Why Men Are Faking Orgasms
The simple answer is one word. Pornography. But rather than let this discussion follow the standard route toward a debate about porn either being morally icky or educational and normal (I think it can be both), I’d like to steer it toward the psychological concepts of superstimuli and the Coolidge effect.
Our relationships are bombarded with threats. Porn, especially today’s porn, can help you destroy your relationship quicker than you can say “nofap.” (NoFap is a fast-growing internet community for people seeking to reduce or stop their [Surfing the web] porn consumption and regain a natural arousal pattern.) But there are countless things besides porn that are, objectively speaking, just as threatening. I’d like to focus on how you can handle and relate to such threats so that they become far less threatening. Usually, when we have more information and more contact with something we can set boundaries that are the correct boundaries and not over or under react.
First let’s get back to the main question I posed: Why are men faking orgasms?
According to Gary Wilson, today’s porn users are changing the wiring of their brains in ways that make it very difficult to have a fulfilling sex life with a real partner. “The Internet is not Playboy,” he says, and combining our brain’s natural sex drive and the internet’s powerful capacity to present huge amounts of stimulating material should make the user beware. He gave an informative TEDxGlasgow presentation and runs a quasi-science-based website called www.yourbrainonporn.com. It’s full of resources for someone who is curious about how to “reboot” your brain and have a healthy relationship with sex again.
Recently, Dr. Oz hosted a panel of experts on his show that discussed why porn is causing erectile dysfunction. You might watch his short segment to get an easy overview of the problem with porn that most men, especially young men, grossly underestimate–until they have a big problem.
Here are some things that may surprise you about today’s porn use, taken both from my work with men on this issue and from Gary’s website:
Very young males (in teens and twenties) are reporting erectile dysfunction due to habitual use of sexual superstimuli like porn. This wasn’t happening before high speed internet.
Excessive internet porn use is a fast-growing cause of male erectile and ejaculatory dysfunction (in males of all ages)–leading some men to fake orgasm
Researchers have noted that they cannot easily find a significant population of males who have never used online porn to study as a control group (Gary Wilson notes this, and it is noted also in this article.
Men who realize how much porn use affects partner-sex performance and enjoyment can be highly motivated to give it up or balance it with healthy real-sex
Today’s online porn is completely different from pre-Google days of print or video-store pornography because the effect of novelty fatigue (dopamine overdose basically) is vastly accelerated
What is a Superstimulus?
A supernormal stimulus or superstimulus is an exaggerated version of something that humans have a natural biological response toward. Refined sugar, for example, wasn’t around for millions of years of human development, until now. As a result, the pleasure circuits in our brains can be especially hooked on sugar, unless you override your old-brain (limbic system) excitement for it with conditioning that uses your new-brain (neocortex) to head off an unhealthy, short-term fix.
Superstimuli can cause us to get addicted and overlook our health and relationships. Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett wrote Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose (2010). She argues that superstimuli govern the behavior of humans as powerfully as that of animals. She notes that our modern world is overrun with superstimuli that blinds us to our normal impulses for nurturing, sexuality, romance, territoriality, and defense. Her writing discusses the theme of how our exposure to media, ads, and the entertainment industry has hijacked of our social instincts to care for each other and tend to our families.
Virtually any novel sensory experience is a superstimulus. That is, until you get used to it. The problem with porn being a superstimulus is several-fold: 1) Your dopamine neuropathways literally get conditioned to reward you for trying to fertilize your computer screen. 2) Your partner isn’t a computer screen and probably will not care about your dopamine problem. She will just think you are a dope, and kinda-sorta she is physiologically right. 3) Your computer obviously isn’t that exciting if not for the endless display of willing partners that it can conjure up for you at lightening speed. 4) Even if your real partner is literally a porn actress, she cannot compete with you and your FIOS internet connection.
A famous experiment was done with rats that illustrates how sex can be a superstimulus. Normally, a male rat mates with one female that is ready to mate and there is a refractory (rest) period where the male’s interest naturally declines. But if a new receptive female is placed into the male’s cage just after he finished copulation, he is instantly just as excited as the first one and gallantly gets it on with the new female. This can repeat as long as new females are introduced, until the male dies from exhaustion.
The effect of the superstimulus on sexual functioning in mammals is known as the Coolidge effect. The term gets the name from an old joke about Calvin Coolidge when he was President: 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, the President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
High speed internet porn is a superstimulus because it creates the possibility of unlimited novelty for sexual gratification that does not occur naturally with your partner. The Coolidge effect is at work when porn is used to achieve orgasm and the source of arousal shifts from physical or emotional cues to visual ones. For some porn users, the desired visual scenes
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