We are a key source of evidence-based information about love relationships and the various risks of watching too much pornography.
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The Reward Foundation is a pioneering sex and relationship education charity accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners. We make the research about love, sex and internet pornography accessible to a wide public. It is difficult to talk about sex and love relationships today without acknowledging the role of internet pornography in influencing expectations, especially amongst adolescents.
Here are some simple self-assessment exercises designed by neuroscientists and clinicians to see if porn is affecting you or someone close to you.
Internet pornography is not like porn of the past. It is a ‘supernormal’ stimulus and impacts the brain like cocaine or heroin. It is particularly unsuitable for children who make up 20-30% of users on adult sites. This alone justifies the UK government’s age verification legislation to restrict access by children and protect their health.
Children as young as six are being exposed to hardcore material because of a lack of effective age checks. See our FREE Parents’ Guide to Internet Pornography for more more resources and how to have that uncomfortable conversation with children.
Largest Unregulated Social Experiment
Never before in history has so much hyper-stimulating sexual material been so freely available as now. It is the largest, unregulated social experiment in the history of humankind. Most pornography is accessed via smartphones and tablets. Overuse is producing a wide range of mental and physical health issues such as social anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction and addiction to name a few.
Research shows that bingeing on internet pornography can reduce interest in, and satisfaction from, real life sexual relationships. Increasing numbers of middle-aged men are unable to perform sexually with their partners. Young people are becoming more aggressive and violent in their sexual behaviour too.
Our aim is to help adults and professionals access the evidence they need to feel confident enough to take appropriate action to help their patients and clients.
Industrial Strength Internet Porn
Our brains have not adapted to cope with so much hyper-stimulation. Children are particularly vulnerable to the endless supply of free, streaming hardcore internet pornography. This is due to its powerful impact on their sensitive brains at a key stage in brain development and learning.
Most internet pornography today does not model intimacy and trust, but rather unsafe sex, coercion and violence, particularly towards women. Children are programming their brains to need constant novelty, high levels of contrived arousal that real life partners cannot match. It trains them to be voyeurs. At the same many are feeling sexually inadequate or are failing to learn the interpersonal skills they need to develop healthy, intimate relationships for the long term. This leads to loneliness, social anxiety and depression in increasing numbers.
Parents and Schools
See our FREE Parents’ Guide to Internet Pornography to help equip parents and caregivers have those challenging conversations with their children and to coordinate support with schools if required. Kent police warn that parents may be prosecuted for their children’s ‘sexting’ if they are responsible for the phone contract. See our page about sexting and the law in Scotland.
We are about to launch a series of lesson plans for teachers that will deal with sexting; the adolescent brain; pornography’s influence in general and a fun interactive exercise that puts ‘pornography on trial’.
To support our lesson plans for teachers, we are developing a ‘train the trainer’ workshop about which we will announce more in the coming months.
We run regular workshops on the impact of internet pornography on mental and physical health including sexual dysfunctions that have been accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners. Contact us for details of open events and in-house training available in half day and full day formats. The workshops are suitable for anyone with an interest in pornography’s effects on behaviour. No previous knowledge required.
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Pornography companies have been at the forefront of internet development and design. Constant overstimulation causes powerful cravings in the brain that influence a porn user’s thoughts and behaviour over time. For increasing numbers of users this can lead to compulsive sexual behaviour disorder formerly known as ‘sex addiction’ or ‘porn addiction’ in some people. According to the latest research, more than 80% of people seeking medical help with compulsive sexual behaviour have a porn-related problem. Watch this January 2020, excellent TEDx talk (9 mins) by Cambridge University-trained neuroscientist Casper Schmidt to learn about “Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Disorder”. This is a new classification issued by the World Health Organization for problematic sexual health including porn-related issues.
Bingeing on porn can have a negative effect on sexual health, behaviour, relationships, attainment, productivity and criminality. For as long as a user continues to binge, the brain changes become more entrenched and harder to reverse.
There are now six studies that demonstrate a causal link between porn use and harms arising from that use.
At The Reward Foundation we report stories from thousands of men and women who have developed problematic use of internet pornography. Many have experimented with quitting porn and have experienced a variety of mental and physical benefits as a result. See this young man’s story.
Pornography today is industrial strength in terms of quantity available and levels of stimulation, compared to pornography of even 10 or 15 years ago. Its use is a personal choice, we are not out to ban it. But we do want to make people aware of the risks especially for children. We want to help users be in a position to make an ‘informed’ choice based on the best evidence from the research currently available.
We campaign to reduce children’s easy access to internet pornography because dozens of research papers indicate that it is damaging to children at their vulnerable stage of brain development. There has been a dramatic rise in child-on-child sexual abuse in the past 7 years, in porn-related sexual injuries according to healthcare professionals who have attended our workshops and possibly even deaths. It is linked to domestic violence and abuse too.
We are in favour of the UK government’s initiatives to enforce effective age verification for commercial porn sites and social media sites so that children cannot stumble across it so easily. It will not replace the need for education about risks. And who benefits if we do nothing? The multi-billion dollar porn industry. The porn available through social media will be dealt with in the proposed White Paper On Online Harms.
Test for Problems
The information on this website can help people improve their chances of enjoying a successful, loving sexual relationship. Here are some simple self-assessment exercises designed by neuroscientists and clinicians to see if porn is affecting you or someone close to you.
The Reward Foundation does not offer therapy nor provide legal advice. However, we do signpost routes to recovery for people whose use has become problematic. Our aim is to help adults and professionals to access the evidence to allow further appropriate action.
Please contact us if you’d like more information on any of the matters mentioned here.