BRAVE Column: Porn on the Brain

By Faith Skiles

Every second, there are 28,258 people on the internet watching pornographic material. With the evolution of the internet and media, pornography is easily accessible to not only teens and young adults, but also children as young as ages 6-12. 

Overexposure to pornography is strongly linked to addiction. Research and science prove pornography can have a negative impact on brain development, causing a spike in sexual or erectile dysfunction in younger ages.  There are thousands of outlets providing unlimited material which can quickly lead into dangerous territory, such as non-consensual or unsolicited violence, sexism and racism. 

Exposure to pornography releases dopamine, one of the pleasure chemicals in your brain, as well as serotonin, oxytocin and epinephrine. Teens who regularly watch pornography during the development phase become uncertain about sexual beliefs and morals, and their expectations of healthy sexual relationships become distorted. This is due to their underdeveloped frontal lobes, the area of your brain responsible for decision making and logical reasoning. The overexposure of these chemicals leads to a higher tolerance, eventually causing dependency. The brain rewires itself to adapt to the demand for these chemicals, therefore leading to the inevitability of pornography addiction.  

Due to the increase in pornography addiction, the increase in sexual and erectile dysfuntion is greater than ever before for younger men. As a result of gratification from tolerance of the chemicals in the brain, young men show a preference to pornography over real life intercourse. This results in sexual or erectile dysfunction because arousal is more difficult to acheive with an actual partner. This also puts teenagers at a higher risk for low self esteem, anxiety and depression. Mental health factors are related to a lack of intimacy and need for a healthy relationship, which is difficult to achieve once one becomes addicted to pornography.  

The evolution of pornography has caused 47% of participants to view more extreme content, with the inclusion of verbal and physical violence. Constant exposure to extreme pornography desensitizes anyone towards violence, especially against women. 

Pornography is a multi-million dollar industry due to its dangerous perceptions. Most pornography does not exist under the realm of respectful, always consenting and healthy relationships. If it were, it would not be the booming industry it has become. The younger a person becomes exposed to pornography, studies suggest, the more likely they are to become verbally and sexually violent towards their partner, and often more toward women due to seeking power and control. Studies also exist correlating pornography and violence towards the LGBT+ community.

This in no way states that everyone who watches pornography is or will become addicted, have sexual dysfunction or become violent predators. Many healthy couples watch pornography together, so some have suggested it can be seen in a positive light. However, it lays a foundation of the possible negative effects pornography can have on the brain of a developing person with unlimited access.