Title: Skeptical of the porn skeptics: a response to Zimbardo & Wilson
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PHILIP ZIMBARDO AND GARY Wilson have outlined the many ways that they believe "porn is messing with your manhood." I personally know Phil Zimbardo to be a compassionate and energetic man who is generally positive about sexuality (I don't know his coauthor Gary Wilson). And everyone knows that Dr. Zimbardo is a world-famous social scientist. But in my opinion this article is short on facts that are reliable and relevant. Before we get to that, however, we do agree on several things. Yes, a majority of adolescent American males look at pornography. Yes, some of them report sexual difficulties. And yes, some of them report a compulsive quality to their attachment to porn viewing. Finally, there's plenty to be concerned about when an entire generation of young men get a substantial amount of their sex education from Internet porn.

However, Zimbardo and Wilson hypothesize effects of porn that science does not support empirically. They describe epidemics that really affect only a small number of people; they blame these alleged epidemics on neurological processes that haven't really been shown to exist; and they stitch together a few isolated studies to conclude that porn viewing is undermining a generation's ability to relate to real sex.

One of the key foundations of Zimbardo and Wilson's article is that high school and college students report a lack of "normal" sexual functioning. They cite studies of young guys reporting "low sexual desire" and "erection difficulties," who blame their "condition" on porn. But obsession with "normal" sex is a hallmark of adolescence and young adulthood. (1) Exactly what baseline are these 17-year-olds using to decide that their desire isn't "normal"? Which 19-year-old actually understands enough about sexuality to gauge how much his peers desire sex, how much they enjoy it, how reliable their erections are, and how often they have sex? (2)

For example, it is well-known that most adolescents (and adults, for that matter) overestimate the amount of sex everyone else has. Sociologist Michael Kimmel found that a sample of male undergraduates thought 80% of their classmates were having sex every weekend. (3) Kathleen Bogle found the same distorted estimates in her interviews with students. (4) So adolescent concerns about the normality of their sexual function are not a good measure of their sexual function. But it does explain the popularity of online forums like NoFap--where young people enjoy the sense of community, somewhere they can talk about sex and masturbating without fear of humiliation.

One reason some physicians mistakenly think they are seeing more ED in young men is because some want erection drugs for performance enhancement rather than real ED, and they know what to say to get them. This is similar to the documented ways that students have learned to fake the symptoms of ADHD to get prescriptions for Adderall to help them study. (5)

Zimbardo and Wilson cite many studies purporting to show that neuroscience now proves that porn erodes young brains. They don't mention the tiny sample sizes of these...

Source Citation (MLA 8 th Edition)
Klein, Marty. "Skeptical of the porn skeptics: a response to Zimbardo & Wilson." Skeptic [Altadena, CA], vol. 21, no. 3, 2016, p. 27+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 20 May 2019.

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