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Science-backed reasons porn is harmful

There’s a lot of debate on whether porn can actually be harmful, here’s what the science has to say.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

The arguments against the effects of porn have always been shot down because they were purely based on religious or moral grounds.

In other words, porn is bad = you are bad if you view porn.

Those who support porn believe it’s your right to watch or do whatever you want, regardless of the societal consequences.

But that was when porn was hard to find. The most anyone watched then was a couple times a year. Now, millions of hours of internet porn is available on a 24/7 cycle right to your mobile device.

You don’t have to be a religious moralist or a porn activist to admit that that amount of access can be dangerous for anyone.

With its prevalence and widespread acceptance, more studies are available that offer a similar perspective: porn use isn’t as harmless as we once thought.

When does viewing porn become a problem?

Porn is a lot like alcohol.

It’s widely socially acceptable. Its addictiveness is controversial. And whether or not it has harmful effects, it’s here to stay. Unlike alcohol, however, porn is widely something people enjoy alone.

In 2008, it was reported that 87% of college-aged men were viewing pornography weekly (50%), daily or every other day (20%). Only 31% of college-aged women were reported to be viewing porn.1 In 2020, 91% of men and 60.2% of women were said to be viewing porn regularly.2

Most people can use porn without serious problems to their psychological well-being and sexual health. But if you have any of the following issues, you’re dancing in addiction territory:

  • Feeling like you can’t control your porn use
  • Experiencing brain fog or you don’t feel like yourself in your daily life
  • You need more and more extreme videos to feel satisfied
  • You watch porn compulsively, neglecting other responsibilities

Read my blog on the 6 signs your definitely addicted to porn for more details.

Just like alcohol, people are noticing the negative effects in their lives of porn consumption and are going sober.

In this article, I detail some of the harmful effects of pornography and what you can do to counteract them.

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Porn makes it harder to reach orgasm

Most information on sexual dysfunction and porn studies the effects on male libido and sexual performance. Due to many reasons like women not watching porn as often as men, the effects of porn on women aren’t extensively documented.

It’s far more obvious to observe if a man cannot achieve an erection vs. measuring low sexual desire in both men and women.

What is true for everyone, however, is that porn desensitizes you to sexual stimuli in real life. This means it decreases your ability to find sexual satisfaction with your partner. Some men even report the loss of the ability to have an orgasm during masturbation coupled with erectile dysfunction.3

Masturbation is as natural as a sunny day. However, when you use porn to skip the natural arousal process, you train your sexual impulses for instant gratification. Try masturbation without porn, or abstain from both altogether. It’ll reverse the desensitizing effects of porn and retrain your ability to be aroused more easily.

Porn drains the sexual intimacy from your relationships

Porn use is typical of single men as a way to obtain easy sexual gratification. In the wild, this lowers your desire for a sex life, making it more difficult to go out and meet women you might hit it off with.

Within a relationship, you stop being present with each other. Solo porn use cuts out the parts of sex that include arousal and intimacy, making it more transactional. After staring at a woman that has been surgically altered and made up for the screen for hours, it’s easy to develop unrealistic expectations of your partner.

Also, although porn scenes take days to film and are heavily edited, they give you the impression that everything went smoothly and was enjoyed by all within an hour. This is just not the reality of sex with a human. Don’t get me wrong, sex is enjoyable, but at some point, you’ll roll onto someone’s hair or put a knee where it shouldn’t be.

Sex in a relationship can bring you closer together and build a strong bond. Transactional sex, however can’t give you this satisfaction. The effects of porn on romantic relationships increase the risk of divorce.4 The increase in porn use within a relationship is correlated with the ending of relationships. It doesn’t mean using porn causes them to end, but you might be seeking satisfaction from false scenarios rather than your significant other.

If real women aren’t doing it for you, but you can’t quit porn, you aren’t alone. One of the members of The Freedom Specialists went through this because he was addicted to porn. But he broke free and founded The Freedom Specialists to help guys break free and stop wasting their essence on digital women who don’t even know they exist. Check out what they can do for you here—The Freedom Specialists

Those with mental health issues are at a higher risk for addiction

Compulsive use of internet pornography is strongly associated with poor mental health among college-age young people.5

Coming off of a pandemic, anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. These mental states make you more susceptible to addiction as you search for ways to cope and gain some control in your life. Porn makes this worse because it creates an unhealthy relationship with stress. You might know this as an addiction loop. You seek to solve the problem, with the problem and spin in an endless, unproductive cycle.

