mercoledì 22 Maggio 2019

The Lost Generation of Porn Kids

The Lost Generation of Porn Kids

Everything we do not know about online pornography told in a fundamental essay just published in Sweden

Monica Mazzitelli, Göteborg

www.monicamazzitelli.net

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A book titled “Visual drug – on kids, youth & onlineporn” (“Visuell drog – Om barn, unga och nätporr”, Kalla Kulor Förlag, 2016) was recently published in Sweden, and it would be worth translating it into other languages. The writers are two powerhouses: Maria Ahlin – the young president of Freethem, an organization preventing demand for prostitution – and Ulrica Stigberg – a priest stationed at Fryshuset, Stockholm’s most important and vital youth center.

To write this book, Ahlin and Stigberg chose to step back from a moral perspective on pornography, preferring to concentrate only on the effects of its consumption on the health of young and very young people, at the neuropsychiatric, physical and social levels. They interviewed experts of all kinds: university professors, neurologists, criminologists, police commissioners, sociologists, urologists, psychologists, researchers and television personalities. But above all, they have talked for a long time with dozens of boys and girls who have (finally) found adult ears to express problems that neither parents nor teachers know; and Ahlin and Stigberg found out that none of them had ever had the opportunity to speak with an adult on this subject. The picture that emerges is very disturbing and with strong social repercussions.

When it comes to pornography, the majority of users are male; 96% of teenage boys from Sweden have consumed porn. This makes it difficult to discuss because – as opposed to other addictions such as cocaine or gambling, that are less widespread – pornography is a skeleton present in almost everybody’s closet.

This is why despite 50 years of studies and research and meta studies on the subject, the denial and/or uncritical attitude towards porn is still the most common. As soon as the possibility of introducing limitations is discussed, the progressives use the argument of being “critical towards any form of censorship”.

In fact, many adults over the age of 35-40 have no idea what the online offer is, and they think that porn is made up of glad movies with “happy sluts” having a very good time with males. But for the last 15 years, the narration is about both physical and verbal aggression, not pleasure. A study done a while back on the most popular pornographic movies, showed that about 9 out of 10 scenes contained physical aggression (slapping, gagging, spanking), primarily targeting females. About half the time the analyzed scenes would contain strong verbal attacks. In addition, the woman’s reaction to abuse is usually “neutral” or “positive”, almost never negatively reactive or opposing.

The first contact with pornography happens very early now (before kids are ten years old) and it is often involuntary; in many cases, it is the result of a internet search from a computer or a cell phone/tablet. But the first active pornographic search is around the age of twelve. That’s right: the age of twelve years.

A kid’s brain (as everyone knows from alcohol and drugs issues), is very fragile and far from being consolidated and structured. The power of the dopamine release system is at its azimuth and it works like this: when something very emotionally impacting (positive or negative) hits us, the brain looks for a system to “restore balance”, and the mode is that of lowering the level of reaction, inhibiting the emotional response to a given stimulus. In short, to protect us from strong emotions, our encephalus makes us less responsive; in other words, it makes us addicted to a certain stimulus. In this sense, we end up feeling indifferent or bored with something that initially excited us. Considering now the implications of a sexual stimulus connected to viewing pornographic material and how easy it is nowadays to watch porn on the net and the great number of videos one ends up watching, it is obvious that whatever was initially arousing and leading to an orgasm quickly becomes “boring”. So soon enough the brain will need to go a step further in order to make an arousement start and receive the same level of dopamine release. Our adult brain – and even more that of an adolescent – gets a kick by being transgressive. Breaking rules turns us on, alas, and the stronger the taboo we break, the greater the pleasure we experience through the release of dopamine. Studies conducted over the last few years all agree to point out that wide availability of porn online has increased enormously the number of viewers just compared to a few years ago, and also that the level of transgressiveness of the material is increasing exponentially. From soft porn and glad porn we have quickly gone into what we now call gonzo porn: videos are much more “real life”, with less faking in favor of more authentic scenes, coming closer to a snuff movie concept. As confirmed by Lars Olsson, Professor of Neuroscience at the prestigious Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, in order to get enough arousement to achieve an erection and an orgasm, the level of transgression must be made increasingly higher. The brain of adolescents is predisposed to dopamine release especially in the presence of “novelty” and “transgression”. All men with issues related to pornography addiction have reported a personal journey that from hard sex quickly escalated to violent/humiliating sex, rape, rape on people with mental and/or physical handicap, rape of children, younger children, passive incest (barely watching, often beginning with animation – the Simpsons are a classic – and then ending up with human beings in the flesh and bone), in worst cases ending with committing incest on family members.

The characteristic of the compulsive use of pornography is that in the most critical (constantly increasing) cases, viewing videos is eventually insufficient and the need of experiencing it personally becomes imperative. In this regard, so many groups of academics as well as police forces say that the number of young people who are buying sex is growing exponentially, and that whenever the electronic devices of a rapist are analyzed, they contain pornographic material that offers those same scenes. The police commissioner for crimes against childhood Nina Rung says that rapists indicate pornography as their source of inspiration. Interestingly, there is no increase in “pedophilia” (which is a well-defined psychopathology) in the strict sense; on the contrary, the increase in child abuse today could possibly be a result of a hyper-accessibility of free pornographic material online.

The brain anesthetizes emotions and feelings, making humans more indifferent and resistant to empathy. In the specific case of pornography, it leads to a transition from an act seen a thousand times in a video to the actual abuse perpetrated on a woman or a minor: figures on reported assaults, rape and sexual abuse on young girls are alarmingly increasing in public places and venues such as concerts, bars, discos, public transport, beaches etc.. They also often take place with no reaction and protection from the victims’ own friends, who are instead sometimes even part of the abuse, or filming it with their phones, as we often read in the news.

