iKeepSafe Blog

The Porn Identity


If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want your child’s brain rewired, you probably want to teach them to stay away from internet pornography.

Earlier this summer, a psychology blog entitled Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow published a report highlighting recent scientific research on the physiological impacts of internet porn. The study details some of the phenomena that occur in the brains of both male and female consumers of online erotica. The compelling results generally show that continued porn use fundamentally alters neural function.

According to the research, internet porn constitutes a form of supernormal stimulation—the type of stimulus that releases an inordinate amount of neurochemicals into the brain’s reward circuitry. Because these types of stimuli would have been absent from the lives of primitive human ancestors, the brain’s evolutionary structure does not anticipate them. Consequently, when a person encounters a supernormal stimulation and experiences the enormous rush of dopamine it induces, the person’s brain immediately classifies the behavior that created the stimulation as an extremely high value activity. Not only does this make that particular behavior tremendously addictive, it lowers the perceived benefit and desirability of normal stimulation.

As a result, porn users commonly experience a significantly decreased satisfaction in normal sexual relations. That is, continued exposure to porn actually creates a substantial alteration in the user’s brain such that normal stimulation loses its appeal to at least some degree.

To demonstrate just how powerful supernormal stimulation can be, researchers working with butterflies constructed synthetic female butterflies with exaggerated sex signals (features that male butterflies use to assess mate desirability). The article notes, “a male silver washed fritillary butterfly was more sexually aroused by a butterfly-sized rotating cylinder with horizontal brown stripes than . . . by a real, live female of its own kind.”

The study identified several other negative psychological effects associated with internet porn use. But the common theme is that porn often acts as a drug in physically changing the neural circuitry of human brains.

Additionally, experts like Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health assert that pornography commodifies sex. Here are his thoughts on the matter:

In a nutshell, even with difficult topics like pornography, it’s important to:
1. Keep current with the technology your child uses.
2. Keep communicating about everything your child does with technology.
3. Keep checking.

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Emily Ensign is a regular blogger for the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, an organization that gives parents, educators, and policymakers the information and tools that empower them to teach children the safe and healthy use of technology and the Internet.

Categories: Educational Issues, Physical Health, Videos

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