“People who show compulsive sexual behavior – sex addiction – are driven to search more for new sexual images than their peers, according to new research led by the University of Cambridge. The findings may be particularly relevant in the context of online porn, which potentially provides an almost endless source of new images…
They found that when the sex addicts viewed the same sexual image repeatedly, compared to the healthy volunteers they experienced a greater decrease of activity in the region of the brain known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, known to be involved in anticipating rewards and responding to new events. This is consistent with ‘habituation’, where the addict finds the same stimulus less and less rewarding – for example, a coffee drinker may get a caffeine ‘buzz’ from their first cup, but over time the more they drink coffee, the smaller the buzz becomes.
This same habituation effect occurs in healthy males who are repeatedly shown the same porn video. But when they then view a new video, the level of interest and arousal goes back to the original level. This implies that, to prevent habituation, the sex addict would need to seek out a constant supply of new images…”

When I entered the homosexual lifestyle in 1988, there was a dramatic generational and cultural shift taking place in the “gay” world; before that, most of the boys and young men who “came-out” in the 1970s and early-80s, the heyday of “gay” liberation in America, before the crash of the AIDS epidemic, oftentimes perfectly fit what I call the “classic gay-boy” syndrome: a sensitive, alienated, and lonely kid with an unloving father and an overbearing mother; without exception, every one of these guys who made the long trek to San Francisco, were both escaping the pain of their childhood and at the same time consciously embracing “gay” as the answer to their every heartache. By the time I got to the Castro in the late-80s, there were certainly men with incredibly dysfunctional backgrounds: one of my favorite friends hated his father who tried to beat the “sissy” out of him; later, when his parents divorced, his mother became sickly cloying while insisting that she accompany me and him to “gay” dance clubs. Yet, I also noticed another trend among myself and my friends, a tendency to come to homosexuality after a childhood filled with porn addiction.

Although I fit into certain parameters of the “classic gay-boy” syndrome as an overly emotional boy that always took the slightest rebuke or unkind word to heart, still, I seemed to tell a similar story to many of the other guys I knew when we would sit about a talk of our epic-making coming-out: that I first became attracted to men after seeing a naked guy in porn. For me, it first happened before I even reached my teens; I had been seriously looking at porn since about age 8. Then, most of the variety of images were from “Playboy” and “Penthouse” magazines: featuring solitary naked women. Drunk on all that glossy flesh, I couldn’t imagine getting turned on by anything else, yet, slowly at first – the sight of a naked woman, which once made my pulse race, didn’t even raise my blood-pressure a single iota. For, in porn, it is often the forbidden that becomes desirable; that which is unseen becomes that which must be seen; and, in the 1970s, “gay” was one of the few still wholly unexplored sexual taboos; “gay” was mysterious – only intimated at and suggested in jokes on such popular television shows as “All in the Family,” “Soap,” and “Three’s Company.” Whenever anything “gay” was mentioned – it carried with it a certain charge of risk. In the late-70s, that danger became pedestrian – this becoming fully realized with the ascendance of “The Village People;” yet, it remained somewhat comical and caricatured – exemplified in such films as “Zorro: The Gay Blade,” “Partners” and “Victor Victoria;” Madonna, in the following decade, took “gay” out of the marginal sphere of camp into high glamour. In reality, as opposed to what was popularly heralded, disco never died – Madonna was the direct inheritor of all the dazzling sleaze of the 70s, a combination of classic porn, gay aesthetics, and dance music that is reworked and presented as the main-stream.

By the late-1980s, when I went “gay,” even in the midst of endless AIDS deaths, it was rather easy to reimagine oneself as a happy homosexual; to a semi-stupid kid like me, the images from the music video for “Express Yourself” held greater power than the pictures of dying skin-blotched men. I couldn’t see it; what awaited me in gay-dom was death, but like Madonna herself, the pornographic fantasy of care-free all-male sex was constantly being reinvented into something entirely new and unpredictable.

Yet, strangely enough, I sometimes shifted between heterosexuality and homosexuality, but, then, the “gay” world was far closer to mirroring what porn had presented as authentic sexuality: relentlessly available, never dull, and forever changing. And, for a while, that is exactly what the “gay” experience delivers – you are surrounded by a throng of equally young, eager, and voraciously aroused males all willing to explore every avenue of sexuality. But, surprisingly, the boundaries of human endurance are often reached in just a few months or even weeks; hence, the propensity for “gay” culture to expedientially swerve into extreme fetishism – like past the elbow fisting and human toilet-bowl water-sports. At that point, you have often gone beyond the limits of socially accepted pornography; then, it’s a bizarre and tragic form of self-realization: the depths to which the human soul will sink in order to find healing. Only, the solace that one pursues is nowhere to be found – only further loneliness and abandonment.

