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How Porn can Negatively Impact Mental, Relational, and Sexual Health

We often hear people claim porn is a harmless hobby. But is it? Let’s talk about how porn can impact your mental, relational, and sexual health.

By October 5, 2021No Comments

This article contains affiliate links. Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

We sometimes hear people claim that porn is just a harmless hobby, a great self-care technique, or even a way to strengthen sexual relationships.

Research, however, shows the opposite. So let’s talk about how porn can impact your mental, relational, and sexual health.

Negative impacts of porn on mental, relational, and sexual health

Research shows a porn habit can worsen feelings of depression, isolation, and harm relationships.

Prioritize your health by kicking porn to the curb.

Mental health

Many people turn to porn to cope with negative emotions like loneliness or grief, but research actually shows that porn is associated with:

  • More lonelinessButler, M. H., Pereyra, S. A., Draper, T. W., Leonhardt, N. D., & Skinner, K. B. (2018). Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321601COPY 
  • Lower self-esteemNoor, S. W., Simon Rosser, B. R., & Erickson, D. J. (2014). A Brief Scale to Measure Problematic Sexually Explicit Media Consumption: Psychometric Properties of the Compulsive Pornography Consumption (CPC) Scale among Men who have Sex with Men. Sexual addiction & compulsivity, 21(3), 240–261. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720162.2014.938849COPY 
  • Poorer mental healthKoletić G. (2017). Longitudinal associations between the use of sexually explicit material and adolescents' attitudes and behaviors: A narrative review of studies. Journal of adolescence, 57, 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.04.006COPY 
  • Negative body imageOwens, E. W., Behun, R. J., Manning, J. C., & Reid, R. C. (2012). The impact of internet pornography on adolescents: A review of the research.19(1-2), 99-122. doi:10.1080/10720162.2012.660431COPY 
  • Lower life satisfactionWilloughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B., & Leonhardt, N. D. (2018). Exploring Trajectories of Pornography Use Through Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Journal of sex research, 55(3), 297–309. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1368977COPY 

Relational Health

When it comes to relationships, porn can be incredibly toxic. In fact, research shows that porn is associated with:

  • Decreased relationship qualityStewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0COPY Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7COPY 
  • Increased couple conflictCarroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Brown, C. C. (2017). The porn gap: Differences in men's and women's pornography patterns in couple relationships. 16(2), 146-163. doi:10.1080/15332691.2016.1238796COPY  Szymanski, D. M., & Stewart-Richardson, D. N. (2014). Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 22(1), 64–82. https://doi.org/10.3149/jms.2201.64COPY 
  • Decreased relationship satisfactionRasmussen, K. (2016). A historical and empirical review of pornography and romantic relationships: Implications for family researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141COPY Muusses, L. D., Kerkhof, P., & Finkenauer, C. (2015). Internet pornography and relationship quality: A longitudinal study of within and between partner effects of adjustment, sexual satisfaction and sexually explicit internet material among newly-weds. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 77-84. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.077COPY Perry, S. L. (2016). From bad to worse? Pornography consumption, spousal religiosity, gender, and marital quality. Sociological Forum, 31(2), 441-464. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12252COPY Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., & Brown, C. C. (2016). Differences in Pornography Use Among Couples: Associations with Satisfaction, Stability, and Relationship Processes. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(1), 145–158. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0562-9COPY 
  • Poorer romantic attachmentTylka, T. L. (2015). No harm in looking, right? Men’s pornography consumption, body image, and well-being. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035774COPY Kor, A., Zilcha-Mano, S., Fogel, Y. A., Mikulincer, M., Reid, R. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Psychometric development of the Problematic Pornography Use Scale. Addictive behaviors, 39(5), 861–868. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.027COPY Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108COPY Rasmussen, K. (2016). A historical and empirical review of pornography and romantic relationships: Implications for family researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141COPY 

Sexual Health

Some people hope and expect that watching porn can improve their sex life.

Research actually consistently shows that frequent porn consumption is associated with sexual dissatisfaction and instead likely contributes to sexual dysfunction in both men and women.Wright, P. J., Miezan, E., & Sun, C. (2019). Pornography consumption and sexual satisfaction in a Korean sample. Journal of Media Psychology, 31(3), 164-169. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000246COPY Wright, P. J., Bridges, A. J., Sun, C., Ezzell, M. B., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Personal Pornography Viewing and Sexual Satisfaction: A Quadratic Analysis. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 44(3), 308–315. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1377131COPY Brown, C. C., Carroll, J. S., Yorgason, J. B., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Larson, J. H. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 575–584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0732-4COPY Park, B. Y., Wilson, G., Berger, J., Christman, M., Reina, B., Bishop, F., Klam, W. P., & Doan, A. P. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 17. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6030017COPY Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Griffiths, M. D., Potenza, M. N., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2021). Are sexual functioning problems associated with frequent pornography use and/or problematic pornography use? Results from a large community survey including males and females. Addictive Behaviors, 112, 106603. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106603COPY 

Fortify

The porn industry would like our generation to believe its product will make anyone happy, satisfied, and well-versed in the world of sex and romance, but it actually ends up robbing consumers of intimacy, love, and genuine connection.

If you’ve noticed that porn has been affecting your emotional health, please know that you’re not alone, and things can absolutely get better. If you’re looking for help to quit porn, we recommend our affiliates at Fortify, a free, science-based recovery tool. On average, Fortify users report an 88% reduction in porn consumption, and an 85% decrease in depressive symptoms.

Your mental, relational, and sexual health matter. Countless studies show that porn is not conducive to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.

You deserve better. Invest in your health, and quit porn for good.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

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