Friday, 2 December, 2022
HomePageTurnerBook ExcerptsDoes watching porn make us better lovers or shrink our brain?

Does watching porn make us better lovers or shrink our brain?

Text Size:

Pornography viewership has sky-rocketed and is slowly distorting our experiences of intimacy without us even knowing it.

For the purposes of this section, we leave aside all moral judgments about viewing pornography. Rather, we focus on the impacts of its consumption on our lives. It is an uncomfortable subject, but online technology has taken pornography out of the closet and into the mainstream. Pornhub, the largest pornography site on the Internet, is ranked as the thirty-eighth most trafficked web property in the world, according to Amazon’s Alexa traffic-ranking service. It tallied 2.66 billion sessions in November 2017, more than double the number of monthly sessions eight years earlier. Estimates of the percentage of worldwide web traffic devoted to pornography range from 5 percent to 20 percent (weighted by its heavy video content).

According to Pornhub’s 2017 Year in Porn Review report, visitors watched four billion hours of pornography over the course of 28.5 billion site visits to Pornhub alone, not counting visits to the thousands of other online sites and blogs that publish pornography. Visitors performed 24.7 billion searches on the site (about eight hundred per second, the number of hamburgers that McDonald’s sells per second). No one doubts any longer that a fairly large percentage of the population consumes online porn. International studies estimate that 50 to 99 per cent of men and 30 to 86 per cent of women consume porn, the vast majority online. The average session on Pornhub was seven minutes in length as of November 2017.

Though some psychologists believe that porn consumption is innocuous and even associated with reductions in reported sexual assaults, a substantial volume of research indicates that porn is not so benign. In a survey of 1,500 people, researchers found that people who viewed porn even once a month expressed lower degrees of sexual satisfaction than those who didn’t, with “disproportionately larger decrements in satisfaction” in those who consumed it more often. In another study, researchers found that couples of which neither member used porn reported more relationship satisfaction than did couples of which one person used porn. Individual users, the study found, reported “significantly less intimacy and commitment in their relationship than non-users and shared users.” Other research associates the use of pornography with a higher likelihood of cheating on spouses. Researchers have found that regular, heavy porn use may physically shrink parts of our brains. Roughly one-third of married women view surreptitious or unapproved use of pornography by their spouses as a form of infidelity.

This is hardly a settled topic, and a debate continues to rage over whether online porn is actually physically and psychologically addictive. One researcher found that treatment of people who believed they were porn addicts with Naltrexone, a drug used to treat drug addictions, significantly lessened their time spent on line consuming pornography. Some counter-evidence indicates that joint porn use within a relationship increases females’ reports of sexual intimacy and quality. And porn watchers were more likely to be having sex than non–porn watchers, according to the most recent survey.  But having sex and making love are not equivalent, and most research suggests that porn has a negative impact on us, on our self-perceptions, and on our love lives.

Psychologists and researchers are concerned that sexuality is becoming divorced from intimacy—a trend that could accelerate as improvements in pornography technology make it a better and better replacement for intimate sex with people we love. If porn in fact becomes more attractive than the real thing—more convenient, more enjoyable, and sufficiently realistic—and becomes more widely consumed, numerous other problems could result. Sex is effective not just for procreation; it has multiple beneficial emotional and physical effects on us. Having good sex with someone we love increases our happiness and well-being and may even increase how long we live! Sex with somebody we love confers a range of important health benefits, and it’s possible that the intimacy associated with sex is more important than the sex itself. Replacing live sex with pornography could have many unforeseen unfortunate consequences. Yet we may be heading down that path without asking what it may do to our relationships and to the meaning of being human.

Your happiness was hacked

This excerpt is from the book “Your Happiness Was Hacked” by Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever. It has been published by Penguin Random House India in 2018.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular