With such a large fraction of the internet's "resources" being used up by pornography, this topic of "Internet Pornography" has contemporary relevance that was absent before the "adult content" became so easy for anyone to access for free online. When people had to actually go out and "buy the stuff" in a real store, there was a social pressure and legal restrictions in place that kept more people "in line". Now, almost anyone of any age with an internet connected computing device can instantly access huge quantities of "adult content" intentionally or by accident with search engines.
Lets examine why internet pornography has become a widely discussed and well researched subject.
The author is "The Verge Tech Editor Paul Miller"
My Early History Online
I gained access to the internet at school when I was 12, back in the mid 1990's. For the first 3 years of time that I had access to the internet I mostly looked up extra-curricular material about high energy electric systems, computers, software, guns, and related science stuff that was missing from my primary education. I found the literature I was assigned in school (fictional narratives) boring and inconsequential, and considered the material as "the random ramblings of a lunatic with nothing better to do" and often argued that "non-fiction is the only thing I want to read about because there are plenty of interesting real life things to learn about through reading that have nothing to do with ingesting entertainment" :P I was "Thinking about it" back then too, and found novel reading to be frustratingly boring to no end. The first fictional novel I really enjoyed reading was assigned to me by a very strange professor in college. The only pornography I had seen up until this point was some water logged magazines my former friend Garret had stolen and stored in the forest. He was a delinquent child with intense ADHD and to my knowledge is no longer alive because of dangerous narcotics dealings. In all honesty, I got my thrill looking at images of machines online, specifically extreme powerful Tesla coils and lasers. I also found digital art interesting and the internet was a good venue to access inspiration in this regard as well. I saw digital pornography for the first time when I was a freshman at WSU: there broadband internet allowed for media access that was previously cumbersome over dial-up (my at home connection at the time). Some delinquent agnostic friends I made at WSU introduced me to such content and how to access it.
Avoiding Adult Content Online
I no longer look at anything "adult" online. After a few years of browsing content of that type I began to find viewing it "boring". The more I rediscovered my faith in God the more I found looking at the images less interesting. During one of my past relationships, my ex encouraged me to view porn with her, and while we did that a couple of times, I never felt "right" about it, and this was an issue that among other issues compelled me to break up with her. She is not a bad person, she is just lost, trying to fill emotional voids that formed because she never felt loved or accepted by her father. That is a complex topic on its own that I will not continue writing about because doing so may hurt her feelings and I have no intention of hurting her feelings anymore than I already have. I pray that she finds peace, love and happiness in life, and especially that she finds faith in God through Christ Jesus; Amen.
Later in my college studies I was learning about psychology and came across the topic of pornography in an academic context. I made friends with people in the GLBT community and was pointed to various social science readings about the subject of pornography. After a fairly intensive literature review I came away with the following understandings based on social science, neuroscience and behavioral science research on the subject of pornography.
1. Pornography is harmful to the viewer because masturbating to the images causes the brain to "fire and wire" together the act of looking at the images with sexual arousal and gratification responses. Repeated viewing of and masturbation too pornography creates a chemical physical link in the brain between concepts of looking at the images and the biological histo-chemical and hormonal responses involved with arousal. Repeated use of pornography for masturbation forms a link between arousal and the viewing of pornography that ultimately can cause the viewer to only become aroused if they look at pornography. In this way, the viewer of pornography can cause themselves sexual dysfunction: making it difficult or impossible to become aroused by their real life partner.
2. The brain is plastic and constantly changing. Forgetting is just as important as learning for the adaptive processes that govern cognition, memory, understanding and intelligence. There are great books about how "the brain changes itself" that can explain more about neuroplasticity and there is also a great amount of peer reviewed scientific research about neuroplasticity. Within the context of viewing pornography, doing so can literally change the structure and function of parts of the human brain. Any content we let into our eyes or ears can change the structure and function of our brains. We internalize ideas, images, concepts, understanding, knowledge and entertainment from the world in many different forms: Music, TV, Movies, Books, Conversations, Observations, ect. It is possible to actually "burn out" the brain chemically, and the term "information overload" is used to describe this phenomenon. Many people overload their minds with toxic negative content and unknowingly give themselves mild depression. Viewing pornography is not going to help anyone in any way. It will build structures and functions in your brain that can wire in a bad habit and give rise to sexual impotence and other dysfunctional sexual problems.
