Porn Saturation

New York Magazine has had an interesting series on the our porn-saturated culture. I thought this article -- the second of three -- would be of some interest to readers. It focuses on the consequences of consuming too much pornography on young men's abilities to sustain real-world relationships, and on the women they're dating. Here's a taste:

Is it possible that porn is causing men to detach from their partners in more profound ways? Though porn research is the subject of much debate and barb-flinging (with religious groups seizing on any study to prove that porn and masturbation are wrong), scientists speculate that a dopamine-oxytocin combo is released in the brain during orgasm, acting as a biochemical love potion, as behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski calls it. Its the reason after having sex with someone, youre probably more inclined to form an emotional attachment. But you dont have to actually have sex in order to get those neurotransmitters firing. When you watch porn, youre bonding with it, Kuszewski says. And those chemicals make you want to keep coming back to have that feeling. Which allows men not only to get off on porn but to potentially develop a neurological attachment to it. They can, in essence, date porn.

I get that being critical of porn may come off as prudish. After my little post a while back on Skins, it's worth emphasizing that that's not where this is coming from for me. I'm really not that hung up on this as an issue in the abstract. But I do think that the sheer ubiquity of pornography in our contemporary culture is a new phenomenon. The impact this has on children and adults has yet to be fully studied, but it seems socially harmful in really pernicious ways. And yet it doesn't seem to attract much attention in mainstream conversations, perhaps because the anti-porn position (as the magazine notes) has historically been bound up with other conservative culture-war issues (though also feminism). So I'm glad to see an outlet like New York Magazine taking the issue on in a fairly cool-headed way. The series is not perfect, but it raises some good questions from a perspective that is not threatening or overly judgmental.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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