The Other Porn Experiment (our latest PT post)

Submitted by gary on
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The widespread use of Internet porn is one of the fastest-moving, most global experiments ever unconsciously conducted. But it's not the only groundbreaking porn experiment going on today.

Devastated by sexual performance problems or other crippling symptoms (such as morphing sexual tastes, loss of attraction to real mates, and uncharacteristic desire to isolate), users are taking the initiative. They are conducting their own counter-experiments by the thousands. By stopping porn use and sharing their "findings" publicly, these guys are, in effect, the missing control group of non-porn users that researchers say they can't produce. (In 2009, when researcher Simon Lajeunesse attempted to investigate the effects of Internet porn on college guys, he couldn't find any who weren't using it.)

Why do control groups matter? Imagine if all guys started smoking heavily at age 10 and there were no groups who didn't. We'd all assume lung cancer was normal for guys.

In the case of Internet porn, usage is nearly universal among today's young males. Without control groups, it has been hard to know which, if any, of their diverse symptoms, might be arising from years of continuous Internet porn use.

Informal control groups to the rescue (click)

Websites with no-fap threads

At last, humanity has a way of comparing Internet erotica use with non-use on a wide scale. Sure, it's not ideal. It's not double-blind and it's not randomized. But this new informal experiment has its own advantages that many formal studies lack: It is international, very large, public, and growing.

Thousands of experimenters are springing up in all kinds of forums where men congregate: bodybuilding sites, pick-up artist sites, information sites, sports sites, etc, and the threads are often thousands of posts long. (Click on collage above for a sample.)

One active pocket of explorers is on www.reddit.com, a popular hangout for today's youngish Internet-savvy males. Most of reddit.com is militantly pro-porn use, which makes the 10,000 Reddit "[No] Fapstronauts" bold indeed. A Fapstronaut describes the Reddit 90-day challenge.

For the uninitiated, "fapping" is slang for masturbating to Internet porn. Most young men in the Reddit generation have not masturbated without the aid of the Internet, so for them porn and masturbation are synonymous. In fact, many are surprised to discover that, when they give up Internet porn and their brains return to normal sensitivity, climax without porn is a more sensual, satisfying experience. 

Porn-loving detectives at work

Why would a porn-loving guy quit? Symptoms vary, but most guys quit only because they figure out that they may have developed porn-related sexual dysfunction. Two guys explain:

Guy 1: When I started no-fap, I couldn't even get hard on porn. That is how addicted I was. Watching porn had become a daily habit for me, not something I did because I was horny.

Guy 2: I noticed my behavior and mojo would change depending on if/when I fapped, yet still I heard all around me that masturbating/porn is normal and healthy. But I had difficulty finishing with my girlfriends. I actually faked orgasm to hide this, and dreaded [receiving oral sex] without using my hands. To fix it, I'd not fap until after I met them for sex.

What kinds of improvements do no-fappers report?

Rebooter from our forum: I've just reached 5 weeks of no porn, no masturbation. I'm over the flu-like [withdrawal] symptoms and I've started hitting the weights again. It feels good to be squatting again. ROAR! The insomnia has gotten better, though there are still restless nights, but my quality of sleep has improved dramatically. I've also noticed some morning wood.

Redditor: I don't mean to come across as melodramatic, but suicide was a serious daily contemplation. I hated other people, who seemed so cheery, and was just angry and frustrated. [Quitting porn] has changed me for the better. I feel like life is once again worth living.

Others are rediscovering what it's like to enjoy social interactions and be attracted to real mates, what full erections are, and how great intercourse feels to a brain that is no longer desensitized. Many report improvements in confidence, mental clarity, charisma, vocal quality, self-respect, and ability to socialize and flirt. They feel like themselves again, or perhaps for the first time. After all, a fish only grasps the concept of water when it leaves it behind. In short, the very symptoms psychologist Philip Zimbardo describes in his short TED talk about the effects of "Internet arousal addiction," are receding in these "test subjects."

Distressing news

The only worrying bit of data from the informal control groups is that porn addicts who cut their teeth on highspeed are not recovering their sexual performance as quickly as those who engaged in courtship/mating behaviors with real partners before they dove into highspeed. This is more evidence that today's porn has different effects on some brains from static porn of the past.

