Hardcore Addiction: How Modern Pornography is Interfering with Human Evolution

Preamble

Growing up we have all (I can read your mind through the screen) wondered at some point or another- where babies come from? Depending on how open your parents were to talking with you about sex, you may or may not have tried to find out more, on your own or as a joint venture with your best friend. Now, despite the fact that we are animals whose only purpose, unless you believe in reincarnation or heaven, is to procreate and die. Sex has always been a taboo subject.

It is something that “adults” do, and children are supposed to somehow figure everything out before they get married and decide to have children of their own. Of course, we both know that is a lie!

As young lads, we scoured the dictionary, the encyclopaedia, and every other piece of text we could find in the school library, in thirst of knowledge of this elusive act. If you were lucky your friend might get his hands on a fashion magazine or a Playboy. All of this would usually happen before becoming teenagers. All too familiar experiences that have been continued for the most part of human history. It is important to note that information of any kind always took time and effort to obtain.

But what if I told you that things are not even remotely similar for a growing number of pre-teens and teens these days? According to a recent TEDxTalk video that I watched on YouTube, this seems to be the case- have a look:

A brief history of internet porn…

The Internet as we know it today started sometime in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the invention of ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network). ARPANET was world’s first packet switching network, modern internet is based on this technology. It was the brainchild, of all things good, ARPA (Advanced Research Project Agency, a US government organ) later known as DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Project Agency). It was still in its infancy and more or less useless as far as you and I go.

Fast forward to the early 90s.

Internet has grown tremendously from a small fragile network to a vast array of interconnected network of networks connecting millions of users, fostering new businesses and enterprises, and innumerable number of new services. For some businesses, this meant that they no longer had to use traditional channels for the distribution of their goods and services, as the Internet could bypass physical, political, and religious restrictions that would have hindered their growth in the past.

One of the industries that capitalised on this new medium, and became very successful doing it was the American Porn Industry. Other countries have caught up to and exceeded the Americans in recent times, but reliable statistics are very difficult to come by.

How widespread is modern porn and what do we know about it?

It has often been joked that the internet is for porn and that internet has single handedly fuelled the explosion of the internet, but how much of that is true? As I mentioned before reliable statistics were hard to come by, a lot of the websites just quoted each other until I landed on a “top ten review” site, which I didn’t have much faith in. However I did manage to find two news articles, one of which quotes a recently published book on the topic and the other is a personal interview with the author. The information presented was different between them. It was part of the Forbes publication found here and here, and this is the gist of it:

  • In 1991, fewer than 100 porn magazines were published. Today, over 2.5 Million websites are blocked by CYBERsitter.
  • Though there are over 4.5 million porn sites, of the top 1 million most visited sites, only 42,337 websites were sex-related. Which is about 4% of the sites.
  • 13% of the web searches between July 2009 to 2010 were for erotic content.
  • The most popular adult site on the web is LiveJasmine.com a live webcam site .
  • Porn is a $3 Billion businesses in the U.S. However, I recently watched a BBC documentary called Hardcore Profits claimed that most of the pornography based profits were cashed in by the major creditors and the banks who provided the credit cards to purchase the porn. So the above stated figure is based on the arguably accurate figures reported by porn production studios claimed to make, although it is an open secret that these studios cook their books more than often.
  • According to the wikipedia article on internet pornography, in 2003 about 20% of all the pornography on the internet was child pornography. Several organisations, including the FBI and Interpol, claim that that number has increased as a lot of the child pornography has moved on to “Dark Nets” such as Tor, i2P and the Freenet Project.
  • According to a Huffington post article which claimed that porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined at around 450 Million.

Legal issues surrounding pornography are very murky. Uslegal, a website run by a law firm, has an internet law section which contains an article on pornography. For the most part pornography is considered indecent and serving of no use to the society. A fair number of countries either ban or heavily censor and/or regulate the porn sites being served in their countries.

Why is this important?

What we can draw from all of this is that porn is very accessible, fast, cheap(try free), and always available. With the advent of cheaper, faster, and mobile computers(tablets, notebooks, smartphones) pornography is now mobile too!

