Pornography: the elephant in the room

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Pornography degrades our society. A few decades ago, pornography was unlawful, prostitution was a crime, “sleeping around” was looked down upon and there were heavy restrictions on adult films. Now, all taboos and restrictions have been abrogated, not only has pornography been greatly accepted in society, it has become a major industry. Today, the content has become more explicit and easily accessible. There are now 1000+ different pornographic magazines. Porn sites comprise 12% of Internet. Even the music industry has become the ‘audio pornography’. All of this is nothing but a highly damaging material to the moral fabric of society, all you have to do is see the clear link with proportionate rises in prostitution, rapes, child abuse, incest, paedophilia, domestic violence, drug and alcohol related crimes, among other crimes.

Pornography is a social ill that has now become the social norm. It is irresponsible of us to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to this serious problem. It has affected it’s audience in such a way that men now see honourable dressed women and undress them in their minds; and the society wonders, “Why do we still see the ‘patriarchal behaviour’ in the midst of 21st century?!”

Most people think that the solution, for single men, is to get married. What about those who are married? “Well, if women made themselves more ‘appealing’ to their husbands then the husbands wouldn’t resort to porn”, is the common response. The harsh reality for most porn-addicts is that…they will resort to porn, whether they are ‘happily married’ or not married.

Porn-addicts need a serious detox. Hmm, ‘detox’ might put people off, or make them pretend that they don’t need it. Let’s call it, ‘Tazkiyatun Nafs’ [Purification of the Self]! You know, Islamify it a little, since that’s what Islam seems to have been narrowed down to: putting ‘Islamic’ before nouns (Islamic Clothes, Islamic Government, Islamic Finance, blah!) to feel, erm, Islamic?

I put up a post on this blog, two years ago, which highlighted the neuroscientific aspects of pornography and how it effects the mind.  Here are a few paragraphs from it:

Pornography is fantasy. Different scenes present with different women give the illusion of the watcher having a relationship with a new person every time. These “stars” subject themselves to different demeaning sexual practices by the men in the scenes. The acts in their totality are detestable to most mentally healthy people. However, the design of the act in a pornographic scene is to link one or two normally arousing and familiar elements with others that are not. This is how the viewer acquires new tastes in sexual practice. Electromagnetic waves are emitted from the screen with a fantasy that triggers a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing dopamine. The result is a feeling of a real, yet delusional, state of pleasure and satisfaction. The dopamine reinforces the new connections with newly acquired sexual tastes, and the next thing taking place is the man asking his wife to engage in a sexual fantasy that was downloaded into his subconscious.

The sequence of events in the brain is quite disturbingly simple. Synaptic plasticity works to form new connections as a result of watching pornography, and newly learned memories are stored. Since the experience is an arousing one, dopamine release results in very strong reinforcement of those new connections. Now that the scenes are in long-term memory, two consequences take place: 1) since the very same system stimulated by cocaine is being triggered by pornography, addiction is developed; and 2) the man will often attempt to create his own re-enactments with his wife, which leads to a great disappointment. The re-enactments do not live up to expectations because instead of many different women, it’s now only one. Worse yet, this only one woman doesn’t sound, act, or look the same as the ones downloaded into his mind. Although the first couple of re-enactments might be exciting, soon reality will strike and dopamine will no longer be released because pleasure is no longer derived.

Sadly, that’s not the end of it. After such a disappointment in the actual experience due to the unrealistic fantasy-based expectations, the brain not only refrains from releasing dopamine; it actually dips below baseline levels. It goes into a depression response that results in disappointment, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness in the marriage since the wife is “not up to what he expected”. Despite the efforts by many women to “spice things up” and even subject themselves to the demeaning acts that have been artificially downloaded into their husbands’ brains, the pornography-addicted husbands will only enjoy themselves for a very short while before losing interest. Meanwhile, the wife feels unattractive and emotionally abandoned despite her best efforts, not knowing that she couldn’t compete with the dopamine buzz offered by pornography.

What’s alarming about this information is that the brain acts as a whole entity; its plasticity is global. Change in one area affects other regions. It is a literal re-wiring of overall neural connections as a result of pornography viewing. The extent of influence on other parts of the brain and cognition is an area of research requiring attention.

To sum up, porn is a problem that is at our doorstep, why then are we worried about issues in the other parts of the world? Porn is ruining marriages and families. Even ‘students of knowledge’ have become effected by it, who masturbate over porn at night and then share “Islamic posts” during the day. We need to tackle this sickness head-on and give it the serious attention that it deserves.

6 thoughts on “Pornography: the elephant in the room

  1. Great post! It really is a sad state, I didn’t understand what pornography was for a long time until I read Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges. People don’t realize that women are being abused, these “porn stars” are getting STDs many of them aren’t paid well. I mention this to say that everything about pornography is disgusting and only a few sick people at the top are benefitting from it -in this life. As you mention families and marriages are being broken. And I strongly believe it will lead to more child abuse, because their is only so much a woman will do willingly… One other frightening thing is its becoming more mainstream as a recent popular main stream movie reenacted pornographic like scenes -shockingly their were Muslims on my Facebook timeline who saw the movie, I could barely read descriptions of it in articles critiquing it! But we do it to ourselves, the more we chip away at our goodness and make evil seem okay, little by little the world becomes a darker place. You might be interested in this article that also talks about the issue: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/pornography_is_what_the_end_of_the_world_looks_like_20150215

  2. Brilliant post. I believe porn addiction should be addressed the same way as any other addiction. Instead of belittling the person, people should try getting the person some help! addiction is pretty damn hard to quit.

    It occurs in both brothers and sisters – it’s tough to overcome but once you head on tackle it, In’Shaa’Allah it will all be well.

  3. Brilliant post. I believe porn addiction should be addressed the same way as any other addiction. Instead of belittling the person, people should try getting the person some help! addiction is pretty damn hard to quit.

    It occurs in both brothers and sisters – it’s tough to overcome but once you head on tackle it, In’Shaa’Allah it will all be well.

  4. Linda

    purifyyourgaze.com is a brilliant site for anyone battling addiction. It’s an anonymous online service run by Muslims, for Muslims with videos as well as coaching.
    I totally agree that this needs addressing on a communal level – it is so much more of a taboo than alcohol addiction/gambling etc and is practically unspoken of. Addicts need to find a “safehouse” where they can talk about their issue without being judged.

  5. Salma

    “Most people think that the solution, for single men, is to get married”

    As Muslims we are encouraged to get married young but that doesn’t solve problems like this as if the mind is corrupted by such filth those individuals really need help!

    So I guess this is a major problem and Muslims are putting this out there on social media to create a discussion and not shy away from it.

    Disturbing but it’s out there and this rubbish exists. It’s all about an individual’s strong mindset and self. Then you get those individuals who want to know how you control your desires if not married. My response quite simply is get a grip and self purification. 🙂

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