The great porn experiment | Gary Wilson | TEDxGlasgow


Translator: Maciek Sterkowicz
Reviewer: Capa Girl Inspired by the last talker I’m going to have a little song
about Internet porn. No, just kidding. The widespread use of Internet porn
is one of the fastest moving most global experiments ever
unconsciously conducted. Nearly every young guy
with an Internet access becomes an eager test subject. Canadian researcher
Simon Lajeunesse found that most boys
seek pornography by age 10. Driven by a brain that is suddenly
fascinated by sex. Now, users perceive Internet porn
as far more compelling than porn of the past. Why is that? Unending novelty. In this Australian experiment, it’s not mere nudity but novelty
that gets arousals skyrocketing. Subjects watch 22 porn displays.
See that spike? That’s where the researchers
switch to porn the guys hadn’t seen before. What happened?
Their erections and their brains fired up. Why all the excitement? Mother nature likes to keep
a male fertilizing willing females as long as any new ones are around. In that top line the ram, he needs more and more time
to make with the same old ewe. But if you keep switching females –
the bottom line – well she’s not the same. He can get the job done in 2 minutes flat and keep going
until he’s utterly exhausted. This is known as the Coolidge effect. Without the Coolidge effect
there would be no Internet porn. This old mammalian program,
the Coolidge effect, perceives each novel female on a guy’s screen
as a genetic opportunity. To keep a guy fertilizing
the screen his brain releases the “go get it” neurochemical dopamine
for each novel mate or image. Eventually the ram will tire but as long as the guy can keep clicking he can keep going
and so will his dopamine. With internet porn a guy can see
more hot babes in 10 minutes than his ancestors could see
in several lifetimes. The problem is he has
a hunter-gather brain. A heavy user brain rewires
itself to this genetic bonanza so it carefully becomes associated
with this porn harem. Such behaviours that are associated
with this are being alone, voyeurism, clicking,
searching, multiple tabs fast-forwarding, constant novelty,
shock and surprise. As one young guy once asked: Are we the first generation
to masturbate left handed? Now, real sex, in contrast,
is courtship, touching, being touched, smells, pheromones,
emotional connection, interaction with a real person. Now, what happens when our guy
finally gets with a real mate. Well, researchers don’t know
much about the effects of Internet porn for several reasons. In 2009, when Lajeunesse
tried to study porn’’s impact he couldn’t find any college age males
who weren’t using it. So the first serious dilemma
is that studies have no control groups. Now, this creates a huge blind spot. Imagine if all guys
started smoking at age 10 and there were no groups that didn’t. We would think that lung cancer
is normal for all guys. Undaunted by his lack of non-users
Lajeunesse asked 20 male students: Is Internet porn affecting you
or your attitude towards women? They answered,
“No, I don’t think so.” But they’ve been using it
for about a decade then pretty much non-stop. This is like asking a fish
what it thinks about water? Which bring us to a second problem. Researchers haven’t asked porn users
about the symptoms Zimbardo described in
“The Demise of Guys.” Arousal addiction symptoms
are easily mistaken for such things as ADHD,
social anxiety, depression, concentration problems,
performance anxiety, OCD and a host of others. Now, healthcare providers often assume
that these conditions are primary perhaps the cause of addiction but
never really the result of an addiction. As a consequence they often
medicate these guys without really inquiring about
if they have an Internet addiction. Guys never realise
that they could overcome these symptoms simply
by changing their behaviour. Now, the third problem
is it’s hard to believe that sexual activity can cause addiction
because sex is healthy. But Internet porn is not sex. Internet porn
is as different from real sex as today’s video games are from checkers. Watching the screen
full of naked body parts won’t automatically protect one
from arousal addiction. In this Dutch study – here’s the title – they found that in fact of all activities
on the Internet porn has the most potential
to become addictive. Here’s why. This ancient programme,
the reward circuit, evolved to drive us towards
natural rewards such as sex, bonding and food. As a consequence extreme versions
of natural rewards have a unique ability to capture us. For example: high-calorie foods
or hot novel babes give us extra dopamine. Too much dopamine though can override
our natural satiation mechanisms. For example: give rats unlimited access to junk food and almost all of them
will binge to obesity. This is also why 4 out of 5 Americans
are overweight and about half of those are obese. That is addicted to food. Now, in contrast to natural rewards,
drugs such as cocaine or alcohol only hook
about 10% of users whether they are rats or humans. This binge mechanism for food or sex
was once an evolutionary advantage. In essence, it is getting it while
the getting is good. Now, you can think of wolves packing
away 20 pound of meat per kill or it’s mating season
and you’re the alpha male. What if mating season never ends? All those hits of dopamine can tell
your brain to do two things. First they say, “Man, you’ve hit
the evolutionary jackpot.” Second, they kick in a molecular switch
called Delta-FosB. I know it is a fancy word,
but dopamine kicks in Delta-FosB and that starts to accumulate
in the brain’s reward circuit. Now, with excess chronic consumption
of drugs or natural rewards, this build up a Delta-FosB
starts to alter the brain and promotes the cycle
of binging and craving. If the binging continues
the Delta-FosB builds up and it can lead to brain changes
seen in all addicts. So the dominos are excess consumption excess dopamine,
Delta-FosB, brain changes. One of the first changes
is a numbed pleasure response. It kicks in, and so everyday pleasures
really don’t satisfy a porn addict. At the same time other
