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Porn is a substitute for actual sex, but your brain doesn’t know that. It reacts to a picture of a naked woman or a video of people having sex the same way it does a real life naked woman or you actually having sex. When encountering sexual images, your brain is going to ramp up dopamine levels, driving you to orgasm — whether that climax is fostered with another human being or is self-induced.

Dopamine also explains why certain types of porn are more compelling than others, and how in extreme cases men prefer porn to actual sex.

A still picture of a naked woman will jack up dopamine levels the first time you see it, but after a while that same picture just won’t do it for you any more. Your brain has become habituated to that stimulus. In order to be aroused again, you’d need to increase dopamine levels by injecting more novelty into your sexual fantasies with a new picture of a different naked woman.

But as time goes on, simply looking at any picture of a naked woman won’t get you aroused. You need something more. Well, you get a bigger squirt of dopamine whenever you watch others have sex in a porn video because the live action activates your mirror neurons, making you feel like you’re the one having sex. The stronger the stimulation, the bigger the shot of dopamine to the reward system, and hence the greater desire you have to watch that porn video.

But as the study above showed, after repeated viewings, even an erotic film can become like watching a boring documentary. It just won’t offer the same kind of dopamine hit you got the first time you watched it, and will eventually fail to arouse you. Again, this is due to habituation. To become sexually aroused again, you need to increase dopamine levels by watching something new, be it a video with a new woman or a video with some new sex practice you’ve never seen before. Add the novelty, increase the dopamine, and sexual arousal returns.