Admittedly, this is a touchy subject for most people, with opinions ranging vastly in degree and ferocity. Not everyone is going to like the theory that porn may be psychologically detrimental, but is important to consider the notion nevertheless. For instance, some studies have found associations between watching pornography and a decrease in the volume of grey matter in certain regions of the brain. More concerning to me, however, are the expectations about sex that porn seems to program into us. Porn makes sex entirely about the physical, about the orgasm, instead of the connection and energy exchange that can happen when both parties are emotionally and spiritually present. What we see, we repeat and desire. An image of what sex is has been laid out for us, this manufactured definition creates expectations of what it’s supposed to be like.
We are not saying that everything about this definition is ‘bad.’ There is nothing wrong with desiring the physical and aesthetic aspects of sex, or with looking for pleasure, but it is important to consider that pornography websites rank among the top in the world. Are we missing something here? Is the way that this type of sex is depicted harmful or wrong? It’s hard to say with any certainty. Naomi Wolf of New York Magazine weighs in on the matter:
After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.
Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time. (source)
Today, sex is everywhere, especially in the media. Whether it’s half clothed and highly sexualized bodies or outright provocative performances, we are being bombarded with a specific type of sexuality.
“In the U.S., adults tend to view young people as these bundles of exploding hormones. In the Netherlands, there’s a strong belief that young people can be in love and in relationships.” – Amy Schalet, an American sociologist who was raised in the Netherlands and now studies cultural attitudes towards adolescent sexuality, with a focus on these two countries. (source)
What is Tantra? It’s an ancient belief system about sex which involves meditation and ritual practices. It deals with the recognition of energy, and the use of sex for more than just pure sensorial pleasure. It is, in essence, the opposite of porn. Porn focuses on stimulation through the body senses. Tantra is about intimacy and connection and the recognition that we are more than just our physical bodies. In tantra, connection is everything and sex is meant to be a multi-dimensional experience.
Below is a TEDx talk with Ran Gavrieli, a gender studies student at Tel Aviv University. He talks about his own experiences with porn and the effect he believes it can have on our minds.
“Pornography is a humiliation and degradation of women, it’s a disgraceful activity and I don’t want to be associated with it. Women are degraded as vulgar sex objects, that’s not what human beings are.” – Noam Chomsky