physical changes in the brain make the brain hyper-reactive to porn. Everything else in the porn user’s life
is sort of boring, but porn is super exciting. Finally his willpower erodes
as his frontal cortex changes. I can’t emphasize this enough. All addictions share
these same brain changes and the same molecular switch
that kicks them in – Delta-FosB. Now scientists have used
brain scans to measure these changes in drug addicts. Up-here these scans show a reduced
pleasure response in drug addicts. These and several other changes
have also been seen in gambling addicts, food addicts, very recently
in video game addicts and now in internet addicts. I apologize for filling up the slide
with brain studies. Just notice the dates. But I want you to know that they exist. So far all brain research points
only in one direction. Constant novelty at the click
can cause addiction. We know this because
when scientist examined former Internet addicts they found that these brain changes
were reversing themselves. Unfortunately, none of these studies
isolate porn users, but they do include them. Here’s the game changer. At last we have a group of guys
who are no longer using Internet porn. That’s right! Heavy users are voluntarily
giving it up by the thousands. These guys are the missing control group
in the great porn experiment. They’re showing experts what changing
one single variable can do. I call it “The Resurrection of Guys”
as opposed to “the Demise of Guys.” Now, before I continue
probably you wanna know why any porn loving guy
in his right mind would give it up. Two words: erectile dysfunction. Internet porn is killing
young men’s sexual performance. Now, Zimbardo said young guys
are flaming out with women, this survey by Italian neurologists
confirms what we have witnessed
over the last few years. Sexual enhancement drugs
often stop working for these guys, if they ever did, because the problem isn’’t
below the belt where viagra works. Nor is their problem really psychological. It’s due to physical changes
in the brain. Those addiction related changes. Their numb brains are sending weaker
and weaker signals to their bananas. (Laughter) As doctor Foresta says, “It starts
with lower reactions to porn sites. Then there is a general drop in libido, and in the end it becomes impossible
to get an erection. There are 3 take-aways from this. First, Foresta is describing
a classic addiction process – gradual desensitization. Second, Internet porn is qualitatively
different from Playboy. Widespread youthful ED
has never been seen before. And finally ED is often the only symptom
that gets these guys’ attention. The question is what less obvious symptoms
are they missing? Most don’t figure
that out until after they quit. Here’s a guy in his late 20s. “I’ve been to psychologists
and psychiatrists for the last 8 years… have been diagnosed with depression,
severe social anxiety, severe memory impairment and a few others. Have tried Fexer, Ritalin, Xanax, Paxil dropped out at two different colleges,
been fired twice, used pot to calm my social anxiety. I’ve been approached by quite a few women I guess due to my looks and status but they quickly flew away
due to my incredible weirdness. I’ve been a hardcore porn addict
since age 14. For the last 2 years
I’ve been experimenting and finally realised
that porn was an issue. I stopped it completely 2 months ago. It has been very difficult
but so far incredibly worth it. I’ve since quit my remaining medication. My anxiety is nonexistent. My memory and focus are sharper
than they’ve ever been. I feel like a huge “chick magnet”
and my ED is gone too. I seriously think I had a rebirth,
a second chance at life.” This is why pockets of guys are peering
all over the web – body building sites, sports sites, pickup artists sites –
wherever men congregate. In essence, they are seeking
a neurochemical rebirth. Here’s a group on reddit.com
who call themselves “Fapstronauts.” Fapping is slang for solo sex, but what they really mean
is giving up porn. They’ve added about 2,000 members
since I captured this picture a month ago. This movement to unhook from porn
is growing rapidly. In fact, groups are springing up
all across the web and in Europe too. But there is a bizarre fly
in the ointment. Guys in the early 20s aren’t regaining their erectile health
as quickly as older guys. How can a 50-year-old get his mojo back
quicker then a 20-something? The answer, even though older guys
have been using porn a whole lot longer they didn’t start
on today’’s Internet porn. Now, we know
this is a key variable because the older guys didn’’t start
having sexual problems until after they got
high-speed Internet. (Laughter) Now, today’’s young teens
start on high-speed Internet when their brains are at their peak of dopamine production
and neuroplasticity. This is also when they are
the most vulnerable to addiction, but there is another risk. By adulthood teens strengthen
heavily used circuits and prune back unused ones. So, by age 22 or so a guy’s sexual taste
can be like deep ruts in his brain. This can cause panic
if a guy has escalated to extreme porn or porn that no longer matches
his sexual orientation. Fortunately brains are plastic so his taste can revert
once he quits porn. As a guy returns to normal sensitivity his brain looks around for the rewards
it evolved to see such as friendly interaction
and of course real mates. Here’s one more example
of what we hear everyday, “I feel like the next Sir Isaac Newton
or Leonardo da Vinci. Since I quit a month ago, I’ve literally: started a business, taken up piano,
been studying French every day, been programming, drawing,
writing, started managing my finances and I have more awesome ideas
than I know what to do with. My confidence is sky-high. I already feel like
I can talk to any girl! I am the same guy who took 2,5 extra years
to graduate from college because of procrastination
and depression.” I’ll conclude with a wish: I’d like to see Zimbardo’s guys who are wiping out and their
caregivers and the experts listen to the thousands of men
who are teaching us about arousal addiction by escaping it. Thanks for listening. (Applause)

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