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Some people watch pornography to explore sexuality, enhance intimacy, or relieve stress. But have you ever wondered if this activity may also lead to symptoms of depression?
There are many reasons why people consume pornographic content. These can go from enhancing intimacy with a sexual partner to self-exploration to even boredom.
In fact, even if it often is a stigmatized and controversial topic, watching pornography has been associated with certain health benefits.
The mental health impact of watching porn is not limited to this, though.
Other research has found a link between pornography use and an increase in symptoms of depression.
Here’s what the research — and experts — have to say.
In the scientific community, a large part of the conversation about watching pornography focuses on its effects on the brain’s reward system.
Watching any type of pornography activates the production of dopamine — a “feel good” chemical that prompts feelings of pleasure and well-being.
It may be surprising, then, to see that some research suggests viewing pornography is also linked to depression.
Studies on the topic are limited, inconclusive, and conflicting. However, the existing ones suggest that pornography consumption and depression have a complex relationship.
Here’s some recent research:
- A 2019 study found that porn consumption increased the risk of depression in adults. However, the rise was dependent on whether the viewer considered pornography “problematic.” (We’ll dive into this distinction shortly.)
- A 2018
studyon adolescents found that watching porn may be associated with symptoms of depression. That said, the study’s authors conclude that viewing pornography could be just one reason among many affecting young people’s mental health.
researchshows that many adults who periodically view pornography report no negative effects on their mental health or relationships.
Despite these findings, the bottom line is that there’s not enough data to conclude watching pornography negatively impacts mental health or causes depression.
Still, you may be asking, what if I already live with depression? Can pornography use worsen my symptoms?
“Pornography does not inherently worsen depression,” says Paul Greene, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Manhattan Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
“However,” he adds, “if it prevents someone with depression from maintaining relationships or doing other mood-boosting activities — like exercise or socializing — then it can indirectly worsen depression.”
Experts have found that in some cases watching pornography may lead to:
- high feelings of distress
- anxiety episodes or generalized anxiety
- emotional avoidance and detachment
- feelings of loneliness
- irritability and anger
decreased sexual satisfaction
However, new research shows that it may not be porn itself that causes these effects, but the viewer’s perception. In other words, the mental health impact is linked to whether someone believes they have a porn addiction (even if that’s not the case) or that they’re doing something they shouldn’t.
For example, if you believe you shouldn’t be watching porn but yet you cannot stop doing so, you may be more prone to experiencing symptoms of psychological distress.
This may be particularly true if watching pornography conflicts with your religious, spiritual, and ethical beliefs.
The possible impact of pornography consumption on mental health also varies by gender.
For example, a 2018
It’s important to note that most of the research on pornography consumption has focused on young, white, heterosexual men. What data we have on women remains somewhat unclear. LGBTQ+ folks have, thus far, been largely left out of the equation, and there are not many studies that consider the intersectionality of cultures and races.
Compulsive pornography consumption — what’s known as “
But while rumors abound across the internet (and beyond), there’s no overwhelming evidence to suggest depression can lead to compulsive porn watching.
That said, some research suggests people may view pornography more often when they have depression. This may be particularly true for males.
For example, a 2017 study discovered that males with depression may consider pornography use as a coping aid.
This corresponds with what some experts have to say.
“Common symptoms of depression include isolation, escapism, and bingeing behavior,” says certified clinical sexologist Kyle Zrenchick, PhD, LMFT. “Thus, people can see a marked increase of pornography consumption during periods of depression.”
Addiction expert Sean Duane, LCSW, adds to this by saying, “The risk factors associated with compulsive online pornography viewing include existing addictive behaviors, as well as patterns or a history of isolation, anxiety, and/or depression.”
While compulsive porn viewing has been recognized in clinical settings, it is not identified as a mental health condition.
Again, experts instead suggest that watching porn can sometimes become a compulsive behavior. As with any compulsive behavior, this may lead to challenges.
But what is compulsive or “problematic?” And what is “occasional” pornography consumption?
It comes down to your feelings about the matter — and whether you think you have control over your viewing habits. It’s also related to the levels of distress this activity causes you.
“The critical distinction between the occasional viewing of porn and compulsive viewing is not the question of how much or how often one views it, but rather the question of control,” says Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, therapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. “If a person is unable to stop watching porn, even though they want to and perhaps have tried to, this is a problem of compulsion and is cause for concern. This is true even if they don’t view it very often.”
“On the other hand, someone can watch porn daily and it is not necessarily a problem,” Bilek adds. “So long as they’re in control of what, when, and how often they’re indulging.”
Zrenchick agrees. “There is no universal, standard definition as to what makes viewing pornography — or any digital media, for that matter — problematic,” he says. “Instead, it comes down to one’s personal definition.”
Duane suggests that the line between occasional pornography viewing and compulsive or “problematic” pornography consumption may include:
- losing track of time online while viewing pornography
- increased isolation or choosing porn over socializing
- dismissing friends, loved ones, spouses, or partners to watch porn
- feelings of euphoria while viewing pornography, followed by guilt
- having difficulty completing obligatory tasks, such as work, parenting, and school, in order to view pornography
- avoiding new physical relationships or avoiding physical contact with your significant other
“To be clear, there is nothing wrong with watching pornography,” says Alphonso Nathan, therapist, author, and vice president of Brightside Counseling. “But when it becomes an obsession and interferes with your daily living, it may be an issue.”
In many instances, when it becomes an obsession it can also lead you to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Getting In Touch With Your Needs: Pornography And Depression
Masturbating is a source of relief for many people, even though it's a rather taboo subject. While some people feel guilty about masturbation or try to hide it, it's a natural act. Everyone does it, even people who won't admit it, so you don't need to be ashamed of it.
Being aware of your body and what feels good to you is healthy, despite the often taboo nature of masturbation. Believe it or not, new studies have suggested that familiarity with your body and sexuality can be an asset in your relationships with others. More than just one new study can also confirm the importance of communication, especially when exploring sexuality and intimacy with your partner.
In addition to relieving stress, masturbation releases endorphins and a rush of dopamine. These feel-good chemicals can be addictive, especially for those who are struggling with anxiety or depression, so masturbation can become addictive. It can also exacerbate existing symptoms of a mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression, etc.
If you suspect that you might be struggling with addiction to masturbation, the inability to not watch porn, or that the consumption of pornography is an issue for you, continue reading to learn more information and critical resources for support.