3. Visual "expectations" can ruin a relationship. If a man or woman looks at pictures of naked fit people in their early twenties (common in pornography), as that man or woman ages, their real life partner is going to look less and less physically appealing in contrast to photoshopped pornography. The pornography viewer will have created and reinforced unrealistic ideas of what is sexually appealing in their mind. That said I do not think there is anything wrong with people trying to stay fit and healthy though out life, but looking at pornography for healthy fitness encouragement is not a path to a successful healthy lifestyle change.
4. Embracing a healthy, honest, loving relationship in real life is far better in every regard than looking at pornography online. Focus on making God #1 and making love the guiding principle in your thoughts, choices, actions and behaviors. Happily married couples enjoy numerous spiritual, social, emotional, psychological and physical benefits. People in a loving relationship are sick less often; they recover from viral colds and flu's faster, take fewer sick days from work and are more productive overall vs their lonely counterparts. People in a loving marriage live longer and live a higher quality of life while they are alive. Love has this way of healing any physical, emotional, social or psychological problems. Positive ideas are healthy and inspiring. Pornography will not add anything positive to your relationships, your mind or any other aspect of your life.
Pornography Ruining Marriage
As a personal note I will mention that I have a friend in real life that ruined his marriage because of his addiction to online pornography. This guy is an honest, sincere, friendly, kind and loving Christian guy. I feel sorry that his addition ruined his marriage, but through his example I came to really appreciate how toxic pornography can be. Much can said about this topic, but in his example his ex-wife consider his viewing of pornography to be a form of cheating and neglect.
I am not here on Earth to judge or condemn anyone for anything. I would like to go through life from here forward with a good liberal coat of a non-stick anointing. I want to show all other people the Love that God has taught me about through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Many Forms of Cheating
There are a lot of different ways that someone can cheat on or betray their partners trust, and Megan and I infrequently talk about this subject. People can cheat emotionally and socially in addition to physical adultery. It is easy to judge and condemn someone who cheats physically because the tangible/ physical evidence is "real", but the mental, emotion and social cheating is more nuanced and subtle to observe or describe. Be careful with friendships outside of your marriage. Satan is always looking to trick people with temptation. Often a friendship can evolve into something else without much effort on behave of the friends. Megan and I agree that we should avoid spending a lot of one on one time with heterosexual people of the opposite sex, or gay people of the same sex. One on one private time with a person introduce opportunities for impropriety and temptation to occur. We agreed that we should stick to spending time with other couples as a couple. Talking about this has nothing to do with casting judgement against anyone: I only bring it up because there is more than one way to cheat on someone, and cheating with pornography is bad too.
If two adults in a relationship both agree that looking at pornography is ok, then that is between them, but for the majority of people, if one of the two partners is masturbating to pornography, it is not going to do anything positive for their relationship. In essence both parties in a emotional social sexual spiritual relationship need to be honest and communicative with one another to avoid any problems.
We only have a limited amount of time on earth. Do you really want to spend any of your time jacking off to your computer monitor? Does that sound like a good way to spend your limited time? I understand that people become fanatically interesting in all sorts of things: celebrity news, golf, football, vehicle racing, ect ect... people become obsessed with movies, tv programs, books, music, you name it. God designed us to worship something, so if we are not worshiping God, we are probably going to be worshiping something else. It is possible to cheat on and neglect your partner in many different ways. Think about how you are choosing to spend your time. Communicate with your partner and be honest with yourself.
Pornography vs Violence in Media
Think about it carefully and be honest with your partner. Think about whether or not pornography will add any value to your life! I personally think that pornography causes men to become impotent. I think pornography puts strange sick ideas into peoples minds and causes structural and functional changes to their brains and awareness that are not positive. That said, I think the violence in media is probably just as bad as the pornography is terms of its negative effects on people. Society clearly holds a double standard here: violence on TV and in media is ok, but nude images are bad. The truth is that all toxic ideas are unhealthy. The double standard for violence and sex in media does not make sense and cannot be rationally justified.
