But the kind of definitive research that could explain what happens to the brain while watching porn simply hasn’t been done, says Dr. Richard Krueger, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s college of physicians and surgeons. Kruger helped revise the sexual disorders section of the latest edition of the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which doesn’t include sex or porn addiction due to lack of academic evidence that they exist. “The whole notion of what goes on in someone’s brain when they’re sexually excited is just starting to be evaluated,” he says.
He has little doubt porn addiction is real and will eventually garner enough attention to be recognized as a mental illness. But he’s skeptical it has the kind of universal neurological effects that some suggest. Other behaviours such as drinking alcohol or gambling are addictive to only a small minority of the people who engage in them—between one and 10 per cent, Krueger says. “I would argue for the same sort of hit rate with exposure to Internet pornography, that most people would do it and it won’t become a problem.”
It was inevitable that our longstanding hangups about sexuality would merge with our contemporary obsession, bordering on moral panic, over the modern world “rewiring” our brains. Thankfully, the above excerpt was included for balance. It’s especially funny to hear the stress on how secular, liberal, and atheist many of the NoFap adherents are, even as they share their conversion stories about how giving up masturbation solved, with one stroke (no pun intended), all their relationship, professional, and motivational problems. That’s nice, fellows, but like James Wolcott said once, the real test will come once the novelty has worn off.