Leisure

Internet IRL: The Internet is for porn

March 24, 2011


Whether you’ve been looking for it or not, I am going to make the rash assumption that at some point, you’ve seen porn on your computer. It’s there. Your most skewed sexual fantasies are your Google search bar’s command. What once could only be found in the pages of a secret stash of dirty magazines or vaguely-labeled, grainy videotapes is now available in unlimited—not to mention free—quantities. And it’s not just of your normal, interpersonal variety. From bestiality to tentacles, extreme porn that used to be seen as a unique fetish now has an audience.

And when there’s no limit to how much porn you can consume, there’s also no limit to the way that can carry over into your actual sex life, much to the detriment of you and your partner. This is your brain on porn.

During regular, non-tentacle sex, the brain is stimulated—visually, physically, emotionally, etc. Each stimulus causes the brain to react differently. For example, the brain releases dopamine in response to natural urges like hunger and thirst, but also in response to nearly all addictive drugs, as well as behavioral disorders. Basically, it reinforces behavior.

But guess what else triggers it? That’s right, good old-fashioned, x-rated porno. So, if you’re looking at porn and masturbating, you’re telling your brain, “Yes, this is good for me. Do more of this.” As dopamine reinforces urges to look at pornography more and more frequently (and, in some cases, of weirder and weirder fetishes), it can lead to porn addiction. Also, if you watch porn excessively, your brain gets too used to orgasming outside of actual, real- life sexual encounters.  This can make it more difficult to perform when it’s game time—assuming, since you spend so much time at your laptop, you ever actually get to game time.

Though doctors debate as to whether it actually exists, pornography addiction means that people use porn obsessively, often to relieve emotional discomfort or relieve sexual tension resulting from unsatisfying sex with real people. This is obviously bad for sex, and even worse for relationships. How can sex work with a human partner if what you’re really into can’t occur in this dimension? You can’t just x-out a boring sexual encounter and click on a link for something even filthier.

In addition to the risk of addiction, this can result in a syndrome that Ian Kerner, sex and relationship columnist at AskMen.com, calls SADD, or Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder. People with SADD have trouble concentrating during sex, and, ironically enough, often fantasize about pornography to remain aroused during sex. Syndromes like these demonstrate how sex, like other places where humans have to deal with each other, is being replaced with non-person-to-person contact by Internet options that make virtual versions of real-life interactions easier and more convenient.

As social networks and online dating services continue to grow, people invest more and more time into communication that isn’t face-to-face, but screen-to-screen. It follows that people who have unlimited pornographic access may become less dependent on face-to-face romance. Why risk sex that isn’t gratifying, when you’ve got a web browser and a right hand to satisfy you? Convenience has always been the excuse of people who replace real life experiences in lieu of ones that can be streamed to you.

You’ve been told that porno is dirty, and there are plenty of moral arguments as to why it’s wrong. If there is evidence that it negatively affects your sex life, it might be a good idea to unglue yourself from the screen and meet someone in 3D. Like sharing a conversation or seeing a live concert, nothing beats the real thing.

Email Nico at ndodd@georgetownvoice.com



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Peter

If you are cutting class and blowing off your friends to stay in your room and masturbate, you’ve probably crossed the line but otherwise, porn, fantasy and masturbation are perfectly natural parts of human sexuality. Understanding both which fantasies you find appealing and the nuts and bolts of exactly how, when and where you like to be touched is a critical step in growing into a healthy sex life. The reality is that sexuality is not a zero sum game, having great sex with your right hand doesn’t mean you can’t have great sex with a partner. In fact often the opposite is true.

We are now grown up (-ish)and smart enough to realize that masturbation and porn doesn’t make your eyeballs fall out, your palms to grow hair or any such old wives’ tale. To this list should be added the stigmatizing myth presented in this article that those who choose to masturbate are some sort of tentacle-loving sex junkies that are incapable of normal human relationships.

Alcibiades

This is the problem with logic. Ideas and connections that seem perfectly rationale given a little bit of knowledge about the world are proven wrong when given a little bit more. You think just because you masturbate a few times a week, that there must, there MUST be some sort of bad consequence for your sex life. But there we are, next time we’re getting laid, everything works, and it’s a nice time.

I’m not saying that there can’t be any connection between someone’s sex life and their masturbation habits, but it’s definitely not as causal or as close as this column makes it out to be. I think the vast majority of people aren’t having a problem. Whenever I have, it’s been a problem with the sex, not masturbation. And if one of this column’s themes is the problematic divide between the real world/digital world, between real sex/pornography, then the next column should be about 2D ideas and the “3D” real world.