Porn and addiction, Week 11: Tues, group 1

“The Great Porn Experiment” – Gary Wilson.

Following on from Jasleen’s discussion I am going to look at two (male) accounts of the addictive nature of online porn. Hanson’s observation that “whatever your pleasure, there is most certainly a website for it” (The History of Digital… 594) is key to her account of the Commercialisation of sexual variation as well as the Rhizomorphic dispersal of erotic connectivity. The diversity and novelty of online material arguably contribute to the addictiveness of contemporary digital pornography. After all, porn has existed in various forms for centuries yet only recently has addiction become a widespread social issue.

Philip Zimbago makes an energetic case for porn’s contribution to the “Demise of guys” in his engaging TED Talk of the same name. He claims that girls are outperforming boys in every area, particularly academically and argues that porn and heavy internet use in general are major contributors to this. He notes how men increasingly prefer the company of other men as opposed to female mates (an example of Homosocial bonding). Online practices such as isolated gaming and watching porn paired with the diverse variety of online material causes “arousal addiction” which stimulates the users desire to crave novelty.  Given that boys average watching 50 clips of porn a week and the porn industry is the fastest growing industry in the U.S boys brain’s are being rewired to expect constantly new and novel material. [This aligns with Carr’s account of the internet as a “distraction tool”]. Zimbago argues that this is leaving them out of sync with traditional analogue education environments resulting in poor academic performance.

Gary Wilson’s TED Talk “The Great Porn Experiment” bolsters Zimbago’s argument with neuropsychological research. Wilson focuses much more closely on the significance of novelty in porn claiming that our brains are not sufficiently evolved to deal with overexposure to online porn. He identifies ‘The Coolidge Effect’ as the underpinning evolutionary mechanism behind porn. This is an evolutionary device identified in mammals that allows males to fertilise a maximum number of females during a restricted mating season. The male can climax quicker and sustain energy for longer when presented with a new partner. However Wilson argues, the accessibility of porn and vast variety of partners that the internet can present us with in a very short space of time exacerbates what was once an evolutionary advantage and can lead to addiction.

The volume, novelty and availability of porn online makes it the most potentially addictive of all online practices. Wilson explains how watching porn online ignites the reward circuit in the pleasure centre of the brain. The pleasure we experience produces dopamine. Studies show that men tend to watch porn by skipping to the scenes they find the most exciting, and also swap between videos, these kind of practices can produce an excess of dopamine, this releases Delta FosB, which inhibits the brains own satiating mechanisms, triggering addictive behavoir. Wilson explains how we can react to fast food in exactly the same way, ending in cycles of binging and craving and not recognising when we have had enough.

Binging is another evolutionary mechanism, used by mammals to stock up in times of plenitude that in today’s digital age is leading up towards addictive patterns of behaviour.  A hypersensitivity towards porn and reduced will power result in a desensitisation towards other stimulus and also a lack of satisfaction from porn. This cycle of behaviour demonstrated in all addicts creates a reliance on something that is ultimately unsatisfying to the user. Wilson emphasises how this addictive behaviour, although reversible (thanks to neuroplasticity) is the result of powerful chemical changes in the brain. He reiterates that addiction is not specific to its cause and that addiction to online porn is just as pervasive as a drug or alcohol and given the pervasive presence of the internet in our lives is in fact more likely to hook us into addiction than alcohol or drugs.

These are obviously two specific arguments, with varying levels of evidence, however the common theme of novelty and compulsion is interesting. Some of Wilson’s ideas in particular could definitely be linked to Mangen’s ideas about the compulsive nature mouse ‘click’ offering instant positive rewards which is also echoed by Carr in The Shallows. Interested to see what everyone thinks in Seminar.

Abi

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s