This is Your Brain on Porn

This is Your Brain on Porn  – 5-part series

“…For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.” – Naomi Wolf

brain-porn

In his book Wired For Intimacy, neuroscientist William Struthers explains what pornography does to our brains. There are a lot of details about hormones and neurotransmitters, but to put it simply, pornography exploits our brains like an addictive drug.

What makes pornography so addictive is that it takes advantage of the brain’s pleasure and reward circuits. These are the parts of the brain that get used for the enjoyment of good things like food, drink, and (real) sex. Just like a drug, pornography overloads these circuits and creates desire, dependence, and desensitization.

For instance, when someone looks at porn, and especially when they masturbate to it, there is a combined release of many important hormones and neurotransmitters. Some especially powerful ones that Struthers mentions are dopamine (which creates focus, and desire), norepinephrine (which helps form memories), serotonin (which helps modulate your mood), and various endorphins (which create a feeling of euphoria). These chemicals combine to create a very strong experience, carving the memory of it deep into the very stuff of thought. Oxytocin and vasopressin, chemicals that help create bonding and attachment, are released especially strongly at orgasm.

Unfortunately, instead of bonding us to the partner whom we love and cherish (which is what would happen in real sex), these chemicals bond us to the viewed representations of sex. These pornographic representations are most often degrading, cheap, and unrealistic. As more and more porn is consumed, the brain and body become more and more desensitized. The hunger for greater stimulation grows, while more and more extreme situations are needed to get that same rush — the classic addict’s trap.

Struthers also mentions what he calls “mirror neurons.” These are part of a brain system that mentally mirrors the actions we see, and helps us to imagine ourselves in that same situation. When we see someone do something, it’s like our mirror neurons say “I can do that!” and then act out (in the brain) how they would do it.

When it comes to porn, this is especially insidious. Since porn is, for many, their most accessible window to sex and sexual pleasure, these mirror neurons ensure that porn becomes vicarious sex ed. When it comes time to actually have real life sex, our mirror neurons expect an over-the-top, degrading, and often violent and aggressive sexual experience.

When real sex fails to deliver, confusion and disappointment ensue, driving the viewer back to their old habit, in a vicious cycle.

Repeated porn use acts like a river flowing through a valley, carving deep channels that redirect nearby water through its banks. Since every interaction in porn is sexual, all our interactions with the opposite sex get funnelled into this same rut, and soon it is difficult to have any normal interactions that are not sexually charged. Sexual thoughts and fantasies hover constantly at the edges of thought, at the periphery of almost every conversation.

Continue reading here – Source http://convergemagazine.com/this-is-your-brain-on-porn-16203/

1st in series History of Porn: http://convergemagazine.com/the-history-of-porn-16078/

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