Inner Demons: When it’s All in Your Head (from The Ultimate Guide To Male Enhancement)

The following is a chapter taken from the book: The Ultimate Guide To Male Enhancement.

The top cause of impotence today is due to performance anxiety or fear. There are many ways in which fears can originate. These include: inexperience, self-loathing, pressure from a partner, or even a partial physical cause which contributes to the equation.

Why does this seem to be such a growing epidemic- especially among younger men?

According to self-reports, most men have experienced some form of performance anxiety in their lives. How you handle incidents of erectile dysfunction can have a very huge impact on whether or not it sticks around.

One huge contributor of ED among younger men comes from unrealistic expectations obtained by watching porn.  Not only will most men be intimidated by the fantastic dimensions observed in many porn films, but the orchestrated reactions that become expected from these films also interferes with normal expectations.

Another aspect of ED caused by porn use involves detraining. This is discussed in much greater details further in this publication under the section titled “The Detraining Effect – Understanding and Reversing Negative Habits To Improve Erection Quality and Sexual Confidence,” but to summarize here, it’s when you become so accustomed to being an inactive participant in masturbating to porn, such that when real emotions and expectations are encountered (as in a real live sexual scenario), anxiety sets in.

The simplest answer to this is, when the sexual response is replaced by anxiety (or something intensely distracting to arousal), the penis isn’t allowed to function in an unencumbered fashion. The use of direct will in attempting to force an erection often has the opposite results. What becomes necessary in scenarios like this is getting to the root cause of the issue. Anxiety itself is merely a symptom of this.

In most cases, psychological ED is very temporary and has an ephemeral quality. In most cases, a man will shake this off- or if he’s generally very secure with himself, he may learn to laugh it off.

It’s usually when one strings together several worsening episodes does the situation become chronic and in need of professional treatment.

The Ultimate Guide to Male Enhancement

Dealing with Premature Ejaculation & Causes of Premature Ejaculation (from The Ultimate Guide To Male Enhancement)

Dealing with Premature Ejaculation & Causes of Premature Ejaculation

The following are two chapters taken from the book: The Ultimate Guide To Male Enhancement.

Edited for content

Chapter 12: Dealing with Premature Ejaculation

What is Premature Ejaculation?

The definition of what constitutes premature ejaculation may vary depending on the source, but it’s commonly accepted as a scenario where the length of time for sexual performance on the part of the male is unsatisfactory, by either the man or his partner. That being said, what constitutes premature ejaculation can be arbitrary. There is no set time that if you orgasm before it then you have premature ejaculation.

Consider this – the average time between arousal and ejaculation is typically three minutes for a man. Considering the
average time for a woman to orgasm is typically 13 minutes after arousal it can be seen how many men may think they have premature ejaculation, but really they are simply normal. With this in mind, you can see why foreplay is so important to satisfying a woman.


Phases of Ejaculation

There are two phases of ejaculation.

● The Emission Phase and

● The Ejaculatory Phase


Emission Phase:

Here are the physical processes which occur during the emission phase of ejaculation:

● The vas deferens begins to contract to move sperm from the testes toward the urethra and prostate gland.

● The seminal vesicles secrete fluids into the urethra

● Chemical messages activate the sympathetic nervous system and begin what’s known as the ‘point of no return’
(PONR). Ejaculation is inevitable at this point.


Ejaculatory Phase:


During the ejaculatory phase, the posterior portion of the urethra senses the sperm and secretions and sends a signal
to the spinal cord. This then sends messages to the muscles at the base of your penis. This causes said muscles to contract, which results in ejaculation.

Chapter 13: Causes of Premature Ejaculation

Premature ejaculation can be caused by any number of factors. These can be separated into two categories:


● Physical (which can include chemical side effects) and

● Mental (or psychological) causes.


It’s not uncommon for both some mental component to be present in physical cases of premature ejaculation. Worry
about the experience of premature ejaculation often compounds any physical components.


Physical Premature Ejaculation

The most common form of premature ejaculation is due to physical causes. The most common among these is negative conditioning. This is usually because most men masturbate in a hurried and furtive manner. Doing this repeatedly trains the body into ejaculating quickly, so it shouldn’t be surprising to understand how this can lead to issues.

If added stimuli like porn is used, it can further skew what you can expect from real sexual encounters. This then adds to anxiety, which further increases the possibility of premature ejaculation. The easiest way to correct this is to train in a manner contrary to negative conditioning. This will be discussed in detail further in the section.


