You’re in the sweaty, erotic embrace of a sexual partner. You’ve got “lo-fi music to chill/study to” on in the background, and you’re ready to have fun — the partially clothed way.

However, you simply cannot get hard or moist enough, and you’re not sure why. You’re having a really good time, you promise.

Suddenly, your mind zips back to the last sex acrobat you saw doing their thing on Pornhub. All warmth returns to your nether regions, and suddenly it’s business as usual. Is porn guilty of erection hacking? And is there a way back if your browser history would actively reduce a nun to tears?

A 2019 review found that the majority of men (64 to 70 percent) and a smaller percentage of women (23 to 33 percent) use pornography.Dwulit D & Rzymski P. (2019). The potential associations of pornography use with sexual dysfunctions: An integrative literature review of observational studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6679165/

Masturbating to pornography is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a healthy and normal part of working out what you’re into and maturing sexually.

However, consuming more porn than you or your partner feel comfortable with can cause problems for many people beyond running through wet wipes at breakneck speed.

In this article, we explore whether porn can damage your libido and how to redevelop a healthy relationship with both masturbation and your sexual partner/s.

Porn has a bewildering array of prosthetically altered body types, disproportionately large penises, and heavily stylized sexual scenarios.

Real life can pale against this, in the same way a playgroup scrap does not come close to the more exciting moments in a “Die Hard” movie. Except for maybe every single scene in the last two installments.

While excessive porn use can make real sex a little underwhelming for anyone, the gap between on-screen and in-person sex is especially true for guys. According to research from 2013, men tend to be more easily turned on by simple visual cues.Chung WS, et al. (2013.) Gender difference in brain activation to audio-visual sexual stimulation; do women and men experience the same level of arousal in response to the same video clip? DOI: 0.1038/ijir.2012.47

Some men may find that unless there’s a college dorm full of naked coeds ready to jump their bones, they can’t get in the mood.

Likewise, women might start to discover that they can’t engage with a sexual situation unless their partner fixes a kitchen appliance for them first while wearing a fake mustache.

We jest, but seriously, porn can get into your head in different ways. The same study indicates that watching too much porn can impact a guy’s confidence in the bedroom and reduce their enjoyment of sex.

It makes sense that men who spend hours per week watching male porn stars with 3-foot ham sticks might feel a little insecure when their own is out in the open.

However, this study found the opposite. Its results suggest that viewing porn is unlikely to hinder the ability to have an enduring erection. The study also found that men who regularly watch porn may actually perform better in bed because they enjoy greater desire and arousal with their partners.Prause N. (2015). Viewing sexual stimuli associated with greater sexual responsiveness, not erectile dysfunction. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269763975_Viewing_Sexual_Stimuli_Associated_with_Greater_Sexual_Responsiveness_Not_Erectile_Dysfunction

Likewise, women who watch porn might see the toned, surgically sculpted, and lens-filtered bodies of female porn stars and start to count up their own imperfections. Though… they may also pick up tips and new moves they want to try out.

It’s best to take pornography research with a pinch of salt. Scientists have found that the approaches they have to measuring porn consumption vary wildly and may not be all that reliable.Kohut T, et al. (2019). Surveying pornography use: A shaky science resting on poor measurement foundations. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337548897_Surveying_Pornography_Use_A_Shaky_Science_Resting_on_Poor_Measurement_Foundations

You have to be your own yardstick when it comes to porn use, if you’ll pardon the pun. Some people find one stroking session a week excessive, while others can get that elbow going five times a day and continue about their day without shame.

There is no “too much porn.” But if it starts to interfere with your daily tasks and relationships or leaves you feeling isolated, it might be worth switching up how often you reach down under.

A porn habit can cause problems in a relationship when one partner starts sneaking into the bathroom with their smartphone, and when pornography viewing becomes a secret, isolating pattern of behavior.

And while most porn viewers may be men, this compulsive behavior can develop in people of any gender.

According to a 2019 review, around 31 percent of young adult females and 87 percent of young adult males admit to having a cheeky sift through online sauciness at some point.

There are differences between how men and women consume pornography. According to the Institute for Family Studies, women are three to four times more likely than men to be watching porn with a partner, whereas guys tend to use it alone.Carroll JS. (2017). The porn gap: Gender differences in pornography use in couple relationships. https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-porn-gap-gender-differences-in-pornography-use-in-couple-relationships

A 2018 study found little effect on relationship satisfaction for women who have a high acceptance of pornography and less relationship satisfaction in women who have a lower acceptance of pornography.Maas MK, et al. (2018). A dyadic approach to pornography use and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual couples: The role of pornography acceptance and anxious attachment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6155976/

Watching porn isn’t exactly easy to bring up as a casual aside between Netflix episodes, so the lack of communication may lead to suspicion and negative feelings in a relationship.

A couple can resolve many of these, erm… stickier situations through honest, open conversation. However, you’re unlikely to see the other side of the tension unless you make a concerted change to communicate honestly and openly about the function of porn in your life.

When porn use turns compulsive, it can cause personal problems and affect the intimacy of sexual relationships. It becomes pretty difficult to hold hands when one of them is permanently cupped around the genitals.

The idea of sex or porn as addictions is controversial, and the American Psychological Disorder (APA) does not see sexual addiction as a diagnosable condition.

Likewise, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) also released a statement distancing themselves from sex addiction as a mental health problem.

