The Ultimate Guide To the Effects of Porn and How to Quit It

 

Is porn REALLY that bad? Here’s what we found out when we went digging. In this guide you’ll find the latest scientific research and follow the “money trail”. You’ll see how porn affects you and those around you, how porn creates addiction, and how to finally kick it.
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Introduction

If someone were to ask you, “Why is porn a problem?” what would you say?

Would you say that it tends to cause problems with your partner?

Does something about porn cause you anxiety, guilt, or even depression?

You know something about the way porn depicts women and girls is pretty messed up.

You’re not comfortable with kids looking at this stuff, so why would it be okay for you?

All of those answers merely begin to brush the surface of how damaging porn actually is. Even worse, no one can agree on how bad porn actually is. Some think watching it is just fine. Others think it’s pretty bad, and there’s a more religious perspective that equates it with sin.

Altogether, the topic can be astonishingly confusing.

How this Guide Can Help

We made this guide to summarize the issues and reach out a helping hand. We understand the basic problems with porn (it’s our business, after all) and what it takes to create real solutions.

Great job, by the way. You’re brave enough to take that first step.

Just so you know, this information is a carefully researched summary and not merely an opinion. We will present the problem of pornography, offer the most current solutions to deal with the effects, and offer solutions to get it out of your life for good.

To be clear from the beginning: our research indicates that pornography is a BIG problem. And before you close this tab — because of what you think you already know – remember that we set out to understand it without bias.

It’s true. Give us the chance to lay it all out in front of you.

We’re here to help.

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Table of Contents

 

Part 1: Is Porn Really Bad?

It’s commonplace to talk about how “porn isn’t bad”, yet the research continues to show that it is. Here’s what it says.

Porn is Everywhere

So much so, that according to data from the SEMrush Traffic Analytics tool, porn sites received more website traffic in 2020 than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Zoom, Pinterest, and LinkedIn combined, and yet very few people actually have any idea of what porn actually does to us. 

Here are 20 vital facts we know about porn use:

  • 99.5 percent of a young person’s encounter with online sexual material had to do with factors outside their caregiver’s use of Internet filtering technology. Filters may offer a feeling of safety, but evidence indicates that they are largely ineffective. No matter how strict your filter may be, it cannot protect from what a child or teen might see from a friend at school, or even browsing Instagram. [source]
  • Pornography sites are among the world’s top 300 most popular Internet sites.
  • 35% of all internet downloads are porn-related. [source]
  • 34% of internet users have been exposed to unwanted porn via ads, pop-ups, etc. [source]
  • People who admit to having extramarital affairs were over 300% more likely to admit consuming porn than those who have never had an affair, according to a 2004 study in Social Science Quarterly.
  • At least 30% of all data transferred across the internet is porn-related. [source]
  • The most common female role stated in porn titles is that of women in their 20’s portraying teenagers. [source]
  • Recorded child sexual exploitation, known as “child porn”, is one of the fastest-growing online businesses. [source]
  • 624,000+ child porn traders have been discovered online in the U.S.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, child porn was hosted on servers located in all 50 states. [source]
  • In 2016 alone, more than 4.6 billion hours of porn were consumed just on the world’s largest porn site. This does not count the countless hours of porn streamed from other sites. [source]
  • 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often. [1]
  • Teenage girls and young women are significantly more likely to actively seek out porn then women 25 years old and above. [2]
  • A study of 14 to 19-year-olds found that females who consumed pornographic videos were at a significantly greater likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. [3]
  • A Swedish study of 18-year-old males found that frequent users of pornography were significantly more likely to have sold and bought sex than other boys of the same age. [4]
  • A 2015 meta-analysis of 22 studies from seven countries found that internationally the consumption of pornography was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike. [source]
  • A recent UK survey found that 44% of males aged 11–16 who consumed pornography reported that online pornography gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try. [source]
  • Porn for Women is one of the top trending searches throughout the year, increasing by over 1400%. [source]
  • Frequent porn use increases the odds of emotional abuse. [source]
  • Men who more frequently consume pornography more readily expressed a desire to act out their sexual fantasies that involve coerced, intoxicated, or forced sex and sexual assault, but only if they were assured they would not be caught. [source]

So, what does this mean? 

It means that watching porn does have effects and those effects can absolutely be harmful. 

Porn fuels rape culture, sexual proclivities, and unrealistic expectations during sex. It is a huge driver in divorce and emotional trauma. Watching porn almost always leads to more intense ideas and attitudes towards the objectification of women.

Porn increases the likelihood of depression and anxiety due to the norms it sets—especially amongst children and teenagers. It leads to erectile dysfunction when overused. Practically speaking, porn use literally has led to people losing their jobs because they are viewing it at work. 

And So. Much. More. 

We dive into all of this in much more detail in other sections. In section 2, we tell you about how damaging— and just outright horrendous — the porn industry actually is. In parts 5 through 7 we talk about how porn affects relationships, children, and women respectively.

