Erectile Dysfunction and Pornography: Do they have a connection?

More people are watching more porn than ever before.

In the era of the internet and super-fast broadband, porn is readily accessible on our phones, tablets and laptops.

Indeed, consumption of online pornography has grown exponentially since 2008 when broadband became widely available. Today, the largest porn sites are amongst the most visited on the web, alongside the staples of Google, You Tube, Facebook and Wikipedia.

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We know that erectile dysfunction is a complex health issue that has both physical and mental health components. Indeed, for many men, erectile dysfunction does not have a single, identifiable cause.

To date, the main contributors are commonly agreed to be associated with aging, lifestyle and mental state.

Getting an erection is a cardio-vascular event so it’s natural that as we age, and our cardio-vascular function deteriorates, erection dysfunction becomes more prevalent.

The incidence of erectile dysfunction can also be induced by poor physical health, for instance through the effects of weight, high alcohol consumption, and tobacco and drug use.

Mental health issues such as stress and anxiety are causes too. This explains why erectile dysfunction is becoming more prevalent amongst the young, attributed to millennial lifestyles with a focus on social media, the stresses of work and modern living e.g. loneliness.

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However, a body of opinion is emerging that frequent exposure to pornography could also be a considerable factor to erection dysfunction.

Some healthcare professionals believe this is the case and that watching porn on a regular basis contributes to erectile dysfunction. A theory called Porn Induced ED or PIED has emerged for explaining sexual problems caused by porn consumption.

This is the argument;

1. Watching porn decreases men’s satisfaction with their own bodies. Often male porn stars are ripped and well-endowed and men watching this think it is the norm and what women desire most. This can have a knock-on effect, triggering anxiety during sex for men who believe they should measure up to the male actors they see online.

2. Watching porn can lead unrealistic expectations. The rampant sexual prowess of male porn stars gives young men an unrealistic perspective of real-life sex. Many viewers don’t consciously consider that sex in real life is a lot different from a movie with perfect-looking actors and nice lighting. This leads them to harbour unrealistic expectations from their partner.

3. Watching porn can lead to desensitisation. When watching porn, men tend to focus on the penis (size, movement, remaining hard) which can lead to intimacy difficulties with a partner. In addition, porn may change the way the brain reacts to arousal, making a man less likely to feel aroused by a real-life partner, because the nerves require more physical stimulation. This may mean that men who watch pornography need to progressively increase sexual stimulation to feel and remain aroused.

4. Viewers of porn become accustomed to being in control of their sexual experience. When watching porn men are in control of what they watch to become aroused and what they watch to stay aroused and ultimately climax. This isn’t replicated in the real world. Men may be unable to perform when faced with a real human being, with real needs and real insecurities.

Despite the reasonable arguments supporting a correlation between porn consumption and erectile dysfunction, the research is mixed, with some studies supporting this connection and others arguing that pornography might actually help with erectile dysfunction.

For example, in 2015, two major studies were conducted to determine the link between the two. In only one of the studies was a modest link was found, and even then the result was counter-intuitive as a “moderate” use of porn reported more erectile dysfunction than those engaged in “high” (or “low”) use.

So the jury for PIED is still out.

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Remember, regardless of what you think may be the underlying cause, if you are having sexual dysfunction, reach out to your doctor so they can guide you on how best to manage the symptoms.

If you have any follow-up questions don't hesitate to contact us at help@manbehindthemirror.co.uk