The Reward FoundationThe Reward Foundation is a pioneering educational charity that looks at the science behind sex and love relationships. The brain’s ‘reward’ system evolved to drive us to natural rewards such as food, bonding and sex to promote our survival.

Today, internet technology has produced ‘supernormal’ versions of those natural rewards in the form of ultra-processed foods, social media and internet pornography. They target and overstimulate our brain’s motivational system at the reward centre. Easy access to internet pornography through mobile technology has increased the risks of harm from overstimulation. Our brains have not evolved to cope with such hyper-arousal. Society is experiencing an explosion of behavioural disorders and addictions as a result.

At the Reward Foundation we focus in particular on internet pornography. Because  according to Dutch neuroscientists, of all internet applications, pornography has the most potential to become addictive. While we’d like to focus on healthy love relationships, it is not possible to do so without discussing the role of pornography today. We look at its impact on mental and physical health, relationships, attainment and criminality. We aim to make the supporting research accessible to non-scientists so that everyone can make informed choices about the use of internet pornography.

Mental Health

A bit of exposure to pornography may be harmless. However bingeing and escalation in the amount of time watching and types of porn viewed can lead to unanticipated problems in social, occupational, and health activities for many. It can lead to time in prison, suicidal ideation and a variety of health problems. We thought you might be interested learning about the life experience of those who have reported incredible benefits from quitting porn having suffered negative consequences from years of heavy use. Our work is based on academic research and these real life cases. We offer guidance on prevention of harm and building resilience to stress and addiction.

We are registered as Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation SC044948, founded on 23 June 2014.

Charitable purposes
  • To advance education by furthering public understanding of the reward circuitry of the brain and how it interacts with the environment, and
  • To improve health by furthering public understanding of building resilience to stress.

Full details of The Reward Foundation are registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and are available on the OSCR website.  Our annual return, also known as our Annual Report, is also available from OSCR on that page.

Largest Unregulated Social Experiment

Never before in history has so much hyper-stimulating sexual material been so freely available as now. It is the largest, unregulated social experiment in the history of humankind. In the past hardcore pornography was hard to access. It mainly came from licensed adult shops that barred entry to anyone under 18. Today, most pornography is accessed for free via smartphones and tablets. Effective age verification for visitors is missing. Overuse is producing a wide range of mental and physical health issues such as social anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction and addiction to name a few. This is happening across all age groups.

Research shows that bingeing on internet pornography can reduce interest in, and satisfaction from, real life sexual relationships. Increasing numbers of young to middle-aged men are unable to perform sexually with their partners. Young people are becoming more aggressive and violent in their sexual behaviour too.

Our aim is to help adults and professionals access the evidence they need to feel confident enough to take appropriate action to help their patients, clients and own children. Temporarily eliminating masturbation, or reducing one's frequency, is all about recovering from an addiction and porn-induced sexual problems - nothing else. The Reward Foundation does not advocate abstinence as a permanent lifestyle.

Reward Foundation Monitors Research

The Reward Foundation monitors new research on a daily basis and incorporates developments into our materials. We also produce our own research, in particular reviews of the latest research so that others can stay up-to-date with new developments.

There are now six studies that demonstrate a causal link between porn use and harms arising from that use.

At The Reward Foundation we report stories from thousands of men and women who have developed problematic use of internet pornography. This informal research is valuable in taking account of current trends which can take a longer while to be reflected in the formal academic research. Many have experimented with quitting porn and have experienced a variety of mental and physical benefits as a result. See this young man’s story.

Free Lesson Plans for Schools

We have just launched a series of FREE lesson plans for teachers that will deal with "Introduction to Sexting"; "Sexting and the Adolescent Brain"; "Sexting, the Law and You"; "Pornography on Trial"; "Love, Sex & Pornography"; "Pornography and Mental Health", and "The Great Porn Experiment" . They comprise a variety of enriching, fun and interactive exercises and resources that provide a safe space for pupils to discuss these all important issues. There is no blame or shame, just the facts, so people can make informed choices.

