Porn and relationships

| June 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

Porn is a fact of life: a recent poll showed that 96% of male first years in UCD had accessed porn.  The average age of accessing porn in the UK is 11, and that is on a computer in the kitchen while doing homework.  Most kids do not speak to their parents about this and Sex Education does not begin to address this until the age of 15 onwards, if at all.  The biggest user group of porn is the age 12 – 17 and very little support, information or help is available to this group.   Research is divided on the effect of porn with some saying there are no effects and others suggest it produces sexual difficulties and relational difficulties.

Some people become addicted to porn and research is beginning to show that internet use invites addiction through the production of attachment hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine.  Like all addictions, it takes up enormous amounts of time and that time is taken from relationships, work and life in general.  Many porn users hide their usage from their families, friends and partners and so problems often go undetected for a long time.

While many people experience no personal or relational difficulties resulting from porn use, many others experience difficulties relating sexually to a real human being or even functioning sexually in relationships.  For example, it can happen that while a man can have full sexual response while using porn, he may have erectile dysfunction with his partner or may experience complete lack of desire with his partner.

Some questions…

Is watching porn normal?

While watching porn is common, it is the desire to watch, appreciate and touch the naked human body that is normal and porn can feed into this desire.  Cave dwellings from the time of primitive man have had images of naked forms depicted on the walls.  The desire to see and watch is normal and men particularly have a very visual instinct.  Porn is a quick convenient way of satisfying this desire but it must come with a warning – it is highly addictive and may cause personal and relationship difficulties.

 

Is porn different for guys and girls?

Yes, it appears that porn appeals more to men than women and the reasons for this are manifold.  Men have more desire for the visual while women report sexual desire as a more complex response including psychological and emotional factors.  Another major factor is that porn is usually made by men for men and so women often do not find it appealing or satisfying.  Many women say that they do not object to their partners viewing porn and for some this is true but for others this approval comes from a desire not to be seen as a prude.

Porn can offer a quick and easy solution to male sexual desire and as long as the man is also participating in real relationships it may have no significant impact.  However, many men hide their porn use from their partners and this can lead to some level of dishonesty and deceit in the relationship.

 

What is the effect of watching porn?

For many people there is no long lasting effect but for growing numbers of people the effect of watching porn for many years can be debilitating and troubling.  Much of the research points to the addictive and compulsive nature of porn; hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin produce bonding effects that make it difficult to break the habit of porn watching.  Often, viewers progress to webcam use and this is even more difficult to break away from.  As there is always a greater ‘hit’ and more adventure to be had combined with the intoxicating result of orgasm, porn can become a focus point of every day.  There are no messy emotional problems to deal with in porn, no human responses or difficulties to deal with so the viewer can often find that there is no longer any need or desire for human relationships.  This can lead to increasing social isolation and a decreasing capacity for intimacy.

Many young men are reporting desire and erectile difficulties as a result of extensive porn use.  Very often their first orgasm is pre-puberty when the boy does not have the emotional or physical capacity to process what is happening.  The result can be a complicated sexual response: desire and pleasure combined with hiding/shame. If this continues then the sexual response can become very problematic with messages to the body to open up and shut down at the same time.   Some men find that they can only respond sexually to a porn star or to a prostitute with their bodies refusing to respond to someone they respect and love. What complicates this is the difficulty of speaking openly of what the problem is and the honesty that is needed to address the difficulty.

Women also report complicated responses to their partner’s use of porn.  They know logically that it is not an affair, yet they can feel the same responses as if their partner was having an affair: betrayed, unattractive, lacking in confidence etc.  It can be very difficult for them to voice their feelings as they can be perceived as neurotic and insecure.

For some people, men and women, addiction to internet use can spill into reality with people meeting up on line for specific sexual reasons.  This can also be addictive and obsessive with a resulting loss of other relationships.

 

Is there something wrong with me if I get aroused by using violent porn?

There are varying reports on whether violent porn results in violent sexual action. It can probably safely be said that a person using violent porn can become desensitised to the effect of violence on others and can make an assumption that pleasure and violence are connected.  Many sexual criminals try to make a case for mitigating circumstances from their exposure to violent porn and some courts take this into account.  However, like watching violent video games, there is little evidence of a direct causal result and perhaps the effect can be lessened by a person’s involvement in normal, real relationships.  Where a person is isolated and using violent porn, then there are indications for seeking help.  Some people progress to child porn and obviously this is very dangerous both for ethical and legal reasons.  Ethically, children cannot consent to be part of pornographic videos and legally, a person can be charged and put on the sex-offender’s register for using child porn.

 

Is watching porn addictive?

Yes, watching porn can become very addictive with users spending ever increasing numbers of hours on the internet.  Often it offers an escape from the problems of life and as it is secret it follows the pathway of all addictions.  It can take priority over all other activities, it can occupy the mind almost 90% of the time, it can come before all other needs in a person’s life and the dedication to porn can be secretive and hidden.  As the numbers of people suffering from porn and sex addiction rise so too do the treatment centres for this addiction and help is now available along with all other addictions.  It is becoming slightly less taboo to have a sex addiction and therefore is easier for people to access help.  Many people get help both as individuals and as a couple and the possibility for a successful outcome rises with the support of partners and family.

 

Some stats!

  • The average size of a man’s erect penis is 5.8 inches long.
  • The average size of a male porn star’s erect penis is 8 inches long.
  • 85% of female porn stars have breast implants.
  • 100% of the pictures of porn centerfolds have been enhanced.
  • Porn stars frequently undergo hair removal, genital cosmetic surgery and liposuction procedures. (Men’s health magazine March 2004)

 

Help

Help can be accessed through GP’s, student counselling, women’s and men’s health centres, accredited counselling and psychotherapy websites.

 

This article was prepared by the TCD Counselling Department.

Category: Sex and Relationships

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