HOW DOES PORNOGRAPHY CONSUMPTION REWIRE THE BRAIN?
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends information between neurons, plays a large role in wiring the brain. It is released into the body when a person, or animal, encounters a stimulus that is novel or noteworthy or potentially rewarding. Dopamine performs many functions along many pathways in the brain, but in the context of pornography consumption, after a person is stimulated by pornography, dopamine is released along the mesolimbic pathway into the nucleus accumbens. The more dopamine that’s released here, the higher the likelihood the person will be drawn to the stimulus, or related stimuli, in the future.
A large amount of dopamine is released during natural human sexual activities and interactions; an orgasm releases significantly more. Pornography complicates matters for the human body: it is continuously available and ever-ready to serve as a sexual stimulus, with no bodily restrictions or limitations. As an endless source of sexual stimuli, no one human being can realistically compete against the accessibility of pornography. And so the process of consuming pornography literally conditions the brain to anticipate and desire a degree of stimulation that cannot be duplicated in real life, of specific imagery and behaviors that perhaps shouldn’t be duplicated in real life (reminder that 88.2% of all mainstream pornography regularly depicts physical violence, of which 94% is perpetrated against women).
Once the brain has fully learned to associate the stimulus with a response (such as a video with an orgasm), significantly less dopamine will be released. Consequently, the original stimulus will literally no longer be able to provide the same degree of anticipation or desire. Once a person becomes desensitized to the old stimulus, they need a more shocking stimulus in order to match the dopamine released in the prior stimulus. This need for something shocking or more extreme is called tolerance.
Put another way: A man enjoys the rush of masturbating to softcore pornography. After a while, he no longer gets the same rush he once did. He turns to hardcore pornography, and his rush returns. However, the same thing happens again. Before too long, he is watching gonzo pornography, and then a series of videos sexualizing children. Even as simplistic examples go, this is a fairly typical pattern for male consumers of pornography. This is exactly how the consumption of softcore pornography can lead to hardcore pornography, hardcore pornography to gonzo pornography, and so on. This is exactly how pornography rewires the brain.
(There are countless other factors which play a role in re-wiring the brain [opioids, the limbic system, and so on]. In time, they will be addressed and either added to this page, or I will reframe this question as a matter of dopamine’s role in rewiring the brain.)
HOW FREQUENTLY DO MEN CONSUME PORNOGRAPHY WHILE AT WORK?
Based on various studies, testimonies, and information pulled from data measurement companies, there is significant evidence that people consume pornography at work. The parameters of these analyses, such as age of the consumer and regularity of consumption, however, give very different numbers. There are many ways to read the data, but all patterns suggest that many workers, and in some contexts the majority of workers, predominantly male, consume or download pornography during the workday from their office.
The Society of Human Resource Management (SHR), the world’s largest HR professional society, maintains that 70% of all internet pornography traffic happens during the workday. Pornhub, the third largest pornography site on the internet, validates this data. In their 2016 analysis of “Favorite times to watch porn,” they found that between the hours of 10 am and 7 pm, pornography consumption was above the weekly average, with a noteworthy peak around 3 and 4 pm. SHR also reports that 20% of employees access pornographic content at work, and with high-speed connections that are frequently unmatched in their homes, workers are using their offices to download pornographic content for home consumption at higher rates each year.
The Nielsen Company, a global information, data, and measurement company that holds a comprehensive understanding of how users spend their time and money, reported in 2010 that 29% of working adults viewed pornography at least once a month, with a monthly average of 1 hour and 45 minutes spent on the pornographic sites. Per session, the average user spent 12 minutes and 38 seconds. It’s worth mentioning that these statistics do not mention whether it is men or women who are spending their time on these sites, though based on plenty of evidence it is quite reasonable to assume that the 29% is predominantly male.
