After years of integrating the usage of pornography into his daily schedule, Matthew ‘19, says if he goes a day without it, he gets irritated and angry, like he’s missed a chunk of his every day routine. “You’d be surprised by the amount of people who do it more than once a day” Matthew said.
With the rise of the internet and its many pornography websites, porn has become so accessible that most college students have been exposed to it much earlier in life. A recent survey of college aged men and women in New England, showed that fifty-seven percent of 114 respondents said they were first introduced to pornography in middle school. Some, like Matthew, have made watching pornography a daily activity. But what does it do to our perception of real sex when we watch actors engaging in sex to make a living? In the past, it took decades for society to believe the science that proved that smoking cigarettes was harmful, and we are learning a similar lesson with the usage of porn in our world today. Often viewed by users as a relationship enhancer, harmless personal entertainment or a solid sexual education source, the porn industry deserves a critical second look from all of us. Despite these beliefs, science and research are showing us how porn harms the brain, damages relationships and negatively affects society as a whole.
“Porn is not new, but the accessibility of it is” said Kathy Butts, a personal counselor at the Bergeron Wellness Center on campus. “There’s a big taboo around it but there shouldn’t be, given the amount of people that actually watch it.” said Butts. In 2016, enough porn was watched on one website that all the data would fill 194,000,000 USB sticks. If you were to put the USB sticks end to end, they’d wrap all the way around the moon.
According to a 2008 University of New Hampshire survey, 93 percent of male college students
and 62 percent of female students said they saw online porn before they were 18. Many females, in particular, weren’t seeking it out. Thirty-five percent of males said they had watched it 10 or more times during adolescence. These findings are concurrent with The Defender survey that was made available to 18 – 24 year olds across New England and New York. Fifty-six percent of participants said they were first exposed to pornography in middle school, and some even before that. “I think what can happen is that when young people are curious, starting in middle school, they start looking at porn because they’re probably not having any sexual experience at that point. So that becomes their world of sex,” Butts said.
“Back in the day, people who were watching porn on VCRs were most likely watching the same video over and over again, whereas today, people watch something different every time they do it because there’s so much content out there, and the exposure to porn is almost inevitable.” Matthew said.
One participant in The Defender survey shared that ‘My positive experiences [with porn] have made me more diversely educated in sex and the different ways to perform. The negative effects are that I often find myself to be more sexually driven than socially driven when I am with a girl.”
Repeated consumption of porn causes the brain to literally rewire itself according to an article in Fight the New Drug, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of pornography’s harmful effects through science, information and personal accounts. It trig- gers the brain to pump out chemicals and form new nerve pathways, leading to profound and lasting changes in the brain. “There is also the consideration of what you learn from being exposed to pornog- raphy as part of your learning world. “If you’re growing up on that and that’s your exposure
to sex, it can make people less likely to take a risk and get involved with other people and it can also lead to distorted ideas and expectations about what sex is like.” Butts said. “I think a lot of today’s porn is desensitized [compared to]what people might’ve been seeing in the 70’s or 80’s when they had to actually go to a store to buy a VCR tape of it,” said Matthew.
“Porn eliminates the awkward middle between not knowing what to do in the moment and what to do if you’ve never had sex before. Sex is a very awkward but also intimate scenario.” An anonymous source from the Defender survey said.
“In porn it’s all made to look super easy, it’s a total male fantasy and it’s not how it really is for women” Butts said, and given a situation where a girl and a guy are dating and he won’t stop watching porn, those girls might always be wondering, ‘am I being compared to a porn star?’’
It goes the same way for men as it does for women. The porn industry sets some high expectations for men and although they may be different from the ones women are held to, they still exist.
Some students also use pornography for entertainment, or a way to destress. Butts has concerns about that. “It’s the same idea of people turning to weed or alcohol when they get stressed. If someone turns to porn during times of stress, then what does that mean for them? If your body gets use to how you deal with stress, are you able to just quit that?”