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Can Watching Porn Actually Be Healthy For You?

By May 30, 2019 No Comments

One of the more confusing things in today’s conversation around porn is the so-called “health” argument for watching. Many people claim that it’s a positive and natural expression of sexuality and even helps foster healthy attitudes and perceptions around sex.

It’s not uncommon for many regular consumers to say there’s “nothing wrong” with porn and possibly even imply that if someone doesn’t want to watch porn, they’re a “repressed” or “prudish” human being who needs to have a more open mind.

Related: Is There Such A Thing As A Healthy Amount of Porn?

This line of reasoning can now be found in many popular magazines, websites, and even TV shows. Porn is often suggested as a relationship builder with your partner, a tool to spice up your sex life, and an overall normal and healthy expression for your physical and mental state.

However appealing all of this sounds, nothing could be further from the facts.

Saying that any and every type of porn is 100% healthy for consumers is the complete opposite of what science and research show. And not only is it unhealthy, it’s straight up harmful.

So what do you say when people are promoting this harmful idea that porn is actually healthy? Here’s a brief overview of the science behind the harmful and addictive nature of porn, click here to read more extensive research articles.

Truth About Porn

The reward center

Deep inside the brain, there’s something called a “reward center.” [1] You’ve got one. Your dog’s got one. For mammals, it comes standard. The reward center’s job is to release “pleasure” chemicals into your brain whenever you do something healthy, like eating tasty food, doing a hard workout, or enjoying a kiss. [2] The “high” you get from that chemical rush makes you want to repeat that behavior again and again. [3] Thanks to your reward center, your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chances of survival. [4] It’s a great system…normally.

The problem is, the brain can be tricked.

Researchers have found that internet porn and addictive substances like tobacco have very similar effects on the brain[5] and they are significantly different from how the brain reacts to healthy, natural pleasures like food or sex. [6] Think about it. When you’re munching a snack or enjoying a romantic encounter, eventually your cravings will drop and you’ll feel satisfied. Why? Because your brain has a built-in “off” switch for natural pleasures.

RelatedYour Brain On Porn: Gary Wilson’s Online Guide To The Latest Science & Research

“Dopamine cells stop firing after repeated consumption of a ‘natural reward’ (e.g. food or sex),” explains Nora Volkow, Director of The National Institute of Drug Abuse. [7] But addictive drugs go right on increasing dopamine levels without giving the brain a break. [8] The more hits drug users take, the more dopamine floods their brain, and the stronger their urges are to keep using. That’s why drug addicts find it so hard to stop once they take the first hit. “[O]ne hit may turn into many hits, or even a lost weekend.” [9]

What else has the power to keep pumping dopamine endlessly into the brain? You guessed it: porn.

A “bonding” experience

Research shows that pornography consumption is linked to less stability in relationships, [10] increased risk of infidelity, [11] and greater likelihood of divorce. [12]

While this applies to men and women, studies have found that men who are exposed to porn find their partner less sexually attractive and rate themselves as less in love with their partner. [13] A recent study tracked couples over a six year period, from 2006 to 2012, to see what factors influenced the quality of their marriage and their satisfaction with their sex lives. The researchers found that of all the factors considered, porn use was the second strongest indicator that a marriage would suffer. [14]

Not only that but the marriages that were harmed the most were those of individuals who viewed porn heavily, once a day or more. [15]

Porn Is Totes Not Cool

Perception is reality

Research has also found that watching pornography affects attitudes and beliefs toward sex, women, and relationships. [16] Porn consumers are more likely to express attitudes supporting violence against women, [17] and studies have shown a strong correlation between men’s porn consumption and their likelihood to victimize women. [18]

In fact, a 2015 peer-reviewed research study that analyzed 22 different studies from 7 different countries concluded that there is “little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes [supporting] sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.” [19] (See How Consuming Porn Can Lead to Violence.)

Porn at a price

Porn is not just harmful for those who view it, but also for those who participate in it. Given that, in one survey done by UCLA, 69% of porn performers say they haven’t used a condom on set in the past 30 days.

Related: Not All Porn Is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers.

Even though no one is ever shown contracting sexually transmitted infections in porn videos, it’s clear that infections are a regular issue in the industry given that they’ve had to temporarily shut down the industry more than once in the last couple years because of performers’ positive HIV tests. The finished product you see on mainstream sites never show the unplanned pregnancies, cervical cancer, intestinal parasites, and skin tearing or bruises that can happen during filming…though we all know it’s happening on the regular in the industry.

Classic PKL

Just because porn videos don’t show these unsexy realities, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. This is the reality of the industry. These are real people who are paying a very real price for this toxic product.

Related: Why The Goal Of The Phrase “Porn Kills Love” Isn’t To Shame

So, is porn healthy?

Not for the consumer, not for their partner, and not for the performer. And we’re here to raise awareness on the facts behind just how harmful it is, and why real love and authentic relationships are worth fighting for. Consider before consuming.

