It’s an unexpected topic for the Wall Street Journal editorial columns, but — Hey! — it’s a Murdoch paper.
Today 12% of websites are pornographic, and 40 million Americans are regular visitors—including 70% of 18- to 34-year-olds, who look at porn at least once a month, according to a recent survey by Cosmopolitan magazine (which, let’s face it, is the authority here). Fully 94% of therapists in another survey reported seeing an increase in people addicted to porn. It has become a whole generation’s sex education and could be the same for the next—they are fumbling around online, not in the back seat. One estimate now puts the average age of first viewing at 11. Imagine seeing “Last Tango in Paris” before your first kiss.
Countless studies connect porn with a new and negative attitude to intimate relationships, and neurological imaging confirms it. Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, used MRI scans in 2010 to analyze men watching porn. Afterward, brain activity revealed, they looked at women more as objects than as people. The new DSM-5 will add the diagnosis “Hypersexual Disorder,” which includes compulsive pornography use.
Repetitive viewing of pornography resets neural pathways, creating the need for a type and level of stimulation not satiable in real life. The user is thrilled, then doomed.
But here’s the good news: “the evolutionary plasticity of our mind makes this damage reversible.”
So where some people see a problem, others see an opportunity. Isn’t capitalism wonderful?