The Funnel of Arousal
In last month's article, I discussed the differences in the male and female brain and how each is impacted differently by pornography. But to fully understand the dramatic impact pornography can have on men and even women, you must first understand the Funnel of Sexual Arousal and the Narrowing Process.
The Funnel of Sexual Arousal
The mindbody is persistent in its mission to seek to link information, experiences, and knowledge together, to achieve a "peak experience." Sexual climax is one of the most intense "peak" experiences the mindbody can experience. And climax cannot take place without what is called the "narrowing process."
Our mindbody is like a narrow landing strip--only one plane can set down at a time. For example, if you are in conversation with someone, and the T.V. is blaring in the background and children are screaming and playing outside, in order to clearly make out what the children are up to you must "let go" of the conversation first. Of course, if you do so, then the conversation becomes background.
Yes, there are those that can pull the "stunt" of performing multiple tasks, but the natural tendency of the mind is to focus on only one thing at a time. In fact, the mindbody craves a singular focus. Why? Because it is by way of a singular focus that it has the greatest access to all its own learning resources.
The mindbody assumes that its number one responsibility is to learn. It is there to acquire new experiences, learn from them, then turn them into habit so it can go on and focus on new tasks, habituate them-and the cycle continues. How does the mindbody access its highest ability to carry out this function? By a single focus-one plane at a time on the landing strip. The mindbody is a master of focus.
Sexual climax requires a "one plane on the landing strip" type focus in order to take place. As with any sexual activity, this focus by a man or woman as they move toward climax is legitimate and desirable in the appropriate setting. The following discussion of the "funnel of Sexual Arousal" and the "narrowing process" provides an explanation of sexual functionality without any implied moral commentary.
Narrowing Down the Funnel into the Tunnel of Sexual Climax
If sexual climax is one of the most intense, single-focus, peak experiences that the human mindbody can experience, but it can only take place through a "narrow focus," how does the mindbody do this? In order to understand this process, consider the illustration below:
At the top of the funnel, we are in control of our thoughts, perspectives, beliefs, morals, etc. and keeping them in check in the "widest sense." Keep in mind that women more naturally think at the top of the funnel much of the time. While on the other hand, men can narrow down to the bottom of the funnel very quickly and stay there for longer periods of time.
When a person "lets go" and moves from the top of the funnel, narrowing toward climax, everything at the "big picture" level of thought starts to fade away as the mindbody begins to narrowly focus on the attainment of a powerful peak experience. Our wide perspective and full mental faculties are not accessed again until after orgasm, when we emerge from the tunnel at the base of the funnel. This narrowing process is where the powerful differences between the male and female brain structure really manifest themselves.
The Male Brain in the Funnel
When a man or teenage boy uses pornography as the process to arrive at the peak experience of climax, the results are usually mind-boggling.
Remember, because of testosterone and the structure of the male brain, a man or boy can focus intensely on a very narrow subject for long periods of time. He also can block out all other thoughts and distractions.
Men typically do not think in terms of the big picture, but rather on the specific issues at hand. They tend to be more goal-oriented and can focus intensely on getting to the finish line, completing the project, winning the trophy, while blocking out all other thoughts not related to the end goal. This is not to suggest that a man cannot see things from a wide perspective. If he makes an effort to do so, he can see the big picture. But, given a specific task, goal, or purpose, he tends to narrow very rapidly and utilize a specific area of the brain on one hemisphere or the other.
What do you think happens when a man begins to focus on pornographic images with the intention or goal to achieve the peak experience of climax? The male mindbody races down the funnel and narrows so quickly that it is scarcely believable!
After climax and exiting the narrow opening at the base of the funnel, the male mindbody returns quickly to the wide part of the funnel.
With their senses restored, men often ask themselves after a porn-viewing session, "How could have I forgotten my wife and children, my religion, my convictions?"
How can a man, staring at pornography, with all of his focus on attaining the culminating peak-experience of climax, possibly be thinking about his wife and children at the same time? He can't. Having descended into the narrow base of the funnel, he surrenders his ability to see the "big picture" and what ought to be most important to him.
As a man heads into the tunnel and "narrows" his mental consciousness, chemical and hormonal responses are triggered in the brain and body that would not be triggered if he stayed at the top of the funnel. When a man viewing pornography begins his descent into the tunnel that leads to climax, this narrowing leads to "switches" that are not accessible at the wide perspective level of thinking. Remember, the mindbody can only experience sexual climax on a "narrow landing strip." Once he heads down the funnel to where the switches of arousal and climax focus are tripped, there is little hope of him being able to turn back.
