What a difference half a century makes. Fifty years ago, porn was scarce and stag films were illegal; men had to take what they could get, and what was available was seriously limited. Assuming you could even find a copy of a stag film, you never got to enjoy it in private. Tom, a 54-year-old transit worker from New York, recalls his first illicit screening in a crowded, locked room in the early sixties. "We're all worked up," he says, "and all of a sudden, a woman comes on who looks like Ethel Mertz." Still, for guys like Tom, the experience was a thrill.

A vivid illustration of this less-is-more paradox and its inverted power over male fantasy can be seen at "Stags, Smokers and Blue Movies: The Origins of American Pornographic Film," an exhibit at the Museum of Sex, in New York. Here you'll find a nostalgic look at what stroke material was once made of. Check out 10 minutes of Dr. Longpeter, a sad short from the late forties with a homely cast and the technical quality of Grandpa's Super-8 home movies. Or imagine, now that you've been desensitized by ExploitedTeens.com, how thrilling it must have been to come across a PG-13 peek at Marilyn Monroe in the first issue of Playboy in 1953. Schwing! Just getting your slippery mitts on a copy must have felt like an act of espionage. Go back a few decades earlier and guys actually looked forward to getting their junk mail, Slade says: "People used to get turned on by drawings of women in corsets in the Sears, Roebuck catalogs."

Today, of course, the situation is very different. We've created a meat-beating bull market that caters to the most outlandish of fetishes, and oddly enough, it's left us limp in front of our computers, with our pants around our ankles, in a state of option paralysis. Shaved coeds? Bareback bowlers? Oh, my. The sad truth is, access to anything you want turns out to be anything but arousing.

We should have known. Anyone with a satellite dish or premium cable is well aware of the numbing horror of 500 channels and nothing on. It's a scientifically demonstrated fact that too much choice defeats us. Information overload doesn't just compromise our ability to get wood, it threatens to curtail our enjoyment of iPods, satellite radio, video games, and potato-chip flavors. Today, the simple act of selection seems impossibly stressful—and we wind up feeling lost, like a lone shopper in that dizzying, mural-size Andreas Gursky photograph of an enormous supermarket.

And it's sure to get worse. Varieties, categories, and formats will certainly proliferate and push the bliss of spontaneous arousal even further away; forthcoming technologies like IPTV will only hasten our ability to sit one click away from total boredom. Fortunately, there's an exciting antidote to this overload of choices: Turn off your computer and let your mind wander (presuming you still have one).