Pornography Can Ruin Your Sex Life

A couple years ago, I stumbled across some research and articles about pornography and the negative effects it could be having on men and their sex lives. I found it interesting, but never gave it too much thought after that. Then some time last year I stumbled across this video:

It caught my attention because not only had I struggled with sexual anxiety and had bouts of inability to perform in the past, but through my work, I had talked to a lot of men who struggled with the same issues, men often in their 20s and 30s, men who shouldn’t have been dealing with performance issues. Then after some research, I found a recent survey by Esquire that showed that 43% of men reported difficulty getting or maintaining an erection at least some of the time, with 24% reporting that they had difficulty “more often than I’d like to admit.”

According to the science, porn is a “supranormal” stimulus — it activates the normal reward mechanisms in our brains, but it does so at such a high level that we perceive it to be way more pleasurable than the average arousing stimulus.1 But our brains become desensitized and develop a need for even more novel stimuli in order to reach the same level of arousal and excitement.2 Thus begins the spiral into more hardcore porn and higher quantities of it. In some cases, men can develop a psychological addiction to pornography and it can begin to interfere with their sex and social lives. In rare cases it can be debilitating in both.

Researchers debate whether or not porn addiction is a real addiction, but the semantics don’t change the fact that many people experience real problems with porn. It’s been implicated in things like unhappy and unsatisfied partners,3 as well as depression, anxiety, and loneliness.4 Not to mention it completely skews your perception of what beauty is and gives you unreasonable standards for sex with the women you meet. If you’ve ever gotten an otherwise beautiful girl naked in your bed and been unable to ignore the tiny blemishes or asymmetries to the point where you have trouble getting turned on, then you know what I mean.

Chances are you’re not a porn addict, but if you’re a man under the age of 35, I imagine that the abundant access to porn has affected you more than you realize. Think back to the first time you watched porn. The mere image of a beautiful naked woman was probably enough for you. But sadly, for many of us, over the years we devolve into darker and more twisted porn habits.

And worst of all, the younger you were when you began watching porn, the worse all of these effects generally are.

In my book on attracting women, I shared something I referred to as the “masturbation diet” in my chapter about motivation. It involved eliminating porn and limiting masturbation to 1-2 times per week. The goal of the “diet” was to revitalize and motivate guys who had trouble being motivated enough to pursue women in the face of their anxiety. I had done it on and off in the past whenever I needed a kick in the ass and it worked for me. Often within a week or two. But I had never considered keeping it or making it a permanent habit in my life.

Late last year, the “no more porn” stuff really caught fire on the forum here, and a number of men hopped on the bandwagon in this thread and agreed to not look at porn for 60 days. We all kept logs on the thread and it turned out to be a raging success. Most of us made it through the 60 days unscathed and true believers. Porn had been negatively affecting our sex lives.

For some it was a major shift and very difficult. For others, the changes were minor and simple. For everyone, the consensus seems to be we’re glad we did it. You can read the experiences of others on the thread. Personally, I have been watching porn since I was 13, and had been watching it almost daily for 8-10 years when I began this challenge.

  • I had somewhat intense cravings to watch porn in the first few weeks. The cravings would come and go, often along with my sex drive. Some mood swings. And a few nights where I dreamt about pornography — no, not dreams about having sex, dreams about pornography. Yeah, fucked up.
  • When I did masturbate, I made a point to only fantasize about girls I knew or had met. Other times I did not fantasize at all. I absolutely did NOT fantasize about porn I had seen.
  • My sex drive was very erratic the first few weeks. Some days I would be unbearably horny and then I would be completely disinterested in sex for a few days after that. I didn’t limit my masturbation (some guys chose to do this), so this usually meant that I’d go 4-5 days without masturbating, and then go nuts and do it 3-4 times in the span of 24 hours. Sometimes it felt like I was 16-years-old all over again.
  • At around three or four weeks, my sex drive was high and remained that way. My aggression with girls increased, as well as my confidence being sexual around them. I felt little shame or hesitation pushing things further with them, whereas I may have been in the past.
  • I began to find normal, every day girls to be more beautiful. Minor flaws and blemishes that used to bug me were now endearing and sometimes even sexy. I also noticed that my tastes changed a bit. I began to find the fake-titted, fake blonde, fake tan, tiny skirted, club-type girls less attractive and naturally beautiful girls to be more appealing to me. I started noticing things like skin, lips, eyes and hair more. And although I still love a nice pair of tits and ass, they’re no longer my sole criteria.
  • After one month, it was clear I was having better sex. I was performing better and enjoying it more and wanting it more often.
  • In the second month, I had no temptation and the benefits continued to increase.

