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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 behind love, sex and internet pornography accessible to a wide public. It is impossible to talk about sexual relationships today without acknowledging the role of internet pornography. Research shows that bingeing on internet pornography can become compulsive over time for some users and can reduce interest in, and satisfaction from, real life sexual relationships. Internet pornography is not like porn of the past in terms of its impact. It is particularly unsuitable for children who make up 20-30% of users on adult sites. This information comes from Mindgeek, a private company owning of 9 out of the 15 most used porn websites worldwide.
Never before in the history of humankind 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. The environment changed in 2016 when free, streaming, high definition video became available over broadband via mobile devices.
Our brains have not adapted to cope with so much sexual stimulation. Children are particularly vulnerable to internet porn’s powerful effects due to their stage of brain development and learning. Free, easy to access, hardcore pornography via smartphones, tablets and laptops makes it difficult for them to avoid seeing. Pornography is widely used in advertising and music videos to stimulate strong emotions and increase sales.
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 arousal that real life partners cannot match and to become voyeurs. At the same they are failing to learn the interpersonal skills they need to develop healthy, loving relationships.
Parents and Schools
We talk to parents to help equip them to have that uncomfortable conversation with their children and to help coordinate support with schools. See our Free Parents’ Guide to Internet Pornography.
We look too at porn’s influence on consent, sexting and other sexual offending along with the long term impact of an offence on jobs, travel, and social life. Kent police say parents may be prosecuted for their children’s ‘sexting’ if they have the contract for the phone that sends illegal material.
The Reward Foundation provides talks to whole year groups for secondary schools and to individual classes about pornography and digital detoxes. In addition we are about to launch lesson plans for teachers to use. These are in the final stages of being piloted.
We have been accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners to run training workshops on the impact of internet pornography on mental and physical health. The content is also relevant for those responsible for dealing with sexual harassment issues in the workplace. 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.
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. Sign up to our newsletter at the foot of the page to stay up-to-date with developments.
The Porn Trap
Pornography companies have been at the vanguard of internet development and design to make hyper arousing sexual material available free, on stream, via smartphones. This overstimulation causes constant cravings that in turn change a porn user’s thoughts and behaviour over time without their awareness. For increasing numbers of users this can lead to compulsive sexual behaviour disorder formerly known as ‘sex 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. Bingeing on porn can have a negative effect on sexual health, behaviour, relationships, attainment, productivity and criminality. With regular bingeing, the brain changes increase over time.
There are now six studies that demonstrate a causal link between porn use and harms arising from that use.
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.
People sometimes ask our facilitators if we use porn. The answer is “no” we don’t, but we do not want to prohibit others from doing so. It is a personal choice. However we do want to help people be in a position to make an ‘informed’ choice based on the 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 6 years, in porn-related sexual injuries according to healthcare professionals who have attended our workshops and possibly even deaths. We are in favour of the UK government’s Digital Economy Act 2017 requiring age verification for users as it is a first and foremost a child protection measure. It is not a silver bullet, but is a necessary good starting place. 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.
The information on this website can help people improve their chances of enjoying a successful, loving sexual relationship. Here is 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.
Please contact us if you’d like more information on any of the matters mentioned here.