Can you Blame the Brain for Porn use?

Popular Misconceptions... 

Have you heard this? 

“Those who are addicted to pornography can see an image and dopamine is released in their brain, just like a drug addict releases dopamine when he gets drugs. They can’t help themselves! Their brain made them do it!”


Are we are at the mercy of our brains? That is the argument, none the less. Against some popular belief, you actually can not blame the brain for personal pornography use.

What happened to, “Satan made me do it?” It is kind of like "blaming it on Satan" was the old school way to do things. Today, backed up by some sort of modern science half-truths, people today blame their brains for their love of sin. But that isn't really true. Let me show you why you can not blame the brain.


The brain can NOT be blamed for pornography use. 

The brain is the ultimate organ of genius. With the brain being so valued, it is no understatement that there is a reason for this mentality of blaming it on the brain. Everything we think, do, memorize, learn, and all ways in which we acquire and attain knowledge has to do with the development of the brain. Every skill you have, every action you do, and everything you know as reality - is learned in the brain. 


Neuroimaging is this study that reveals physical evidence of the theory that seems to be reinforced Scientifically through the evidence of the ‘Dopamine Reward System.’ Brain images are taken of the internal chemistry when the brain receives a chemical reward when certain things are given or seen. 


“A 2014 Cambridge University study published in the journal PLOS ONE found the ventral striatum — a brain structure that plays a role in the brain’s reward center, aka its pleasure pathways — lit up when an alcoholic saw a photo of a drink. In porn addicts, the study found similar Brain activity.” (2.)


Which means that we have evidence that a chemical reaction took place in the brain when the eyes saw a certain picture, therefore it revealed a chemical reward system on seeing certain images.

The problem with the popularization of this study, is it leaves people with results of half of the study, that states, “A person can’t help themselves for looking at porn because when a man looks at a naked image, chemicals are released in their brain and they can’t help but want to look at it. Just like a drug addict has massive amounts of dopamine released in their brains, so too a man who sees nudity is subject to the pull of pornography by their brains.”


This half-truth is picked up and spread around to others and popularized in books that defend those who lust after sin... But they are missing a huge aspect of the puzzle. So let us add the rest of the missing pieces so that we can see the whole picture. 


Studies involved setting up functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see the neurological components of the brain, while showing pictures to a selected group of individuals. Here a Cambridge University study states, “Subjects viewed video clips... of explicit sexual, erotic, non-sexual exciting, money, and neutral (images). The videos were shown for 9 seconds, followed by a question. Subjects watched the videos and completed a continuous rating scale for sexual desire. Subjects were asked the following question: ‘How much did this increase your sexual desire?’ (3.)

So, basically, they showed images and then they asked questions to the participates. They also had their brains hooked up to a fMRI to see the neurological components of what was happening chemically to the brain at the same time. 

The results? The desire to see sexual images gave a positive chemical reaction to the brain. But this isn’t the only study... In fact there are many. But the same outcome is reiterated over and over again.

Another medical study stated, “The fMRI showed greater blood oxygen level dependent activity to sexual picture cues that correlated with enhanced sexual desire.” (4.)


Another medical study stated, “We further hypothesized that these regional activations would be functionally linked across groups but more strongly in individuals with sexual behavior as compared to those without, and that compulsive sexual desire would be more strongly linked to activity within these regions in individuals with compulsive sexual behavior as compared to those without. Given developmental changes in reward systems underlying risky behaviors.” (5.)


Another medical study revealed fMRI study of porn viewers showed elevated activity in the ventral striatum when male participants viewed something sexy, suggesting that the brain’s reward system was releasing dopamine. When comparing the fMRI data and survey results, scientists found that the degree of ventral striatum activation correlated with the degree of porn addiction each participant reported via questionnaire. (6.) 


In other words, people who reported signs of porn addiction experienced greater degrees of ventral striatum activity when they desired to see porn. 


Did you notice that ‘desiring’ is a huge part of the reward system. 

Remember it is called the 'dopamine reward system.'

In truth, dopamine is just a chemical released to help train the brain to continue to do what is desired by the individual. When the desire is acted out, the person then receives an internal chemical reward, for doing the things that they desire to do. 

They get rewarded chemically for what they do, if it lines up with their internal desires, whether that is for good desires or evil desires


The test subjects in this experiment only received the reward chemically, when they desired to see the images of porn that were shown. 


Does this make sense? Let me expand on this.... 

If someone internally desires to see sexual immoral behavior the brain is going to assist in that internal desire. Once that desire is carried out through viewing sexualized pictures of pornography, the viewing is established through the positive reinforcement of what is being seen, as they are having a chemical reaction of dopamine assisting in their reward to their desires. They might have guilt and shame afterwards, but it isn't a good enough deterrent as their internal desires long to see pornography, and their brain is just rewarding their efforts to physically obey their internal desires.

