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The Great Porn Hunt
  • April 28, 2014 : 15:04
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Comparatively, watching porn is productive. The hours I truly regret are the many I’ve spent searching for porn and not finding what I want. I’ve lost evenings just scrolling through hundreds of tiny squares on porn search engines, rolling my cursor to analyze a few staccato frames, bookmarking some and clearing my browser without ever choosing one. If online porn had waiters, mine would be annoyed at having to check my table so many times. Also, he would be annoyed at not having studied harder in high school so he wouldn’t wind up as an online porn waiter.

Coming up empty was not my intention when I turned on my computer. I fully intended to watch some porn. Actually, I meant to do some work, but I eventually accepted the fact that no work was going to happen and I should just let myself watch porn. But I could not even accomplish watching porn. Which is a particularly simple task, since I wasn’t even trying to watch an entire porn film but just one part of one scene. That’s how low I had set the bar. And yet I was distracted from my very limited goal because the porn search engine offered me a glimpse into the infinity of the universe. Or at least the infinity of really weird things naked people, semi-naked people and colorful pieces of plastic can do to one another. Which is still pretty infinite.

I become weighted with guilt not only for wasting my time but also for disrespecting how the medium was designed to be viewed. What would these porn stars think if they knew they’d endured a double-penetration pile driver so I could watch a few one-inch-by-one-inch squares at a time? It’s like reading four quotes from Falstaff and deciding I’ve had enough of The Merry Wives of Windsor—which, by the way, is a horrible name for a porn film.

It’s not that I’m some perfectionist searching for the perfect lighting and set decoration, unable to remain turned on thanks to continuity errors. No, I know from my few camping experiences that I can masturbate to forest shadows. I also know that, to a large extent, all porn is exactly the same: People fall deeply in love, express their love and, I assume, nine months later form a family, sometimes a very nontraditional one with one mommy and a dozen daddies.

No, I have the same problem third-world refugees who relocate to suburban America report after visiting their first supermarket. They are paralyzed by the overwhelming options, unable to choose from so many nearly identical but clearly different brands of pasta sauce. They are stuck in a permanent, unpleasant state of browsing, fearful of making the wrong choice. Now imagine how much more difficult that decision would be if pasta sauce gave you an erection.

The human brain was designed for the task it had to do for tens of thousands of years: check out the few women in our tiny tribe we weren’t related to, invent disgusting fantasies about them and replay those fantasies nightly. But between porn, amateur porn, Reddit selfies, European porn and those weird sites where girls take photos of themselves in yoga pants, our tribe has expanded to include the entire globe. Yet, in order to ensure our tribe’s survival, our brains still try to collect information on all the members.

Physiologically, we’re doomed. Seeking pleasure floods our brains with dopamine, whereas actually getting pleasure stimulates our opioid system. Sure, watching porn makes you feel like a heroin addict, but that’s a lot more pleasant than the meth-head I become when I search for porn clips. I lose all sense of time, possibly because our sense of time might be controlled by the dopamine system, which I am throwing out of whack. Or it could be that I lose all sense of time because I’m really lazy and it’s easy to look at flickering pictures of naked people. I prefer the dopamine theory.

Brian Knutson, a Stanford neuroscientist, has done MRIs on people as they played investment simulations and found we are more stimulated by the possibility of high returns than we are when we get them. The possibility of great porn is more exciting than great porn itself. It’s the same impetus that keeps everyone dating online instead of getting in a relationship, or wasting a night clicking through BuzzFeed lists, or spiraling into online shopping holes, or reading tweet after tweet we can’t remember 10 minutes later. The internet is a dealer of mini hits of speed that blur our eyes and eat our time. We are not surfing; we are drowning. At least, unlike BuzzFeed and Twitter addicts, I’m drowning in things that social mores prevent me from boring other people with over dinner. Though, to be honest, I would prefer those dinners.

What I need is to have my choices taken away from me. Or to stop watching porn. But it would be way easier if someone would just work up an algorithm, based on my particular perversions, that delivered only one porn clip per search, with no options. A porn omakase that removes the menu from my hand. If Google would just focus on doing this instead of stupid things like driverless cars, it would free up more than enough of my time to drive my own car.

read more: entertainment, sex, porn, issue may 2014

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