The Taboo Association With Masturbation And Pornography
Now let's be honest: People rarely talk openly about sex and mental health, especially in certain cultures or societal groups. Unfortunately, when topics are considered taboo, we tend to assume it's because those subjects are wildly inappropriate, unacceptable, or just bad. ("Bad" is a broad word, but you get the point.) If someone has never heard people talk about masturbation in an educational and healthy manner, they might judge it in a negative way despite the fact that it's a normal behavior. Moreover, individuals experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are often reluctant to talk about these struggles due to the stigma around these conditions.
Given these unfortunate realities, porn users can be afraid to ask for help when their pornography or masturbation habits are contributing to their mental health issues. Many people may find themselves stuck in a loop of masturbation, pornography and depression, all the while worrying about societal judgment. Being in touch with your sexuality is a journey, and it should be a source of pleasure and adventure. If that's not the case for you, you might need support to deal with these issues. Moreover, if you are viewing higher levels of pornography that you think you should, you may also want to reach out for help.
Learning Not To Feel Guilty
What turns one person on may disgust another. Learning what "works" for you is part of becoming a fully-functioning, healthy adult. To truly enjoy your sexuality, you need to be honest about your preferences with yourself and any sexual partners. Some people really enjoy watching pornography, but they feel guilty about it, so they keep it from their partner. This may be a factor in increasing your risk for depression. In other words, if you are viewing porn and having to keep it a secret, it may trigger depression, since you can&rsquot be honest with your partner about it.
In some cases, the partners of people who watch porn may not support or approve of their partner&rsquos desires to watch pornography because it incites jealousy or feelings of inadequacy. Just because a partner viewed pornography, this does not make anyone inadequate. If you're in a relationship with someone who doesn't appreciate or support your sexual needs, you may want to consider looking for someone who is a better match for you.
On the other hand, your partner may be concerned about the effect pornography has on you. Talk to your partner, and try to understand their concerns. There are other valid concerns to consider, such as research showing how mainstream porn tends to increase support for violence against women, within both male and female viewers. Your partner may also be worried that pornography is contributing to your anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. There is no solid link that porn causes depression, but it may be a factor. If your consumption of pornography is causing a change in your routine, you may want to think about talking to a mental health professional. You should also consider lowering your porn consumption, so you can get everything done that needs to be done in a day.
A Need For Higher Levels Of Support
When dealing with how you watch porn, a higher level of support from your significant other can make a difference. Because of how society tends to address issues like choosing to watch porn, there can already be feelings of nervousness and apprehension attached, even when they&rsquore not necessary. If you view porn, try not to keep it from your partner.
Even if your partner disagrees with why or how you choose to watch porn, it is important for them to be there for you and hear you out. On a similar note, being mindful of your partner&rsquos feedback, the latest news and studies about pornography, etc., will also make a positive difference. It is important that you are honest with yourself and your partner about viewing of pornography.
In the long run, conversations about the decision to watch porn will hopefully bring you and your significant other closer together.
Pornography And Depression
Access to pornography has changed tremendously over the past few decades. Prior to the Internet and the smartphone, people typically had to leave their homes to purchase pornographic magazines or videos. Nowadays, you can find porn anywhere and anytime on your cell phone, tablet, or computer. What does this easy access mean? Well, for those who enjoy watching pornography, it makes things a lot easier. Essentially, you can watch more porn, since it is available at your fingertips.
As we mentioned earlier, watching porn is quite normal. If you're not familiar with pornography, you may be curious why so many people watch it. According to writers at FightTheNewDrug.com, there are five primary reasons why individuals watch pornography, including:
- Arousal: Well, this one makes sense. In Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Abraham Maslow theorized that we as humans are motivated to have certain needs met and that issues may arise when that doesn't happen. One of those needs, of course, is sex. More likely than not, Maslow was referring to sex with someone else, not masturbation, but in general, humans need to experience arousal and its satisfying results.
- Boredom: FightTheNewDrug.org defines boredom as ". the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity." Although many people use pornography to unwind after a long day or to avoid boredom, it turns out that watching pornography does not help to decrease boredom. "It leaves a person unsatisfied and disengaged. [the] brain will become tired of seeing the same content, and a person will slowly start to crave more." This may be a reason why it is thought to trigger depression in some people.
- Loneliness: Similarly, some people use porn to escape reality or to cope with loneliness. However, continuously turning to porn to deal with loneliness may have an adverse effect because it reinforces isolation. Believe it or not, excessive porn addiction has also been linked to struggles with healthy sexual intimacy. This is why engaging with other people is a much more productive way of coping. Don&rsquot increase the levels of pornography you are viewing when you are feeling lonely, as this may not be the answer.
- Education: As we discussed earlier, sex is a taboo subject that some people don't like to discuss. For this reason, many teenagers and young adults turn to pornography to learn about sex. Although watching porn may seem less embarrassing than asking someone for advice, it's not the most effective way to learn about sex. For the most part, pornographic scenes are not realistic and can easily lead to skewed expectations or unreasonable opinions about women. When these individuals do start having sex, this creates pressure to perform as though they're in a pornographic movie, which is neither fair nor realistic. This can lead a person to feel depressed, since they may not understand why they aren&rsquot performing in a way that they noticed when they viewed porn.
- Peer Pressure: Research from Abeele, Campbell, Eggermont, and Roe (2014) explains that teenagers feel pressure to view online pornography to "achieve peer acceptance and to display or gain status." While adults may (or may not) experience similar pressure, the normalization of sexting and pornographic images on social media may have an impact on adult pornography habits. It may cause someone to consume porn, so they can fit in.
The Link Between Pornography And Depression
Are you curious about the link between pornography and depression? The idea that porn can trigger depression is something that makes sense but should be explained further. While porn addiction and depression may seem completely alien from one another, they can be more connected than some people realize. Make no mistake: not every person who chooses to watch porn is suffering from depression however, excessive pornography consumption can be an unhealthy coping mechanism that someone uses due to feelings of depression. While some people may use pornography as a coping mechanism, others do not. You should be aware of your porn consumption and why you are watching it.
According to Dr. Julia Cottle's article, "The Brains of Porn Addicts," problematic usage of pornography can both lead to depression and increase existing symptoms of depression. She explains that watching pornographic videos leads to the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. Similar to illicit drug use, the release of dopamine "reinforces that behavior, making it more likely to occur" and possibly addictive. Therefore, if someone is using pornography to escape their depression, their usage will likely make things worse. In some cases, depressed men likely view pornography, but this may have a negative effect, if they are already experiencing depression.