Hormonal Issues

If you have low testosterone or abnormal levels of catabolic hormones this can have a drastic effect on your ability to maintain an erection. This can turn into premature ejaculation if you have to strive to get erect. It can be further compounded if your hormone imbalances induce negative emotions like anxiety. Diet and exercise is often recommended as a treatment for issues related to hormone imbalances; however, if do-it-yourself treatments aren’t effective, then a full blood work up is necessary to determine the cause of these imbalances.

Chronic and/or acute stress can lower levels of dopamine in the system. This can create a scenario where you can find it difficult just to get aroused even in the absence of anxiety. Stress management is key to helping treat this issue. The amino acid L-Tyrosine has been shown to be effective at helping to restore natural dopamine levels.


Infections

It’s been shown infections of the prostate and urethra may contribute to premature ejaculation. Infections usually require medical attention and antibiotics for treatment.

Pelvic Floor Issues


Pelvic floor spasms may contribute to premature ejaculation. If these symptoms are minor, rest and targeted stretching of the area should help to alleviate the issue. If the problem is more severe, this might require the services of a physical therapist for relief.


A strain in the pelvic floor may cause pain upon Kegeling and symptoms such as “hard flaccid”. Certain muscles like the ischiocavernosus can become perpetually strained. This leads to a difficult to resolve issue, as these muscles are involved in many different bodily functions. Due to this, it’s not easy to allow them to recover as you would if you immobilized an arm or even a leg. A strain may require targeted massage and heat. Specific yoga poses which specifically target the pelvic floor may help to speed healing as well.


A common cause of pelvic floor issues is due to abusing the Kegel. This includes the Reverse Kegel (contractile) exercise. It’s vital you start Kegeling by using only as much contractile force as is needed during any of the Kegel type movements. A limited number of reps should be performed as well and then slowly increased each session.


Prescription Medications

Some prescription drugs may cause premature ejaculation as one of their side effects. If this is the case, contact your physician or pharmacist to see if there are alternative medications.

Mental Premature Ejaculation

Premature ejaculation may be placed on the spectrum of erectile dysfunction, especially if the case is so severe that penetration becomes difficult or impossible. This is often the case if performance anxiety is involve. A common scenario will involve difficulty in obtaining an erection, with almost immediate ejaculation upon or even before penetration. This stage most commonly precedes impotence.

Anxiety, depression and stress are three of the leading mental causes of premature ejaculation. Sometimes, it’s a matter
of which came first though – the chicken or the egg – the premature ejaculation or the anxiety/depression/stress. It’s
not uncommon for men to suffer from these three common challenges without even realizing. It’s even more common for these challenges to surface, when there’s a concern about premature ejaculation.

The Ultimate Guide to Male Enhancement

A Doctor with Hard Flaccid – Updates and Advice

A Doctor with Hard Flaccid – Updates and Advice

by Romero MD

Original post: A Doctor with Hard Flaccid – Updates and Advice

Hi everyone I am 26 years old and I recently developed this mythical problem called Hard Flaccid.
I am a medical doctor. I finished medical school a few months ago, and I am currently applying for Obstetrics-Gynecology.

First, my story. I have been practicing PE, intermittently, for the past 4-5 years. Basically, only manual stretches (I am satisfied with my girth), but, like many others, I think my injury was caused by Edging and excessive Kegeling, which I have been practicing for over 10 years, for stamina training and erection quality.

And without knowing the extreme importance of Reverse Kegeling. Every time I have sex, I also do intense kegels, in order to last 60-90 minutes of penetration. I know, I know… maybe it’s a little too much… But my girlfriend and I have always liked long love sessions Almost 2 months ago, while I was having sex with my girlfriend, I started to lose my erection suddenly, after performing an intense Kegel, during a sex position that placed my penis at a downward angle (so, I did a “very weighted Kegel”).

I thought I might have torn a muscle or ligament, and we stopped at that moment. The next day, I woke up with a hyper contracted and cold penis. As it didn’t seem to be a penile fracture, nor did I have any skin lesions, hemorrhages or bruises, I decided to simply rest. Because I thought that any fellow urologist would tell me to simply do the same – to rest.

After two weeks of online research, I discovered my diagnosis – Hard Flaccid/CPPS. However, I only have/had symptoms related to the anterior/superficial pelvic floor (Ischiocavernosus and Bulbocavernosus Muscles). I don’t have pelvic pain, difficulty passing stools or other posterior/deep pelvic floor symptoms. But I have/had:

– Sudden erectile dysfunction (9-10/10 to 4/10)
– Sudden premature ejaculation (90min to 3-5min)
– Hyper contracted penis (Hard Flaccid). Which improves sitting, lying down, with Reverse Kegels and with heat; and worsens standing, with physical activity, with Kegels and with Involuntary Kegels
– Cold and soft glans (sometimes scrotum and penis too)
– Mild urinary retention
– Loss of morning and spontaneous erections
– Slight bend of the penis to the left, from the base of the shaft. (IC injury?)
– Slight downward curvature of the penis, from the middle of the penis (BC injury?)
– And a slight twist of the entire shaft, clockwise (IC injury?)

