Excerpt from the book, The Addiction Free Lifestyle: The True Path To Inner Freedom & Self Mastery, Ronnie Landis (Release late 2020)
“Pornography, by its very nature, is an equal opportunity toxin. It damages the viewer, the performer, and the spouses and the children of the viewers and the performers. It is toxic mis-education about sex and relationships. It is more toxic the more you consume.”
Dr. Mary Anne Layden
So, this leads us to a topic among all topics in the rolodex of addictions and one that tends to reside below the surface of our awareness whereas the others tend to get the front row and center stage position. Pornography, for many men in particular, is the great elephant in the room and the single hardest addiction to crack where all else is rather child’s play in comparison and contrast. Pornography rides in parallel to the virtual reality stimulatory addiction of entertainment, mainstream media, and social media but has far more intensified effects on it’s user and has a far greater grip of control than any of these other platforms could ever hope to have. If you ask 100 men over the age of 18 and well into their 40’s what their single biggest struggle is. Something that no one else knows about. Something they hold a lot of guilt or shame around and cannot seem to break free from, what do you think they would say? Would it be alcohol? How about a social media obsession? No, I know! What about their ongoing obsession with staying up all night playing online role playing video games until the morning hours. That last one may actually be very close but the vast majority of what you would hear back is none of these. My strongest assertion is that the biggest struggle most men find themselves in is a secret undisclosed relationship with online pornography.
A recently updated 2020 set of statistics showed that around 12% of webpages are pornographic sites. Although this number may appear small in scope it is the ease and immediacy of access that poses the biggest cause of concern. Anyone of any age has the same availability of access to pornography as the next person and there is no legitimate gatekeeper ensuring that the end user is a consenting adult or a curious adolescent or even a pre-pubescent child. As most other addiction based consumer habits and socially accepted drugs/substances in our manufactured culture, pornography has become a truly devastating weapon of mass distraction, of the likes that it’s effects on all forms of psychological development, brain health, intimacy and sexuality, and impulse regulation are only now being discovered. These scientific and anecdotal discoveries are not trivial by any means. In fact, they are truly alarming and pose a very real concern for the overall developmental progress of the human race so long as high speed pornography remains easily accessible, socially acceptable, and is the primary youth education for human sexuality.
Allow me to share some recent staggering statistics with you so we have a better grasp on a certain reality that is occurring underneath our veil of awareness. These stats were derived from an article called Pornography Facts and Statistics, by The Recovery Village, editor Megan Hull.
• 25% of search engine requests are related to sex
These are interesting statistics to say the least and there are plenty more we can drum up to make a certain point but this is more than enough to gain a greater awareness of the situation. As we go deeper into this subject it will become more apparent what the conclusive effects of pornography are, whether someone is a periodic user or has a full blown addiction and as some experts say spend at least 11-12 hours each week viewing porn. Whether smaller amounts of exposure or frequent exposure it is important to note that this is not one of those things any reasonable health inclined expert can recommend moderation where addiction is concerned. There is no moderate amount of pornography that is actually non-threatening to an individuals overall development as a functional human being. And there is certainly no amount that could ever be considered healthy or safe for exposure and I will proceed to explain why this is.
Some people may consider what I am saying a bit extreme or over dramatic. After all, we have all been exposed, in some degree, to internet pornography or video tapes growing up. For most teenage boys (and many women as I understand) pornography has become the primary sex education exposure they (we) have received and was the first model for what sexuality looked like and how it was supposed to approached. We wait to discuss the neurological consequences of porn exposure and further addiction on the other than fully developed brains of young boys and also the young girls who are affected by this as well. What I am explaining only appears to be an over reaching attempt to pose the extreme negatives of pornography up until one see’s the scientific proof of what someone’s brain on porn looks like. When you see that porn, like all long standing addictions, whether that be to our smart phones, our alcohol, our excessive caffeinated drinks, or pharmaceutical medications, have a very real and significant impact on the structure and functionality of our malleable brains.
I am not only communicating from the stance of a research educator and health expert here. I am first and foremost communicating from the position of a fully developed man who at one point had his own struggles and tussles with what could be described as a porn addiction paired with a sex addiction. Whether or not I would personally describe my problem as a full blown addiction is irrelevant because addiction lives on a spectrum and one person’s moderation is another persons obsessive compulsive disorder(OCD). Some of us may simply be higher functional addicts in some areas and complete train wrecks in others. In my case, I could consider myself, at this phase of my maturation into adulthood as a highly functional, highly intelligent, highly composed sexually obsessed, porn using individual. If, however, I had enough alcohol in me at this time in my life I would be a total mess, unable to operate in public, and basically just a disaster. The effects of alcohol in my case would have been very very obvious whereas the frequent use of pornography and the chronic over visualization of sex were not obvious to others but becoming more apparent to myself.
It took awhile for the effects to become totally obvious but obvious they did become and by that time it had become such a powerful associative pattern that it was easier to ignore than it was to walk away from. I will share a very personal story of how this pornographic rabbit hole caused me to ruin the first real relationship I was in in the section A Replacement for True Intimacy. Moving aside from that for now what I would like to detail is the common manifestations of co-disorders that seem to accompany increased porn use. Each of these I have also experienced, whether directly or indirectly, in combination or as a byproduct of frequent pornography exposure. These include social anxiety, existential anxiety, depression, mood imbalances, obsession with sex, substance or drug abuse, memory problems(this is a big deal!), chronic tobacco smoking, and the most alarming for men which is erectile dysfunction. This last one is known as PIED which is short for Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction. There is a tremendous amount of science and personal testimonial worldwide about the effects that porn has had on mens libido, sperm count quality, and ability to get it up. This is a by-product of both excessive ejaculation and over stimulation of porn inducted imagery via dopamine receptor burnout. This will be explained in more detail in the sections Your Brain on Porn and Seminal Retention & Masturbation.
