The Damaging Effects Pornography Can Have on the Male Brain

Studies have estimated that 86% of men view porn. With this percentage so high, it is no wonder that the world’s leading pornography site, PornHub, attracts an average of 81 million people every day.

This discourse leads to unhealthy, prejudiced representations of non-white people in porn, forming just another way for the content to become psychologically damaging to its young viewers.

The Internet is saturated with pornographic content, causing adult sites to make up a shocking 12% of all websites. Pornography is simply a few clicks away for anyone to see, allowing most boys to start watching from the age of 11.

Most people see porn as a harmless, unavoidable part of men’s lives. And for some people, who watch only occasionally, perhaps it is.

For others, who rely on it for their sexual pleasure and regularly watch it in high quantities, porn has the capacity to be incredibly dangerous.

Pornography and Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which regulates the brain’s pleasure and reward centres. When secreted from glands in the brain, it triggers the body’s pleasure response.

The human body has evolved to release dopamine during sexual activity. This aids the procreation necessary for the continuation of the race.

Subsequently, dopamine is also released during the consumption of porn. In fact, the brain’s dopamine levels increase by 200% during the viewing of pornography.

This can have very negative effects over time. If you watch porn for extended periods of time, your body will begin to get used to these new high levels of dopamine.

As a result, the brain will change as it gradually desensitises its neurons so that they are less affected by it. The number of dopamine receptors will also decrease.

Desensitised neurons and a decreased amount of receptors can lead to dopamine deficiency, putting you at risk of mood changes such as depression, lack of motivation, social anxiety, attention deficit and low libido.

Indeed, an activity which is designed for its viewers’ sexual satisfaction can actually create the exact opposite effect. In some cases, erectile dysfunction is a debilitating result.

Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED)

Erectile dysfunction occurs when a man is unable to get an erection or sustain one for long enough. It can occur when a man watches too much porn, thus becoming tolerant to it.

Essentially, a bigger ‘hit’ of dopamine is required each time to satisfy the body’s needs. This can lead to porn addiction, as well as causing the viewer to seek more extreme content over time when the standard content no longer satisfies. Eventually, their neurons become desensitised and the viewer will be unable to produce or sustain an erection in normal sexual encounters.

Erectile dysfunction can be an incredibly embarrassing, frustrating and debilitating condition. Viagra can be used to help those suffering to produce an erection, however for a more long term treatment therapy is recommended.

Pornography Addiction

As mentioned above, it is possible to become addicted to pornography due to the physical rewards it offers. This happens in much the same way that you can become addicted to drugs, drinking and gambling.

The behavioural addiction is largely a new issue. In the past, pornography was much harder to access. Now, due to smartphones, tablets and computers, it can be accessed with the click of a finger.

A habit becomes an addiction when it interferes negatively with your daily life. There are various ways porn addiction can do this, including:

  • Increased viewing of pornographic material
  • Decreased time spent doing other activities or spent with other people
  • Decreased time spent attending to personal responsibilities and relationships
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Inability to stop thinking about porn during other activities
  • Increasingly deviant or extreme (perhaps even illegal) pornographic content is viewed
  • Paying for porn
  • Use of drugs or alcohol to heighten sexual experiences

Relationship Problems

Excessive porn consumption is likely to affect the people around you too. In the cases of friends and family, it may be that you are not socialising with them as much. If a partner is involved, however, the situation can be much worse.

Strain will be put on the relationship for many different reasons. The dopamine deficiency mentioned earlier can lead to low moods and irritability, causing arguments or a lack of affection.

It is unlikely that the partner will approve of such high volumes of porn being watched, if any at all. They may feel neglected or unwanted, perhaps that they are ‘not good enough.’

In some cases, the man suffering from porn addiction could indeed become less attracted to his partner as he becomes conditioned to desire the impossible beauty standards that porn portrays.

This would end up being incredibly distressing for the partner. In situations where the man is suffering from PIED, the upset would be even more intense. No one wants to feel that their partner no longer finds them attractive or sexually appealing.

Under these circumstances, it is best that the couple seek therapy or counselling. Professional psychological help will aid the couple to solve their porn-addiction based relationship problems and can help the man to overcome his addiction.

Pornography Distorts Perceptions

Men who watch too much porn are likely to become ‘out of touch’ with reality.

Watching porn is likely to distort its viewers’ perceptions of sex and women. This is particularly likely if the viewer has had no or very limited sexual encounters, and especially if they are young.

Pornography is filmed and edited to make sex look as perfect as possible, but things don’t always go so smoothly in real life.

The reality is that real sex is nothing like the type portrayed in pornography. To be clear, porn is acted. It is often also quite extreme and usually incorporates violence of some sort.

These types of sexual behaviours should not be expected of anyone unless they have consented to it, despite how normal they may seem on porn.

Furthermore, porn thrives on stereotypes. The portrayal of women in porn is often negative and can be damaging for a young man to grow up seeing.

Further issues arise from the representation of non-white people in porn content. The actors are usually encouraged to play up to existing stereotypes about their race in order for them to be exoticised under the gaze of the (nearly always) white male porn producer.

This discourse leads to unhealthy, prejudiced representations of non-white people in porn, forming just another way for the content to become psychologically damaging to its young viewers.

Illegal Content

There are many types of illegal pornographic content which are unfortunately available on parts of the Internet.

According to Webroot, 116,000 search engine queries relating to child pornography are searched everyday.

Excessive porn consumption can start off with normal, more innocent content being watched. As we have explored, this can darken over time. It could begin to include more violent Bondage Domination Sadism and Masochism (BDSM), double penetration and group sex, for example.

This can eventually spiral into the search for even more deviant and non-consensual content, such as child pornography, rape or bestiality. This type of pornography is illegal; anyone who watches it is far more likely to commit a heinous crime such as rape or paedophilia.

Porn Could be Shrinking Your Brain

A 2014 study showed that the brains of men who watch a lot of porn indeed tend to be smaller and have fewer connections than the brains of men who watch less.

These differences occur in the brain’s striatum, the section associated with rewards and pleasure, suggesting that porn could be shrinking the brain.

However, there is not enough evidence to support this. Men who watch a lot of porn may have abnormal striatums for other reasons – this could in fact be what predisposes them to excessive porn consumption.

If you feel you are at risk of this, make sure you are not watching too much porn or letting it interfere with your daily life and relationships. If you feel you already have a porn addiction, ask your doctor for help.