Defeat Lust & Pornography Porn and the Male Brain
Defeat Lust & Pornography 2 minute read

7 Facts About Porn and the Male Brain

Last Updated: March 18, 2014

1. Porn causes men to feel like they “need” sex.

The journal Human Brain Mapping published a study demonstrating that while many men and women have similar regions of the brain activated during the viewing of porn, only in men is there a significant activation of the thalamus and hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for primary drives for food, water, and sex, as well as motivation and hormonal control. This means, when men get turned on by porn, their bodies experience sexual arousal not just as a desire but as a survival need (even though, unlike water, men will not die if they don’t have sex).

Porn and the Male Brain

2. Male brains don’t just view porn. They enter into it.

The journal NeuroImage published a study demonstrating that as men are sexually aroused by pornography, the mirror neurons in the brain also fire. This means the brain naturally imagines the porn viewer in the scene. The man is not merely responding to the naked woman. His brain is mirroring the pornographic scene with the viewer as the main character, heightening arousal.

3. Porn gives men a new standard of beauty.

According to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, when men are shown pictures of centerfold models from Playboy and Penthouse, this significantly lowered their judgements about the attractiveness of “average” people.

4. Porn dampens a man’s ability to think straight.

The Journal of Behavioral Decision Making published a study showing that as a result of viewing porn, men are more likely to find a wider range of sexual activity exciting, more likely to engage in morally questionable behavior, and more likely want to engage in unsafe sex.

5. The more porn men watch, the more their brains look like an addict’s brain. 

Cambridge Neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon discovered that the brains of habitual porn users show great similarity to the brains of alcoholics. When a self-confessed porn addict sees a pornographic image, a brain structure called the ventral striatum “lights up” in the same way it lights up for an alcoholic who sees a picture of a drink.

6. Viewing porn over time makes men lose self-control.

By using more and more porn, the viewer’s brain begins to change as a result. Dr. William Struthers demonstrates that viewing pornography and masturbating weakens the cingulate cortex—the region that is responsible for moral and ethical decision making and willpower.

7. Porn makes violence sexy.

According to research by Dr. Dolf Zillmann and Dr. Jennings Bryant, the more porn one is exposed to, the more likely one is willing to trivialize rape. After just five hours of pornographic exposure stretched over a six-week period, subjects were willing to cut the sentencing of an accused rapist in half, compared to those who had not watched pornography. Those who watched more porn were also likely to believe that practices like sadomasochism were two to three times more common (i.e. “normal”) in general society than those who had not seen porn.

Learn more about the porn “circuit”

How is a man wired sexually? How does porn hijack a man’s sexuality? This is what The Porn Circuit is all about. Download and read this free e-book to learn about how your brain works and how to take control of your sexuality again.

The Porn Circuit

  1. Very good article and a must read for all men who suffer porn addiction.

  2. Sarah

    You should do something like this and study the female brain if you haven’t already.

    • Agreed. It would be great to synthesize the research on that topic.

  3. chris

    Why does this article read like a liberal feminist anti porn manifesto instead of Christian publication? Men should not watch be watching porn because it is wrong.

    1. Porn does not give men a new standard of beauty it’s simply that modern women have been indulging in the sin of gluttony! Most women who do porn have a healthy BMI recommended by Medical Doctors.

    2. Typical porn does not contain any acts that a loving Christian husband and wife should NOT engage in regularly.

    3. Typical porn contains lots of fornication, but it does not contain lots violence against women

    I will pray for you.

    • Hi Chris,

      What in the article sounds like “liberal feminist anti-porn manifesto”? I agree men should not watch porn because it is wrong (many of our articles talk about this), but this was not the scope of this particular article. Is there something here you find confusing or misguided?

    • Vince Bradbery

      You’re the one that needs prayer, man. You sound like you’re trying to justify your use of it; porn is plutonium, my friend.

    • Crystal

      I am a female and Christian. While I do agree that there are many detrimental reasons to not view pornography and I myself have taught that to my sons, I was put off by many of the statements in your article. I tend to agree with Chris. In the majority of most porn pictures, videos, clips, etc, there isn’t anything there that a normal man and woman wouldn’t do together in their own bed. Now that being said, there is a % that is geared towards those who have fetishes, special quirks and kinks. To me as long as you have TWO consenting adults, I don’t see anything wrong with ANY type of sexual act, even having a sadomasochistic relationship. Again, as long as it’s fully CONSENTUAL between both partners. Watching porn or specific types of porn doesn’t make a person violent or more likely to commit rape or look away. If a person is going to do those things, they are already imbedded into their mindset, behavior and personality. Watching a specific type a porn only adds to that demented sickness that already infects them. It saddens me that you sir use your religion to try and twist “truths” that aren’t even fact. Try using the real truth without a spin….it works so much better when your not trying to shame the masses just to catch the few.

