Your Brain on Porn: How Internet Porn Affects the Brain (2015)

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This is new, updated version of the original YBOP 6-part series.

A Polish translation of this presentation

Supporting materials for this presentation

Current state of the research

  1. An official diagnosis? The world's most widely used medical diagnostic manual, The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), contains a new diagnosis suitable for porn addiction: "Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder." (2018)
  2. Porn/sex addiction? This page lists 39 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal). They provide strong support for the addiction model as their findings mirror the neurological findings reported in substance addiction studies.
  3. The real experts' opinions on porn/sex addiction? This list contains 16 recent literature reviews & commentaries by some of the top neuroscientists in the world. All support the addiction model.
  4. Signs of addiction and escalation to more extreme material? Over 30 studies reporting findings consistent with escalation of porn use (tolerance), habituation to porn, and even withdrawal symptoms (all signs and symptoms associated with addiction).
  5. Debunking the unsupported talking point that "high sexual desire" explains away porn or sex addiction: At least 25 studies falsify the claim that sex & porn addicts "just have high sexual desire"
  6. Porn and sexual problems? This list contains 26 studies linking porn use/porn 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.
  7. Porn’s effects on relationships? Almost 60 studies link porn use to less sexual and relationship satisfaction. (As far as we know all studies involving males have reported more porn use linked to poorer sexual or relationship satisfaction.)
  8. Porn use affecting emotional and mental health? Over 55 studies link porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes.
  9. Porn use affecting beliefs, attitudes and behaviors? Check out individual studies - over 25 studies link porn use to "un-egalitarian attitudes" toward women and sexist views – or the summary from this 2016 meta-analysis: Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015. Excerpt:

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.

  1. What about sexual aggression and porn use? Another meta-analysis: A Meta‐Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies (2015). Excerpt:

22 studies from 7 different countries were analyzed. Consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor.

  1. What about the porn use and adolescents? Check out this list of over 200 adolescent studies, or this 2012 review of the research - The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research (2012). From the conclusion:

Increased access to the Internet by adolescents has created unprecedented opportunities for sexual education, learning, and growth. Conversely, the risk of harm that is evident in the literature has led researchers to investigate adolescent exposure to online pornography in an effort to elucidate these relationships. Collectively, these studies suggest that youth who consume pornography may develop unrealistic sexual values and beliefs. Among the findings, higher levels of permissive sexual attitudes, sexual preoccupation, and earlier sexual experimentation have been correlated with more frequent consumption of pornography.... Nevertheless, consistent findings have emerged linking adolescent use of pornography that depicts violence with increased degrees of sexually aggressive behavior. The literature does indicate some correlation between adolescents’ use of pornography and self-concept. Girls report feeling physically inferior to the women they view in pornographic material, while boys fear they may not be as virile or able to perform as the men in these media. Adolescents also report that their use of pornography decreased as their self-confidence and social development increase. Additionally, research suggests that adolescents who use pornography, especially that found on the Internet, have lower degrees of social integration, increases in conduct problems, higher levels of delinquent behavior, higher incidence of depressive symptoms, and decreased emotional bonding with caregivers.

  1. For a debunking of nearly every naysayer talking point and cherry-picked study see this extensive critique: Debunking "Why Are We Still So Worried About Wat­­ching Porn?", by Marty Klein, Taylor Kohut, and Nicole Prause (2018). How to recognize biased articles: They cite Prause et al., 2015 (falsely claiming it debunks porn addiction), while omitting over 3 dozen neurological studies supporting porn addiction.

Studies mentioned or alluded to in presentation

Coolidge effect, habituation, and sexual novelty

Internet addiction studies: sections with collections of studies

Addiction experts on behavioral addiction:

The DSM is outdated, not biologically based

Collections of supporting studies: basic science, dopamine, behavioral addictions, effects of porn use

Dopamine's role in addiction, sex, and behavior

Behavioral addiction

Porn related

DeltaFosB: sensitization, sexual behavior

DeltaFosB: sensitization and addiction studies

Sexual conditioning

Expert testimony on PIED - Porn-Induced ED in the Media: Primarily Experts

Lay articles (each contains multiple citations)

DeltaFosB & sensitization articles

Adolescent brain vulnerabilities

Desentization articles

Internet porn is different