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Visual Pheromones by Dr. Donald L. Hilton, Jr MD

Western cultures are struggling with regard to fertility rates.  In the end, demography will tell the final tale of how each culture’s interpretation of gender roles succeeds in reproducing that culture.  If the fertility rate stays at or above 2.1 that particular DNA line will survive; if below, it will become extinct.  When a human culture reaches a fertility rate of 1.3 it is virtually impossible to recover, and that DNA line is destined to evaporate.  Germany, Japan, and much of western culture is near this number, and as one German government ministry official put it recently, if things didn’t change, they would be “turning the lights out.”[1] The demography of the dissolution of the traditional family and the crashing fertility rates in the developed Western world is far too complex to do justice in these few words.  We all know the commonly given sociological reasons: urbanization, birth control, abortion, de-incentivation of marriage and subsequent child-bearing and rearing, blurring of gender roles, etc.  That these are secondary factors is not in question, but any who write on this subject disclaim definitive causation.  According to them, it’s all educated speculation.

With that preface, I would like to go back to the primordial emotions; to look at the basic primary survival drives.  Distortions of sexuality, in my opinion, have been vastly underrated as a demographic factor of the decreasing fertility rate.  I think Tom Wolfe, author of The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff was onto something when he said, “The bigger pornography gets, the lower the birthrate becomes.”[2] He is not demographically naïve, with his PhD in American Studies from Yale, and as we have seen, liberalizing sexuality does not correlate with increasing fertility rates.

Is pornography, accelerated by the Internet, the only factor causing our males to check out of life and thereby yielding the dissolution of the traditional family and the crashing fertility rates?  No, but given that it plays upon a powerful biologic drive, it certainly is a major factor.  Interesting that proponents and defenders of pornography deny that it could have any negative effect at all, that it really doesn’t matter what we watch, it has no effect on us.  If this is true, the field of advertising is most overrated, and those who pay 3 million for a 30 second Super Bowl ad are being robbed.  Of course, this is not true—advertising has its effect and so does pornography. The Bergner study showed that pornography damages pair-bonding in humans,[3] and the Hald meta-analysis published earlier this year demonstrated a strong association with pornography viewing, both violent and non-violent, and attitudes of objectification and acceptance of violence against women.[4] This study, when considered in the context of the Carroll study showing that 9 out of 10 men and 1 in 3 women view pornography[5], has ominous social and demographic implications with regards to plausible impact.

Pornography does indeed have an effect—what I like to call a visual pheromone effect. The pheromone effect is captured by the example of the gypsy moth. In 1869 the gypsy moth was brought to America to attempt to jump-start a silk industry.  Rarely have good intentions gone so wrong, as the unforeseen appetite of the moth for deciduous trees such as oaks, maples, and elms has now devastated forests for 150 years.  Numerous strategies have been employed to destroy this pest.  Yet, measurable progress was made in the 1960’s when scientists noted that the gypsy moth male finds the female to mate with her by following her scent.  This scent, called a pheromone, is extremely attractive to the male.  In 1971, a paper was published in the journal Nature that described the use of pheromones—the very thing that initially attracts male gypsy moths to female—to prevent the gypsy moths from mating. The scientists mass-produced the pheromone and permeated the moth’s environment with it.  This unnaturally strong scent overpowered the normal females ability to attract the male, and the confused males were unable to find the females.

Note the title of the paper, “Insect population control by the use of sex pheromones to inhibit orientation between the sexes.”[6] Also pertinent is this summary from the 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.”[7] A follow-up paper in 1971 describes population control of the moths by “preventing male gypsy moths from finding mates.”[8]

The gypsy moth was the first insect to be controlled by the use of pheromones, which work by two methods.  One is called the confusion method.  An airplane scatters an environmentally insignificant number of very small plastic pellets embedded with the scent of the pheromone, and only a few of these pellets per acre are enough to 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. An Australian article describes the confusion method as follows, “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.”[9] The other method is called the trapping method, in which the male moths enter traps from which they cannot exit looking for the female, only to find a fatal substitute.

Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful 100 billion dollar per year brain drug that is changing peoples’ understanding of sexuality—and initial attraction of males to proximate females—even more rapidly through the cyber-acceleration of the Internet.  Because it damages pair-bonding in humans[10] and is associated with attitudes of objectification and acceptance of violence against women,[11] it is “preventing male[s]… from finding [long-lasting female] mates.”[12] It is “inhibiting orientation” and “disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere”[13] and Internet.

I believe when we as a culture quit trivializing the power of pornography we will begin to change our culture and focus. We will be less concerned about fertility rates solely for the preservation of humankind and more concerned about restoring value on the healthy, loving, and enduring relationships between men and women found in marriage for the purpose of ensuring the flourishing of humanity.

[1] The EU’s Baby Blues,” BBC, March 27, 2006.

[2] Talking With Tom Wolfe, Rolling Stones 40th Anniversary Interview, posted 5/2/07,

[3] Raymond M. Bergner, Ana J. Bridges, “The Significance of Heavy Pornography Involvement for Romantic Partners: Research and Clinical Implications,”  Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, Vol 28, 2002, 193-206.

[4] Hald GM, Malamuth NM, Yuen C. Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Non-experimental Studies. Aggression and Behavior,  2010 Jan-Feb;36(1):14-20.

[5] Carroll JS, Padilla-Walker, L, Nelson, LJ, Olson, CD, Barry, CM, & Madsen, SD. Generation XXX. Journal of Adolescent Research, 2008; 23(1): 6-30.

[6] L.K. Gaston, H. H. Shorey, and C. A. Saario, “Insect Population Control by the Use of Sex Pheromones to inhibit Orientation between the Sexes,” Nature 213, 1155, March 18, 1967.

[7] Ibid

[8] M. Beroza, E.F. Knipling, Gypsy Moth Control with the Sex Attractant Pheromone, Science 7 (177) no. 4043, 19-27.

[9] Anna Salleh, “Sex Pheromones Cut Pesticide Use,” ABC Science Online, October 16, 2000.

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] L.K. Gaston, H. H. Shorey, and C. A. Saario, “Insect Population Control by the Use of Sex Pheromones to inhibit Orientation between the Sexes,” Nature 213, 1155, March 18, 1967.

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