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Apr 22 2013

Reisman and ‘Erototoxins’ Again

Judith Reisman, who teaches at Liberty University and falsely portrays herself as an expert on human sexuality, has a truly vapid column at the Worldnutdaily arguing that pornography is bad because pesticides can keep gypsy moths from mating. No, I’m serious. That’s her argument. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s look at the start of the article:

On Sept. 21, 2012, Texas neurosurgeon Donald L. Hilton Jr., M.D., spoke on pornography addiction and sexual orientation, saying:

“Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful 100-billion-dollar per year brain drug that is changing sexuality even more rapidly through the cyber-acceleration of the Internet. It is ‘inhibiting orientation’ and ‘disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere’ and Internet.” (emphasis added)

Hilton’s lecture, “Changing the Stamp of Nature: Pornography Addiction, Neuroplasticity, and the ASAM and DSM Perspectives,” put a hard neuroscience face on pornographic brain rewiring, implicating sex-education promotions of homosexuality as a normal genetic variation.

Leaving aside the fact that a neurosurgeon is not a neuroscientist, let’s take a look at the very first line of the excerpt from the talk that she links to in her column:

There are currently no prospective peer-reviewed studies on pornography or sexual addiction, for that matter, in the context of neuroscience.

How exactly does one add “hard neuroscience” to discussion of a subject when, by his own admission, not only is there not a single study on that question but none planned for the future either? Oh, because he declares that all such science would be tainted anyway:

Truly unbiased research on human sexuality is probably not possible in today’s cultural environment, particularly given the financials. At 100 billion dollars a year porn is big business, to say the least. Pro-porn activism has ensured that any true research regarding unrestricted sexuality will take place in a scientific vacuum.

Well that’s certainly convenient. There’s no scientific studies of the subject and there never can be. But remember, he’s bring “hard neuroscience” to bear on the question. But let’s get to Reisman’s bizarre argument about gypsy moths:

In 1869 gypsy moths, imported to create an American silk industry, instead decimated our deciduous trees – oaks, maples and elms – and devastated our forests for the next 150 years. In the ’60s scientists found male moths mate with the female “by following her scent,” her “pheromone.”

A 1967 paper, “Insect population control by the use of sex pheromones to inhibit orientation between the sexes,” reported that scientists permeated the moth’s environment with strong, artificial female moth pheromone “This … scent overpowered the normal females ability to attract the male, and the confused males were unable to find the females.”

So, our trees got saved by what could be called olfactory moth pornography, a heavy-duty phony scent that unmanned male orientation to create an impotent moth population.

Hilton reports this abstract of the paper: “We have for the first time obtained experimental confirmation that pre-mating communication between the sexes can be disrupted by permeating the atmosphere with an insect pheromone.”

In 1972 another paper described mating disorientation as “preventing male gypsy moths from finding mates,” using pheromones. Called the confusion method:

“An airplane scatters … pellets imbedded with the scent of the pheromone … [that] overpower the male’s ability to find the female. He is thus desensitized to the natural scent of the female by this artificially produced pheromone. … The male either becomes confused and doesn’t know which direction to turn for the female, or he becomes desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female and has no incentive to mate with her.” (emphasis added)

Gypsy moth pornography? In the trapping method, male moths looking for the female, enter traps with no exit “only to find a fatal substitute.” As a neurosurgeon, Dr. Hilton concludes:

“Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful 100-billion-dollar per year brain drug that is changing sexuality. … It is ‘inhibiting orientation’ and ‘disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere’ and Internet.”

So can Cynipidae desensitization tell us genius humanoids about pornographic mating desensitization, say, about pornography as Erototoxic, as the toxic form of Eros? Gosh.

Short answer: No. The two subjects are not remotely analogous. First of all, pheromones are actual things, not hypothetical things, and porn does not actually release them. Secondly, she claims that the male gypsy moths have “no incentive to mate” with female gypsy moths when they are bombarded with much stronger pheromones, but there is a clear incentive for males to mate. If reproduction is truly a biological drive for most people, as it must be if the species has survived this long, isn’t that an incentive to do so?