Unfortunately, this generally means that a younger guy with sexual performance problems can expect a slower recovery than a guy who has been using porn far longer. Adolescent brains with early access to limitless highspeed porn appear to be more vulnerable to its effects than older brains. This phenomenon is consistent with the unique features of the adolescent brain, and the way brains prune back unused circuitry by adulthood, possibly leaving some porn fans stranded with a strong attraction to pixels only.

Existing research on Internet porn is, in effect, anecdotal

Keep in mind that in essence, all existing journal studies on Internet porn use have been anecdotal, because they had no control groups of non-porn users. (We're not speaking of the recent Internet addiction brain research that includes porn use too.) The questionnaire-based research seems to fall into two categories:

  1. Has Internet porn caused an increase in crime, rape, and other irrelevant data?
  2. How does the user "feel" about porn?

As for 1: Stats on declines in rapes or violence are irrelevant when attempting to isolate risks to  users. From all anecdotal reports, Internet porn addiction takes the starch out of guys. Actually, there's one variable correlated with porn addiction: watching porn. In other words, when someone is addicted to food, she eats; when someone is addicted to video games, he plays video games; when he is addicted to porn, he watches porn. Video game addicts don't become ninja killers, and porn addicts don't become rapists.

As for 2, guess what? Porn users like porn. Most see no problem with it. More important, they assume it's not creating any negative consequences (and it may not be). But if you are 22, and all you have ever known from age 11 is daily Internet porn use, how do you know whether it is connected with symptoms (if any)? Most guys only figure out what's going on if they experiment with stopping:

I'm a 16-year-old boy/man. When I was young I was carefree, but as I grew older I started to become extremely depressed, unmotivated and shy. I've only recently realised how much being addicted to porn and masturbation (since I was 12) has affected my life. I feel like I've wasted enough of my life at this point, and I'm determined to stop this addiction. The first time I realised I that abstaining from masturbation has many benefits was about two months ago. I went almost two weeks. I felt extremely confident and found it really easy to talk to girls and people I didn't know. In fact, the first time I intentionally went without masturbation, I fell in love.

Student, 22 - My friends and I were inspired by the Seinfeld episode "The Contest" and by "40 Days and 40 Nights" (both comedies about trying to temporarily stop masturbating). Just the challenge of it was fun, but I also found that my interest in girls lined-up properly with reality. Instead of daydreaming about doing a pornstar in some crazy position, I planned exactly how I'd ask the girl-next-door to the Valentine's dance. Anyway, I went to college (and started watching porn again), and my education never took off, and my dating/sex-life never took off. I eventually dropped out and worked for a few years, and now I'm back at college. I feel like my life almost passed me by. More self-reports

American Society of Addiction Medicine logo

The glaring knowledge gap left by the absence of formal control groups has actually already been closed by addiction specialists, although the mainstream hasn't yet caught up with this development. Last year, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (doctors and researchers) declared that addiction is one disease, not many. ASAM specifically stated sexual behavior addictions are as real as drug addictions, and that all addictions can be assessed the same way. So, while research isolating porn users would be interesting, it would also be superfluous.

Even more recently, a wealth of new Internet addiction research has come out confirming that Internet addiction (1) changes brains in the same ways that other addictions do and (2) causes depression, anxiety, hostility, interpersonal sensitivity, and psychoticism in some users. It also reveals rates of addiction in young male Internet users that are more than twice the rates of drug and alcohol use in the population.

Porn use was not excluded from the studies, and, in any case, there is no reason to think Internet porn alone would be less addictive than porn+Facebook+whatever (overall usage). In fact, of all Internet media, cyber erotica has the greatest addictive potential. Incidentally, if you're hooked, be optimistic. Two of the studies, which also scanned former addicts who chose to abstain, found reversal of some addiction-related brain changes.

Still, without easy-to-understand research that isolates Internet porn use, includes control groups and leads to simple headlines, it has been challenging for mainstream journalists to grasp, or report on, the significance for porn users of the new Internet addiction research. Some inadvertently mislead readers by implying that researchers have investigated porn users' brains and found nothing. This risks perpetuating a false sense of safety in those who begin to notice symptoms.

