Monthly Archives: January 2012

Your Brain on porn part 5

Pornography as Flamethrower

Unwin also described what may be called “dopaminergic distraction,” where pleasure-seeking dominates and productivity is diminished. Will Durant, in The Lessons of History, wrote that “sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”

If “sex is a river of fire,” dopamine and other brain drugs are the fuel. Like the astronauts of Apollo 11, we can ride this energy to the heavens, or be consumed in its exhaust, depending on whether we are above the engines in the command module or underneath them, thus exposed to the heat. Dr. Henry A. Bowman said, “No really intelligent person will burn a cathedral to fry an egg, even to satisfy a ravenous appetite,” yet the flamethrower of pornography is torching many cathedrals of marital, parental, and familial love today.

I applaud ongoing efforts to strengthen laws, but in our current legal and social environment, we cannot depend upon the government for restraint. We must face the reality that pornography will affect virtually every family in some way. Dr. Jason Carroll and his colleagues published a widely cited paper in the Journal of Adolescent Research that brings to light the scope of this problem. According to this paper, which reviewed data from five universities, 87 percent of college males and 31 percent of females view pornography. This data crosses all religious, educational, and social barriers.

Pornography has become the sex education venue for the majority of the next generation, an internet candy store, and it teaches that sex is physically and emotionally harmless, with no negative consequences. Men and women are mere visual drugs to be used and discarded, and sex is solely for personal pleasure. The truth, of course, it that those who actually perform sexually to make the pornography are consumed and discarded by pornographers; they are “throwaway people,” as Dr. C. Everett Koop called them.

Help for Healing

Dr. John Mark Chaney’s description of teenage pornography addiction is equally true for adults:

Professionals sometimes fail to understand the power of the compulsion youth are facing, and it is not uncommon for school, religious, or private-sector professionals to advocate a simple treatment plan that is based upon willpower or moral character. Since pornography can be an addiction, these “just say no” types of approaches are likely to only create more frustration and self-defeating ideation . . . the intervention and treatment modality must recognize the problem as a full addiction, and treat it with the same consideration given to alcohol or chemical substances.

Regarding healing, Dr Victor Cline says,

I have found that there are four major factors that most predict success in recovery. First, the individual must be personally motivated to be free of his addiction and possess a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve success. . . . You can never force a person to get well if he doesn’t want to. . . . Second, it is necessary to create a safe environment, which drastically reduces access to porn and other sexual triggers. . . . Third, he should affiliate with a twelve-step support group. . . . Fourth, the individual needs to select a counselor/therapist who has had special training and success in treating sexual addictions.

Let us reach out with understanding to those already trapped, who live in shame and secrecy. Shaming them will not heal them. As Jeffery R. Holland said when he was president of Brigham Young University, “When a battered, weary swimmer tries valiantly to get back to shore, after having fought strong winds and rough waves which he should never have challenged in the first place, those of us who might have had better judgment, or perhaps just better luck, ought not to row out to his side, beat him with our oars, and shove his head back underwater.”

Secular philosophy will not heal them either, and the government can’t save them. Step 2 of the Twelve-Step program for sex addicts says that those healed “came to believe that a Power greater than [themselves] could restore [them] to sanity.” Interestingly, peer-reviewed studies support the success of Twelve-Step programs, which are based on the aid of a Higher Power.

Indeed, Unwin’s research, conducted from a secular perspective, demonstrated that all advanced societies studied, when at their cultural and productive apices, built temples to whatever gods they worshiped. It was in this subjugation of the secular to the sacred, of the limbic to the lobe, that they peaked in their self-control and, therefore, in their self-determination. Will Durant, who described himself as agnostic, also found that “there is no moral substitute” for religion in providing this tempering of the limbic.

The Battle Is Joined

Pornography is a drug that produces an addictive neurochemical trap, “past reason hunted, and no sooner had, past reason hated,” as Shakespeare put it in Sonnet 129. And yes, as we have seen, ice cream and sexuality can be akin to crack cocaine.

While we must continue to fight the good fight legally and societally, we are way beyond avoidance as our only defense. Pornography wants you, it wants your husband or wife, it wants your son and daughter, your grandchildren, and your in-laws. It doesn’t share well, and it doesn’t leave easily. It is a cruel master, and seeks more slaves.

Abraham Lincoln, when he faced a similar war over freedom, said, “If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage.” All hands on deck. The battle is on for sanity and serenity, for peace and prosperity, for today, and for all our tomorrows.

That concludes the article. Again the original can be found at


Your Brain on Porn Part 4

Dehumanized Sexuality

In addition to cortical hypofrontality and downgrading of the mesolimbic dopaminergic systems, a third element appears to be important in pornography and sexual addiction. Oxytocin and vasopressin are important hormones in the brain with regard to physically performing sexually. Studies show that oxytocin is also important in increasing trust in humans, in emotional bonding between sexual mates, and in parental bonding. We are wired to bond to the object of our sexuality.