The next day, I visited the Urology Department at my hospital. I was observed by 4 urologists. As expected, none of them had ever heard of Hard Flaccid… After explaining the whole story, situation and symptoms, I was medicated with:

– Ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory), for 7 days
– Cyclobenzaprine (muscle relaxant), for 30 days
– Tamsulosin (alpha blocker, to decrease all sympathetic nervous activity, stressful or non-stressful, to the pelvic floor), for 30 days
– Total sexual abstinence (masturbation and sex), for 30 days, which I was already doing for 2 weeks.
After these 30 days, I will have an appointment with one of the best Andrologist in my country, which will be on August 27

So, after 3 weeks, I have been doing a lot of research (books, websites, forums) … And, according to my symptoms, I am almost sure that I had/have a strain of the Left IC Muscle (and maybe the Left and/or Right BC), which is, consequently, contracting the anterior/superficial pelvic floor and the penile smooth muscle (giving rise to the Hard Flaccid and the shortening of the penis, while it is erect) and, consequently, compressing the pudendal nerve, dorsal nerve and pudendal arteries, giving rise to all the other symptoms.

And that’s why REVERSE KEGELS are so important for the progressive relief of all the symptoms.

Treatments. What I have done to recover:
– Ibuprofen, Cyclobenzaprine, Tamsulosin
– Extraordinary healthy eating (Proteins, vegetables and fruits. Very important in the recovery of any injury) and supplementation (Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, L-Arginine, Fish Oils, Vitamins E, D, C, B complex and Zinc)
No masturbation, no sex, NO PORN. And no pictures, no Instagram girls, nothing. Just hugs and kisses from the girlfriend. (Alright… We make love, but only with my hands and mouth. I don’t let her touch my penis… I was in this hardmode for 4 weeks. In the last week, I have been trying very light Edging (5 minutes of very light massage, very soft touches, always with REVERSE KEGEL), every other day, to give a little physiotherapeutic stimulation to the tissues. But without ejaculation (to avoid the Involuntary Kegels associated with orgasm, to keep my libido high and to increase the likelihood of spontaneous erections)

– Lots of REVERSE KEGELS/Front Reverse Kegels, throughout the day.
Very light and Soft Squeezes (“massages”) of the flaccid penis, while Reverse Kegeling, to help relax tissues, throughout the day.
Belly Breath Combos, Hindi Squats and Happy Baby, along with Reverse Kegeling.
– Light external massages, on the anterior/superficial pelvic floor
– 1 hour of STRETCHING (flexibility training) every other day – Pelvic Floor, Hamstrings, Psoas, Piriformis, Quadriceps, Adductors and Abs. (All along with Reverse Kegeling and Belly Breaths). Again, hardmode – Static, Dynamic and Weighted Stretches. I’m literally training to do the front and side splits.

HEAT. Heat relaxes muscles and dilates arteries, increasing blood flow and, consequently, relieving symptoms. I wear shorts, under my pants, during the day. When I get home, I wrap my lower body in a blanket and I use a hot rice sock sometimes. And I place a big and soft pillow under my buttocks, when I am sitting in my chair.

– Sleep. A lot. (Very important in the recovery of any injury)
– I am a very active person (running and weighted calisthenics), but I stopped this type of physical activity since the day of the injury (to avoid Involuntary Kegels). However, I am doing some bodyweight Squats and Hip Thrusts (along with Reverse Kegels) before stretching. I read somewhere that gluteal and posterior chain strength is also important.

ABSOLUTELY NO STRESS (!!!). I have always been a very calm and peaceful person, in all situations of my life. But, after reading that Hard Flaccid was highly influenced by stress and anxiety, I am now completely in a “ZEN state with the Universe” Buddhist monk style.

Not only to avoid any nerve discharge from the Sympathetic Nervous System to the pelvic floor (and, consequently, Involuntary Kegeling, which prolongs the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, which worsens the compression of nerves and arteries), but also to prevent the rise of Cortisol and Adrenaline and, consequently, the drop in testosterone levels. And (as many of you claim) this is absolutely essential.

I was a little stressed during the first week (before I knew the real diagnosis) and my penis was terrible… Hard Flaccid like a rock, with a loss of 1.5inches in BPFL. After knowing that I really have to relax completely, I immediately felt the first improvements in 3-4 days.