The link between porn and depression can cause serious problems in the life of impacted individuals. There is also an idea that porn may even trigger depression. Porn addiction can have one negative impact after the other on sexual intimacy, sexual behavior, long term relationships, and more, especially if you are using porn as a coping strategy. Someone who struggles with porn addiction may also find themselves neglecting important parts of their life so they can watch porn. None of this is good worse yet, the negative aftermath stemming from porn addiction can worsen already-existing depression. If you have a problem with porn, you should think about getting the help you need, so you can lessen any negative affects it is having on relationships and other aspects of your life.
Breaking It Down
While masturbation and porn usage have been publicly associated with erection problems and an increased risk of anxiety and other mental health problems, this is arguably society's way of demonizing the behavior. Masturbation, in and of itself, is not problematic it&rsquos a very healthy and natural sexual behavior that each person should embrace for themselves.
Our society has silently labeled anyone participating in non-hetero non-monogamous sex or pornography as deviants, but in reality our world has a vast range of normal sexual variation. This vilification of masturbation can lead to all kinds of easily preventable mental health issues this is why breaking the negative cycle and getting to know your body and yourself without feelings of shame is so important.
When you participate in something society deems "wrong," your body releases stress hormones, namely cortisol. This causes your arteries to constrict and in some cases may limit blood flow to what would otherwise become an erection. Furthermore, this experience may also contribute to the mental health issues society warned about in the first place. It's effectively a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Break The Cycle
You're struggling with depression, and you now know that porn is making it worse. Confronting a porn addiction, depressive symptoms, or other struggles can be tough however, being honest with yourself allows you to take the next step and seek the necessary advice, diagnosis or treatment. Being addicted to porn doesn&rsquot make you any less of a human being it simply means that you have your own challenges, just like everyone else.
Breaking the cycle, no longer being addicted to porn, and overcoming depressive symptoms takes time and effort. By recognizing your struggle with porn and addiction, pornography users can then take the necessary next steps.
- Talk to your partner if you have one. You may also benefit from counseling, either alone or as a couple. When you struggle with a mental health issue like porn addiction, being honest with your partner and getting their support can make all the difference in the world. If you and your partner decide to seek counseling together, this can help with not only a porn addiction health issue, but counseling can also strengthen your relationship.
- Join a support group. Peer support is incredibly uplifting, and surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you feel safer, so you can open up about your feelings and issues. Working with support groups when you are struggling with a health issue like porn addiction can help you know that you are not alone. Being around others who are also battling the same health issue can provide insight into healthy techniques and coping mechanisms.
- Finally, consider taking up a productive hobby. The arts, for example, can be very therapeutic because they're a good visual and mental substitute for watching porn. They also come with the added benefit of increasing self-fulfillment and self-esteem. Alternatively, exercise can be a healthy outlet for your energy. Get fit while you occupy your mind and your time.
How BetterHelp Can Help
Although this can be a sensitive subject, a qualified therapist can help you talk about it and work through it. Working with a therapist is a great way to deal with struggles regarding post-traumatic stress disorder, porn and addiction, or another health issue altogether. Both dated research and new research confirm the many benefits that can come from taking therapy sessions on a consistent basis. New research suggests that working with a therapist can play a pivotal role in your mental health, outlook on life, and interpersonal relationships. If you are open to it, BetterHelp can make an immensely positive difference in your life.
BetterHelp is an online platform that can connect you with a caring professional, so you can discuss any urges and concerns in the privacy of your own home, with complete anonymity and no judgment. Check out what people just like you are saying about their experiences with BetterHelp's licensed therapists.
" Karen has helped me challenge some long-held beliefs - stories I had been telling myself about my life's experiences. Stories that had kept me stuck for decades. With her help, I've cleared the path and began to move forward with greater compassion for myself. I'm grateful to her for allowing me to see my lifelong experiences in a much more useful way and cannot recommend her highly enough! "
" I have seen multiple counselors and never stuck with them for more than a month. Brian is the first counselor who has ever helped me get past some of my biggest roadblocks. I've never learned as much as I have before while working with him. I truly believe he's helped me make positive changes that I've been needing to make for so long, and I couldn't be more grateful or glad that I've found him on here and have had his help through the most trying time I've encountered thus far. "
Understanding human sexuality and the urges that come with it can be a difficult journey, especially in a society that may frown upon topics like pornography and masturbation. Both can be a normal, healthy part of your sexual experience. However, if they're contributing to unhealthy habits or exacerbating mental health issues, you don't have to struggle alone.
As you work to overcome addiction to porn and depression, you should maintain a support system, even as you&rsquore working with a mental health professional. Support groups of people who love you and have your best interests at heart is linked to not only battling depressive symptoms, but also in overcoming various challenges.
Despite the manner in which society often approaches porn addiction and related stories, being addicted to porn doesn&rsquot make you any less worthy of support groups and professional help.
Reach out to a mental health professional, and move forward to a healthy life with self-acceptance and fulfilling relationships. Take the first step today.
Mental Effects of Porn
The Covid-19 pandemic means that people worldwide are suffering from more stress as a result of the change and uncertainty the virus is causing to our everyday lives. Many are turning to pornography to self soothe their anxiety or depression, or just find some quick pleasure. The multi-billion-dollar porn industry is taking advantage of so many people feeling bored while stuck at home and are offering free access to premium sites to encourage use. The challenge there is that quick fixes often have hidden risks, such as a gradual dependency that can result in problematic use and even addiction for some. The following pages will help make you more aware of the risks and what you can do to use better coping mechanisms at this time. The last thing you need is added stress and discomfort that you could have avoided with some helpful information early on.
Here are two useful quotes to consider when reflecting on porn’s impact on mental health:
- “Of all activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to become addictive,” say Dutch neuroscientists Meerkerk et al. 2006
- “Your life changes when you have a working knowledge of your brain. It takes guilt out of the equation when you recognize that there’s a biological basis for certain emotional issues,” says psychiatrist Dr John Ratey, (P6 Introduction to book “Spark!”).
Before we go into more detail about the mental effects of porn use over time, let’s remember why it is important to challenge it. Internet porn inhibits the desire for and satisfaction with real life, sexual relationships. That is a tragedy as sexual love and intimacy are amongst some of the best experiences we can have as human beings.
Learning about Porn’s Effects
This learning about porn’s effects on the brain has been the single most important factor helping people overcome the wide range of negative mental and physical effects from overuse of porn. So far, there are over 85 studies that link poor mental and emotional health to porn use. These effects range from brain fog and social anxiety through to depression, negative body image and flashbacks. Eating disorders, on the rise in young people, cause more deaths than any other mental illness. Porn has a big impact on idealised notions of body image.
