This article was originally posted on a Fighter’s personal blog. It has been edited and reposted with permission.

If we could all stop normalizing pornography, that would be great. As a man, I find it degrading that we are labeled to “need” pornography. In our culture, it’s just assumed that men are going to watch porn, and society rationalizes it away. “It’s what men do,” is the all too common expression. In fact, men should find the normalization of porn most offensive out of anyone. Does no one believe we’re capable of doing or choosing otherwise?

Have we bought the lie that it’s ok because “everyone is doing it”? Just because something is common does not mean that it’s healthy or good for our lives or relationships. How damaging this must be for the those in our lives who feel hurt by porn, but are told that their feelings do not matter, and to get over it, because their partners are just going to look at it no matter what.

Newsflash: men don’t need porn. They are not purely animals controlled by their desires. Pornography can be just like any other behavioral addiction, but possibly  more harmful in some ways, because we live in a society that widely accepts it without acknowledging its side effects or encouraging people to stay away from it.

Besides respecting and honoring a partner by staying away from porn, here are some other reasons why it’s important to refuse to be the “norm” when it comes to porn. And these reasons can be applied to anyone at any age…including women, too.

It Can Change Your Brain

For many people, watching porn is something they separate from the rest of their life. It may seem like someone’s porn-watching life and real-world life are isolated from each other, but that’s not how it works. Our brain doesn’t exactly compartmentalize what we like to watch online with what we like in real interactions.

When a viewer watches porn, they might think they’re just being entertained. In reality, their brain is busy at work building pathways between whatever’s happening on their screen, and their feelings of arousal. Here’s where it gets tricky: the kind of porn a viewer watches can—and usually does—change over time. So as their brain continually wires together what they’re seeing online with feeling aroused, what turns them on in real life can change, too. And usually, it doesn’t change for the better.

It Can Twist Your Sexuality

Pornography can actually change the way viewers think about sex.

Studies have actually shown the suggestive power of porn. It turns out, porn that shows specific sex acts causes a mental shift that makes viewers more accepting and more willing to act out what they see. And the more porn viewers think of what they see as being realistic and useful, the more influence it has on their beliefs about how sex should be. Sexual attitudes lead to sexual behaviors, which isn’t always a good thing when it comes to porn. For example, porn promotes twisted and unhealthy ideas like “no will turn into yes” or that it’s totally okay to have sex with complete strangers, sometimes more than one at a time. In actuality, those are dangerous ideas that shouldn’t be promoted and packaged like healthy, normal behaviors. Also, porn takes all the intimacy out of sexuality. Porn promotes sex as an exploitive and selfish act that’s all about performance and not about connection.

It Negatively Affects Society

Porn is more available than ever before, and hasn’t stayed behind the computer screen. Now that porn is more affordable, and anonymous than ever before, more people are developing compulsive habits, and sometimes addictions, and its influence has soaked into every aspect of our lives. Popular video games feature full nudity. Snowboards marketed to teens are plastered with images of porn stars. Even children’s toys have become more sexualized. And the more our society becomes sexually saturated, the more porn creators promote harder and harder material to make sure they stay on the cutting edge with new and exciting material. It’s all about novelty, and creating content that is increasingly more hardcore.

And while sexuality is completely natural and healthy, objectifying people and promoting their exploitation as entertainment is not natural or healthy. Sex trafficking and porn go hand in hand, which isn’t a good thing for our world, either. Overall, porn is bad news for everyone except for those profiting off of this shady business.

As a Fighter, a husband, father, and man, I refuse to be so barbaric and disconnected that I choose to obtain pleasure from the exploitation of men and women, which are just pixels on a screen. Instead, I choose to only find pleasure in the love and beauty of my partner. When you aren’t feeding your brain the McDonalds of the internet, your appetite is for true beauty and craves intimacy that only comes from a loving relationship. I allow my wife alone to be the standard of beauty, and nothing even comes close to satisfying that desire. It’s unhealthy to cheapen sex and love with lonely, hollow imitations. At best, porn is just addictive pixels that harm your brain and relationships, but at worst, porn is a toxic drug created through exploitation and human trafficking.

We Can Do Better

It’s not okay that society puts the expectation of watching porn on anyone, as if they cannot choose otherwise for themselves and they’re uncool if they don’t. “Boys will be boys” or “it’s a natural expression of sexuality” aren’t solid enough reasons to normalize watching porn, because everyone is capable of choosing for himself or herself whether they’re interested or not. By making porn the gold standard for sexual expression and coolness, we ignore the individual preferences and standards of every person, and lump them all together as people who cannot think or act for themselves apart from porn.

Can we normalize not watching porn?

Many people who struggle with porn feel that they cannot always choose for themselves because of porn’s addictive nature. For those people, we say that recovery is not only possible, it’s biological.

It’s healthy to realize that you DO have a choice, regardless of what society tells you. Watching porn doesn’t make you any more or less of a person, while it does have negative effects on your life and those around you. In the end, it’s degrading to assume that anyone needs porn, because everyone has a brain and the choice is ultimately up to them. Stopping the demand for porn starts with us choosing for ourselves not to click.

What YOU Can Do

Assuming that anyone needs porn is degrading and not cool. SHARE this article and raise awareness that we are not controlled by our desires.

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