Our philosophy on sexual health is to make the latest research about what helps and hinders sexual health accessible to a wide audience so that everyone can improve his and her love life. It is based on the World Health Organisation’s definition of sexual health:
“…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)
The brain’s reward system evolved to drive us to natural rewards such as food, bonding and sex to promote our survival. Today, technology has produced ‘supernormal’ versions of those natural rewards in the form of junk food, social media and internet pornography. Our brains have not evolved to cope with the overstimulation this has caused. Society is experiencing an epidemic of behaviourial disorders and addictions that threaten our health, development and happiness.
Multi-billion dollar internet companies, especially the porn industry, use “persuasion design techniques” developed at Stanford university 20 years ago. These techniques, built into apps and websites, are designed specifically to alter our thinking and behaviour. Apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and websites such as Pornhub, YouTube etc all use them. They are based on the most sophisticated neuroscience, psychology and social science research to target our unconscious desires and stimulate unconscious cravings in the brain’s reward system for more. This is why The Reward Foundation teaches people about the brain’s reward system. That way users can understand where their cravings are coming from and have a fighting chance of resisting the addictive nature of these products.
Problematic sexual behaviour often stems from 2 things: a brain that has been damaged by over-arousal and stress, and from ignorance about what a healthy level of stimulation is. The addiction process affects brain structure, functionality and decision making. This is especially the case with children and adolescents at the start of their journey towards sexual maturity. It is the stage when they are at their most vulnerable to the possibility of developing mental health problems and addictions.
Hope is at hand. The concept of ‘neuroplasticity’, the brain’s ability to adapt to the environment, means that the brain can heal itself when we remove a stressor. We provide information about the risks to mental and physical health, attainment, criminality and relationships as well as information about building resilience to stress and addiction along with reports on the benefits of quitting porn. No prior knowledge of science is required.
Ten years ago after the arrival of broadband, or high speed internet, men started contacting our American colleague Gary Wilson looking for help. He contributed to a website that explained the science behind sex and addiction. The visitors, many of them early adopters of broadband internet, reported how they had started to lose control of their internet porn watching despite no such problems with erotic DVDs or magazines. It was having a negative effect on their relationships, work and health. ‘Internet’ pornography was somehow different from Playboy and the like.
After investigating it more, Gary set up a new website, www.yourbrainonporn.com, to provide access to the scientific evidence explaining this new development and to stories from people who had experimented with quitting porn. His informative and funny talk at the first ever Glasgow TEDx event “The Great Porn Experiment” has now had over 10 million views on YouTube and been translated so far, into 18 languages. To date, 39 neurological research papers have confirmed Gary’s early findings. The TEDx talk has helped thousands of people recognise that their mental and physical health problems and relationship disappointments may be related to their internet pornography habit. Users are also grateful for the free online recovery resources mentioned there because of the help available and anonymity provided. Some people need the services of healthcare professionals in addition to recover sexual health and wellbeing.
We wanted to be a part of the solution too to this emerging society-wide problem. To that end, we set up The Reward Foundation charity in 2014. Combined with our own research and extensive teaching materials, we hope to educate the public at large as well as professionals about the impact of free streaming, internet pornography available on tap 24 hours a day. The aim is not to ban pornography but to make people aware of the facts so that they can make ‘informed’ choices about their use and where to get help if needed. Policy makers, parents, teachers and other professionals dealing with adolescents have a particular responsibility to learn about its impact.
What we do?
- Free website, regular news articles and updates on Twitter
- Presentations, workshops and seminars on:
- Pornography harm awareness in schools, colleges and universities
- 24-hour screen fast/digital detox
- Guidance for parents
- Training for professionals
- Campaign for brain-based sex and relationship education in schools
All of our work is based the latest developments in neuroscience and social science research. Above all we seek to make it practical in application, fun to learn and inspired by the best practice of clinicians and teachers around the world.
WE DO NOT OFFER THERAPY but we do signpost service providers who do.