

Sexual conditioning:

Several participants who reported no known pre-existing sexual interest in children prior to viewing CP believed that repeated exposure to these materials essentially ‘conditioned’ them to develop a sexual interest in children.

Since nearly all participants reported no desire to engage in contact sexual offenses, it is possible that this process conditioned participants to develop an interest in CP, rather than in children themselves (and by extension child sexual abuse). Participants provided varying descriptions of how they perceived this conditioning process:

It’s kind of like … when you have your first sip of gin, or whatever. You think, ‘this is horrible’, but you keep going and eventually you start to like gin. (John).

The circuits in my brain that were related to sexual arousal, the circuits that were firing when I was looking at pictures of children … years of doing that probably caused things in my brain to change. (Ben)

As their interest in CP increased, participants who had previously viewed both adult and child pornography reported finding it increasingly difficult to become aroused to sexual stimuli involving adults.

At face value, this conditioning process may seem contradictory to the experience of habituation described earlier. However, it is important to understand that for people without a sexual interest in children, the conditioning process seemed to occur between the onset of viewing CP and participants’ eventual habituation to these materials.

Study reported that the 18–30 year-old group reported the highest mean of deviant sexual fantasy followed by those 31–50, then those 51–76 years of age. Put simply, the age group with the highest rates of porn use (and who grew up using tube sites) report the highest rates of sexual deviant fantasies (rape, fetishism, sex with children). Excerpt from the discussion section suggests that porn use may be the reason:

Additionally, a possible explanation for why those under 30 years of age endorsed more deviant sexual fantasies than those over the age of 30 could be due to increased pornography consumption among younger men. Researchers found that pornography consumption has increased since the 1970s, rising from 45% to 61%, with change over time being the smallest for older age groups for which pornography consumption decreases (Price, Patterson, Regnerus, & Walley, 2016). Additionally, in a study of pornography consumption among 4339 Swedish young adults, less than one third of participants reported viewing deviant sexual pornography of violence, animals and children (Svedin, Åkerman, & Priebe, 2011).

Although pornography exposure and usage were not assessed in the current study, those under 30 years in our sample could be viewing more pornography, as well as more deviant forms of pornography, than those over the age of 51 years as pornography usage in young adulthood has become more socially accepted (Carroll et al., 2008).

This study on sexual conditioning in quail shows that males can be sexually conditioned to a substitute for a real sexual partner (a terry cloth object). Interestingly, those who copulate (i.e., “show a consummatory response”) using the object continue to find it arousing, whether or not they have access to regular sexual opportunities with real females.

The conditioned approach behavior of male quail [who copulated with the object] did not show much, if any, decline during the course of extinction trials whether or not the males received access to a female in their home cages during the extinction phase.

Similarly, many men who condition their sexual arousal to artificial stimuli (porn), and later acquire sexual partners, report continued (sometimes even compulsive) use of porn.

Those quail that received no access to females appeared to develop a compulsive use of the object (more frequent copulation). The frequency of their copulation with the object increased significantly. In short, the artificial stimulus became a primary stimulus, akin to a real partner, but apparently less satisfying.

The researchers discuss the implications of their research for masturbation addiction/compulsivity, which is one of the main problem areas in CSBD (Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder).

If fundamental needs of individuals are not satisfied like relatedness, intimacy and sexual relationship with a loved one, they may resort to substitute satisfaction. Any object or act which may provide an opportunity for sexual consummatory responses may provide sensory reinforcement leading to compulsively engaged masturbatory activity or fetishistic behavior.

…Copulating with the substitute object is not entirely satisfying and does not entirely eliminate the need state. Therefore, the need state of participants in the No female subgroups gradually increases during extinction phase. This in turn results in a corresponding increase in conditioned copulatory responses to the [substitute, conditioned stimulus]. Our model predicts that this escalation of sexual [consummatory responses, copulations] will be only observed if (1) animals are deprived of a biologically significant [stimulus] (live female), (2) the deprivation creates an increasing need for that [stimulus], and (3) there is a substitute object that participants can copulate with to reduce their need state.

The many studies suggesting escalation in some porn users may be relevant here too. See Over 50 studies reporting findings consistent with escalation of porn use (tolerance), habituation to porn, and even withdrawal symptoms.

These articles may also be of interest: