Rather than helping, habitual porn use often winds up harming a person’s self-esteem, social relationships, and ability to form a satisfying long-term intimate sexual relationship. Again, the purpose of this conversation is inform and empower so that teens will be make positive choices with respect to their “consumption” of sexual content in the media and cyber pornography in particular, and the kind of sexual person they want to be throughout their life.
Wendy made the important point that sex is a form of behavioral and emotional conditioning. Every time we have sex certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are reinforced by virtue of the pleasure or discomfort we experience during sex. Wendy explained that an orgasm is perhaps the most powerful physiological re-award/reinforcer that exists in all of human experience. Wendy said teens need to understand that the thoughts and feelings they have at the point of orgasm are reinforced and ultimately become hardwired into their perception of sex -- which in turn shapes their sexual needs and preferences. Hence, when a teen masturbates to orgasm using porn, the teen’s understanding of what sex is and his or her future sexual desires become intensely fused with what was shown in the pornography.
Wendy believes that as a society we are going through a period of experimentation with cyber pornography and this experiment has the potential to change our sexual values and needs and behaviors in ways never imagined before. Without realizing it, we may be changing human sexuality in ways that move away from love, full-body sensual pleasures, and life-affirming/deeply rewarding sexual connections. As we were concluding our conversation, Wendy made the interesting and important observation that what is available to children and teens on the Internet has the potential to produce the type of trauma that we see in victims of sexual abuse. Wendy then wondered, given the present shame and silences surrounding porn use, whether our society will ever take active and decisive steps to protect youth from online pornography, as we have with smoking and alcohol.