In 2014, another multi-faceted study was conducted with a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. men nationwide. They found that between the ages of 18 – 30, 52% of all men admitted to consuming pornography at work within the previous three months, and 14% of those men had viewed porn at least 10 times in that same period. For men between the ages 31 – 49, the numbers were significantly higher: 74% of men admitted to watching porn in the previous three months, and 20% had viewed it more than 10 times in that same period.
Put simply: for the majority of working men, the perceived benefits of consuming or downloading pornographic materials while at work outweigh the risk of losing the material benefits that come with their employment.
HOW FREQUENTLY DOES PORNOGRAPHY FACTOR INTO DIVORCE?
From a meeting held by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, compulsive pornography consumption factored into 56% of all divorces. As there are more than 1 million divorces in the United States per year, more than 500,000 marriages end because of pornography.
When finding their partners consuming pornography, studies have found that women largely feel betrayed, mistrust, anger, despair, and loss.
The next question, then, is whether pornography consumption occurs as a symptom to an unhappy marriage, or whether the pornography consumption itself is a catalyst to an unhappy marriage. Per sociologist Samuel Perry, he believes that there is enough data in surveys and studies to suggest causation in these findings, meaning that pornography consumption is a precursor to divorce. This directional analysis is supported by pornography expert, Ana J. Bridges.
When women in marriages stop watching pornography, their divorce rates decrease from 18% to 6%. As for men, surveys and studies were inconclusive because the majority of them would not stop consuming pornography. However, it is worth noting that men who had affairs were three times as likely to be a consumer of pornography, and men who paid for sex with a prostituted person were four times as likely to be a consumer of pornography.
Furthermore, of women who divorced due to the sexual violence perpetrated against them by their husbands, upwards of 1/3 said that pornography had played a direct role in their being sexually abused.
HOW HAS PLAYBOY INFILTRATED CHILDREN’S ENTERTAINMENT?
Playboy is arguably one the best-known brands of the sex industry worldwide. In sixty years, its founder and CEO, Hugh Hefner, has managed to transform a magazine with centerfolds of naked models into a global success, its reach extending far beyond the pages of Playboy Magazine. It has infiltrated political movements (the sexual revolution), curbed legislation (United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, 529 U.S. 803), lined the racks of clothing stores (for children, too), and can be found in virtually every entertainment medium, including video games (Playboy: The Mansion), DVDs (Playboy Playmates), reality shows (The Girls Next Door), and theatrically-released Hollywood films (The House Bunny). The brand, and its iconic logo – a silhouette of a rabbit wearing a bow tie – are everywhere.
It is reasonable to assert that when most adults see the Playboy logo, whether it’s on jewelry, carved into a truck’s mud flap, inscribed on a shot glass, or on a teenager’s sweatpants, they accept it. Such is the power of ubiquity: Playboy has emerged as a popular symbol that adults and children alike can adorn without question.
In 2011, Playboy managed to reach children in a whole new way: by targeting the audience of a mainstream Hollywood children’s film called Hop.
Hop, a feature-length animated movie, features as its main characters several animated rabbits. In the film, the Easter Bunny wants his teenage son, EB, to succeed him as the next Easter Bunny. EB, however, would rather pursue his dreams, and so he runs off to Hollywood to become a star.
When E.B. arrives, the first place he visits is the Playboy Mansion, hoping for a place to stay. Knowing that the “Playboy mansion has been home to many sexy bunnies,” he speaks with Hefner himself (providing his actual voice), and insists that he is “incredibly sexy.” Once Hefner takes a look at EB (through a camera!), EB is rejected, ostensibly because he does not fit the Playboy mold of “sexy bunny.” Disappointed, EB leaves the mansion.
The dialogue of the scene is as follows:
Voice at Playboy Mansion: [through an intercom] Listen, this is the Playboy Mansion, not a hotel.
E.B.: [looking into a map] I know, but it says ‘Since 1971 the Playboy Mansion has been home to many sexy bunnies.’
Voice at Playboy Mansion: I can’t even see you. Step closer.
E.B.: I’m just saying, I am a bunny and am incredibly sexy.
Voice at Playboy Mansion: I don’t have time for this.
