Sexuality in the 21st Century
by Tatiana E.M
We started our research seeking men in their 20s who had never consumed pornography.
We couldn’t find any.
Guys who do not watch pornography do not exist.
– Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse
The Roman Catholic Church put Mary on a pedestal for being a virgin, as if sex was something wrong, something filthy and something to be ashamed of.
Followers of such beliefs had the idea that sex is a vice and that we should not engage in it unless we are married and only if we want to have children. Moreover, masturbation is considered a mortal sin. Having such radical views has led to a destined future – as the laws of physics state, every action requires an equal and opposite reaction, and as such, we are seeing the reaction to these extreme views in the 21st Century. Needless to say, our reaction is of a proportionate nature – extreme. Nowadays, sexuality in the ‘modernised’ world is far from conservative, from sex toys to sex dolls, from pornography to relationships with AI, not to mention hedonistic yet void one-night stands. But how is this affecting our daily lives and relationships? And where will this lead our species as a whole?
In this article, tentative answers will be provided to the questions posed above with a specific focus on how pornography affects people and what is in store for the future for those who are more than frequent users of pornography. Before the beginning of our exploration of the topic, let us rewind a bit – in the previous article, we were introduced to Jane and Mark – a monogamous heterosexual couple experiencing challenges that most couples go through in this day and age. Jane is upset about Mark’s pornographic habits and his lack of desire to be physically intimate with her. Jane takes it personally – believing that there is something wrong with her appearance – that she is not physically appealing enough for him to want her. Her shortsighted view serves as a representation of many women and men out there who have a partner that watches porn on a regular basis. This is the reality in America for most of the human population – you or your significant other watches porn. In America, a study has found that 70% of males have watched adult content in the last month, and 1 in 6 women struggle with pornography addiction.
So Mark watches porn, and what is the big deal? According to research, it is quite a big deal. To begin with, as most writers usually do, they research the topic they ought to write about – I broke my back whilst doing research on my laptop trying to find studies that concluded that watching pornography while being single or in a relationship is overall beneficial for the parties involved but to no avail. After exhausting the internet, I decided to look for studies which concluded the opposite and found countless research and surveys that led me to the conclusion that porn is indeed harmful if consumed irresponsibly. Without going through the list of both qualitative and quantitative studies, I found myself overwhelmed by the results (and I am not even a man). Summing up everything I have read so far, Internet porn is
(1) compromising men’s sexual performance which could ultimately lead to (2) erectile dysfunction. Research done on women concluded that women who watch
pornography also experience repercussions – including negative feelings when climax cannot be reached with their partner and a decrease in their general sexual functioning. The question that needs to be answered at this stage, is why and how does this happen?
Let us start by stating the obvious: each consumer of pornography watches porn for different reasons but all those that do, have one thing in common – they all experience a dopamine rush. Being almost sure that you have heard of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, we will not delve into how dopamine affects our mental and physical well-being – but instead why humans release it while watching explicit content. At this point, you might anticipate that the answer is absolutely evident – ‘nudity’. However, really and truly, it is the novelty that leads to a surge in dopamine. New human beings on a screen are what lead to renewed arousal and ultimately the release and surge in dopamine. This could explain why shorter videos and gifs are becoming increasingly more popular – in the age of fast internet, novelty is just a click away. It is this accessibility to novelty that makes online sexual content addictive and rewires our brain into an addictive brain.
But why does novelty excite us? This can be explained by the Coolidge effect. Our affinity for novelty comes from our ancient past – we used to (and some of us still do) go haywire at the sight of a new, potential mate. Of course, this served as an evolutionary advantage to our species – from a biological perspective, the more offspring we have, the greater the chances of our species surviving and the greater the chances of our genes being passed on to future generations. In addition, those same chances are considerably increased if we have offspring of a different genetic makeup to those previously conceived by mating with a different partner that has considerably different genes to our own. This may explain why categories on pornographic websites, such as interracial porn exist and why in the Western world, ‘Japanese’, has been the most viewed category for the last two years. Those who are mesmerised by novelty (this is not the case for everyone), fool their body and brain into believing that they are “biologically successful” – but they cannot fool their minds. This mismatch between the biological and the metaphysical might explain why many people are left feeling empty after consumption of pornography.
Nowadays, pornography has become commonly consumed – 57% of Americans aged between 30 to 49 have reported watching pornography in the last month, making this demographic the highest frequent users of x-rated content. But the problem is even bigger than one might assume. According to research, boys start using porn from a very early age – and this is where problems begin. As time goes by, young boys but also adults become desensitised to such content and most find themselves just clicking away – switching from one porn star to another, from one scenario to another, until they reach a point where, what used to excite them when they started off, no longer excites them. As a result, this may lead them to watch extreme content, content that they never thought they would watch or even content that does not match their sexual orientation or liking. This slow yet steady desensitisation is what causes a gradual drop in sex drive, which ultimately leads to youthful erectile dysfunction and may lead to a myriad of mental health problems, including demotivation, anxiety and depression just to mention a few.
Inadvertently, pornography causes problems for those who frequently watch it and for those partners who do not. We could think of thousands of scenarios of how your own or your partner’s usage of porn may impact your relationship – insecurities, certain expectations, lack of sex or its nonexistence, etc… All of these harm relationships. Still, I believe we would all agree that when we do not meet the sexual needs of our partner or our own needs are not being met, it harms us as individuals, our partner and our relationships in ways that most of us do not even dare to articulate as is still considered a taboo topic.
One may argue that the use of pornography is undermining the propagation of our species as it has become one of the selection pressures. Selection pressures are threats to humankind, which force us to adapt to the environment we are inhabiting. In the ancient past, selection pressures included being hunted for by other animals, competition with other animal species, harsh climatic conditions, and the selection pressure our potential mates exerted on us. In the modernised world, we no longer live in the jungle and risk being eaten by some carnivore, we have by far outcompeted most of the species living on Earth and live in relatively stable conditions. Whilst most of the selection pressures have changed – one is still actual
– the pressure exerted on us by potential mates. If our potential mates prefer watching pornography, our competition has become the explicit content found online – be it real or virtual.
This brings us to the last question – where will all of this lead us? Given that this is an unprecedented experience that human beings have stumbled upon and are going through, it is hard to hypothesise what the future holds for all of us. Adults are watching porn, some have developed ED, couples are having less frequent sex than couples of the past, there is a decline in levels of testosterone worldwide and lastly, the birth rate in many countries has been increasingly decreasing. It is hard to foresee what is in store for our species in the future – to say that our species will become extinct sounds like an insensible, far-fetched idea, nevertheless, good judgement and common sense would inevitably lead us to correlate pornography use and decline in birth rate in the Western world. To conclude, it turns out that sexuality in the 21st century is a hyper-sexualised, sexless era.
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