Lets try to understand that internet based pornography is an augmented virtual reality simulation of a hyper-sexualized experience arising from a holographic projection field. The hologram itself is the computer screen ie the virtual reality interface network we discussed in the prior chapter. The projection field is the imagery that is being received by the end user and projected outward from the holographic medium ie the computer, phone, or tablet. The experience that the end user is having is their own biological, psychological, and emotional interpretation based on the intensified stimulation of the imagery being projected forth. The neuroscience of this phenomena will be explained more in the section Your Brain on Porn but let’s focus on the fact that what is being experienced is nothing more than an augmented interpretation of reality rather than an accurate version of reality. The most accurate interpretation of this scenario is that someone is on their computer, likely touching themselves, scrolling on a porn website, watching videos or viewing pictures, and is feeling a cascading effect of pleasure stimulation leading up to the climax of an intense yet solo sexual experience.
The reality is very different than the psycho-biological interpretation of the intensified experience itself. Because of the neurochemistry being activated in such an accelerated way and the heightened arousal state our body and brain cannot distinct fact from fiction. Our brain can interpret the experience as if we, ourselves are the one’s having the sexual experience rather than simply watching other people on video recording being projected from a screen having it. This is what I mean when I say pornography is a form of augmented virtual reality because it places the end user into a chemical responsive position to initiate the same sensations of those in the video. This becomes a problem when our bodies become dependent on this kind of sensory input and although our conscious mind knows the difference, our unconscious mind (and biology) does not. If you thought a social media addiction, video game marathons, or binge watching netflix movies could become a problem then internet pornography takes it to a whole other level.
The difference with pornography and sex addiction in general is that it is an intense spike in heightened states of arousal, sometimes very extreme highs but after a man ejaculates it’s over and done, right? Wrong! This is the appearance of the cycle but in fact it remains long after the moment of completion and because it is so easily accessible it’s easily repeatable and the next urge is only around the corner. What tends to follow the heightened sensations is a drop in self esteem, self respect, and feelings of either/or both guilt and shame begin creeping up. This is one of the most common reported feelings upon climaxing from pornography, especially if it has become a repetitive habit and the person feels they have a problem with it. I know for me I had experienced this repeatedly and knew I had a problem but for some reason I did not allow myself to feel the feelings of shame or guilt long enough to not repeat the behavior again. The immediate sensations of pleasure and gratification feel so good and so overwhelming that it’s easy to push our moral or ethics to the side, because after all, we aren’t hurting anybody. They are only actors on the screen playing an agreed upon part for our personal enjoyment, right?
I’ll spare all of us a lecture on the morality or lack there of when it comes to pornography or any addiction cycle for that matter. That is not my role here and it would be hypocritical to do so but what is important is to notice the self critic that arises in moments where our moral compass has gone astray. This indicates that we are engaging in something that we know at our core is not in alignment with our values and goes against our true character. What many people do not take the time to inner stand about this whole thing is that pornography is not just watching other people having sex (at varying degrees of demoralizing the female usually) but it is also entraining the user to adopt the same patterns and begin seeing the opposite gender through the lenses of pornography. We can call this pornographic perception or having the porn goggles on too tight. This is where we begin to perceive those of the opposite sex as sexual objects rather than simply seeing them as human beings.
The well known actors Terry Crews had gone public a number of years ago about an incident that had happened to him at a Hollywood party full of producers and staff. He was sexually assaulted by someone in a high position and was expected to laugh it off. In Hollywood circles sexual harassment and assault is actually very common. It is actually more or less the norm as we have discovered with people like Harvey Weinstein and others who have been exposed for their abusive conduct. This caused Terry to go public about what was happening in the industry but in addition to this incident Terry also went public about a long standing porn addiction that he had kept a secret from the world and from his wife. He has done a series of brilliant and transparent videos on his experience from porn addiction, how it almost cost him his family, how it affected his career, and how extreme this addiction could go without anyone else knowing it but him. In one of his videos he said something so profound and so telling of how pornography can alter our perception of reality and mistreat other’s without us ever physically abusing anyone. Terry said “the problem with porn is that people become body parts. People become things to be used instead of people to be loved.”
Porn uses people, just like all addictions do, and once someone is used up they are disposable and it’s off to the next one and the next one. We have to be very careful about how we are entraining our minds and the pattern recognition signaling that our brain is being normalized towards. Once a pattern begins to entrain itself in the neuro-pathways of our brain and synchronizes with the formation of dendritical connections it becomes extremely difficult to break that pattern and establish healthier brain connections. If this was not the case than it would not be difficult at all to reroute our ingrained behaviors and due to low resolution high intensification stimulation like the virtual pornography augmentation experience we see an entire generation of boys in men’s bodies suffering silently from over pleasuring themselves, to the point of losing all of their virility, motivation for growth, and masturbating all of their life potential away at the edge of a keyboard and computer screen.