Should we treat pornography like an epidemic? A growing body of evidence suggests that’s what it is.

A very long and detailed article titled “A Science-Based Case for Ending the Porn Epidemic” examines what pornography has done to our society, particularly since the rise of the Internet.  It makes a strong case that pornography is a public health crisis, not just an issue of morality.

I’ve included a few brief excerpts from the article here, but it’s far longer and more detailed than I can summarize in a blog article such as this.  I urge you to click through and read the whole thing for yourself.  I’m sure some of my readers will disagree with its conclusions;  but for myself, having seen the effects of pornography on individuals in a prison environment and elsewhere, I find it convincing.

A scientific consensus is emerging that today’s porn is truly a public health menace: its new incarnation combines with some evolutionarily-designed features of our brain to make it uniquely addictive, on par with any drug you might name—and uniquely destructive. The evidence is in: porn is as addictive as smoking, or more, except that what smoking does to your lungs, porn does to your brain.

The damage is real, and it’s profound. The scientific evidence has mounted: certain evolutionarily-designed features of our neurobiology not only mean that today’s porn is profoundly addictive, but that this addiction—which, at this point, must include the majority of all males—has been rewiring our brains in ways that have had a profoundly damaging impact on our sexuality, our relationships, and our mental health.

Furthermore, I believe that it is also having a far-reaching impact on our social fabric as a whole—while it is impossible to demonstrate any cause-and-effect relationship scientifically beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to broad social trends, I believe the evidence is still compelling or, at least, highly suggestive.

Indeed, it is so compelling that I now believe that online porn addiction is the number one public health challenge facing the West today.

. . .

Porn is a sexual stimulus, but it is not sex. Notoriously, heroin addicts eventually lose interest in sex: this is because their brains are rewired so that their sex reward system is reprogrammed to seek out heroin rather than sex. In the same way, as we consume more and more porn, which we must since it is addictive and we need more to get the same kick, our brain is rewired so that what triggers the reward system that is supposed to be linked to sex is no longer linked to sex—to a human in the flesh, to touching, to kissing, to caressing—but to porn.

Which is why we are witnessing a phenomenon which, as best as anyone can tell, is totally unprecedented in all of human history: an epidemic of chronic erectile dysfunction (ED) among men under 40. The evidence is earth-shattering: since the Kinsey report in the 1940s, studies have found roughly the same, stable rates of chronic ED: less than 1 percent among men younger than 30, less than 3 percent in men aged 30-45.

As of this writing, at least ten studies published since 2010 report a tremendous rise in ED. Rates of ED among men under 40 ranged from 14 percent to 37 percent, and rates of low libido from 16 percent to 37 percent. No variable related to youthful ED has meaningfully changed since then, except for one: the advent of on-demand video porn in 2006. It’s worth repeating: we went from less than 1 percent of erectile dysfunction in young men to 14 to 37 percent, an increase of several orders of magnitude.

. . .

The bottom line is this: given what we know porn does to the brain, and given that we know that the younger the brain the more plastic it is, it is a near certainty that whatever porn addiction does to adults, it’s going to do to minors—except much worse. This is something we must conclude simply from knowing about the basic facts of human neurobiology, even without taking into account any negative psychological effects of exposure of children to hardcore pornography.

There’s much more at the link.  Very worrying reading, but an important contribution, IMHO, to analyzing an important part of what’s wrong with our society.  It goes a long way towards explaining the “hook-up culture“.

Peter

11 comments

  1. I’m sorry, but this latest anti-porn Crusade is drivel. It frankly smells like a distraction from the cascading failures of the Progressive Left. Are there downsides to the widespread availability of porn? Of course. There are downsides to the widespread availability of SALT. Nothing can be done about porn without handing the State the authority to censor, a ‘cure’ that strikes me as many times worse than the disease.

  2. You lost me at “scientific consensus”.

    Question: Is your experiential sample of convicted criminals representative of the normal non-prison population?

    Question: Would you ban anything that has a similar positive dopamine response? Like shooting, running, gin rummy, and playing with puppies?

    Question: When you watch a brain response in an MRI, does that always transfer to a long-term effect? (Hint: this same argument was used to demonize video games for desensitizing violence. Later proven to be a short-term effect.)

  3. A prison environment? That has to be about as an unnatural environment as you can find. IMO a poor example in your case for widespread state control & censorship.

  4. Statistical Rule # 1.:

    1) Correlation does not equal causation.

    This is why, for example, forks do not cause obesity.

    And as for the stats on ED for men under 40:
    Have you seen what women under 40 look like these days?
    Trigglypuff?
    Chanty Binx?
    Blue haired poly-pierced 300-pound lesbians?
    Screaming naked chicks in S. America?

    If *I* was under 40, and had to deal with the dating pool that is modernity, it would be like the movie Groundhog Day: Mini-Me wouldn’t come out for six more weeks, over, and over, and over, and over…

  5. It’s worth repeating: we went from less than 1 percent of erectile dysfunction in young men to 14 to 37 percent, an increase of several orders of magnitude. Uh, no.

    From 1% to 10% would be 1 order of magnitude. A second order would get it to 100%. To get “several orders of magnitude“ they’d need several decimal places under 1. The text doesn’t support that.

  6. Meh. The article is flawed, but IMO no more flawed than other articles that people take at face value.

    Ultimately, I think the article is twice as long as it ought to be, and the conclusions it draws from the evidence presented is shaky. Some of the evidence is suspect (Self-reported surveys are always a red flag) and some is overstated, like the “Orders of magnitude” that Silicon Greybeard noted above.

    But at the heart, it has identified a problem that needs more investigation. More studies need to be done to see if, say, the staggering increase in erectile dysfunction (not orders of magnitude, but staggering nonetheless) is caused by the obesity epidemic rather than the porn epidemic. But I am convinced that porn addiction is an addiction, with all the self-destruction that implies.

  7. I came across people working in social care who were champions of the we know what’s good for people.

    They would quote this sort of research to support their views.

    My experience suggests that the social sciences attract the kind of people who are well intentioned, but ill informed.

  8. I would add that describing porn as addictive is over egging the problem.

    Addiction is more than just a disorder that compels people to repeat behaviours.

  9. It couldn’t possibly be all the estrogen in the water and the food.

    It couldn’t possibly be all the blue haired, angry feminists coming out of the indoctrination camps that are American colleges these days.

    It couldn’t possibly be all the false rape accusations by women who regretted their decisions days or months later.

    It couldn’t possibly be all the primary and secondary effects of the war on men.

    It couldn’t possibly be all the after effects of drugging a third of our boys into insensibility because they don’t want to sit still and be bored in school.

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