Pornography has existed throughout recorded history, transforming with the introduction of each new medium. Hundreds of sexually explicit frescoes and sculptures were found in the Mount Vesuvius ruins of Pompeii.
Since the advent of the internet, porn use has skyrocketed to dizzying heights. Pornhub, the world’s largest free porn site, received over 33.5 billion site visits during 2018 alone.
Science is only just beginning to reveal the neurological repercussions of porn consumption. But it is already clear that the mental health and sex lives of its widespread audience are suffering catastrophic effects. From depression to erectile dysfunction, porn appears to be hijacking our neural wiring with dire consequences.
In my own lab, we study the neural wiring that underlies learning and memory processes. The properties of video porn make it a particularly powerful trigger for plasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Combined with the accessibility and anonymity of online porn consumption, we are more vulnerable than ever to its hyper-stimulating effects.