Pornography: An Insatiating Poison.

We explored on Friday the addictive nature of pornography and how it affects the brain in part of a series that aims. In this post, we’ll look at how pornography is insatiating: this is very closely linked with its addictive quality but today it is important to focus on how it is unkind to its consumers, with empty promises and mirage-like delivery.

Why is this?

Two things to consider: first, the fact that the brain’s impulse – and indeed, the emotional desire – to “do it again” become stronger with each consumption (a symptom of addiction). Secondly, the concept that what the pornography user was once satisfied with/by, they no longer are; and therefore, ‘stronger’, more shocking images are sought.

Dopamine essentially tells the brain to “do it again” increases with every new pornographic image seen. Dopamine, in excess (so, for regular pornography users), also overrides natural satiating mechanisms in the brain. The reward circuit is overworked, if you will. And this excess consumption of natural rewards promotes a cycle of binging in which the user is never satisfied or satiated.

But the neurochemical aspect of pornography use is not the only one to promote the “do it again” cycle. Emotional needs. Loneliness. Stress. Social problems. The fact that it is secret. Pornography is anonymous. Accessible 24/7. Many factors come into play. And once that first image is consumed (which, in today’s society, tends to happen at age 11), or once that porn site is found, it is visited one more time. Just one more time. “I’ve done it before and liked it/not been caught”…”I need something to alleviate the stress”…”I have needs”…“Do it again”.

The cravings don’t stop. “Do it again, just one more time”. This is a lie. The “again” brings with it yet another message of “do it again”. It entraps the user in a hamster wheel of temporary highs followed by intensifying cravings for something to which they are attached. So if a pornographic image may be what seems to be the object of desire or an impulse to view and masturbate may seem to be what the user craves at first, the satisfaction this brings is short-lived.

Secondly, what a user will then be prone to, in response to this urge to “do it again”, to indulge the brain’s reward circuit, is to seek more striking, shocking, surprising imagery. Reactivity to images of a pornographic nature is heightened with regular use, but as what is referred to as a “numb pleasure response” kicks in, the user seeks more striking, surprising, shocking imagery having become accustomed to one ‘level’ after another.We’ll look at this more in depth on Friday when we address the desensitising poison of pornography.

Essentially, if the user becomes accustomed to and unexcited by a video of a blow job, they move on to viewing full intercourse. From this, the pornography industry offers images of pornography that is incestuous, animalistic, violent, abusive, illegal in some cases and the voice whispering “do it again” – just so that it can say the same tomorrow – no longer satisfied with what it once was, starts to shout. See you on Friday.

//This post is part of a collaborative series that looks at the poison in pornography as well as its prey.//

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4 responses to “Pornography: An Insatiating Poison.

  1. Hi Gemma. I’m enjoying your writing (as ever) and think the way you’ve mapped out the roots of porn addiction is really good. I think I diverge from it a little though with the final points you make about how porn users will progress through different levels due to the diminishing returns principal you set out. I’ve never come across any evidence that supports the idea that people will ultimately move on to the more extreme types of porn that you outlined just due to a natural progression. I think there’s a ‘bottom line’ type argument in this that basically, some people are into that stuff and some people aren’t. I wish there was a more sophisticated way of saying it, but I suppose I just mean that sexual preference comes into it and I’m not convinced there is a case to be made that if you enjoy one type of porn you will end up needing violent porn to feel fulfilled. Have you come across any useful studies on this you would recommend? Looking forward to reading more.

    • Hey Kellie,

      Thanks so much for reading/commenting! I should definitely have mentioned the factor of sexual preference and its role in this, it is definitely significant.

      I wasn’t suggesting that all ‘soft porn’ users journey down a path towards violent pornography – the point I’ve come across in studying addiction is rather that for all users, a numbness to what was once stimulating enough kicks in through continued over excretion of certain chemicals (as well as perhaps a little curiosity or boredness?) and that it takes more to be stimulated – as with all addictions, tolerance levels increase so the dose needs to be stronger.

      Thoughts?

  2. That makes sense, in the context of addiction. I think I read it originally more in terms of general use. It’s hard to pick apart the blurred lines sometimes, especially between “habitual use” and “porn addiction”. I think some of the processes you described do occur when someone is a habitual user and it can be quite a compelling habit and difficult enough to break. But addiction is a different kettle of fish altogether I guess, as everyone I know who have been habitual users have a range of other responses available to them when that dulling of the senses starts to happen. People who aren’t addicted can react to that in different ways, such as to say “porn is boring me now, I think I’ll give it a break for a while” or maybe recognise they need to get out more 🙂 For the addicted person of course this is much harder, maybe impossible without support.

    • Absolutely. I guess where I become concerned is at how difficult it is to find the line between habitual use and addiction – especially in this case, involving something which has such a strong effect on the brain and which often distorts humanity – and I know there may not be any real way to identify it.

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