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Watching Porn Can Harm a Male’s Ability to Have Sex in Real Life

“Porn isn’t just risky business; it’s a killer for your sex life," said Harry Fisch, MD, a clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Cornell University.

Fight the New Drug is an awareness organization educating about the harms of pornography on individuals, relationships, and society. We share research, facts, and personal accounts to help promote understanding for various aspects of this multi-faceted issue. Our goal is to maintain an environment where all individuals can have healthy and productive conversations about this issue, while acknowledging that this issue can impact any person or relationship differently.

Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug does not have a stance on masturbation. Our focus is on porn and its negative impacts only. The following are quotes from medical professionals, not attributed to Fight the New Drug.

“Porn isn’t just risky business; it’s a killer for your sex life.”

The quote above is by Harry Fisch, MD, a clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Cornell University.

Dr. Fisch is one of the nation’s leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of men’s health issues, specifically sexuality issues. This guy knows his stuff when it comes to men and their ability to have sex. So it is no surprise that Dr. Fisch has spoken extensively on the harms that watching porn creates in male sexual health.

Dr. Fisch states, “When a man chronically watches porn and gets off on it…the sensory stimulation he gets from the virtual world makes it much more difficult for him to get aroused, stay aroused, and be happily aroused by the real, live woman in his life. … In other words, his frequent, porn-fueled masturbation leads to sexual dysfunction with a partner. If he can only have an orgasm when watching porn, and if he becomes accustomed to having orgasms only in a certain way or while watching a certain thing, he’s in trouble. … Porn isn’t just risky business; it’s a killer for your sex life.”

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding Of Healthy Sex

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Porn and sexual satisfaction

Dr. Fisch adds a respected voice to something that research has been showing for years: porn can hurt your sex life.

Porn promises a virtual world filled with sex—more sex, better sex, and different types of sex. What porn doesn’t mention, however, is that the further a consumer goes into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite. Porn often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex.Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2018). Women's perceptions of their male partners’ pornography consumption and relational, sexual, self, and body satisfaction: Toward a theoretical model.42(1), 55-73. doi:10.1080/23808985.2017.1412802Copy Stewart, 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 

In his book “The New Naked,” Fisch warns:

“Speaking of pleasure, and there is, of course, much to be had in bed, one of the biggest pleasure-killers available is streaming 24/ 7 into bedrooms across America and the rest of the world. You already know I’m talking about— pornography. … When I say that porn is killing America’s sexual behavior, I am not kidding, nor am I exaggerating. I see the detrimental and grave effects of porn on men and women and their relationships every day in my office, and I hear about it every time I go on the radio. I’m particularly blunt about this topic because I believe porn is the single, largest non-health issue that makes relationships crumble. It’s harming every aspect of sexual health… A man who masturbates frequently can soon develop erection problems when he’s with his partner. Add porn to the mix, and he can become unable to have sex and then start allowing his fantasies to cloud his judgment. He can, unwittingly or not, start comparing you to the women he’s viewing… Porn can set these men up for very warped and hurtful encounters with women who won’t ever play by the totally ludicrous rules of porn.”

Related: How Porn Can Hurt a Consumer’s Partner

In other words, when porn consumers condition their brains to be aroused by these totally amped up, exaggerated versions of sex, they have serious problems when it comes time to actually get between the sheets with a real person. For many porn consumers, they can’t get aroused, have an orgasm, or experience sexual release any way but watching porn.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 Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419Copy 

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Porn and erectile dysfunction

And not only is porn leading to worse sex, but it is even taking away some male’s ability to have sex at all.

“Internet porn is killing young men’s sexual performance. … It starts with lower reactions to porn sites. Then there is a general drop in libido, and in the end, it becomes impossible to get an erection,” says Dr. Carlo Foresta, past president of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine. “With proper assistance, recovery is possible within a few months,” Foresta said.

When someone regularly consumes porn, they can become accustomed to being aroused by the imagery and endless novelty found in porn.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 Hilton D. L., Jr (2013). Pornography addiction - a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective neuroscience & psychology, 3, 20767. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767Copy  Pretty soon, natural turn-ons and real relationships aren’t enough, and many porn consumers find they can’t get aroused by anything but porn.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 Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419Copy 

Thirty years ago, when a man developed erectile dysfunction (ED), it was almost always because he was getting older—usually past 40—and as his body aged it became more difficult to maintain an erection.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  Chronic ED in anyone under 35 was nearly unheard of.  But those were the days before internet porn.

Related: How Porn Can Harm Consumers’ Sex Lives

These days, online message boards are flooded with complaints from porn consumers in their teens and 20s complaining that they can’t maintain an erection. They want to know what’s wrong with their body, but the problem isn’t in the penis—it’s in the brain.

While research on the links between compulsive porn consumption and sexual dysfunctions is ongoing, many therapists and clinicians are reporting a rise of patients seeking help for such problems.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 

The term “porn-induced erectile dysfunction,” for example, was coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, the Director of Men’s Health and a Clinical Professor of Urology at Harvard Medical School. Speaking about porn-induced erectile dysfunction, Dr. Morgentaler said, “I’m worried—I’m worried about the impact of porn on men and on women… A lot of the men who grow up now watching internet porn… learn their sexuality and how to get stimulated down there in a way that is not mimicked by actual sex. What porn has figured out is what really works for the brain… It’s maximum stimulus.”Culture Reframed. Generation X-rated. Retrieved from https://parents.culturereframed.org/adolescent-brain/Copy 

Dr. Morgentaler continues, “A lot of the men who grow up now watching internet porn learn their sexuality and how to get stimulated down there in a way that is not mimicked by actual sex.”

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Only aroused by porn? You’re not alone

Ironically, despite porn’s promise of improving consumers’ sex lives, there is growing evidence that porn consumption is linked to sexual dysfunction.

Research indicates that compulsive pornography consumption is directly related to erectile dysfunction,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  sexual dysfunction for both men and women,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  problems with arousal and sexual performance,Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnson, J. A., & Ezzell, M. B. (2016). Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 983–994. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2Copy  difficulty reaching orgasm,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  and decreased sexual satisfaction.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 

In one neuroscientific study on compulsive pornography consumers, researchers found that in 11 out of 19 subjects, porn consumption had lowered the consumers’ sex drive and/or ability to maintain arousal in real-life sexual encounters, yet were still able to sexually respond to porn.Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419Copy 

Porn can leave consumers preferring unrealistic internet porn over an actual partner.Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnson, J. A., & Ezzell, M. B. (2016). Pornography and the Male Sexual Script: An Analysis of Consumption and Sexual Relations. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(4), 983–994. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0391-2Copy 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 

Bottom line: porn can ruin your sexual health. Click here to read how there’s hope for someone struggling with PIED.

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.

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