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Can Watching Porn Be Healthy For You?

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

By March 30, 2021May 25th, 2021No Comments

Is watching porn healthy?

According to some, it can be. Many people claim that it’s a positive and natural expression of sexuality, it can be a sexually empowering experience, 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 having repressed sexuality or 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 research from respected 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, addiction potential 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 and talked about.

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

As humans, we are biologically wired for connection and real-life connections with real people. Watching porn doesn’t contribute to closeness in relationships, sometimes fueling shame-based thoughts and beliefs, ultimately sometimes 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.

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 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.

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Relationships can suffer with porn in the picture

What about relational health?

The truth is, in healthy relationships, reputable research in general shows you can’t have it both ways. Studies show consumers can’t always have the instant gratification of countless virtual sex partners and a satisfying long-term committed relationship.

The long-term studies paint a very different picture than what you might be hearing from pro-porn advocates. The preponderance of evidence from a dozen or more in-depth, longer-term studies consistently show porn consumption lowering relationship satisfaction, emotional closeness, and sexual satisfaction. [1]

Related: My Wife And I Loved To Watch Porn Together—Until It Ruined Our Intimacy

Let’s take a look at some more info.

• Two highly respected pornography researchers from the University of Alabama, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann, studied the effects of porn and media for more than 30 years. Their findings conclude that consuming pornography can make an individual less satisfied with their partner’s physical appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and affection. What’s more, some individuals felt not just dissatisfied, but critical of these aspects of their partner.

• A 2012 study by Amanda Maddox and her team concluded that individuals who never viewed sexually-explicit material reported higher relationship quality (on every measure) compared with those who viewed the same explicit material on their own. [2]

• In one of the few studies to follow married couples and their pornography consumption for several years, researchers found that porn did, in fact, harm relationship quality and satisfaction. The researchers concluded:

“In general, married persons who more frequently viewed pornography in 2006 reported significantly lower levels of marital quality in 2012… Pornography’s effect was not simply a proxy for dissatisfaction with sex life or marital decision-making in 2006. In terms of substantive influence, the frequency of pornography use in 2006 was the second strongest predictor of marital quality in 2012.”

• A new study published in 2017 examined the impact of couples where one partner consumes more porn than the other—which is a pretty common pattern. The researchers concluded that “greater discrepancies between partners in pornography use were related to less relationship satisfaction, less stability, less positive communication, and more relational aggression.” [3]

Related: How It Feels To Finally Be In A Relationship With Someone Who Doesn’t Watch Porn

Study after study has shown that contrary to popular belief, porn itself is bad news for long-term relationships. Not an unsupportive and porn-disapproving partner, but the porn itself. The majority of research reflects that porn negatively affects satisfaction within the relationship and ultimately can lead a person to withdraw from a loved one.

As porn becomes more normalized, we want to be a source of information pointing out that porn is not harmless. This isn’t a moral argument. This comes down to you and your personal relationships, and the opportunity to make an informed decision about what will make them indefinitely thrive.

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Porn can affect behavior and beliefs

Research has also found that watching pornography affects consumers’ attitudes and beliefs toward sex, women, and relationships. [4]

Porn consumers are more likely to express attitudes supporting violence against women, [5] and studies have shown a strong correlation between men’s porn consumption and their likelihood to victimize women. [6]

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.” [7] (See How Consuming Porn Can Lead to Violence.)

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 in 2019 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 2019, there were only 475 human trafficking convictions in the US—it goes without saying how dismal that number is in comparison to the crime itself.

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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 reportedly 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 reportedly hundreds of women in a San Diego porn scheme with a company called “GirlsDoPorn,” and the videos ended up on Pornhub and other freely accessible porn sites. Dozens of the trafficked women sued the porn production company, and won. The GirlsDoPorn owners and employees have been federally charged with sex trafficking.

Porn is also connected to trafficking in other ways. Would-be sex buyers (most often male) 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 rent.

Truth About Porn

But is all porn trafficking-related?

We are not claiming that all porn is nonconsensual, 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 respected 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. As an awareness and education organization, we present the facts, and you make the choice. Now that you have the facts, what do you think? Is watching porn healthy?

Citations

[1] Wilson, G. (2013). Studies Linking Porn Use Or Porn/Sex Addiction To Sexual Dysfunctions, Lower Arousal, And Lower Sexual & Relationship Satisfaction; Retrieved From https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/studies-reported-relationships-between-porn-use-or-porn-addictionsex-addiction-and-sexual
[2] Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior40(2), 441–448. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4
[3] Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., & Brown, C. (2016). Differences in pornography use among couples: Associations with satisfaction, stability, and relationship processes. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 145-148, doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0562-9
[4] 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
[5] 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.
[6] 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
[7] 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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