Sources: 

  1. Barna Group, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact Of Pornography In The Digital Age, (Ventura, CA: Josh McDowell Ministry, 2016). https://Www.Barna.Org/Blog/Culture-Media/Barna-Group/Porn-Press-Conference#.VrS9OrSJndl
  2. Silvia Bonino, Silvia Ciairano, Emanuela Rabagliette, And Elena Cattelino, “Use Of Pornography And Self Reported Engagement In Sexual Violence Among Adolescents,” European Journal Of Developmental Psychology 3, No. 3 (2006):265-288.
  3. Carl Göran Svedin, Ingrid kerman, And Gisela Priebe, “Frequent Users Of Pornography. A Population Based Epidemiological Study Of Swedish Male Adolescents,” Journal Of Adolescence 34, No. 4 (2011): 779–788.
  4. Paul J. Wright, Robert S. Tokunaga, And Ashley Kraus, “A Meta-Analysis Of Pornography Consumption And Actual Acts Of Sexual Aggression In General Population Studies,” Journal Of Communication 66, No. 1 (February 2016): 183–205.

 

Part 2: Understanding the Industry

In this section you will learn about the industry behind the product and how it’s just as damaging as porn itself.
Who’s Making the Money?

Let’s look at the whole picture first, starting with the industry itself. It’s weird that the product of pornography is consumed so separately from the creators of it – from the mega-corporations behind the scenes to the producers and directors casting actors in the videos, and the private lives of the people making them.

And you know what?

It’s extraordinarily difficult to find reliable resources about who makes money off porn – the REAL money.

Porn production is a shady business, to say the least, and we’re not talking about the videos themselves. Yahoo says that porn’s economic power “remains hidden among the masses,” its overall earnings somewhere in the billions. What seems like a fair estimate puts it at $97+ billion per year, but no one really knows.

However, what we DO know is that some companies you would never imagine are tied to pornography. For example:

  • Streaming services
  • Cell phone carriers
  • Hotel chains

And these are just some large industries making money off of porn and porn-related services.

Life as An Adult Performer

It turns out the porn industry isn’t so great for the actors, either. Some adult performers are forthcoming about what the industry itself is like:

Stoya (performer) – “We paid $4,500 to performers with penises, which averages out at $750 per male performer per scene; while $4,200 went to performers with vulvas, three of whom identify as female and one who is gender-neutral, which is $1,050 each. Why do performers get paid this much? There’s a cost of doing business that includes transportation to the set (sometimes from a different city, or even state or country), an insane level of personal grooming, and STI testing fees, which range from $155 to $210.”

Having sex in front of cameras is still highly stigmatized work, and negatively affects employment options later in life. Even with testing and/or barrier protection, there is still a small, managed risk of blood-borne pathogen transmission and a larger risk of chlamydia and gonorrhea – which, if acquired, are easy to treat but still mean costly regimens of antibiotics and missed bookings.

There is also that risk of mechanical injuries, which, though rare, may require hospitalization. If this happens, then a performer can’t work for some amount of time. Not to mention the repetitive strain injuries that accumulate over the course of a career from having sex for extended periods of time in positions that avoid blocking the light and camera.

Lastly, porn acting can be an emotionally and mentally straining career. Many adult performers are beginning to come forward and talk about how mental illness affects the actors. For example, depression, anxiety, and suicide are not uncommon to hear about in the industry.

Mindgeek: The Porn Monopoly

There is actually a porn monopoly that many people don’t know about. According to a 2019 study from NYU School of Law (heavily referenced in this section), Mindgeek is a portfolio of websites that generates an astonishing amount of traffic, and is “one of the internet’s biggest destinations.”

Mindgeek calls themselves a “global industry-leading information technology firm,” which seems to be both an understatement and, as researchers say, a smokescreen for what they really do: own, operate, and produce online porn.

In fact, MindGeek owns all the major sites like PornHub, YouPorn, XVideos, GayTube, Twistys, and many others. 

According to the study, all the major porn sites plus a “dizzying array of specialized channels and user-uploaded content (some of it pirated)” owned by MindGeek make it the biggest player in an estimated $97 billion global market. Do the math.

Those MindGeek people – who are unidentified – are worth billions.

They make their money by using free porn videos as advertisements to lure users toward other sources of revenue, like custom performances and camming–live video streams with performers–subscriptions, and a la carte purchases of favorite clips. So by clicking on free porn videos, users are much more likely to end up paying for something.

This kind of business model has allowed sites like Pornhub to become behemoth sites, with “at least 100 million pairs of eyes viewing adult material online” every single day. 

Just like Netflix tracks their customers’ viewing habits to push content based on their user actions, MindGeek tracks porn users’ habits to create and stream content that users are more likely to view. Some of the habits they tracks are:

  • pause/rewind/fast-forward behavior
  • day of the week
  • date of viewing
  • time of viewing
  • zip code
  • preferred devices;
  • completion rate
  • user ratings
  • user search behavior
  • browsing and scrolling behavior

But MindGeek goes one step further than Netflix: “MindGeek leverages user data to shape the particulars of content.” This kind of data harvesting allows MindGeek to create content that they know will be successful, such as scripting pornographic clips down to the color of the couch, the material and cut of a woman’s bra, the length of each sexual act, and the specific sexual acts.

Of course, this kind of data collecting to give customers what they want is not new. But when you think about the problems associated with porn, such as addiction, it gets scary. Like the fact that MindGeek studies, replicates, then profits enormously upon the shadiest fantasies human beings have.

Porn has become overwhelmingly violent, 95% of which is enacted upon the bodies of women and girls in porn videos.

Here’s the billion-dollar questions: is this in part because of MindGeek making violent porn more accessible by displaying it more frequently in regular porn searches? Is MindGeek actually creating more demand for violent porn as they have normalized it online, purposely making its existence less abhorrent since it’s everywhere?

Perhaps it would be easier to kick the porn addiction to the curb if the types of videos most addictive weren’t made so easily accessible by MindGeek.