It appears my addiction and “reboot” were milder than that of many guys. You can read more about porn withdrawal symptoms here and read about the benefits many men experience after giving up porn for 60 days here.

Relapse and Experimentation

I jokingly call it a “relapse,” but in early-February I was pulling 14-hour work days and not getting out much, so I hit up the good old YouPorn to blow off some… err, steam. Yeah, that’s it, blow off steam.

On my first return to porn post-reboot, a few things had changed:

  1. Porn I used to enjoy now felt excessive, dehumanizing and honestly, not very attractive. There were a few videos I saw where I couldn’t believe I used to watch stuff like that.
  2. I appreciated and was far more turned on by the beauty of each girl and less by them getting fucked or gagging by a giant cock or what have you. The actual sex itself seemed far less exciting than just having a ridiculously hot naked girl on my screen.
  3. I couldn’t help but notice how unhappy and inauthentic the girls in the videos often were. Not to say I haven’t noticed some of the actresses obviously faking their way through a scene in the past, but this was deeper. Like you could tell they just weren’t very happy people and didn’t have much self-respect. I know this both a) sounds weird to be thinking about while getting your fap on, and b) should not surprise anybody. But it actually became so apparent that it was hard for me to stay turned on in some cases.

I watched porn a couple times over the span of maybe three weeks with the above reactions. I noticed no change in my aggression, my sex drive or my comfort around women. A few weeks later, I began dating a girl here in Brazil pretty regularly and for the first time in about a year, I had a regular sexual partner who I saw frequently.

I decided to use the opportunity to test something out: I wanted to see how much porn was too much. I had watched it on a couple isolated occasions and nothing changed. But how much did I have to watch before it began to affect my sex life? My new Brasileira girlfriend offered a perfect control variable. Since I was having sex with her every few days, I could see and feel any changes in my sexual interest or ability to perform with her as soon as they happened.

It took about a week. I maybe masturbated to porn 4-5 times that week. But by the last time, I was back to my old habits of watching hardcore porn and watching 10-15 videos per session, usually skipping straight to the money shots. The second time my girlfriend came over after beginning my escapade, there was a noticeable drop in both my desire and my performance, to the point where I apologized to her for not being able to live up to my standards (no pun intended). The next week, I quit the pornography, and within a week, the old desire and performance came back and is still going strong.

So what does this mean? Is porn the devil? Should you never watch it? Is it ruining your sex life as we speak?

I can only answer for myself. For me, yes, porn had a noticeable impact on my sex life and I’m much better off not watching it. And I know there are a number of guys on the forum who had far more dramatic benefits than I did. I will never go back to watching it regularly. I imagine I will watch it occasionally, most likely when I’m drunk and get home after a night of striking out. But it’s clear that if I watch it on any consistent basis for more than a few days, it negatively affects my sex life. I honestly wish I had stopped watching it years ago, as it would have saved me a lot of struggle for motivation and embarrassment in the bedroom.

I recommend you experiment with quitting altogether as well. Our “No More Porn” thread on on the forum is on-going and everybody is invited to participate. We have some guys in the midst of their 60 day challenges right now who are posting about their progress. I invite you to join in and follow along. If anything, it’s worth the exercise in discipline. At the worst, you go without fap material for two months. At the best, you gain a newfound sexual confidence around women, and increase your performance in bed. Sounds worth it to me.

Also, if you believe you may suffer from porn addiction — you watch porn for up to an hour per session, you have trouble getting an erection without porn, or you watch porn which does not match your sexual orientation — then I highly recommend you do a full reboot and read www.yourbrainonporn.com.

Footnotes
  1. Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767.
  2. Koukounas, E., & Over, R. (2000). Changes in the magnitude of the eyeblink startle response during habituation of sexual arousal. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(6), 573–584.
  3. Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5-6), 257–271.
  4. Schneider, J. P. (2000). A Qualitative Study of Cybersex Participants: Gender Differences, Recovery Issues, and Implications for Therapists. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7(4), 249–278.
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