Reading Time: 6 minutes

Our sex-positive culture likes to tell us that porn increases sexual enjoyment. Sadly, the science says otherwise. In fact, porn often leads to less satisfying sex in the long run and, for many people, no sex at all. How does that work? Let’s look at how porn is a huge contributor to the exploding number of cases of erectile dysfunction.

What Viagra Doesn’t Want You To Know

Erectile dysfunction (ED) used to be an issue associated with older men, but that’s beginning to change. Studies are showing an increasing number of cases of ED in sexually active men under 40. Internet porn is one of the culprits, with a growing number of studies showing a correlation between porn and ED. There’s even a new term for this specific type of ED: pornography-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) or pornography-induced abnormally low libido (PIALL). In this article, we’ll be focusing on PIED.

It turns out that regular and prolonged exposure to pornography can lower sexual responsitivity in a male. As a result, there is an increased need for more and more extreme material for him to become aroused. In other words, some men develop a tolerance for sexually arousing material and the porn that used to excite them begins to seem boring. This leads to men consuming/seeking out increasingly intense porn in an effort to experience the excitement they used to feel. The kind of intense porn tends to contain themes of:

  • Aggression
  • Violence
  • Demeaning acts
  • Verbal abuse
  • Fetishes

According to one report from Medical News Today, because of this overstimulation, some men lose the ability to become aroused in the presence of a partner. They begin to experience sexual dysfunction and even ED, and can only become sexually excited when watching porn. Sadly, this side-effect not only affects them but also their sexual partner.

How Your Brain Short-circuits Intimacy

To understand why watching excessive amounts of porn can lead to ED, we first have to understand how the brain works.

Neurons are cells that receive and send messages between the body and the brain. The brain has about 100 billion neurons, which are the basic working units of the nervous system. Neurotransmitters send chemical messages between the neurons. A neurotransmitter called dopamine helps the flow of information to the front of the brain, which is linked to thought and emotion. It is also linked to reward systems, like the reward center.

“As long as there’s a lot of dopamine floating around in the brain, the cravings will keep getting stronger.”

The reward center’s job is to release “pleasure” chemicals into your brain whenever you do something healthy, like eating tasty food, doing a hard workout, or even enjoying a kiss. The “high” you get from that chemical rush makes you want to repeat that behavior again and again. Thanks to your reward center, your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chances of survival. Normally, it’s a great system. Normally.

The problem is, the brain can be tricked.

When addictive substances are used, they give the brain a “false signal.” Since the brain can’t tell the difference between the drugs and a real, healthy reward, it goes ahead and activates the reward center. An important chemical called dopamine is released, which makes the brain start developing a craving for the fake reward. As long as there’s a lot of dopamine floating around in the brain, the cravings will keep getting stronger, and the consumer will feel super-motivation to keep pursuing more of the drug. Essentially, addictive drugs hijack the brain, turning it around and forcing it in a direction it was never meant to go. Instead of encouraging the consumer toward healthy behaviors, drugs lead the consumer into things that aren’t healthy at all, things that can even be dangerous. 

Want to guess what else does that? Porn.

As it turns out, erections are dependent on the activation of this reward pathway. Dopamine signaling actually plays a crucial role in sexual arousal and erections.

Let’s look at how this relationship works.

How Synthetic Sex Affects Your Brain

When you have a sexual experience that feels good, your brain starts creating new pathways to connect what you’re doing to the pleasure you’re feeling. Essentially, your brain is redrawing the sexual part of your map so you’ll be able to come back later and repeat the experience. 

The same thing happens the first time you watch porn. Your brain starts building new pathways in response to this very powerful new experience. It’s saying, “This feels great! Let’s do this again.”

Your brain map operates on a “use it or lose it” principle. Just like a hiking trail will start to grow over if it’s not getting walked on, brain pathways that don’t get traffic become weaker and can even be completely replaced by stronger pathways that get more use.

The amount of dopamine estimated to be produced in the brain by different stimulants. Courtesy of thefreedomfight.org

As you might expect, watching porn is a very powerful experience that leaves a strong and lasting impression on the brain. Every time you watch porn—especially if you heighten the experience by masturbating—you are strengthening the part of your brain map that connects arousal to porn. Meanwhile, the pathways connecting arousal to things like seeing, touching, or cuddling with a partner aren’t getting used. Pretty soon, natural turn-ons aren’t enough, and many porn consumers find they can’t get aroused by anything but porn.

How bad is the problem? Let’s put it this way: doctors are seeing an epidemic of young men who, because of their porn use, can’t “get it up” with a real, live partner.

Many guys find themselves unable to maintain an erection in the absence of porn. The internet and other avenues provide an unlimited amount of content, so some men begin to watch massive amounts of porn to maintain high levels of sexual arousal.

When they try to engage with a real sexual partner, the arousal they feel does not fit their expectations and they are unable to maintain an erection. Sexual activities that would normally give people a burst of dopamine and make them happy are no longer enough to sustain them. They constantly have to look at porn to get the sensation they need, and this can lead to ED.

Porn Causes Erectile Dysfunction

Porn is designed to capture attention and keep the viewer coming back for more. The performers often do things that would typically not translate into real life, and unfortunately, the viewer can become conditioned to this type of sexual arousal that does not carry over into real-life sexual situations.

In other words, unrealistic fantasies are not measuring up to authentic reality.

Regular sex no longer meets the person’s expectations, resulting in a decline in dopamine. This can cause some men to no longer be “in the mood.” The good news is, studies have shown that some men with ED who watched porn were able to obtain a regular erection once the porn was removed.

14-Day Free Trial

Protection From Pornography

Change your habits, change your life: Start our 14-day free trial to help get rid of pornography for good.

Shield
Shield

Porn is designed to capture attention and keep the viewer coming back for more. The performers often do things that would typically not translate into real life, and unfortunately, the viewer can become conditioned to this type of sexual arousal that does not carry over into real-life sexual situations.

In other words, unrealistic fantasies are not measuring up to authentic reality.

Regular sex no longer meets the person’s expectations, resulting in a decline in dopamine. This can cause some men to no longer be “in the mood.” The good news is, studies have shown that some men with ED who watched porn were able to obtain a regular erection once the porn was removed.

However, the younger the age of the male when they begin to regularly watch porn, the greater the chance of it becoming their preference over partnered sex, and the less overall enjoyment they get, according to the Medical News Today report. And how is that healthy for anyone?

Unfortunately, this trend of sex problems is especially serious for teens and young adults. Their brains are particularly vulnerable to being rewired by porn, and they are in a period where they are forming crucial attitudes, preferences, and expectations for their future.

Today’s Decisions Affect Tomorrow

Scientists are still trying to understand the relationship between porn and sexual dysfunction, but the research we have now is telling us a lot.

The fact is, porn addiction is serious and should not be taken lightly. Some porn viewers may not realize that they have a compulsion or an addiction and may be unsure how to get help. If that’s you, you’re in the right place—our Ever Accountable app keeps you safe from porn through accountability.

If porn has been a long-term problem in your life, talk to a friend, mentor, or therapist, and look into steps you can take to recover. Fortunately, the brain is a very resilient organ. The sexual dysfunction caused by porn can be reversed, and a brain map can be rewired to work well again once porn is out of the picture. 

This is why we fight against porn and fight for real love. Because we believe everyone deserves to have a healthy sexuality and be informed on the real harms of porn.