Causation Studies about Pornography Harms

Causation Studies about Porn Harms

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The publication of a definition for Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder in June 2018 by the WHO was based on empirical evidence. However, some people still deny that pornography consumption can cause mental or physical harms. In this blog we look at the 6 causation studies published so far that demonstrate causation as participants eliminated porn use and healed chronic sexual dysfunctions. They all link porn use or porn addiction to sexual dysfunctions and lower arousal.

1) Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016) 

An extensive review of the literature related to porn-induced sexual problems. Involving 7 US Navy doctors, the review provides the latest data revealing a tremendous rise in youthful sexual problems. It also reviews the neurological studies related to porn addiction and sexual conditioning via Internet porn. The doctors provide 3 clinical reports of men who developed porn-induced sexual dysfunctions. Two of the three men healed their sexual dysfunctions by eliminating porn use. The third man experienced little improvement as he was unable to abstain from porn use. Excerpt:

Traditional factors that once explained men’s sexual difficulties appear insufficient to account for the sharp rise in erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, decreased sexual satisfaction, and diminished libido during partnered sex in men under 40. This review (1) considers data from multiple domains, e.g., clinical, biological (addiction/urology), psychological (sexual conditioning), sociological; and (2) presents a series of clinical reports, all with the aim of proposing a possible direction for future research of this phenomenon. Alterations to the brain’s motivational system are explored as a possible etiology underlying pornography-related sexual dysfunctions.

This review also considers evidence that Internet pornography’s unique properties (limitless novelty, potential for easy escalation to more extreme material, video format, etc.) may be potent enough to condition sexual arousal to aspects of Internet pornography use that do not readily transition to real-life partners, such that sex with desired partners may not register as meeting expectations and arousal declines. Clinical reports suggest that terminating Internet pornography use is sometimes sufficient to reverse negative effects, underscoring the need for extensive investigation using methodologies that have subjects remove the variable of Internet pornography use.

The Reward Foundation wrote a story about this study when it first came out.

2) Male masturbation habits and sexual dysfunctions (2016) 

This study is by a French psychiatrist who is the current president of the European Federation of Sexology. While the abstract shifts back and forth between Internet pornography use and masturbation, it’s clear that he’s mostly referring to porn-induced sexual dysfunctions (erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia). The paper revolves around his clinical experience with 35 men who developed erectile dysfunction and/or anorgasmia, and his therapeutic approaches to help them. The author states that most of his patients used porn, with several being addicted to porn. The abstract points to internet porn as the primary cause of the problems (keep in mind that masturbation does not cause chronic ED, and it is never given as a cause of ED). 19 of the 35 men saw significant improvements in sexual functioning. The other men either dropped out of treatment or are still trying to recover. Excerpts:

Intro: Harmless and even helpful in his usual form widely practiced, masturbation in its excessive and pre-eminent form, generally associated today to pornographic addiction, is too often overlooked in the clinical assessment of sexual dysfunction it can induce.

Results: Initial results for these patients, after treatment to “unlearn” their masturbatory habits and their often-associated addiction to pornography, are encouraging and promising. A reduction in symptoms was obtained in 19 patients out of 35. The dysfunctions regressed and these patients were able to enjoy satisfactory sexual activity.

Conclusion: Addictive masturbation, often accompanied by a dependency on cyber-pornography, has been seen to play a role in the etiology of certain types of erectile dysfunction or coital anejaculation. It is important to systematically identify the presence of these habits rather than conduct a diagnosis by elimination, in order to include habit-breaking deconditioning techniques in managing these dysfunctions.

3) Unusual masturbatory practice as an etiological factor in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual dysfunction in young men (2014) 

One of the 4 case studies in this paper reports on a man with porn-induced sexual problems (low libido, fetishes, anorgasmia). The sexual intervention called for a 6-week abstinence from porn and masturbation. After 8 months the man reported increased sexual desire, successful sex and orgasm, and enjoying “good sexual practices. This is the first peer-reviewed chronicling of a recovery from porn-induced sexual dysfunctions. Excerpts from the paper:

“When asked about masturbatory practices, he reported that in the past he had been masturbating vigorously and rapidly while watching pornography since adolescence. The pornography originally consisted mainly of zoophilia, and bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism, but he eventually got habituated to these materials and needed more hardcore pornography scenes, including transgender sex, orgies, and violent sex. He used to buy illegal pornographic movies on violent sex acts and rape and visualized those scenes in his imagination to function sexually with women. He gradually lost his desire and his ability to fantasize and decreased his masturbation frequency.”

In conjunction with weekly sessions with a sex therapist, the patient was instructed to avoid any exposure to sexually explicit material, including videos, newspapers, books, and internet pornography.

After 8 months, the patient reported experiencing successful orgasm and ejaculationHe renewed his relationship with that woman, and they gradually succeeded in enjoying good sexual practices.

4) How difficult is it to treat delayed ejaculation within a short-term psychosexual model? A case study comparison (2017) 

A report on two “composite cases” illustrating the causes and treatments for delayed ejaculation (anorgasmia). “Patient B” represented several young men treated by the therapist. Interestingly, the paper states that Patient B’s “porn use had escalated into harder material”, “as is often the case”. The paper says that porn-related delayed ejaculation is not uncommon, and on the rise. The author calls for more research on porn’s effects of sexual functioning. Patient B’s delayed ejaculation was healed after 10 weeks of no porn. Excerpts:

The cases are composite cases taken from my work within the National Health Service in Croydon University Hospital, London. With the latter case (Patient B), it is important to note that the presentation reflects a number of young males who have been referred by their GPs with a similar diagnosis. Patient B is a 19-year-old who presented because he was unable to ejaculate via penetration. When he was 13, he was regularly accessing pornography sites either on his own through internet searches or via links that his friends sent him. He began masturbating every night while searching his phone for image…If he did not masturbate he was unable to sleep. The pornography he was using had escalated, as is often the case (see Hudson-Allez, 2010), into harder material (nothing illegal)…

Escalation

Patient B was exposed to sexual imagery via pornography from the age of 12 and the pornography he was using had escalated to bondage and dominance by the age of 15.

