By John J. Parker
I know what you deleted from your browser history the other day. I know what you were looking at and why. But I know that this isn't your fault too. Your brain wasn’t designed to handle this sort of thing; an endless, and endlessly novel, supply of what it thinks is your highest biological goal. I also know full well that it is more than likely you’ve had a knee jerk reaction to the title; indignation, anger, perhaps even laughter. Maybe this is due to how normalized it’s become in the culture, maybe its the cursory readings of articles from ‘sex-positive’ psychologists from Psychology Today, that claim to have debunked the very title. Or maybe your knee-jerk reaction is just that. Knee-jerk. Involuntary. Hardwired into your very neurochemistry. If you happen to view it with any level of regularity, it’s at least possible that this is the case. It is possible your better judgement has been compromised. It’s even possible that you know this, but don’t want to acknowledge it. Whatever the case may be, I ask you, at the very least, to hold those commenting fingers in check, relax your knee, and read on, this may change your life. That’s the hope, anyway. The ‘it’ I’m referring to dear reader, is of course, pornography. And it is everywhere. Let’s start at the beginning, with the youth. The average age of first exposure is generally agreed upon to be 13, although some studies place the number closer to 11 (Sources 1, 2). At this point popular social media apps like Snapchat and Tik Tok are brimming with sexually suggestive content. Seeing young teens and even pre-teens twerking for the camera in these spaces is not at all uncommon. Modern pop-culture music is also unabashedly sexual, culminating in stars who not only market with their sex appeal and beauty (which has been true forever), but who intentionally make their entire brand about sex and sexually taboo behavior. This is best epitomized by Cardi B and her performance at the Grammys. This performance was equivalent to soft-core pornography, and was streamed on national television for mass consumption (Source 3).
All of this to say, pornography and it’s tamer counterparts are nearly unavoidable, so these following figures should come as no surprise. Seventy percent of young men (Ages 18-24) admit to watching porn monthly, and eighty-seven percent of US adult males (Ages 18-35) watch weekly (Sources 2, 4). This is not a fringe activity. The phrase ‘everybody does it’ is often used to cope with any potential shame in partaking, and it certainly rings true. So, is it any different from watching sports? Or a weekly television program? Is it really an addiction? The answer is yes. Unequivocally, absolutely, yes. Porn is addictive in a very similar way to drugs. If you’re watching porn on a weekly basis, you are likely addicted, and if you aren’t you will be soon. I recognize this is where more scoffing is likely to be elicited, more knee-jerking, so again I implore you, hold on. First, a brief overview of the neurochemistry involved in the reward circuitry of the brain. Th