Skip to main content

Porn on the Brain - impacting young people?

My view of the channel 4 show "Porn on the Brain" which is all about how teenegers might be being impact by watching porn online.


I have just finished watching "Porn on the Brain"  (if you live outside UK Tunnel Bear can let you watch this) a Channel 4 British documentary by a previous editor of Loaded (lad mag) Martin Daubney. In this documentary Martin looks to try and find out what is the situation of porn and teenagers. Now sometimes the show becomes a little sensationalist with phrases like "The internet brought about the end of innocence" but behind some hype is some interesting stuff. With Martin spending 15 years of his life dedicated to (soft core) pornography with his work in loaded his perspective on the porn industry is not naive, he describes himself as an "wanking expert". Early in the show he makes a judgment of how he views the changes in the porn industry. 

"Porn has lost its sense of humour and become something macabre" 

Don't let the alarmist sensationalist tone of this documentary distract you from the core message, below I have bullet pointed the key points from my watching I think this show makes. I finish with a couple of paragraphs on my views of these key points 


  1. The type of porn being consumed by teenagers has drastically changed in the last 10 years. 
  2. Their study using a Functional MRI scan of 20 self declared porn addicts showed an identifiable addiction response similar to substance misuse disorder. 
  3. The special nature of the teenage brain that makes it particularly vulnerable to addiction. 
  4. If porn addiction is real teenagers are super sensitive/vulnerable to porn addiction due to brain development and natural hormonal levels of puberty. 
  5. Their is a longstanding difficulty in proving connection between porn use and a rise in sexual violence. 
  6. No evidence that watching porn as a teenagers turns people into a sex offender. but clinically we are sure of a connection. 
  7. Internet filters always have holes, they are never perfect. They have some value to help parents reduce exposure but "we can't rely on filter"   
  8. Lots of young people turn to porn because their sex education doesn't meet their needs
  9. Parents of secondary school children need to have the "porn Chat" 


  1. The type of porn being consumed by teenagers has drastically changed in the last 10 years. 
    I think this has been clearly evidenced when you look at the history of the porn industry. Porn Land by Gail Dines (who is featured in the show) does a brilliant job of explaining the historical changes in the industry over the last 50 years. The Sex Education Show vs Pornography show (also by channel 4) showed the same. Teenagers are experiencing porn that over 25s have not even heard of or imagined.
  2. Their study using a Functional MRI scan of 20 self declared male porn addicts showed an identifiable addiction response similar to substance misuse disorder. 
    I have no reason to dispute the findings of this study showing that these 20 people showed an addictive brain response to hardcore pornography. However, the scientist in me must highlight that a study of 20 people is not a large scale investigation. It may be a true representation of a significant proportion of the UK population or these 20 individuals may represent a tiny % of uk population. In summary whilst the results of this study are interesting a larger scale study is needed to prove the hypothesis. In particular I think a study would need to look at people across the spectrum of porn use. Equally i would be interested to see if any such addictive response could be identified in consumers of written erotica or is this just a visual stimulation addiction.

  3. The special nature of the teenage brain that makes it particularly vulnerable to addiction. 
  4. If porn addiction is real teenagers are super sensitive/vulnerable to porn addiction due to brain development and natural hormonal levels of puberty. 
    This section builds on a much broader scientific base, looking at teenage brain development and the fact that young people develop their reward centre before their risk control department is widely accepted. From my study and experience I believe this is undeniable, young people are predisposed to take risks and therefore may risk engaging in more addictive behaviours. But to say that they are at greater risk of porn addiction does require the acceptance that porn addiction works the same as other addictions/risk taking. The shows study was not broad enough to make this concrete but I believe it is likely. Again more study is needed but ethical issues arise when trying to create a scientific study of the impact of porn on children.


  5. Their is a longstanding difficulty in proving connection between porn use and a rise in sexual violence. 
  6. No evidence that watching porn as a teenagers turns people into a sex offender. but clinically we are sure of a connection. 
    I believe scientifically this is the weakest part of the show and the show resorts to anecdotal evidence and emotional stories. This is a real shame as it could be seen to undermine the reasonable scientific base the show was building up. I believe the real difficulty with this topic is exploring what kind of connection exists. I think it would be hard to deny some form of connection, but is it a strong connection or weak. Key to this is the important scientific fact that causation and correlation are not the same thing. I believe their is a correlational link between violent porn and sexual violence but at this point I do not believe we can scientifically say that the link is also causational. It may well be but we have not yet proven this. If and when a causational relationship is proven we will still need further study to understand the scale and scope of porns power. Are all consumers of violent porn on the path to becoming sexually violent and it is just a question of the timetable for when they become violent? Or are only a proportion of the population going to become sexually violent by watching violent porn? Sexual violence existed before internet porn and clearly this is a very complex issue. I am glad the show touched on this topic and was honest enough to say "No evidence that watching porn as a teenagers turns people into a sex offender." but equally we could be watching a growing problem emerge.
  7. Internet filters always have holes, they are never perfect. They have some value to help parents reduce exposure but "we can't rely on filter"   
    It was a short section of the show but i am glad they made it very clear that whilst internet filters have some advantages, they are blunt tools that never work 100%. For example I am writing this in Starbucks who have an internet filter. That filter blocks out this blog, so I can post new blogs but cannot view my own website. However, it let me watch the complete channel 4 od show which included lots of nudity and porn (I was in a corner, no one could see my screen, I had headphones in and I had the show playing in a small window). Internet filters are dumb, blunt and full of holes. Therefore they should be used with caution and not presented as a magically technical fix for a technical problem. I fear the governments focus on ISPs making filters the default is more of a popularity stunt then a genuine help to most young people. It is a great way to look like you are tackling a problem without having to tackle the underlying issues of bad Sex and Relationship Education in schools and a lack of some parents helping young people make sense of sex and relationships. Its much more popular to blame the internet companies then look at our school system and parenting in the UK.

