Whose Brain Is It, Anyway? A War For Our Sexual Souls

by Anne Oui

A new and terrible sort of tyranny is being devised. Most people don’t even realize what’s happening. But make no mistake, the stakes are high and involve your right to do with your brain what you like.

Your Brain On Porn

Read on…

On the surface, it’s a war for our sexual souls, but on a deeper level it could rightly be seen as the beginning of the end of our ability to live unfettered lives. That may sound overly dramatic, but if the warnings being sounded now about the alleged dangers we face are extended to their natural conclusions, it is almost inevitable that the rights we take for granted now will be taken away.

Yes, I’m talking about porn. For the past 12 years, I’ve been writing about it as a writer and editor for industry trade magazines, as well as my own site and Sssh.com, a decidedly unique destination in the hierarchy of adult destinations that was constructed years ago by a woman as a place where a diversity of women would feel comfortable experiencing or expressing themselves sexually.

To be honest, nothing about that concept is weird or outlandish to me. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would assume that thousands of such destinations exist on the internet. In fact, they do not. Instead, 98 percent of porn sites are designed by men for men. But even porn sites created by women tend to target males, with Sssh being an exception. There is nothing wrong with that except that it makes the online sexual pickings for women slimmer than they should be.

While that scarcity has been lessening over the past few years, not least because of the success of sites like Sssh.com, now we have the prospect of this new tyranny, and with it the possibility that a new front in America’s war on sex is in the making.

An article posted in July to PsychologyToday.com, “Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Is a Growing Problem,” calls attention to the new research that presumes to shows a connection between porn and sexual dysfunction in males, and atrophy in their brains. The article is already being referenced ad nauseam since it was first posted, and now the horse has left the barn. From Salon to Marie Claire, people are asking a variation of the same question: Does too much porn make men incapable of getting it up for real women?

And then there is this site, YourBrainonPorn.com, which is run by—surprise, surprise— the same husband and wife team, Gary Wilson and Marnia Robinson, who write most of the porn-addiction articles for Psychology Today. He is a nurse who has taken courses in microbiology, cell biology, immunology and genetics, and she is a former corporate lawyer who left the boardroom to write a book called Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships (written with much help from Gary) and to run a site called www.reuniting.info, which “focuses on both the subtle effects of sex on the brain and a very gentle, non-goal-oriented approach to lovemaking that has shown up repeatedly across the globe over thousands of years.”

According to the About Us page on YourBrainonPorn.com, Gary and Marnia have discovered Tantric sex, which they refer to as “warm” sex, and were compelled to not only share their discovery with the world, but also to disparage the other kind of sex.

“Years ago,” the page reads, “Gary and Marnia noticed benefits from this ‘warm’ sex practice, and he was curious whether there was any existing research that would help explain those benefits. As it turned out, there was a good bit of science that indirectly explained the effects (both negative and positive) of sex and relationships on the brain. Much of it came from recent findings about addiction and the neurochemical effects of superstimuli, and they found it interesting enough to share on the Web. Then the porn guys showed up. At first, it didn’t seem like they belonged at reuniting.info. Yet Gary wondered if the research he had been collecting might help to explain what they were going through.”

Sounds kind of pseudo-scientific, doesn’t it, as if the two love birds had simultaneous sexual and professional epiphanies. Now they’re pulling together research that may or may not make the case they want it to make, and forcing it into a box that conforms to their world view. At the same time, real men really are struggling with issues related to porn, relationships and monogamy, and so are the women (and men) who love them. Some women are also claiming to be victims of porn addiction, though we question some of those claims. At the very least, though, therapists around the country (and world) are seeing more and more people come into their offices complaining about these problems, and the easy answer seems to be that porn is the bad actor.

Meanwhile, people like Gary and Marnia are pushing extreme theories supported by dubious research while at the same time admitting, “So far, no one seems to be able to do the necessary (brain) research. However, the symptoms heavy porn users complain of could logically be explained by the same brain changes observed in rats with unrestricted access to super-goodies. (Incidentally, rats and humans are distant relatives, and share the same primitive brain mechanisms for appetite and addiction.)”

As the game of “media telephone” takes their unsupported theories and morphs it into “current research,” we find ourselves at the same place we are with claims of, say, marijuana as a “gateway” drug. Before you know it, what was a theory is being accepted by lawmakers as irrefutable science, and laws are crafted that put the government where you least want it—in your brain.

This is how it happens. No doubt tongue in cheek, CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk has already suggested that “Perhaps all porn websites should exclude anyone under 35. For public health reasons, you understand.” He may have meant it as a joke, but in the past two days his suggestion has been linked to by several media outlets. In no time, it will be proffered by someone as a serious proposal that will then by picked up and turned into a piece of legislation.

It won’t be government legislating morality at that point, but government protecting people from biological processes beyond their control. Add in the alleged impact of porn on brains still in the developmental stage, and the situation becomes even more ominous. Before you know it, the concept of unfettered sexual expression will be a thing of the past.

For the moment the concern is focused mostly on men’s brains, but what about women’s brains? What silent physiological processes are going on in their heads that need to be addressed before it’s too late? (cue scary movie music here!)


You can read more thought provoking articles by Ann Oui at Sssh.com, the home of smart and sexy info and entertainment for women, by women!

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  1. Argh, these types kill me.

    The last thing we need when faced with a serious problem is a solution offered by a male nurse who’s taken a few science classes at the learning annex…

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