Why It’s So Hard To Stop Watching Porn

“Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times.” – Mark Twain

Scientist recently showed that methamphetamine and cocaine hijack the same reward center nerve cells that evolved for sexual conditioning. Put simply, addictive drugs like meth and coke are compelling because they hijack the precise mechanisms that evolved to make sex compelling. And guess what, so can porn.

Sexual arousal is nature’s top priority and raises dopamine the highest of all natural rewards. Your brain starts to crave and then loses control, and negative consequences soon follow.
We’re more inclined to be addicted to food and sex than we are to alcohol and drugs because nature wired humans this way. Humans can survive without alcohol and drugs but not sex and food.
In the study “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption” published in the Psychiatry Journal, experts at Germany’s Max Planck Institute found that more porn use correlated with less grey matter and reduced reward activity when viewing porn.

In other words, porn use weakens the prefrontal cortex, which reduces willpower so that you can easily succumb to more porn use and other addictive behaviors. This makes it easier to give up on other goals in life.

Understand how dopamine works and you understand why you are attracted to porn.
Porn acts as a substitute for actual sex, but your brain doesn’t know that. It reacts to a picture or video of a naked woman the same way it does to a real life naked woman or real sex. Your brain ramps up dopamine levels, driving you to orgasm whether that climax is fostered with another human being or is self-induced through masturbation.
Dopamine explains why certain types of porn are more compelling than others, and how in extreme cases men prefer porn to actual sex.

When looking at a pornographic image, the brain becomes habituated to that stimulus, simply injecting more novelty and getting more dopamine. A porn video is more intense because the live action activates your mirror neurons, making you feel like you’re the one having sex.

The stronger the stimulation, the bigger the shot of dopamine to the reward system, which means the greater desire to watch that porn video.
Porn offers the sexual novelty that dopamine has hardwired you to seek. The more you find new sexual experiences, the more dopamine you get, which reinforces the desire to look for even more sexual novelty. Porn’s easy access to new experiences is the main reason why it is so hard to stop watching porn.
Men also receive a shot of dopamine whenever we encounter a new attractive woman other than our current partner. Our brains are hardwired to seek out as many different (novel) sexual partners as possible. Males are biologically driven to reproduce with as many different females as possible to create as many babies as possible, with as much genetic variation as possible to increase our possible blood lines.

Men have a constant need for something new. For example, studies show that if you put a male rat in a cage with a female rat, very quickly he’ll start having sex with the female rat. But after a while he’ll slowly reduce the frequency of sex and then eventually stop.

The moment you put a new female rat in the cage, the male rat will begin having sex with the female and then slowly the same thing will happen again. This leads to less and less sex over time and then eventually no sex at all. This trend will go on and on even if the male rat is tired or is starting to hurt himself with too much sex.

The drive for multiple new sex partners – which provides an extra burst of energy and arousal with each novel partner – even when you already have an available and willing one is known the Coolidge Effect. The effect happens in all mammalian brains (although in male brains slightly more than females). The Coolidge Effect is the key to why porn is so exciting and addicting.
With porn, you have access to new women with one click, for free and, no one will ever know. Every time you indulge in porn, your brain thinks you’ve found the evolutionary goldmine that stimulates your brain to keep on consuming more and more porn despite not knowing that you are watching a video.

Binging brings an evolutionary advantage. Thousands of years ago, if you found a berry plant, then you’d eat the entire plant since you would likely never find another anytime soon. Now with porn, it’s like mating season yet it is a 24/7 mating season that never ends due to the unlimited availability of porn. The evolutionary advantage of binging is now a disadvantage. Porn is the junk food of sex except that the junk food is free and in your pocket 24/7.

Sex was a limited commodity throughout most of your brain’s evolution, and it was a good survival strategy to go for sex whenever possible. Now that you have access to an infinite amount of sex online, this is no longer a good strategy. Too much sexual stimulation has health risks of its own: reduced sensitivity to dopamine, which reduces your overall quality of life. More on that later…
The brain releases a level of neurochemicals that your brain can’t handle and was never designed to handle. It’s an artificial, supercharged response to a natural urge to have sex.
Novelty is an extremely powerful desire – look at how humans always want what’s new: the new video game, the new movie, the new TV series, the new restaurant, the new shoes. This is why it’s so hard to stop watching porn because we constantly want more new scenes and they are widely available for free.

Porn used to have barriers such as having to order it to your doorstep or going to the sketchy adult video store, peep shows, or an adult movie theatre. Men felt like they were “creepy” for engaging in these acts, but now with the advent of high speed Internet and mobile capability, porn is in your pocket 100% of your day.

Porn’s power to produce experiences of excitement, relaxation, and escape from pain makes it highly addictive. Over time, you can come to depend on it to feel good and require it so you don’t feel bad. Cravings, preoccupations, and out-of-control behavior with using it can become commonplace.

Porn can become your greatest need and your greatest liability. The more pornography a man views, the less freedom he has over what he thinks and pursues in his life. He becomes enslaved by porn because he has rewired his brain to consume more and more porn. To put it bluntly, when you cannot let go of what controls you, you have become less human, not more.

Critical Questions

  • What problems has porn caused me in the past?
  • What problems am I experiencing today because of my porn use?
  • How has porn changed me in ways I don’t like?
  • How does my porn use hurt my intimate partner and others I care about?
  • What problems could occur in the future if I continue to use porn?