Over the past 15 years, internet pornography has taken screens all over the world by storm. To give you an idea just how high the demand actually is, globally, pornography is a $97 billion dollar industry with the United States making up about $12 billion of that number. It’s estimated that the average viewer will have watched more than 500 pornographic videos on their cell phones in one year alone!
If you are a frequent viewer or even just someone who visits from time-to-time for some excitement or curiosity, you know just how easy it is to find what you’re looking for to fulfill your fantasy. Within seconds you can pull up a sex video of any kind, down to the setting/scenario of the encounter, the performers’ breast size, hair color, age, penis size, race and so much more. They make it easy! The porn industry knows what viewers want to see. The website hubs use algorithms to tailor to your specific search history and view preferences. Just like your Facebook and Instagram ads, porn sites will use technology to keep you engaged in what’s already enticing content. Sounds great, but just like with anything, too much of a good thing can turn into a problem.
Is porn addicting?
Whether or not porn is truly addicting is up for debate. It is true that, similar to drug addiction, consistent usage of pornographic stimulation will result in desensitization. The viewer will require more and more heightened levels of visual stimulation to achieve the same satisfaction. In this scenario, viewers will find themselves wandering into categories of content that they wouldn’t engage in in real life. They may even seek more explicit genres they had previously deemed distasteful or disturbing, but are now necessary to keep the gratification up to par.
Regular viewers of porn are at a greater risk of losing interest in sex with a real life partner. Similar to drug addiction, porn becomes less stimulating over time. Men who watch often will have an increasingly difficult time achieving pleasure without escaping “mild” content and venturing into “hard-core” content. Chemically speaking, sexual arousal is associated with a surge of dopamine (AKA “feel good” neurotransmitter) in a man’s brain. Erections are dependent on receiving this message to function properly. It’s proposed that chronic internet pornography use results in down-regulation of our brain’s response to normal rewards, resulting in difficulty getting/maintaining erection and/or delayed ejaculation due to the brain’s natural reward center response system being out of whack.
It’s controversial for adolescents and young adults.
As pornography has become increasingly available, it has been easier for children to access. Many adolescents have been exposed to pornographic sex as their first sexual exposure and unfortunately, they will only have this content burned into their brains to refer to for how sex should be. Internet porn is not meant to be educational – its purpose is for entertainment and fantasy fulfillment. For a young and impressionable male that has only had porn as his sexual example, engaging in real life sexual activity will be wildly disappointing, as porn most often portrays unrealistic expectations for both partners.
“Learning sex from porn is like learning how to drive a car by watching The Fast and the Furious – you will eventually crash” (Aaron Spitz, MD).
What young adults may not realize is the actors/actresses (AKA porn stars) in these videos are just that; they are paid professionals doing their jobs! They go through hair and makeup, plastic surgery and are sought out for their genetically gifted or purchased body parts. On top of that, male porn stars will use Trimix to have longer lasting erections – don’t let the marathon duration sex scene fool you! The positioning, moans, orgasms, etc. are all extremely unrealistic, posed, carefully planned and often video modified. This sets a standard in the minds of the guys who are watching with any regularity. It’s a recipe for disappointment and a skewed mindset. Men, especially young men, will compare the size of their bodies, muscles, and penis to those seen in porn. Many viewers will begin to feel inadequate with their equipment. Before the internet porn boom, only about 5 percent of men under 40 had an issue getting it up – now it’s a whopping 1 in 3. Some may argue that these numbers could be attributed to unhealthy lifestyles such as obesity, substance abuse and smoking (factors historically correlated with ED). The truth is, these unhealthy lifestyle risks have not changed over the past 20 years or even decreased. What does that information lead us to conclude? Porn is a major factor in the increase of erectile dysfunction in young men.
To make matters worse, desire for sex has plummeted. More and more guys are left high and dry – unable to reach climax and ejaculate. There has even been a dramatic spike in percentage of young, healthy guys who fall in this category over the past 15 years. Brain scan studies done on compulsive internet pornography users (average age 25) concluded results of diminished libido or erectile function, specifically in physical relationships with women. Other studies have correlated pornography use with difficulty orgasming, decreased enjoyment of sexual intimacy and sexual performance issues. To ice the cake, marriage/relationship satisfaction will unsurprisingly decline with men who view porn daily.
Porn can be thought of as a tool in spicing up a relationship, engaging in self pleasure or simply for entertainment purposes. However, overuse of pornography is detrimental to a man’s overall sexual health, whether it be ED or difficulty being intimate with a partner due to misconceptions portrayed by the pornography industry.
When to stop?
One study concluded that men deemed compulsive sexual behaviors watched 20+ hours a week versus “normal” guys who watched about 30 minutes a week. While that number will vary from person to person, if you fall into the higher end of weekly viewing and are experiencing any side effects discussed in this post, it’s safe to say you will want to step back and reevaluate your viewing time. Years of compulsive porn viewing can actually shrink parts of the brain that are important for romantic love AND keeping erections. If necessary, a sexual medicine specialist can assist with cutting back and feeling normal again. In combination with weaning off, PDE5s (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) can be great tools for confidence boosters to reconnect with your partner in the bedroom.
Spitz, Aaron, MD. “Sex, Lies, and Videotape: The Hard Facts about Pornography.” The Penis Book, 62-71. Click here