Is Porn Bad for You?

I’m not pro-porn. I’m not anti-porn. Porn exists and many, many people consume it.

The real question is: what are the consequences of the copious amounts of free pornography on our society?

A recent New York Times op-ed piece – written by Lux Alptraum, an editor of the Fleshbot blog-  effectively states the anti-porn case:

“The arguments that show up in national publications today — and are often repeated by readers — are not so different from anti-porn screeds written decades before. A recent New York Magazine feature dubbed Pornhub, a top porn site, “the Kinsey Report of our time,” arguing that the breadth of perversity found on the site encourages increasingly exotic sexual exploration among its presumably vanilla viewers; other commentators, including Cindy Gallop, founder of the website MakeLoveNotPorn, have also expounded upon the power pornography holds over our sexual tastes and behaviors. Journalists still seem convinced that, first, if an extreme form of porn exists, it’s common and anyone who watches porn will eventually stumble on it; second, that viewing porn rewires our sexual preferences, often in damaging and terrifying ways; and, of course, that pornography gives children unhealthy ideas about sex.”

Sounds reasonable, right? But Alptraum says that such questions are based more on fear than reality. In fact, for the most part, modern porn sites are not creating more perverts, but rather, giving people exactly what they’re asking for:

For the most part, modern porn sites are not creating more perverts, but rather, giving people exactly what they’re asking for.

“Being exposed to the wonderfully diverse world of human sexuality didn’t seem to make readers more excited by unfamiliar kinks and sexual interests — if anything, it made my readers more interested in the various tags and filters that would allow them to quickly zoom in on the specific content that met their needs. Straight men who were accidentally exposed to gay porn didn’t suddenly turn gay; vanilla viewers who happened upon photo sets of extreme kink would complain that they should have been better shielded from, say, the sight of extreme bondage.”

Alptraum isn’t an ostrich, burying her head in the sand (yes, Lux is a SHE). She acknowledges the impact of porn but doesn’t blame porn itself.

“There is some truth to the anti-porn claim that it negatively impacts the sexual imaginations and awareness of young people. But that’s largely due to the fact that pornography — which, though sometimes educational, is more frequently a wildly inaccurate fantasy — is consumed in a culture where sex education is minimal, fear-based and often inaccurate; where parents treat the sex talk as a shameful task to be gotten over with as quickly as possible; and where pop culture promotes a confusing virgin/whore dichotomy that encourages sexual exploration while demonizing “promiscuity.” Given all this, it’s unsurprising that porn might leave young viewers confused or even scarred, and that it might negatively impact their ability to relate to future partners. But that says less about the nature of pornography than about the dangers of a culture that delegates something as important and essential as sex education to an industry dedicated to crafting fantasy and entertainment.”

As a casual consumer of porn, starting with supermodel posters and scrambled Cinemax in the 80’s, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe because I’m “vanilla,” but I’ve never sought out hardcore porn; if anything, I looked for videos that turned me on and got me off fast.

Maybe it’s pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I like Alptraum’s vision for the future of sex:

“If we create a culture where sexuality is accepted as a healthy, positive part of life, then we’ll be able to appreciate porn for the wild, unrealistic fantasy that it was always intended to be.”

Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated, in the comments section below.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Stacy

    LOL to the idea of porn being ‘educational’. Whatevs.  So somehow Apltraum is admitting that porn is ‘wild’ and ‘unrealistic’ and ‘NEGATIVELY impacts the the sexual imaginations and awareness of young people;. But somehow, that impact is not because of porn itself but because of a culture of ‘minimal sex education and fear’.  Well, I for one see sex education everywhere I turn. I would also argue that at this point, we are oversexed and sex is literally in everything.  I am not sure where this lack of education is – and of course I know she means more than just the act when referring to education, but really, it’s not that difficult to be educated about sex the ‘right’ way if that is what you seek. People have never been more open and ‘sexually free’ as they are now. In fact, I am tired of having conversations about it. And while I agree that some parents have that shameful approach, I am not sure if that’s the norm anymore but I digress (since I can’t back it up with research).

    Frankly, I believe porn is harmful BECAUSE it is ‘wild’ and unrealistic’ and it takes out all the romance and meaningfulness to sex but then, maybe I am old fashioned.  What grates my nerves is that men sometimes have the idea (those that watch a lot of porn in my experience) that a woman just wants to be – please pardon my expression – banged out as hard as they  can muster and try to emulate the kind of sex that I don’t believe most women find enjoyable most times (although we all have our moments of wanting in different ways). Additionally, the one guy I dated who liked a lot of porn simply could not get it up. He told me he is going to therapy for it.  Real women simply did not turn him on sexually anymore (he preferred masturbation).

    I say all that to say that I am not necessarily all anti porn entirely, but I do think that the kind of sex displayed causes more harm than good. And for young people, it just isn’t the right way to be ‘educated’ about sex.  Thank God my man doesn’t indulge. And if he does, it probably isn’t much. That I can live with. I could never date a man who is more than a casual porn watcher. Plus, the sex would probably be bad.

     

    1. 1.1
      Alex

      @Stacy

      I think the point of the article is that porn should NOT be the only source of education for sex available to young people. As Evan says, most parents (and probably teachers) are embarrassed to discuss sex at length. “the talk” is often just a quick discussion about what not to do, rather than a years-long, ongoing discussion about the role of sexuality in our lives. You’re right that our culture is great about talking about sex, but we’re really bad at talking about our thoughts about it and how it impacts our relationships.

       

      I’ve never dated a guy who was too into porn, but I have dated a guy who was obsessed with his xbox. Quite frankly, I think all forms of addiction (though different in the details) stem from the same problems. I don’t see how porn is different.

  2. 2
    Malika

    I watch porn once in a while and it does the job nicely. It doesn’t feel degrading at all, though there is porn out there that makes me wonder who on earth would get off on it. Dressing up as a fluffy toy? Say what? It hasn’t made me any more adventurous than i already was, but i’m well vanilla and whips and chains will never be a go to.

    The only thing that makes me pause for thought is that it is usually very malecentric, and can give the inaccurate  impression that women need zero foreplay or oral sex in order to feel satisfied. Has that affected how men are with me in the bedroom? I have encountered men that seemed to think sex was all about him, but some of these encounters took place before the deluge of internet porn, so i don’t know whether we can blame it for that phenomenon.

  3. 3
    Jeremy

    I think that porn is the fantasy that women can view sex like men do.  That women can initiate sex without being pursued or won.  That women can enjoy sex the way that men do – enjoy the things men enjoy.  That men can succeed effortlessly with women, give them orgasm after orgasm with no fear of rejection or failure, no matter how attractive the woman or the SMV difference between them.  Of course a male sex fantasy wouldn’t show the romance and the techniques that women fantasize about.  It is a male fantasy, just as there are female fantasies out there.  It is not sex-ed.

     

    Now is the fantasy wildly unrealistic?  YES.  Is that a bad thing?  Maybe.  Mark Regnerus, in his book Cheap Sex, argues that porn is not just fantasy, but is actually the cheapest form of sex.  It isn’t quite as good as the real thing for most men, but it’ll do in a pinch.  He argues that society was built from pent up male sexual energy – men’s desire to achieve, excel, build to win female approval.  That as long as sex is expensive, as long as women hold male success as the price for sex, men pay that price.  When sex is cheap, when it does not require male energy or success, men lose the motivation for that success and we see men dropping out of school and failing to launch.  And when sex is dirt cheap, men lose all motivation – hence the adult male living in his parents’ basement playing video games and watching porn all day.  Regnerus admits that this does not hold for all men, or even a majority.  But it holds enough to make a statistical difference in the balance of society and the mating market.  He makes, IMHO, a good argument and cites research to back his claims.

     

    So is porn bad for a man?  Depends, IMHO.  Does it lead that man to lose motivation to achieve, succeed, excel?  Does it lead that man to lose interest in relationships with real women?  Does it lead that man to lose interest in things that are difficult in the short-term but lead to happiness in the long-term? The answer will depend on the man.  But to answer a different question – is male-fantasy porn bad for women as a group? Yes, I think so.

    1. 3.1
      D_M

      Jeremy,

      Why do you feel it’s bad for women as a group? Shouldn’t folks naturally want to be coupled with a partner of similar taste? I’m assuming that part of your reasoning is male expectations based on viewing habits. Societies will be forever trying to bracket people’s desires. People want what they want. Mediocrity can easily lead to discontentment.  Your middle paragraph does touch on a discussion that I had the other day. The fellas were pondering, if the “fruit” was ubiquitously for sale, would the world be less problematic. Among my cohorts, we couldn’t agree, but it sure was an entertaining conversation.

      1. 3.1.1
        Jeremy

        If the fruit was ubiquitously for sale, would the world be less problematic?”  Ever read “Brave New World?”  🙂

         

        I think porn is bad for women as a group for strictly economic reasons, not because I don’t think women can like erotica.  Both men and women want sex, and eventually both want commitment.  Yet in the exchange model of relationships that still exists today, women are the gatekeepers of sex and men are the gatekeepers of commitment.  For all the discussion of how women want sex as much as men, they generally don’t because women don’t PAY for sex – and I’m not referring to prostitution.  Women don’t court men, don’t plan and pay for men, don’t generally agree to provision for men in exchange for male sexuality.  Men do that for women because they want female sexuality and emotional receptivity (primarily among other things), and they pay for that with their commitment.  If sex is expensive, men pay the price that women set.  If sex is cheap, men have no motivation to pay the price.  That’s not good for women because in such a scenario, women have to accept less and less from a man if they want to keep him, whereas before women could set the rules.  In a society where men can get all they need sexually from their laptop, the marriage/commitment market skews terribly away from the interests of women.

        1. Kenely

          Jeremy,

          I am curious to know what  support you have for the idea that men can get all they need sexually from their laptops?   Is there research that indicates men who watch porn, don’t date or don’t have sex with real women?  And if that is the case, how do we know if its the chicken or the egg?

          Also, what support do you have that  women are accepting less and less to keep a man?   The studies that I have heard about indicate that the decline in marriage is driven by women being unwilling to marry or partner up with men that don’t meet their needs.  So, I am wondering what you have seen that is different.

        2. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          If sex is cheap, men have no motivation to pay the price.  That’s not good for women because in such a scenario, women have to accept less and less from a man if they want to keep him, whereas before women could set the rules. 

          Isn’t this happening on a lot of college campuses where there are more women than men? There’s no motivation to court a woman because a man can always find one who doesn’t require courting.

        3. Jeremy

          Kenely, pick up the copy of the book I mentioned and read the bibliography to see the research.  But just to clarify, it isn’t that “men” in general can get everything they want from a laptop.  I certainly can’t.  But a small but significant number of men are willing to settle for that in exchange for not having to put in the effort for a real woman.  They will be worse off for it in the long-term, but aren’t thinking so far in advance.  Same holds true for men who date real women casually for sex and eschew commitment.

          And Emily, yes, that is exactly what is happening on campuses.  It explains hookup culture and also why there are so many fewer men than women on campus.  What is their motivation to be there?

        4. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          It explains hookup culture and also why there are so many fewer men than women on campus.  What is their motivation to be there?

          Are you asking what the motivation for men is to be on campus? To get an education. Why else is anybody there? And if you get to pick and choose the women you hook up with in a way that was never possible before, is that not an even greater motivation?

        5. Jeremy

          Since when was getting an education a goal in and of itself?  What is the goal behind the goal?  For most men, traditionally it was to be able to get a better job that could provide for a family, so as to be acceptable to a future wife.  Higher status didn’t hurt either.  Sex was EXPENSIVE.  It isn’t now. That fact has consequences that go beyond just sex.

        6. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          Sex was EXPENSIVE.  It isn’t now. That fact has consequences that go beyond just sex.

          The paradigm is shifting. Look at what’s happening with the toppling of all these high-powered men. It’s too early to tell how that will affect women in terms of busting through the glass ceiling, but the glass ceiling appears to be crumbling.

          For most men, traditionally it was to be able to get a better job that could provide for a family, so as to be acceptable to a future wife.  

          In a lot of ways, men and women are very different. A woman will understand another woman in a way that a man just can’t, and vice versa. So what happens to the family/marriage paradigm if there are a growing number of women who don’t want kids and can support themselves? If those two things are off the table, is the effort to understand each other worth it?  I don’t have the answer.

        7. Yet Another Guy

          @Keneley

          Is there research that indicates men who watch porn, don’t date or don’t have sex with real women?

          That is an affirmative.  Men who watch a lot of porn do in fact lose interest in sex with women because it is no longer as satisfying as masturbating to porn (known as porn, masturbation, orgasm or PMO).  No woman comes remotely close to the dopamine release that occurs when a man watches porn.   A condition known as porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is becoming a major problem.  If you want to understand the scope of the problem, Google “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.”  The home page of this site explains the problem very well: https://www.yourbrainonporn.com

          I know that I did not find sex to be enjoyable at first after being in a marriage that had been intimate contact free for that last ten years.  In fact, I would lose my erection during and could no longer orgasm through intercourse because I had been setting the table for one with porn for so long.  It is how I survived ten years without intimate contact without resorting to infidelity.   I had to relearn how to enjoy being with a real woman.  I liken what happened to me to that of a person with chronic pain who ends up being a heroin junkie via prescribed opioids.  I used porn as a coping mechanism and wound getting bitten by the intense dopamine release that porn provides.

        8. GoWiththeFlow

          YAG,

          Thank you for sharing your experience.  A lot of times what seem like harmless short term pleasures have unexpected long term consequences.

          Blogger Mark Manson, several years ago, wrote about how he felt he wasn’t connecting well to women and he suspected it might be due to his increasingly frequent habit of masturbating to porn.  He abstained from porn and masturbating for a month.  He reported that he found the women in his life more interesting and attractive, and he sought out their company, and enjoyed interacting with women more.  Several readers tried this too and reported back similar shifts in their mindframe after reducing or eliminating their porn usage.

          I didn’t comment on the blog post Evan recently did about an interview with Camille Paglia where she discusses Hugh Hefner because I think both Paglia and Hefner have had an overall negative effect on society’s conversation about relationships between the sexes and sex itself.  I really just didn’t know where to begin ;-).  At any rate, I do know that in the early 1980s there were studies done that showed that men who were regular viewers of Playboy, Penthouse, and other adult men’s magazines had more negative views of their relationships with women, and viewed their partners as less attractive than men who did not regularly view men’s magazines.  I could see where it would be likely that a  teen boy who grew up at that time viewing images of women in Playboy with ginormous breast implants (Hefner’s preferred female body type) would be disappointed by a mere mortal of a woman.

          I view porn and erotic material as I do alcohol.  It can give a person pleasure to drink wine, beer, whiskey, etc. and enhance their experiences.  But too much can destroy a person.

        9. Ames

          You’re so right. Women are accepting less because men are offering too little. For some their motivation might be dulled by porn but I believe it’s more about the lack of full time work paying a living wage. If women require men be self supporting and that’s not possible why not give up, live comfortably at home with parents and substitute with porn? Kind of chicken/egg scenario. Eventually women yearn for intimacy and love and have no choice but to accept these guys because there aren’t enough stable partners for women wanting them. Unless the stars align in her life situation to make her seem “ideal” (young, childfree, good family and work) and also to be above average attractiveness most women will struggle to find a peer.

        10. Sassy

          It’s not that women don’t like sex as much as men.

          Evo psych theories, pregnancy burden, and patriarchal norms aside, let me put it this way.

          Imagine that every time you went out to eat, you were given a free, delicious meal. Some meals are better than others of course, but you never leave hungry.

          Now imagine you’re a woman. You’re pretty much guaranteed an unsatisfying meal when you go out, unless you find a regular place where the chef knows you and what you like, sets the atmosphere just right, and isn’t primarily concerned with proving his own expert cooking skills to the detriment of you enjoying your meal. Even then, it’s not always that good to make the effort of getting dressed up and going out worth it.

          Women seem to not enjoy sex as much because we are unfortunately so rarely having a supply of good sex. Something western men have a real hard time acknowledging.

        11. Kitty

          Sassy, too true!

    2. 3.2
      KK

      “But to answer a different question – is male-fantasy porn bad for women as a group? Yes, I think so”.

      I agree, Jeremy. 100 %!

      1. 3.2.1
        Angela

        Hmmmm….. Seems men are starting to feel threatened by something the were adamant to their wives and girlfriends they should feel threatened by. Lol.

        1. Angela

          I meant ‘shouldn’t feel’ lol

  4. 4
    Eryn

    I know that for me personally, porn has ruined my ability to have an orgasm outside of masturbation. I was exposed to porn very early (12) and still use porn for release although I would much rather have sex and that real connection. No man has every given me an orgasm and it’s not because they haven’t tried. It’s because through the use of porn that my mind is conditioned for orgasm.

    I believe this can affect men as well.

    Now for the men I’ve had sex with, I can tell who watches a lot of porn. The ones who aren’t interested in my pleasure, but soley theirs. The ones who use spit to lubricate their penis before penetration (even when I’m dripping wet they’ve seen it a million times so they think that’s what they are “supposed to do”). The ones who are into choking, having me gag on their penis, and the ones mostly interested in certain positions that provide zero pleasure for a woman, but that look really good on camera.

    Just the two cents from an open honest woman.

  5. 5
    Tracey

    If porn is used by people hiding it and reading it in shame, then yes…it is very destructive. If it’s involving children, it’s CRIMINAL.

    If a couple can open to each other that they enjoy porn and be honest about why/what kind, it could lead to some exploration together to see if it could work for them and enhance their relationship being the best outcome.

    And the erotic romances that some women like to read (your’s truly included) can set us up for the same unrealistic expectations and problems where we can not see ourselves with these  hot sexy ALPHA  males who turn into amazing husband/partner hot sexy alpha males. Thats a set up for a lot of anxiety, resentment very and Separation.

    Just like everything in relationships, sharing this stuff is essential. I have personal experience and know both the good and bad endings.

    1. 5.1
      Kenley

      Tracey, you make a very good point and when I started dating after my long term relationship ended, I completely gave up romance novels and romantic comedies because they were setting up expectations that no real man could deliver.  Oddly, very view men will admit that porn really does set up unrealistic expectations for wonen.  Just a few examples— the expectation to shave pubic hair off, the  demand and I do mean demand that women must now squirt, and of course anal now has to be in the menu.  All these expectations have been driven by porn. And before anyone jumps on me… I actually watch a fair amount of porn but I see a lot of stuff —-common stuff, by the way,  that I just don’t think everyday women would like.

      1. 5.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        “The demand and I do mean demand that women must now squirt, and of course anal now has to be in the menu.”

        These are absurd demands. I would think such men could be weeded out pretty quickly.

      2. 5.1.2
        JB

        As a guy in his 50’s I prefer a woman with pubic hair. With porn I can go right to that category and find those women/scenes. In the real world even at my age finding a woman that doesn’t wax or shave it entirely is near impossible in this day and age. It’s an easy fix, I’ve asked women “would you mind just letting it grow out?” Some oblige and some don’t. But porn didn’t cause pubic hair to go away that was caused by bikini styles that weren’t around in the 80’s or early 90’s. Of course the “70’s bush” was pervasive when I started dating in 1978. It’s almost as ridiculous for men now. Most men in porn don’t have a hair on their entire body….lol how realistic is that?

      3. 5.1.3
        Yet Another Guy

        @Kenley

        the expectation to shave pubic hair off

        Women have been waxing for a long time.  The women I dated before I married waxed.  The only difference today is the amount of hair that is being removed.  I prefer a woman that is waxed because I love giving oral.

        The other stuff that you mentioned is just nonsense.  I do not know of a single guy that watches porn who expects a woman to squirt or do anal.  Anal sex is something that some women actually like, but most consider that orifice to be exit only.   It is like oral sex.  Some women swallow, but most do not, which is why I am not a fan of receiving oral.  It is not enjoyable because I cannot relax.  I suspect that I am not alone in this regard.

         

        1. kenley

          YAG,

          Is this another case of  since you don’t know any man who does this it can’t possibly be true?  You do know that you not knowing men who ask for squirting and anal and me knowing men who have asked for it can co-exist?  So, please believe me when I say, I have been asked by more than two guys.    I want to point out that I am not complaining about the requests per se.  People need to ask for what they want sexually and find a partner willing to give it to them.  What I am suggesting is that men are getting a number of their ideas from porn.  I get ideas from watching porn.  I am not saying whether or not this is good or bad.  It just is.  What’s my point for saying this?  My point for saying this because many people insist that porn has no impact and I am arguing that is does have an impact.

        2. Yet Another Guy

          @Kenley

          Requesting and demanding are two different things.  I have been with women who are comfortable with being tied up and others who had a look of sheer terror on their faces when the subject was broached.  It is all about being sensitive to one’s partner’s needs.  It is called maturity.  There were women who were very vanilla when we first met who eventually loved being, let’s say, experimental.  They just needed a partner who they could trust that made experimenting fun.  People do not come out of the womb being good lovers.  Anyone who is a good lover was with a person with whom he/she had good bedroom rapport at some point in his/her life, someone who made the experience playful and emotionally/physically enjoyable.

        3. JB

          YAG I’m dying to know how old you are? Before 1985 every woman on the planet had pubic hair and that never stopped most men from giving oral. God forbid you get a hair in your mouth…lol

          Oh and back then women didn’t expect men to be hairless. You ever see a photo of Bon Jovi in 1985 or any man that wasn’t a body builder or a fake wrestler? Nobody was shaving their chest, arm pits, legs, or their penis/balls and everyone was having plenty of good sex including oral I can assure you! Btw everyone in porn had hair too and it made billions of dollars.

        4. GoWiththeFlow

          JB,

          I grew up in Southern California.  My sister and our female friends started removing hair as soon as it really started coming in.  We lived in dread of bush hanging out from our swimsuit bottoms.  When I started college, I met several women of Middle Eastern, Persian, and Asian heritage where body hair removal was part of their culture.  Women and men have been doing it for thousands of years.

        5. Yet Another Guy

          @JB

          Before 1985 every woman on the planet had pubic hair and that never stopped most men from giving oral. God forbid you get a hair in your mouth…lol

          I would say that 1985 is about the time that women started to get Brazilian waxed in large numbers where I live.  I was a bodybuilder in 1985, so I was waxed (shaving led to too much skin irritation).  Posing trunks pretty much require it. 🙂  Most of the women I knew were into competitive fitness.  They were all waxed.

          Hair never stopped me from giving oral.  It just made it a less pleasant experience.

          By the way,  I am in my mid-fifties.

        6. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          Hair never stopped me from giving oral.  It just made it a less pleasant experience.
          I’m going to gross you out, but I once had a boyfriend who wanted me to grow out my armpit hair. I tried. Lasted about a month or so, but there’s a part of me that’s a boring, middle class girl from the Midwest … I just couldn’t do it.

  6. 6
    Girl in the Midwest

    My gut feeling tells me that porn, overall, lowers my value.  Because it devalues something I offer in the marketplace by making it more abundant.  It’s a very primal feeling.  Those women on the screen are stealing male attention from real women.  Also, I’m insecure about my body, and porn doesn’t help that.

     

    In daily life porn doesn’t bother me that much.  While my husband consumes porn I don’t mind b/c he can separate reality from fantasy.  He doesn’t choose porn over me, or doing the dishes, or changing the diaper…

     

    I believe that porn makes men not “need” women as much, in a similar way that financial independence makes women not “need” men as much.

     

    Someone mentioned earlier and I agree.  Porn for men = romantic comedies/fairy tales for women.

    1. 6.1
      Emily, the original

      Girl in the Midwest,

      My gut feeling tells me that porn, overall, lowers my value.  Because it devalues something I offer in the marketplace by making it more abundant.

      I don’t mean this sarcastically, but don’t other women also lower your value if they are offering the same thing in the marketplace but maybe at a cheaper rate (by that I mean not requiring courtship, for example)? Surely those women, real women and not those on a computer screen, are more threatening to one’s value in the marketplace?

      1. 6.1.1
        Jeremy

        Both do, Emily, but porn does so more for married people.  Think of this common scenario – couple has a fight, woman gets angry and withdraws sexually.  Husband now has a choice – he can apologize and admit he is wrong (whether or not he thinks he was) and restore his sex life, or he can decide not to.  This man has taken vows not to have sex with other women, and his doing so will result in potential divorce – devastating to his emotional and financial wellbeing.  So in the past, most men in this situation do a cost-benefit analysis and apologize.  But now, husband can shrug and turn on his laptop.  No effort, no cheating.  His wife’s withholding of sex is no longer the motivating factor it once was, because she is not the only source of sexual release/pleasure for him.  That lowers her power tremendously.

         

        For single men, the abundance of real live women is a deterrent for commitment – far more than porn is.  But for married men, it is the presence of porn that is the greater threat to women’s traditional use of sex as a bargaining chip.  Is that a good thing?  For men, maybe.  For women, no.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,
          Think of this common scenario – couple has a fight, woman gets angry and withdraws sexually.
          How long is the sexual withdraw? I mean, no one wants to have sex with someone she is mad at (unless that’s your thing!). I mean, is it a day or two or weeks on end?
          So in the past, most men in this situation do a cost-benefit analysis and apologize.  
          That’s kind of sad.
          But now, husband can shrug and turn on his laptop.  
          Didn’t he have access to magazines years ago?
          That lowers her power tremendously.
          On some level, that’s good. What if the wife is going to lord some argument over him indefinitely? I mean this with all sincerity… has this happened to you? I asked because a female friend of mine was always being turned down by her husband. Every blue moon he’d decide he wanted to do it (months had gone by) … and she’d always give in. I mean, he was acting like a horse’s ass. At what point do you also institute the sex freeze? Why would you want to have sex with someone who is so obviously playing power games?

          threat to women’s traditional use of sex as a bargaining chip.
          Sex shouldn’t be a bargaining chip or a power struggle.

        2. Girl in the Midwest

          Emily, everything you bring to the table into a relationship is a bargaining chip.  Your appearance, your personality traits, your income, your sex appeal, etc.  In successful relationships, the 2 people don’t weld this “bargaining chip” overtly or want to fight for control over every little thing.  But it would be naive to think that over the course of a long term relationship, these things don’t matter.  Sex is just one of the bargaining chips.

           

          I admit viewing relationships as power struggles does sound very off-putting, but there is some truth to it.

        3. Jeremy

          @GirlInMidwest – agreed.  A good relationship should have a minimum of power struggles.  But IME women are far more sensitive to the balance of power in relationships than men.  My theory explaining this is that women walk the balance between arousal and comfort.  To be comfortable with a partner, they need the power level to be about equal.  But to be aroused by a partner they often need a bit of a power gradient (with him higher).  If he is perceived as too powerful, she loses comfort.  If he is perceived as too un-powerful, she loses arousal.  So many of the actions I’ve observed in marriages are misguided attempts to alter a perceived shift in power balance.  And sex has always been a big way to do this, because it can be refused indefinitely for any reason under the sun, and the other partner has absolutely no recourse….until recently.

           

          Tl:Dr – when things go wrong in a relationship, one partner usually attempts to even the power balance, and sex is often the easiest way.

        4. Alex

          @Jeremy

          I think you would be interested in Esther Perel’s work (if you have not seen it already).

           

          She says that sexual arousal is about “transgression”. That’s why people are so excited about sex before marriage, but less so after. After marriage, sex is part of your “duty” especially for women. I think this is why men like porn. You see women doing things they don’t often do in real life. Same for women and romance novels.

           

          I think it’s important to understand what’s actually turning you on, because in that case you can recreate it without being at the mercy of some porn website. Maybe women should take a couple of tips from porn and maybe men should take a couple from romance novels?

        5. Jeremy

          Hi Alex.  I’m familiar with Esther Perel’s work, though I think it applies more to certain types of people than others (had a long discussion with Emily the Original about this a while back).

           

          I think that sex means different things to different people – or rather, different people seek different things from sex – I call these things “sexual meta-goals” – again, lots of discussion about this if you check Evan’s search bar.  But I totally agree – each of us should introspect to understand what we are truly seeking when we seek sex, and what our partners are seeking.  But that won’t necessarily make a person a better spouse or partner.  A person whose sexual meta-goal is novelty will like porn for the novelty, and might prefer it to any real human female.  A woman whose sexual meta-goal is marriage and children won’t necessarily rekindle her sex-drive just by understanding what her motivation originally was.

           

          But yes, if a woman understands that it would be helpful to her marriage to take a few tips from porn, all the better – and likewise men from romance novels.

        6. Emily, the original

          Midwestern Girl,

          To be comfortable with a partner, they need the power level to be about equal.  But to be aroused by a partner they often need a bit of a power gradient (with him higher).  If he is perceived as too powerful, she loses comfort.  If he is perceived as too un-powerful, she loses arousal. 

          Yes, this explains it well. A woman often likes to feel he can take over without lots of prompting and discussion.

           

        7. Sylvana

          I’m a bit confused about this whole men in the past thing. Not just in your post, Jeremy, but in general.

          I don’t know what past everyone is referring to, considering it has always been considered normal, even expected for men to visit whores or even  keep mistresses, if they could afford them. Fidelity is really not something men have ever been known for.

          All a wife was ever really “good” for was to produce legitimate offspring.

          To me, the only thing that has changed is that visiting whores and keeping mistresses is frowned upon nowadays. So men substitute with porn.

      2. 6.1.2
        Girl in the Midwest

        Emily: precisely.  We don’t make decisions in a vacuum.  On an individual level, the effect isn’t direct.  Lots of guys still want long term relationships even if there is easy casual sex.  But on a group level, the fact that your friend has more casual sex (and if there are a lot of women like your friend) DOES make it harder for you to find a committed relationship, everything else held equal.

        1. Emily, the original

          Midwestern Girl, 

          But on a group level, the fact that your friend has more casual sex (and if there are a lot of women like your friend) DOES make it harder for you to find a committed relationship, everything else held equal.

          I’m not sure what friend you are referring to, but a real-life sexual option is always more threatening than a woman on a  computer screen … although there could be a problem if a woman’s husband/partner is getting on one of those porn sites where he can communicate with a live woman. I’d still worry more about the hot girl at work who might be down to do something.

        2. Girl in the Midwest

          Emily: “I’m not sure what friend you are referring to, but a real-life sexual option is always more threatening than a woman on a  computer screen”

          Agreed.

           

  7. 7
    Theodora

    The porn scare is as old as the second wave of feminism, when Andrea Dworkin wrote apocalyptically about men ferociously exploiting women as sexual objects through porn+patriarchy+capitalism. Ironically, the first mass distribution of porn started in the Scandinavian countries in the early 60s and went hand in hand with feminism, women’s lib and sexual revolution as a revolt against patriarchy and norms of female chastity. So it started mostly as a feminist sign of liberation, it’s just that they didn’t think about the unintended consequences. Well, somehow typical.

    I believe the porn scare is exaggerated to say the least. Men in the Western world, after a couple of generations of habitual porn consumers, far from becoming the sexual beasts Dworkin wrote about, are the least aggressive, most docile and most pacified men in the history of the world. If anything, porn seems to make men more apathetic, not more aggressive or sexually demanding.

    I think women dislike porn for the same reasons they dislike stripping and prostitution, namely:

    a) While men become more apathetic and peaceful, they also become more difficult to control and less willing to perform for female attention and approval, because now they can have a sexual outlet at their fingertips, so to speak.

    b) The vast majority of women can’t compete in looks or sexual and seduction skills with the women in porn or stripping, hence the complaints about “unrealistic standards of beauty” and “these are not real women, just a fantasy” – actually they are very real, just very attractive. Another strategy is trying to shame men for their unapproved sexual outlets by using terms such as male gaze, objectification and linking them to the “rape culture”, which implies that men who enjoy the view of beautiful women in sexual circumstances are one step away from becoming harassers, molesters or even rapists.

    c) Porn as an exercise in sexual imagination reveals some uncomfortable truths about the masculine and the feminine, the power dynamic between them, dominance, submission and desire. It would take a long post to explain this, but I think Camille Paglia, who was recently quoted on this blog, has some great insights in her writings about porn and “the untamed beasts of our nature”.

    1. 7.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @Theodora

      For what it is worth, the men in most porn shots are not average, some not by any stretch of the imagination. 🙂

    2. 7.2
      Kitty

      The porn battles of the Dworkin era, and the talking points around them, are outdated due to the internet and smartphones.  Most adult American men have $500 computers in their pockets which give them access to visuals of just about every sex act the human imagination can create on a 24 hour basis.  This is a far cry from Playboys or even Penthouse mags hidden under the book case.  I’m less concerned about the effect of internet porn on adult men than on children.  It’s one thing to seek out fantasy representations when your understanding of the opposite gender is grounded in real experiences with the opposite sex, even if it’s just a teen boy who felt up his classmate in the schoolyard at 5 PM.  Very young children are frequently terrified to the point of nightmares by violent movies because they don’t really understand that violence on TV isn’t a real life threat to their safety.  Porn may not make children feel unsafe in that sense, but we aren’t too long into this huge social experiment of having unlimited and totally uninhibited pornography readily available to anyone, of whatever age, who has an internet connection.  No one is really sure how the generation of children who are under 10 right now will adapt to it.

  8. 8
    Androgynous/Just Saying/xxxxxx

    YAG, The only qualifier for men in porn is that they are able to “perform” on cue every single time. If you can do that, you are in, never mind how you look….if that is what you mean by “not average”

    You said in an earlier post to this article that porn contributes to men losing desire and ability for sex with real women. Does if mean it causes men to lose interest in emotional intimacy as well ? After all, the adage goes that men seek sex to end up finding love. Does it mean loss of not just emotional intimacy with romantic partners, but loss of any kind of feeling to people close to him ?

    To be honest, I can live or tolerate having a man happy with his solitary porn sex, but I just cannot abide by a man who refuses or who cannot give and accept love.

     

    1. 8.1
      Tom10

      @ Androgynous/Just Saying/xxxxxx # 8
      “The only qualifier for men in porn is that they are able to “perform” on cue every single time. If you can do that, you are in, never mind how you look….if that is what you mean by “not average”
       
      I think YAG was referring to male porn stars having, ahem, larger than average “members”, and that this might then lead to women having unrealistic expectations of normal men. This might then lead to insecurity in some smaller than average-sized men.
       
      So the two qualifiers for men in porn are that they are able to “perform” on cue every single time…and have large members.
       
      “I just cannot abide by a man who refuses or who cannot give and accept love.”
       
      That’s an unusual sentiment; may I ask why you feel like that (rather than just let them go-their-own-way if that’s what they wish)?
       
      I would argue that large percentages of both genders give up on sex/love after repeated failure and/or the desire/benefits of love/sex become outweighed by the price of obtaining them.
       
      I think it’s sad when someone from either gender gives up on such fundamental parts of life; however, it’s their prerogative to live as they choose so I don’t see why they deserve ill-will for their choices.

      1. 8.1.1
        Emily, the original

        HI Tom10,

        I think YAG was referring to male porn stars having, ahem, larger than average “members”, and that this might then lead to women having unrealistic expectations of normal men. This might then lead to insecurity in some smaller than average-sized men.

        I am guessing, but I think most women would much prefer a hot guy with average “talents” than a man who looks like Ron Jeremy with larger “skills.” Most women are NOT hung up on size.

        1. Tom10

          @ Emily, the original # 8.1.1
          “Most women are NOT hung up on size”
           
          Ah this old chestnut.
           
          I actually believe you that most women aren’t “hung up” (hehe) on size and would much prefer a hot guy with average “talents” than a man who looks like Ron Jeremy with larger “skills”.
           
          However…
           
          I remember once reading about the fact that humans actually have enormous penises relative to other primates, with various reasons put forward as to why this might be, such as social structure, mate competition, morphology etc.
           
          http://www.sciencealert.com/watch-why-have-humans-evolved-such-large-penises
           
          As a great believer in Darwinism my personal conclusion is that human males have such large penises largely due to evolution; that men with larger penises had more reproductive success throughout history. I.e. women selected men with larger penises to mate with over other men, leading to where we are now.
           
          The fact that we are bipedal probably pronounces the effect.
           
           
          So, are most women hung up on size? My hunch is that today they’re probably not as human penises, in general, are now sufficiently large, however, throughout the course of history maybe women were, in fact, hung up on size. 😉 

        2. Emily, the original

          Tom10,

          , however, throughout the course of history maybe women were, in fact, hung up on size

          And since those women are probably dead, why do you care? 🙂

          You’re worrying unnecessarily about size. I have talked VERY graphically with female friends over the years about sex and I think I can remember maybe one or two references about a man being too small, and that was only because they didn’t like the guy that much or the sex was bad.

        3. Yet Another Guy

          @Tom10

          I think YAG was referring to male porn stars having, ahem, larger than average “members”, and that this might then lead to women having unrealistic expectations of normal men.

          That is correct.  When something like 80% of the male population believes that they are smaller than average, one knows that something is skewing perception.  The average erect male penis is much shorter than men realize.  I know that I was astonished to learn that average erect male penis is only on 5.6 inches long.  That made me feel a lot better because I can definitely pass the dollar bill test. 🙂

        4. Tom10

          @ Emily, the Original
          “You’re worrying unnecessarily about size.”
           
          Au contraire my friend; I’m not worrying about size at all, merely enjoying the discussion. I only worry about the variables I have the ability to control. Contrary to the daily emails I receive I think one’s size is largely immutable, therefore worrying about it is pointless.
           
          That said, for every woman like you who doesn’t care that much Emily, there might be another one like Mrs Happy #10:
           
          “I hate sex with small penises”

        5. Emily, the original

          Tom10,

          That said, for every woman like you who doesn’t care that much Emily, there might be another one like Mrs Happy #10: “I hate sex with small penises”

          Yes, Size Queens exist, but it’s like everything else: You can’t be everyone’s type.

      2. 8.1.2
        xxxx/Just Saying/Androgynous

        Hi Tom. I guess I should’ve clarified that the emotionally closed off men I can’t abide by, I would have to be in a relationship with. If he is just a stranger on the street, his emotional life is no business of mine. For men I interact with daily, their emotional lives do not concern me in the least, though I might think they are great people whom I enjoy interacting with.

  9. 9
    Tron Swanson

    Porn is the cure for the condition commonly known as heterosexuality.

    Oh, sure, you may think of heterosexuality as the thing that keeps humans around on this planet and forces us to try to get along…but, while it may be good for our species as a whole, it can be a miserable experience for the individuals involved. Take me, for instance. Because of my rampant heterosexual impulses, I’m biologically “pushed” to do things that would put me at legal, financial, and emotional risk. Marriage, reproduction, wasting time and money and energy on dating, things like that. If we didn’t romanticize the concept of “love” so much (pun absolutely intended), we’d see that it’s really just a biological condition that causes us to do stupid things that we’d normally never do.

    Prior to developing sexual feelings for the opposite gender, I was extremely happy and content. But, once my body started sabotaging me, I became miserable. I’d never been interested in girls, and I still wasn’t–in terms of them being people, that is–but I was suddenly attracted to them. It’s quite an experience, both liking and not liking someone at the same time. I just wanted those feelings to go away, or at least to stop influencing me so much, because it was making it difficult to focus on anything else. Without my body screwing me up, I would have had nothing to do with women whatsoever, as was the case in my (gloriously happy) childhood. But, once a significant portion of my happiness became contingent on acquiring sex, my priorities were forced to change, and I hated every second of it. I knew what I really wanted to be focusing on, but I had to focus on a group of people that I couldn’t have cared less about, instead.

    So, when real, live, in-person women are your only means of sexual satisfaction…you’ll be held hostage by their various whims, and forced to compete with other men. For someone like me, who has zero competitiveness in him, and is only dealing with this crap because I was born this way, it was not exactly fun, to say the least. But, if you can find another release, you won’t live or die based on winning over women, anymore.

    I personally find porn to be laughable; it’s hard for me to take it seriously. I prefer cam models, myself. That’s all I want from a woman: a half-hour or hour every night, no drama, just fun, not having to think about her or deal with her before or after.

    Suffice to say, I agree with both Girl in the Midwest and Theodora: if you go this route, you won’t need women as much, anymore, and it’ll make it more difficult for women to influence/control you via sex (or the promise of it). It’s easier and safer to interact with women in a “clean” way, when you aren’t being chemically sabotaged by the need for sexual stimulus.

  10. 10
    Mrs Happy

    I think porn is terrible for girls aged in their teens and twenties, whose similarly-aged sexual partners have thousands of hours more ‘porn-time’, than ‘with-a-real-woman-who-has-given-useful-feedback’ sex time.  Because those girls, relatively inexperienced, end up doing a whole lot of sexual things that are unpleasant, painful, and traumatising, because the boy is initiating such.  The girls aren’t confident enough to say “that’s not good, that is painful, that doesn’t excite me, stop”.  Even adult women can’t always say that.  Also, young girls don’t always feel they should receive sexual pleasure.

    Teenage boys and men who have largely been informed by porn, think the porn moves are what is usual.  They don’t realise porn is made by men, for men, and does not illustrate what females like sexually.  Until enough girls tell them so, they keep up with the unfulfilling (for females) moves.  There’s a great TedX talk from an older cougar woman who sleeps with young men, and she has to explain these basics, e.g. “I don’t want you to come on my face” – these men seriously don’t realise this, as they’ve seen it numerous times in porn, and all the younger girls (no doubt because that’s a normal experience for them) let them.

    I watched a particular thing in porn years ago, about 5-10 times, and it altered what I fantasized about, and I still can’t get it out of my mind.  I wish I hadn’t watched it. Undoubtedly porn changes your personal sexual thoughts.

    An ex of mine was unable to sustain an erection during standard sex and it was probably because of porn.  He had to use Viagra from early in the relationship. It was one of the reasons I broke up with him – I didn’t feel attractive enough to sexually excite him, I couldn’t be bothered replicating an endless porn-like smorgasboard, and no way was I sticking around for that confidence drop. Plus the sex was meh.

    There is no doubt in my mind porn creates body image problems in men. All porn I’ve seen has large penises, muscled guys, no visible fat, etc.  An average weedy teenage boy is going to compare himself negatively, just like an average teenage girl does to a female supermodel’s body.

    I hate sex with small penises. The resultant missionary angle gives me a urinary tract infection every time.  Penis size is one of the reasons women prefer tall men – there’s an assumption (rightly or wrongly) of proportionality.

     

    1. 10.1
      Emily, the original

      Mrs. Happy,

      There is no doubt in my mind porn creates body image problems in men. All porn I’ve seen has large penises, muscled guys, no visible fat, etc.  An average weedy teenage boy is going to compare himself negatively, just like an average teenage girl does to a female supermodel’s body.

      The stuff I watch is on pornhub, which is free, so maybe it’s the lower-quality stuff,  but most of the men are quite average — in terms of looks, body, member size. The camera spends most of the time on the woman because of the male gaze to give the male viewer the idea he’s the one doing all this stuff to the woman. He’s barely in the frame. Many of the woman are quite attractive but certainly not all of them. Some are actually a bit heavy but maybe have huge breasts or a big ass. And in the amateur stuff, both the man and woman are often average.

  11. 11
    Laurie

    I rarely hear in these debates any concern for the women and men who participate in making these videos.  Have they been abused or assaulted? Are they looking for love or acting out childhood abuse? From what I read of her biography, Jenna Jameson seemed to be looking for a father figure in all the wrong places.

    If so, is being complicit in their pain really that erotic? It’s mystifying to me that people just accept it as “entertainment” or a way of being gratified.

  12. 12
    JB

    I love this discussion on “porn” as if it’s all the same and all one thing. You can’t discuss it intelligently unless you’re talking about a specific genre. It’s like discussing music or films. All music isn’t the same nor are all films. All men (or women) don’t watch the same thing I can assure you. It was actually a female porn star years ago that launched a “porn/erotica line specifically catered for women”. I think she went out of business…lol due to poor sales. I’m sure many of those movies/scenes are all over the internet as well somewhere. One other thing no one has talked about. Porn exists because women get PAID to do it. The men get paid very little unless they’re the “biggest” stars. No pun intended. 😉

    The HBO series “The Deuce” is about the very beginnings of the porn industry and how it started. It’s interesting to say the least.

  13. 13
    Cat5

    In light of the shock expressed regarding the #metoo movement and the discussions of what good men can do, I find some of the sentiments expressed here regarding whether porn is bad puzzling.  What about possible connections between porn and the treatment of women described by so many as part of the #metoo movement? The article linked below makes some very interesting points on the subject:

    http://theconversation.com/how-pornography-removes-empathy-and-fosters-harassment-and-abuse-86643

    1. 13.1
      Jeremy

      I read your article, Cat5, and I’ve read other like it.  But I think these articles fail to understand both the psychology of porn use and of harassment.  Of course, that’s just my opinion, but I’ll try to explain why I think so.

       

      My marriage went through a rough few years when my kids were young, when despite my efforts to make my wife happy, my sexual and emotional needs were neglected.  My primary feelings at that time were anger and frustration.  During those years, I used porn and masturbation as an outlet for physical release, and honestly without that outlet my marriage would not have lasted long enough to be mended years later.  After a session of porn use, the anger and frustration would drain out temporarily, leaving me with feelings of sadness and loneliness – feelings that had been present all along, but buried under the anger.  And while those emotions were unpleasant, they allowed my sex drive to be temporarily nullified. Once I had finished a solo session,  instead of viewing my wife with a mixture of desire and anger/frustration, I simply saw her as a person whose actions I cared much less about.  And while it did not make me happier or less lonely, it allowed me mental space to think and act without the cloud of anger and desire and frustration.  Porn did not make me see my wife with objectification, it allowed me to see her with objectivity.

       

      That was my experience with it, and it is the experience I hear reported by many men – porn does not make men act violently toward women, it makes men indifferent to them.  Men would not be inclined to harass women when they neither desire the women nor particularly care about the sexual power gradient.  Harassment is due to feelings of male powerlessness before the sexual power of women, a desire to balance the men’s powerlessness with the social power they have achieved.  No need to feel powerless before women when women don’t have anything you want.   This psychology is not well understood IMHO, because the cultural narrative today is focussed solely on women’s powerlessness.  But to see porn as a cause of harassment is, IMHO, to mis-identify something very basic.  Especially in a world where there is far LESS harassment than there was 50 years ago when pornography was far less available.

       

      1. 13.1.1
        Cat5

        “Especially in a world where there is far LESS harassment than there was 50 years ago when pornography was far less available.”

        Jeremy – Why do you believe there is far less harassment now than 50 years ago?  What support do you have for this statement?

        1. Jeremy

          I know of no study on this, Cat5, since no one was studying harassment 50 years ago to measure its prevalence.  But speaking to women who worked several decades ago, the things they report as being normal at that time are far less common now – are frankly illegal now, and would get a man fired and shunned.  And while it is unfortunately true that many women still have experiences along the spectrum of harassment, we no longer live in a “Mad Men” world where it is considered acceptable.  If harassment was proportional to porn use, if porn use was contributing to it, we would have expected an explosion of harassment and male sexual violence in the past 2 decades.  We have not seen that.  Instead, we have thankfully seen the outing of harassment and what will hopefully lead to its eventual eradication….as porn use continues to increase.

           

  14. 14
    Sparkxx

    Porn wasn’t such a bad thing in 1989. It was mainly a naughty sneak peak at playboy magazine stashed somewhere in an adult’s bedroom.

    Not anymore folks.
    Welcome to 2017. High speed internet and streaming porn of all kind and origin in HD, straight to your laptop and smart phone.
    Those who have been sucked in are only beginning to see the hazardous effects from porn induced erectile dysfunction to total social isolation.

    The consumers of these”copious amounts of porn”, free or otherwise are trapped in a vicious cycle of quitting and relapsing. The chronic masturbation that goes hand in hand (oh that miserable pun!) with the porn only means that one is likely to get sucked down the rabbit hole in the unending quest for novelty…like a heroin addict looking for the next hit.

    *Steven MC Queen’s movie Shame, starring Michael Fassbender, is a perfect elicitation.

    This internet porn is so addictive and ubiquitous it is impossible to take it in small doses. Trying to quit is akin to a smoker trying to quit when there’s a lot cigarette attached to his mouth 24/7.

    Before long, all intimacy with real life women is lost and with it all the joys one might usually get from real life relationships like touch, empathy, and friendly conversation. I mean, how can you enjoy small talk with someone when you are busy mentally undressing them. Yes, that’s what porn does.

    To those who can keep their porn use to a healthy moderation, more power to you.

    To the rest of us the mere mortals, porn is a succubus from hell.
    Men (and indeed women) beware.

    1. 14.1
      Emily, the original

      Sparkxx,
      This internet porn is so addictive and ubiquitous it is impossible to take it in small doses. Trying to quit is akin to a smoker trying to quit when there’s a lot cigarette attached to his mouth 24/7.
      To those who can keep their porn use to a healthy moderation, more power to you.
      To the rest of us the mere mortals, porn is a succubus from hell.
      Men (and indeed women) beware.
      I’m not negating your experience, but wouldn’t you say that porn addiction is like any other addiction? I don’t have stats, but I know plenty of people who can drink in moderation (or not at all) and lead productive lives. I know a smaller subset of those people who are addicts or whose excessive drinking has affected their lives.

      1. 14.1.1
        Kitty

         I know plenty of people who can drink in moderation (or not at all) and lead productive lives.

        The difference is that alcohol costs money, most of them time.  Even the worst alcoholic can’t buy an expensive bottle, pay a monthly fee, and have the bottle filled with liquor whenever he wants.  One thing recovering alcoholics learn in AA is to remove the temptation to drink from their life, and this involves rather radical lifestyle changes of no longer hanging out in bars or socializing with friends who like to drink.  It’s not easy to do but it is possible.  For a porn user with a smartphone his drug of choice is on tap and in his pocket 24/7, no matter his location or choice of friends.  Genuine porn addiction may be rare but it doesn’t mean that this problem is unimportant or has no implications for the rest of us.

        https://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-weiss/all-about-porninduced-ere_b_9220706.html

        1. Emily, the original

          Kitty,

           Genuine porn addiction may be rare but it doesn’t mean that this problem is unimportant or has no implications for the rest of us.

          I didn’t write that it didn’t exist, just that I think most people use it for its intended purpose. It doesn’t dominate their lives.

  15. 15
    ScottH

    This is all very interesting discussion.  I have not been much of a porn user but I’ll have to educate myself first hand (right hand that is) and watch as much as i can to learn more about it.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.  Any suggestions?

    1. 15.1
      D_M

      ScottH,

      The gist of the linked article was adults already have certain tendencies. The modern age just allows people to find what they want to look at easier. Whatever causes you to do a double take while out and about.

  16. 16
    Kitty

    Emily The Original:
    I didn’t write that it didn’t exist, just that I think most people use it for its intended purpose. It doesn’t dominate their lives.

    I agree that most porn users are casual users and not addicts.  But I do find it concerning that some susceptible people apparently can have their brains rewired (at least temporarily) to be unable to respond to real-life partners due to to obsessive porn use.  Not because porn in and of itself is evil or sinful, but because with the ubiquity of all forms of media the ability of modern Americans (even well-educate adults)  to separate fantasy from reality seems to be getting more and more blurred every day.  I’m sure that you and most of your friends don’t have this problem but I think the numbers of Americans whose sense of reality is rather fuzzy are climbing every day.

     

    1. 16.1
      Emily, the original

      Kitty,

      But I do find it concerning that some susceptible people apparently can have their brains rewired (at least temporarily) to be unable to respond to real-life partners due to to obsessive porn use. 

      I have read this can happen to young men who had access to internet porn since they were children. They can’t get excited by a real, in-the-flesh woman.

  17. 17
    D_M

    Folks,

    Are some people negatively impacted by what they see? Of course they are, but I don’t believe that porn is a scourge on society as some make it out to be. Google the history of pornography. It has been with us for hundreds of years. It reveals a person’s true proclivities without the uncomfortable feeling of going to the adult section of a store. The linked article focused on how people naturally gravitate towards viewing habits that reinforce preconceived preferences. Sure, some people get ideas from viewing porn, but they were curious about those particular ideas to begin with.

    As far as some folks having performance issues, that is not the fault of pornography. If an individual chooses to choke the chicken, or flick the bean to the point of being spent, the blame lies with the individual. We both share some responsibility for helping the other person get there, but not sole responsibility. For those unable to get there in a live setting, seek professional help. Something is preventing you from sharing what you need to be satisfied. Not being able to have an orgasm in one setting verses the other, highlights that something is missing from one setting.

    Porn has reduced the amount of tension in countless relationships and will continue to do so in the future (see Jeremy’s 13.1 post). For the most part, if a guy is with you, it’s because you checked enough of his sexual boxes. I am not saying it’s the only reason that he is with you, but it’s one of the reasons. There are guys that ignore their female arousal buttons, but I don’t think most guys do. Your guy probably just has to look at you and he is ready. That’s why I feel it’s problematic when people choose partners that leave them sexual unfulfilled. There ends up being a mismatch in sexual desire. Rather than torpedo the life both of you have built together, the other person turns to porn until they can get on the sex calendar. If you are one of those people that have a low libido, porn is probably helping your partner to cope with you.

    1. 17.1
      Jeremy

      To be fair though, D_M, while porn has reduced the amount of tension in countless relationships, it has also increased the tension in countless others.  It all depends on the people involved and how/why it is used.  I mentioned above that porn decreases a man’s interest in real live women – is that good or bad?  It depends.  How high was his interest before, and how low is it being reduced?  Was the result of his high interest good or bad, and same question for the lower interest?

       

      If he was a man who was doing ridiculous things and making ridiculous concessions in the hopes that a woman would see him differently, lowered interest would be a good thing.  It would allow a man space to objectively consider whether the relationship is worth the price he needs to pay for it.  But if a man is barely considering his partner at all, lowered interest would bring things to the point of narcissistic selfishness which the partner should not tolerate.

       

      In both of my above examples, the porn use is bad from the woman’s perspective.  Even the woman who is receiving the ridiculous amounts of self-sacrifice from a man generally wants to be receiving it.  Women like the fact that men do things like buy them engagement diamonds and sign unilateral provisioning agreements for them, regardless of whether their expectations are reasonable or reciprocated.  But from the man’s perspective, one situation leads to a better outcome and the other leads to a worse.  A man should not expect a woman to like the fact that he uses porn.  But it is incumbent upon him, not her, to objectively evaluate whether his use is helpful or harmful to him.

    2. 17.2
      Emily, the original

      D_M,

      If you are one of those people that have a low libido, porn is probably helping your partner to cope with you.

      What do you consider low libido? I ask because I have a friend, late 30s, as is her husband. They have two school-age children. Both work. Both are involved parents. Both have large, extended families living nearby with whom they get together often. They’be been together since they were in high school and he was bemoaning the fact that she was willing to have sex with him twice a week. That, to me, seems like a reasonable amount, given all the other stuff they having going on in their lives.

      1. 17.2.1
        Jeremy

        I know you asked D_M, but I’m going to weigh in too. “Low” is less than the “high partner wants.  “High” is less than the “low” partner wants.  Whatever the average is in society is quite irrelevant.  It matters not at all that the average couple has sex 1.5 times per week if one partner wants it more than that.  Neither the low desire nor the high desire partner is abnormal or unreasonable.  We want what we want.  In your example, if the couple is having sex twice per week and the guy feels frustrated the other 5 nights, that is a serious issue in their marriage.  And that would be especially true if the wife feels that the 2 times they do have sex is a stretch for her.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          In your example, if the couple is having sex twice per week and the guy feels frustrated the other 5 nights, that is a serious issue in their marriage.  And that would be especially true if the wife feels that the 2 times they do have sex is a stretch for her.

          Yes, but if this guy is expecting daily sex, it’s good to note that anything you do every day quickly loses its appeal. It becomes a chore. Or you’re phoning it in at least some of the time, particularly with someone you’ve been with (as in this example) for more than 20 years. Taking a little bit of a break and not knowing exactly when it’s going to happen or how it will go down keeps it interesting.

        2. Jeremy

          Emily, you wrote, “Yes, but if this guy is expecting daily sex, it’s good to note that anything you do every day quickly loses its appeal. It becomes a chore.

           

          I think that the idea behind what you wrote is shared by many people.  But it is also untrue of many other people.  Helen Fisher seems to think the difference is due to different variants in dopamine receptors in the brain.  But regardless of this, there’s no question that some people undergo hedonic adaptation much more easily than others, and for those people having sex every day would be like eating steak every day – it would turn something rare and special into something un-special – even undesired.

           

          Orthodox Jewish people have an interesting custom.  From the time a woman begins her period, any touch between a husband and wife (sexual and even non-sexual touching) is forbidden until 7 days after her period ends.  This often results in physical separation for literally half of every month.  Many people who keep this custom actually claim that it helps their sex life.  The argument is that although the separation is difficult, it makes their time together much hotter and more special.  But others who keep this custom disagree, and describe how it introduces emotional distance as well as physical distance.  Both types of people are telling the truth….about themselves.  For some, more distance leads to more closeness.  For others, distance leads to distance.

           

          When I first got married and was in the honeymoon stage, I remember lying with my wife and telling her that I don’t understand why a man and woman who are attracted to each other would ever sleep in the same bed and not have sex every night.  She told me to see if I felt the same way in 15 years.  I still do.  But many don’t.

        3. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          When I first got married and was in the honeymoon stage, I remember lying with my wife and telling her that I don’t understand why a man and woman who are attracted to each other would ever sleep in the same bed and not have sex every night.  She told me to see if I felt the same way in 15 years.  I still do.  But many don’t.

          But you’re a validation person. I’m not. To be honest, I can’t imagine wanting something as much as I did in the beginning after 15 years. Not when all I had to do was roll over and grab it. 🙂  I think I would start to feel pressured by someone who wanted sex every day once the honeymoon phase had passed. (I I enjoy your posts and have learned from them. I’m not criticizing you.) I don’t mean physically pressured so much as emotionally pressured.

        4. Jeremy

          I understand.  And to be clear, I do not pressure my wife to have sex every day, or any day.  I don’t pressure her at all, frankly.  I’ve made it clear that I will follow her cues, and that way we can avoid all sorts of resentment on both sides that once existed in the marriage.  After all, it’s not that I want sex every day with an unwilling partner, it’s that I want her to WANT to do it.  Without that desire, it’s not at all desirable to me.  That’s the validation part.

           

          But frankly, the lack of hedonic adaptation is not due to having a validational meta-goal, but rather to personality type.  You and I have discussed archetypes before, and while no one fits perfectly into a stereotype, the stereotypes help understand the way individuals make decisions.  A person with an Explorer-type personality craves novelty because that person adapts hedonically very easily.  If I married an Explorer-type, I’d know that their sex drive would lessen over time because of routine, though with a new partner it would renew itself.  A Guardian type generally doesn’t make decisions based on dopamine, but rather based on roles.  With that type of partner I would know that they would eventually lose a feeling of excitement and feel like sex was more of a duty – and that would present challenges of how to overcome that feeling.  Idealists and Rationals – less predictable.  Helen Fisher believes that Rationals have high brain testosterone and high baseline desire, and because that desire is independent of dopamine, tends not to decline as fast.  I’ve observed this to be true in both males and females of this type (including myself).  And Fisher claims that Idealists have high brain estrogen sensitivity, and so would have their sex-drive more linked to their feelings at the time rather than dopamine, duty, or testosterone.

           

          Whether or not Fisher is right about the chemical basis, I’ve observed these generalizations to largely hold.  So given what you’ve revealed about your own personality, what you write does not surprise me at all.  Wouldn’t life be easier if we all understood these things about ourselves and our partners before getting into relationships? 🙂

        5. Emily, the original

          Jeremy, 

          Wouldn’t life be easier if we all understood these things about ourselves and our partners before getting into relationships? 🙂

          Yes. I guess people who look at relationships very rationally and logically make rational and logical decisions about their partners and so understand what they are getting. Of course, this takes a high level of self-awareness in terms of understanding who you are and exactly what you need. I don’t think most people are that evolved, at least not at 27 or 28, which I believe is the average age for marriage.

        6. Jeremy

          Oh and sorry to add to an already long post, but this bears saying – none of what I wrote above is at all relevant unless the relationship is otherwise going well.  Anyone, regardless of personality, will lose desire if they feel disrespected or neglected, if they experience medical or hormonal issues, or if their general stress levels are high.  I figure it’s because of confounders like this that most people fail to notice personality trends, thinking that all people are so different.

      2. 17.2.2
        D_M

        Emily, the original,

        Jeremy pretty much sums it up. It’s relative to the individuals in the relationship / marriage. The mismatch in desire is what he is probably having problems with. Personally, I can get by with an “enthusiastic” once a week session where no “stone” is left unturned.

         

        1. Emily, the original

          D_M,

          Personally, I can get by with an “enthusiastic” once a week session where no “stone” is left unturned.

          I could handle the once-a-week session, too, but I don’t want any mandates placed on it or things that must be done. What’s on the menu and how it’s ordered should be a surprise.

           

  18. 18
    Cat5

    @Jeremy #13

     

    As a female who has spent the last 4 decades in the workforce – having been everything from a model and executive receptionist to CEO and Corporate Attorney, I cannot agree with your statements.  Do you think the only harassment that happens and/or counts is in the workplace?  At least 40 years ago, no one texted or emailed me uninvited, which often include dick pics.  I have had to do everything from report people to their employers, law enforcement, and/or obtaining restraining orders.  Despite my age, I still get sexually harassed at work and offers to do porn – whether by a photographer at a photoshoot when I was in my early 20s to being approached in a CVS by a well known porn director asking if I’d be interested in doing a video for him just a few years ago.  Despite what many think, It was not a compliment then nor is it now…it’s really offensive.  As I told the porn director – I have 99 problems but self-esteem ain’t one of them.

    It may not be “Mad Men” style harassment, but it still exists and is just prevelant – it’s just evolved and perpetrated differently.  Given, the #metoo conversations and the tsunami of firings of individuals for sexual harassment that has taken place in the last few years, I’m perplexed that you would believe differently.

  19. 19
    James

    I wonder if the whole theory that porn use leads to low libido in males isn’t just a classic case of putting the cart before the horse?  Maybe it’s the other way around and porn use is not a cause of low libido but rather a symptom.

    Women in long term relationships with men often complain that their men’s desire for them seems to drop off dramatically after a certain amount of time together. Biologists are familiar with this phenomenon and call it the “Coolidge effect”, and the very fact that this condition has its own name should be an indication of how commonplace it really is. It seems the males of mammalian species throughout the animal kingdom simply become more and more sexually desensitized to the same female as time goes by and generally require a prolific supply of novelty and variety in order to keep their libido running at full throttle. Hmmm, a prolific supply of novelty and variety – does that sound anything like a description of on-line porn?

    When a woman sees that her man no longer desires her and then she finds out that he is using porn, she inevitably connects the dots and concludes that the porn use must have CAUSED him to stop desiring her. But in all likelihood the Coolidge effect (perhaps among other things) is what killed his desire for her, and his porn use is merely a symptom of that fact, as he now relies on porn to ignite his passion in a way that his woman once did but no longer does. It’s not that his porn use robbed him of his desire for a real flesh and blood women, but rather that his lack of passion for his woman resulted in him turning to porn to fill the void. From her perspective she may perceive that he has lost his desire, but it’s not necessarily that his overall desire has waned so much as it has waned for her specifically. A man who finds his woman to be irresistibly tempting and fully satisfying would have little motivation to neglect her in favor of porn.

    Another inconvenient fact is that the male libido simply does not age well. The conventional wisdom is that male libido peaks around the age of 18 and then begins declining. Some even believe the true peak corresponds with the onset of puberty, around 12 or 13, and by the time he is 18 a young man is already a good 5 or 6 years into the steady, relentless decline. But in any case, most fully mature post-adolescent males just are not bodice-ripping, one-track mind, raging sex machines like so many women seem so eager to believe.  And as a man ages, the responsibilities, anxieties, and preoccupations of life become greater, health problems are more common, financial burdens, family obligations, and work stresses increase. These distractions all drain the energy and occupy the time that were once plentiful in his youth, further depleting an already waning libido.

    It requires focus, time, and effort to satiate a women sexually, and when a male is young, carefree, and full of “piss and vinegar” the idea of providing gratification to a female can seem like a fun and exciting challenge. But the older he gets, and the older the relationship gets, the more it may seem like drudgery. The pressure to perform and please a woman can start to seem like just another chore after coming home from a stressful day at work, with a tired, aching body and a mind weighed down by problems. But porn simply puts fewer requirements on a man. He can experience an escape and release at his own pace without having to worry about pleasing anyone else. Here again, it’s not that porn caused him to lose his desire for a real woman, but rather that his lower libido and energy levels (due to aging and stress) caused him to choose porn over an actual woman because it’s just a lot less hassle and drama.

    Men losing sexual interest in their women is not some kind of new unprecedented crisis situation that was suddenly brought about by the onset of on-line porn. It’s a problem that is as old as time itself, and it is not caused by technology, but rather biology. Living in the (mis)information age creates the false perception that this problem is greater now than it was in the past because the same internet that provides us with porn also provides a ubiquitous forum for safely anonymous (and therefore brutally forthright) discussions about sexuality and the perceived effects of porn on our lives. But porn or no porn, this problem has always existed, it will continue to exist in perpetuity, and there is nothing new under the sun.

  20. 20
    Rossana

    Porn gives young people an unrealistic and unhealthy idea of how quickly a plumber will come to your house!

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