Erotic Review Magazine

Love Sex? Quit Watching Porn

by Karin Jones / 4th January 2017

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As a teen, when Pong was the most digitally sophisticated thing on anyone’s home screen, my first exposure to pornography was at a house where I babysat. (This does not include my first exposure to images of sex which was in the closet of my parent’s bedroom where I’d happened upon The Joy of Sex and spent the better part of an hour recovering in a bean bag chair, pondering fretfully over how I might never need partake in such ‘Joy’). The couple whose kids I cared for had an enormous collection of Penthouse magazines stacked in piles on the bedroom shelves. I’d corral the kids to bed as quickly as possible so I could linger over those magnificent bodies before the parents returned.

Back then, porn took real effort to access or, in the case of my babysitting job, pure dumb luck. Magazines, movie houses in seedy neighborhoods, and VHS rentals were really the only sources. When I started having sex at seventeen, not only had I never seen a porno movie, I didn’t even know that my clitoris should be licked. But these days…oh dear. With an internet connection and a data plan, a person could spend the entire day, no matter whether at home, work, or waiting for the kids at their swim lessons, watching internet porn.

Now, I consider myself a sex positive feminist, but I’m not going to spend any of your time talking about how some pornography is degrading and some affirming. I’m not going to speculate on the exploitation of women or the liberating earning power of having sex for a living. I want to talk about what internet porn is doing to our brains, our bodies and our ability to have fulfilling sex lives. Because if you think there’s no harm in jacking off several times a week while watching other people fuck, you’ll be shocked and sobered by these recent statistics.

In 2002, rates of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men ages 18-40 was 2%-5%. By 2015 erectile dysfunction was affecting 27%-33% of men under 40. You read me right: one third of men having trouble with erections are under 40! And 1 in 4, or 25%, of men who currently seek drugs for ED are under 40. The culprit does not appear to be pesticides, pollution or global warming. All angles seem to be pointing to the ubiquitous consumption of internet porn.

As a Gen X-er, porn didn’t have a big influence on my sex life. At Uni, my boyfriend watched ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ with a bunch of other blokes in his dorm room – once. And our bumbling, awkward sex reflected a distinct lack of role models. But the Millennials have a cornucopia of copulation at their fingertips before they can even spell the word ‘pornography’.  Nowadays, boys are generally exposed to online porn by the age of ten. At the point they become sexually active, they’ve been watching porn to varying degrees for at least five years, often more. The result? More and more men are discovering their porn usage has curtailed their ability to orgasm, or even sustain an erection, with a real partner.

Gary Wilson, author of Your Brain on Porn, explains in his TED talk, how our brains, especially the male brain, are rewarded by sexual novelty. When it comes to procreation, the evolutionary imperative to spread one’s DNA is driven by the dopamine reward experienced in the brain with each new conquest. A ram will take longer with each encounter to ejaculate with the same female. But time to ejaculation will plummet when offered a new female. In the human male, this also goes for masturbation. How many of us watch the same porn clip over and over? That’s right; we don’t. Our brains are constantly seeking out a new visual stimulus in order to achieve a higher intensity of arousal. And how better to achieve a quick and easy orgasm than to bring a porn clip up on the smartphone – with a brunette this time. Or make that a brunette with enormous jugs who can deepthroat.

As in any addiction, over time the brain becomes inured to the same dose, or the same image, and will seek out a better high by switching things up. When it comes to porn, this means the suck and fuck predictability of vanilla, heteronormative or homoerotic sex will no longer do the trick. Now we can go down rabbit holes full of images that no one else need know about; hard core S&M, bestiality, rape. And once those barriers fall, the brain will find it very hard to get satisfaction from what used to turn it on. Worst of all, this appears to translate into finding it difficult to have good sex with our real partners.

This is terrifying to me. There is nothing quite so life affirming and satisfying as having sex with someone you connect with physically, intellectually and emotionally. Whether that’s gentle, rough, funny, passionate or as stoned as a hoot owl. The last thing you want getting in the way of good sex is a brain numbed by images of impossibly gorgeous plumbers banging hairless pudendas on the kitchen counter.

The solution? According to men who are grappling with this issue, it’s quitting cold turkey. Studies show that frequent consumers of porn who are suffering from sexual performance and satisfaction issues need to abstain from porn in order to enjoy real sex again. Or even enjoy real sex for the first time! The time to recovery depends upon how many years a person has been watching porn, but it’s generally 6-9 months. Currently, older men recover faster than young men because those older men didn’t grow up with the internet and have had fewer cumulative years of exposure.

I must admit, this is medicine I need to take myself. On those days when I’m writing from home, stuck on where the plot goes next, it’s a fun form of procrastination to bring myself to a five minute orgasm by clicking over to Xhamster. And though I’d much rather be having sex with my partner, I’ve got to wonder now if my little habit might be numbing the real deal.

I don’t consider myself addicted to internet porn, just as I don’t consider myself an alcoholic though, indeed, it takes more booze now to get me buzzed than before I moved to England. So I’ll admit, I could be doing myself harm with both the booze and the online bonking. My New Year’s resolution then is to take a break from watching other people fuck. (I’ll keep the wine, thanks.) I want to focus entirely on the erotic, sensual and tactile experience of my flesh and blood partner. I don’t want my arousal to be driven by the online images of someone else’s fantasy. This is not to say that visual and literary erotica can’t have a healthy place in our sex lives. They can. But get smart about what you consume. Certainly, there’s nothing sexier and good for the soul than gazing at, and feeling, your own lovely lover when you reach that pinnacle of quivering ecstasy.

Happy New Year!

Love, Karin

Have a question or comment? Write to me: relationships@ermagazine.org

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Discussion

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  • yummy fur says:

    The most interesting thing about internet pornography is that it is a reflection of the complete lack of understanding of the people who make it and view it. Its real value therefore is invisible without knowledge. Wielded with knowledge it is a tool that can be used to heal instead of harm. Used without any understanding, it just creates more confusion and there is no way out.