How Porn Changes Sexual Preferences: The Science

If you’ve ever read a scientific study, you may have found that the experiment being conducted was done so on rats. This is because rats are similar to humans, and drugs may act the same way in humans as they do in rats. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this given that this is an article on how pornography alters human sexual tastes…well, a study conducted on rats is very relevant to this topic.

porn addiction experiment

Research into whether or not the instinct of rats could be changed was conducted using what most people would determine as pretty gross methods! Female rats were sprayed with a liquid that was designed to smell exactly like a rotting corpse. When sprayed with this liquid and put into a cage with male rats, the desire to mate with the female rats was so powerful that it usurped the urge to avoid the smell of a rotting corpse. But it didn’t end there. Male rats were then put in cages with inanimate objects that were sprayed with the same ‘death spray’, and the results were exactly the same – they preferred objects that smelt like rotting corpses because they associated pleasure with the smell.

 

So where do humans come into this? Well, both rats and humans (and all mammals for that matter), have an area in their brain that is commonly referred to as the ‘reward centre’. An element of the reward centre’s function is to encourage healthy living by rewarding you when you perform a task that keeps you alive, keeps the whole species or enriches your life to some degree (eating, having sex and building relationships are examples). The reward your brains provides when doing something that fits into any of the previously mentioned three categories is to flood the brain with a myriad of pleasure chemicals, which of course make you feel euphoric.

 

But the aforementioned chemicals don’t just make you feel good; they also create new connections and pathways, to ensure that you carry on doing the things that make you feel great. This, on the face of it, may seem like an amazing feat of evolution (and it is to an extent); our brains are wired to keep us alive by making us feel good when we do things that do so. However, if those same chemicals are released and connected to something that could be deemed harmful, the effect is completely the opposite.

 

The process that altered the rat’s taste – the association of pleasure to the smell of death – is induced in humans by viewing pornography. Sure, watching porn may seem completely harmless and that it’s not inducing anything untoward. Still, your brain is constantly working to build new connections and continues doing so when watching porn – creating connections between arousal and whatever is being viewed. And, given that those watching porn typically become accustomed to the material they’ve already viewed, they desire to move on and watch different types of porn is strong and can change tastes and preferences over time, this behaviour might develop erectile dysfunction on men, aka PIED, impotence and alteration in sexual preference are just a few of the many PIED symptoms

 

Studies have shown that over half of young adult men had seen a change in their porn tastes to more extreme or deviant material, in addition to admitting they get aroused by things that previously would not have had the same effect. In fact, in some instances, some even found that they were unable to be stimulated by a sexual partner and had to rely solely on porn for stimulation. This may also start a snowball type effect, whereby the person starts to normalise sexual acts and behaviours that they would have once deemed inappropriate or even disgusting. Studies have shown that those to copious volumes of porn thought that sex with animals and violent sex were twice as common compared to those not exposed to porn. Furthermore, when a person believes a certain type of behaviour is normal, they’re far more likely to try it.

 

Of course, not everyone who watches porn will suddenly turn into a rapist or someone who wants to live out extreme fantasies. Still, research indicates that even infrequent pron consumption can lead to changes in both attitudes and ideas.

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