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Sexual Health

Does Porn Cause Erectile Dysfunction?: What Every Man Needs To Know

Today, we have an irony in question – could streaming sex on your browser’s incognito mode be detrimental to your own sex life?

Today, we have an irony in question – could streaming sex on your browser’s incognito mode be detrimental to your own sex life? 

Sexual Dysfunction and its Demographic Trend Across the Years

Up until the last decade, the rate of erectile dysfunction (ED) among younger men (below the age of 40) was relatively low. A 2002 meta-analysis found that the rate of ED among men below the age of 40 was only 2%.

In 2011 (a decade after the 2002 meta-analysis), another study was conducted using the same assessment as before. Shockingly, this study showed a radical rise in the rate of ED among young men. ED rates among younger men had skyrocketed to between 14% to 28%.

The Simultaneous Rise of Porn and Erectile Dysfunction Cases: A Coincidence?

So, how did the rates of ED climb so rapidly within a decade? Is porn a driving force? This topic is still highly contentious and requires more scientific research before we can take a solid stance. Here’s what we have gathered so far regarding both sides of the argument.

Proponents: “Porn has led to an increase in ED rates”

In 2006, “porn tube sites” were introduced, enabling wide and easy access to sexually explicit videos. Viewers no longer needed to download content as the videos could be conveniently streamed online. 

A 2015 study revealed that it was common for men who frequently “use pornography and masturbate” to have ED and low sexual desire with a partner. Porn is speculated to induce ED through its psychological impacts, which we will further explore later in this article. 

Opponents: “Porn is just a scapegoat for other legitimate factors that cause ED.”

However, some critics have explained that porn itself may not cause ED. Instead, the apparent association between porn and ED may be due to other factors, such as the increase in public awareness of ED as a disease. We will also delve deeper into these reasons later.

What is Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED)?

Before we let the debate begin, let’s first understand what exactly is porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). PIED occurs when:

  • A man can achieve an erection and have orgasms when watching porn but finds it difficult to do the same when having sex in real life.
  • A man takes a long time to have an orgasm when having sex in real life.
  • A man’s partner complains that he seems uninterested during sex.

Next, let’s move on to discuss how porn might induce ED.

Porn Leads to Desensitization

Watching porn too frequently can render real-life sexual interactions no longer fulfilling. Porn is highly addictive and affects your brain the same way as addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol would. Here’s the science behind how porn numbs your emotions surrounding sex:

  • Watching porn induces pleasure, causing dopamine, the happy hormone, to be released explosively. The release of dopamine is further heightened due to masturbation. 
  • The brain continuously craves for more pleasure, motivating the man to compulsively watch even more porn, similar to how a drug addict would repetitively seek out cocaine to achieve the same high over and over again. 
  • Ultimately, the brain becomes “overloaded” with dopamine and builds tolerance against porn. The man now has to watch increasingly hardcore porn to achieve the same high as before. 
  • Unfortunately, the authentic reality almost never measures up to the unrealistic fantasies portrayed by porn. As such, real-life sexual encounters with a partner are insufficient to arouse the man, eventually escalating into PIED.

Porn Causes Unrealistic Expectations

From impossibly perfectly well-sculpted physiques of porn stars to extreme position and inflated moans, porn is the epitome of unrealistic sex. However, porn has also become a one-stop solution for sex education for many youths. Therefore, the repeated exposure to porn, especially at an impressionable age, leads to unrealistic expectations on what sex and your body should be like. The pressure to meet these expectations and the despair that befalls when one fails to meet them can ultimately lead to performance anxiety.

Amidst the scramble to replicate porn scenes, men often forget that real-life sex is supposed to have an emotional aspect that porn lacks. The self-inflicted pressure to perform like a porn star only serves as a distraction that blinds one from the mutual emotions of lovemaking. 

Performance Anxiety of Trying to Replicate Porn’s Portrayal of Sex in Real Life

Porn sets the bar high, in fact, too high for the average man to reach. However, the ubiquity of porn has led to a common misconception that the sex portrayed in porn is normal and easily attainable. It’s natural for most men to fail to achieve porn-like sex, but this often results in a feeling of inadequacy. In general, porn can induce and elevate performance anxiety due to the following reasons:

1. Increased dissatisfaction in one’s own body

Porn paints a rosy picture of what the “perfect macho” looks like – dashing faces, ripped bodies, and huge (and surgically enhanced) genitals. 

2. Pressure to replicate unrealistic sexual performances

The undying stamina of porn stars allows their action to be dragged on for way longer than normal humans can. Together with exaggerated shrieks and difficult positions, these elements of porn videos are rarely recreated in real life. However, this misleads frequent consumers of internet porn to believe that sex that doesn’t look like porn is underwhelming. 

