For a lot of people who say porn is healthy and harmless, they tend to celebrate porn as something that allows consumers to safely “explore their sexuality” or simply be “open-minded.”

What many people don’t understand is that porn can not only harm a person’s ability to maintain a healthy sexual relationship, but that pornography can become highly addictive and literally rewires the brain. By continually consuming more and more extreme content in porn, consumers can actually start to condition their own sexual preferences and sexual template—or, in other words, what they find sexy and are aroused by—to look more like porn and less like their own natural desires.

Let us explain by dropping some knowledge from a guy that knows a lot about the brain and how porn can impact it.

doidge

Dr. Norman Doidge is a world-renowned psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and researcher. He works at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry and is also on the Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York. This guy knows his stuff. Along with being the author of two New York Times Bestsellers, Dr. Doidge has done extensive research on the effects porn has on the brain.

The following quote from Dr. Doidge’s best selling book, The Brain That Changes Itself, is one that illustrates perfectly how porn affects the brain:

“Sexual tastes are molded by an individual’s experiences and their culture. These tastes are acquired and then wired into the brain. We are unable to distinguish our ‘second nature’ from our ‘original nature’ because our neuroplastic brains, once rewired, develop a new nature every bit as biological as our original.”

So what exactly does that mean?

It means that as human beings, we have neuroplastic brains, meaning our brains are malleable, changeable, and can be conditioned. Porn just so happens to be the perfect recipe to condition our brains for many reasons—porn is visual, it is stimulating, and it releases the natural chemicals in our brain that build pathways to return back to it.

Dr. Donald Hilton, who is another world-renowned brain expert and researcher on the harmful effects of porn on the brain, said the following in his published study titled, Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity:

“Pornography is the perfect laboratory for this kind of novel learning fused with a powerful pleasure incentive drive. The focused searching and clicking, looking for the perfect masturbatory subject, is an exercise in neuroplastic learning.”

Basically, porn can be highly addicting and highly exciting to our brains. For this very reason, porn poses a serious threat to how our brains function normally in terms of our sexuality. If the porn that’s consumed is the stuff that contains violence, rape, humiliation, or any of the other infinite categories of extreme mainstream porn out there, these things actually start to become what the consumer thinks is most aroused by. Yikes.

So now knowing all the science behind our changeable brains, let’s go back to the original question: Can porn impact your sexual tastes?

The short answer?

Of course.

“Nothing my husband does arouses me.”

We recently got an email from one girl who was addicted to porn since the age of 12. Now married, she shared with us how her years of porn use still deeply affects her ability to have a good sex life with her loving husband and how she still deals with the effects of years of watching degrading and humiliating porn:

“I know men have issues with erectile dysfunction because of porn; they can’t get an erection because porn has distorted their ability to become aroused. Well, turns out it’s the same for women.

Nothing my husband can do, is willing to do, can arouse me. And it’s not like he’s only willing to try a handful of mundane things. He is not, however, willing to mistreat me, call me names, degrade me, or use bondage of any sort—things that we feel have no business in the bed of equal partners, man and wife. But it’s these things to which I tied my arousal during my addiction. I don’t want any of these things in our bedroom but without them… no go.

Yes, a woman’s inability to become aroused doesn’t prevent sex from happening like a man’s inability, but my lack of arousal means an experience which should be beautiful and pleasurable is miserable and incredibly painful. I still have a sexual appetite. I’m still sexually attracted to my husband. But I’m not sexually aroused and it’s not because he’s some ugly potato, it’s because of the lingering effects of my addiction. I deny him something that is an important part of our marriage, and my own sexual appetite is perpetually frustrated, I’m continuously unsatisfied, because of my own stupid actions years ago.”

Sexual conditioning with porn

See, if a porn consumer is frequently viewing porn that is violent, includes extreme fetishes, degrading, or humiliating, they are literally conditioning their plastic brain to be aroused by that type of behavior; even if it is showing things that they originally thought to be disgusting or unacceptable.

And because porn is an escalating addiction, many of those who watch it inevitably end up consuming more extreme content just because they need to watch more hardcore stuff to get the same rush they got in the beginning. In an effort to get that dopamine rush in the brain that they have conditioned themselves to crave, this is when consumers often start going to the deep, dark corners of the internet; it’s the only stuff that is extreme enough. Imagine the alarm when someone who watches porn first sees these types of extreme images and videos, and then begin to specifically search it out even though they feel that it is unacceptable.

As time passes, the consumer’s sexual arousal template starts to change and they begin to associate sexual pleasure with these more extreme sexual tastes.

There is hope for healing

If we believe the research that science is telling us about our neuroplastic brains and how they can be conditioned through experiences, we can see that the brain can be conditioned and trained into wanting something that the consumer didn’t want before. The good news is, neuroplasticity works both ways. If porn pathways aren’t reinforced, they’ll eventually disappear, so the same brain mechanisms that lay down pathways for porn can replace them with something else.

If the time has come for you or someone you love to begin that healing process, learn more about how to get help.

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