E.B.: Hello? Hello? Ugh, this must be the rags part of my rags-to-riches story.
The lasting impression of the scene is that the Playboy Mansion is exclusive and consequently desirable. Were EB just a bit sexier, perhaps he’d be able to join all of the sexy bunnies in the Mansion. In another version of the story, perhaps EB would learn how Playboy and Hefner himself have been long documented as having supported the sex trafficking of women and children, have depicted children sexually in their magazines, have literally promoted the “hate raping” of conservative women (“So Right, It’s Wrong” campaign), and have contributed to the average early death of 36 for all Playboy Playmates.
Hop was a large box office success, earning more than $180 million at the global box office and spawning licensed video games, books, candy, clothing, stuffed animals, and exclusive Burger King kids meal toys. It wasn’t received well by critics (it has a 25% rating on the film review aggregate site, Rotten Tomatoes), but the failures of the movie were attributed to bad but “harmless” writing. Alas, such is the power of ubiquity.
Hop is, of course, just one example of many ways in which Hefner has tried to reach children as a target demographic with Playboy. There have been other attempts, and there will be more. After all, this is the same man who is quoted as saying, “I don’t care if a baby holds up a Playboy bunny rattle.” Are we surprised? Are we even capable of recognizing it when we see it?
The history of Playboy, Playboy Magazine, Playboy Enterprises, Hugh Hefner, the Playmates, and their impact on our world will continue to be explored in scope throughout Pornography FAQ.
HOW LONG IS THE AVERAGE PORNOGRAPHY PERFORMER’S CAREER?
For females, the average duration of a career in pornography is less than six months, and upwards of 30% of females leave the industry after shooting just one video. For males, the average duration of a career in pornography is around five years.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE CONSUMING PORNOGRAPHY RIGHT NOW?
It has been estimated that in 2008, a minimum of 28,000 Americans were consuming pornography at any given time (I was unable to pull any statistics on global pornography use). Since 2008, pornography consumption has increased significantly in both males and females, cascading outwardly to older and younger demographics (reminder that the largest consumers of online pornography are boys between the ages of 12 and 17).
Recent statistics on active or peak pornography consumption have not yet been made available; however, a look at popular pornography site Pornhub’s annual analysis offers insight. Per their 2016 Year in Review, around 2.6 million people visited their site per hour, every hour, the entirety of the year, cumulating in 23 billion total visits to Pornhub in the year (up from 2.4 million visits per hour in 2015, or 21.2 billion visits that year).
Note that Pornhub is only the third most popular pornography site on the web (financially valued at $30m +). They trail Xhamster ($33m+) and Xvideos ($52) in popularity by a significant margin. Those are just three sites. In the US, there are at least 40 million more.
Needless to say, significantly more people are consuming pornography today than in 2008. And, of course, more people (and 12-year-olds) are consuming pornography now than in any other point in history. Unless something is done to curb demand and prevent the further proliferation of pornography consumption, tomorrow is only going to get worse.
HOW MUCH DOES THE GLOBAL PORNOGRAPHY INDUSTRY PROFIT EACH YEAR?
The global pornography industry is comprised of many sex-related businesses, including both legal and illegal physical and digital video sales, cable, pay-per-view, phone sex, exotic magazines, and novelty products. Altogether, the industry is estimated to profit around $97 billion annually. Of this total, approximately $13 billion comes from the United States, $3 billion of which is from internet pornography alone.
Put another way, every second, $3,075.64 is spent on the pornography industry.
One of the fastest growing global markets is child pornography. The UN estimates that the global child pornography industry alone profits upwards of $20 billion every year, $3 billion of which is related to the purchasing of pornographic photos. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that 20% of all internet pornography is child pornography.
HOW MUCH OF THE WORLD’S INTERNET TRAFFIC GOES TO PORNOGRAPHIC SITES?
Pornography makes up 30% of all data transferred across the entire internet. In other words, pornographic sites gets more visitors in any given moment than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.