Even three hours of porn use a week can cause a noticeable reduction in grey matter in key areas of the brain. When brain connections are involved, it means they impact behaviour and mood. Regular bingeing on hardcore internet porn can cause some users to develop mental health problems, compulsive use, even addiction. These interfere significantly with everyday life and life goals. Users often talk about feeling ‘numb’ towards everyday pleasures.
See this 5 minute video where a neurosurgeon explains the brain changes. Here is a link to the main research and studies on poorer mental and emotional health, and poorer cognitive (thinking) outcomes. These outcomes affect a user’s ability to achieve well at school, college or work. See our FREE lesson plans for schools to help pupils be aware of the mental health effects of porn on their wellbeing and ability to achieve at school.
Although bingeing on porn over time can, in itself, lead to mental health problems, some people have suffered trauma in their lives and use porn to self soothe. In these cases, people need help to get back in touch with their body to help them to manage the traumatic event(s) that keep them trapped in inappropriate coping mechanisms. We would recommend the book by clinician and research psychiatrist Professor Bessel van der Kolk, “The Body Keeps The Score” based in the USA. There are some good videos with him on YouTube talking about different types of trauma and various (limbic brain) therapies that are effective. In this one he recommends the power of yoga as one such therapy. In this short one he talks about loneliness and post traumatic stress disorder. Here he talks about trauma and attachment. This one relates to the trauma many people are feeling as a result of the pandemic, COVID-19. It’s full of wise advice.
The list below sets out the main effects observed by healthcare professionals and by recovering users on the recovery websites like NoFap and RebootNation. Many symptoms are not noticed until a user quits for a few weeks.
Overview of Porn Risks
A pornography habit has the potential to cause the following problems:
- withdrawing from social activity
- developing a secret life
- lying to and deceiving others
- becoming self-centred
- choosing porn over people
- feeling irritable
- feeling angry and depressed
- experiencing mood swings
- pervasive anxiety and fearfulness
- feeling powerless in relation to porn
Sexually objectifying other people
- treating people as sex objects
- judging people primarily in terms of their body parts
- experiencing mood swings
- disrespecting other people’s needs for privacy and safety
- being insensitive about sexually harmful behaviour
Engaging in risky and dangerous behaviour
- accessing porn at work or school
- accessing child abuse imagery
- participating in degrading, abusive, violent, or criminal sexual activity
- producing, distributing or selling porn
- engaging in physically unsafe and harmful sex
Unhappy intimate partner
- relationship is marred by dishonesty and deception about porn use
- partner views porn as infidelity i.e. “cheating”
- partner is increasingly upset and angry
- relationship deteriorates due to lack of trust and respect
- partner is concerned about the welfare of the children
- partner feels sexually inadequate and threatened by the porn
- loss of emotional closeness and mutual sexual enjoyment
- loss of interest in sex with a real partner
- difficulty becoming aroused and/or achieving orgasm without porn
- intrusive thoughts, fantasies, and images of porn during sex
- becoming sexually demanding and or rough in sex
- having difficulty connecting love and caring with sex
- feeling sexually out of control and compulsive
- increased interest in risky, degrading, abusive, and/or illegal sex
- growing dissatisfaction with sex
- sexual dysfunctions – inability to orgasm, delated ejaculation, erectile dysfunction
- feeling disconnected from person values, beliefs and goals
- loss of personal integrity
- damaged self-esteem
- persistent feelings of guilt and shame
- feeling controlled by porn
Neglecting important areas of life
- personal health (sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and poor self-care)
- family life (neglecting partner, children, pets and household responsibilities)
- work and school pursuits (reduced focus, productivity, and advancement)
- finances (spending on porn depletes resources)
- spirituality (alienation from faith and spiritual practice)
Addiction to Porn
- craving porn intensely and persistently
- difficulty controlling thoughts, or exposure to, and use of porn
- inability to discontinue porn use despite negative consequences
- repeated failures to stop using porn
- requiring more extreme content or intense exposures to porn to get same effect (habituation symptoms)
- experiencing discomfort and irritability when deprived of porn (withdrawal symptoms)
The above list is adapted from the book “The Porn Trap” by Wendy Malz. See below for supporting research.
“Heat of the Moment” and Sex Crime
In this fascinating research “The Heat of the Moment: The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Decision Making“, the results show that “the attractiveness of activities suggest sexual arousal acts as an amplifier of sorts” in young men…
“a secondary implication of our ﬁndings is that people seem to have only limited insight into the impact of sexual arousal on their own judgments and behavior. Such an under-appreciation could be important for both individual and societal decision making.
“… the most effective means of self-control is probably not willpower (which has been shown to be of limited efficacy), but rather avoiding situations in which one will become aroused and lose control. Any failure to appreciate the impact of sexual arousal on one’s own behavior is likely to lead to inadequate measures to avoid such situations. Similarly, if people under-appreciate their own likelihood of having sex, they are likely to fail to take precautions to limit the potential damage from such encounters. A teenager who embraces ‘‘just say no,’’ for example, may feel it unnecessary to bring a condom on a date, thus greatly increasing the likelihood of pregnancy or transmission of STDs if he/she ends up getting caught up in the heat of the moment.”
“The same logic applies interpersonally. If people judge others’ likely behavior based on observing them when they are not sexually aroused, and fail to appreciate the impact of sexual arousal, then they are likely to be caught by surprise by the other’s behavior when aroused. Such a pattern could easily contribute to date-rape. Indeed, it can create the perverse situation in which people who are the least attracted to their dates are most likely to experience date-rape because being unaroused themselves they completely fail to understand or predict the other (aroused) person’s behavior.”
“In sum, the current study shows that sexual arousal inﬂuences people in profound ways. This should come as no surprise to most people who have personal experience with sexual arousal, but the magnitude of the effects is nevertheless striking. At a practical level, our results suggest that efforts to promote safe, ethical sex should concentrate on preparing people to deal with the ‘‘heat of the moment’’ or to avoid it when it is likely to lead to self-destructive behavior. Efforts at self-control that involve raw willpower (Baumeister & Vohs, 2003) are likely to be ineffective in the face of the dramatic cognitive and motivational changes caused by arousal.”
See TEDx talk by Dan Ariely on Self Control.