It is a good thing when this bonding occurs in a committed marriage relationship, but there is a dark side. When sexual gratification occurs in the context of pornography use, it can result in the formation of a virtual mistress of sorts. Dr. Victor Cline, in his essay, “Pornography’s Effects on Adult and Child,” describes this process as follows:

In my experience as a sexual therapist, any individual who regularly masturbates to pornography is at risk of becoming, in time, a sexual addict, as well as conditioning himself into having a sexual deviancy and/or disturbing a bonded relationship with a spouse or girlfriend.A frequent side effect is that it also dramatically reduces their capacity to love (e.g., it results in a marked dissociation of sex from friendship, affection, caring, and other normal healthy emotions and traits which help marital relationships). Their sexual side becomes in a sense dehumanized. Many of them develop an “alien ego state” (or dark side), whose core is antisocial lust devoid of most values.

In time, the “high” obtained from masturbating to pornography becomes more important than real life relationships. . . .

The process of masturbatory conditioning is inexorable and does not spontaneously remiss. The course of this illness may be slow and is nearly always hidden from view. It is usually a secret part of the man’s life, and like a cancer, it keeps growing and spreading. It rarely ever reverses itself, and it is also very difficult to treat and heal. Denial on the part of the male addict and refusal to confront the problem are typical and predictable, and this almost always leads to marital or couple disharmony, sometimes divorce and sometimes the breaking up of other intimate relationships.

Dr. Doidge notes,”Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and a release from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is addiction, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it.” In the book Pornified, Pamela Paul gives numerous examples of this, and describes one person who decided to limit his pornography use, not from a moralist or guilt-based perspective, but out of a desire to again experience pleasure in actual physical relationships with women.

“Porn impotence,” where the man experiences sexuality preferentially with porn instead of a woman, is a real and growing phenomenon. When a man’s sex drive has been diverted away from his spouse in this way, writes Dr. Cline, the wife can “easily sense this, and often [feels] very lonely and rejected.”

An article in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy described a study showing that many women view the pornographic activities of their partners “as a form of infidelity”:

The theme that runs through their letters is that the man has taken the most intimate aspect of the relationship, sexuality, which is supposed to express the bond of love between the couple and be confined exclusively to the relationship, and shared it with countless fantasy women. The vast majority of women in this study used words such as “betrayal,” “cheating,” and “affair “ to describe the significance that their partner’s involvement in pornography had for them.

A Triple Hook

Let me use a fishing analogy to illustrate some of these concepts. Every August, if possible, I try to be on the Unalakleet River in Alaska fishing for silver salmon. We use a particular lure, a triple hook called the Blue Fox pixie. As fisherman know, it is important to keep the drag loose just after hooking the fish, when it still has a lot of fight. As the fish tires, though, we tighten the drag and increase the resistance. In this way the fish is reeled into the boat and netted.

Similarly, pornography is a triple hook, consisting of cortical hypofrontality, dopaminergic downgrading, and oxytocin/vasopressin bonding. Each of these hooks is powerful, and they are synergistic. Pornography sets its hooks very quickly and deeply, and as the addiction progresses, it progressively tightens the dopamine drag until there is no more play in the line. The person is drawn ever closer to the boat, and the waiting net.

Demographic Disaster

Why is it essential to understand the addictive nature of pornography? Because if we view it as merely a bad habit, and do not afford those seeking healing the full support needed to overcome any true addiction, we will continue to be disappointed, as individuals and as a society. Pornography is the fabric used to weave a tapestry of sexual permissiveness that undermines the very foundation of society. Biologically, it destroys the ability of a population to sustain itself. It is a demographic disaster.

The author Tom Wolfe said, “The bigger pornography gets, the lower the birthrate becomes.” Does he have a point? In the 1950s every country now in the European Union had a fertility rate above the 2.1 needed to sustain a population. Now none of them do, and several are at or near the 1.3 rate called the “lowest low fertility,” from which it is virtually impossible to recover. It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that this decline began, which corresponds precisely with the dawning of the sexual revolution. There is a direct correlation between the growing cultural dominance of the sexual revolution and the diminishing birthrate, and while causation may not be proven, it is strongly supported by the pheromone effect of pornography.

Demographic decline is, of course, multi-factorial. Urbanization, women in the workplace, gender role adaptation, and even increased life expectancy are important factors in the inverted population pyramids. But the primordial, or biological factors of human sexuality and family stability are primary and, in my opinion, haven’t been appropriately weighted.

In 1934 Cambridge anthropologist Dr. J. D. Unwin published Sex and Culture. In it he examined 86 cultures spanning 5,000 years with regard to the effects of both sexual restraint and sexual abandon. His perspective was strictly secular, and his findings were not based in moralistic dogma. He found, without exception, that cultures that practiced strict monogamy in marital bonds exhibited what he called creative social energy, and reached the zenith of production. Cultures that had no restraint on sexuality, without exception, deteriorated into mediocrity and chaos. In Houposia, The Sexual and Economic Foundations of a New Society, published posthumously, he summarized:

In human records, there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. . . . The evidence is that in the past a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy and that at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. . . .

I know of no exceptions to these rules.

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