The average age most people are exposed to porn for the first time is around 14. We then become lifelong porn users, whether casual or excessive. The problem with this is your emotions aren’t fully developed as a teenager. So you never learn what your body should feel like without excessive sexual stimuli. This increases the risk that you’ll suffer the negative effects of porn.

Without learning to cope in a healthy way with rejection, self-confidence issues, and tough emotions, you are more vulnerable in general to low self-worth and more illicit addictions.

Porn is the perfect storm for addiction

There’s debate over whether porn is an addiction or a compulsion. But the studies are clear, a biological addiction, like eating and sex, is still an addiction.1 Internet porn is the perfect candidate for addiction because it has the trifecta needed to really do damage: Accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.

I’m an advocate for sobriety because I know firsthand how debilitating addiction can be. Addiction makes you care less about your basic needs for survival.

I had to learn through key moments in my life to control my impulses and emotions and not let them control men. I had to face uncomfortable moments and not take the easy way out.

For example:

  • After suffering my only loss during my boxing career, I had to face it, accept it and learn from it rather than make excuses as to why I was robbed somehow.
  • For my alcohol addiction, it took me seeing myself for what I was, lonely, broke, and broken, then realizing I needed a change and actively making that change.
  • When I discovered I no longer wanted to follow an academic track, I had to fight the urge to blow off my classes and finish my degree.

Struggling with any addiction saps your self-confidence and makes you lose trust and integrity with yourself. Check out my course Dick Detox: The ultimate guide to quitting porn, if you’re looking for actionable, step-by-step advice.

Porn shrinks your brain

Addiction damages the areas of your brain that control impulse and judgment—effects usually seen in traumatic brain injury and brain tumors.1

It’s long since been identified that the use of illicit drugs like cocaine and meth hijack your neurotransmitters and decrease the volume of your brain. While it used to be believed this was limited to external substances, scientists now know that decreased brain size is actually a side effect of all addiction.

Natural urges like sex and food behave similarly to drugs when overstimulated. The high-frequency and high-stimuli effects of the natural reward send your neurotransmitters into hyperdrive. Over time, you become less able to control your urges and ability to stop watching porn even when you want to.

Just like those addicted to illicit drugs, you stop taking care of yourself. You simply stop caring about anything that isn’t directly related to that dopamine response.

Wrapping up: Going porn-sober

There’s a new movement in the alcohol industry called “sober curious”. Briefly, it’s people fighting against the constant propaganda that being drunk is the only way to have a good time. The rising difficulty of connecting with others is leading to a similar movement in porn use. If you decide to go porn-sober, remember why you started:

  • Porn use can result in sexual dysfunction
  • Porn hurts your romantic relationships
  • Compulsive porn use creates a negative loop with stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Porn is a real addiction
  • Porn addiction has the same effects on your frontal lobe as a brain injury

Get 1-on-1 customized help for your porn addiction today

Freedom is possible, and sooner than you think…

Being addicted to porn is more than just “being addicted to porn.”

You’re addicted to the ritual, the excitement, and even the letdown afterward. But then you realize that you hate how it makes you feel, so you try to quit…except you can’t.

At least not for long. Every guy who’s ever tried to quit porn knows that it’s damn near impossible before you give in. 

Well, The Freedom Specialists are here to help. They have a revolutionary program that not only digs deep into triggers but trains you in

  • Breathwork
  • Visualization
  • Nervous system reprogramming
  • Rewriting your identity
  • Mindset shifts

And much more to help you finally get the porn monkey off your back. If you’re finally ready to free yourself from the chains of pornography addiction, check out this program.

Escape porn addiction now

References

  1. Hilton, Donald L, and Clark Watts. “Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective.” Surgical neurology international vol. 2 19. 21 Feb. 2011, doi:10.4103/2152-7806.76977 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/ (accessed February 17, 2022)  2 3

  2. Solano, I., Eaton, N. R., & O'Leary, K. D. (2020). Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. Journal of sex research, 57(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488 (accessed February 17, 2022) 

  3. Park, B. Y., Wilson, G., Berger, J., Christman, M., Reina, B., Bishop, F., Klam, W. P., & Doan, A. P. _NCBI: Us National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. _Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 17. 2016. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6030017 (accessed February 14, 2022) 

  4. Vedantam, Shankar.NPR.org: Researchers Explore Pornography’s effect on long-term relationships Oct. 9, 2017 (accessed February 17, 2022) 

  5. Camilleri, C., Perry, J. T., & Sammut, S. (2021). Compulsive Internet Pornography Use and Mental Health: A Cross-Sectional Study in a Sample of University Students in the United States. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 613244. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.613244 (accessed February 17, 2022) 

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.