Is pornography desensitising the male brain? Feminists claim X-rated content is as addictive as cocaine and gambling

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Last updated at 7:15 PM on 1st July 2011

Pornography today permeates society - available on television, in magazines and to anyone on the internet.
It may not come as a surprise to some that men spend up to 80 per cent more time than women looking at X-rated content online.
But feminists are warning heightened consumption comes with damaging, and addictive effects: disrupting normal sexual function and ruining relationships as young men become desensitised to the erotic appeal of their partners.
Relationship sabotage? A couple shares a look through a pornographic magazine
Relationship sabotage? A couple shares a look through a pornographic magazine
Social critic, political activist and author Naomi Wolf weighed in on the 'problem of porn' on CNN's Global Public Square blog this week.
Wolf, who published her essay 'The Porn Myth' six years ago, contends that therapists and sexual counsellors in her research have connected a rise in pornographic consumption among young men 'with an increase in impotence and premature ejaculation among the same population.'

 

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'The hypothesis among the experts was that pornography was progressively desensitizing these men sexually,' she writes.
A recent poll, conducted by BBC Radio One Newsbeat in association with doctors from the Portman Clinic, appears to echo her claims.
The poll, more than 1,000 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.K., found that eight out of ten men looked at porn on the internet - compared to one-third of women, with men spending an average of two hours a week watching pornography on internet, compared with just 15 minutes for women.
Addictive: Pornography leads to the release of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin - which feminists argue can leave viewers in search of the next 'high'
Addictive: Pornography leads to the release of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin - which feminists argue can leave viewers in search of the next 'high'
While 61 per cent said they were more likely to put off real-life sex after watching pornography, just 27 per cent of moderate and 24 per cent of light users felt the same.
Dr Heather Wood, from the Portman Clinic, said hours online watching graphic images could have worrying effects.
The study found that heavy porn visitors, four out of five who watched erotic content online for 10 hours a week, were more likely to indulge in 'problematic and potentially compulsive' behaviour.
Wood told BBC: 'Those people spending large amounts of time accessing porn are not having more fun.
'They are more worried about themselves, more worried about what they are looking at, and report more relationship problems.'
Booming: The internet porn industry pulls in $4.9billion per year worldwide, according to research conducted by the online Master of Business Administration
Booming: The internet porn industry pulls in $4.9billion per year worldwide, according to research conducted by the online Master of Business Administration
Researchers say pornography taps into intense emotional, biological and chemical connections throughout the brain and body.
And arousal through pornography, which leads to the release of the naturally occurring chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin and serotonin, can become addictive.
Wolf writes: 'This dopamine effect explains why pornography tends to become more and more extreme over time: ordinary sexual images eventually lose their power, leading consumers to need images that break other taboos in other kinds of ways, in order to feel as good.'
'Moreover, some men (and women) have a 'dopamine hole' - their brains’ reward systems are less efficient - making them more likely to become addicted to more extreme porn more easily.'
'The neural circuitry is identical to that for other addictive triggers, such as gambling or cocaine,' Wolf writes.
'The addictive potential is also identical: just as gamblers and cocaine users can become compulsive, needing to gamble or snort more and more to get the same dopamine boost, so can men consuming pornography become hooked. As with these other reward triggers, after the dopamine burst wears off, the consumer feels a letdown - irritable, anxious, and longing for the next fix.'
That search for the 'next fix' has triggered a boom in internet porn - and industry that pulls in $4.9billion per year worldwide, according to research conducted by the online Master of Business Administration.
Feminist blogger Sady Doyle is concerned increased consumption may be pushing women to be more submissive to their partner's desires.
Doyle told New York Times magazine: 'I think sometimes it's much harder for women to say, "I'm not into that," or "Please, I don't want to do that, let's do something else," than it is to say, "Sure,"' she said.
'Putting all the onus on the person who doesn't have that fetish or desire, particularly if the person who doesn't have that desire is the woman, really reproduces a lot of old structures and means of oppression for women.'

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