Porn The New Tobacco by Jack Fischer at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity (Transcript)

NoFap’s Jack Fischer on Porn The New Tobacco at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity – Full Transcript

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Jack Fischer – Emergency Web App, Android Developer, NoFap

As we all know, from colonial times up until the 1960’s tobacco formed a huge part of American culture. Everybody smoked. It was recommended by doctors. And it formed part of the social fabric.

Of course, 2 and 2 was slowly put together and the effects of tobacco were recognized. Now this was fiercely resisted by the tobacco industry which had an incentive to keep people trapped in a viscous cycle however destructive. But as research grew it was hard to deny what was going on.

Today we’re facing a new tobacco, that’s quietly taking the world by storm. It has been called one of the fastest moving, most global experiments ever unconsciously conducted. Internet pornography.

So our sexual drive is obviously natural and part of the human experience. However modern porn aimed almost universally at men has hijacked our sexuality in a way that our evolutionary brains were never equipped to handle. And a growing body of research is shedding light on some of the effects that widespread consumption of porn may be having.

Porn delivered over the internet in infinite variation exploits a phenomenon known as the Coolidge Effect, named for an urban legend about former President Calvin Coolidge. As the president and his wife were separately touring a farm, the farmers pointed out a rooster to Mrs. Coolidge that fertilized hens dozens of times a day.

Maybe a little bit jealous the first lady said: “Tell that to Mr. Coolidge.”

When the President later saw the rooster and heard the story, he asked if it was the same hen every time.

No. The farmers explained, “It’s always a different hen.”

And the President replied “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

So what was Coolidge demonstrating here, other than he’s an asshole? Well I don’t know why you’re laughing.

Male arousal gradually decreases with the same mate. But returns in full force with a potential new mate. Thus its novelty, not simply sex in general, that from a biological perspective dominates male arousal. This is seen across mammalian species.

Porn appeared in the evolutionary blink of an eye and thus overloads this mechanism in a way that our evolutionary ancestors were never even close to have experienced. Porn has been shown to abuse the same neural reward pathways as many traditional drugs such as cocaine. And like these, it leads to a gradual readjustment to the unnatural super stimuli. In effect, the overload of porn becomes normal to the brain.

This quickly spirals downwards as viewers pursue ever more extreme porn to get the same high. As rapper Lil Wayne once wisely said: “It’s like as soon as I cum, I come to my senses.”

We’ve got some Weezy fans in here.

So what does all this do in practice? Well, building and maintaining a long-term relationship or a marriage can already be challenging. But porn can make it nearly impossible.

Aside from simply trying to maintain attraction to a partner, it’s impossible for anyone to compete with the infinite free sexuality available at the click of a button on the internet. Given this, it’s no surprise that porn has been connected to everything from infidelity to divorce.

But it also has other effects. It’s been shown to increase acceptance of violence against women. And while clearly everyone who views porn is not a rapist, it’s been shown to act as a predictor of rape on college campuses.

But porn is big business. Worldwide the industry makes around $97 billion a year. To put that figure in perspective, here it is next to the revenues of some companies that we might think of as having a large cultural sway. And we get a sense of just how big of a deal pornography really is.

Part of how all of this is sustained is through the widespread abuse and exploitation of women. The porn industry is deeply tied to human trafficking and commercial prostitution, providing an unending flow of women that have few other options.

To the public, the industry works to maintain a squeaky clean image and continues to push the normalization of porn. So we have an abusive industry and a dangerous and dependency-forming product. Porn obviously doesn’t give you lung cancer. The problems here are psychological. But they’re real and the parallels to big tobacco a generation ago speak for themselves.

Now there has been resistance to porn as long as porn has existed. But in recent years, a new grassroots response has emerged. Different communities have popped up around the internet but one particularly large one is a booming section of the social site Reddit called NoFap.

NoFap is a play on fapping, slang for masturbation, and is an open forum for people, men and women, sharing their experiences quitting porn. Founded by 25-year-old web developer Alexander Rhodes, NoFap is secular although all beliefs are welcome. It serves to provide peer support for those trying to reboot their sexuality by going long periods of time, often months, abstaining from porn and masturbation. Contrary to popular belief that gets easier over time, not harder.

Users on NoFap even keep badges next to their posts and comments indicating how long they’ve gone without porn or masturbating. Interestingly, even over the anonymity of the internet some people don’t want their virtual identities associated with porn. And a separate forum community on NoFap.com has outpaced growth of the community on Reddit, and is one of the few old-style internet forums actually still growing.

So the stories documented on NoFap are incredible, as are lengths that people do keep from masturbating. But it’s all worth it, as one user summed up: “Porn ostracizes you from your loved ones. It separates you. What we do here, it brings you together.”

Now, I grew up Christian and I certainly identify as Christian today. My whole life I was avoiding porn. When I discovered NoFap, I realized how fortunate I was to have that idea in the first place, and how large of a problem it is for many many others.

To this day I’m amazed that people from all walks of life have discovered this issue and addressed it in their own lives and thousands who have never met are giving each other profound support on their common journey.

But I noticed a common challenge with NoFap. While there’s a lot of great content floating around the community and the internet to keep yourself motivated it could be hard to get you in the moment. So with some naive enthusiasm to help, I created a panic button that you click to show motivational and inspirational content. Some of it directly related to porn and some not. This was not intended to be big and it’s not obviously particularly technically sophisticated. But I thought the community might like access to centralized motivation.

When NoFap put the button up 3,000 people used it on the first day. Today the panic button is used millions of times a year by people around the world trying to kick their porn habits. By suggestion from the community users can now even submit content for others to see. And of course the whole thing is open-source.

So with all this traffic you can actually get some interesting data. People quitting porn on NoFap are overwhelmingly young, the majority actually below 25.

Faith is an important aspect for some but the majority of NoFap is non-religious, around 80%. And this is far from a male-only problem, but it is also overwhelmingly male, over 90%.

As we can see here California is clearly the horniest state. But they’re probably just the most populous. So this movement touches on a lot of issues from gender to politics, to economics, none of which I’m remotely qualified to talk about.

What I can attest to is the emergent culture surrounding this idea of avoiding porn and masturbation. In a corner of the Internet, where misogyny is sometimes the norm, an incredible community has built around repairing and maintaining real life relationships, undoing what porn has made men think of women and bringing back our healthy sexuality.

But that’s not it.

NoFap is filled with heart lifting stories about saved relationships and marriages, but also saved careers, ambition, creativity and drive so profound that the community has dubbed the effects of quitting porn superpowers. Abstaining from ejaculation for around 7 days has been shown to increase testosterone in men by about 45%. This has even become something of a yuppie phenomenon, appearing in major cultural news sources like The Huffington Post and Vice, but also places like Business Insider.

Young men everywhere are avoiding the numbing effects of porn, not simply for sexual or ethical reasons but to gain an edge in their careers and everyday lives.

As one user explained: “I’ve been able to do things I never thought I’d be able to do — asking a girl to prom, starting and holding conversations with strangers, being able to achieve when most people just throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity.”

So despite the doom and gloom I actually see this as a positive story about how the human spirit is alive and well. Ultimately the growth of NoFap epitomizes the double-edged sword of technology. It can tear people down or it can help them up. But it also highlights the kind of conversations that we need to have culturally in a fundamentally free society.

Thank you.