Quite the opposite: they track the worst habits people have and capitalize on them. The producers of porn don’t care one whit about the devastation online porn causes individuals and the larger world. They just care about making their money by the fistfulls.

Who knows what other habits they’re tracking, what other affiliated companies they mine our data from. Who’s to say the ads you see on Google are not intentionally-planted triggers to get you switching tabs over to Pornhub?

The bottom line is this — to end the downward porn spiral, users need real, specific help because paid analysts are constantly trying to keep them dependent upon porn.

 

Part 3: Addiction and Despair

Knowing how porn affects your brain is the starting point for learning how to escape it.

Your Brain on Porn

Pornography addiction goes deeper than a simple desire to look at nude videos. It is actually intrinsically tied to the learning process and brain chemistry.

And it all starts with dopamine.

Let’s recap what dopamine is: a chemical closely tied to your emotions and actions that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain. Dopamine becomes important when discussing porn, because of how closely it’s tied to your brain’s reward center.

Dopamine is the major player in reward-motivated behavior.

It’s responsible for those feelings of excitement about getting something new or doing something that you love. It is the chemical that signifies happiness and enjoyment.

Dopamine is typically considered to be responsible for learned behaviors, like when you learned to ride a bike and how great that felt. New research suggests that it is also involved with ongoing actions. This makes sense, because when an action produces dopamine we feel good. Thus, we are more likely to repeat the action to continue feeling good.

Every time we do something, like watch TV, eat, or play video games, our brains release chemicals that dictate how we feel towards that action. Our brains then categorize these events as good or bad based upon what chemical is released. So when something feels good, dopamine is released, encouraging us to seek that action again. We all respond to natural reinforcement.

And it intensifies! When we eat a snack, our body produces dopamine, but when we have an incredible snack, our body releases a bigger hit.

So, naturally (thanks, dopamine) we want a fudge brownie with ice cream over a plate of carrot sticks. 

Behavior and Habits

Dopamine plays a major role in ongoing decision-making, especially when it comes to immediate satisfaction. In fact, in a recent study scientists concluded that mice consistently made decisions based upon the largest dopamine hit.

“We are very excited by these findings,” said scientist Christopher Howard, “because they indicate that dopamine could also be involved in ongoing decisions, beyond its well-known role in learning.” The idea that dopamine is actually aiding decision-making helps explain what happens during addiction or when we choose behaviors that counteract our beliefs, especially at the risk of negative feelings (guilt, shame, etc.). These findings also suggest that altering the dynamic relationship between dopamine and actions would allow addicts to have better control, which is great!

We know that the craving for dopamine is so strong, it can override the body’s defense mechanisms against performing unrewarding behaviors–going against our goals and beliefs. This is why many people continue to watch pornography even though they know it’s wrong. This is also why drug addicts continue using at the expense of their health. And, yes, it’s why we eat the entire plate of brownies instead of just one.

To put it bluntly, sexual activity produces large amounts of dopamine. Sex, masturbation, and viewing porn will ALL cause our brains to produce dopamine and ultimately crave more of it.

Naturally, people can easily become hooked on pornography because regularly consuming it leads to a craving for the dopamine that comes with watching.

For more on how dopamine affects your brain, read our extensive blog on it here.

The Accessibility of Porn

The real issue with pornography and dopamine is how accessible high-speed internet porn has become. Thousands of new videos are available daily. A biological phenomenon scientists study in wild animals, called the Coolidge Effect, theorizes that having new sexual mates increases sexual desire. Put this theory together with dopamine, and you have the sinking ship that is porn addiction. If people naturally want new views for a bigger dopamine hit, then their options for new sexual situations and partners are quite literally endless.

John Mayer actually commented on this, saying that “there have probably been days when I saw 300 [women] before I got out of bed. Internet pornography has absolutely changed my generation’s expectations. You’re looking for the one photo out of one hundred you swear is going to be the one you finish to, and you still don’t finish.”

So high-speed internet porn trains our bodies to become dependent upon finding new, exciting “mates” to exceed our current expectations in order to have more dopamine released. Porn makes sex and commitment to a single woman insufficient when it’s viewed in excess. It creates a relationship where the only thing arousing is a novelty.

This explains porn-induced erectile dysfunction, and the strange situation where men want more sex, but are unable to become aroused by their spouse alone.

Porn use has trained their bodies to be more aroused by images than by a real person. Again, novel image viewing leads to an increased dopamine response compared to the alternative. Pornography literally changes our brain to desire more pornography, just like drinking soda makes us want more soda, or eating chocolate makes us crave chocolate. Our brains become “wired” ”to use pornography, and we become obsessed with seeking it out.

Knowing that your impulse to view porn is directly tied to the way your brain is wired will help with the recovery process.

Quitting pornography isn’t just about abstaining from it! It is also about rewiring your brain to stop craving those dopamine hits.

To get there, recovery must be viewed as a lifestyle change and not just another diet fad. Simply eating a healthy diet for six weeks doesn’t make you healthy. Nor does abstaining from pornography for six weeks mean you’ve recovered. Rebooting your brain will take time and dedication to restore your life to a state where pornography isn’t a part of it anymore.

A good first step is stopping the habit. Fixing the issue will take time, especially if your porn habits are entrenched and you’re easily triggered.

