This is not news, exactly, but it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should: Pornography use rewires one’s brain, potentially ruining one’s sex life and making it much more difficult to make normal human-to-human intimate connections. Excerpts:

“Pornography,” writes Doidge, “satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change,” – that is, the brain’s ability to form new neural circuitry. The most important condition is the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives us a feeling of exciting pleasure, which porn triggers. The more often you watch porn and get the dopamine hit it delivers, the more the activity and the sensation become entwined in your brain.

Doidge puts it like this: “since neurons that fire together wire together, these men got massive amounts of practice wiring these images into the pleasure centres of the brain.” And, “because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them.”

A related problem is what addiction experts call “tolerance”, in other words the need for more of a given stimulant (harder and weirder porn) for the same amount of dopamine. In the end, the result is what Doidge politely calls “potency problems”. Compulsive pornography users become unable to maintain erections.

Even casual users are affected, scientists discover. And the pornification of popular culture is having profoundly disturbing effects on young people:

The psychologist, Catherine Steiner-Adair, interviewed a thousand children aged between four and 18 across America for her new book, The Big Disconnect. Among her findings was a marked tendency among boys to approach girls they liked in a sexually aggressive manner. “That is a trend,” she tells me. “There’s no question about it.” They send extremely crude messages – Steiner-Adair gave me a dozen examples, none of which I can reproduce here – and, unsurprisingly, “the girls don’t like it.” And they rebuff the boys.

“The boys are very confused about how to approach girls,” she says. “Their sexual education is porn. And it’s very misogynistic and violent porn.” Porn has become more extreme over the last two decades, probably because its users’ “tolerance” has rapidly increased with the ubiquity of internet connections. Steiner-Adair had conversations with boys who wanted to know why women liked being choked when they were having sex or why women liked being urinated on.

Because young men lack the experience that would allow them to differentiate between an extreme sexual performance and real sex, says Steiner-Adair, some of them “are surprised when the girls don’t want to play out the scenarios that they have been watching.” The result is mutual unhappiness, frustration and disappointment. And, according to Doidge, a potentially permanently addled sexuality thanks to the presence of porn during this highly plastic period of brain development.

This stuff is not innocent. I feel sorry for my children, growing up in a world in which many of their potential marriage partners have had their brains and their characters formed by this garbage.