Sex and its many associates, including masturbation and pornography, are, no doubt, increasingly becoming subjects of public discourse for the good and bad reasons. But one sexual-related activity that is currently witnessing an all-time high patronage is pornography.
It is simply defined as printed or visual materials containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement or enhance libido.
Worthy of note, however, is that watching or looking at pornographic items is one of the ways people explore their sexual fantasies, even though it has largely been condemned by many, especially religious organisations. It is hitherto embraced by singles, married, young and old, even though most porn watchers do so in their closet.
Regardless, pornography, which has been found to be addictive, is gaining more grounds as it now dominates people’s devices, such as phones, computers and even library.
In fact, a report released by pornhub, a website for sexual contents, in 2014 showed that the number of pornographic views on its website rose from 63.2 billion video views in 2012 to 78.9 billion views in 2013, and that phones accounted for 45 per cent of these views, while desktop was 44 per cent and views on tablets rose by 20 per cent to account for its 11 per cent.
Thus, the website declared 2014 as the year porn went mobile, with Android users in the United States being the highest viewers, followed by Canada and the United Kingdom. Monday was found to be the most popular day peopled viewed the x-rated movies.
While one in three women in the US watch porn regularly, according to statistics, 70 per cent of men aged between 18 and 24 visit porn sites at least once a month. But that is not the crux of the matter; Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya have been found to be the three most anti-gay countries that watch gay porn the most, according to a study in 2013.
These countries were found to have the highest Google search for “gay sex pics” and “anal sex pics” with Kenya leading the chart. According to the ranking index, Kenya, had 100, South Africa 72, Nigeria 56, Pakistan 46 and United States 10, among others.
But, as fast as the love of pornography is growing across the globe, cutting across age divide, a study by some Germans has found that watching pornography could have a damaging effect on the brain and that more of it could re-wire the brain and alter its structure and functions. In fact, the study stressed that it could shrink part of the brain and reduce the ability of watchers to be sexually stimulated.
According to the study, published on medicaldaily, having sex and watching pornography cause dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for learning, reward, emotions and pleasure, to be released in the brain.
The researchers noted that the more porn a person watches, the more the dopamine that is released, which makes the brain to be desensitised to its effects, which could reduce their decision-making capabilities. Young people who watch porn frequently were also found to have reduced likelihood or tendencies to venture into risk-taking ventures.
The leader of the researchers, Simone Kühn, noted that men who view too much porn may become lazier than others and that their research provided strong evidence that pornography might harm the brain in some ways and change its size.
About 64 healthy German men, aged between 21 and 45, participated in the study. Kuhn and her colleagues asked the participants how frequent they were watching pornography. Their brains were studied with the aid of functional magnetic resonance imaging to see how the brain reacts to pornography.
According to Kuhn, their findings showed that those who watch pornography have smaller corpus striatum, a part of the basal ganglia of the brain, comprising the caudate and lentiform nuclei, and that the more pornography people watched, the lower the activity in the reward centres in their brains.
She said, “We found that the volume of the so-called striatum, a brain region that has been associated with reward processing and motivated behaviour, was smaller the more pornography consumption the participants reported.
“We also found that gray matter volume in the right caudate of the striatum was smaller among frequent porn viewers. Men who watched more porn also showed less activity in another area of the striatum, known as the left putamen, which lit up when exposed to sexual stimuli.
“These brain changes are similar to those seen in cocaine addicts, who develop abnormalities in areas, such as the nucleus accumbens and striatum, which are responsible for learning, memory, pleasure and reward.
“Moreover, we found that another brain region, which is also part of the striatum that is active when people see sexual stimuli, shows less activation the more pornography participants consumed.
“In essence, the connectivity between the brain’s striatum and prefrontal cortex worsened with increased consumption of pornography, suggesting poorer and impaired decision-making capability. Thus, frequent pornographic consumption would surely change how the brain works, and basically, everything that people do very frequently can shape their brain structure and function.”
The researchers further warned that people who are used to watching porn tend to first think of porn instead of the actual sexual experience anytime they have sexual desires, once their brain associates the feelings given by oxytocin, vasopressin and serotonin (often released during porn or sex) to pornography. The researchers had yet to ascertain the level of impact watching porn has on the brain.
A physiologist, Gary Wilson, said the addiction from pornography creates a constant need to feel that strong stimulation to watch it some more, thereby needing more dopamine, which could wear out the brain.
He added, “Sometimes, the brain gets worn out and halts the production of dopamine, which leaves the viewer in quest for more satisfaction with the inability to reach it. This can provoke the viewer to seek out more intense porn to get high. As a result, it can give a person a reason to watch more porn, which is why addictions are difficult to break.”
Commenting on the study, a neurologist, Dr. Emmanuel Olusola, said there were convincing evidences to show that pornography could have an effect on the brain.
He said, “Prolonged and irresistible viewing of pornography definitely causes changes in the chemical, synaptic function and anatomy of neurons in the basic brain cells in certain parts of the brain, most especially the frontal lobe function.
“Basically, this addiction causes down function of brain cells like other forms of chemical addictions like alcohol, amphetamine and cocaine.”
Also, a psychologist, Prof. Oni Fagboungbe, agreed that watching pornography could affect the brain, and that it could change the conditioning of the brain.
He said, “It’s not the watching itself that would dull the brain, rather the conditioning. When somebody watches pornography over time, the person becomes engrossed and the reticular activating system in the brain would be conditioned to watch more of it at the expense of other things, which could make such people perform badly in other areas.”
He added that pornography could also make the watchers lose interest in the real sexual intercourse because they “tend to get satiated with watching it.”