Addiction – effects on sleep, work, relationships
The most basic effect of watching too much internet porn or even gaming is how it affects sleep. People end up ‘wired and tired’ and unable to concentrate on work next day. Constant bingeing and seeking that dopamine reward hit, can lead to a deep habit that is hard to kick. It can also cause ‘pathological’ learning in the form of addiction. That is when a user continues to seek a substance or activity despite negative consequences – such as problems at work, home, in relationships etc. A compulsive user experiences negative feelings such as depression or feeling flat when he or she miss the hit or excitement. This drives them back to it again and again to try and restore feelings of arousal. Addiction can start when trying to cope with stress, but also causes a user to feel stressed too. It is a vicious cycle.
When our internal biology is out of balance, our rational brain tries to interpret what is going on based on past experience. Low dopamine and depletion of other related neurochemicals can produce unpleasant feelings. They include boredom, hunger, stress, tiredness, low energy, anger, craving, depression, loneliness and anxiety. How we ‘interpret’ our feelings and the possible cause of the distress, affects our behaviour. Not until people quit porn do they realise that their habit has been the cause of so much negativity in their lives.
We often seek to self-medicate negative feelings with more of our favourite substance or behaviour. We do this without realising that it was perhaps overindulgence in that behaviour or substance that triggered the low feelings in the first place. The hangover effect is a neurochemical rebound. In Scotland, alcohol drinkers suffering from a hangover next day often use a famous expression. They talk of taking “the hair of the dog that bit you”. That means they have another drink. Unfortunately for some people, this can lead to a vicious cycle of bingeing, depression, bingeing, depression and so on.
Too much porn…
The effect of watching too much, highly stimulating porn can lead to a hangover and depressive symptoms too. It may be hard to see how consuming porn and consuming drugs can have the same general effect on the brain, but it does. The brain responds to stimulation, chemical or otherwise. The effects don’t stop at a hangover however. Constant overexposure to this material can produce brain changes with effects that may include the following:
Research shows that consuming pornography correlates with a lack of commitment to one’s romantic partner. Getting used to the constant novelty and increasing levels of arousal provided by porn and the thought that there may be someone ever ‘hotter’ in the next video, means that their brain is no longer aroused by real life partners. It can stop people wanting to invest in developing a real life relationship. This spells misery for almost everyone: men because they are not benefitting from the warmth and interaction a real life relationship brings and women, because no amount of cosmetic enhancement can keep a man interested whose brain has been conditioned to need constant novelty and unnatural levels of stimulation. It is a no-win situation.
Therapists too are seeing a big increase in people seeking help for an addiction to dating apps. The fake promise of always something better with the next click or swipe, stops people focusing on getting to know just one person.
In a study of university-age males, difficulties with social functioning increased as pornography consumption rose. This applied to psychosocial problems such as depression, anxiety, stress and reduced social functioning.
Consumption of pornography was experimentally shown to decrease an individual’s ability to delay gratification for more valuable future rewards. In other words, watching porn makes you less logical and less able to take decisions that are clearly in your own interest such as doing homework and studying first instead of just entertaining yourself. Putting the reward before the effort.
• In a study of 14 year old boys, higher levels of internet pornography consumption led to a risk of decreased academic performance, with the effects visible six-months later.
The more porn a man watches…
The more pornography a man watches, the more likely he was to use it during sex. It can give him the desire to act out porn scripts with his partner, deliberately conjure images of pornography during sex to maintain arousal. This also leads to concerns over his own sexual performance and body image. Further, higher pornography use was negatively associated with enjoying sexually intimate behaviours with a partner.
Low Sexual Desire
In one study, students at the end of high school reported a strong link between high levels of pornography consumption and low sexual desire. A quarter of regular consumers in this group reported an abnormal sexual response.
• The 2008 Study of Sexuality in France found that 20% of men 18-24 “no interest in sex or sexual activity”. This is very much at odds with the French national stereotype.
• In Japan in 2010: an official government survey found that 36% males aged 16-19 “have no interest in sex or have an aversion to it”. They prefer virtual dolls or anime.
Morphing sexual tastes…
In some people, there can be unexpected morphing sexual tastes which reverse when they stop using porn. Here the issue is straight people watching gay porn, gays watching straight porn and lots of variations. Some people also develop fetishes and interests in sexual things away from their natural sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter what our orientation or sexual identity is, chronic overuse of internet pornography can cause serious changes to the brain. It changes both brain structure and functioning. As everyone is unique, it is not easy to say how much porn is enough for just pleasure before starting to cause changes. Changing sexual tastes is an indication, however, of brain changes. Everyone’s brain will react differently.
Take a look at our section on Quitting Porn for lots of help and suggestions.
Sex Essential Reads
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6 Possible Reasons a Man May Decline Sex
There is no scientific evidence that watching pornography causes bad attitudes towards women, but it can increase negative attitudes if people have pre-existing misogynistic attitudes. Once again, porn is not the problem, but the endemic misogyny (which pre-dates internet porn) is the real problem.
Of course, it is much easier to point the finger at porn than to do the long hard work of changing our society and its attitudes towards sex education and misogyny.
Let’s look at another issue. We know that fast food is bad for our health. Some of us over-indulge to the point of being dangerous. Would banning fast food help? Or should we provide our young people with much better education on food and cooking classes? Blaming fast food would be ignoring the people’s individual responsibility for their choices.
Unlike fast food, there is no evidence that mainstream pornography is bad for health. Unlike chocolate, it is easy to access ethical porn, yet pornography remains the most controversial subject.
The myth that pornography is addictive
This is another one of the common worries (and myths) when people speak of the problems with porn. Although the term ‘porn addiction’ is popular, it has not been clinically endorsed. The only diagnostic criteria that we have is ‘compulsive sexual behaviour disorder’ (ICD-11). Given that pornography is so popular, if it was really addictive, therapists would be seeing millions of people knocking on their doors. But we don’t. The number of people struggling with porn is relatively small. Also, most who seek help have self-diagnosed either by doing some online tests, reading an anti-porn book, or doing some internet searching, but most don’t even meet the criteria for compulsive sexual behaviours. Most people struggling with porn are those who feel shame because of intense conflicts with relationships, morals, values, and their erotic world. The people who have genuine compulsive behaviours with pornography are usually those who use it to attempt to regulate underlying emotional problems. Stopping watching porn won’t resolve those emotional problems it might actually make them worse. Good therapy should be focused on addressing those emotional problems rather than helping people stop watching porn. When people resolve their emotional problems, the compulsion dilutes by itself.
There is so much porn panic noise that it can be hard to decipher proper information to make your own opinion about it. I think it is really important to turn to the sexology science rather than moralistic anecdotes. An independent and helpful website, Porn Science, offers a collection of the vast scientific research on porn.