    • Hi Crystal,

      I agree with you that there’s a lot of porn out there that isn’t fetish-oriented, but there’s nothing in this article that claims otherwise. The studies mentioned in this article don’t focus on pornography that is usually kinky or grotesque, but the kind of pornography you are talking about—the everyday, mainstream material.

      I also agree that watching porn, in and of itself, does not make a person violent, but again, there’s nothing in this article that claims otherwise. For instance, let’s leave the extreme stuff out of the picture for the moment and just talk about the top-selling pornography—the mainstream stuff. A study was done on the top 50 films in a given year, and in the hundreds of scenes analyzed, nearly 90% of the scenes contained acts of physical aggression, and 49% of the scenes contained acts of verbal aggression. Was the aggression focused on BDSM scenarios or rape porn? No. Most of them were not. Rather, mainstream pornography generally shows an imbalance of power, of male dominance, and this is what shapes the brains of men who consume it. Does this make them violent? No. But then there’s nothing in the article that claim such.

      About us using religion, again, there’s several problems with your statement. First, nothing in this article is patently religious. It is a list of seven studies from peer-reviewed journals and the findings of those studies. What do you find religious about the article?

      Second, if you think our “religious” take has skewed something, feel free to point it out. If we need to retract something specifically, simply let us know where the error is.

      Third, it sounds as if you are assuming all religious motivations or presuppositions should be kept out of the public sector when it comes to discussing these matters. Often people think religion should be left out of public discourse, but this notion is entirely hypocritical. The view that religion should be kept out of these discussions is itself a religious opinion. If you are saying, “Leave your religious views out of the discussion” what you’re really saying is, “Everyone’s religious viewpoints except the ones I believe should be kept out of the public sector.” The opinion that God or religious morality has no place in public life is itself a belief about the nature and purpose of spiritual reality.

      What’s ironic is this article has done very, very well in large online communities of atheists and agnostics who are trying to quit pornography. Just last month I was speaking to the founder of NoFap on Reddit, and he was talking to me about how the neurological research we publish has been very helpful to the people in his groups.

      Perhaps I just don’t understand your position as well as I should. Can you elaborate?

  4. Charles Knott

    Why can’t I see the comments left by others who read this article ?

    • Because they weren’t approved comments yet.

  5. Some Guy

    Are there chemical differences between a man viewing porn and seeing his wife naked? I know the latter is the God-honored option, but I didn’t know if there was something about it chemically that made it healthier. Maybe this is covered in the Free Guide.

    • It is covered somewhat. One of the major differences is in the intensity. In normal sex, dopamine and other neurotransmitters are released, creating and strengthening neural pathways. If someone is using porn a lot, dopamine receptors tend to fatigue. There’s also a difference in what you are bonding to. Oxytocin is what creates a sense of “bondedness.” For the man and his wife, the bonding is to one another. For the man with his porn, the bonding is to himself and to the pornographic experience.

    • Victoria

      Chris it sounds like you’re defending watching porn. Sure, sex is natural for married people but is it natural to introduce a third person who watches? That is the unnatural part. And there’s tons and tons of porn that involves more than just a man and woman.

      Secondly, yes Women (and men) may be fatter than ever but the standard of beauty in porn is unrealistic and not about BMI. I know plenty of fit women who don’t have silicon implants, lazer-removed body hair, bleached anus, lip suction and lip injections.

    • Victoria

      Hi Some guy,
      The answer is yes! Our brains become bonded (addicted) to our spouses through sex. But in this case it’s healthy because it strengthens bonds.

  6. Gabe

    Great write up! Of all these I think the most telling is the Voon brain scans showing sensitization, basically a super memory of pleasure that viewing porn created, when non-addicts saw the images their brains did not perceive it as super rewarding.

    I developed porn induced ED at the ripe age of 23.. If anyone wants to hear my story of escalation and desensitization and a short run through on the science behind it. Check my video out and I hope it encourages or helps someone realize porn can screw us up
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=I0dDLWGMhUo&feature=c4-feed-u

    • Thanks, Gabe. I’ve watched your videos before and have always enjoyed your perspective.

    • Jane Bier

      Thank you what an eye-opener to most of us people that don’t realize just how addictive it can be and how it could be addictive the church by beautifully and is really scary really really scary I’m glad that you were promoted all this and that we could learn and pass is fine – it was a good man you are to admit you’re wrong that you had a problem and you two are out of it and you’re willing to help others being a humble about this and God bless you

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