Lastly, and most obviously, if this is true then wouldn’t men who watch porn be far less likely to reproduce? I highly doubt that is the case. And since about half of all married couples view porn and integrate it into their own sex lives, doesn’t that kind of blow this whole theory?

What I find amusing about Reisman is that she claims that viewing pornography releases “erototoxins” (an entirely made up word for something that does not exist) that corrupt the brain. Yet she has viewed a great deal of porn herself. Then again, that may be evidence of her thesis. Her brain clearly isn’t working very well.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    timgueguen

    Another obvious problem with this claim is that porn isn’t new. It may not have been as easily accessible as it is in our media age, but people have been producing sexually explicit material forever. If porn is such a danger we would never have reached a population of 7 billion people.

  2. 2
    alanb

    …“erototoxins” (an entirely made up word for something that does not exist).

    I have seen erototoxins defined as a combination of neurotransmitters associated with pleasure that do actually exist. Not only do they exist, but they are, in fact, released when viewing porn. Of course, they are also released when kissing, holding hands and looking at attractive people – activities which should clearly be banned along with porn.

  3. 3
    blf

    Pornography is a … 100-billion-dollar per year…

    Where in hades did this 100bn$/year come from? Perhaps the most widely-cited studied, by Forbes back in 2001, was less than 4bn$/year (but did not include cellphones). Since then, estimates of up c.14bn$/year have been made.

    Whatever the number, it’s still an order-of-magnitude less than the $100bn$/year claim.

    (What I do not know is which of those figrues are USAlien-only, and which, if any, are world-wide.)

  4. 4
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Lastly, and most obviously, if this is true then wouldn’t men who watch porn be far less likely to reproduce? I highly doubt that is the case. And since about half of all married couples view porn and integrate it into their own sex lives, doesn’t that kind of blow this whole theory?

    I’m not going to go there to read her article, but it appears that what she means primarily by “porn” in this context is anything promoting acceptance of homosexuality:

    put a hard neuroscience face on pornographic brain rewiring, implicating sex-education promotions of homosexuality as a normal genetic variation.

  5. 5
    janiceintoronto

    Soon you’ll be hearing about Teh Gheys threatening to release metric tons of erototoxins in the major cities unless marriage equality is the law of the land.

    You read it here first…

  6. 6
    Chiroptera

    Well, all I know is that I often get myself trapped in Gypsy moth traps when they’re baited with pornography.

  7. 7
    blf

    Studied → Study

    (Ingerlish not wroten heer.)

  8. 8
    Nepenthe

    Visual… pheremones.

    Visualpheremones. How… that’s… that not even…

    *beats head against table for a while*

    I’m going to go into lab and try not to look too hard at the chemicals, because apparently chemicals work through sight now.

  9. 9
    slc1

    According to Wiki, Reisman has a PhD in communication. She also teaches law at Liberty, “Un.”, despite, apparently, having no degree in law nor having passed a bar exam in any state. It is also not clear how a degree in communication in any way, shape, form, or regard qualifies here to pontificate on psychology. She was apparently awarded a grant by the US Justice Department during the Reagan Administration to study, to study the psychological effects of pornography despite having no discernible qualifications in the subject matter. Apparently her grant was facilitated by one Alfred Regnery, who has since founded a publishing company which publishes all manner of anti-scientific and pseudo-scientific crap (they have published works by such notables as Ann Coulter and Tom Bethell, the latter never having met a scientific theory he’s failed to denigrate). But of course, Ronnie the rat is MH’s hero.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Reisman

  10. 10
    blf

    I don’t recall every hearing of this Tom Bethell (slc1@9). Here’s some of what Encyclopedia of American Loons has to say about him:

    [Tom] Bethell is a senior editor at American Spectator and “media fellow” at the Hoover Institution… Bethell is famous for endorsing virtually every brand of wingnut pseudoscience and every denialist position ever invented. That commitment is summed up in his magnum opus, the frighteningly well-known Politically Incorrect Guide to Science …, in which he endorses them all: Intelligent design creationism …, AIDS denial …, that radiation is good for you, stem cell lies, anti-environmentalism — particularly, of course, global warming denialism …, but also the DDT idiocy …, and claiming that endangered species aren’t really endangered — and cancer quackery. …

    Bethell has subsequently published Questioning Einstein: Is Relativity Necessary, in which he plumps for relativity denial based mostly on the work of übercrank Petr Beckmann …

    Bethell is currently fellow-traveller with the Discovery Institute, and often publishes on their website. You can read Bethell trying to explain natural selection here. He doesn’t have the faintest clue.

