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Physical Effects of Porn

Porn can be a source of ideas about what to do during sex. Many young people see it as a visual how-to-do-it manual, but it does not come with instructions or any warnings about risks. It is important to understand the physical effects of porn.

When we do too much of anything, we produce a stress response in the body as it tries to channel enough energy to match the need. The body is designed to cope with short term stresses but over time the constant demand causes wear and tear on the system. As top German researcher Simone Kühn whose fMRI brain scans showed signs of damaged functional connectivity in the brain with even ‘moderate’ use of internet porn, she said:

“That could mean that regular consumption of pornography more or less wears out your reward system.”

This is bad news. It means that we can get too much of what feels like a good thing. But it is the natural response of the body as it seeks to protect itself and survive for the longer term.

The most alarming physical change that is stated by men, especially men under 40 today, in many of the recovery sites is erectile dysfunction (ED) That is they cannot get a stiff or erect penis.. See this presentation on ED  to understand why.  For others, delayed ejaculation or a sluggish response to real partners is common. NOTE they do not experience ED when using porn, only when they try to have intercourse with a real partner.

As University of Cambridge lead researcher Valerie Voon said:

“[Porn addicts] compared to healthy volunteers had significantly more difficulty with sexual arousal and experienced more erectile difficulties in intimate sexual relationships but not to sexually explicit material.”

This can cause serious emotional problems between a couple, as either partner may feel inadequate for not being able to perform sexually or seemingly not being able to invoke sexual desire in the other person. It has caused many young men a great deal of shame and embarrassment and upset and a sense of failure in young women.

One young Muslim man who had kept himself a virgin until his marriage had been using porn as a substitute. When he got with his wife, he was unable to perform sexually. This remained the case for two years as he did not connect his porn use to the sexual impotence. At this point his wife said she wanted a divorce. It was only then by chance that the young man discovered Gary Wilson’s TEDx talk, and was able to start his recovery. His wife called off the divorce proceedings. How many more marriages are being affected by internet porn?

The good news is that when the men give up internet porn, their erectile function is restored. It may take months or even years in some stubborn cases. Strangely it takes young men much more time to recover their “mojo” than men in their fifties. This is because older men started their masturbation careers with magazines and films and their exposure to porn was not usually intense and sustained enough to create the deep sexual conditioning and pathways that watching internet video porn creates. Younger men use porn and masturbation together for very long periods rather than use their imaginations, the old fashioned way.

Here are some research findings:

• Italy 2013: age 17-40, more younger patients had severe Erectile Dysfunction (49%) than older (40%) The full study is available here.

• USA 2014: age 16-21, 54% sexual problems; 27% Erectile Dysfunction; 24% problems with orgasm. A summary of the research is available here.

• UK 2013: fifth of boys aged 16-20 told University of East London they were “dependent on porn as a stimulant for real sex” A press article on this is available here.

• In a Cambridge University study in 2014, average age 25, but 11 out of 19 said porn use caused ED/diminished libido with partners, but not with porn.

Porn can influence the physical power dynamics in sexual relations

After several decades of improvement in power relations between men and women, there is a lot of recent evidence that some men are becoming more dominant, especially in sexual relationships. This undesirable behaviour appears to be driven to some degree by men’s consumption of internet pornography.

A 2010 study of the content of best-selling DVDs found that of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female. Targets most often showed pleasure or responded neutrally to the aggression.

Building on this research is a newly published German study which found that men who had engaged in the most dominant and sexually coercive behaviours were those who most frequently consumed pornography and who regularly consumed alcohol before or during sex.

This study surveyed German heterosexual men’s interest and engagement in a variety of dominant behaviours observed in recent analyses of pornography. Interest in watching popular pornographic movies or more frequent consumption of pornography was associated with men’s desire to engage in or having already engaged in behaviours such as hair pulling, spanking a partner hard enough to leave a mark, facial ejaculation, confinement, double-penetration (i.e. penetrating a partner’s anus or vagina simultaneously with another man), ass-to-mouth (i.e. anally penetrating a partner and then inserting the penis directly into her mouth), penile gagging, facial slapping, choking, and name-calling (e.g. “slut” or “whore”). Consistent with past experimental research on the effect of alcohol and pornography exposure on men’s likelihood of sexual coercion, men who had engaged in the most dominant behaviours were those who frequently consumed pornography and regularly consumed alcohol before or during sex.

Anal Sex and other Violent Sexual Behaviours

There is a lot of evidence that porn is made to show activities which are very visually stimulating, such as oral sex, double penetration or facial ejaculations. However the performers are being paid or coerced into doing things that they would not normally do by choice. Many female porn stars have been sexually trafficked into the porn industry.

Internet porn is generally made in an unregulated environment. It often shows activities that are potentially very dangerous to health. For example there is extensive use of “barebacking,” that is penetrative sex, usually anal sex, without condoms. The use of condoms makes the sex portrayed appear less real and with lower visual impact. By avoiding condoms porn-makers can show the maximum exchange of bodily fluids, feature the ‘hottest sex’ and demonstrate for you the riskiest options for your own sex-life.

Medical and sexual health professionals recommend that all new partners be considered for what they are – potential sources of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Engaging in sex with a real partner is a risky thing to do. It is up to you and your partner to manage the level of risk.

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