However, on the other hand, I am very convinced that I did a muscle strain, at least, of the Left IC. Those left curvature and left twist… Hmmm… On August 27, I will ask for an MRI. If the radiologist tells me it is normal, I will try to take the images to more doctors.

So… after almost 2 months, I have improved a lot – Now, I only have hard flaccid if I’m standing. A few times, I don’t even have it standing. It happens when I get up after doing Reverse Kegels for a few minutes (or sitting for a while in a more comfortable position) and continue to do Reverse Kegeling while I’m standing. This was impossible 1 month ago.
– The morning erections are progressively coming back
– 3 days ago, I’ve managed to have a 8-9/10 erection during the mini Edging sessions.
– However, I still have a slight bend to the left and the clockwise twist, during erection (I no longer have the downward curve), and I lost about 0.5 inches in BPEL…

1- Now, I would like to ask Pegym’s brightest minds and everyone in this group who is still recovering from Hard Flaccid, what are the most recent updates on this disease/symptom? Regarding physical treatment, exercises, medications and supplements. What am I missing? Where can I improve to speed up recovery?

2- I have been thinking about starting to do a small daily session of Kegels/Front Kegels/IC kegels… In order to give a physiotherapeutic stimulus, just like any other muscle injury. But I’m afraid it could get worse… What’s your opinion? (See post 26)

3- What do you think about adding very light and soft manual penile stretches? (along with Reverse Kegeling) I feel a lot of relief with the soft squeezes. But, in these, the applied force is perpendicular to the penis. I’m not sure if extra parallel force will be beneficial for the tissues. (See post 26)

4- Okay, the last question might be a little funny, but I think it might be relevant. I think I have an injury mostly on the left side. So, is it more advisable to rest the penis in the left groin or in the right groin? It tends to get softer on the right, but naturally falls to the left. (See post 26)

Thanks a lot for reading my story Best regards to the entire PEGym community
And thank you so much, for saving me during the past 2 months UPDATES: post 21, post 23 (stress management), post 26, post 29, post 63, post 66 (HF & Stretching)

Pumping, Porn, & the Stop and Starts Exercise: Ask The Experts

Big Al, of MaleEnhancementCoach.com, answers questions about Pumping, Transitioning away from porn, and the Stop and Starts Exercise for the high EQ trainee in this Ask the Experts article.

If you have questions you’d like answered in an Ask the Experts article, please PM Big Al.

Q. I researched yesterday about pumping…

…and everyone on every forum recommends no more than 40 minutes per day, usually split into 2 sessions throughout the day.

What do you think about that? Isn’t the “extreme” pumping of 2+ hours maybe too extreme and dangerous? The last think I want is to permanently damage my penis.

Big Al: The “Extreme Pumping” guideline you’re referring to is for advanced pump training. It’s exceeding rare for anyone to work up to two hours of pumping, and you certainly wouldn’t start off at 40 minutes+ per day!

My initial recommendation (as seen HERE) is to start with FIVE minutes of pumping a day. That being said- as with any activity- you build conditioning with time and effort. As long as you progress with very small but regular increases to your training loads- and you’re monitoring your EQ and other PIs- there should be no reason why you wouldn’t be able to work up to 40+ minutes.

Q. I have read the three-part Detraining article. As I understand it…

…the transition period you mention consists of abstaining from porn as well as physical stimulation until I adapt the lack of porn stimulus and my EQ naturally improves again. At that time I can start the stamina routine once more.

Would you recommend still doing daily kegels? Not erect kegels due to the physical stimulus required but kegels in a flaccid state which can be performed anywhere and anytime throughout the day. Since the kegel exercise plays a prominent role in EQ as well I would like to continue a daily flaccid kegel regimen for continued PC muscle improvement. What are your thoughts regarding this?

Big Al: The tough part is the (usually) weeks long process of going from a lack of porn and poor adaptation to turning the corner on it. This demands you approach your training objectively- see it as a tool towards improved gains and not as something to get stressed about. Accept the fact that there’s going to be that necessary period of transition, and it’ll make it much easier for you to adapt.

You can perform flaccid Kegels but they should be part of a structured regimen. You do NOT want to overtrain the pelvic floor! That being said, you should strive to do your best to perform kegels with an erection.

You should also strive to develop the capacity to perform Erect Kegels- AND you should include the Stop and Starts exercise in your training repertoire to speed up the conditioning process.

Q. You recommended doing Stop and Starts. On your website…

…I’ve read that this exercise is for building endurance.

I don’t have any stamina problems – quite the opposite: sometimes it takes me quite a while to finish. And if I have sex for a long period of time, I tend to lose my erection a bit I don’t think I need to build more endurance in terms of “lasting longer” but “lasting harder”. Also if I go for a second round, it’s a lot harder to get an erection and more common to lose it.

