2 minute read

Porn makes guys romantically stunted and socially awkward

Last Updated: July 19, 2021

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

How is porn hurting our chances for real, romantic intimacy?

The following is a portion of a TED talk from well-noted psychologist Philip Zimbardo. In this short clip he unpacks some of the reasons why many men today fear intimacy with women, and why we are becoming more and more socially awkward. He also discusses the role pornography plays in this cultural problem. (Other than the unsavory comment about Jennifer Lopez, the talk itself is relatively clean.)

“Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arousal. This means…they’re totally out of sync in romantic relationships which build gradually and subtly.” – Philip Zimbardo

Porn: An Addiction to Novelty

Zimbardo speaks about porn as an “arousal addiction.” Unlike drug addictions which just make us want more of the drug, arousal addictions are about wanting “different.” Addiction to porn is an addiction to novelty.

Neurobiologist Peter Milner explains it is possible for a man to become addicted to novelty and uncertainty. Over time the man who feeds on erotic media is trained to equate sexual excitement with the novelty and variety pornography brings. As a result, one flesh-and-blood woman doesn’t excite the man as much. He’d rather have the variety porn offers than the constancy of one committed relationship.

Porn: A False Sense of Intimacy

Unrestricted access to porn offers men a chance to tap the same areas of their brains that are linked to sexual intimacy. Dr. William Struthers explains, during sexual activity the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are released in the brain slowly, but then in large quantities in response to orgasm. When it comes to sex, these hormones are responsible for binding a man to his mate. Unfortunately, these same chemicals are released while watching porn, and thus a man is chemically binding himself, not to a woman, but to an image. He feels “connected” to the women in these images.

For many men, watching porn replaces face-to-face intimacy. Porn gives men the “payoff” of sexual arousal without needing to engage in a real relationship with a real woman. Dr. Gary Brooks, in his book The Centerfold Syndrome, points out that digital images of women, unlike a flesh-and-blood female, have no sexual or relational expectations of their own. They exist to serve the man his fantasy. Watching pornography over and over trains men to desire the cheap thrill of fantasy over a committed relationship. Pornography essentially trains men to be digital voyeurs: looking at women rather than seeking genuine intimacy.

  • Comments on: Porn makes guys romantically stunted and socially awkward
    1. danny on

      interesting issue! but if these hypotheses are true, what does it mean for people to watch violence on TV and in movie theaters.Are we not backing into a corner on some other similar issues?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        What do you mean by “backing into a corner”?

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