Ever Accountable has been shown to reduce the use of pornography by 89% on average in just the first month. Ready to take your first step NOW? Start your free trial today, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

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Part 4: The Addiction Cycle

It can’t be understated how triggers affect addiction and recovery. In this section we outline how the cycle works and how it can be changed.

Triggers of Porn Use

Pornography triggers are internal or external catalysts that create a desire to look at porn. You might be thinking that the reasons people look at pornography are obvious–sexual desire. But it’s not that simple.

Research suggests that an obsession with porn is not just because of what is happening on the screen. Often, porn use is an escape from reality.

A recent study indicates that some of the top reasons men give for opening their computer or smartphone (before they actually look at porn) are to alleviate stress, boredom, and anxiety. This finding is in line with what experts have known for a long time.

People use porn as an emotional coping strategy rather than merely seeking pleasure.

Dr. Rob Weiss, a leading researcher of pornography’s effects says that “people use porn not to feel pleasure but to escape emotional discomfort. It is a desire for emotional escape rather than a desire to get high that is the crux of all addictions and compulsive behavior.” Thus, the more pornography is used by individuals to alleviate their emotional discomfort, the more they will continue using it and not deal with their actual issues.

How Sexual Addiction/Obsession Works

In his book “Out of the Shadows,” Dr. Patrick Carnes describes the cyclical nature of dependence on pornography, or how this addiction begins, escalates, and eventually takes over a person’s life. He describes four stages of sexual addiction that expert Dr. Weiss elaborates upon to give a clear picture of why this particular vice can so easily destroy a person’s life. Dr. Weiss’s Six Stages of the Sexual Addiction Cycle:

  1. Triggers (Shame/Blame/Guilt)
  2. Fantasy (Control)
  3. Ritualization (The Bubble)
  4. Acting Out (Release)
  5. Numbing
  6. Despair (Shame)

Let’s briefly look at these stages more closely.

Stage 1: Triggers

Dr. Weiss explains that triggers are catalysts that make a person need something to make them feel better. Catalysts can be many things including "both emotional and physical discomfort, either short- or long-term. Depression, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, stress, shame, anger, and any other form of emotional or psychological (or even physical) discomfort can easily trigger a person’s desire to escape, avoid and dissociate." So these feelings that are uncomfortable must be met in either a healthy way–like a conversation with family, a therapist, etc.–or the person will move on to Stage 2.

Stage 2: Fantasy

After being triggered, the user becomes preoccupied to the point of obsession”with sexual fantasies and the desire to view pornography. Dr. Weiss says that at this point they will use unless intervened.

Stage 3: Ritualization

Dr. Weiss says that this stage is also called a "bubble" or "trance" because the person's fantasies move closer to reality (like logging on to their favorite pornography site, or shutting the bedroom door and isolating themselves) and real-world concerns disappear. Ironically, it is this stage that gives users the high that they seek, not the actual acting out itself.

Stage 4: Acting Out

Weiss describes the sexual release as something users try to prolong because they are ultimately not after orgasm but an escape from emotional discomfort. Acting out ends the "high" and throws users right back into the reality of their day-to-day problems.

Stage 5: Numbing

This is the big denial stage. It is where the user tries with all their might to minimize what they just did in order to avoid feeling what comes next. Here, the user tells themselves “if she treated me better I wouldn’t have”…or “it’s not cheating because I didn’t actually touch another person””or ““this is personal, no one else's business.” 

Stage 6: Despair

Once denial abates, the user begins to feel shame, guilt, remorse, and powerlessness against the addictive cycle they are spinning in. Dr. Weiss says it best:
“…whatever reality it was that they were trying to escape in the first place returns, bringing with it the self-loathing, anxiety, and depression they were probably already experiencing. And, as you may recall, this is exactly the sort of emotional discomfort that typically triggers sexual addiction, which spins the self-perpetuating sex addiction cycle back into stage one.”
Despair is obviously the worst part, the bad feelings people use drugs to numb--here, the drug of porn, and so the cycle continues unless intervention happens.

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Know Your Triggers. Stop the Cycle!

As we see, viewing pornography is a way to numb negative emotions, which ironically leads to even worse consequences than the original emotional discomfort. You see, after using pornography, not only are those bad feelings still right there but then they can also add:

  • shame
  • secrecy
  • guilt
  • self-loathing
  • dishonesty about addiction 

Unfortunately, research suggests that there is no escaping triggers. They are everywhere, all the time. Looking at this list makes it clear that a person can be triggered by nearly anything. The key to stopping the cycle before it starts is recognizing what triggers you and seeking help immediately.

12-step programs focus on this very important first stage to help people stop a negative cycle at the very beginning. If it ends at stage one, then stage two never happens, and neither does stage three and so on.

If not, says Weiss, the cycle “gathers momentum like a boulder rolling down a steep hill, which makes acting out sexually (and the consequences that follow) almost inevitable.” Sadly, as we just learned, once the user enters the “bubble,””their ability to follow an inner compass or heed the idea of action/consequence goes away.” But, says Weiss, if the porn user learns their triggers and counteracts them before they take over, they have a “better-than-average chance for long-term recovery, meaningful healing, and a happier, healthier life.”

This is our why! We fully support pornography recovery, a healthier life, and more meaningful experiences.

Internal & External Triggers

According to Weiss, triggers are either internal or external. These are all about a person experiencing emotional discomfort, like fighting with a spouse, being berated at work, having a fender bender, etc. Those feelings trigger the need to look at porn to numb negative feelings in much the same way a person would reach for a cigarette, drugs, food, alcohol, etc. 