[In a similar way, we counsel teenagers not to start down the funnel of sexual arousal in the first place, because they will reach a point where their bodies take over and rational thought is lost-along with their virtue.]
Comments from Male Porn Addicts About the Funnel
In gathering research for my book, I have conducted interviews both formal and casual with many men who have been or are addicted to Internet pornography. As soon as I show them the funnel illustration, it's like a light going on. The standard comment is, "That's exactly the way it is!"
Without exception, these men talk about how rapidly their focus and perspective narrows with Internet pornography. But the amazing and frightening thing is, the narrowing process usually began before they actually turned on their computer!
John, a man with a typical Internet porn addiction problem, said, "I would be going through a normal day and then suddenly I would get this urge to look at porn. Once the urge hit me, it was like everything around me became unimportant. All I could think about was getting to a computer. It was like I was being pulled by some powerful force. I would cancel meetings, or make up excuses, do anything necessary to get to the computer."
"Once there, I blocked out everything else. I would spend hours looking at porn on the Internet. It was like I was in a cave and the rest of the world didn't exist. These sessions always ended with masturbation, after which it was like I was suddenly coming out of a cave and seeing the world again. I remember being shocked when I would look at my watch and realize how long I was out of commission. It was almost like I didn't know where I'd been-like waking up from a dream or something."
With virtually everyone I spoke, it was the same story. They described being pulled or pushed down the funnel-almost as if its sides were greased and once they had begun their downward plunge, pulling up was nigh to impossible.
They all talked about being trapped in the narrow tunnel, glued to the images, riveted by desire, completely consumed, out of control.
They referred to everything around them as being blocked out, blurred or of little significance. And in every case they described the sensation of emerging from the narrow tunnel after masturbation and suddenly coming to their senses, stepping out of the dark, once more being aware of everything around them.
The desire to experience a sexual encounter and climax is triggered in the male very quickly because the brain narrows very quickly. The sexual stimulation of pornography floods directly into the male brain stem where higher reasoning is eliminated and automatic response or animal instinct takes over.
In Brain Sex, The Real Difference Between Men and Women, Anne Moir and David Jessel state the following:
Male lust is blind. High testosterone acting on the male brain increases the narrow focus and "single-minded" approach to the "object" of his desires. After orgasm, testosterone levels subside and the male brain starts to receive a wider input of information without the "narrowing" effect of larger amounts of testosterone present during arousal.
__ An Interesting Side Note__
It isn't only pornography that pulls men into such a narrowing process. Since the beginning of time men and boys have enmeshed themselves in dangerous, foolish, careless and crazy things in the "narrow tunnel" at the base of the funnel. But instead of the peak experience being sexual climax, it is something else such as the thrill of danger, the heat of competition, the enticement of mischief.
How many times after pulling some really dumb or dangerous prank has a boy or man been asked, "What on earth were you thinking?" And the response has usually come, "I don't know," or "I just had the sudden urge to do it."
And you know what? When you ask, "What on earth were you thinking," you can already assume that they "weren't thinking at all," but were acting on instinct in the narrow passageway at the bottom of the funnel, in hot pursuit of a peak experience. With a narrow "male" focus on a single end goal, the wide-perspective and logical-reasoning mechanisms were completely blocked out.
Dedicate significant time and attention to studying and understanding the Funnel. It is the key to understanding the male porn addiction process. When women understand the narrowing process they usually begin to understand for the very first time, how their husband, son, brother, boyfriend, etc., can get so caught up in pornography and abandon values and loved ones. The funnel is also extremely valuable in helping pornography addicts finally understand "why" they lose all perspective and reason in the addictive process.
The Female Brain and the Funnel
How does the female brain operate in the funnel of sexual arousal? With every woman I spoke to about this issue, including those who were presently involved with Internet porn and cybersex chat rooms, the response was universal: Yes, a woman does slip and slide down the funnel, but with some very important differences:
- None of the women indicated that they had ever been pulled uncontrollably down the funnel with no way to stop. Each of them used one word to describe their slippery descent into the funnel: "choice." They each said that narrowing toward climax was a conscious choice rather than an uncontrollable compulsion. They only descended down the funnel when they wanted to and at their own pace.
- They all agreed that they had never narrowed to the point where everything else was completely blocked out. None of them had experienced suddenly emerging from the narrow tunnel after orgasm and exclaiming, "What just happened? Where was I?"
- All of the women maintained that climax was very enjoyable, yet it was not their singular focus and be-all/end-all goal. In fact, they contended that if the other important elements of intimacy were experienced, and climax was not reached in a given situation, they could be just as satisfied with the experience. (With all of the men I interviewed, the attitude was entirely opposite-the funnel experience could not be complete without climax. Climax was the total focus.)
