The Effects of Internet Porn on Male Sexual Performance

Argument

This is a guest post by Larry O’Connor, a Marriage and Family Therapist with offices in San Fransisco and Palo Alto.

Many men view internet porn sites, but for some there are risks: becoming habituated, seeking more explicit material, diminishing their ability to connect with partners, achieve arousal, and maintain an erection.

Whether or not an addiction, the habitual viewing of porn is a process of learning how to respond to a specific stimulus which, in turn, progressively increases repetition. This is because the brain, having plasticity, is designed to learn by responding to pleasurable or rewarding experiences, which results in creating new, and preferential neural pathways, so these experiences are quicker and easier to retrieve in the future.

Internet porn is typically viewed to enhance masturbation and relieve sexual urges, but also thought to increase sexuality. Both are true to a degree. For men, prolonged viewing stimulates higher levels of testosterone, which increases sexual desire. Due to testosterone’s slow rate of metabolism, sexual awareness remains heightened longer, so arousal is more quickly and frequently triggered. However, because these triggers release dopamine, in time a man can become desensitized to what he found originally arousing. He then must seek out more explicit material to achieve a similar dopamine reward like he initially experienced. But as it becomes more difficult to find an adequate stimulus, the pursuit of more explicit, rewarding material, distracts him masturbating without viewing porn, or even experiencing sexual pleasure with a partner.

By becoming increasingly hyper-responsive to porn a man becomes less responsive to the physical pleasure of his partner. This is due in part to the inability to induce the immediate dopamine surges that he can with porn, weakening the signal to his penis to achieve an adequate erection. Compared with porn, sex with his partner can lack novelty, and “pure pleasure seeking,” by having to reciprocate, or be faced with his partner’s sexual limitations. Many normal, healthy, sexually-experienced men express, though being extremely attracted to their partners, have found they can’t get adequately aroused. Few, if any, report any history of Erectile Dysfunction, hormone deficiencies, or alcohol abuse. Yet the majority report that when they go back on line, their ability to be aroused magically returns. Their sexual arousal has, understandably, become conditioned by porn. Men can initially find this demoralizing and confusing, especially when trying to explain this to their partner, who doesn’t understand the complexity of his porn use, responds in ways that induce shame, or as a negative reflection of their attractiveness. Many women often react to their partner’s use of porn like an infidelity, especially if his use was secretive, or denied prior to disclosure. While this understandably elicits feelings of mistrust or betrayal, if the reaction to these feelings take precedence, it can eclipse his struggle with porn, when he also needs support, safety, and understanding facing it. Alternatively, he too may focus on his betrayal, or go into damage control to avoid his struggle with porn, and continue with it in isolation until it causes problems again.

If you’re wondering whether your internet porn use is habitual or addictive, try masturbating without using it. If you can—without hassle, deliberation, or annoyance, you’re probably not “addicted.” But if you can’t, because your deliberation is overtaken by annoyance, so you wind up Googling your favorite arousal phrases, then you have something to consider.

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Have a comment or question for Larry?  Feel free to leave one below.

About Brian

Brian overcame a long-standing addiction to Internet porn and fully recovered from serious porn-induced erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety. For more about Brian, see my story.

Comments

  1. The porn user needs support, safety, and understanding…???? Ok, that’s so nice to say, but what about the support, safety, and understanding regarding the wife? Remember the wife who knew nothing about this, who kept asking what’s wrong, who kept thinking it was something she was doing wrong, or the way she looked, or God forbid, because she was aging….the wife who was continually lied to and deceived while she didn’t know how the hell to keep her dying marriage alive. The wife who sat up in her bedroom night after night alone, in her sexy nightgown waiting for her man to come upstairs. While he was up in the middle of the night jerking off to porn. I’m offended about offering my husband safety….he threw me under the bus quite willingly. Nobody held a gun to this mans head and forced him to click the free porn button. Over and over again, he did just that. An intentional act daily, maybe even several times daily. All the time the wife kept asking him IF he was doing anything to jeopardize their marriage. The answer….always NO, and I swear on the children’s life. This man needs safety and support???? Hell, no, it’s me that needs those things. He’s a liar through and through and needs a team of psychiatrists ……I have no sympathy for my husband. For 24 years I loved him and gave everything. And this was my gift from him….porn, lies, betrayal.

  2. I think a more accurate challenge would be to try and masturbate without porn AND without fantasizing about porn or anything other than normal sex with your partner. That is a more accurate test. Just because the screen is of doesn’t mean the imagination and fantasy induced by porn is off.

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