Some internal triggers are:

  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Resentments
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness, grief, and/or depression
  • Stress
  • Shame
  • Frustration
  • Feeling unloved and/or unwanted
  • Feeling unappreciated

Some external triggers are:

  • Travel (especially solo travel)
  • Ended relationships
  • Unstructured time alone
  • Negative experiences (of any type)
  • Positive experiences (of any type)
  • Unexpected life changes (of any type)
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Unexpected exposure to sexual stimuli (driving past a strip club, seeing a sexy magazine at the newsstand, encountering an attractive person, etc.)
  • Financial problems
  • Arguments
  • Family issues

Recognize Your Triggers, Then ACT!

A simple way to start understanding what triggers a person is to mindfully pay attention to what their triggers are. You could ask yourself –“what was I thinking about, or doing, or saying, or experiencing in the minutes before I logged on to my computer?” And then jot that down.

Making a list will help you see clearly what sort of emotional discomfort you might be trying to numb. 

Something else to do is immediately seek help when you feel the urge to look at porn. Call your mom, your friend, or go talk to your wife, your kids. Just leave your phone and computer behind and immerse yourself in someone else’s company.

You could also drop your phone on the kitchen counter or your desk and then take a brisk walk. Better yet, hit the pavement with your running shoes. OR go to the gym and treat yourself to a hard workout.

Like putting out a fire that has engulfed you, stop, drop, and roll could be applied to triggers: STOP in your tracks, DROP your phone or laptop screen, and ROLL on out of there and into some other activity immediately. Put out the fire before it has a chance to start!

If you are looking for more ideas on things to do to avoid your triggers, we put together an ebook with 101 things to do instead of looking at porn. Click the button below to download your free copy and start being awesome.

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Part 5: How Porn Hurts Relationships

Porn is extremely damaging to all of your relationships. Let’s talk about why.

As we have seen above, heavy porn use typically comes from a place of pain.

Due to trauma, anxiety, depression, or just outright boredom, you look at porn to numb those feelings, which helps for a minute. Then, reality sets in, and you feel worse than you did before.

This cycle has terrible effects — not just personally, but also on intimate relationships.

Divorce & Failed Relationships

Perhaps the number one complaint about porn is how it damages marital or intimate relationships with a significant other. Among our customers, the number one reason people turn to accountability software to kick a porn habit is to save their relationship. 

There are a number of reasons why porn hurts relationships. Let’s think about them. 

  • Porn can feel like infidelity
  • Women in porn typically have “perfect” bodies. Real-life women can feel like they can’t compete with their partner’s illusionary fantasies.
  • A porn-addicted partner may not be considered very attractive. 
  • Porn can make it more difficult for men to feel aroused by their real-life partners, often even causing porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED).
  • Porn can make men expect uncomfortable or unrealistic sexual acts and responses from their partners, causing women to feel incapable or worse.
  • Men who are addicted and keep going back to porn break trust. Trust is the key element to a successful relationship.
  • A porn-addicted partner often faces unrest because their partner wants them to stop. They often project back by accusing the other of “nagging” which makes their partner feel even worse. 
  • Porn is difficult to quit, which puts a massive strain on relationships. Porn-related issues are center stage draining both partners, but especially the victimized partner, in many ways. Porn addiction takes up a great deal of energy for a couple, energy that should be spent in other places.

Secure Attachment

This is just a taste, there are many other ways porn damages and destroys relationships. Psychologist Grant Brenner discusses why porn has these kinds of effects on relationships. It begins with pair-bonding and attachment styles.

Here’s the simple explanation. A couple that is securely attached deeply trusts one another. They go to one another when they feel troubled or alone, and their relationship is honest, loving, and equal. Porn decimates healthy attachment by destroying that loving basis for trust to exist. According to Brenner, porn causes “relationship distress, disrupted attachment, and strain on pair bonding.”

Much of this relationship trouble comes from porn’s “script,” or the typical ingredients that make up most porn videos. Porn scripts, says Brenner, consist of eroticism (obviously), objectification of women and girl’s bodies, multiple “partners” (watching many clips of different people rather than just one clip), and misogyny (ingrained prejudice against women).

Porn’s sexual scripts are therefore completely opposite to how psychologists understand and explain secure attachment in healthy relationships. Instead, porn is “conceptually linked to loneliness” and “increases the likelihood of using pornography as a substitute for intimacy with close others.” In fact, in a survey of 2,120 married adults, the chance of divorce doubled for couples who had porn introduced into their relationship after marriage.

Sexual Dissatisfaction

Sometimes porn is introduced in a relationship innocently, as something fun and maybe instructive about how to make things interesting in the bedroom. Yet again porn lets couples down.

Brenner says that when studied, “under no circumstances was pornography use associated with greater sexual satisfaction,” and that studies suggest “that even infrequent use of pornography has negative effects on sexual satisfaction.”

If porn is taken as a “how-to” manual for sex, it does a bad job, to say the least. When it comes to instructing viewers on sexual pleasure, porn is generally inaccurate and will likely lead to low-quality sex and infrequent orgasm, especially for female partners, as well as one-dimensional, likely unsatisfying sex for males.

Erectile Dysfunction

Recent studies have shown that porn can seriously impact a man’s sex life through erectile dysfunction. A group of behavioral scientists published a study arguing that more and more young men are seeking help for erectile dysfunction and that this could be due to the desensitizing effects of pornography. The more a man views pornography the less likely he is to be satisfied by his current sexual partner and the more difficult it is for him to be stimulated.

