I’ve often wondered what was the appeal of pornography. I was pondering this question the other night after a conversation at work on the subject. A couple of questions arose while I was pondering the concept. Why do so many people enjoy coitus in the third person? Why has pornography become more socially acceptable in recent years? Here are the hypotheses that I came up with. I, however, don’t have the ability or means to conduct any sort of experiments on these hypotheses, so I’ll just assume that I’m correct.
I was thinking about the first question, when I recalled an article I was reading a few years ago about research into possible causes of autism. During a series of experiments, in the 1980s-90s, involving monkeys wearing brain scanners, the scientists started noticing an interesting phenomenon. The experiments involved studying the activity of the ventral premotor cortex of monkeys while performing certain activities, like picking up and moving objects. What they found is that the same parts of the brain that became active when the monkey performed the action, were also active when it watched the action being performed by the scientist. Further research and study has found that these “mirror neurons,” as they were called, are a part of our everyday lives. They are the tools we use during early childhood development to learn from our parents. They are linked to certain emotions (sympathy, for example). They provide the necessary inputs for reading facial expressions and body language. They do all this by “tricking” you brain into thinking it’s doing something that it isn’t. When the subject watches the action performed, the brain (subconsciously) views the action as being performed instead of watched. The sad feeling that comes from watching someone else cry is a result of the mirror neurons. If emotion can be transferred in this manner, this could also explain why being at a sporting event is more exciting than watching the game at home. So what does this have to do with pornography? If, subconsciously, watching an action is seen as performing the action, then it stands to reason that this phenomenon also applies to sex. When a person is watching pornography; subconsciously, they are performing the act. This then activates the “pleasure center” in the brain (certain parts of the cerebellum, amygdala, and the pituitary gland) which also triggers the “reward circuit” (what makes us want to perform the pleasurable act again) . Here’s the kicker: pornography presents situations that are very unrealistic. So when the desire arises to re-perform the pleasurable act, there’s only one place to go, and that’s back to pornography.
Only in recent years has pornography become socially acceptable. A couple of decades ago, it wasn’t something that was really talked about. In recent years, there are movies made about the industry. It’s out in the open, and all over the place. So, why the change? One of the possibilities is that it has become more readily available. In our increasingly hedonistic society, the internet puts whatever you want at your fingertips. With access to the internet in almost every home, this gives access to pornography in almost every home; and the only limiting factor is your credit card limit. As previously discussed, pornography can possibly create a recurring desire. With virtually unlimited access, and the desire to return, it’s no wonder the porn industry brings in an estimated $10 billion annually. An industry that big is difficult to ignore. Give it some time, and people start figuring out that they aren’t the only ones hiding in the closet. They start to talk about it, and slowly it becomes more socially acceptable. Now, it’s not only socially acceptable, it’s the norm.