Interesting article that starts out as an ad for a movie. There is actual scientific evidence for this effect, however.
Don Jon: how porn is rewiring men's brains
There’s a scene in Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new comedy about a womanising New Jersey stud with a rabid porn habit, in which Julianne Moore’s character gently breaks it to Jon that the sex they had was, well, not that good. That, actually, she felt like Jon was pretty much masturbating using her instead of his hand. Jon is stunned, mortified and finally completely confused by his sex life. Because, the truth is, he’s not enjoying it much either. Porn is what he really loves. Porn, porn and more porn.
Jon’s not alone in his love of porn. Statistics are superfluous – we all know it, don’t we? – but here are some anyway: 97% of boys and 80% of girls who responded to a University of East London survey targeting those aged between 16 and 20 said they had viewed porn. In America, one in three women regularly watch porn and 70% of men aged 18 to 24 visit porn sites at least once a month. (And the English-speaking West isn’t even pornography’s most enthusiastic market – that honour goes to Pakistan.)
The question is: does it matter? If we’re all getting our kicks and having a good time, what’s the problem? “It’s a disconnection from what’s really in front of you,” says Gordon-Levitt, who directed, wrote and stars in the film. “Rather than engaging with a unique individual and listening to what the other has to say, right at this moment, we put people in boxes with labels. We objectify each other.”
The consequences of this are worse than you might think. The thin end of the wedge is less enjoyment during sex. Jon’s dissatisfaction with real life sex is something he has in common with a lot of habitual porn users. In his book, The Brain That Changes Itself, the psychiatrist Norman Doidge writes about a phenomenon he began to notice among his male patients in the mid 1990s. They watched porn – “everybody does,” they told Doidge – and were experiencing “increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, though they still considered them attractive.” They found themselves having to fantastise about porn scenes to get turned on.
That’s because, along with a great number of porn users, they had rewired the arousal pathways in their brains. “Pornography,” writes Doidge, “satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change,” – that is, the brain’s ability to form new neural circuitry. The most important condition is the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives us a feeling of exciting pleasure, which porn triggers. The more often you watch porn and get the dopamine hit it delivers, the more the activity and the sensation become entwined in your brain.
Doidge puts it like this: “since neurons that fire together wire together, these men got massive amounts of practice wiring these images into the pleasure centres of the brain.” And, “because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them.”
A related problem is what addiction experts call “tolerance”, in other words the need for more of a given stimulant (harder and weirder porn) for the same amount of dopamine. In the end, the result is what Doidge politely calls “potency problems”. Compulsive pornography users become unable to maintain erections. ...
More at the link.