Additionally, porn can cause men and women to have serious anxieties about their own bodies. This in turn causes stress during sex and can trigger more erectile dysfunction.

 

Part 6: How Porn Hurts Children

Children are resilient, but porn can and will have lingering effects on their lives.

The Quiet Family Killer

Porn’s fallout on entire family groups is alarming. Researchers completed a major study of pornography concluding that it quietly erodes family security, safety, and trust. They found that 56% of divorces occur because one partner has an obsessive interest in pornography. With current divorce rates, that suggests that pornography ends just under 500,000 marriages each year.

These numbers represent a staggering number of homes broken by pornography that extends beyond ruined adult relationships and into the lives of our sensitive, developing children. Beyond a doubt, experts conclude that parental pornography consumption negatively impacts children, both directly and indirectly.

Direct impact: When children view pornography

If parents bring pornography into the home, chances are that the children will be exposed to it at some point, whether they discover it on their own or see a parent viewing it. Research indicates that when kids view pornography before they are developmentally mature enough to handle it, they have lasting traumatic responses, including: 

  • A higher risk for developing addictive sexual behavior
  • A belief that marriage and family are not important or desirable
  • An earlier start to their own sexual activity
  • A belief that sexual satisfaction is attainable without having affection for one’s partner
  • This belief reinforces the idea that sex is a commodity and humans (especially women) are sexual objects.
  • An incorrect understanding of sexuality that children are not mature enough to process, such as thinking extreme sex practices are common.
  • Adolescent boys become more violent, aggressive, and sexually forward with peers, while adolescent girls are more inclined to tolerate emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Indirect impact: When children sense the problem

Children tend to be attuned to the health of their families. When they see their parents suffering from the intense emotions that pornography often evokes, it affects them deeply.

Jill C. Manning’s extensive research confirms that in committed relationships, a partner’s pornography usage causes the other partner to feel hurt, angry, sexually rejected, inadequate, and unable to compete with sexy online women (or men).

In particular, kids see their mothers feeling betrayal, loss, mistrust, devastation, and anger. These are natural responses to the discovery of a partner’s pornography use and/or online sexual activity, as men view pornography more than women. Moreover, Manning notes that children sense the shame and distraction experienced by pornography user in the family.

Children internalize what is not explained to them

In an interview with Kenneth Adams, a licensed clinical psychologist, he said that while parents think they are hiding pornography’s disastrous effects on their marriage from their children, they are mistaken

Almost all the time, kids  — particularly your firstborns and your last borns — are tuned into the marital relationship. They, more than the other kids, can often be quite attuned to [pornography’s effects].”

Many professionals agree that when children instinctively know but are not informed about a marital conflict they often:

  • Have trouble adapting emotionally and feel alone, anxious, depressed, and stressed.
  • Isolate themselves to escape negativity, which leads to feeling responsible for the conflict.
  • Develop a preoccupation with their private life which challenges their ability to focus on things like schoolwork, extracurricular activities, relationships, and even basic cognition.
  • Develop a negative relationship with the parent they see as a threat to the other parent.

In the end, porn use can result in some serious pain and trauma inflicted upon children. It often goes unchecked and unnoticed until children are more emotionally developed adults and can identify their childhood wounds. By that point, they may already have a lifetime of emotional baggage to work through.

 

Part 7: Women, Girls, and Real-Life Violence from Porn

We typically think of porn as a “man’s issue,” however, more and more evidence is suggesting it is just as damaging for women, but in different ways.

We have a long history of female inferiority in western culture that pornography feeds on. Misogyny (an entrenched prejudice against women) is important to understand because mainstream porn is both a vehicle for and a creator of misogyny. Misogyny is played out in porn through violence against women’s bodies, and the total objectification of them. 

You have seen how the female is typically acted upon, by men, in porn, not the other way around. Women are “objects” and men are “subjects,” which makes sense since men are the primary producers and consumers of porn. Women are merely bystanders in these videos for men to act out their fantasies upon. And disturbingly, the fantasies in porn often depict violence and degradation upon those objects/women. Have you noticed how often the most popular pornography videos reflect the worst sort of offenses such as rape, torture, and brutality like incest, gang rape, bondage, and the sexual assault of young girls? The Washington Post has this to say about it: “First and foremost, mainstream pornography consists of socially sanctioned acts of direct violence against women. What would be seen as sexual violence and brutality in other contexts is par for the course in pornography.” 

This kind of terrible misogyny is reflective of dopamine in part since the brain “gets used to” vanilla images after a while and requires darker subject matter for the same kind of pleasure-inducing chemical to be released. But it doesn’t excuse it, not for one second. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, a misogynistic and violent perspective pervades the spaces where porn is created.

Violence: The Female Price of Male Pleasure

So, do you participate in violence against women and girls when you simply look at porn? Let’s take a look at that.

Pornography is a form of violence against women. Period. Sage publishing conducted a study in 2010 (the last time anyone did the math) and found that mainstream pornography includes physical and sexual violence and abuses in 88% of its scenes. Most — 94.4% of that violence — is performed upon the bodies of women and girls. Pornography as a socially acceptable, widely popular place to promote misogyny creates tons of problems for women and girls. Why? It normalizes violence!

Through its acceptance of porn, society has normalized the image of women repeatedly and systematically abused through violent sexual acts. Porn strips away the humanity of women and girls, illustrating—with a few clicks—whole and complex beings easily reduced to their parts.

