Hi Michael
I am interested in your response to this TED talk titled “The great porn experiment,” which Gary Wilson delivered at TEDxGlasgow.
Is it pseudoscience or something to take seriously?

Regards

Rob Rousseau

Responses

  • Michael Castleman says:

    Thank you for pointing me to this YouTube video. It’s very interesting.

    Wilson makes a case for internet porn being qualitatively different from previous porn in that it’s available 24-7-365 to men with Internet connections. He says that binging on Internet porn feeds men an overdose of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that rewards novelty, i.e., the endless parade of new women in porn, with emotional/sexual arousal. He calls this a big problem and bolsters his argument by quoting a few guys who spent years masturbating to porn, then stopped, and feel that they’re much more productive, mentally healthy, and at peace with themselves. Wilson’s clear implication is that Internet porn is bad—bad for men and by extension, bad for society.

    There’s no question that the small fraction of men who view hours of porn a day are investing their time in masturbation over all the other activities that might occupy them. So when they quit porn, all of a sudden, they become more productive. Obviously.

    My problem with Wilson’s analysis is that he focuses 100% on porn to the exclusion of all other obsessive behaviors men might engage in. If men watch hours of sports a day, if they play World of Warcraft for hours a day, if they watch C-SPAN constantly, or can’t take their eyes off the stock market ticker, they, too, will feel less productive than if they didn’t do these things. So it’s not just obsessive viewing of porn that causes problems, it’s any and every obsessive behavior.

    Wilson quotes his two or three reformed porn addicts about how empty their lives were when they were obsessed with porn and how marvelous, productive, and happy they feel now that they’ve conquered their porn addictions. Wilson’s implication is clear. In his view, obsessive porn viewing causes social harm.

    But beyond disturbing anecdotes from his few guys, he cites no research to support his contention that porn causes social harm, specifically the type of harm women porn critics often cite, that porn sexualizes teens too early in life, that it causes teens to be sexually irresponsible, and that it contributes to divorc and causes rape.

    Internet porn first appeared in the mid-1990s. If its critics are correct, then we would expect that since 1995, teens should have become more sexually irresponsible, and rates of divorce and rape should have soared. In fact, the OPPOSITE had occurred. Today’s teens are less likely to be sexually active in high school than their parents and grandparents were. Teens are more likely to use contraception than previous generations. The divorce rate has declined. And the rate of sexual assaults has also declined. For more on this, please read two of my blog posts on PsychologyToday.com: Does Porn Cause Social Harm? And More Porn, LESS Rape.

    Can an obsession with porn—or sports or the stock market—ruin a man’s life? Yes, but all evidence suggests that the number of men harmed is small. Meanwhile, since Internet porn has become ubiquitous, there have been many social changes most people would welcome. Teens have become less sexual and more sexually responsible. Divorce has declined. And sexual assault rates have also declined.

    I’m not calling Wilson a hysteric. But he fastens on porn when what he’s really talking about is ANY obsession. If you want to watch porn, as long as it doesn’t interfere with school, work, family, or a relationship with a lover, it’s probably fine.

    If you want to view the talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU.

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