Big Al: The Stop and Starts is the most inclusive exercise you can perform in that it aids in ALL aspects of male enhancement development. If one had time to perform only one male enhancement exercise it should be the Stop and Starts.

For the purposes of enlargement training, having as high a level of EQ as you can develop will be vital to maximizing gains. You’ll need to aim for an even higher level of EQ than you’d expect for unencumbered sexual performance.

In your case, you might consider performing the “Reverse” Stop and Starts to decrease your sensory threshold.

Men and Porn: Why Is the Pull of Porn So Strong?

Why Is the Pull of Porn So Strong?

By Brett

* This article is a repost which originally appeared on The Art Of Manliness

This week we’re running a four-part series about the effects of pornography on the brain. The first step in understanding these effects is to understand the relationship between your noodle and dopamine, and how this interplay makes the pull of porn so strong. I truly feel that understanding this dynamic is the crucial foundation to making a decision about what role you want porn to play in your life, and also to ultimately quitting this habit. So I’ve made this and tomorrow’s post fairly in-depth. But I have also kept the info very accessible, and I think those who read the articles in their entirety will find them worthwhile. But if that’s simply not for you, feel free to skip to the recap at the end. 

Dopamine and Your Brain 

Our brains are composed of billions of cells called neurons that send messages to each other through an electrical-chemical process. Without getting too technical about how this works, the important thing to understand for this discussion is that the neuron delivering the message releases a chemical called a neurotransmitter into the synapse – the space between the neurons — and over to a receiving neuron. The receiving neuron catches the neurotransmitter with its receptors and then generates electricity so it can communicate to another neuron. This process repeats itself a bajillion (that’s a scientific term) times a day.

Different neurotransmitters communicate different things. What they all have in common is that their primary purpose isn’t to make you “happy” or fulfilled, but to ensure that your carcass survives so that you can pass on your genes.

An integral part of our brain’s system for increasing our chances of survival and reproduction is creating the strong desire and drive to do or seek out those things that will help us fulfill those aims. We have to want to eat, we have to want to seek shelter, and we have to want to have sex. The neurotransmitter that gives us our drive to fulfill these impulses is dopamine.

Dopamine is released whenever we encounter rewards, or “natural reinforcers,” that help us survive. Things like food, sex, novelty (new things may lead to new survival-boosting benefits), and friendship (you’re more likely to survive in a group) sit at the top of the natural reinforcer hierarchy. Once we encounter one of these potent rewards/reinforcers, a neural pathway is created (more on neural pathways below). Dopamine keys in on the reward system in our brain, and drives us to repeat the same behaviors that helped us attain those rewards previously.

The more something helps with our survival and reproduction, the bigger the “squirt” of dopamine our neurons experience, and the stronger the drive to repeat the behavior. For example, different types of food release different levels of dopamine. Because our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in feast and famine mode, it made evolutionary sense to load up on as many calories as possible while the getting was good. Foods high in fat and sugar provided the most energy benefits, so our ancestors’ brains evolved to release a lot of dopamine when they encountered high fat and high sugar foods. Our brains continue to do the same thing in the modern word, which explains why when given the choice between a Five Guys burger and a dry salad, our gut instinct is to go with the burger and shake. Dopamine drives us towards sweet, carby, and high fat foods.

Sexual stimulation and orgasm give our brain’s reward system the biggest natural shot of dopamine of all. Which makes sense. From an evolutionary perspective, the entire measure of our creation is to reproduce and pass on our genes. So seeking for and wanting sex should be our primary evolutionary drive. That big dopamine shot that results from orgasm then goes on to wire our brain’s reward system to repeat whatever behavior we did to get sex so we can continue to get sex in the future.

Isn’t Testosterone Responsible For My Sex Drive?

Contrary to popular belief and cheesy internet ads, it isn’t testosterone that plays a central role in a man’s sexual libido and ability to get an erection, it’s dopamine. Testosterone plays more of a supportive role in our sex drive by stimulating the brain to produce more dopamine. So while low T can result in low libido, it’s because there isn’t enough T to stimulate sufficient dopamine for a healthy sex drive. It is therefore possible for a man to have high total and free testosterone levels, but low dopamine (or blunted dopamine sensitivity – more on that later), and thus a low or absent sex drive. Testosterone’s dopamine-stimulating abilities also explain why testosterone replacement therapy companies advertise that increasing your T can give you more energy and drive to do other stuff in life. It’s not the T itself, but rather the dopamine that T triggers in the brain that gives you that boost. The more you know.

