Our story begins 12,000 years ago in a sleepy hamlet called paleolithic Egypt. Among boring things like ritual burial sites and harpoons, you’ll find some of the earliest surviving examples of pornography.
Cave drawings depicting nude bodies in exaggerated states of sexual excitement, as well as close-ups of good-old human genitalia have been found in these paleolithic chambers. More recently (2005), archeologists found what they believe to be a 7,200 year old scene of a sexually aroused male body bending over a female figure.
According to my calculations, doggie-style has been around for at least 7,000 years.
We may have traded in our cave walls for computer screens, and our chisels, for hi-definition video cameras, but (as you can tell from your partner's search history), porn is anything but on the decline.
According to this infographic, porn sites get more daily visitors than Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon combined. Other research reports, 70% of men and 30% of women watch porn and that number is rapidly climbing. $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography every second.
And we’re not just talking about a couple of Playboys under the bed.
Thanks to high-speed internet, we can view hundreds of sexually explicit scenes in the time it takes our Nespresso machine to pour us a shot.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’m pro-porn. As long as its consensual and well-lit, I’m game.
For many couples, porn can be a useful, fun and creative way to spice up their sex life, and a great way to learn about what turns you on. Think of porn as a dressing room for the sexual imagination. Go inside, lock the door, and try on lots things before swiping your credit card.
BECAUSE THERE ARE JUST SOME THINGS YOU CAN'T RETURN. EVEN WITH A RECEIPT.
For others, however, porn is the perpetual elephant in the room. Some folks think of their partner’s viewing habits as cheating, or as proof that they’re not sexually satisfied within the relationship.
Others still, have lost interest in face to face (or face to …) sex in favor of masturbation. Or even more alarmingly, they’ve turned their partners into mere masturbatory tools, nothing more than human flesh-lights.
This isn’t a porn bad, prolonged eye contact, tender lovemaking, slow jams on Spotify, good thing. It’s simply an invitation to ask yourself some questions about how porn fits into your life.
Is there such a thing as too much? How does it impact our partnerships? Have our brains kept up with the ready access and novelty provided by technology?Some scientists say no.
A new German study published in JAMA Psychiatry, reports that men who disclose watching voluminous amounts of porn, tend to have less volume and activity in regions of the brain linked to rewards and motivation. The study also showed that the connection between the striatum and the prefrontal cortex - the outer layer of the brain that’s associated with behavior and decision making, worsened with increased porn watching. Research also suggests, that porn viewing has also been found to dull responses to sexual stimulation.
Have you heard of the Coolidge Effect? It describes a biological phenomenon whereby human mammals (nearly all of them) exhibit a continuously high sexual drive, with the introduction of new receptive partners. Dopamine flatlines with repeated exposures to the same mate (especially if they’re always wearing those same sweatpants…), but it surges at the prospect of a shiny new partner. Thus, our primitive brains perceive new partners (even those on a screen), as genetic opportunities not to be missed.
This in itself isn’t awful. It’s science. It’s survival.
The problem is that this Big Bang of synthetic novelty provided by Internet porn, can make the fireworks we set off with our not new, same old, partners, look like the the flickering LED light at the end of your key chain, by comparison.
A 2007 study, revealed that brief exposure to a series of sexy images caused men to devalue their real-life partner, who they rated as lower not only on attractiveness, but also on warmth and intelligence. Also, after pornography consumption, subjects in a 2006 study reported less satisfaction with their sweetheart—including their affection, appearance, sexual curiosity, and performance.
As a couples therapist, I can tell you that we’re all just looking for meaningful contact and that includes our search, use and sometimes overuse of porn. This research is compelling, but I suggest you do your own, in order to truly investigate the effect that porn may have on your life.
- Notice how you feel right before you watch porn. Are you lonely, content, bored, angry, aroused?
- How you feel during? Are you connecting to your body, or are you disengaged? Do you feel guilty, or empowered?
- And how you do you feel immediately afterwards?
Developing a quality of awareness won’t just improve your solo and partner missions, but it will allow you to get really lucky, and respond to what is happening in your life, with choice, and with grounded, present-centered, awareness.
So, next time you’re spanking the monkey, teasing the weasel, tossing the turkey, or walking the dog, don't forget to practice this gestalt (S)exercise in awareness.
*NOTE: No animals were harmed in the making of this sentence*
Lonely Forever? No Way!