Teach Porn In Schools?

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students in classroomPrepare students to deal with porn; teach them about their brains

Recent UK headline: "Teachers should give lessons in pornography and tell pupils 'it's not all bad', experts say." Education that helps kids cope with today's Internet porn phenomenon is a great idea. But let's not waste a brilliant educational opportunity trying to sort good porn from bad porn.

Such an effort would only disintegrate into endless political battles that would furnish more heat than light.

Most important, schools would miss a rich teaching opportunity. The examples of junk food and Internet porn furnish the perfect launching pad for kids to learn about the appetite mechanisms of their brains, collectively known as the reward circuitry. This primal part of the brain has a loud voice and its priorities have been set by evolution: furthering our survival and genetic success. Needless to say, enticing versions of food and sex powerfully activate it.

 This ancient circuitry is also at the center of our inner compass. We rely on it for making all kinds of choices throughout life, including moral judgments and career choices. Understanding how it works and what throws it out of kilter is excellent preparation for life on Planet Earth.

The unique adolescent brain

The topic of adolescent porn use also offers the perfect occasion to teach pupils about human brain development and the hyper-plasticity of the adolescent brain. Puberty initiates an explosion of new neurons. This facilitates both learning about new experiences (including sexuality) and wiring them up for adulthood. However, by our early twenties, unused neural circuitry will be pruned back and the neural circuitry retained will grow vastly more efficient (making behaviors learned during adolescence harder to change).

Students can learn how sexual conditioning works, and how easily it can be influenced by high-arousal activities. What teen wouldn't be fascinated to learn that scientists can even cause male rats to like same-sex partners by conditioning their sexuality with drugs that mimic sexual arousal?

Kids need to know that adolescence and sexual conditioning go together like...um...penis and condom. Ready or not, they will wire their sexuality to the sexual stimuli in their environment. Then, by early adulthood, their brains absolutely will prune back unused circuitry, restricting the fluidity of their sexual tastes.

Knowledge of how this process works can furnish a measure of desperately needed foresight for adolescents, whose frontal cortexes (home of "Let's think this through") will remain under construction until their twenties. Far-sighted choices are surprisingly critical during the adolescent window of brain development.

Internet porn as brain training

Schools could also teach students about Internet porn's hidden risks. These go beyond gonzo content. Today, both delivery and ubiquity pose risks. Gone are the days of an occasional clandestine visit to the newsstand, free midnight teasers on satellite/cable adult channels, 2 am VHS porn movies in the living room, waiting hours for dial-up to see a half-hour porn scene, and pay porn sites with awkward credit card bills.

Now, there are high-definition videos of previously undreamed acts on tube sites where the endless variety is free. These videos even stream, so the viewer need not leave a trail on his computer. Users can open multiple tabs of hardcore clips, so excitement need not flag for long during a masturbation session. And finally, there are smartphones (and now Google Glass) so users can watch anywhere, anytime, including comfortably in bed. No more waiting for late night TV, computer time at home, or after school. 

Constant availability of enticements that register as high evolutionary priorities carry with them risk of addiction, and the teen brain is more susceptible to addiction than an adult brain. It's hyper-responsive to reward, and prepped to wire up exciting experiences—especially sexual arousal.

Internet porn is particularly potent brain training for the same reason that cigarettes are more addictive than heroin. Even though heroin offers a bigger  neurochemical punch, cigarettes (like clicking to new porn videos) offer more frequent neurochemical hits (especially dopamine), with each puff (or click). Ability to raise dopamine with each novel video increases addiction risk, because chronically elevated dopamine kicks in more lasting addiction-related brain changes in many users.

A recovering porn user explains how porn has changed:

Modern porn is like free supersize meals for the brain. Obesity rates quadrupled in less than 15 years (1986-2000), showing that a rise in the ubiquity of cheap, unhealthy food had dire consequences. You could become obese in 1950 but it was much harder to do so. Likewise, the porn supply has evolved even faster than the junk food supply. Just as you could become addicted to porn in 1990 it was much harder to do so than it now is in 2013.

Not only has the speed of the internet increased but the reduction in the price of electronics coupled with the rise of the mobile web means that younger and younger guys are getting 24/7 access to practically unlimited processing power. Today the average 13 year-old has more processing power in his pocket than an entire household did in the late 90s. (It would be neat to do a calculation of the amount of internet porn in megabytes viewed per capita in say 1993 vs. 2003 vs. 2013.)

Here's another way of thinking about it: In 10 seconds I can see practically any combination of any sorts of people performing any sort of sexual act. It's basically 24/7 euphoria-on-demand. But it's euphoria that comes with a huge price-tag including ruining my sex life, relationships, and erectile function.

Said another recovering user:

Surely educating young boys about how it could prevent them having real sex at all and that it could cause a variety of disorders as a result of addiction-related brain changes is without doubt the best education method that isn't going to be a complete, liberty-reducing failure like the 'war on drugs'.

Not to say all boys will automatically stop. Just like people who are educated about drink, smoking and drugs, they might still go on to indulge in those activities, but at least they will do it with more caution and a lot fewer of them will do it. I'm sick of all these 'experts' talking about porn when  everyone on nofap has far more knowledge about what porn does to you than people writing in broadsheet newspapers.

"The norm" versus "normal"

Today, Internet porn-watching is normalized to the extent that frequent viewing seems an ordinary activity. This leaves kids biased toward it without thinking critically. However, just because "Everyone uses Internet porn" doesn't guarantee that porn use is harmless. Think how popular smoking was before its risks were recognized.