Mental Health, Depression, Suicide, and Pornography
As I’ve mentioned here before, I began to watch pornography before my body was able to respond to the content. My first love was the fantasy world of pornography. Which, tragically enough, isn’t actually unique. Most of the hundreds of millions of pornography addicts in North America began watching pornography as children.
Another thing that isn’t unique to my experience in life is depression and anxiety. When depression hits, it really throws down. I lose my love for life, my interests, my motivations, my care. It’ll take me hours to find a reason to get out of bed or out of the car, or wherever I happen to be when it hits.
And anxiety, who wants that stuff? — who thought up connecting anxiety with butterflies, anyway? It feels like a brood of scorpions was shaken up and let loose in my guts.
Depression and anxiety are at epidemic stages in North America, which has led to a suicide crisis.
There are a lot of things that kill people — cancer, car accidents, drug overdoses. But did you know that suicide has the second highest cause of death in the United States? Suicide. Right behind heart disease. The last count was over 42,000 people in 2014. Every year, about two percent of our population hope that death is better than life and they decide to find out.
Those numbers are crushing, and year by year the numbers go up.
Porn and Depression
As you may know, pornography hijacks the pleasure center of your brain. It floods your neuro-network with dopamine. Which is to say, the more you watch pornography the harder it is to find happiness outside of pornography. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to find happiness in pornography and it gets harder and harder to find happiness in other areas of life.
How it works
Pornography can create, agitate, and trap you in depression and anxiety. Porn can create depression and anxiety by robbing joy from other areas of your life, thus triggering an episode of depression. Porn can agitate depression by over-using your dopamines while watching pornography, leaving you feeling more hopeless and helpless. And porn can trap you in depression by draining you of life, instead of fulfilling the promise of giving you life.
I had a friend pass away several years ago. Needless to say, I felt pretty awful. I remember during the week that he died, I tried to watch pornography at least twice a day, every day that week. I had trained my mind to know pornography as my primary coping activity. My body knew it was sad, so my pleasure center was screaming, “Watch porn!”
The crazy thing was, my body couldn’t respond to the pornography — I was too sad, too broken. It would be like the world’s worst friend finding their buddy dead and wanting their dead friend to “feel better” and come back to life, so they stick a syringe full of heroin into their arm. My mind wanted my body to feel pleasure, but my body was dead to it.
Depression had already set in for me and my screwed up pleasure-center was trying to give me something that would really just make me more depressed. But my body was already there, it was dead to such things.
Where do we go from here?
My uncle once told me to approach every person as though they have pain somewhere. That still strikes me as profound. It’s just rough to see the statistics (and many of our experiences) bear that truth out. Suicide is at an all-time historical high, so is depression, and anxiety, and pornography.
Our society is still learning to evaluate the causation in the correlation, but we’re quickly seeing the connections between mental health and pornography.
This culture is hurting deeply — as we are all sticking heroin-filled syringes into our loved ones, thinking the small, sad smile that comes onto their faces is a sign that they’re happy.
The problem is big and it’s weaved itself into our imaginations and our coping mechanisms. Porn is there for us when we’re sad, when we’re happy, when we’re lonely, after a difficult day at work, after a fight with our spouse, and it’s even there for us when a loved one dies.
Pornography is not the sole issue for our mental health problems, but it is a big contributor to our issues.
Certain things are worth fighting for and other things are worth fighting against. Fight with us!
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for ProvenMen Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.
Issues with research Edit
Pornography has many different forms which are difficult to cover in blanket form. Pornographic internet videos, for example, have been found to have different effects on viewers than material such as pornographic magazines. Within the field of pornography research, there are also other challenges that arise due to strong opinions and feelings on the topic. Confirmation bias has been prevalent on both sides due to societal taboos surrounding pornography. Studies have looked into both negative effects of pornography as well as potential benefits or positive effects of pornography. A large percentage of studies suffer from methodological issues. In one meta-study by researchers at Middlesex University in England, over 40,000 papers and articles were submitted to the team for review: 276 or 0.69% were suitable for consideration due to the low quality of research within the field. 
Pornography addiction is a purported behavioral addiction characterized by compulsive, repeated use of pornographic material until it causes serious negative consequences to one's physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being.    There is no diagnosis of pornography addiction in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  The DSM-5 considered the diagnosis of hypersexuality-related behavioral disorders (to which porn addiction was a subset), but rejected it because "there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and course descriptions needed to identify these behaviors as mental disorders."  Instead, some psychologists suggest that any maladaptive sexual symptoms represent a manifestation of an underlying disorder, such as depression or anxiety which is simply manifesting itself sexually, or, alternatively, there is no underlying disorder and the behavior simply is not maladaptive. These psychologists do not recognize the concept of addiction, only chemical dependence, and some believe the concept and diagnosis to be stigmatizing and unhelpful.  
Two 2016 neurology reviews found evidence of addiction related brain changes in internet pornography users. Psychological effects of these brain changes are described as desensitization to reward, a dysfunctional anxiety response, and impulsiveness.   Another 2016 review suggests that internet behaviors, including the use of pornography, be considered potentially addictive, and that problematic use of online pornography be considered an "internet-use disorder". 
Introductory psychology textbook authors Coon, Mitterer and Martini, passingly mentioning NoFap (former pornography users who have since chosen to abstain from the material) speak of pornography as a "supernormal stimulus" but use the model of compulsion rather than addiction. 
A number of studies have found neurological markers of addiction in Internet porn users,    which is consistent with a large body of research finding similar markers in other kinds of problematic internet users.  Yet other studies have found that critical biomarkers of addiction are missing,  and most addiction biomarkers have never been demonstrated for pornography. 
Other effects on human behavior Edit
Research at Alliant International University found that participants who consumed internet pornography more frequently had increased rates of delay discounting. The researchers state, "The constant novelty and primacy of sexual stimuli as particularly strong natural rewards make internet pornography a unique activator of the brain's reward system, thereby having implications for decision-making processes." 
A study by Professor Kathryn C.Seigfried-Spellar and Professor Marcus Rogers found results which suggested deviant pornography use followed a Guttman-like progression in that individuals with a younger "age of onset" for adult pornography use were more likely to engage in deviant pornography (bestiality or child) compared to those with a later "age of onset". 