Sexual objectification occurs when a woman’s body, body parts, or sexual functions are isolated from her whole person—her habits, interests, history, etc.—and treated as an object simply to be looked at, coveted, or touched.

That definition makes up nine out of ten porn videos, where the camera focuses close-up on female body parts and sexual functions. Objectification strips away that woman’s humanity, making violence against her easier to accept because she becomes not a person. She’s merely a means to an end. In porn, women as a group are objectified.

And make no mistake, pornography makes real-world violence easier to enact, easier to accept, and easier to ignore because it makes it perfectly normal.

Pornography normalizes violent sexual acts against women and girls, effectively blurring the lines of consent. Porn gives users false ideas about intimacy, and advocating rape.

Fight the New Drug says “Pornography makes women ‘rape-ready’ in the mind of its users by portraying the conquering and using of female bodies as the ideal display of masculinity.” They explain how viewers watch scene after scene of women dehumanized and objectified in porn. Supposedly, women (hired actors) respond to violence with pleasure, rape and non-consent starts to look and feel normal.

Extensive research confirms that the skewed, violent power dynamics in pornography translate into real-life sexual assault and harassment against women and girls every single day.

There are literally thousands of accounts of sexual assault and harassment. Consider this one incident reported in Newsweek about a woman sexually harassed by the airdrop function on her iPhone. She was on a city bus when this message dinged through with a link to a music file: “Songs I’ll choke you out to while destroying your uterus.”

Porn taught that person those concepts and words which terrified the very real woman who was harassed by them. Where else but pornography is this kind of violent description imaginable, let alone permissible? What other source but pornography explains how this harasser felt it was normal, or perhaps funny, to conceptualize and then say these words?

Porn and Sex Trafficking

The production and consumption of pornography are directly tied to sex trafficking. According to an excellent and in-depth look at the topic, Fight the New Drug says that “in the production of mainstream porn, sex trafficking is a regular occurrence.” They explain that sex trafficking means buying or selling humans, or moving them for profit: “It’s the purest form of objectification—the literal commoditization of a person.”

Once again, the objectification of women and girls in pornography is linked to real-life violence and crises. In fact, of the estimated 21 to 32 million people subjected to slavery worldwide, twenty-two percent of them are exploited for sexual purposes. Half of sex trafficking victims say that while they were in bondage their captors created pornographic videos of them. This means that among the videos posted on major porn sites, some show videos of women and girls actually being violently raped. Consider the implications of the fact that viewers cannot tell the difference.

Women and girls are affected differently by porn than men. We wrote an entire guide on it, detailing every piece. To read more, check out deep dive on Women and Porn.

Can you tell the difference?

Watching pornography condones the enslavement and rape of women and girls for profit, as research indicates that viewers cannot tell the difference between consent and coercion. Fight the New Drug says that it’s not like the female victim is going to shout for help or “announce they are being trafficked.” Videos of real women and girls in sexual bondage make their way to mainstream porn sites where viewers cannot distinguish them for what they are. Any chance these victims have of registering their pain in the videos is also lost, because “it’s still impossible to know because rape and abuse-themed porn have now become mainstream.”

To learn more about how porn fuels human trafficking, read our blog about it here.

It is imperative to discontinue consuming porn for many reasons, but especially in order to prevent the actual sexual violence and rape enacted on actual women and girls in pornography videos. Boycott porn. Help end sex trafficking! By no longer watching porn, you might even positively affect the demand for sexual slavery. We do not suggest that sex trafficking is simply about supply and demand. We do KNOW that watching porn contributes to the problem. Quitting porn is a necessary first step toward progress.

 

Part 8: The Recovery Process

Recovery is the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. In this section, we will outline what recovery is and what it takes to start the process.

The Recovery Process

At Ever Accountable we believe that the Recovery Process is much more than just stopping porn use. While preventing the action is great, creating boundaries, establishing new habits, and understanding the motivations that lead to porn use are drastically more important in helping you actually recover.

Recovery is the process of growing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Recovery occurs via many pathways. It is not a one size fits all process! Far from it, in fact. While people seeking recovery tend to share certain common experiences and needs, every individual is different. Each of you have particular capacities, coping abilities, resources, strengths, interests, goals, culture, and background that influence and help to determine the most effective pathway(s) of recovery for YOU.

How Recovery Works:

Tao Te Ching states, “accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.”

Recovery is just the same. It takes a consistent effort of small acts to finally succeed at recovery. While there are typical patterns in recovery, there is no current treatment that is 100% effective.

What we do know is that recovery is just as unique as each person undergoing it.

For most, recovery is a multi-stage process. Different experts have different stages for recovery. We will be using the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 4-stages as our reference in this article. If you take a look at the different scales you will notice they are all extremely similar and don’t actually differ much at all.

Let’s get into it.

The 4-Stages of Recovery:

Note: These 4 stages were created for drug and alcohol addiction and thus will slightly differ for pornography use. However, the guiding principles in the process are very applicable to recovery in any shape or form.

Stage 1: Withdrawal

Withdrawal from an addiction to something like pornography or sex will be drastically different than withdrawal from an addictive substance. While substances will lead to strong ailments, porn and sex addiction will show up in your mental health.

You see, if you have an issue with porn or sex, it is likely a behavioral issue driven by some emotional or physical trauma (triggers). How often have you heard of someone looking at porn just because they are “bored” or “stressed”? These feelings will be exacerbated during “withdrawal”. As you will coming to terms with not using porn and sex as a coping mechanism.