The current lessons are suitable too for faith-based schools. No pornography is shown. Any language that might be contrary to religious doctrine can be modified.

Child Protection

We campaign to reduce children's easy access to internet pornography. Dozens of research papers indicate that it is damaging to children at their vulnerable stage of brain development. There has been a dramatic rise in child-on-child sexual abuse in the past 8 years and in porn-related sexual injuries according to healthcare professionals who have attended our workshops and possibly even deaths. It is linked to domestic violence, perpetrated primarily by men against women.

We are in favour of the UK government's initiatives to enforce effective age verification for commercial porn sites and social media sites so that children cannot stumble across it so easily. It will not replace the need for education about risks. And who benefits if we do nothing? The multi-billion dollar porn industry. The UK government plans to deal with the porn available through social media in the proposed White Paper On Online Harms. It is not likely to be law until 2025 at the earliest.

'Industrial Strength" Internet Porn

Bingeing on porn can have a negative effect on sexual health, mental state, behaviour, relationships, attainment, productivity and criminality. For as long as a user continues to binge, the brain changes become more entrenched and harder to reverse. Occasional use is unlikely to cause lasting harm. Impairing functional brain changes have been recorded with as little as 3 hours use of pornography per week.

Our brains have not adapted to cope with so much hyper-stimulation. Children are particularly vulnerable to the endless supply of free, streaming hardcore internet pornography. This is due to its powerful impact on their sensitive brains at a key stage of psychosexual development and learning.

Most internet pornography today does not model intimacy and trust, but rather unsafe sex, coercion and violence, particularly towards women and ethnic minorities. Children are programming their brains to need constant novelty and high levels of contrived arousal that real life partners cannot match. It trains them too to be voyeurs.

At the same many are feeling sexually inadequate and are failing to learn the interpersonal skills they need to develop healthy, intimate relationships for the long term. This is leading to loneliness, social anxiety and depression in increasing numbers.

Parent's Guide to Internet Pornography

The majority of young people's first time watching pornography was accidental, with over 60% of children 11-13 who had seen pornography saying their viewing of pornography is unintentional according to recent research. Children described feeling “grossed out” and “confused”. This particularly applied when they saw pornography under the age of 10.

This might be a surprise for many parents. If you want to learn more, see our Wicked Parents' Guide to Internet Pornography blog above. It aims to help equip parents and caregivers for those challenging conversations with your children and to coordinate support with schools if required. Kent police warn that parents may be prosecuted for their children's 'sexting' if they are responsible for the phone contract. See our page about sexting and the law in Scotland And for sexting in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Porn Addiction

Pornography companies have been at the forefront of internet development and design. Constant overstimulation by internet pornography causes the brain to produce powerful cravings for more. These cravings influence a porn user's thoughts and behaviour over time. For increasing numbers of users this can lead to compulsive sexual behaviour disorder. This diagnosis recently produced by the eleventh revision of the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) includes compulsive porn and masturbation use. Out of control porn and masturbation can also be classified as an addictive disorder otherwise unspecified using the ICD-11.

According to the latest research, more than 80% of people seeking medical help for compulsive sexual behaviour report they have a porn-related problem.

Our Philosophy

Pornography today is 'industrial strength' in terms of quantity available and levels of stimulation, compared to pornography of even 10 or 15 years ago. Its use is a personal choice, we are not out to ban legal pornography for adults, but children have to be protected. Excessive masturbation stimulated by pornography can lead to mental and physical health issues for some. We want to help users be in a position to make an ‘informed’ choice based on the best evidence from the research currently available and signpost recovery options, if required. Temporarily eliminating masturbation, or reducing frequency, is all about recovering from an addiction, sexual conditioning to hard core material and porn-induced sexual problems - nothing else. The Reward Foundation does not advocate abstinence as a permanent lifestyle.

The Reward Foundation works in association with:

Reward Foundation

Reward Foundation