Okay, here's a deep (and maybe uncomfortable for some) section of the Web — on Reddit, there is a new movement called the "NoFap" forum. (For those of us who aren't quite exposed to the wonders of the darkest corners of the Internet, "fap" is a colloquial term for masturbation.) The idea of abstaining has very little to do with morality or purity, but instead points out how, with the information superhighway, any type of sexuality, performance, kink, or taste can be easily accessed and catered to, without a moment's hesitation. Which, according to science, might be a problem when it comes to being a happy person.
According to the TED talk given by Gary Wilson, the absolute onslaught of Internet porn means that the basic brain is being rewired. He says, "With Internet porn a guy can see more hot babes in 10 minutes than his ancestors would see in several lifetimes. The problem is, he's got a hunter-gatherer brain. A heavy-user's brain rewires itself to this genetic bonanza, so it carefully becomes associated with this 'porn harem.'" Which isn't exactly great for the brain.
Wilson points out that Internet porn and real sex are vastly, vastly different. In particular, in porn, body parts are segmented and disembodied, and the quick, fast-forward-rewind nature of watching Net porn doesn't prepare one for, say, intimacy or considering a person beyond just their naughty bits. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, according to a Dutch study called "Predicting Compulsive Internet Use: It's All About Sex," of all the activities on the Internet, porn is the most addictive. This is because our brains have evolved to treat sex, companionship, and food as rewards — which means "hot, novel babes" feels like a real treat. That "treat," in the form of dopamine, can literally promote "binging and craving," like, well, like an addict. (Whatever happened to a good, old-fashioned fantasy?)
As a reader writes in to Andrew Sullivan says, "I can’t even maintain an erection in a condom anymore, and during sex often think about the porn scene I watched the previous (or that same) day." Which is why the, erm, "NoFap" participants have decided to voluntarily give up watching Internet porn. The same reader concludes, "Refraining from porn, deleting our downloaded collections, is an attempt to get some control back in our lives."
So, from our understanding, this isn't about being "anti-masturbation" — it is more about limiting the stimuli and intensity of the information those of us consume when they decide to engage in a little self love. And this awareness — plus the idea that a lot of porn promotes unrealistic ideas about sex — is an experiment that makes a bit of sense. Too much of a good thing is, well, never good at all. (Andrew Sullivan)
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