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Can Watching Porn Be Healthy For You?

By March 27, 2020No Comments

Is watching porn healthy?

According to some, it can be. Many people claim that it’s a positive and natural expression of sexuality and even helps consumers foster healthy attitudes and perceptions around sex. These claims are often accompanied by comments that if someone isn’t into watching porn, there might be something wrong with them, like repressed sexuality or having a closed mind.

Porn is often suggested as a relationship builder with your partner, too, a tool to keep a couple’s sex life fresh and fun, and an overall normal and healthy expression for your physical and mental state.

But no matter how appealing all of that sounds, is this all backed up by what the majority of research from major institutions says?

We’re not only talking about those claims that porn can become addictive, though porn following the addiction model is backed up by neurological studies, too. We’re talking, addictions aside, about porn in general—can it be healthy? Would you be smart to watch it, even from time to time?

We’ll let you decide for yourself, but here are some facts worth knowing that can help you make an informed choice.

Mental health and porn consumption

Let’s talk about the health of the individual consumer.

Approximately 1 in 5 people experience mental illness in a given year, and it’s becoming more common as the signs are more widely recognized.

But what do mental health and watching porn have to do with each other?

Porn triggers the reward center in the brain, and floods the consumer’s brain with dopamine. Like other addictive substances/behaviors, this creates short-term happiness in the given moment. It might feel good in the moment, but the fact is, watching porn habitually can generate long-term problems for consumers’ own longevity and health.

As humans, we are biologically wired for connection and real-life connections with real people. Watching porn does the complete opposite—removing the consumer from their real-life world—leading to disconnection and driving a wedge between the consumer and their other relationships, even their relationship with themself. Social isolation starts small, but it’s possible that it can lead to and fuel existing depression.

Related: Is There Such A Thing As A Healthy Amount of Porn?

In other words, research has indicated that having a frequent, isolating porn habit can increase a consumer’s vulnerability to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Classic PKL

In all honesty, anytime anyone spends a lot of time with the usual pornography consumption cycle, it can often turn into a depressing, demeaning, self-loathing, and lonely kind of experience. Not only for the person watching porn, but it even affects the relationships and the ones you care about.

Studies have found that when people engage in an ongoing pattern of “self-concealment,” which is doing things they’re not proud of and keeping it a secret, it makes them more vulnerable to serious physiological issues.

Could it be true that porn triggers depression or is it the other way around? What we do know is this, the more people feel bad about themselves, the more they seek comfort wherever they can get it. And if they’re already caught up with a secret porn habit, it’s likely they will turn to more porn.

It’s hard to say what exactly comes first, the porn problem or the depression itself, but in this particular scenario, they feed off of each other.

Whether you know someone that’s struggling, or you yourself are personally fighting for freedom, we encourage you to confide in someone you feel safe with to break the cycle of loneliness, isolation, and shame.

Relationships can suffer with porn in the picture

What about relational health?

Psychologists use the term “relational anorexia” to describe the behavior they see in individuals struggling with an addiction to pornography.

Relational anorexia, or sexual anorexia, describes a person who compulsively avoids sexual nourishment and intimacy with another person. Much like someone experiencing anorexia with food, a sexual anorexic may refuse all emotional and sensual sustenance in order to keep their feelings at bay. Where sex addicts might “act out” through promiscuity, a sexual anorexic might behave by avoiding the pleasures of relationships, dating, and a genuine connection with others.

How would the consumption of pornography cause someone to develop these behaviors?

RelatedPorn Before Puberty: The Warped Sexuality Of This Generation

To the consumer, the familiarity of the computer screen might, in the moment, ease them from their troubles or comfort them in their loneliness. The possibility of being rejected might become too much for them as they retreat into solidarity, restricting their relationships and intimate interactions.

After all, pornography won’t turn you down for a date, right? But the thing is, that’s the problem. There’s no personal growth potential in front of the computer screen—only isolation, and fake intimacy.

The problem with this is while the consumer avoids the inevitably hard trials and errors of real relationships, they are also depriving themselves of a genuine connection with another person that is more meaningful than even the “best” porn out there.

Regardless of sexual preference or romantic situations, fostering real relationships is always better and healthier than an infatuation with airbrushed images and synthetic sexuality on a computer screen.

Porn can affect behavior and beliefs

Research has also found that watching pornography affects consumers’ attitudes and beliefs toward sex, women, and relationships. [1] Porn consumers are more likely to express attitudes supporting violence against women, [2] and studies have shown a strong correlation between men’s porn consumption and their likelihood to victimize women. [3]

Related: Why The Goal Of The Phrase “Porn Kills Love” Isn’t To Shame

In fact, a 2015 peer-reviewed research study that analyzed 22 different studies from 7 different countries concluded that there is “little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes [supporting] sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.” [4] (See How Consuming Porn Can Lead to Violence.)