- None of the women were interested in Internet porn images all by themselves, as the way to narrow down the funnel to climax. Each insisted that there had to be more to it than that.
Each of these areas of response from women makes total sense when measured according to the structure of the female brain. The female brain is not organized so as to keep sex and the process leading up to climax in a separate, narrow mental compartment like the male brain does.
A woman is exerting both sides of her brain when she starts into the funnel. She connects the process with a wider variety of emotional information against a background where relationships, communication, and emotional fulfillment are more important than the single, narrow event of climax.
For Women, the Right Setting Is Paramount
Because she is so much more aware of her emotions, thoughts and feelings at a much wider perspective, it takes the right setting and a longer period of time for a woman to allow herself to get to the place in the funnel where she begins "throwing the switches" leading to climax. This of course is completely contrary to the classic porn flick scenario, in which the woman plays the willing victim, the ravenous nymphomaniac, the office hussy.
Porn also shows women writhing in pleasure, achieving orgasm at the drop of a hat and under all circumstances. These responses are obviously staged. Few if any women could become aroused so easily, especially in such situations. Remember, porn seeks to create fantasy women who respond sexually the same way a man might-or in the way a man wishes the woman to respond.
In the female brain, the centers of logic, reason, arousal and emotion are well connected. A woman thus will not typically narrow down the funnel unless she has considered the big picture and deems the journey to be in line with her overall values, reasoning and goals.
And even when she does slide down the funnel, a woman's narrowing is not nearly that of a man's. Again, remember, even when focusing on a single issue, such as intimacy and climax, a woman is still exerting her entire brain and on a wider scale when compared to the male. A woman's reasoning is still intact at some level, which is why all the women I interviewed used the word "choice." And this would explain why they did not suddenly "regain their reasoning when coming out of the tunnel"-basic reasoning was connected to the process all the time.
In The First Sex, Helen Fisher says the following:
Women are more likely than men to be distracted during coitus. If a woman hears a baby cry, recalls something that happened at the office, or wonders if she turned off the stove, her concentration can be interrupted. She has to reset her focus and rebuild her sexual excitement. Men are better able to keep their attention riveted on sex . . . Women tend to assimilate many disparate thoughts at once-web thinking. Web thinking may disrupt their concentration as they make love.
The women I interviewed suggested that the funnel of intimacy be rendered slightly differently for women. They offered the following adjustments:
The female funnel should be wider at the top, indicating that women start out using more brain space and taking in a wider range of information, emotions, etc.
The female funnel should narrow more gradually, with "exits" or "rest stops" along the way, to suggest that women more slowly narrow toward climax and can halt the process at will. Further more, they can be completely satisfied if the process is put on hold, if other important elements are present.
The tunnel at the base of the funnel should be wider than the male tunnel, indicating that, even in its narrowed state, the female brain still maintains a wider perspective and is continuing to consider a wide range
It is obvious that men and women do not approach or experience sexual arousal in the same way. Through a more habitual, mindbody process, a man uses Internet porn as the process to achieve sexual climax. And each subsequent time he expresses that intention, his mindbody is trained to seek out the network of cellular memories that activate the process and he begins the slippery slide down the funnel very quickly.
When a woman expresses an intention for a sexual experience, her mindbody requires much more than some pornographic images. She must receive a much wider range of stimulus in order to be fulfilled, thus her mindbody will seek for the network of cellular memories best equipped to make her intention a reality. This network generally will be much larger and more complex than in the male, and so her journey down the funnel is necessarily wider, slower, and much more of a "consciously directed" process than in the male.
Given what I have learned about the female brain and based on numerous interviews and discussions, I would have to agree that the female funnel of intimacy should be rendered differently than that of the male. However, there is a disturbing trend with Internet porn and cybersex chat rooms that indicates a growing number of women may be approaching the funnel more like men do-traveling down the funnel more quickly and more narrowly! Women are becoming addicted to Internet cybersex chat rooms and relationships as surely as men are addicted to Internet porn images.
Now that we have thoroughly explored the differences between the male vs. female funnels of sexual arousal, next month's article will take a look at how Internet pornographers entice and ensnare the male and female markets differently.
Mark B. Kastleman is the author of the revolutionary new book titled The Drug of the New Millennium. Many leading scientists, psychologists, therapists and religious leaders consider this book to be one of the most important works ever written on this subject, and a must-read for parents, spouses, clergy and counselors.