We agreed that he would no longer use pornography to masturbate. This meant leaving his phone in a different room at night. We agreed that he would masturbate in a different way….

Patient B was able to achieve orgasm via penetration by the fifth session; the sessions are offered fortnightly in Croydon University Hospital so session five equates to approximately 10 weeks from consultation. He was happy and greatly relieved. In a three-month follow-up with Patient B, things were still going well.

Patient B is not an isolated case within the National Health Service (NHS) and in fact young men in general accessing psychosexual therapy, without their partners, speaks in itself to the stirrings of change.

This article therefore supports previous research that has linked masturbation style to sexual dysfunction and pornography to masturbation style. The article concludes by suggesting that the successes of psychosexual therapists in working with DE are rarely recorded in the academic literature, which has allowed the view of DE as a difficult disorder to treat remain largely unchallenged. The article calls for research into pornography usage and its effect on masturbation and genital desensitisation.

5) Situational Psychogenic Anejaculation: A Case Study (2014) 

The details reveal a case of porn-induced anejaculation. The husband’s only sexual experience prior to marriage was frequent masturbation to pornography – where he was able to ejaculate. He also reported sexual intercourse as less arousing than masturbation to porn. The key piece of information is that “re-training” and psychotherapy failed to heal his anejaculation. When those interventions failed, therapists suggested a complete ban on masturbation to porn. Eventually this ban resulted in successful sexual intercourse and ejaculation with a partner for the first time in his life. A few excerpts:

A is a 33-year-old married male with heterosexual orientation, a professional from a middle socio-economic urban background. He has had no premarital sexual contacts. He watched pornography and masturbated frequently. His knowledge about sex and sexuality was adequate. Following his marriage, Mr. A described his libido as initially normal, but later reduced secondary to his ejaculatory difficulties. Despite thrusting movements for 30-45 minutes, he had never been able to ejaculate or achieve orgasm during penetrative sex with his wife.

What didn’t work

Mr. A’s medications were rationalized; clomipramine and bupropion were discontinued, and sertraline was maintained at a dose of 150 mg per day. Therapy sessions with the couple were held weekly for the initial few months, following which they were spaced to fortnightly and later monthly. Specific suggestions including focusing on sexual sensations and concentrating on the sexual experience rather than ejaculation were used to help reduce performance anxiety and spectatoring. Since problems persisted despite these interventions, intensive sex therapy was considered.

Eventually they instituted a complete ban on masturbation (which means he continued to masturbate to porn during the above failed interventions):

A ban on any form of sexual activity was suggested. Progressive sensate focus exercises (initially non-genital and later genital) were initiated. Mr. A described an inability to experience the same degree of stimulation during penetrative sex as compared to that which he experienced during masturbation. Once the ban on masturbation was enforced, he reported an increased desire for sexual activity with his partner.

After an unspecified amount of time, the ban on masturbation to porn lead to success:

Meanwhile, Mr. A and his wife decided to go ahead with Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) and underwent two cycles of intrauterine insemination. During a practice session, Mr. A ejaculated for the first time, following which he has been able to ejaculate satisfactorily during a majority of the couple’s sexual interactions.

6) Pornography Induced Erectile Dysfunction Among Young Men (2019) 

Abstract: This paper explores the phenomenon of pornography induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), meaning sexual potency problems in men due to Internet pornography consumption. Empirical data from men who suffer from this condition have been collected. A combination of topical life history method (with qualitative asynchronous online narrative interviews) and personal online diaries has been employed. The data have been analyzed using theoretical interpretative analysis (according to McLuhan’s media theory), based on analytic induction. The empirical investigation indicates that there is a correlation between pornography consumption and erectile dysfunction that suggests causation.

The findings are based on 11 interviews along with two video diaries and three text diaries. The men are between the ages of 16 and 52; they report that an early introduction to pornography (usually during adolescence) is followed by daily consumption until a point is reached where extreme content (involving, for example, elements of violence) is needed to maintain arousal. A critical stage is reached when sexual arousal is exclusively associated with extreme and fast-paced pornography, rendering physical intercourse bland and uninteresting. This results in an inability to maintain an erection with a real-life partner, at which point the men embark on a “re-boot” process, giving up pornography. This has helped some of the men to regain their ability to achieve and sustain an erection.

Introduction to the results section

Having processed the data, I have noticed certain patterns and recurring themes, following a chronological narrative in all of the interviews. These are: Introduction. One is first introduced to pornography, usually before puberty. Building a habit. One begins to consume pornography regularly. Escalation. One turns to more “extreme” forms of pornography, content-wise, in order to achieve the same effects previously achieved through less “extreme” forms of pornography. Realization. One notices sexual potency problems believed to be caused by pornography use. “Re-boot” process. One tries to regulate pornography use or eliminate it completely in order to regain one’s sexual potency. The data from the interviews are presented based on the above outline.

More studies

In addition to the causation studies listed above, this page contains articles and videos by over 130 experts (urology professors, urologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, sexologists, MDs) who acknowledge and have successfully treated porn-induced ED and porn-induced loss of sexual desire.

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