Think before you click

What the Psychology Tody article Porn-induced Sexual Dysfunction Is a Growing Problem said about how a growing number of young, healthy Internet users with a serious pornography/masturbation habit are having erectile dysfunction and not able to be turned on by real partners anymore. According to the article, these young men, irrespective of cultures and backgrounds, have two things in common: heavy use of Internet porn and increasing need for more extreme material.

This unfortunate phenomenon is no news to me. I read about it sometime ago from Norman Doidge's excellent book The Brain that Changes Itself, in which a chapter was devoted to talking about the plastic influence of Internet pornography on adults and the extent to which their brains are shaped by it.
During the mid- to late 1990s, when Internet pornography was exploding, Doidge treated a number of men whose story was essentially the same as those referred to in the above-mentioned article. According to Doidge, these patients were not fundamentally immature, socially awkward men but pleasant, generally thoughtful ones in reasonably successful relationships or marriages. They all reported spending more and more time on the Internet, looking at pornography and masturbating. Many of them also reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners. Instead of using their senses to enjoy "lovemaking" with their partners, they were increasingly interested in "fucking", fantasising that they were part of a porn script. Their sexual fantasy lives were increasingly dominated by the scenarios that they had "downloaded" into their brains, and the fantasy scripts often became more primitive and more violent.

While such cases are most fortunate, I am not so much interested in WHAT happened as to HOW it happened, and Doidge provides in couple of clues. In his book, he refers to a "social shift" whereby, thanks to the Internet, the use of pornography is not only increasingly public but also treated more casually. What used to be regarded as soft porn is now freely available from the different public media, and what was considered hard core pornography is now just taken as soft porn.

Another crucial factor regarding how these men became hooked is that many of them started by visiting some harmless sites and clicked on the suggestive ads that redirected them to risque sites from which they acquired a taste for a kind of pornography that troubled or even disgusted them, had a disturbing effect on the pattern of their sexual excitement, and ultimately affected their relationships and sexual potency.
This was a journey of no return. And it is worth noting that, in so many cases, this journey began with a click at a rather innocent-looking ad in a rather hamless site. Such ads, and the doom they lead to, are becoming more and more pervasive, thanks to the Internet.

So think before you click.

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