    Diagnosis: An absolute moron who takes denialism and confirmation bias to the extreme (as if that needed saying) — he is, in Myers’s words, a “gumbyesque crackpot” — who appears to try to promote wishful thinking as a valid form of inference (a rule that would of course be self-validating). His book remains relatively popular, and it is probably safe to say that Bethell is the epitome of what is wrong with the world.

    (I assume the “Myers” mentioned is our very own poopyhead, PZ.)

  11. 11
    psweet

    Just a minor pedantic note — what’s up with “Cynipidae desensitization”? Cynipidae is a family of gall wasps — nothing to do with Gypsy Moths!

  12. 12
    jaxkayaker

    What’s the point about Cynipidae desensitization supposed to mean? Cynipids are wasps, not moths.

  13. 13
    caseloweraz

    “What I find amusing about Reisman is that she claims that viewing pornography releases “erototoxins” (an entirely made up word for something that does not exist) that corrupt the brain. Yet she has viewed a great deal of porn herself. Then again, that may be evidence of her thesis. Her brain clearly isn’t working very well.”

    That’s not because of looking at porn. It’s due to exposure to fundamentalist religion, which brings the release of “cognitotoxins” into the brain.

  14. 14
    holytape

    Cynipidae desensitization – Is a well known psychological disease affecting Hymenopterist. Just spend an hour looking at this seemingly identical little brown wasps and you go crazy. It happened to Alfred Kinsey.

  15. 15
    No One

    Visual pheromones, erototoxins, $100 billion dollars?

    I’m thinking a device that has an artificial vagina on one end, a penis on the other, a built in view screen, and a holder for a scented candle. As-Seen-On-TV!

  16. 16
    fmitchell

    Secondly, she claims that the male gypsy moths have “no incentive to mate” with female gypsy moths when they are bombarded with much stronger pheromones, but there is a clear incentive for males to mate.

    Tiny nit (moth larva?) to pick: from an external perspective moths have an incentive to mate. Evolution shaped moths into reproductive machines, and artificial pheromones are grit in the gears of that machine. The moth itself doesn’t know from incentives; it only knows what feels good, and in this case its perceptions are skewed.

    Now, since human males are turned on by visual stimuli it’s remotely possible that overstimulation might distort their perceptions and mess up their sex drive. However, since science is so conveniently in the thrall of Big Porn no actual research will resolve the issue to Reisman’s liking.

    In any case, “erototoxins” is an idiotic mechanism … unless aliens have released biochemicals into our atmosphere in order to depopulate the Earth, a la Tiptree’s “The Screwfly Solution”. Now I’m not saying it’s aliens, but let’s turn to our expert Giorgio A. Tsoukalos …

  17. 17
    caseloweraz

    I first encountered Reisman when I read a book by Vincent Ryan Ruggeiro. He was/is a lecturer protesting the moral decline of America. He cites Reisman as an expert on some of the problems he discusses: namely that American culture is too sexually permissive.

    When I looked up Reisman, I found she was an anti-Kinsey crusader. Her attempts to disparage the late Alfred Kinsey did not hold up any better than her present argument.

    To be fair, in my review I found that Ruggiero’s book is not a total waste but goes way beyond its evidence. Its title is Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America. I’d agree with that, but my view is that the said nonsense comes from Reisman and Ruggiero and their ilk.

  18. 18
    lldayo

    @timgueguen

    Since she seems to like to pull stuff out of her ass without any evidence we should do the same. The population explosion over the past few decades correlates to the rise of pornography availability. I’d say the evidence actually goes against her “findings”!

