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Please, stop watching porn

February 4, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

I never received the birds-and-the-bees talk from my parents, but one day in elementary school, I remember mysteriously finding American Girl’s “The Care and Keeping of You” on my bed. The book detailed the oddities and awkwardness of puberty: growing body hair, periods and buying bras. Through its content, and the book’s diverse illustrations, I found comfort in how “The Care and Keeping of You” assured its readers that puberty was nothing to be embarrassed about.

Concurrently, however, I had been receiving a sex education through pornography videos shared at the back of the school bus. Snickering fifth graders would dare the younger students to search up phrases associated with adult videos. This was my first exposure to sex and sexual relationships. These videos shared a very different message than the ones promoted in American Girl’s learning tool. They centered around a relatively homogenous script of violence and female degradation. I found myself comparing myself to the women in the videos, unaware that they were actors performing arousing characters. To be attractive and liked, I thought, was to emulate these alluring women. These thoughts aren’t unique to my experience. Pornography alters the way people approach desirability, undermining their sexual relationships physically, mentally and emotionally.

When a person views porn, their brain releases dopamine, creating and reinforcing pathways to connect the viewer’s pleasure to this new stimulation. This redraws the sexual map to associate pornography with pleasure. High exposure to pornography videos results in a lower responsivity and an increased need for more extreme material for the viewer to become aroused. Porn viewers compensate by seeking out more hardcore material featuring themes of aggression and violence. With this pornography overload, some consumers find that they are no longer aroused in the presence of a partner.

This psychological conditioning hinders sexual experiences because it fosters feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment. For people with penises, erectile dysfunction creates performance anxiety, further promoting their dependence on adult videos. These people’s partners similarly share these feelings of deficiency, as they worry why their partner doesn’t find them arousing. Cumulatively, the sexual encounter is hindered. This can jeopardize intimacy in relationships as partners experience frustration with both themselves and each other.

As such, I suggest readers of this article reconsider the potential risks of this habit and consider to stop watching pornography. The brain’s reward circuitry can be reversed—just as it was changed—as certain pathways become more or less active. It’s never too late to start this reversal.

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One comment:

  1. Lester P. '00 says:

    For the second time in a week, an Orient article that I feel demands a response – this lazy approach to a cogent argument runs anathema to a Bowdoin education and the Liberal Arts mindset. While I’m sorry you were made to feel inferior by kids on the schoolbus (which we can all relate to – it’s a lousy fact of life), simply telling others to stop doing something that you don’t like has never been – nor will ever be – an effective argument. Someday, you may be a parent – I hope the lesson you in fact learn is one of having the hard conversations with your children in order to better prepare them for life in the real world (which, hate to say it – Bowdoin is not). Porn is not the problem here – instead, it’s a sheltering of children that leads them to be very unprepared for conflict as they mature, choosing to “cancel” things they don’t personally like instead of thinking critically about how to make positive impacts on society. As my Grandpa P. told me as kid, “I’ll give you my porno when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” RIP Grandpa.


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