Man and woman lying back to back on large heart, both looking at laptop computers. (PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura…)
Good news for all you freaky-deaky porn lovers out there: There may be no such thing as porn addiction! All hail King Hefner!
But really, that whole "porn as an uncontrollable addiction" excuse may be bunk. A recent study from UCLA suggests that although some people may really, really, REALLY like porn, their brains do not immediately respond to sexy images in the same way that, say, a cocaine addict's brain responds to a pile of white powder.
I'm going to get science-y here for a second since I went to the painstaking, eyeball-bleeding labor of actually reading the entire academic study. Studies in the past have shown that people with addictions to chemicals, such as alcohol or cocaine, have immediate neurological responses to images of their drugs of choice—immediate as in within the first 300 milliseconds (a measurement called P300).
The UCLA study found that self-diagnosed "porn addicts" did not have these immediate strong reactions during P300. The brains of "porn addicts'" took their sweet time to look at the image, process it and then decide what to do with it.
The big idea here is that the brain CHOSE. With drug addictions, chemicals have changed people's brains; they react to drugs immediately, seemingly skipping the whole "is this line of coke off a dirty bathroom sink a good idea" part of the rational thought process.
As Dr. Bryant Paul, professor of telecommunications at Indiana University who studies Internet porn explains: "There is the very real possibility that the idea of 'sex addiction' is just a cop-out that many people fall back on in order to defer personal responsibility for their actions, rather than recognizing and accepting they are flawed people that chose not to say no to porn."
Of course, this study is not suggesting that porn is "good" or that it is a good idea to watch 14 hours of porn a day (my God, the chafing!).
All this study concluded is that porn probably is not an addiction in the way we typically think of addiction. It may be similar to other "process addictions" such as shopping, gambling or tanning addictions. Those can be real and ugly, but they are essentially different from drug addictions. An addict's body doesn't physically need porn; there is no withdrawal if an addict's Hustler is taken away.
Watching an obscene amount of porn is a symptom of some other illness, not the illness itself. It is depression or social anxiety or underlying intimacy issues that are the real problems, so don't blame xHamster!
This leads to the question: How much porn is "too much porn"?
The study did suggest that some people just have higher libidos, want more sex and therefore want more porn. They aren't addicts, just hornier than average. Society likes to tell us what is sexually normal, but as we have seen over the past century, society rarely has a damn clue what actual normalcy is.
Porn use is normal in today's world, even among women. People are sexual creatures; they want to bone and are excited to watch other people bone. But you have a choice of when and where to watch porn and how to balance your personal sexy time with the rest of your life.
So make smart choices, people. And hide your dirty links under better bookmarks, 'cause you can't use the "honey, I'm addicted to porn" line anymore.
Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.
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