Researchers think the Internet makes people much more vulnerable to compulsive sexual behavior because it gives them instant access to pornographic material.Blaszczynski A. (2019). Pornography use: Empirically-enhanced treatment interventions. https://acp.scholasticahq.com/article/803-excessive-pornography-use-empirically-enhanced-treatment-interventions

Porn statistics online seem to confirm that hypothesis. Pornhub, the largest porn site on the internet, reported in its 2018 annual review that the site received over 100 million visits daily. Its servers process 962 searches for porn videos every second.

And, hopefully, they’re not all from the same person. If it’s you, we commend you for having the hand stamina to search up this article.

The feeling of watching too much porn may apply more frequently to men since, according to 2018 research, women are more likely to view pornography with a romantic partner.

This may make porn a more central part of your bedroom antics, meaning that it could enhance sex rather than potentially cause problems.

Overusing porn doesn’t just run your vibrator dry — it can also make your partner feel as if they’re not enough.

A 2018 study on heterosexual women whose partners use pornography found that they started to view themselves and the relationship negatively once they found out about their partner’s porn use.

However, not all partners feel this way. Some partners recognize the role that porn plays in their partner’s life, communicate openly about it, and do not link how good they are in the sack with their partner’s enthusiastic porn use.

But just as there’s no maximum amount of ejaculations a person has in their life, there’s no amount of time a person can spend surfing porn that makes it a diagnosed compulsive behavior.

How you use porn is much more indicative of any possible compulsions than how long.

If you feel like you’re hurting yourself or the ones you love, spending more money than you can afford on porn materials, or getting feedback that your porn use is causing damage in your relationship, it may be worth looking into methods for slowing down.

Research is beginning to examine the negative aspects of everything on the internet, from social media to smartphone notifications to Baby Shark. Pornography isn’t exempt from this scrutiny.

If you’ve ever been late to work or a social gathering to rub one out, or you’ve changed your schedule around just so you can masturbate, and you feel emotional distress, you may want to re-examine your porn habits.

These are not signs of compulsive behavior, just hints that you might want to make little lifestyle edits if porn is causing distress.

Here’s the definition of compulsive sexual behavior according to the International Classification of Diseases — and feeling like you spent a little too long generating jollies in your pants does not fit its definition, unless it starts to interfere with work or relationships.

“What’s different now, compared to years ago, is that pornography is both free and easily accessible, so more masturbation occurs than normal,” said Ian Kerner, PhD, a psychotherapist, author, and lecturer who specializes in sex therapy.

A study published in a 2017 edition of Society and Mental Health suggested a “bidirectional” link between depression and viewing pornography. Essentially, you jerk off because you feel bad, and you feel bad because you jerk off. Perry SL. (2017). Pornography use and depressive symptoms: Examining the role of moral incongruence. DOI: 10.1177/2156869317728373

Looking at porn isn’t good or bad in itself. Lots of couples incorporate porn into a healthy sex life to add variety and feel a stronger physical connection.

However, if porn viewing starts to interfere with daily responsibilities, or the connection between partners, or you feel bad about your use, it may be time to consider how you or your partner use it.

“Masturbation isn’t wrong. If you’re experiencing a decreased libido and you suspect the origin to be over-masturbation, take 2 weeks off from both masturbation and porn,” said Kerner.

Ready to take a break?

You could try some of the following:

  • Set up a parent lock or filter. Place it on your computer and smartphone and let someone else, even your partner, set your password to regain access. This way, you will be forced to avoid porn for a set amount of time. Most importantly, though, is to be curious about your reasons for viewing more porn than you wish, rather than applying a quick fix solution.
  • Find an alternative activity that gives you joy. Okay, maybe not to the same extent. Engaging in exercise or creative activities that stimulate you can divert your urge to masturbate, as they also generate feel-good chemicals in the brain. Plus, it’s pretty tough to juggle your jigglies while playing a piano concerto.
  • Have a chat about porn. If you’ve never watched porn with your significant other, it may be something to at least discuss. You might find a fun new activity you can bond over. And it beats rewatching “Friends” together for the umpteenth time.
  • Take active steps to talk about sex itself. If you’re heading straight to the NSFW corners of Reddit when your phone blinks to life, it might be a sign that you have more sexual adventure in your head than you’re getting to explore in real life. This may simply be an opportunity to add some much-needed sauce to your intercourse. Maybe literally, if you’re into that.

If you’re feeling emotionally distressed, experiencing problems with your relationship, or finding that your urges around porn are interfering with daily life, there are resources that can support you while you take the steps you need.

These include:

  • Seeking therapy from a pro who knows their potatoes when it comes to human sexuality. This can help you look at the role porn plays in your life and relationships. AASECT provides a nationwide directory of knowledgeable people with loads of empathy who won’t shame you.
  • Search for treatment recommendations. Several types of therapy can help you find a better balance between porn and everything else in your life. There’s cognitive behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or counseling to treat out of control sexual behavior (OCSB). You’re not short on options.
  • Consider attending a 12-step group. Examples include Sex Addicts Anonymous or Porn Addicts Anonymous. These groups take a spiritual approach, treat compulsive porn use as a disease, and recommend sexual sobriety as a treatment. They may not be for everyone, but some people need a sense of community to use porn in a way that does not disrupt daily life and these could be just the ticket.

Every person consumes and relates to porn differently. What works for your BFF may not work for you. What’s important is starting the conversation and navigating a way through your porn use that allows you to enjoy real sex to the fullest.

After all, what good’s the VR headset if you can’t get the most out of the 4D experience?

Now, let’s see if you can’t turn that video off and your partner on. Go get ‘em!