Disclaimer: *This article is in no way a means to identify porn as good or bad, sinful or not, or if it's considered adultery. This article simply depicts proven scientific study on the effects of porn. **The use of the word 'man' in the title refers to mankind (humans), not males. ***I am not a pornography or sex addiction specialist; this is a compilation of my understanding and knowledge of the effects of porn on man and marriage and how to overcome pornography use and/or porn and sex addiction.
It typically starts during the teenage years as curiosity of the opposite sex and what sexual intimacy looks like. Recent studies show the average male views pornography by age 10 and the average female by 16. If sex is natural and healthy within marriage, then how can porn be harmful?
Many people view porn alone, but some couples use porn as a way to 'spice things up' in the bedroom. I get it, you've been married 10+ years and the passion isn't quite as, ummm, 'passionate' as it once was. So you turn to porn to spice it up a little. Is there a problem with this? According to research and hundreds of studies, yes -- it's a massive problem. Diminished passion in the bedroom isn't a problem of the bedroom - it's a problem of the heart. Most people don't realize this and think spicing things up in the bedroom requires sexual variety (different positions, different locations, experimentation with toys and porn use). Makes sense when you put it that way, I suppose, but read on...
Categories of Porn
Soft porn, by definition, does not show penetration, ejaculation, oral sex or close ups of genitals. It's an erotic setup that eludes to what's about to happen without showing graphic details. It has an erotic component, is less sexually graphic than hard porn and leaves a lot to the viewer's imagination. 50 Shades of Gray is a perfect example of soft porn - and believe it or not, it alone can hurt your psyche. How? It draws you in, makes you more curious, slowly desensitizes you and the next thing you know, you're on your way to an addiction to hard porn. Don't believe me? Read on...
Hard porn contains explicit depictions of sexual acts that include vaginal, anal, and/or oral intercourse. It can also include fetish play, ejaculation, cunnilingus, fellatio, and anilingus.
Pornography use can easily and quickly turn into an addiction. Many studies point to pornography as the most highly addictive substance on the planet -- more addictive than crack, cocaine, heroin, meth, alcohol or cigarettes. And porn is deemed the most difficult addiction to overcome, more so than the substances just mentioned. Whether or not you believe it's the most additive substance on the planet doesn't really matter... if it's ranked high enough to cause debate, you'd be foolish to not be concerned.
Effects of Porn on Marriage
The problem is, porn is not sex and the people in porn are not your spouse. Why does this matter?
As a married person turning to porn, you're admitting to yourself and your spouse that they are not enough, that you need more to turn you on, that they and their beauty (inside and out) aren't enough for you, and it's a signal that something far worse is going on within you (because let's face it, needing porn doesn't signal a problem with your spouse - it signals a problem within your brain). Your brain? Yep. Porn isn't a psychological or sexual issue, it's a brain function issue. Instead of creating a bond with your spouse where he/she is your standard of true beauty, viewing porn is an active, conscious decision to turn your focus (sexual, emotional, mental, and physical) on another.
Still, why is porn so harmful? Many reasons - but there's one that really grabs the attention of men. Simply put, it causes Erectile Dysfunction. That's right guys, embarrassing as it is, you'll lose your ability to perform naturally - and this is just one, 'small' problem porn causes.
In many studies, couples who used porn together reported a greater passion in the bedroom initially but those effects quickly wore off. Then what happens? One of the partners ends up with hurt feelings of betrayal or inadequacy. Addiction to porn sets in, then addiction to sex, and extramarital affairs begin. It's a slippery slope that can take some time or happen almost immediately, but the catastrophic effects cannot be ignored.
Look, marriages don't end for lack of love. They end for lack of intimacy (true and deep intimacy - the kind of intimacy that leads to great passion, both sexual and non-sexual). Porn blocks true intimacy from occurring.
If that's not enough to scare you, wait till you learn the rest of the insidious effects below. Let's have a look at common effects of porn use and in the stages in which they occur:
Effects of Porn Use on the Porn Viewer
The effects of pornography use may surprise you.
Stage 1: (short term use)
decreased in sexual satisfaction for men and women because their intimacy together is not as wildly passionate in comparison to what's in porn (which is fake if you didn't know). This leads the couple to believe that something must be wrong with them, their connection, their passion. I've ever heard couples say, "It must not be meant to be for us to stay together since we don't have that level of passion on our own anymore." This can't be further from the truth! Passion in the bedroom, just like any skill or talent in life, is like a muscle and must be constantly cultivated and worked hard at. More on this later.
people begin to view their partner's physical appearance as less than attractive than before porn use because they are now comparing their partner to those in porn (who are usually made up, enhanced with surgery, and spend hours a day in the gym to look perfect)
non-sexual affection diminishes
verbal communication breaks down
love begins to diminish for your spouse
respect for women diminishes - they are devalued, dehumanized, and men begin to believe that women should be as excited about sex all the time like porn actresses (notice they are Actresses - again, this means they are acting - it is NOT real)
women lose respect for men - they begin to see them as animalistic instead of men of integrity
a desire for more porn – Individuals begin to crave porn
generalized anger and impatience sets in - it takes very little to set them off so they are overly angry
extra-marital affairs may begin
diminished reaction to porn
drop in libido
problems with procrastination in many areas of life
love continues to diminish for your spouse
Stage 3: (long term use)
marital commitment is devalued - people don't view marriage as important as they once had, they view their spouse as less important, start to view having children as less important (those who once placed importance on having children), and they begin to undervalue faithfulness to their partner
a strong desire for a variety of porn develops (harder material, child porn, beastiality, zoophilia)
a desensitization to cruelty occurs – Individual believes activities like anal sex, group sex, use of sex toys, the hiring of prostitutes, and S&M are common and acceptable, and they want/need these deviant acts to become aroused, enjoy the sexual act, and reach orgasm
begin to trivialize sexual violence
performance anxiety (male and female)
social anxiety (many begin to use pot to calm their social anxiety)
mimics OCD symptoms
mimics ADHD symptoms (many turn to pot to help them focus)
men and women have a hard time reaching orgasm from vaginal sex
extra-marital affairs are highly likely during this stage
very little love exists, if any for your spouse
Create a loving, heartfelt connection and bond where your partner is your standard of beauty. This requires courtship, touching and being touched, intimate talk (non-sexual), pheromones and smells, quality time with each other, emotional and heartfelt connection with one another, deep love, and a serious commitment to each other.