Over the past few years, it has become ever more evident that the Digital Age is not showing any signs of stopping. Children brought up with these technologies are just as vulnerable to accessing the same type of material. The average age of first internet porn exposure currently stands at 11, which is just before the child undergoes puberty.

As explained in the above videos, at this tender age, the brain’s nueroplasticity is very malleable. This is just a fancy way of saying that our brains are still making neural connections which we will carry with us for the rest of lives. Learning a habit, a skill, or a language is very easy at this age. As Dr.Gary Wilson from the TED talk explains: being exposed to explicit material causes physiological changes to the primitive parts of the human mind, also referred to as the ‘symbian brain’ or ‘hunter-gatherer brain’, and tricks it to accept such stimuli as normal.

Most importantly, it physically alters the reward centre in our brains. The reward centre usually fires when we accomplish a goal. A chemical called dopamine, is released into brain when we accomplish a task. This is the same happy feeling chemical that is released when we eat or even care for someone we hold dear parents, children, friends, etc. Almost every stimulating drug, e.g. cocaine, opium, etc., all alter the neurotransmitters that pick up these chemicals and give us the “happy good” feeling, whilst simultaneously releasing more than necessary dosage of dopamine into the system.

This causes confusion and the brain expects such stimuli more and more often. This constant craving is called addiction. The symptoms of this addiction are exactly the same as addiction of alcohol and other hard drugs. Furthermore, it has been frequently stated as the cause for and leading to misogyny, paedophilia, breast implants(body image issues), relationship problems, social anxiety, and erectile dysfunction amongst others. The patients have also reported to show signs of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, social isolation, lack of confidence, etc.

Moreover, not only does the patient feel compelled to seek and watch porn, but also find more and more novel types of porn. This interferes with the Coolidge effect, which is the bilogical programming of the mammalian brain to react to sexual stimuli. Much like any other drug, after a while a tolerance is developed resulting in higher craving for stilmulation. This cycle feeds itself as the person slips deeper into addiction.

Apart from the change in the sexual preferences, there is also a change in the attitude towards sex altogether. The person becomes more aggressive and saddomasichist. For those who were already suffering from other mental illnesses, the combination can beome lethal. Plenty of research is being undertaken in this field as Internet Addicition and especially Porn Addiction is on the rise, and is expected to rise as internet continues to connect millions more every year.

Personal and societal costs

The cost can be very high for addicts, as porn addiction is considered more dangerous that crack. The reason being it causes multiple addictions all at once, namely: porn addiction, sex addiction, compulsive masturbation, internet addiction. This is compounded by other illnesses the patient picks up with these types of addiction.

What can be most devastating is the loss of families, friendships, and other relationships the personal used to value very highly before the onset of the addiction. The internet is littered with the cases of a number of divorces and break ups whose root cause is in this form of addiction. One quarter of Americans admitted to watching porn at work, this could also cost them their jobs. The loss of productivity either at work or at home is also tremendous. Having techonology is already causing nuclear humans, I feel that this only compounds its effects until the man’s life reduces to nothing but a hollow shell of an existance. Moreover, for those who haven’t yet had children, it could jeapordise the future of their genome, something that has been being carried for since the evolution of primapes. This addiction is not limited to just men; women are just as likely to get addicted as described in Newsweek.

So if you are an addict, what do you do?

The growing epidemic of this type of addiction has caused the American Psychological Society amongst other psychological and neurological societies to add porn addiction to the list of addictions requiring a treatment. The treatment programs for porn addicts is exactly the same if not more rigorous than those for crack, cocaine, and opium addicts.

Recently a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania launched an in-patient addiction program for internet addicts. It is a 10 day program where the patient lives at the hospital and undergoes therapy. I feel that such sites will become more common as more research continues to done on these topics.

Lastly, a while back a handful of redditors began a “No Fap” challenge, where addicts take pledges of sobriety and collective try to shake off their addictions. They also post their success stories and the challenges that they faced in the hopes that someone else could benefit from it, like they have.

In conclusion I include a few “facts” from Daily Infographic. I could not find concrete evidence for the statistics even though they seem to be all over the internet.

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