Controlled studies Edit
A controlled study describes the relationship between given behaviors or environmental conditions and health effects in a laboratory setting in which conditions other than those under study are effectively held constant across groups of participants receiving various levels of the experimental condition(s). Since it is considered that the only functional difference between groups is the level of experimental condition(s) received, researchers can strongly infer cause-and-effect relationships from statistically significant associations between experimental condition(s) and health consequences. Thus, if executed properly, controlled studies have high levels of internal validity. However, such studies often suffer from questionable external validity due to the considerable differences between real-world environments and the experimental context, and the consequent belief that results cannot be generalized beyond that context. 
The link between pornography and sexual aggression has been the subject of multiple meta-analyses.  Meta-analyses conducted in the 1990s suggested to researchers that there might not be an association of any kind between pornography and rape supportive attitudes in non-experimental studies.  However, a meta-analysis by Hald, Malamuth and Yuen (2000) suggests that there is a link between consumption of violent pornography and rape-supportive attitudes in certain populations of men, particularly when moderating variables are taken into consideration. 
A meta-analysis conducted in 2015 found that pornography "consumption was associated with sexual aggression in the United States and internationally, among males and females, and in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Associations were stronger for verbal than physical sexual aggression, although both were significant. The general pattern of results suggested that violent content may be an exacerbating factor." 
In an earlier review of this literature Ferguson and Hartley (2009) argued that "it is time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior".  They stated that the authors of some studies tended to highlight positive findings while deemphasizing null findings, demonstrating confirmation bias in the published literature. Ferguson and Hartley concluded that controlled studies, on balance, were not able to support links between pornography and sexual violence.
Ferguson and Hartley updated their review with a 2020 meta-analysis. This meta-analysis concluded that mainstream pornography could not be linked to sexual violence and was associated with reductions in societal violence at the societal level. Small correlations were found between violent porn viewing and sexual aggression, but evidence was unable to differentiate whether this was a causal or selection effect (i.e. sexual offenders seeking out violent porn). 
Epidemiological studies Edit
An epidemiological study describes the association between given behaviors or environmental conditions, and physical or psychological health by means of observation of real-world phenomena through statistical data. Epidemiological studies generally have high levels of external validity, insofar as they accurately describe events as they occur outside of a laboratory setting, but low levels of internal validity, since they do not strongly establish cause-and-effect relationships between the behaviors or conditions under study, and the health consequences observed. 
Danish criminologist Berl Kutchinsky's Studies on Pornography and sex crimes in Denmark (1970), a scientific report ordered by the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, found that the legalizing of pornography in Denmark had not resulted in an increase of sex crimes.  Since then, many other experiments have been conducted, either supporting or opposing the findings of Berl Kutchinsky, who would continue his study into the social effects of pornography until his death in 1995. His life's work was summed up in the publication Law, Pornography, and Crime: The Danish Experience (1999). In 1998 Milton Diamond from the University of Hawaii noted that in Japan, the number of reported cases of child sex abuse dropped markedly after the ban on sexually explicit materials was lifted in 1969 however, in Denmark and Sweden, there was an increase in reported rapes after the liberalization of their pornography laws during the same time period. 
Some researchers argue that there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes,   including Diamond (author of a review from 2009).  The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective was an epidemiological study which found that the massive growth of the pornography industry in the United States between 1975 and 1995 was accompanied by a substantial decrease in the number of sexual assaults per capita - and reported similar results for Japan - but not for Denmark and Sweden.  Findings of this nature have been critiqued by Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, on the grounds that the results are better explained by factors other than the increased prevalence of pornography: "a more plausible explanation is that if there is a decline in "forcible rape," it is the result of a tremendous effort to curb rape through community and school-based programs, media coverage, aggressive law enforcement, DNA evidence, longer prison sentences, and more." 
In 1986, a review of epidemiological studies by Neil M. Malamuth found that the quantity of pornographic material viewed by men was positively correlated with degree to which they endorsed sexual assault.  Malamuth's work describes Check (1984), who found among a diverse sample of Canadian men that more exposure to pornography led to higher acceptance of rape myths, violence against women, and general sexual callousness. In another study, Briere, Corne, Runtz and Neil M. Malamuth, (1984) reported similar correlations in a sample involving college males. On the other hand, the failure to find a statistically significant correlation in another previous study led Malamuth to examine other interesting correlations, which took into account the information about sexuality the samples obtained in their childhood, and pornography emerged as the second most important source of information.  Malamuth's work has been criticized by other authors, however, such as Ferguson and Hartley (2009) who argue Malamuth has exaggerated positive findings and has not always properly discussed null findings.  In a Quartz publication, Malamuth argued that porn is like alcohol: "whether it's bad for you depends on who you are" (stating that it increases violence in a few people, not in most people it makes most people more relaxed). 
Because pornographic film making involves unsimulated sex, usually without condoms (barebacking), pornographic actors have been found to be particularly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.   
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation tried several times to have California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health's Appeals Board force companies in the pornography industry to treat actors and actresses as employees subject to occupational safety and health regulation. In a 2014 case brought against Treasure Island Media, an administrative judge found that the company did have to comply with regulations. 
In the United Kingdom, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers feels schoolchildren need to be educated about pornography and warned what is reasonable and what is not acceptable.  The UK children's commissioner initiated a meta-study conducted by researchers at Middlesex University which concluded that pornography is linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex, beliefs that women are sex objects, more frequent thoughts about sex, and found that children and young people who view pornography tend to hold less progressive gender role attitudes.  Miranda Horvath stated about this: "But it is not possible to establish causation from correlational studies, and to say whether pornography is changing or reinforcing attitudes." 
The role pornography watching plays in the development of children and youth is basically unknown, due to a lack of empirical studies.  This basically confirms the thesis from Not in Front of the Children: harmful to minors is an often heard claim which completely lacks evidence.   There are considerable ethical problems with performing such research.  Since those problems are a huge obstacle, it is likely that such research will not be allowed, so we will never know.   Rory Reid (UCLA) declared "Universities don't want their name on the front page of a newspaper for an unethical study exposing minors to porn."  
Pornography and Depression: Is There A Relationship?
If we talk about earlier days the access to pornography wasn’t that much easy as compared to today. In recent times, the advancements in technology and moreover, with the advent of the Internet, pornography is available to anyone at whatever time or location they choose to access it. If we believe in statistics then about 50 million people visit an adult site every day out of which most are teens and adults in their early twenties. With habitual pornography use, come serious mental health consequences like anxiety, depression, and problems in relationships.