But... what about those who saw the images of pornography and they didn't get a dopamine release? What about them?


In the studies, there were those who did not desire to see naked images and since it wasn't internally desirable, they didn't receive a dopamine reward

Therefore, it isn’t the act of seeing a sexualized picture that is affecting the brain, as much it is the pleasure that someone takes in the idea of desiring to see it and the reward that the brain is giving the human for acting out or seeing the desired object of affection. 

What is desirable?

If the image is pleasurable and desirable to that certain individual, there will be a chemical release, reaction, and reward to the pleasure center of the brain which reiterates approval of behavior. As the image is rewarded by what the heart and mind desire to see and is reinforced chemically. If someone sees an image that they do desire to see, the image is pleasurable and dopamine is released. 

But the opposite it also true. 

If the image is fear related, undesirably, and isn't pleasurable to that certain individual, there will be no chemical released, no reaction, and no reward to the pleasure center of the brain which reiterates no approval of behavior. The image is not rewarded because it doesn't line up with what the heart and mind desire to see and therefore is not reinforced chemically. If someone sees an image that they do not desire, the image isn't pleasurable, nor is dopamine released. 

Just like through behavior. 


An example could be, exposure to sexual activity and the desire to act out unrestrained sexual behavior, for instance. 

If someone desires to see or be involved with sexual behavior, once that act is seen or carried out, the chemical releases of reward is established because they are doing what they internally desire to see and do, and therefore their brain is just rewarding them for carrying out what it is they internally desire.  

But, the opposite is also true. 

If someone doesn’t want the exposure to sexual activity and is exposed to it, that same instance to see or be exposed to sexual behavior in action is categorized as sexual abuse and has no chemical reaction of reward to it, because it is not what the internal desire  is. In fact, cognitive trauma can be the result of unwanted exposure, not a reward from the brain. Why? Because someone exposed to unwanted sexual activity can actually need therapy to deal with that exposure when it is perceived as a negative experience.

The Results

Therefore, it isn’t just seeing the sexualized pictures that release the chemical, as much as it is the pleasure that someone takes in desiring it - and the reward that the brain is giving the human for acting out or seeing the desire


2 Peter 2:14a

They have eyes full of adultery, desire for sin.

Interesting verse, as these medical studies used the physical eyes as the avenue in which to indicate internal desires...

Dopamine is used as a reward chemical for acting out or participating in what the internal desire is for - to strengthen connections and assist in the practicing of a certain activity. These chemical rewards are to encourage the doer to behave the same way that they are thinking and turning it into action, so that they can become masters of that particular desire.


Which again takes us back to Scripture. 

Galatians 5:17a

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.

Which means are two types of desires. There are godly desires and evil desires. 

There are godly desires:

Deuteronomy 18:16a

Just as you desired of the Lord your God...

Isaiah 26:8

In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.

There are evil desires:

Proverbs 21:10a

The soul of the wicked desires evil.

1 Corinthians 10:6

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desires evil as they did.


2 Peter 3:3

That scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.


It is desiring to see and be apart of evil that caused the pleasure centers in the brain to release dopamine when seeing images of pornography. Giving the brain a reward for seeing what the person really desires to see. 


There is no scientific evidence or reason that a person can blame their addictions on their brain, as their brains are just reiterating and strengthening their desires to be proficient in areas of desire; and in-return their brain is rewarding their actions that line up with those internal desires.​


Maybe the Bible is more scientific than we have previously thought, as the term ‘heart’ in this verse can mean physical ‘mind’ or 'brain' - as it is where our behavior roots and stems out from. Let us take a look at the book of Romans with the original Greek words in the brackets, to see what the Word of God is actually speaking to us. 


Romans 1:21, 24, and 25:

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile (perverted) in their thinking, and their foolish (moral defect) hearts (inner mind, brain) were darkened... 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts (desires) of their hearts (inner mind, brain) to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 

Again, our Biblical Christian verbiage, might be literal after all, as the brain functions in such a way that makes the doer behave in what individuals internally and even secretly desires. 

You can not blame pornography or any other sinful addiction problem on the brain. Why? Because the Lord has created our brains to reward the desires of our hearts; to assist us in the direction that we desire to walk in.


We must examine our true internal desires and ask ourselves...

                Do we desire the Lord or do we desire sin?  





4. Politis M, Loane C, Wu K, O'Sullivan SS, Woodhead Z, et al. (2013) Neural response to visual sexual cues in dopamine treatment-linked hypersexuality in Parkinson's disease. Brain 136: 400–411.

5.Somerville LH, Casey BJ (2010) Developmental neurobiology of cognitive control and motivational systems. Curr Opin Neurobiol 20: 236–241.


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