Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD

Opinion

Porn: the ‘harmless fantasy’ that’s wreaking havoc in a whole generation of men

Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD

April 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Porn has been sold to us as harmless fantasy, incapable of causing any conceivable harm to men or women.  In fact, some sexologists tell us it is a panacea that cures all sexual ills.  Wrong.  Modern porn, particularly as presented on the Internet, qualifies as a ‘supranormal stimulus’, a term Nobel winning behavioral biologist Nicolas Tinbergen described decades ago.  He found that birds, when presented with plaster eggs that were larger and painted brighter than normal eggs, would try to roost the artificial eggs. They ignored their real eggs.  When he constructed artificial female butterflies with more attractive wings than normal females, the male butterflies would ignore the real females and try to mate with the fake ones. 

Sound familiar?  Men and women are trying to mate with computers more than ever before, and as 3-D and 4-D technology becomes more realistic, this will likely only accelerate.  Goggle systems like Oculus Rex, combined with haptic technology and ectoskeleton body suits, will continue to, as Naomi Wolfe said, make real naked women look like ‘bad porn.’ A Business Wire article about RealTouch, a haptic porn system, asked “Will a New Gadget for Men Make Women Obsolete?”

Porn is a powerful learning medium, with a strong dopamine reward kick.  A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2014 showed that the more porn consumed per week, the greater the shrinkage in brain areas associated with reward.  Another study in PLOS ONE in 2014 out of Cambridge University reported that 60% of subjects addicted to porn had erectile dysfunction with real partners, but no problem when masturbating to porn.

Sound like the butterflies? 

None of this is surprising to neurobiologists, but some sexologists, desperate to vet porn as harmless fantasy, author papers remarkable for the convoluted calisthenics they go through to preserve this illusion.  An example is the paper described in the Newsweek article “Is Porn Ruining Men’s Sex Lives?” (Brown, 4/4/15).  The paper by Nicole Prause and James Pfaus purports to prove that porn can’t cause erectile dysfunction.  It is patched together from four different studies, none of which actually addressed erectile dysfunction!  As Linda Hatch PhD points out, this paper lacks any real substance yet offers unwarranted, sensational conclusions. 

Prause and Pfaus cobble together various populations, which appear to be carefully chosen to avoid acknowledging what prominent urologists say is a growing problem in a subpopulation of young men. A response has also been published on a site called RebootNation.org, where thousands of young men describe their experience with porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

Prause and Pfaus have entirely missed this subpopulation, which is astonishing given that a number of studies in the past couple of years reveal alarming ED rates of ~30% in young men (and teens)! Compare that with a 5% ED rate in a cross-sectional study of 18-59-year old men, done just prior to the advent of the Internet.

In his book “The New Naked,” Cornell urologist Harry Fisch warns, "When I say that porn is killing America's sexual behavior, I am not kidding, nor am I exaggerating. I see the detrimental and grave effects of porn on men and women and their relationships every day in my office, and I hear about it every time I go on the radio.  I'm particularly blunt about this topic because I believe porn is ...harming every aspect of sexual health. … A man who masturbates frequently [to porn] can become unable to have sex.” Harvard urologist Abraham Morgentaler said, “It’s hard to know exactly how many young men are suffering from porn-induced ED, but it’s clear that this is a new phenomenon, and it’s not rare.”  

Click "like" if you say NO to porn!

It is also troubling that in addition to being blind to the woes of young men, Prause and Pfaus seem uninterested in the exploitation of the people used to make porn.  Ana Bridges and her coauthors recently found that of the top 250 renting and selling porn movies almost 90% show aggression towards women.  No wonder porn performer Jenna Jameson, when asked what she would do if her daughter wanted to go into porn, said “I'd tie her in the closet… It's not something that any parent would choose for their child.”

Today, if Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, he would still use a meat industry to illustrate exploitation, but the setting would be Los Angeles instead of Chicago.  And if Tinbergen were alive, he wouldn’t even need to prepare the eggs or the fake butterflies.  He could use human beings.  We are more than brainstems.  We aren’t just a collection of dopaminergic neurons designed to fire until we stop. We have a highly evolved neocortex, a telencephalon.  We can think and feel.  We can love.  We want to attach, to belong, and the robot will never suffice.  As Cicero said, “If emotion be eliminated, what difference is there, I say not between a man and a brute, but between a man and a rock, or the trunk of a tree, or any inanimate object?”  Or a screen or robot?

We can do better, and with solid research I think we will.  I believe the neocortex will win and human emotion, love, and connection will triumph.  Hopefully we will get there sooner rather than later.

Dr. Hilton is a neurosurgeon who speaks and writes on neural mechanisms of addiction.  He is on the board of directors of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Finished reading? Want to make an impact?

Your donation today helps bring the truth to MILLIONS.


Share this article