If you as a parent feel that your child is increasingly getting anxious and disconnected from the social environment then excessive pornography could be the culprit. According to various surveys, employees have confessed to viewing this kind of content during their work hours even though they are at a risk of losing their jobs. Software such as parental control for Android, iOS, MAC or Windows is being used by parents to monitor their child’s online activities. Even managers of an organization, in some countries, use the same software to check on the online activities of their employees.
Effect of Viewing Excessive Pornography on Brain
Pornography is addictive just like any other drug. The only difference is that instead of ingesting it through the mouth or inhaling through the nose a person sees it through their eyes and listens to it through their ears.
Pornography stimulates the reward and pleasure center of our brain thereby increasing the production of dopamine which is a feel-good chemical and body’s way of rewarding itself. Over time, viewing excessive pornography leads to a development of a layer of Delta FOS B on the brain which, according to scientists, is a molecular level switch of addiction. It becomes increasingly hard to refrain from watching porn thereafter.
Effect of Viewing Excessive Pornography on Mental Health
Psychologists and therapists categorize this kind of addiction as same like addiction to drugs as it has similar effects on our mental and physical health.
- Pornography, definitely, causes behavioral and psychological changes making a person more impulsive in their attitude.
- The compulsive mental demand of watching an adult content makes a person disconnect themselves from their social life and ultimately they falls into depression, anxiety, and
- A person feels shame in sharing their problem with closed ones or even a therapist and tries to get out of the addiction by own self. Though it is not impossible but constant relapses and failures often make a person believe that they can’t do it.
- Eventually, a person starts to miss out making real connections in society and relying on the fake pleasure that pornography provides.
- The inability to refrain from watching it often makes a person miss out on important tasks and consequently, a person keeps falling prey to the addiction.
Conclusion: How to Overcome Pornography Addiction?
The first and foremost is a self-confession from the person that is actually suffering from a problem. A meaningful interaction with a close friend or a therapist, definitely, helps to move forward towards healing and getting rid of this non-drug addiction of watching pornography.
2. Parental Involvement
Although U.S. adolescents indicate their preferred source of sexual information is their parents, more than half of them report they have learned about intercourse, pregnancy, and birth control from television, and half of teenage women report they first learned about intercourse from magazines. 14)
A study of 1,300 eight- to thirteen-year-old girls found that, among those who engaged in “cybersex,” 95 percent of the parents were completely unaware of their children’s involvement. 15) Compared to adolescents who do not search for pornography online, adolescents who search for pornography online are about three times as likely to have parents who do not monitor their behavior at all (or very little). Compared to those who do not seek out pornography, those who seek Internet pornography are three times as likely to give a poor rating of their attachment to their parent. 16)
2.1 Related American Demographics
According to the General Social Survey, adults who grew up living with both biological parents are less likely to have viewed an X-rated movie in the last year. 17) (See Chart)
Does watching pornography as a teenager harm sexual satisfaction later? New study suggests it doesn’t
Changes in pornography use appear to be unrelated to sexual satisfaction, according to new longitudinal research that examined high school students. The findings appear in The Journal of Sex Research.
“Due to rising societal concerns about pornography use, particularly in young people, most research in the field focuses on potential adverse outcome. We wanted to explore, using longitudinal data, if there is any link between adolescents’ sexual satisfaction and their use of pornography,” said Aleksandar Stulhofer, a professor at the University of Zagreb and the corresponding author of the study.
In the study, 775 female and 514 male Croatian high school students were first surveyed regarding their pornography use and sexual satisfaction when they were 15 to 18 years old. They were then resurveyed approximately every six months for 36 months.
But the researchers found no significant association between the frequency of pornography use and adolescents’ sexual satisfaction for either male or female participants.
The findings provide a contrast to a previous survey of 1,052 Dutch adolescents, published in 2009, which found that pornography use was associated with reduced sexual satisfaction.
“Past longitudinal research among adolescents carried out in the Netherlands, one of the most liberal countries, suggested that pornography use can negatively affect sexual satisfaction, particularly for male adolescents,” Stulhofer told PsyPost.
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“Our study, carried out in a more religious and less sexually permissive European country (Croatia), found no such links. We observed no substantial relationship in either female or male adolescents between the frequency of their pornography use and sexual satisfaction.”
“It should be noted that we controlled for the effect of being in a relationship and that we asked all participants about their sexual satisfaction — regardless of whether they had a sexual intercourse,” Stulhofer explained.
The study — like all research — includes some limitations.
“Our analysis is restricted to middle to late adolescent period, the period when the majority of young Croatians report sexual debut. Additional research would be needed to find out if our null findings are also relevant for emerging adults,” Stulhofer said.
“Considering the conflicting findings obtained by our and the Dutch studies, there is an interesting question about culture-specific influences on adolescents’ satisfaction and pornography use. Sociocultural context is likely highly relevant for how pornography is perceived by young people, but the mechanisms underlying this influence remain unexplored.”
Virtual reality pornography heightens feelings of intimacy and attributions of intelligence
A study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that when men watched pornography through virtual reality (VR) technology, they felt more desired, more flirted with, and more connected to the actresses, compared to when they watched pornography through a 2D video. They also felt a stronger urge to interact with the actresses and perceived them to be more intelligent.
Study authors Arne Dekker and his team were motivated to conduct their study given the lack of current research on the effects of VR pornography. While it stands to reason that VR pornography should offer a more immersive, connected experience with the actors when compared to 2D pornography, sex researchers have yet to demonstrate this effect.
Dekker and colleagues designed an experimental study to test this effect among a sample of 50 heterosexual men between the ages of 18 and 60. The researchers obtained two different pornography films that could be experienced in either VR or on a flat screen. Both films depicted a man having sex with two women, shown from the male perspective. On two different days, each subject was randomly assigned to watch two of the films — one in VR and one on a flat screen.
All subjects rated their sexual arousal during and right after each film. They also responded to a series of items concerning their emotional experiences as a viewer and their perceptions of the actresses.
The findings suggested that the VR pornography offered a more intimate experience compared to the 2D pornography, in a number of ways. For example, the men reported greater sexual arousal, greater bodily arousal, and greater sexual desire for the actresses when they watched the pornography films in VR than when they watched them on the flat screen.
Unsurprisingly, it appeared that these differences may have had to do with the immersiveness of the VR, which allowed for a stronger first-person experience. During the VR films, men said they felt more like they were the male actor, more like they were an agent rather than an observer, and more like they had had sex with the actresses. Men also felt more flirted with by the actresses in the VR films and more desired by them. Finally, they reported feeling more eye contact during the VR films, feeling more connected with the actresses, feeling a greater urge to interact with them, and attributed a higher IQ score to the actresses.