We would clearly be in trouble if any sexual experience caused us to densensitise to sex as we’d likely lose all interest by our early twenties.However, it is Wolf’s description of the dopamine system where things get really weird: Since then, a great deal of data on the brain’s reward system has accumulated to explain this rewiring more concretely.
But this is no different to densensitisation to any form of emotional experience.
I contacted Jim Pfaus, the researcher mentioned in the article, who has conducted several unpublished studies showing that physiological arousal reduces on repeat viewing of sexual images, but he agrees that this is in line with standard habituation of arousal to most type of emotional images, not just sexual, that happens equally with men and with women.
It’s important to point out that this densensitisation research is almost always on the repetition of exactly the same images.
Purely on the premise of the article, I was troubled by the fact that “breaking taboos” is considered to be a form of pathology and it lumps any sort of progression in sexual interest as a move toward the “extreme”.
‘Taboo’ and ‘extreme’ are really not the issue here as both are a matter of perception and taste.
What is important is ‘consensual’ and ‘non-consensual’ and when the evidence is examined as a whole there is no conclusive evidence that pornography increases sexual violence or the approval of it (cross-sectional studies tend to find a link, experimental and crime data studies do not).
To the contrary, wanting new and different sexual experiences is for the majority a healthy form of sexual exploration, whether that be through porn or other forms of sexual behaviour.
’ asks campaigner Naomi Wolf in a CNN article that contains a spectacular misunderstanding of neuroscience applied to a shaky moral conclusion.
Wolf asks suggests that the widespread availability and consumption of pornography is “rewiring the male brain” and “causing them to have more difficulty controlling their impulses”.