Disclaimer

Performance anxiety isn’t only caused by internet porn. Many other factors also contribute to performance anxiety. To learn more about performance anxiety and how to alleviate it, check out our previous blog article

Guilty Pleasure

Frequent consumers of porn may also be washed with a sense of guilt and shame, especially since porn is often shamed as sinful and frowned upon by many religions. Unfortunately, moral and religious qualms of watching porn can spiral into moral panic, inducing ED. 

The Other Side of the Story

There isn’t a unanimous consensus that porn causes ED. Some experts remain doubtful of the relationship between porn and ED. Moving on, let’s explore their side of the argument.

The supposed ED may actually be caused by the refractory period

After orgasm or ejaculation, every man undergoes what is known as the “refractory period”. This is regardless of whether the man performed masturbation or partner sex, or whether or not he had watched porn. During the refractory period, the man will be unable to achieve another erection. 

Refractory periods increase with age. Hence, as one grows older, he may need to wait for long periods before being able to raise his wood again. For some men, this may be several hours, but it’s also normal for men above the age of 60 to have a refractory period of 12 hours or longer. 

Essentially, when one watches porn and orgasms or ejaculates because of it, he naturally slips into the refractory period. In other words, while porn isn’t the one that is killing erections, porn may be an extremely convenient scapegoat for the lack of erections. 

The increase in reportings of ED may simply be due to greater awareness of ED as a legitimate medical concern

In the early days, ED was commonly passed off as a joke and was considered humiliating. Then, Viagra’s® grand introduction in the late 90’s changed everything. “Impotence”, the stigmatised label of erection problems, was relabelled as “erectile dysfunction”. This led to an unprecedented increase in awareness of ED as a treatable medical concern. Thanks to that, more men suffering from ED are willing to come forward to seek treatment for it. Naturally, the number of ED cases reported in medical research papers would increase. 

Coincidentally, internet porn saw its success as a lucrative business. With its popularity skyrocketing during this time, it may have mistakenly taken the blame for the increase in the number of ED cases reported on papers.  

Is it really porn usage that is causing ED, or could it be ED that is causing porn usage?

That’s like the ever famous question – which came first, the chicken or the egg? There isn’t a definitive answer, as men with PIED may be trapped in an endless feedback loop: If they can’t have satisfactory partnered sex due to ED, they turn to watch porn, which in turn, worsens their ED. 

The Simple Solution to PIED

The solution is an obvious one – stop watching porn. Many men reported that abstaining from porn helped them get back in the saddle in 90 days. While this number may differ across individuals, it is a good gauge to keep you motivated throughout your journey. 

Tips to abstain from porn

However, removing porn from your life is easier said than done in reality. Here are some tips that may help you abstain from porn:

  • Install a porn blocker software.
  • Change your password on porn streaming websites to something complicated. Write it down and lock it somewhere that isn’t easily accessible. Remember to clear out your web browser’s bookmarked porn sites as well!
  • Address any underlying issues. If you’re watching porn out of boredom, try out new hobbies, hang out with your friends more often, or hit the gym to preoccupy yourself! On the other hand, if you’re indulging in porn due to an ebbing sex life, talk to your partner about both of your needs. 

Outlook and Conclusion

The ongoing debate on whether porn really causes ED calls for more scientific research. Till then, it may be difficult to firmly say that watching porn is either inherently good or bad for your sexual health. 

While porn may be a contributing factor to ED, many other factors can result in ED as well. To learn more, check out our blog article that covers the symptoms, causes and treatments for ED.  

If you’re experiencing ED, it’s a good idea to chat with a doctor about it. Feeling a little reluctant at the thought of having a face-to-face chat with a doctor at the clinic? Arx is a safe haven, away from judgement and stigma regarding sexual health. Simply connect with one of our licensed doctors at Arx for an online consultation for your ED with our licensed doctors. 

References

  • Prins, J., Blanker, M. H., Bohnen, A. M., Thomas, S., & Bosch, J. L. (2002). Prevalence of erectile dysfunction: a systematic review of population-based studies. International Journal of Impotence Research, 14(6), 422–432. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijir.3900905 
  • Landripet, I., & Štulhofer, A. (2015). Is Pornography Use Associated with Sexual Difficulties and Dysfunctions among Younger Heterosexual Men? The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(5), 1136–1139. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsm.12853 
  • Klein, V., Jurin, T., Briken, P., & Štulhofer, A. (2015). Erectile Dysfunction, Boredom, and Hypersexuality among Coupled Men from Two European Countries. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(11), 2160–2167. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsm.13019 

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