Citations

1] National Institute On Drug Abuse: The Reward Pathway. (2016). Retrieved From Http://Www.Drugabuse.Gov/Publications/Teaching-Packets/Understanding-Drug-Abuse-Addiction/Section-I/4-Reward-Pathway; Volkow, N. D., & Morales, M. (2015). The Brain On Drugs: From Reward To Addiction. Cell, 162 (8), 712-725. Doi:10.1016/J.Cell.2015.07.046; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33 (8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013
[2] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374, 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Zatorre, R. J., & Salimpoor, V. N., (2013) From Perception To Pleasure: Music And Its Neural Substrates. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of The Sciences Of The United States Of America, 110, 2. Doi:10.1073/Pnas.1301228110; Hedges, V. L., Chakravarty, S., Nestler, E. J., & Meisel, R. L. (2009). Delta FosB Overexpression In The Nucleus Accumbens Enhances Sexual Reward In Female Syrian Hamsters. Genes Brain And Behavior, 8(4), 442–449. Doi:10.1111/J.1601-183X.2009.00491.X
[3] Bostwick, J. M., & Bucci, J. E. (2008). Internet Sex Addiction Treated With Naltrexone. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 83(2), 226–230. Doi:10.4065/83.2.226; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books. (106-108).
[4] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059; Berridge, K.C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2015). Pleasure Systems In The Brain. Neuron, 86, 646-664. Doi:10.1016/J.Neuron.2015.02.018; Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, And Our Families. (75) New York: Henry Hold And Co.; Hyman, S. E. (2005). Addiction: A Disease Of Learning And Memory. American Journal Of Psychiatry, 162(8), 1414-1422. Doi:10.1176/Appi.Ajp.162.8.1414
[5] Voon, V., Et Al. (2014). Neural Correlates Of Sexual Cue Reactivity In Individuals With And Without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), E102419. Doi:10.1371/Journal.Pone.0102419; Pitchers, K. K., Et Al. (2013). Natural And Drug Rewards Act On Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms With DeltaFosB As A Key Mediator. Journal Of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4881-12.2013
[6] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review With Clinical Reports. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017
[7] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374: 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480
[8] Volkow, N. D., Koob, G. F., & McLellan, A. T. (2016). Neurobiological Advances From The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction. New England Journal Of Medicine, 374: 363-371. Doi:10.1056/NEJMra1511480; Volkow, N. D., & Morales, M. (2015). The Brain On Drugs: From Reward To Addiction. Cell, 162 (8), 712-725. Doi:10.1016/J.Cell.2015.07.046; Yanofski, J. (2011). The Dopamine Dilemma—Part II. Innovations In Clinical Neuroscience, 8(1), 47-53. Retrieved From Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Pmc/Articles/PMC3036556/
[9] Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, Wanting, And The Incentive-Sensitization Theory Of Addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670-679. Doi:10.1037/Amp0000059
[10] Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects Of Cybersex Addiction On The Family: Results Of A Survey. Sexual Addiction And Compulsivity, 7, 31-58. Doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[11] Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence Of Unrestrained Access To Erotica On Adolescents’ And Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal Of Adolescent Health, 27(2), 41–44. Doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00137-3
[12] Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects Of Cybersex Addiction On The Family: Results Of A Survey. Sexual Addiction And Compulsivity, 7, 31-58. Doi:10.1080/10720160008400206
[13] Bridges, A. J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect On Interpersonal Relationships. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Kendrick, D., Gutierres, S., & Goldberg, L. (1989). Influence Of Popular Erotica On Judgments Of Strangers And Mates. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 159-167. Doi:10.1016/0022-1031(89)90010-3
[14] Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y (Porn Consumption Was The Second Most Predictive Factor. The Most Predictive Factor Was The “Lagged-Dependant Variable” Which Is A Statistics Term We Probably Couldn’t Explain Even If We Wanted To.)
[15] Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y
[16] Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., Kleiner, S., & Irizarry, Y. (2010). Pornography, Normalization And Empowerment. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 39 (6) 1389-1401. Doi:10.1007/S10508-009-9592-5; Doring, N. M. (2009). The Internet’s Impact On Sexuality: A Critical Review Of 15 Years Of Research. Computers In Human Behavior, 25(5), 1089-1101. Doi:10.1016/J.Chb.2009.04.003
[17] Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., & Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography And Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting The Relationship In Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression And Behavior 36, 1: 14–20. Doi: 10.1002/Ab.20328; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., And Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development 45(2):119–131.
[18] DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings Of Adult Pornography And Woman Abuse: New Progressive Directions In Research And Theory. International Journal For Crime, Justice And Social Democracy, 4(4), 4-21. Doi:10.5204/Ijcjsd.V4i4.184; Simmons, C. A., Lehmann, P., & Collier-Tenison, S. (2008). Linking Male Use Of The Sex Industry To Controlling Behaviors In Violent Relationships: An Exploratory Analysis. Violence Against Women, 14(4), 406-417. Doi:10.1177/1077801208315066; Shope, J. H. (2004), When Words Are Not Enough: The Search For The Effect Of Pornography On Abused Women. Violence Against Women, 10(1), 56-72. Doi: 10.1177/1077801203256003
[19] Wright, P., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2015). A Meta-Analysis Of Pornography Consumption And Actual Acts Of Sexual Aggression In General Population Studies. Journal Of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. Doi:10.1111/Jcom.12201

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