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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Digital porn addiction is the equivalent of cheap gin in Georgian England: it provides a reliable, dirty hit that relieves misery and boredom.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Digital porn addiction is the equivalent of cheap gin in Georgian England: it provides a reliable, dirty hit that relieves misery and...


Digital porn addiction is the equivalent of cheap gin in Georgian England: it provides a reliable, dirty hit that relieves misery and boredom. Its Porns crack cocaine for the 21st century.





Not that many of today’s porn addicts have to go through the ordeal of scanning the top shelf in the newsagents. That embarrassment has been made redundant by technology. More than 150 million people visit porn sites every year, and the figure will soon rise into the hundreds of millions as the developing world hooks up to the internet.


The numbers tell only part of the story, however. It’s not just that digital technology creates unprecedented desire for pornography; the images themselves are shockingly explicit compared with most pre-digital porn. Never before have so many nice people discovered that they have depraved sexual tastes. Husbands who would once have retreated to their dens to pore over car magazines now download videos of ‘teen sluts’ being violently penetrated and gasping for more.


The difference between old-fashioned porn and internet porn is a bit like the difference between hash and crack. After hundreds of years as an intoxicant, erotica has undergone a sudden distillation. Digital porn is the equivalent of cheap gin in Georgian England: a reliable if unhygienic hit that relieves misery and boredom. And, unlike the old ‘dirty mags’, it is available in limitless quantities.


As a general rule, the distilling of pleasures is a quick route to addiction — by which I mean excessive consumption of something that causes harm to the person consuming it. There are other definitions of addiction that portray it as an irreversible brain disease. They would carry more weight if anyone had identified a clinical test for addiction — for example, a blood test or brain scan that distinguished alcoholics from non-­addicted heavy boozers. No such test exists. Nor is there any prospect of scientists identifying a gene for addiction. To be sure, people may be genetically vulnerable to excess consumption. But biological inheritance influences all our behaviour. And that’s what addiction is: a pattern of behaviour stimulated by changes in the environment.


We’ve all seen Gin Lane, in which a hollow-eyed, syphilitic harridan drops her baby down a stairwell. Hogarth was exaggerating, but not by much: in the mid-18th century, parts of inner London suffered the world’s first mass epidemic of alcoholism. Its causes were no mystery: technology interacted with politics to poisonous effect. First someone invented the means to distil liquor from grain in industrial quantities. Then the British Parliament passed a series of Acts breaking the monopoly of gin distillers and allowing anyone to distil even rotten grain into spirits.


The gin craze was eventually stamped out by legislation banning home distilling. Once cheap gin ceased to be available, addicted drinkers kicked the habit. There’s an interesting comparison to be made with the heroin epidemic among American GIs during the Vietnam war. Again, technology and politics were implicated. In the late 1960s, new techniques for manufacturing pure heroin coincided with the arrival of bored, scared and disorientated troops in the Mekong delta. By 1970, 15 per cent of soldiers were snorting or smoking heroin. The Nixon administration panicked at the thought of thousands of helpless junkies arriving back home after their tours of duty.


In the event, though, the near impossibility of scoring high-grade heroin in Middle America meant that the vast majority of GI heroin users became almost instantly un-addicted. Their environment had changed too drastically to sustain their habit. So much for an ‘irreversible’ brain disease.


We should think of addiction as, essentially, supply-driven behaviour that hijacks reward circuits common to all human beings and most animals. Particular substances and actions cause the brain to overproduce dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and, especially, desire. It’s even been suggested that a line of cocaine has a similar effect on the brain to the experience of falling in love. Certainly both coke-heads and young lovers spout similar varieties of carefree nonsense; also, they both exhibit signs of craving typical of dopamine.

Since addictive highs are supply-driven, you can usually ‘cure’ an addict by cutting off the supply. But that’s easier said than done. This isn’t Vietnam. You can’t round up consumers of depraved videos and airlift them to a porn-free part of the world
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