Our cultural norms that condemn sexual imagery and promote violent imagery is an example of hypocritical irrational inconsistency. I am not pointing my finger at anyone, but if someone is going to object to sexual scenes in media while they enjoy the violent scenes, I think something is seriously off and it is time for some personal reflection. I came to appreciate this strange double standards when I visited France as a teenager. In France sexual imagery in public advertisements is very much like the images posted on the front of a Victoria Secret store. When I asked some French people why they think that kind of imagery is OK to be hung in public they asked me "So why do you think that violence in media is ok as an American? Do you not think it is odd to view perverse violence in media, but you come here and tell us that our liberal photography of the beautiful human form in ad's is a problem?" Their defensive response gave me pause to really to "think about it"
Is online pornography easy to access? Yes
Will looking at online pornography hurt you? Probably
Does anyone stand to gain anything from looking at pornography? No
The Porn Industry is Seedy
A former friends of mine (he has gone missing) educated me about the porn industry, where he worked for a while. He informed me that most of the women in pornography are drug addicts and that most of the producers are drug dealers who seduce women into pornography by supplying them with cocaine, heroin and other hard narcotic drugs. Many of the women in pornography continue to abuse these narcotics to cope with the psychological, emotions and physical pain associated with being part of that industry. The porn industry is a viral cesspool of perversion, drug abuse and greed.
Porn Star = Prostitute
What is the difference between a porn star and a prostitute? This questions caused me to really think about public policy regarding prostitution. If pornography is perfectly legal, why is prostitution illegal? To this day I have not heard anyone present a valid argument to explain why prostitution is different than pornography? The only difference I can think of has to do with the cameras, taxes and other structural issues that are legitimized in big money pornography. Another example of an inconsistent legal double standard that makes absolutely no sense, like many of the other prohibition laws.
Legalize, Tax, Control and Regulate
While I disagree with pornography and prostitution philosophically, I think both should be legal, taxed, controlled and regulated for a net harm reduction. Again, I am called by God to show all other people love, including prostitutes, porn stars, criminals, drug addictions and other "broken, misguided and lost" people. I desire to show all other people kindness and compassion even if I disagree with what they do. If they do what they are doing with other consenting adults, I don't want to have anything to do with it. I will just show all other people love and kindness in the hope that they will be inspired to find Jesus Christ through the positive example that I set. I know of many broken people who have been saved by God and brought out of a life of dark negativity to embrace the warm illumination of Gods infinite love.
Mind Your Own Business
I think each person needs to run his or her own railroad and stay out of other peoples personal business. If someone wants to eat mustard until they fart fire, that is between that person and God. We do not need or want moral police to run around telling people what they can or cannot do to them-selves or with other consenting adults so long as they all obey the laws of the land and respect the freedom and rights of other people.
Everyone Will Answer to God
I know for a fact that adults have wharehouse parties and switch partners and do all sorts of other perfectly legal things that I disagree with. As long as those people respect my rights and the laws of the land, I do not really care what they are doing. Each person has to answer to God directly when they die; they will not be able to point their fingers at others. Every single person will have to answer to God for the life they have lived, the choices they have made, the motives of their heart, their thoughts, actions, choices and behaviors. Again, Christians are called to show everyone love!
The role of government is to tax, control and regulate the free market! That includes taxing controlling and regulating drugs, prostitution, pornography and other seedy industries. Prohibition is an unfair, ineffective, costly failure in most of its real world applications. The prohibition against prostitution is a ineffective failure just like the war on drugs. No government can enforce morality as law, and even when governments try to do this, it makes everyone feel uneasy and stressed (think of Iran). People want freedom to do as they wish so long as they are not infringing on the rights of other people. People want sexual, moral, ethical, musical, physical, emotional, psychological, religious, artistic, and expressive freedom. We do not need or want moral police running around harassing people. The police are there to be officers of peace: to keep things lawful and honest: so that everyone can enjoy their freedom while respecting the rights of other people peacefully.
The Evidence is Clear
There is a lot of evidence in the sciences that online pornography has given rise to compulsive additive pornography viewing behaviors that are disruptive and damaging to the internet pornography viewer. Even safe-search image results can return "adult imagery" to children using the internet, putting images and ideas into a child's mind that can seriously negatively impact their development. If anything, like many things that people abuse, online pornography presents a lot of risks and few if any rewards. A comprehensive review of the available literature on this subject will reveal that the topic of internet pornography is a heavily debated subject within the social sciences and covered with great depth in hard sciences of neurology and neuroscience. There are those who argue that online pornography is relatively harmless and are dismissive of the negative impacts that online pornography is having on people in the real world. The other camp argues with a lot of scientific evidence that online pornography use is dangerous because of what it does to the mind of the viewers.