Back to the kids: what happens to a twelve-year-old who − for very obvious biological and natural reasons − wants to masturbate to offload his hormonal storms? He watches these gonzo porn movies. What does he see? Horse-hung men with ever-lasting erections and well-trained bodies that abuse, rape, attack and beat some girls who are generally available to this type of treatment, they often even like it, without ever actively seeking for their own orgasm. They are only represented as objects supposed to deliver an orgasm to the man/men in the scene. Until the day comes when one starts watching videos where girls are instead openly suffering, terrified, in shock and so on, as the need for further stimulation rises.
Gail Dines professor at Wheelock College, Boston during a conference (not quoted in this book) pointed out that this twelve-year-old spectator cannot help reaching an orgasm when he sees these scenes, because his hormones are exploding, so he ends up believing that he enjoys that.

As the limbic brain system fixes the images and internalizes/memorizes them much more viscerally when they are introjected during an orgasm, the addiction connected to sex pleasure gets closely associated with that of violence, as explained by Jenny Sonesson, an expert on minor abuse at institutional level. The consequence is a sense of shame, remorse, fear, self-hate, anxiety and insomnia.

In case of children who develop a real pathology connected to pornography (the most conservative figures indicate 10% of children) the symptoms are more alarming both physiologically and socially. They suffer from a variety of pathologies: depression, ablution, sexual impotence, addiction symptoms, sentimental apathy, emotional disjuncture, obesity, inability to intimacy, lack of self-esteem and/or aggression. A study conducted by the Max Planck Institute in Berlin showed that there is a decrease in the striatum’s cerebral region amongst the strong consumers of porn. That region is where the emotional reward and the dopamine-induced motivation mechanisms take place. In addition, an institutional study conducted by Swedish researchers Svedin and Åkerman on a large sample of teenage boys, revealed that high porn consumption is associated with sexual abuse, excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, purchase of sex and psychic diseases. In social terms, the cultural consequences are manifold and well visible everywhere: less empathy for victims of sexual aggression; a reinforced view of women as provocative and therefore deserving it when raped; an increase of group rapes; the expectation of more frequent/racier sexual performance from their partners; a demand that any kind of physical contact culminates in sexual intercourse.

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And the girls? What do pornographers say about the peers of these young consumers? The percentage of those who have ever seen a video is 54%, but only a third has continued watching. Many of them explain that they have watched to be equal with boys, to feel “confirmed”, and it is usually their partners who come with the request; many of them stop watching once the relationship is over. 12% of the girls say they would be interested in watching more pornography; Magdalena Mattebo, researcher at the Uppsala University, infers that they would be more motivated if porn were aimed at female pleasure and not just designed to meet the needs of a male audience.

But whether or not they have consumed pornography, girls know very well that it exists and report a number of issues including: requests of sexual performance that they do not feel readily comfortable with or interested in (the most common is anal sex); difficulty in refusing for fear of being judged as “boring” and being left by their partners; sense of inadequacy and embarrassment for their body which is judged on the basis of unattainable standards, with specific aesthetic demands in terms of the appearance of the genitals (hair, appearance of the labia); to feel the expectation of having to satisfy continuous and immediate sexual desires without being given enough time to get ready, not even with a vaginal or anal lubrication, with long-lasting painful physical consequences, in addition to the emotional ones; expectations not only on the male orgasm but also on their own, resulting in orgasmic simulations to put an end to painful sexual intercourses; humiliation generated by the feeling of being constantly betrayed by the partner as he get aroused by looking at other women; having often the sensation that it was “impossible” to say no to sex because they were too pressed, and feel the emotional blackmail of not being considered “cool” enough if not available, only realizing afterwards that what they had tolerated in fact was actually a sexual abuse as they had not given their full consent.
Advertising is always blamed to market the women’s body, feeding unrealistic expectations onto their physical appearance, not understanding that porn, not advertising, is often the source of the unrealistic standard (both for women and men), as Gail Dines also pointed out in her conference.

Is it all black? Fortunately not. More than one of the boys interviewed admits that it is difficult to watch porn without questioning who these “actresses” are, and even if they “chose” to do it, they surely carry some infantile trauma that makes them so fragile, state Thomas and Amir. And very often you understand that the girls are there only because they are in need or because they are forced to they continue and no matter how hard they try to pretend, you can read in their eyes that they are experiencing anguish, disgust and fear; and then it is impossible to get aroused. To masturbate with pornography, Alex says, “you have to suppress the thought that those girls are real people, otherwise you cannot watch”; and about male actors he adds, “They want to dominate to compensate for their poor self-esteem”. Tobias is very frustrated: “Porn has destroyed parts of me. I realize it when I am tired because my brain goes there right away. I learned things I never wanted to know, and now I cannot get rid of them”. Robin argues that if there was a filter to prevent minors from consuming pornography “it could save a whole generation. We need to problematize pornography without having to pass as oppressors of sexuality”. To conclude, Tobias’s important consideration: “How can we think of eradicating sexism and rape without eradicating pornography?” A beautiful rhetorical question, as well as a political one. Let us hope that Sweden can be, this time again, one step ahead of other nations.

Lastly, there is an aspect to which everyone in the book agrees, young and adult: that in the absence of a better source, porn is used as a kind of sex education by the kids, and that they have no one to talk with about what they watch and suffer. And everyone interviewed in the book gives the same piece of advice: talk about it, without pressing on guilt or morality, because youngsters are victims of this meat grinder, designed to sell hard core material to future credit card holders.



 

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