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.
- Motivational pathways underlying the onset and maintenance of viewing child pornography on the Internet (2020)
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).
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: