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Why Watching Porn When You’re Single Can Hurt Your Future Relationships

“I’ll only look at porn while I’m single. As soon as I’m in a committed relationship, I’ll stop. It’s not a big deal.” Heard this before?

By January 11, 2022No Comments
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“No one wants to be with me anyway. What am I supposed to do since I’ll probably be single forever? Porn gives me a way to feel like I’m actually someone to desire.”

“Porn is so much easier than the effort a real relationship takes. I prefer it this way.”

“Since I’m not in a relationship, my porn habit doesn’t affect anyone. So there’s not really a problem with it.”

Any of these sound familiar?

There are many porn consumers out there who justify or disregard the harmfulness of their habit with one, or maybe several, of the justifications above. It’s not difficult to see why, since the porn industry sells a manufactured product and neglects to include a “warning label” informing consumers of the associated risks—even if one of those risks is trouble getting or retaining a relationship.

Related: The Single Person’s Guide To Standing Against Porn & Fighting For Love

So without being clearly told from the start about the risks with porn, how could anyone know that what they’re watching is actually harmful to them?

That’s where we come in. We believe consumers deserve to understand the risks that come with the products they’re consuming.

Here are a few ways porn hurts consumers regardless of relationship status, and why you should think twice before turning to porn to fill an emotional or sexual gap in their lives, even (and especially) if you’re single.

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Porn’s addictive potential

When it comes to the addictive nature of pornography, the research is telling. There’s much to be said about how consuming porn is an escalating behavior and the brain can be trained to crave more and more extreme versions of porn. After all, porn is often extremely attractive to watch because it’s a majorly enhanced version of what people are naturally wired to desire—sex.

But don’t take it from us, consider what the research says.

When it comes to the topic of porn, one of the most common questions is whether porn can actually be addictive. The short answer is yes—it absolutely can be. While it’s important to remember that most porn consumers—even many who may find it very difficult to quit porn—do not qualify as “addicts” in a clinically diagnosable sense,Willoughby, 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  many addiction experts and specialists agree that pornography addiction is, in fact, very real.Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 5(3), 388–433. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs5030388COPY Stark R., Klucken T. (2017) Neuroscientific Approaches to (Online) Pornography Addiction. In: Montag C., Reuter M. (eds) Internet Addiction. Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46276-9_7COPY De Sousa, A., & Lodha, P. (2017). Neurobiology of Pornography Addiction - A clinical review. Telangana Journal of Psychiatry, 3(2), 66-70. doi:10.18231/2455-8559.2017.0016COPY 

Related: Why Porn Can Be Difficult to Quit

And not only that, over time, porn consumers can become desensitized to the content they seek out and watch more hardcore and extreme content to get the same arousal as before.Albery, I. P., Lowry, J., Frings, D., Johnson, H. L., Hogan, C., & Moss, A. C. (2017). Exploring the Relationship between Sexual Compulsivity and Attentional Bias to Sex-Related Words in a Cohort of Sexually Active Individuals. European addiction research, 23(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1159/000448732COPY Banca, P., Morris, L. S., Mitchell, S., Harrison, N. A., Potenza, M. N., & Voon, V. (2016). Novelty, conditioning and attentional bias to sexual rewards. Journal of psychiatric research, 72, 91–101. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.10.017COPY  According to one 2016 study, researchers found that 46.9% of respondents reported that, over time, they began watching pornography that had previously disinterested or even disgusted them.Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.046COPY 

Porn is not sex, it’s a product, and it’s a product that is designed to reel in consumers and keep them going back again and again. It can be easy to get hooked, and these 29 scientific studies on porn and the brain show how porn can become addictive.

The fact is, consuming porn rewires the brain to associate arousal and sexuality with something that really isn’t sex at all—watching porn. Reversing this conditioning of the brain is absolutely possible, but it takes time, and it doesn’t automatically change once you’re in a relationship.

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Porn fosters and perpetuates objectification

But wait, what if a consumer isn’t interested in being in a committed relationship, or doesn’t see it happening for them in the near future? This unhealthy bond in the brain can be really harmful to individuals, too, regardless of their present or future relationship status. And honestly, there are immediate benefits to refusing to watch porn, too.

But whether you’re single now or not, watching porn can impact your sexual health and satisfaction once you’re finally in that relationship.

Related6 Ways Ditching Porn Can Improve Your Dating Game

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 may not seem like “enough,” and many porn consumers find they can’t become fully aroused by anything but porn.

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 

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

Set yourself up for success in future relationships and commit now to not watching porn. You and your future partner very well may benefit from that decision.

Porn and trafficking

Relationship or not, decades of studies from respected academic institutions have demonstrated porn’s harms to our greater culture and society.

Did you know that porn is connected to sexual exploitation and trafficking?

Of all the ways pornography and sex trafficking overlap, one of the most surprising elements of all might be this: even in the production of mainstream porn with popular performers, sex trafficking can still occur—and it happens more regularly than most people think.Lange, A. (2018). This woman says authorities doubted her sexual assault claim because she does porn. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/arianelange/nikki-benz-porn-defamation-lawsuit-metoo#.ldPVz1Yg0YCOPY 

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, sex trafficking is defined as a situation in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106–386, Section 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-106hr3244enr/pdf/BILLS-106hr3244enr.pdfCOPY  That means that sex trafficking doesn’t require kidnapping or threats of violence—if there is any level of force, fraud, or coercion involved in the production of porn, it legally counts as sex trafficking.

Additionally, the consumption of pornography can help fuel the demand for sex trafficking. Showing porn to victims is a common grooming tactic used by abusers or traffickers to help normalize sexual abuse.Lanning, K. V. (2010). Child molesters: A behavioral analysis for professionals investigating the sexual exploitation of children. (No. 5). National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Retrieved from https://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/missingkids/pdfs/publications/nc70.pdfCOPY International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. (2017). Online grooming of children for sexual purposes: Model legislation & global review. ( No. 1). Retrieved from https://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Online-Grooming-of-Children_FINAL_9-18-17.pdfCOPY  In fact, porn can be so effective at desensitizing consumers to toxic narratives that some evidence suggests that the desensitization of consumers can manifest in more willingness to buy sex, which increases the demand for individuals being trafficked for sex.Demand Abolition. (2018). Who buys sex? understanding and disrupting illicit market demand. Retrieved from https://www.demandabolition.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Demand-Buyer-Report-July-2019.pdfCOPY Herrington, R., & McEachern, P. (2018). “Breaking her spirit” through objectification, fragmentation, and consumption: A conceptual framework for understanding domestic sex trafficking. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 27, 1-14. doi:10.1080/10926771.2017.1420723COPY 

As long as there’s a demand for porn—especially porn that is extreme, abusive, or degrading—the porn industry will continue to exploit vulnerable people to meet that demand.

Choosing not to consume porn, when you’re single or not, is making a conscious choice not to contribute to an exploitative industry.

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You deserve better than porn

The key is, what is actually healthiest for you in the long-term? Research shows that while porn can provide short-term gratification, the results won’t last, and the long-term harmful effects aren’t worth it.

If you want to be in a relationship and you’re not, the loneliness can be tough. If you don’t see yourself being in a relationship any time soon and you’re okay with that, consuming porn can seem easier to justify. But no matter your present or future relationship status, by consuming porn, you’re selling yourself short in a big way. You deserve better, and it won’t make the search for a relationship any easier.

Related: How Porn Can Impact Mental Health and Fuel Loneliness

Sure, porn may provide a temporary escape or instant gratification by distracting consumers from their loneliness, boredom, pent-up sexual tension, or a yearning for intimacy. But all porn does is provide a short-term distraction and create an unhealthy habit that must be continually fed more frequently and intensely in order to continue to distracting consumers from those feelings. It doesn’t, and can’t, make the pain of those feelings go away.

Porn takes consumers’ time and attention, and offers nothing in return. It leaves consumers less equipped to deal with those unfulfilled wants and needs, preventing them from being able to have the very things they want in the future, and leaving them more lonely than before.

The good news is, as Fighters, we know better and we’re here to support each other. If this is something you struggle with and you’re ready to make a change, remember that there’s always hope for recovery. Try opening up to a loved one or friend and start building your own personal support system.

Tap into helpful resources like our affiliates at Fortify and recognize that setbacks don’t mean failures.

Long story short, remember that you deserve so much more than porn, whether you’re in or looking for a relationship now or not.

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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