Stage 2: Early Abstinence (“honeymoon”)

Some people call it the “honeymoon” stage because things start looking up: you’ve committed to recovery and you’re on the road to change. But you have to be careful not to get too comfortable. As nice as it can feel to be porn-free, the early abstinence phase can present some challenges like:

  • Continued withdrawal
  • Constantly thinking about porn
  • Triggers that lead to relapse

While you might be the healthiest you’ve been in a while, you are still vulnerable. It is important to realize that while your good mood isn’t a bad thing, it can give you a false sense of security so early on in the recovery process. Make sure you have support structures in place in case you “slip up.” That way, recovery doesn’t depend on how you feel about something but instead on how well you handle the situations that don’t feel good at all.

Stage 3: Protracted Abstinence (“The Wall”)

The third stage of recovery might be the most difficult, hence the nickname “The Wall.” At this point in the recovery process, you have just finished the “honeymoon” phase and are having to adjust to your “new normal” of not using porn as a coping mechanism.

At some point, you will finally hit the wall.

It might be after a particularly stressful day at work, or an argument you had with your wife. Regardless of what triggers it, you will feel an intense urge to go back and look at porn. You will feel like all of this is pointless. You will think you you were happier before you started on this journey.

This is the wall.

It is the point that you have to begrudgingly put aside your desires to stay on the right path. It won’t be easy, but it will be entirely worth it. Getting over the wall is the moment that you are truly taking a step towards full recovery and not back towards the addiction cycle.

Here’s the secret though  –most people have more than one wall. Remember this is a journey, not a leisurely walk. There will be times when you are miserable because you are forcing your body to undergo change just like a fever rises to counter sickness. But once you persevere, you can finally step into resolution.

Lastly, if you find yourself at this wall, the best thing you can do is get away from it. If you need ideas on how to stay on track and not give in to temptation, download our free guide “101 Things to Do Instead of Look at Porn” here.

Stage 4: Adjustment/Resolution

If you’ve made it here, then you probably feel like you are a “new person” who is living a much happier and more fulfilling life than you were before. This is the stage where you’ve set good boundaries. You’ve learned to recognize and remove triggers from your life. You’ve found a way to persevere through your walls in a way that promotes growth and regression.

Congratulations for making it here! You’ve actively changed your life and created tools and systems that you can use to improve your life in other areas.

 

Part 9: Getting Started on Your Path to Recovery

Now that you’ve made it this far, we want to help you get started on your journey with recommendations on where to start and why.

So, where do we go from here:

The most important step is always the first step! We highly encourage that if you want to improve your life — just commit and start working to your recovery. Do what it takes to improve your life! It is absolutely worth any expense that it takes to get there.

That being said, we feel there are levels to recovering from porn use, and you’ll need to figure out what is best for you. Below are the 4 main options for porn recovery. Many times they will be used in conjunction with each other.

However, you can start with any one of them on its own to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Filters

Filters, also known as blockers, are the simplest solution on this list. These are restrictions placed on your devices that will literally block your attempt to access porn. We recommend this for people who just need a wall to block them from going to PornHub or other major porn sites. It works really great for people who just need a slight deterrent to stop them from doing something.

If you have an Android device and want to test out a filter today, then please take a look into our filter, Bulldog Blocker, which is completely free to use.

Groups/Programs

Next to therapy, groups and programs are the most intensive care you can receive. These work by providing education, tasks, and accountability to help you understand why you are seeking porn or sex and help you build healthy habits and views about yourself. Typically this will cost a bit more than an accountability app and will require much more commitment.

For these, we have a few programs that we recommend:

Pure Desire:

Pure Desire groups support men and women in their recovery by providing a safe, confidential place to process their life story: learning how a family of origin, traumatic experiences, and wounding messages impact relationships.

LiveFree

Live Free is a private and safe community for men, struggling with lust and porn, where they can find support, accountability, practical teaching, and most importantly… hope.

Therapy

First off, let’s get rid of the stigma that therapy is a bad thing. If you wanted to get in shape and didn’t know where to start you’d find a dietician or a physical trainer to achieve your goals. A therapist is just the same, except they help us get our emotional and mental muscles into shape so that we can live happier and fuller lives.

If you can afford it, there aren’t many options better than therapy. You see, the things we get addicted to are usually related to some deeper issue that we are trying to solve. It might be loneliness, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.

Therapy helps anyone get to the root of these issues. It provides the tools and habits you need to heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The trick with therapy is by finding someone a good therapist.

To get started, we recommend checking out Betterhelp or Talkspace for online therapy. If you want to meet with someone in person you can try Pure Desire or Psychology Today

Accountability Software

We might be biased here, but we believe that accountability is the best starting place and best option for most people. In business settings, the American Society of Training and Development (ATSD) found that “if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.”

Carry this over to quitting pornography. We know that when Ever Accountable is used, porn use drops by 89% in only 1 month.

Ever Accountable works by quietly running on your device(s) and sharing your activity with a trusted friend who will keep you accountable for the time you spend on your device. We do all of the heavy lifting and classify the reports. Your friend will know immediately if there is something they should check in with you each week or not.

So what are you waiting for? Freedom from porn IS possible. Why stay in porn’s dark, damaging stranglehold any longer?

Get started today with a 14-day free trial.

START YOUR FREE TRIAL