Though uneasy for many, this topic completely relates to the concepts of this blog. Discussing pornography places me in a wild ocean filled with social conventions, religious morality, and other crashing waves but I would like to swim out of the water and commentate from the shore on this entity solely from the perspective of dopamine and many of the neuro-physical responses it induces.
Yes, we are talking about the industry that has recently placed a billboard in Times Square that advertises the most illustrious name in pornography: Pornhub.com:
Although young sexually-charged men and women have existed since the beginning of our human race, the slew of commonplace technological devices have not. In the earlier half of the previous century, the distribution of pornographic content was limited to print mediums. The cliche ‘magazine under the mattress’ demonstrates the relatively low accessibility of explicit content in the pre-digital age. Though with the onset of computers into everyday life, pornography experienced a huge increase in availability, at nothing but the cost of internet service. All of a sudden, the same device that one uses to tackle many of life challenges presents a challenge of its own. The digitization of porn has minimized costs of distribution and skyrocketed both demand and supply. Currently, various estimates exist for the volume of the industry, with figures ranging anywhere between $10 billion to $60 billion worldwide. Despite which number you absorb, it’s still bigger than the value of any of the major league sports. In 2001 only 70,00 adult websites existed though currently, just the US alone hosts over 4.2 million domains.
While pornography may seem harmless as it doesn’t involve others, your brain treats it in a similar way to the way it handles other dopamine-inducing drugs. As a result, our behaviors have changed since porn captures a very shallow and distorted portrayal of one of the most instinctual acts known to humans. Though not nearly as genuine as the real deal, our brain treats it as something that provides a considerable amount of easily-absorbed stimulation. For a non-specific period of time, we feel satisfied, as if we had fulfilled our primal needs, and everything from our social inclinations to motivation alters. As discussed many times before, this viscous dopamine cycle not only provides the sensational pleasure associated with porn but also the drive to acquire it. Responses in people have ranged from full fledged addiction to an occasional indulgence but for everyone living in today’s sexualized, media-driven society, the effortless access of porn offers considerable temptations. We trick our brain, via dopamine, in physiologically thinking that we have established a deep, mutually trusting relationship with each person we see on the screen, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Pornography itself has also increased in intensity, and that is analogous to increased tolerance in drug users. To provide a constant or increasing level of pleasure as before (i.e. the same amount of dopamine released) with consistent use, porn has evolved over time to become less and less vanilla and more and more grotesque. Though we feel that we’re detached from these disgusting films, we must remember how pervasive erotic content has become in our society. It sells, it causes addictions, and it has become commonplace.
It’s time we take a straightforward evaluation of just how numb we have become to pornography and the over-sexualization of society, and how none of us are exempt from their poisonous effects.