  19. 19
    baal

    Oddly enough, I don’t find that porn (even consumed in vast quantity, quality and in 72 marathon sessions (ok I’m making that last one up) reduces the amount of time I want to spend with the wife…. Now, if you blinded all of my means of finding my wife, we’d have less sex. Good thing I’m somewhat more complex that a moth?

    Erototoxins don’t exist. We do have neurotransmitters and brain paths for pleasure but I’m not going to do Resiman’s job and say the two are the same.

  20. 20
    zippythepinhead

    There’s so little data on the effects of porn because there’s so much of it.

  21. 21
    slc1

    Re blf @ #10

    As the article states, Bethell is also a relativity denier. I have a question for relativity deniers, if special relativity is wrong, then please explain how the relativistic quantum field theory quantum electrodynamics can provide a calculation of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron that agrees with experimental observations to 10 significant digits.

  22. 22
    oranje

    Oh, sweet. I have a PhD in communication, too. Please allow me to make some shit up and call it science.

    Also: porn has a lot of cleaning up its act to do w/r/t social issues (portrayals of minorities are painful and the marketing of women is more than a touch uncomfortable as well), but it’s like they never moved on from it being on the right’s 1980s hitlist alongside D&D and heavy metal.

  23. 23
    Modusoperandi

    “Judith Reisman, who teaches at Liberty University and falsely portrays herself as an expert on human sexuality…”

    Wait. “Herself”. That’s not right. Time to call them…

    It’s okay. She’s in Human Sexuality (in the Context of Holy, Sacred, and Totally Not-Gay Marriage). And she has her notes checked by her husband first, just in case she accidentally mentions ladyparts.
     

    “First of all, pheromones are actual things, not hypothetical things, and porn does not actually release them.”

    Then why do porn shops always have that smell? (So I’ve heard)
     
    janiceintoronto “Soon you’ll be hearing about Teh Gheys threatening to release metric tons of erototoxins in the major cities unless marriage equality is the law of the land.”
    What did you think was the active ingredient in a glitter bomb?
     
    slc1 “According to Wiki, Reisman has a PhD in communication. She also teaches law at Liberty, “Un.”, despite, apparently, having no degree in law nor having passed a bar exam in any state. It is also not clear how a degree in communication in any way, shape, form, or regard qualifies here to pontificate on psychology. She was apparently awarded a grant by the US Justice Department during the Reagan Administration to study, to study the psychological effects of pornography despite having no discernible qualifications in the subject matter.”
    Pah! Not knowing is a qualification at Liberty. Why clutter your mind with false, secular, “facts”, when all they do is push out Jesus?
     
    oranje “Also: porn has a lot of cleaning up its act to do w/r/t social issues (portrayals of minorities are painful and the marketing of women is more than a touch uncomfortable as well)…”
    And they unrealistically depict jobs like pizza delivery, plumbing and pool cleaning, not to mention careers like law enforcement and firefighting.

  24. 24
    cheesynougats

    Rwading over the excerpts Reisman used, is she saying that watching porn confuses men such that they can’t find women?
    I watch porn on occasion, and I have never had trouble finding women. Even women interested in having sex with me.

  25. 25
    Nepenthe

    There’s so little data on the effects of porn because there’s so much of it.

    You may snicker, but that bit is true. It’s difficult to determine what, if any, effect porn use has on people–men especially–because it’s so hard to find a control group that is normal other than not using porn.

  26. 26
    oranje

    @Nepenthe: I seem to remember a study being abandoned because they could not find enough men who had never watched porn. It may actually have been that they couldn’t find any.

  27. 27
    khms
    There’s so little data on the effects of porn because there’s so much of it.

    You may snicker, but that bit is true. It’s difficult to determine what, if any, effect porn use has on people–men especially–because it’s so hard to find a control group that is normal other than not using porn.

    I’m pretty certain it can’t be all that hard to find groups whose porn consumption differs drastically. That should be enough to get you started.

  28. 28
    cry4turtles

    I don’t know where this woman got her information on Gypsy moths, but in the Allegheny National Forest, they are alive and well, stripping trees and making it look like December in August!

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