Cover photo by Skyler King. 5 minute read.

A national survey was published that asked participants what type of images they considered to be “wrong” in porn. Among the 1,188 adults surveyed, 46% of those who consume porn replied that images of “sexual acts that may be forced or painful” are not “wrong.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Almost half of the porn consumers surveyed think pain and abuse in porn is perfectly acceptable. Even further, only 50% of teens and young adults surveyed (ages 13 to 25) think it is unacceptable to view these images of violent porn. [1]

This is just messed up on so many levels.

As human beings, we generally avoid pain, right? That’s our natural instinct. We take an aspirin when our head hurts, we move our hand away from a hot stove, etc. We also naturally make efforts to ensure those we care about do not suffer pain. We may alert a friend if we know the person they’re dating is a cheater, we’d warn visiting friends about dangerous parts of town to stay away from, or caution fellow travelers on a hike of paths to be careful of.

But this natural reflex can be taken over and hijacked by porn.

When Natural Inclinations Are Hijacked

It’s fair to assume that we all have our own and others’ best interest in mind when it comes to avoiding pain. Yet, pornographers have managed to override this natural instinct of human beings by pairing pain (something to be naturally avoided), with sex (something to be naturally desired). This has begun to blur the lines between what appears sexy and what is downright harmful.

Related: Recent Survey Reveals Just How Many People Are OK With Revenge Porn

One has to look no further than any major porn site to see how porn has gotten increasingly violent, exploitive and demeaning. These popular porn categories include terms like “facial abuse,” “teen crying,” and “extreme brutal gang bang”—all categories dedicated to degrading and humiliating those on camera.

How Does This Happen?

It comes down to brain science. When a person watches porn consistently, after a while their brain starts to get used to the arousal, becoming acclimated to the kind of porn they’re consuming. This happens because when a person is aroused by porn, their brain releases a chemical called dopamine that causes them to feel pleasure. [2] The dopamine travels through the brain and leaves behind pathways created by a protein called iFosB. [3] The iFosB pathway makes the consumer desire to repeat the pleasurable activity, in this case, watching porn. [4]

After frequent porn viewing, the brain becomes so flooded with dopamine that it starts to get rid of dopamine receptors to account for the overflow. With fewer receptors, the person cannot feel as much pleasure, and thus porn that used to seem exciting is now boring. [5] [6]

The Cascading Effect

To feel the same level of arousal as they did in the beginning, consumers start watching more porn, more often, and seeking out more hardcore or extreme material. [7] It’s important to know that the brain also releases dopamine when it sees something strange, new, or shocking. [8] Many consumers find themselves looking for harder and harder images just to get that same pleasurable feeling they originally felt with softer porn. [9]

Related: Survey Finds High Percent Of Men In Parts Of India Watch Rape-Themed Porn

In addition, many consumers build up such a tolerance to arousing material that they have to combine it with the feeling of aggressive release. [10] This is why hardcore porn so frequently depicts people being harmed, especially women. [11] The combination of sex and violence is a highly potent visual stimulant that creates a rush in the brain.

Porn Is Not Okay

These effects on the brain are what cause so many porn consumers to think that pain in porn is acceptable, or sexy—their brains have been changed by the porn itself to find pain, humiliation, and degradation arousing to watch. The pornography industry is well aware of these facts, too. This is why they are constantly making more porn, stranger porn, and harder porn, to keep up the demand with consumers who want more extreme content. They understand porn’s addictive potential and use it to their advantage.

This has had a massive negative effect on our generation’s warped perception of sex, and we’ve seen it firsthand. We get thousands of messages from teens all over the world who are struggling with porn, like recently we received a message that shows how violence in porn can condition the brain to crave sexual violence in reality. Check out this Facebook message we received from a 17-year-old male:

screeenshot

This is a real message from a real person, dealing with these feelings. We directed this male to resources that can help him, but we know he is not the only one with these urges. As you can see, porn has many people thinking that causing another human being pain is sexy. This disturbing desire is being cultivated by the porn industry and sold as sexual fantasy. What does society have to gain by buying into this toxic lie?

The Instinct To Love Is At Risk

It is also changing another human instinct—the instinct to love. As humans, we naturally all want love, and we all want to give love. Porn tricks people into thinking that sex is about getting—or even taking—what they want, even if it causes another person pain.

We can’t accept this stuff as the new normal in our society. By being educated on what violent porn is doing to the brains of the consumers, it is clear that we have to take a stand.

What YOU Can Do

SHARE this article and spread the word on the harms of pornography. Let people know that porn is changing fast, but science has caught up with the truth. By being educated, we can spark a much-needed change.

Spark Conversations

This movement is all about changing the conversation about pornography and stopping the demand for sexual exploitation. When you rep a tee, you can spark meaningful conversation on porn’s harms and inspire lasting change in individuals’ lives, and our world. Are you in? Check out all our styles in our online store, or click below to shop:

 

Citations

[1] The Porn Phenomenon. The Barna Group, 2016.
[2] Hedges, V. L., Chakravarty, S., Nestler, E. J., and Meisel, R. L. (2009). DeltaFosB Overexpression in the Nucleus Accumbens Enhances Sexual Reward in Female Syrian Hamsters. Genes Brain and Behavior 8, 4: 442–449; Bostwick, J. M. and Bucci, J. E. (2008). Internet Sex Addiction Treated with Naltrexone. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 83, 2: 226–230; Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 108; Mick, T. M. and Hollander, E. (2006). Impulsive-Compulsive Sexual Behavior. CNS Spectrums, 11(12):944-955; Nestler, E. J. (2005). Is There a Common Molecular Pathway for Addiction? Nature Neuroscience 9, 11: 1445–1449; Leshner, A. (1997). Addiction Is a Brain Disease and It Matters. Science 278: 45–7.
[3] Nestler, E. J. (2003). Brain Plasticity and Drug Addiction. Presentation at Reprogramming the Human Brain Conference, Center for Brain Health, University of Texas at Dallas, April 11.
[4] Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography Addiction—A Supranormal Stimulus Considered in the Context of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 3:20767.
[5] Hilton, D. L., and Watts, C. (2011). Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective. Surgical Neurology International, 2: 19; (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/) Angres, D. H. and Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, and Recovery. Disease-a-Month 54: 696–721; Mick, T. M. and Hollander, E. (2006). Impulsive-Compulsive Sexual Behavior. CNS Spectrums, 11(12):944-955; Nestler, E. J. (2005). Is There a Common Molecular Pathway for Addiction? Nature Neuroscience 9, 11: 1445–1449.
[6] Angres, D. H. and Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, and Recovery. Disease-a-Month 54: 696–721; 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.
[7] Angres, D. H. and Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, and Recovery. Disease-a-Month 54: 696–721; 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.
[8] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 75; Caro, M. (2004). The New Skin Trade. Chicago Tribune, September 19; Brosius, H. B., et al. (1993). Exploring the Social and Sexual “Reality” of Contemporary Pornography. Journal of Sex Research 30, 2: 161–70.
[9] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Cline, V. B. (2001). Pornography’s Effect on Adults and Children. New York: Morality in Media; 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; NoFap Survey http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/comments/updy4/rnofap_survey_data_complete_datasets/
[10] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 112.
[11] Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. New York: Penguin Books, 112.

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