Boys and Porn

I mean, who knew, really, that the gonzo-style porn — wherein any number of vile acts takes place — of today is not healthy for the teenage boys watching it.  And by not healthy, psychologists mean it can cause social anxiety and erectile dysfunction.  Ouch.

Such videos are often so extreme that they dumbfound even the most free-thinking parents. According to psychiatrist Norman Doidge in The Brain That Changes Itself, porn grows more shocking because today’s porn users tend to habituate to material viewed. That is, today’s super-stimulating porn, instead of satisfying more, numbs the brain’s pleasure response. Then the user needs something even more shocking to get aroused—which the porn industry readily delivers. Who’s gonna get excited by Pac-Man when he has been playing Grand Theft Auto orHalo 3?

Increasingly, extreme porn is a problem. The more novel, startling, forbidden, or disgusting a video is, the cooler it is to pass around, and the more it excites a viewer’s brain (specifically, the reward circuitry). Climax then reinforces the “value” of the material that produces the climax. So, kids’ brains are now rewiring to value brain-jolting material, for which nothing in their (or most anyone’s) experience has prepared them. The constant flood of novel material keeps dopamine levels in the reward circuitry high while viewing continues, reinforcing the lesson that these images are valuable and important. Norepinephine released in response to shocking images also appears to reinforce this learning.

Good advice for parents too, who, perhaps, want to deal with this situation in an appropriate way without alienating their teenagers.

1. Find a balance. Tell kids that masturbation is normal, and that it’s beneficial to work out a schedule that doesn’t escalate. Tell them to experiment with different intervals of say, once or twice a week, or even less. Point out that sometimes less frequent masturbation actually results in less overall frustration. Sticking with a schedule will require some self-discipline, a skill kids will use throughout life. Consider teaching your child one of the many ancient techniques for redistributing sexual energy.

2. Understand the escalation problem. Point out that our brains are generally calibrated for genitals achieving normal degrees of stimulation and arousal. Once we move to new thresholds of stimulation (today’s super-porn or sex toys), we risk making our brains temporarily less sensitive to subtler, ordinary stimuli.

3. Stick to natural stimuli. Tell kids to masturbate based on their own imaginings of real potential mates and realistic, affectionate sexual encounters. If that isn’t getting them to climax, it’s probably because their brains haven’t returned to full sensitivity since their previous climax. Nonetheless, it is better to wait than to turn to today’s porn to get the job done.

The author of Superdad has a counterpoint.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Brenden Chase December 4, 2010, 9:02 am

    How dare you make the connection to video games!!! <gasp>