The release of dopamine starts amping up your sex drive when you see someone attractive. This increase will motivate you to do whatever your culture says you need to do to woo that person and eventually get them into bed. If you’re the old-fashioned type, that process can take a while. If you’re a Don Juan and the gal is open to casual sex, maybe a few hours is all you’ll need. Whatever the timetable, dopamine levels and hence sex drive will continue to increase as you move towards consummating your desire. The powerful urge to copulate created by spiking levels of dopamine as you get closer and closer to actually having sex partly explains those moments when people say, “I don’t know what happened. One moment we were on the couch watching Louie and the next minute we were making the beast with two backs.”

Once we achieve whatever reward dopamine was driving us towards, the levels of this neurotransmitter drop off. With sex, dopamine levels peak right around the moment of orgasm (to help wire our brains to seek out sex again in the future), but then decrease afterwards because we’ve accomplished our biological imperative to spread our seed. (Your brain doesn’t know if your seed never made it past the end of your condom. As far as your neurons are concerned, it’s “mission accomplished.”) The post-coitus drop in dopamine partly explains the male “refractory period” after sex. (In case you didn’t know, after a man orgasms, it’s physiologically impossible for him to have another orgasm for a period of time. Could be minutes, could be days. Depends on the guy.) When we orgasm, a hormone called prolactin is released which represses dopamine. No dopamine, no sex drive, no boner.

Porn, Novelty, and the Coolidge Effect

Remember when I mentioned above that one of our evolved natural reinforcers is novelty? Our brains are hardwired to seek out novelty because new things can provide survival and reproductive advantages. Whenever we encounter anything new — a new email, a new gadget, a new food — we get a shot of dopamine, which makes us want to look for more new things. We’ve all got an irrepressible treasure hunter streak in us. Thanks to a process called habituation, the familiar just doesn’t provide the same kind of dopamine hit as the novel. Habituation explains why the new car that we were so motivated to get for months and months doesn’t excite us nearly as much after just a few weeks of driving it around town.

We also get that shot of dopamine whenever we encounter a new attractive woman other than our current partner. Our brains are hardwired to seek out as many different (novel) sexual partners as possible. Again, from a reproductive perspective it makes sense that being exposed to a variety of attractive sex partners would jack up dopamine in our sexual reward circuitry, particularly in men. For males, the goal is to reproduce with as many different females as possible to create as many progeny as possible, with as much genetic variation as possible to increase our possible blood lines.

This drive for multiple new sex partners even when you already have an available and willing one is often called the “Coolidge Effect” after a conversation the president supposedly had with his wife:

The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” To which the president replied, “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

To understand the power the Coolidge Effect has in increasing dopamine levels let’s take a look at two experiments.

In the first, a lucky male rat was placed in a cage with four or five female rats. He immediately had sex with all of them until exhaustion. Panting and rolled over in a sexual stupor, the male rat was nudged and licked by the female rats to keep going, but he didn’t respond. The tuckered-out rodent was no longer interested in doing the deed. But as soon as the researchers put a new female rat in the cage, old Mr. I’m Too Tired became alert and sarged over to have sex with the new female, while still ignoring his old harem. This rat’s ability to have sex with a new female despite having been previously sexually satiated all came down to dopamine. The first crew no longer gave him those potent dopamine squirts because, well, they were now boring. Been there, done that. But the new female caused an uptick in dopamine due to novelty and bam! the male rat’s sex drive was back. The Coolidge Effect explains why people are tempted to cheat, even with someone significantly less attractive that their long-term partner; the pull of novelty, any novelty, can be quite strong.

A similar experiment was done to show the Coolidge Effect in humans. Instead of putting a lone man in a room with four or five different women to have sex with (there likely would have been plenty of volunteers, but the ethicality would have been questionable), researchers showed test subjects an erotic film while their penises were attached to monitors to measure arousal. After 18 viewings of the same film, arousal had decreased dramatically. These guys had gotten used to seeing the same woman having sex with the same dude, so dopamine levels dropped. But on the 19th and 20th viewings, researchers showed a new clip and atten-hut! arousal skyrocketed once again. Sexual novelty increased dopamine levels, which increased sexual arousal.

How Online Porn Has Changed Your Brain

Alright. So what does all of the above have to do with internet porn?

Well, dopamine plays a central role in why you want to look at porn. Understand how dopamine works, and you understand why you are attracted to porn.

Porn is a substitute for actual sex, but your brain doesn’t know that. It reacts to a picture of a naked woman or a video of people having sex the same way it does a real life naked woman or you actually having sex. When encountering sexual images, your brain is going to ramp up dopamine levels, driving you to orgasm — whether that climax is fostered with another human being or is self-induced.

