Porn & sexual dysfunctions: A potential link?

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Is it possible that pornography-use and sexual dysfunctions are linked? A 2016 scientific paper suggests there could be.


The 25-page report was put together by various doctors from centres such as the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. In their paper, they argue the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) used to be an issue amongst older populations, but more recent reports are suggesting that an alarming proportion of younger people, even adolescents, are experiencing sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction; surpassing even the rates among older people according to some reports. For example: In a 2001-2002 sample of men 40 - 80 yrs old, the rates of erectile dysfunction were about 13%. But by 2011, ED rate shot up to about 14 - 28% among people younger than 40 yrs old.

  • Erectile dysfunction is usually a result of chronic medical conditions like atherosclerosis / hypertension. However, there is a sharp rise in erectile dysfunction among young populations. Thus it seems that these organic causes don’t explain this rise in sexual dysfunctions because younger populations like adolescents and those in the 20’s generally do not have conditions like high blood pressure.

  • Some argue that drug use, unhealthy lifestyles, etc explain the sharp rise in ED among young people. However, these lifestyle risks have not changed proportionately in the last 20 yrs.


  • A steady stream of scientific reports suggest a link between porn-use and sexual dysfunctions such as: inability to achieve erections, lower sexual desires, difficulty orgasming, diminished libido, negative effects on partnered sex, decreased enjoyment of sexual intimacy, less sexual and relationship satisfaction, a preference for using internet porn to achieve and maintain arousal vs a human partner.

  • Some reports suggest a link between porn use + masturbation, with sexual dysfunctions and difficulty orgasming.

How does video pornography-use lead to problems like erectile dysfunction and lack or arousal from intimate partner sex?

Well, the doctors write that pornography, particularly video pornography, has been found to stimulate the reward system of the brain in a similar fashion as cocaine-use. In fact, it is not just an ordinary stimulus, they call it a “supernormal stimulus.” Yet at the same time, the brain seems to adapt very quickly to pornographic stimuli thus resulting in the need for ever-more extreme forms of pornographic material. Thus, because real-life sex is not as extreme as that seen on the internet, sex with a human partner is not arousing enough.


Here are some quotes from the paper itself, explaining what the scientific studies seem to suggest :

“… it is possible that as they sensitize their sexual arousal to Internet pornography, partnered sex no longer met their conditioned expectations and no longer triggered the release of sufficient dopamine to produce and sustain erections.”

“It is conceivable that experiencing the majority of sexual arousal within the context of VSS (visual sexual stimuli) may result in a diminished erectile response during partnered sexual interactions… When high stimulation expectations are not met, partnered sexual stimulation is ineffective.”

“It is possible that if a susceptible Internet pornography user reinforces the association between arousal and watching other people have sex on screens while he is highly aroused, his association between arousal and real-life partnered sexual encounters may weaken.”


Conclusion

This report reviewed findings from over 100 studies and sheds light on the potentially negative health and social impacts of internet pornography use and related behaviours such as masturbation. Many young people are told that pornography-use and particularly masturbation are normal and “okay,” however, it is possible that negative consequences may be lying in wait and may strike sooner than previously expected. Though the morality of pornography-use and masturbation will probably be debated forever, it seems a growing number of studies suggest that, at least in terms of health, serious issues may result.

However, there is good news: the authors of the paper write that some reports suggest that abstinence from internet pornography use can potentially reverse these health issues.


To read the full text of the report itself, click here

George Cho