Recently, former child-star Miley Cyrus posed for a full-frontal naked shot that was featured in “V” Magazine; in the 1950s, the publication of a comparably far less explicit photograph of a newly famous Marilyn Monroe, taken when she was unknown and broke, caused a scandal with world-wide headlines; the same thing happened to Vanessa Williams in 1984; today, the Miley Cyrus reveal only elicited a barely audible yawn from the public. What has changed? Essentially, the phenomena of pop-porn reached a zenith in the critical year of 1984; about 4 months after Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America, Madonna releases her breakthrough album “Like a Virgin.” Then, in a series of music videos, in one – mimicking the dead Monroe, Madonna squirmed and squealed her way to super stardom; a large part of her success was the bridging of what was once intimate dress with public acceptability: hence, the appearance of lingerie as outerwear. At that moment, it was as if an unspoken wall of social morality was smashed down forever; porn and pop became one.

Only, Madonna became a symbol of sexual freedom, but also of the boredom which that excessive liberty breeds. At the beginning of her career, she could be compared to a Playboy centerfold come to life, at the time, pushing the boundaries of what was tolerable, by the early-90s she was into lesbianism and rimming in her music video for “Justify My Love” and in her hardcore coffee-table book “Sex.” However, the genie in the bottle that she helped release was, for her, both a blessing and a curse. Because, it groomed a future generation to accept an ever growing list of deviances, that she could repeatedly reach into in order to shock and garner attention, but it also hooked them and left many always wanting more. As Madonna grew older, though over the years she has become more pathetic in a desperate bid to stay relevant, her early reliance on porn imagery, in a culture that can now easily access it through the internet, left her as the proverbial empress with no clothes. The current batch of Madonna wannabes flame out even quicker; case in point: Britney Spears, ostensibly overnight, went from ingénue to over-sexed hag in a couple of years; in her 30s, she has become a sort of pornographic grande dame – a certain relegated status that Madonna didn’t arrive at until much later.

In the late-90s, just as I was about to wash-out of the “gay” scene for the last time, I met a barely 20 year old newbie who idolized Madonna; he told me stories about how, as a little boy in the late-80s, he infuriated his father, while his mother laughed, by prancing about the house in a faux imitation of his idol. Since then, the situation has gotten only worse; the “stars” of today have gone beyond anything Madonna ever imagined: a world in which there is no differential between pornography and popular culture – fully realized in the fame of Kim Kardashian: a woman who gained international notoriety by strategically leaking a home-made sex tape. Now, sexuality has become a thing of public discourse; a career move; a sext message; a revelation of who we are; not a private act of love between a man and his wife. Most disastrously, we have all become porn stars. In the pre-Madonna era of the 1970s and early-80s, boys with same-sex attraction were driven to a life of homosexuality, sometimes painfully, because they thought they had no other choice. After the main-streaming of porn, homosexuality has twisted into just another category, mimicking the seemingly endless variety of pornographic genres and sub-genres – from twink to trans-men, that can be freely selected and outwardly lived. And, we all must suffer with the consequences; literally, there is nowhere that the current porn-ized pop-culture has not gone: starting with a senior citizen former male athlete who got breast implants to a seriously mentally confused teen pretending to be girl while securing his own line of cosmetics.

Again, just as in the case with those former “gay” men, back in the 1960s and 70s, who fully met the criteria as the “classic gay-boy,” those who currently come-out also often do so after enduring years of neglect and abuse by their preoccupied or absent parents. But, there are now a group of young men who perhaps did not experience a traumatic level of abuse, but, nevertheless, were left alone and unmonitored with unregulated internet access; wherein, by the time they reach their mid-teens, they have seen almost every conceivable sexual scenario imaginable; according to one study: by the age of 18, 69% of boys have seen “gay” porn; 39% have seen bondage porn; and, 32% have seen depictions of bestiality.* In certain individuals, with a propensity towards addictive behavior and a lack of significant and good male role models – pornography will become idolized and thus begins a decent into more explicit and deviant content; some, will become aroused by “gay” material, others will not. Those that do, because homosexuality, and “gay” sexual expression, is so widely accepted in culture, will bypass any conflict and accept themselves as “gay.” Whereas, in my era, there was a sort of grooming within the first few days of joining the “gay” world; this was done by other ‘gay” men; today, because porn has become main-streamed, the grooming process takes place out in the open, in the home, by way of the media. Then, like a talentless debutante, the youth of today create their own publicity sensations, though on a very localized level: by their dress, their behavior, and, lastly, by coming-out at school and most importantly – on-line. Only, like Miley, it’s not shocking anymore.

*“The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth”
Chiara Sabina, Ph.D, et al.
Cyber psychology & Behavior; Volume 11, Number 6, 2008