Porn Is Totes Not Cool

Porn at a price

But is porn healthy for the world? It provides an empowering outlet for sexual expression, right? Not always, and not exactly.

Estimates by the United Nations’ (UN) International Labour Organization (ILO) show that in 2016, there were almost five million victims of sex trafficking globally, one-fifth of those involving children. Most victims, around 70%, are abused in Asia and Asia Pacific region.

While the numbers of specifically sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are unknown, an annual report by the State Department last year found that the U.S., which is estimated to have hundreds of thousands of trafficking victims, was in the top three for origin countries of all human trafficking victims, 40.3 million globally.

Related: How To Report Human Trafficking When You See Something Suspicious

Consider that: over 40 million victims, yet, in 2018, there were only 230 human trafficking prosecutions initiated in the US—it goes without saying how dismal that number is in comparison to the crime itself.

Sex trafficking is no joke, and it’s also not an easy problem to tackle. Many organizations are developing techniques and technology to both identify cases and help victims, and increasingly there are greater efforts placed on preventative measures.

As individuals, we can help too—it all starts by being informed. Did you know that pornography and sex trafficking are heavily interlinked? Allow us to briefly explain.

Traffickers often advertise their victims by taking explicit photos and videos of them being sold for sex and uploading them online—where these videos can sometimes end up on porn sites. This exact thing recently happened with an underage girl who was trafficked in the US, and 58 videos of her being raped by sex buyers ended up on Pornhub.

Related: Not All Porn Is Consensual. Don’t Believe It? Just Ask These Performers.

Sex trafficking and porn are also linked because, sometimes, porn producers will force, trick, or coerce unsuspecting people into shooting sex on camera—which is, by definition, sex trafficking—and these videos will end up online. Here’s a case where that recently happened to over 500 women in a San Diego porn scheme with a company called “Girls Do Porn,” and the videos ended up on Pornhub and other freely accessible porn sites.

Porn is also connected to trafficking in other ways. Would-be sex buyers will often consume pornography and feel inspired to try out degrading sex acts they likely wouldn’t try on their girlfriend, wife, or partner. Instead, they buy sex from someone—and often, though not always, that person has been forced, tricked, or coerced into selling sex, or is selling sex for survival and to pay the rent.

Truth About Porn

But is all porn trafficking-related?

We are not claiming that all porn is non-consensual, but rather, raising awareness that there is often no way to tell if the porn a consumer views is completely consensual or produced with coercion.

Just read this Jezebel.com storythis story on Daily Beastthis story on Complex.comthis Rolling Stone storythis Daily Beast storythis Bustle.com storythis story on CNNthis NY Post storythis Gizmodo.com storythis BBC reportthis Florida Sun-Sentinel reportthis Daily Wire storythis Buzzfeed News profileand this UK Independent story for further proof that the mainstream porn industry features nonconsensual videos and videos of trafficked individuals. And yes, this includes videos on Pornhub and other mainstream porn sites.

So, is porn healthy?

The research is overwhelmingly in support of labeling internet porn a public health concern. There is no facet of society exempt from its harmful influences that we know of.

Decades of research from major institutions have shown that porn is harmful to individuals, relationships, and society. And just as society followed science by labeling smoking as a major health concern, so too should we as a modern society acknowledge that porn is problematic.

But it all comes down to individual choice. Now that you have the facts, what do you think? Is watching porn healthy?

Citations

[1] Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., Kleiner, S., & Irizarry, Y. (2010). Pornography, Normalization And Empowerment. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 39 (6) 1389-1401. Doi:10.1007/S10508-009-9592-5; Doring, N. M. (2009). The Internet’s Impact On Sexuality: A Critical Review Of 15 Years Of Research. Computers In Human Behavior, 25(5), 1089-1101. Doi:10.1016/J.Chb.2009.04.003
[2] Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., & Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography And Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting The Relationship In Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression And Behavior 36, 1: 14–20. Doi: 10.1002/Ab.20328; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., And Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development 45(2):119–131.
[3] DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings Of Adult Pornography And Woman Abuse: New Progressive Directions In Research And Theory. International Journal For Crime, Justice And Social Democracy, 4(4), 4-21. Doi:10.5204/Ijcjsd.V4i4.184; Simmons, C. A., Lehmann, P., & Collier-Tenison, S. (2008). Linking Male Use Of The Sex Industry To Controlling Behaviors In Violent Relationships: An Exploratory Analysis. Violence Against Women, 14(4), 406-417. Doi:10.1177/1077801208315066; Shope, J. H. (2004), When Words Are Not Enough: The Search For The Effect Of Pornography On Abused Women. Violence Against Women, 10(1), 56-72. Doi: 10.1177/1077801203256003
[4] Wright, P., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2015). A Meta-Analysis Of Pornography Consumption And Actual Acts Of Sexual Aggression In General Population Studies. Journal Of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. Doi:10.1111/Jcom.12201
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