Dopamine also explains why certain types of porn are more compelling than others, and how in extreme cases men prefer porn to actual sex.

A still picture of a naked woman will jack up dopamine levels the first time you see it, but after a while that same picture just won’t do it for you any more. Your brain has become habituated to that stimulus. In order to be aroused again, you’d need to increase dopamine levels by injecting more novelty into your sexual fantasies with a new picture of a different naked woman.

But as time goes on, simply looking at any picture of a naked woman won’t get you aroused. You need something more. Well, you get a bigger squirt of dopamine whenever you watch others have sex in a porn video because the live action activates your mirror neurons, making you feel like you’re the one having sex. The stronger the stimulation, the bigger the shot of dopamine to the reward system, and hence the greater desire you have to watch that porn video.

But as the study above showed, after repeated viewings, even an erotic film can become like watching a boring documentary. It just won’t offer the same kind of dopamine hit you got the first time you watched it, and will eventually fail to arouse you. Again, this is due to habituation. To become sexually aroused again, you need to increase dopamine levels by watching something new, be it a video with a new woman or a video with some new sex practice you’ve never seen before. Add the novelty, increase the dopamine, and sexual arousal returns.

You’re probably seeing a common theme here: novelty. Porn offers the sexual novelty that dopamine has hardwired you to seek. The more you successfully find new sexual experiences, the more dopamine you get, which reinforces the desire to look for even more sexual novelty. Porn’s easy access to new “experiences” is part of what makes it so alluring.

Now before the internet, this wasn’t much of a problem. Once a man in the pre-internet porn years got habituated to his “girly” magazine, he had to trek over to the adult bookshop or the convenience store in the seedy part of town to get a new one. If he wanted to watch a pornographic film, he’d have to go to a XXX theatre or maybe a porno booth in that bookstore where he got his mags. Whether getting magazines or seeing films, it was a lot of rigmarole to get porn, plus there was the risk of getting caught and experiencing social shame. So, many men just didn’t bother. Even when he could have the magazines or videos delivered to his home, that happened maybe once or twice a month. If he had kids, he had to find a place to stash his porn and then find time when his family wasn’t around so he could exhume his collection and view it in privacy. Again, a lot of rigmarole.

So while porn offered some sexual novelty back in the day, there were barriers put in place due to technology (or the lack thereof) and social mores that made access to new and novel porn difficult and time-consuming. Because the dopamine hits from the new and novel didn’t come easy, getting hooked on porn was difficult and most men didn’t experience the many problems that modern porn users report.

Fast-forward to today. Thanks to the internet, you now have an infinite variety of porn on tap 24/7. Dopamine spikes due to sexual novelty have never been easier to achieve. No more trudging to the adult bookstore, no more going to great lengths to hide your porn. Just bring it up on your laptop or mobile device in the privacy of your home or at the bathroom at work. You can have multiple tabs open in your browser for different porn sites featuring a whole host of different virtual sex partners. As Gary Wilson notes in Your Brain on Porn, in “ten minutes, you can ‘experience’ more novel sex partners than your hunter-gatherer ancestors experienced in a lifetime.”

Internet porn doesn’t just provide access to novel sex “partners,” but to novel sexual experiences as well. You’re not just limited to watching a couple have sex missionary style, but can watch a wide variety of sexual acts. Just as novel sex partners will jack up dopamine levels, so will observing different sex acts. And as we’ll discuss tomorrow, dopamine levels also spike when we encounter things that shock us or gross us out. The more intense the emotional experience we have when we encounter porn, the more dopamine is released into our brain’s reward system. Which is why you may find yourself searching for kinkier and kinkier porn even though part of you finds it repulsive. All of this novelty is just a click away. As you experience more and more dopamine squirts to your reward system with new types of porn, connections in your brain’s reward circuitry strengthen, increasing your drive to seek even more sexual novelty. On and on the cycle goes.

Neuroplasticity, or, Why You Have the Urge to Look at Porn Whenever You Get Bored or Open Up Your Web Browser

So dopamine is what drives you to want to look at porn. And thanks to the internet, you have access to an unlimited variety of sexual “experiences” that when viewed, send out squirt after squirt of dopamine in your brain, which drives you to search for more and more porn.

At the same time, without you even knowing it, those dopamine squirts are also strengthening neural connections that are responsible for the behavior that keeps those neurotransmitter hits coming.