Easy Access to Abuse
Without the classical constrains of offline distribution, people who would have never "purchased pornography" in a store or elsewhere can now access huge quantities of pornography online for free. This has given rise to pornography viewing by people of many different demographic levels that would never navigated to such content offline. Paul Millers article on The Verge clearly illustrates how the internet breaks down barriers to information, but in doing so it also grants people easy access to perverted and illegal content, hard core pornography, and other abuse related photographic and content works. Many child abusers, rapists, pedophiles, and weirdos who have committed and been convicted of illegal sexual acts have been found to has recent histories of internet pornography abuse where their computers are confiscated and examined by law enforcement. I am not saying that viewing internet pornography causes people to become sexual criminals, I am saying that the toxic content available online can affect the thinking of people that are already "sick" and cause them to further preoccupy themselves with ideas that can ultimately cause the viewer to engage in illegal sexual acts in real life. Again, online pornography seems to present a lot of hazards and risks that were absent from the "adult content" industry before such material became easily accessible online.
Extension: An Article from Web MD
Psychologists debate whether people can have an addiction to pornography.By Martin Downs, MPH
In November 2004, a panel of experts testified before a Senate subcommittee that a product which millions of Americans consume is dangerously addictive. They were talking about pornography.
The effects of porn on the brain were called "toxic" and compared to cocaine. One psychologist claimed "prolonged exposure to pornography stimulates a preference for depictions of group sex, sadomasochistic practices, and sexual contact with animals."
It used to be that if you wanted to see pornography, you had to go out and buy a magazine or rent a video. Store hours and available space under the mattress placed some limits on people's porn habits.
Now there are an estimated 420 million adult web pages online. "For the person who has difficulty stopping, more is only one click away," says sex therapist Louanne Cole Weston, PhD.
There's no doubt that some people's porn consumption gets them in trouble -- in the form of maxed-out credit cards, lost sleep, neglected responsibilities, or neglected loved ones. But Weston is one who takes issue with calling problem behavior involving porn an addiction. "'Compulsive' is more appropriate," she tells WebMD.
Compulsion or Addiction
The difference between describing the behavior as a compulsion or an addiction is subtle, but important.
Many people may diagnose themselves as porn addicts after reading popular books on the subject, he says. But mental health professionals have no standard criteria to diagnose porn addiction.
Mary Anne Layden, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, was one of the witnesses at the Senate hearing on pornography addiction. She says the same criteria used to diagnose problems like pathological gambling and substance abuse can be applied to problematic porn use.
"The therapists who treat pornography addicts say they behave just like any other addicts," she tells WebMD.
One of the key features of addiction, she says, is the development of a tolerance to the addictive substance. In the way that drug addicts need increasingly larger doses to get high, she thinks porn addicts need to see more and more extreme material to feel the same level of excitement they first experienced.
"Most of the addicts will say, well, here's the stuff I would never look at, it's so disgusting I would never look at it, whatever that is -- sex with kids, sex with animals, sex involving feces," she says. "At some point they often cross over."
Why We Watch
Weston says she thinks there are three main reasons why people turn to pornography: to see their fantasies acted out, to avoid intimacy in a relationship, and simply to aid masturbation.
"Sometimes people are just going to it for things they wish they could do in real life," she says. "It fills in a gap in their own relationship. They have a partner who doesn't like to do oral sex and they love it themselves, and they're in this relationship and they want to stay, so they go and look at pictures of oral sex."
"Then there are the people who are too embarrassed to explain what it is that they really would like to participate in, so they go there secretively, never having revealed to their mate what they would like to try," Weston says.
If they were to reveal their fantasy, they might find their partner willing to go along with it, and they might end up with more fulfilling sexual relationships. For some, however, that would be unacceptable.
Other Related Readings
Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective
Internet Porn: Worse Than Crack? By Ryan Singelhttp://www.shelleylubben.com/articles/internetporn.pdf
Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain By William M. Struther
Your Brain On Porn
Evolution has not prepared your brain for today's Internet porn.
Utah: Pornography Capital of America? By Vinny Barborka