By the time I give you these letters, you will be getting to the age where a lot of your friends will be tempting you to look at pornography. You’ll have access to th Internet, an email account of your own, and probably a device of your own, too. If you are half as clever as I expect you’ll be, no amount of filtering software will keep you from looking at it if you want to look at it, either. Pornography is a reality of growing up today. It was in my youth, too, although it was a very different thing when it was confined to magazines.
I also know that scare tactics, and forbidding things only make an intelligent boy want to look into it more. So no scare tactics, and no hard rules: instead, I just want you to know the risks of Internet Pornography so that you can choose for yourself whether or not you are going to use it.
I have spent much of my time working with men helping them develop a healthy relationship to pornography, and I have read a lot of research on this topic. A lot of it is politically-motivated bunk and bad science. So know that what you are hearing from me is based on real professional experience and an incredible skeptical eye on the research.
First, porn is habit forming, it is rarely an “addiction”, but guys can get into a routine of using it that is hard to break. Over time, using porn habitually slowly has negative effects on the body and brain that an informed man might choose to avoid. The more intense the pornography habit, the more intense the problems will be.
When I was the age I hope to be giving you these letters, there was no world wide web – the Internet was new technology, and porn, when you found it, was grainy, slow-loading pixellated still images, which you either had to pay for, or hack into a server to get access to. Porn was easier to get in magazines, but that meant going out and buying a $15 document with a limited selection of images, filled with ads that insult your intelligence, that you had to squirrel away somewhere out of sight of polite company – often from special stores with an age restriction just to walk in.
Today there are massive libraries of free, high-definition videos depicting anything you can imagine. A man can see more beautiful, naked women doing more varied sexual acts in a day than the most decadent emperors of the ancient world could have imagined in their entire lifetime.
Porn is intoxicating. Men’s sexual drives are wired into their visual cortex. Seeing a beautiful and attractive person has a drug-like effect on our brains that psychologists call the “man trance.” It makes us feel dizzy and giddy and happy all at once. If you want to see proof, all you have to do is look at the image I chose for this blog post for a moment – the woman there is gorgeous – and she can make your head swim just looking at her. Her posture, being on the bed, the naughty shoes all enhance it until looking at that image can make you feel almost as head-swimmy as taking a shot of bourbon. Porn takes the natural drugs that your brain experiences looking at sexy people and turns it way up. It alters your mind, and it does that to make money.
Porn exploits the viewer. It knows how male sexuality works, and milks it for every penny creating a powerful high. And they will use it to get an opportunity to sell you videos, games, crappy products, poison pretending to be drugs to help you with sex, ineffective dating advice, or expensive junk. To me, at least, that feels like a genuine insult to my humanity some days.
Porn is to real sex what pro wrestling is to a fight. The women in porn are intensely beautiful, often because they have the benefit of elaborate hollywood make-up, beauty treatments between each scene, and in many cases, surgery to give them a better-than-human body. If you expect a girl to look like a porn star in real life you will be sadly disappointed. The men are usually similarly made over, and are selected from pools of thousands of men who might do the job to be big, muscular, and have nearly superhuman endowments.
Take another look at the girl in the photo. Notice any pores on her skin? Any flaws, stretch marks, etc? of course not. Part of that is the magic of photoshop, but if you look at the shadows, you can also tell that there are a ton of lighting tricks going on, too – they are splashing her with diffuse light from multiple directions to make her skin glow and her eyes sparkle in a way that doesn’t exist outside a Hollywood studio. Note the blurrng of theboards on teh wall – signs that they stretched her out to make her look thinner and her butt look smaller. This is not how the real girl looks at all.
The sex acts themselves in porn are just as fake – many of the poses, positions, and acts done on the screen are woks of gymnasitcs that in real life would be uncomfortable at best, and definitely not sexy for the people involved; but they look good on camera. They are there to feed into fantasies men have of being powerful, desired, and accepted through the symbolism on screen, not to show what real sex is like. Even the “amateur” stuff is often faked in part.
Because it is fake, porn can set up unrealistic expectations and fantasies. I wish I could emphasize this enough here – I have enough experience dealing with men who have let unrealistic expectations from porn ruin their joy of sex with real women to fill a couple of books. It’s not that fantasies themselves are a bad thing, it is wonderful fun to fantasize about some wild and kinky stuff, and even to experiment with a willing partner, but to expect a real woman (or man) to be open to anything, and to enthusiastically enjoy it with orgasmic bliss is to make sure you will be disappointed. Ideally you want to go into your first sexual experiences without a lot of expectations so that you can feel the thrill of it all without comparing it to elaborate porn-driven fantasies in your head.
Young men who use porn too early in their development can damage their sexual function. People who start using porn heavily under the age of sixteen often rewire the sexual centers of their brain. They start to genuinely need the level of kink and beauty they see in porn to become sexually excited. With real lovers, they can experience erectile dysfunction, mood swings, and premature ejaculation.
Porn numbs your sense of pleasure. Because pornography is a super-normal stimulus it can flood your brain with the pleasure chemical dopamine so intensely that after extended use, your brain has to develop more dopamine receptors to cope. The result is that normal things that would feel good – having a little chocolate, lounging in thd sun, petting a purring cat – don’t release enough dopamine to make them feel good anymore. A chronic porn user’s pleasure circuits become dull. He stops enjoying the little things in life. Porn might be pleasurable to use, but in time very little else will be. That can lead to feelings of depression, bitterness, and distraction.
Porn drains your sexual energy. If you are looking to get into a relationship, porn is going to dull your chances. When a man is looking for a new lover, and has no other outlet, it shows. He walks differently, he talks differently, he even smells different! If he is attractive and social people will call him “hot” or “intense” when this inner sexual intensity shows through.
But if he is heavily using porn, he doesn’t have the same energy. He has a sexual outlet, and so he doesn’t feel the need as strongly. He isn’t as motivated, and that shows to. His potential mates will wonder if he is really interested, rather than knowing he is. Knowing that you are wanted is the most powerful aphrodisiac in the world.
And when you are in a relationship, porn can be an even bigger drain. If you are feeling insecure about yourself, or have been turned down by your lover a few times, the temptation to just go to porn to get your needs met is strong. But if you do that, you are giving yourself an easy excuse ad a strong temptation to just neglect your partner sexually. You can rob the relationship of the games of chase-and-chat that keeps the éros alive in your relationship.
Finally, son, porn can change your relationship to yourself. Sexual desire is a force that drives men. We push ourselves hard to be successful, strong, and popular because we want to prove ourselves worthy of erotic love. Much of what men have created and achieved we have done to win another’s heart, or to take care of a wife and children. Your sexuality is part of the core of who you are; it is one of the three engines that drives creativity (along with curiosity, and spirituality).
A porn habit can dishonor your sexual core. Men who use porn heavily and habitually start treating their sexual needs as something to “get out of the way” like a box on their checklist to be marked off before they go to bed. When they do that they shut down or put away the very force that can make them Great Men. Your sex drive isn’t something that should be tamed… it should be embraced.
In this day and age a teen boy simply can’t help but be curious about porn. I know that you will have opportunities to look at it, and will probably enjoy it when you do. I accept that. A little pornography can be fun, but too much is really unhealthy for you. Unlike many boys your age, I am going to make sure you understand the real risks and the real effects of using porn, and I am going to encourage you to make a good choice – to moderate your use carefully, or choose not to use it at all.
And I hope that when you are old enough to read these letters that we have a good enough relationship that you will feel safe coming to me with questions about pornography and sex without feeling shame, and with the trust that I will be absolutely honest.
Yours Truly and Honestly,