Seriously, bro. Give it up.
This story cracked me up.
Some university scientists were trying to do a study on the way internet porn consumption affects the brains of young men.
They had the program. They had the technology. They had the funding. But they had to give it up.
Because they couldn’t find a control group. You can only isolate the effects of porn if you compare brains that have watched porn with those that haven’t.
But they couldn’t find any brains that hadn’t.
No matter how hard they searched, they literally couldn’t find any young American men who didn’t watch internet porn.
(I think there were men out there – on Amish communities and so on. But if you’ve grown up in a radically different cultural environment, that means you can’t be part of the control group.)
And so they quit.
I find this kind of staggering. Like, I’m sure there’s a lot of guys out there watching porn. I expected them to be the large majority.
Partly it makes me roll my eyes and laugh. Oh humanity. You go and build the internet – a vast neural network, almost capable of holding a transcendent human consciousness, and what’s the first thing you go and do with it? Pipe porn into every home in the free world.
But part of this also makes me a little scared about the future. And I’m not moralising here. I snuck a few glances at the titty mags at the barbers when I was a kid. I’m not one to throw stones.
And what people do in the privacy of their own homes, or how many homes they’re slipping on into is totally up to them. Bodies were made for having fun. Knock yourself out kids.
But what worries me is what this does to our idea of “normal”.
Porn, in case you haven’t been introduced to the internet, is unrealistic. For the most part, the sex that it goes on there is some sort of strange, alien, hairless humpy-pumpy. The “actors” have unusual or even artificially inflated proportions, and their acrobatics have more to do with visual effect than they do with anyone’s sensual pleasure.
(Though I’m sure they do love each other very much. All 8 of them.)
So it’s not normal.
But then, what is normal? Well, I could invite you over to my place after a bottle of red and Daniel Day Lewis’ Last of the Mohicans, and that might give you some idea. But one swallow does not a summer make.
A sample of one doesn’t give you an idea of normal.
And that’s the interesting thing about sex. We’ve made it such a private affair, that nobody really has any idea what normal actually is. For centuries it was hidden behind taboo, and we only started unpacking it in the 60s.
But it’s still a very private thing. And so into this void steps Hollywood, with perfectly made hair and no kids banging on the bedroom door, and porn.
For curious kids, these things become the templates of normal.
But if I can guarantee one thing, the quickest way to misery-town is to compare your own mundane experiences of life to glossy, cleanly-shaven ideals.
It’s like I was talking to a mate of mine. He was saying that’d he’d lost interest in sex – well, with his wife at least.
And I said, mate, you’ve got to get off the porn. Don’t do it to yourself. You spend all this time watching 20 year old acrobats bouncing all over the place, what do you think’s going to happen when you’re wife shows you her soft-like-a-well-loved-sofa body?
You’re constructing a standard that no woman could live up to. AND you’re constructing a standard that your own life has no hope of living up to.
If you set your benchmark at cheerleader Nair commercial, you’re always going to come up short. You’re always going to feel that your life isn’t just making it. It’s always going to be disappointing.
So stop it. Don’t do it to yourself. Stop beating yourself up/off.
Now you might say, but I’m a rational being. I know that porn is unrealistic, and so I don’t let it affect my expectations.
And to that I’d say, bullshit. We’re talking about some deep stuff here. (The sex drive is designed to bypass the mental circuitry.) It’s way deeper than you can intellectualise.
And I’m not just talking about porn here. Your brain is constantly taking a stocktake of the world around you. What is happening? What do other people have? How are other people doing?
Through that process you construct an idea of ‘normal’.
But you don’t get to consciously control that process. That’s a background function.
The only hope you have of controlling it and setting your benchmarks at realistic levels is to control the input.
- If you want to feel beautiful, don’t read “beauty” magazines that feed you images of unrealistically beautiful people.
- If you want to feel successful, don’t compare your life to celebrities, or the filtered versions of people we see on social media.
- And if you want to have fantastic sex, don’t train yourself to think that 7 gridiron players and the pizza delivery girl is ‘normal’.
Remember that billions of people live without clean water. Billions live on the smell of an oily rag. For most of humanity, this is normal.
You have a lot to be grateful for.
But the only way you can maintain that perspective is to control your input. Intellectually ‘getting it’ isn’t enough. You need to wind back your idea of normal.
You need to consciously ask yourself, is my experience of the world, through whatever media I engage with, realistic?
If not, how do I make it more realistic?
The more aspects of life you can do that in, the happier you will be.
And seriously fellahs, I know it’s hard, but give it up. You’ll thank me later.
Are you consciously regulating your idea of ‘normal’?