Users who don't understand Internet porn use entails risks are often blind-sided if they develop porn-related symptoms, such as unaccustomed social anxiety, concentration and motivation problems, loss of attraction to real partners, bizarre porn tastes, sexual performance issues, etc. Without information about how overconsumption of Internet porn can give rise to such problems, kids who develop symptoms sometimes assume they are broken for life. They need to hear about their peers who have removed porn from the equation, braved withdrawal, and seen rapid improvements.

One critical bit of information that kids seldom receive is that quitting heavy Internet porn use can trigger weeks of surprisingly severe withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, brain fog, anxiety, depression, irritability, rapid mood swings, sweats, aches—and above all sudden (temporary) loss of all libido. If teens don't know about such symptoms, such symptoms can drive them right back to porn in a panic.

With solid information kids can recognize the importance of learning to regulate their appetites and make their own experiments. There are many techniques that naturally encourage balance, such as exercise, time in nature, socializing with real people, daily cold showers, and relaxation techniques—all of which could be included in any curriculum without offense to anyone. Students could also learn what formal support is available for addressing symptoms of excess.

Such knowledge will also position youngsters to do a more informed job of raising any future children.

Why teaching "good porn" and "bad porn" won't work

Teens are not 30-year olds. Their brains are making them natural thrill-seekers and especially curious about novelty and sex. These innate tendencies are why our ancestors left their native tribes during adolescence, thereby avoiding inbreeding.

Kids won't stick to the websites teachers suggest "because it's healthier for them." Such a naive policy would be like dropping them off at their favorite buffet restaurant with a tip that, "The carrot sticks would be a sound choice." Right.

Even if they did stick to "carrot-stick" porn, they'd still be wiring their malleable teen brains to pixels, not real partners. This can lead to grief later as this twenty-something learned:

(20-something) When I've been naked with women in real life, I've felt NOTHING. I was not horny at all. I'm not gay in the slightest (I am in fact a raging heterosexual), but I simply could not have sex with these women. If I could choose one word to describe what it felt like when I tried to have sex with them, I'd use the word 'alien.' It felt artificial and foreign to me. Meanwhile I can sit down with my laptop and immediately feel horny even if I haven't loaded up any porn. Porn just feels completely comfortable and natural to me. It has completely overridden what I should naturally feel with women! I see girls and I think some of them look so gorgeous. I'm even a romantic kinda guy at heart, but I just can't do anything about it. The attraction is there, but not the sexual desire.

Incidentally, some experts argue that we must teach teens that sexual arousal is pleasurable. This is like arguing that we must teach kids to like sugar. The appeal of sexual arousal, like sugar, is innate. No teaching needed.

Keep in mind that during adolescence the part of the brain that registers arousal is in overdrive—precisely so teens won't miss out on important cues for reproduction. What is more likely to be lacking is the counterweight that solid information and adults with fully developed brains can supply. In other words, "Accelerator works; tune up the brakes!"

Finally, Internet porn problems are more about the thrill of novelty than content, or even time spent watching. In fact, some guys report developing loss of attraction to real partners and even sexual performance problems simply from looking at hundreds of swimsuit models per masturbation session. This is hardly surprising. The primitive part of the brain fires up for novel mates, even when the rational brain wouldn't define the images as "porn." In short, brains that adapt quickly can become conditioned to, or "wire up" to, whatever a young user repeatedly associates with his reinforcing arousal, whether it's "good porn" or "bad porn."

This aspect of human physiology is why teens need to learn about their brains, rather than focusing on distinguishing content.

To sum up

Today's high-speed porn phenomenon is the perfect occasion to explain to teens how the appetite mechanism of the brain works. Teach them its innate agendas and how today's junk food and Internet porn play into these ancient priorities.

Teach them about sexual conditioning. Adolescents easily wire to sexual cues. If they're wiring to pixels exclusively, then they're not wiring to courtship behaviors and cues that prepare them for actual sex. By adulthood, the brain will prune back unused circuits, so teens are in a unique window of opportunity for channeling their future interests, skills and habits.

Teach them how too much stimulation can cause brain changes that decrease overall pleasure from daily events (which can grow increasingly boring by comparison), and drive sensation seeking—as well as addiction.

Teach them how to regulate their appetites naturally, as well as the symptoms of overconsumption, how withdrawal works, and where to get help if needed.

Better understanding of how chronic overconsumption of supernormal stimulation affects brains can help kids cope with today's environment of hyper-stimulating food and sexual aids.

Finally, as in any sex education effort, the sexual health of the adults who do the teaching is crucial. As a Canadian forum member pointed out,

Given that sexual health at the psycho-emotional level is quite rare in our culture, I see sex education as an opportunity for abuse as well as an opportunity for progress. An unhealthy person or one with an extreme sexual political agenda may not be a healthy source of information.

Resources

These slide shows are examples of what can be done to help kids understand more about their brains:

This one is for older kids:

This one is for younger kids:

Comments

Here's one for example http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/19/state-wont-protect-children-porn

I'm not going to comment on whether or not we should limit access to porn, but surely adding to the equation educating young boys about how it could prevent them having real sex at all and that it could cause a variety of mental illnesses as a result of addiction related brain changes is without doubt the best method of stopping them looking at porn that I could think of that isn't going to be complete, liberty reducing failure like the 'war on drugs'.

Not to say all boys will automatically stop, people who are educated about drink, smoking and drugs might still go on to indulge in those activities, but at least they will do it with more caution and a lot less of them will do it. I'm sick of all these 'experts' talking about porn when they everyone on nofap has far more knowledge about what porn does to you than people writing in broadsheetnewspapers.

http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/1gpwft/its_really_getting_frustra...