  8. Lots of young people turn to porn because their sex education doesn't meet their needs
    This claim in the show lacks the scientific base of the shows beginning but it is such a constant reality of my work I can not help but agree. Outside of the show we do have significant evidence of the failings in the UK's Sex and Relationship Education. The Sex Education Forum does a great job of researching and collecting evidence of the true sex and relationship experience of most UK young people. It would have been great if the channel 4 show made reference to this body of evidence. I think it is telling that every sex educator I know actively tackling pornography has a common theme, BISH UK talks about how on Planet porn things are different than real life, on the show Jonny Hunt  talks about a skewed view of sex from porn and my own lesson is titled "distortions of the media". It's no coincidence that 3 sexual health educators have approached the topic the same way. From the ground there's a desperate need to give young people the tools to recognise Porn for what it is. a Blurred example and a bad teacher of happy healthy sex and relationships.
  9. Parents of secondary school children need to have the "Porn Chat" 
    I kind of agree with this point but dislike the attitude of having a single one off "Chat" instead I believe all parents need to be willing to have an ongoing frank sex and porn dialogue. It is not a one time hit and run job but a constant and consistent attitude of openness and honesty. Easy to say difficult in practice for many parents. 

In conclusion I think this show did a good job of raising an important issue. It was great to see some new scientific evidence (even though the study was small scale) of the nature of porn consumption and the brain. Lots of the arguments about greater SRE in schools have been repeated again from previous shows, news stories and the mouths of school based educators but they do not diminish by repetition. This message must be repeated and repeated and repeated until communities take it seriously. 

Comments

Blogger said…
Do you like live sex cams? You will not forget BongaCams.

Popular posts from this blog

Sexting Education Resource

Today I am sharing a free resource I have made to help teenagers think about the type of images they are sharing online and by direct messages. I class this resource as in BETA, it is just my first attempt at making these images and I want to reshoot the photos. Get rid of the cluttered backgrounds and I need to find a male mannequin to use as well. You can find all the images I use at Sexting Images Resources
I have tested these images in a number of lessons for 14-15 year olds. The way I use them is getting the young people into small groups and asking them to put them in order from most risky images to share to least risky. They create a continuum of risk. Then we talk through a number of follow up questions.  Which images would it be ok to share on social network?Which images might be ok to share by direct message, such as snapchat or MMS?Which images should we never share?Which images do you think could get people into trouble with the police?Which images would be embarrassing if t…

Fish growing in an elephants footprint

Killifish are beautiful and fascinating 


After watching this video they have now moved up to the top of my Fish wish list. Next time I get to set up a new tank these will be in it! Currently I am not sure if I would want to start with an annual or a non-annual variety but I am very attracted to the colouration of the Blue Lyretail. These small fish seem both tough and clever at avoiding predators (see the water scorpion in video), catching prey and breeding. 


The video shows some annual Killifish displaying there amazing ability to have eggs laid in damp mud wait for water to return and then hatch. This curious ability allows these fish to thrive in areas with varying water levels. Their annual breeding ability also allows their eggs to be swapped, traded and sent by post between breeder and collectors both across a country and internationally. Their annual nature greatly appeals to me as a project that allows me to view a complete life cycle of a beautiful fast growing fish species. 


Sa…

Fishkeeping in a Cambodian Rice Field

Improving subsistence farmers diet with fish husbandry in Cambodia

How can a bunch of fish ponds make a real difference?

This summer I am travelling around South-East Asia, including Cambodia. In Cambodia I will be visiting some NGOs and voluntary aid projects. I meet with our main contact this week and most of the work is focused on people projects, teaching English, prison visits, drug addiction etc but they mentioned one project where they help rice farmers start fish husbandry projects. These projects are designed to help the local subsistence farmers grow on fish to adult size for increasing the protein component of their diet. Being interested in all forms of fish keeping I hope that when we travel to Cambodia I can visit the project or at least meet up with the team managing the project. It sounds like a fascinating and practical way to help some of the worlds poorest improve their diet and economic situation. It was mentioned that the project specifically looked at how fish farm…