Moreover, some academics have been quick to assert that the only possible conclusion (in the absence of the ideal controlled studies), is that Internet porn has no harmful effects. Huh? This position creates risk for addicts, who generally seize upon any excuse to continue using, as well as for adolescents whose brains are particularly vulnerable and whose impulse control has not yet fully developed.

One single variable

Today's informal control groups are showing us just how profoundly highspeed porn alters the lives of those whose brains are sensitive to the stimulation of constant novelty-at-a-click. By removing the single variable of frequent highspeed porn use, vital, illuminating data are being collected and shared informally. Lives are transforming.

Gravity existed before anyone figured it out. So did the hazards of smoking. So do the symptoms of Internet porn addiction. Wide scale human experience can reveal important insights, even when science is immobilized by sexual politics and the impossibility of finding porn virgins. Anecdotal evidence becomes experimental evidence when thousands of people alter only one variable and see remission of common symptoms.

Thanks to the control groups now crystallizing on the web, guys are no longer flying (or fapping) blind.

Comments

Great article Gary!

Great article Gary!

I'm also amazed that you mentioned postmasculine.com

I practically run the "no more porn thread", haha. But the people there are very happy with the service and aid that I'm providing for them :).

I should also thank you and Marnia for doing this, if it weren't up to you, I would still be thinking that there was something wrong with me.

Thanks Marnia

Thanks Marnia

and it's helping you as well. A forum member named Zac is reading your book and is trying it out with his girlfriend.

He says his girlfriend loves it :).

He recently posted that he's

He recently posted that he's a masturbation and porn addict. haha

but he's cutting out porn as well. He confessed that he watched it four hours a week.

But he likes your writing. I'll ask him to sign up, so you can have a chat with him :).

haha

The distressing news ...

So, would it be possible for someone who grew up on porn, and never developed a normal sexuality, to be hardwired to be turned on by pixels only?

If the person then quit porn, would he then become completely asexual, or would he develop tastes in real life women?

It's a bit worrying for me.

no of course not

you are hardwired by your genes to want to fertilize real women and make babies. Behavior can imprint channels in the brain along these lines but slightly differently -- for porn for instance.

But all you have to do is reboot and pay attention to real women and not fantasize as best you can, and not use porn or masturbate and avoid orgasm.

Your "real" brain hardwiring will rebuild those channels along healthier lines because you are paying attention to real women and not porn. And the brain responds. It has to.

 

Analogy time!

[quote=Goel]So, would it be possible for someone who grew up on porn, and never developed a normal sexuality, to be hardwired to be turned on by pixels only?

If the person then quit porn, would he then become completely asexual, or would he develop tastes in real life women?

It's a bit worrying for me.[/quote]
Heres a kind of simple basic analogy that can maybe ease your worrying.
Look at the progression of video games. Someone who has been brought in the Playstation and Xbox generation probably finds Atari, 8 bit NES, PacMan, and Pinball games extremely boring. However if they were to stop playing their PS3 or 360 for say a year and someone gave them Ms PacMan, they would probably find it a lot more interesting than before. Its all just a matter of tolerance you build up with hyper stimulating versions of the real thing. Junk food is another good example. Years of eating just McDonalds probably makes "regular" food look unappealing.
Just keep reading and re-reading the information on YBOP and this site and youll understand more and more.

gary wrote:

[quote=gary]
In other words, when someone is addicted to food, she eats; when someone is addicted to video games, he plays video games; when he is addicted to porn, he watches porn.[/quote]

Was the she intentional?

Your logic can be used against the adolescent brain theory. Users' brains might not be the only element in play. Assuming a user is seeking women in his peer group, those female brains are out of whack too. Older males can find females that are better balanced to help them stabilize faster. Although it sounds far fetched, given the talk about how partners are affected by each other's orgasms, it could be at least a factor. There are few opportunities to test this (unless a younger man has an older female partner).

Great article guys! It seems

Great article guys! It seems that every day the concept of porn saturation and its impact on men's desire is becoming more mainstream. I think it is not long before I am going to hear friends talk about the phenomenon. This column in tomorrow's NY Times summarizes some of the recent articles in the media.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/bruni-the-bleaker-sex.html

It's hard to believe that a little more than 10 months ago this concept was completely alien to me. YBOP and Reuniting changed all that !