Episode 113

This is the first and last Smart Drug Smarts episode that will ever reference sex with donkeys.

But we’re talking about Porn Addiction, so it’s not without cause, just this once.  Serious cause.  “Promoting the general welfare, and the psychosocial health of tens or hundreds of millions of people” type of cause.

In episode #113, I speak with Gary Wilson, author of Your Brain on Porn about Internet Porn Addiction and its shocking effects on the brain and its dopamine systems.  (I hate using words like “shocking” because most things claimed to be shocking just aren’t. But I think this qualifies.) If you haven’t heard of Wilson’s work before, get ready to fall out of your chair.  This stuff is not child’s play.

Except nowadays, high-speed Internet porn is child’s play…  What self-respecting kid hasn’t figured out how to get around Internet “parental controls” by the time he’s 11 years old? And that’s what makes the omnipresence of online porn — streaming video porn in particular — an amazingly powerful and largely unrecognized public health issue.

Porn Addiction: Not a “moral” issue.

Gary Wilson is not a moral crusader.  He’s a realist. He doesn’t have a bone to pick with the morality of porn, any more than a nutritionist is concerned with the morality of a bag of Cheetos. But he sees a growing problem, attested to by tens of thousands of men (and women too!) whose sexual dysfunction can be traced squarely back to the overuse of online porn.

And it goes beyond sex — way beyond.  The brain’s dopamine system is the major motivational system for everything we do, and desensitizing it with surging arousal from porn can cause the brain to “fight back” by lowering its overall sensitivity in all areas of life, including those that haven’t kept pace with online porn by throwing around free, effortless pleasure.

This can mean — lacking a normal motivational response from our dopamine system — that things in life which should seem “worth the effort” suddenly don’t feel that way.

This interview is fascinating, surprising, and I daresay important.  Brace yourself for some dirty words, and some scarier ideas.

Episode Highlights

0:22Your Brain on Porn
1:47This Week in Neuroscience: Study indicates cognitive functioning improves when using standing desks
4:13The audience interaction section.
6:46Some disclaimers about the content of this week's episode, and an introduction to Gary Wilson's book
10:28What led Gary to investigate the effects of porn and the creation of his website
12:50What are some of the issues that arise as a result of internet porn addiction (and a link to the Reddit community NoFap)
18:02Differences in pre and post-internet porn exposure in adolescence
19:35Similarities between drug and porn addiction
21:04The correlation between porn use and the rate of sexual dysfunction
23:52Supernormal stimuli
25:32What separates those who experience sexual dysfunction as a result of porn addiction and those who don't?
26:36Delayed gratification and porn use
28:03How is the dopamine system affected by porn exposure?
30:05Is anything being done to warn adolescents about the dangers of porn addiction?
32:34Modern porn vs porn of the past
33:58Adolescents' tolerance to shocking stimuli
35:19What does recovery from porn addiction look like?
38:15What role does porn addiction play in relationships from women's perspectives?
41:53What is the future of regulation with regards to internet porn?
45:31Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Should sex robots exist? The "for" argument; the "against" argument

PS:  Now that we have you reconsidering the consumption of one kind of modern-day junk food, why not sign up for a healthy Brain Breakfast instead – delivered weekly from Jesse’s brain to your inbox.

Written by Jesse Lawler
Jesse Lawler is a technologist, health nut, entrepreneur, and "one whose power switch defaults to On."  He created Smart Drug Smarts to learn how to make his brain do even more, and is greatly pleased to now see his little baby Frankenstein toddling around and helping others.  Jesse tweets about personal optimization, tech, and other stuff he finds interesting at @Lawlerpalooza.
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