Even though it may seem like it’s not a big deal, regularly viewing pornography can have negative effects on many relationships, so much so that in some cases its influence can be compared to that of substance abuse or an alcohol addiction if such use has become compulsive or viewed negatively by one’s partner. While the negative effects of pornography use on individuals is still debated, several studies have now suggested that many couples report negative outcomes associated with one partner’s regular pornography habit. One reason for this is that while pornography use may initially seem harmless, some negative effects can sneak up on a user and shape the way he or she views the world, without even realizing it. While an increasing number of women are viewing pornography, this post focuses on its effects on men. Many of these points, however, could hold true for men or women viewing pornography. Here are 5 ways pornography use negatively impacts men in relationships, possibly without their even realizing it:
1. Delayed ejaculation.
And sometimes even erectile dysfunction. Masturbating to pornography frequently, and especially when using what is called the “vice grip,” desensitizes the penis and makes it difficult to orgasm with normal, vaginal intercourse. This happens because the sensation of natural sex can no longer compete with the physical force of stimulation a hand can provide.
2. Women may be portrayed as objects.
That’s how women are often portrayed in the pornography the user is viewing. When someone repeatedly watches men being sexually coercive and the women on camera act like they enjoy it, porn users start to actually believe that this is how real women want to be treated–like objects who don’t feel pain, whose desires don’t matter, but who should have strong emotional responses when a man wants them to.
3. Lowered satisfaction with sex.
After time, pornography viewers build up a type of tolerance to things that would normally be pleasurable, including sex. This happens because the brain adjusts to the extreme dopamine release (dopamine is a natural chemical that signals to our brain that something is pleasurable or enjoyable) that comes from watching porn, meaning that eventually it takes more and more to get any sort of “high” from it. This carries over into the porn user’s sex life as well – when the excitement doesn’t automatically come with sex, he has to work harder to get himself aroused, making sex less satisfying.
4. Poor emotional regulation skills.
Many pornography users utilize pornography as a emotional regulator to deal with unpleasant emotions and anxiety. Some porn users have taught themselves to run away from their problems instead of face them head-on through the artificial high that pornography brings. Just like we mentioned in our post “It’s Not About the Sex!”, men are socialized to not have emotions–unless it’s anger or sexual drive. Chances are, if someone is struggling with a porn addiction, they’re using it as an escape from something. Typically, it’s an escape from some sort of overwhelming negative emotion, such as stress, anxiety, or insecurity. For example, if a guy feels insecure about himself and worries about rejection, he can escape that feeling by fantasizing about women who will never reject him. Unfortunately, each time he gives in to this behavior, he reinforces his process of running away from problems instead of solving them, making himself increasingly dependent on pornography as a way to escape.
5. Decreased overall life satisfaction.
Porn, like physical drugs, can desensitize its users to the stimulation of real life if used in a compulsive way. Because a heavy porn user’s brain gets overwhelmed with dopamine on a regular basis, even non-sexual things that were once enjoyable become dull. When previously pleasurable activities are no longer exciting or fun, the porn user experiences constant disappointment with the world around him. Constantly feeling disappointed and sad eventually becomes too much to bear, so the disappointment with reality turns into numbness, making it difficult to really feel at all.
Are you worried that pornography use may have had a negative influence on your relationship? Take the RELATE assessment today and find out. Or head on over to Fight The New Drug for more research findings, resources, and help.
Written by: Erin