With the internet constantly expanding, our lives have been made much more convenient. We have been able to stay in touch, work, publish information, and spend time with our friends – all from the comfort of our homes. However, with all these technological advancements come concerns around how we utilise technology and whether humanity chooses to use it for the benefit or detriment of humankind. This includes everything from artificial intelligence, to weapons, to scientific discoveries. All these things have associated ethical considerations, and how it affects us depends on who we are as people.
The aspect of technology I’ll be discussing is pornography. Believe it or not, one third of the entire internet is comprised of it. In the digital age, it is more accessible than ever and demand has surged over the years to the point that it has turned into a multibillion-dollar industry. Until very recently, most of it was in print form or photographs, more difficult to obtain, and watered down compared to what can be found nowadays. With increasing demand, the content seen in some pornography has become much more graphic and unrealistic, and experts have claimed the stimulation it provides to the brain can have dire consequences for both our mental and physical health.
In the western world, pornography is not the taboo subject it once was, especially amongst younger generations. People openly discuss it amongst their peers and friend groups, and it is considered by many to be a common routine to indulge in. In my opinion, the media is partially responsible for that; nowadays, a lot of movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment downplay the severity of pornography in people’s lives. Yet, if we pay attention to what is going on around us, the effect is quite the contrary. Pornography has ruined countless lives and soiled many relationships. While this may vary according to the individual, there is no doubt that pornography has addictive properties. When the brain becomes dependent on it, it can change people’s perception of sex, their expectations from it, and how they view other genders. The standards that men have placed upon women have evolved to be unrealistic and hyper-sexualised; women are represented as commodities, and beauty standards have become more difficult to conform to, leading to many people feeling pressured to resort to more extreme measures and cosmetic procedures, despite the potential health hazards these processes may pose for them. Further to this, I believe that hyper-sexualisation of women has exacerbated the declining success of long-term relationships, with divorce rates among western countries having climbed in recent decades, to an average of around 50 per cent.
While the effects on society are arguably more evident, the effect of pornography on an individual’s physical and mental health is not as obvious. According to The Conversation, while pornography has been around in some form throughout much of history, it has constantly evolved with every new medium introduced, and in the age of the internet, this is no exception. The industry has grown with rapidly increased demand, and people are building up an unhealthy tolerance towards the subject matter. According to Pornhub, from 2017 to 2018, total visits to their site increased from 5 billion to 33.5 billion, exceeding over 100 billion in 2020.
When an individual watches porn, their brain gets triggered to release a chemical called dopamine which acts through the brain’s reward system, providing individuals with a sense of euphoria. Over time, this individual builds up their dopamine tolerance towards a specific category of porn and loses that euphoric rush. This causes them to resort to more extreme categories for that original level of euphoria; this process of matching the rising dopamine tolerance has been shown to rewire the brain to the point that it can do irreversible cognitive damage, and even physically shrink the frontal lobe. A study conducted by German researchers at JAMA Psychiatry observed sixty-four men from the ages of twenty-one to forty-five, who were reported to watch an average amount of four hours of pornography per week. The study reported that grey matter volume in regions associated with cognitive and emotional functions is smaller in those with higher pornography use. Furthermore, pornography has the potential to induce several physical issues such as erectile dysfunction, as well as decreased testosterone levels and sperm count.
At the end of the day, Australia is a free country, and we have the privilege of being able to access whatever information and entertainment we desire with minimal restrictions. But where do we draw the line when it comes to supporting such a large industry that thrives off the exploitation of so many people, and is detrimental to both our mental and physical health?
Jason is a South African trying to find his place in the world.
Words by Jason Andrews
Image from Unsplash
Fight the New Drug. 2020. 20 Mind-Blowing Stats About the Porn Industry and Its Underage Consumers. [online] Available at: https://fightthenewdrug.org/10-porn-stats-that-will-blow-your-mind/
The Guardian. 2014. Porn Viewing Linked to Less Grey Matter in Brain. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/may/29/porn-viewing-linked-less-grey-matter-brain
Neuroscience News. 2020. Watching pornography rewires the brain to a more juvenile state. [online] Available at: https://neurosciencenews.com/neuroscience-pornography-brain-15354/#:~:text=Following%20a%20similar%20line%20of,and%20unconventional%20forms%20of%20porn