Health, Love & Sex

Porn is to Sex as Pretzel M&M’s are to Green Salad

In his book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite", David Kessler – former head of the Food and Drug Administration – posits that the modern food industry intentionally layers fat, sugar and salt in its products to trigger our craving for more food.

"They aren’t selling just any commodity,” says Kessler. “They’ve designed highly stimulating products, substances that excessively activate the reward circuits of the brain, and consumers come back for more.” The end result is a population in a desperate, lifelong battle to control its ballooning weight… much like Kessler himself.

This is the scientific basis for banning 64-ounce sodas in New York City movie theaters: junk food doesn’t just take advantage of food addicts, it turns us into food addicts. Well, sugary food isn’t the only easily available, highly stimulating product on the market with a risk of triggering obsessive and destructive behavior. Internet pornography is the junk food of sex and love addiction. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg should google “free streaming porn” next time he enjoys his 8-ounce glass of unsweetened iced tea. Internet porn is to monogamous sex as salted caramel ice cream is to baked chicken and a green salad.

Now, I am no more anti-sex – or anti-porn – than I am anti-food. Food and sex are both vital to human survival, and curiosity about human sexuality (e.g., images of people having sex) is normal and healthy. The question I propose is, is salted caramel ice cream really food? And is Live Cam Teen Asian Double Penetration Party really sex?

It used to be, sex outside marriage and French fried potatoes were both rare and special treats. One involved ruining a pot and wasting a load of cooking oil. The other involved spending cash and risking public exposure, if not actual arrest. Today you can get both fries at McDonalds and sexual fantasies on your smartphone 24/7. No wasted oil, no being rousted by the Vice Squad. For many teenage boys, access to pornography 24/7 generally means pornography, 24/7. But there’s a larger problem: the nature of the sexual fantasies themselves. Like the complex, supercharged flavors of pretzel M&M’s or chocolate-covered bacon, the intensity and variety of pornographic images available online go right for the brain’s reward circuits, creating that instant gratification feedback loop that easily turns into an addictive groove.

Recent studies show that watching pornography stimulates more brain activity in the dopamine receptors than having actual sex does. Dopamine is the neurochemical that signals not just pleasure and gratification, but the anticipation of pleasure and gratification, which is often even more exciting. (For me, sorry to report, the anticipation is almost always more exciting than the event. Whatever the event may be…)

As rock star John Mayer told Playboy magazine in a revealing interview, “It’s a new synaptic pathway. Internet pornography has absolutely changed my generation’s expectations. You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora’s box of visuals. There have been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed.”

Mayer may not be speaking for his entire generation, but he certainly speaks for the percentage who have gorged themselves on the junk food of porn to the point of clinical sex addiction. Maybe you are (or know someone who is) one of them.

How do you know when you’ve become an addict? Mayer describes his own invisible line pretty well: “You’re looking for the one photo out of 100 you swear is going to be the one you finish to, and you still don’t finish. Twenty seconds ago you thought that photo was the hottest thing you ever saw, but you throw it back and continue your shot hunt and continue to make yourself late for work.”

Addiction: A chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive use of a mind-altering substance despite negative life consequences. When you continue to do it (whatever it is) despite the fact that it makes you late for work… your spouse leaves you… you feel ashamed and dirty… it costs money you don’t have… this is what we call negative life consequences. I don’t care if the mind-altering substance is ingested or if you manufacture it in your brain by masturbating to pornography.

Addiction is a hunger that can never be satisfied, and junk food will never truly satisfy your hunger. Both the food and porn industries know this, and they are not above using it to their advantage. Nothing is more profitable than a consistent demand. Why else do we get ink jet printers, cartridge razors… and the Kardashians?

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Author, Screenwriter, Lecturer, Playwright