Learn how porn is affecting your life - your brain, body, work, and connection with spouse.
Create boundaries by allowing your spouse full access to your computer, phone, tablet and all devices. Share all passwords to all accounts with your spouse.
Have an accountability partner.
Keep yourself busy. I once had a Priest tell me that he recommends people take up a creative hobby or interest such as art, drawing, painting, acting... anything creative.
Instal an Internet filter on all devices with reports going to a chosen Accountability Partner.
Learn your triggers and develop safeguards from them. Learn where/when/how you are tempted and set up barriers to those and/or figure out how to elude them when they occur.
90-Day Sexual Fast. (see below)
Write down the positive motivations you have for quitting porn, post these reasons somewhere you'll see them often. Anytime you are tempted, read these motivations and then call your Accountability Partner.
Grow in integrity. Realize that falling to the temptation of porn is robbing yourself - it's an injustice to yourself. Sexuality is a gift that should be shared with your spouse - the one you love - the one you committed your life to. It isn't to be wasted with cheap behavior on a cheap product. It's to be celebrated in love, for the sake of love. Fulton Sheen says it's not about saying No to porn, it's about saying Yes to what your soul is worth and it's about saying Yes to human divinity.
Fasting from Sex During Porn-Detox
The bulk of porn addiction counselors and experts prescribe no sexual behavior during the initial phase of recovery that lats 90 days. This includes no sexual relations of any kind between husband and wife, no masturbation, no porn, and no kissing that would be tempting for the one in recovery. Many counselors require a 90-day abstinence contract. This 90-day Fast exists for three very important reasons:
the addicted needs to realize they will be okay without porn, sex, and masturbation - they will live - they won't die without it.
they need to experience a neurochemical detoxification - this resets the brain chemically in terms of sexual desires, expectations, and satisfactions regarding sexual intimacy.
the addicted needs to learn or relearn true, healthy intimacy
Porn and sex addicts are addicted to the neurochemicals (oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, and vasopressin) that are released during porn use and sexual encounters. This cocktail is responsible for the addiction itself and the withdrawal symptoms that appear when they haven't experienced porn and/or a sexual encounter in a specific amount of time. There is a Cue, Routine, and Reward circuit involved with bad habits and addiction. These neurochemicals are part of the reward circuit. To deactivate the reward circuit, you must stop the Routine (reinforcing behavior - using porn or sex) to allow the neuro-circuits to rest and reset to normal/healthy. Research proves that it takes 90 days for neurochemistry to change and return to normal, healthy levels.
The Good News
Couples who don't view porn at all have much lower rates of infidelity compared to those who watch porn alone or together as a couple. This shouldn't come as a surprise - if you use erotic images (porn) to become aroused, your focus is not on your spouse. Where focus goes, energy flows. Couples that watch porn together reinforce the belief that sexual attraction to others, outside the marriage, is not only permissible but desired. This is a slippery slope because this admittance and encouragement leads to desensitization. Choosing not to watch porn together (or to approve your spouse's use of porn) decreases your chance of infidelity occurring.
The good news regarding porn and sex addiction recovery is after 90 days of fasting and detox, normal, healthy thoughts, feelings and behaviors return and abnormal symptoms (erectile dysfunction and others listed above) disappear.
Our late Pope, John Paul II, famously said the problem with porn isn't that it shows "too much", it's that is shows "too little." Porn isn't about love. Marriage is. You cannot bring something unloving into marriage and expect a positive gain or reward. Choose love, choose your spouse, and the reward will be great.
If you or your spouse are struggling with porn use and you don't know where to turn, please get in touch with me or peruse the resources below.
You all are in my thoughts and prayers,
Below are resources to help you or your loved one determine if addiction is present, provide you with education, and support and guide you through detox and recovery. Please click the links for further information on each.
Covenant Eyes: Internet Accountability and Filtering is a website that produces software and hosts conversations promoting healthy sexuality and a porn-free life. Their software monitors all your devices and then sends reports to your chosen trusted friend / accountability partner. This method is very effective.
Integrity Restored is a great organization whose mission is to restore the integrity of individuals, spouses, and families that have been affected by pornography and pornography addiction in a loving and non-judgmental way. I highly recommend surfing this website, educating yourself, and reaching out if you're in need - or if you just want to learn more.
Sexaholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover. This is a recovery program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and received permission from AA to use its Twelve Steps Program. They host meetings via email, telephone, and face-to-face meetings in every state within the US and many countries throughout the world. Visit their website for a meeting near you.
TED Talks - for an excellent TED Talk titled The Great Porn Experiment, please click HERE --it's full of fascinating info.
Excellent article on KnowledgeForMen.com titled, "Trash Your Porn, Quit Masturbating and Crush Life." I highly recommend. There are also other great articles there for men's health as well.