Porn is literally rewiring your brain.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together.” It aptly describes the way we learn things. Everything you know – how to walk, how to throw a football, who won the World Series in 1989 — is made up of connected neurons firing in sync with one another. The stronger the connection, the less you have to think about doing or remembering the thing you’re trying to recall. You don’t have to think about walking, for instance, because the neurons involved in walking have a strong connection that began being formed as toddler. However, trying to remember information for a history test that you just crammed for the previous night might be more difficult because the neurons involved in that memory haven’t fired enough together to create a strong connection.

Neurons firing and wiring together is also how our habits are formed. When you receive a shot of dopamine after receiving some reward, be it food or sex or novelty, your brain is strengthening the neurons that fired and wired together to achieve the reward so that you will repeat the process and can get it again in the future. This rewiring involves connecting the cues and behavior that led to a respective reward.

This cue-behavior-reward connection is what author Charles Duhigg calls “The Habit Loop,” and understanding it can go a long way in helping you understand your porn habit (and break it).

Habit researchers have shown that almost all cues (the thing that reminds or triggers your brain to seek a reward through a certain behavior) fall into one of five categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional State
  • Other People
  • Immediately-preceding Action

Again, your brain is paying attention to cues that are connected with the reward. Once it recognizes the cue, dopamine is released to get you craving and wanting to do whatever it takes to get the reward. Think Pavlov’s dogs here. At the beginning of that experiment, it was just food that got the dogs salivating. But then they were introduced to the cue of a metronome, and after a while just that sound would get them salivating for their reward.

With porn, the associated cue could be sitting down at your computer late at night when everyone else is asleep. If you’re John Mayer, the cue would be being in bed when you first get up in the morning. For many guys, being in bed right before they go to sleep is a cue. Coming across a porn image by accident while surfing Tumblr could be a cue to start looking for more porn. Heck, just visiting Tumblr might be a cue to start looking for more porn.

Cues don’t even have to be external. The most common porn surfing cues are emotional states. Many men find themselves surfing for porn when they’re depressed or bored or even distracted. For them, the pleasure of porn offers relief from these unpleasant emotions.

Once the cue triggers the dopamine production that ramps up your motivation to view porn, a behavioral routine is automatically set in motion. A routine is a behavior or set of behaviors that get you to the reward of orgasm. So let’s say your cue to look for porn is when you’re at your computer late at night after everyone has gone to bed. Once that happens, without even really thinking about it, you open up your web browser (in incognito mode, of course) and go right to PornHub to commence a session of porn browsing and masturbating. The cue-behavior/routine-reward circuit is complete. Your brain releases a huge squirt of dopamine right around orgasm, reinforcing the neural connections associated with the cue, routine, and reward so that next time you have the same cue (at your computer late at night), you’ll get that itch to start your routine to get more porn. Repeat this circuit over a period of a few days or weeks, and you’ve got yourself a strong neural connection that leads to you checking out porn without even really thinking about it. That’s how porn can become a strong habit or even an addiction (we’ll talk more about the habit vs. addiction distinction in the next post).

Recap

Let’s review what we’ve covered today.

The reason porn is so alluring is because of dopamine. Dopamine is what makes us crave or seek out evolutionarily advantageous rewards. Sex is the strongest natural reinforcer of behavior and releases the most amount of dopamine in our brain when we successfully orgasm. Our brain doesn’t differentiate between porn-induced sex fantasies and actual sex, so we get the same big squirt of dopamine, and the same incredibly strong drive to orgasm, with porn as we do with real life sex. Basically, when you look at porn, your brain thinks you’re a heroic tribesman out on the savanna, and is shouting “Atta boy! Spread that seed! Spread that seed!” when in reality you’re hunched over your laptop, the light of the screen illuminating your dead-eyed gaze, as you clench a wad of tissues.

The more habituated we get to a stimulus, the less dopamine our brains release in conjunction with it. Getting the same hit as before necessitates seeking out sexual novelty, and high-speed internet porn provides this in spades. This easy access to a wide variety of new sexual scenes and practices makes internet porn all the more alluring and desirable thanks to the dopamine hits your brain gets every time you click over to a new porn clip or picture.

Not only does dopamine create the craving to surf for porn, it’s also strengthening the neural connections in your reward circuitry that are responsible for the behaviors that lead to you actually looking at and masturbating to porn. Your brain comes to associate certain environmental or internal cues with the reward of orgasm so that whenever you encounter these cues, a behavioral routine is initiated that leads you to your favorite porn site. Your brain releases more dopamine in response to successfully getting porn, and orgasming from it, which strengthens this neural cue-routine-reward circuit, making porn surfing a habit that’s extremely difficult to shake.

And there you have the brain science of why internet porn is so incredibly alluring and habit-forming.

But, the question remains…should you even care? Why not just give the old brain what it craves and not worry about it? To the possible negative effects of this course, is where we will turn in part 3.