• Pornography’s Role in Erectile Dysfunction

    This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the graduate students in my Psychopathology course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Mental Health.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular class of mental disorders.


    Pornography’s Role in Erectile Dysfunction by Ruben Rios

    banana-1238714_960_720Remember that encounter when you, or your partner, were not able to “get it up?” What happens after a failed attempt to have intercourse? Why did things not turn up as expected when there is desire? And how does pornography make it look so easy? The truth is that many males in the United States, some 18 million to be exact, report having some level of Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Erectile Dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve and maintain an erection sufficiently firm to engage in intercourse. Much stigma accompanies ED, and the most detrimental judgment is the one created by the individual directly experiencing ED.

    For many years men kept their struggles with ED a secret, and it was often the butt of jokes, but in recent years men have begun to seek assistance. It could be that men are so afraid to open up about vulnerable subjects, such as their sexual performance, because of the expectations created by their society. Men experiencing ED may believe there is no help available and that they will eventually overcome their issues alone. ED can be caused by different physical health factors including heart problems, high blood pressure, nerve damage or injury, thyroid problems, poor circulation, low testosterone levels (hypogonadism), kidney or liver problems, and diabetes. Male sexual performance tends to become better when these physical issues are addressed, because the root of the issue is being treated rather than the surfacing symptoms. ED can also be caused by psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, problems with self-esteem, or stress that could be caused by expectations.

    Psychological and physical factors were once thought to be the only causes of ED, but with every generation there comes new types of disruptions. The Internet is an explosively growing outlet that is available at the tip of our fingers. In 2002, only 9.1% of the world’s population had access to the Internet. A decade later, in 2012, that percentage grew to 33%. One in every three individuals access the Internet regularly and the content available is enormous and often unimaginable. Some may be using the Internet for educational or communication purposes, but 25% of all daily search engine requests are pornography. Typically, users view explicit material on the internet to masturbate. And having this material so readily available is beginning to have effects on men’s sexual performance.

    Although pornography is not in and of itself negative, for some viewing porn becomes a necessity or a compulsion, which then becomes impossible to refrain oneself from. One may think “It’s just a harmless movie”, but there are undeniable effects being found on men who regularly masturbate while viewing porn. One study found that, in men, the hours of porn viewing are negatively correlated with having lower volumes of gray matter. The impact on connectivity of the right caudate and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex could represent the overstimulation of the reward system. This means that they had less volume and brain activity in areas that are associated with reward and motivation. A survey of 28,000 Italian males reported that men who began aggressively watching porn during their teens, usually at 14 years old, reported having issues achieving and maintaining an erection during their 20s. The constant use of pornography has unforeseen effects and the earlier that people begin to use pornography the greater the effect. For example, another study found that exposing children to sexually explicit material during the so-called latency period (6- 12 years old) predicts sexual dysfunction as adults. When parents place a computer in their children’s room, they do not think about the consequences of not monitoring the search history.

    hands-1167626_960_720Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is a rapidly growing issue. People fall into the hole of porn binging and once they are unable to perform with a partner they are left wondering why watching a pornographic film and masturbating is more satisfying than actually engaging in physical contact with another person. Many of the cases report that they begin binge-watching porn at a young age. They do not see their viewing as an issue until they cannot become aroused with their partner, but only while watching porn. They become anxious about starting new relationships and when they do they rapidly become bored and uninterested. One recent study discussed how marriage rates have decreased over the last few decades and linked this to porn viewing. They mention that one of the reasons why people are not getting married anymore is because of the belief of getting sex through other means rather than having to be in a marriage. They also concluded that the amount of pornography viewed is negatively associated with marriage formation. One of the suggested reasons for this is that men view pornography as more prolific outlet to gain sexual pleasure than pursuing a woman. Another common reason why porn is causing men to have erectile dysfunction is because viewing porn gives men instant gratification. A quick tap on the keyboard delivers instant content and gives the viewer the freedom to gain sexual pleasure when desired.

    Treatment for ED range from using technology such as external penile support devices to pharmaceutical support, but it is important to note that porn-induced erectile dysfunction is different than the commonly seen ED caused by physiological or health reasons. Masturbating comes with many benefits, but over-masturbating while watching porn can lead to the creation of a fantasy that cannot be fulfilled with normal intercourse. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is not a problem with the penis, but rather with the brain. In order to overcome porn-induced erectile dysfunction it is important to target the real issue: the use of porn. The common treatment for this issue is to reduce porn viewing, stop the excessive masturbating, and changing the daily routine and substituting positive habits for negative ones. Overall, the increasing issue of porn-induced erectile dysfunction deserves major attention because it is important to educate males about treatment options and the consequences of excessively watching porn.

    Category: FeaturedMedicinePsychologyTeaching


    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com
    • iamcuriousblue

      If anything, I think the proper place for skepticism here is toward
      these claims, largely spread by sexual pseudoscientist Gary Wilson. He’s
      essentially pushing an updated version of the old “masturbation is
      harmful” argument, based on some half-digested claims about mirror
      neurons mixed with odd neo-Tantric “conserve your precious bodily fluids”

    • Albert Cornelius Doyle

      Yeah, no case-control double-blinded studies in the bunch. Nor any examination of confounding factors. This is a Church Lady in search of an Eek-a-Mouse cause du jour. But Tipper Gore might be a useful ally.

      • Josh

        Really? Case,control double blinded study? Did you even see what the subject was of some of these studies? You act like those are the only type of studies that count. At least be sensible without simply misrepresenting the post and then trash talking your own misrepresentation.

        • Albert Cornelius Doyle

          Yeah, sorry, I was relying on that science thingamajig, repeatable statistically reliable evidence. My bad.
          Of course I could do a study, of 15 couples I know, and have them watch porn when they go to bed, and if eight of them have sex more often, and five of the eight guys claim that they had a harder pecker most of those times, compared to when his wife doesn’t let him watch porn before having sex, then boom, pornography cures erectile dysfunction. Call WaPo and the NYT!!!
          And then I could write an article about it. And I wouldn’t even to bother checking all the other variables involved. And then someone could misrepresent my post, and I’d tell them, hey, epidemiology and biostats are just a thingamajig, don’t act like my study isn’t totally, like, true, maaaaan. You fucking piece of….paraquat!
          I could do that.
          And then, you know, real epidemiologists could design an actual study. Which, contrary to your whines, yes, are the only ones that count. Just try to get Medicare or the VHA or Robert Wood Johnston to fund a study that doesn’t bother with statistical validity. Or try to get your drug approved by the FDA, by saying, hey, Stage II clinical trials aren’t the only studies that count, why, I have a cousin who once interviewed six guys in Tijuana whose cancers were cured by Laetrile……
          ….sheesh. There’s as much proof that porn cures erectile dysfunction as there is that it causes it. If lurid headlines are what bait your clicks, then so be it. But don’t dress it up as science when it’s not.

          • Josh

            Oh yeah sorry that none of the other studies are science. Looks like the everyone else not doing them is wasting their time apparently. But thank you for plainly showing your bias of not even caring what the blog discusses but rather simply pushing forward your own agenda. And to answer you on comparing whether or not they have a “hard pecker” after watching porn clearly that’s not what the blog even discussed. It’s about overly watching porn while overly masturbating which in and of itself is abnormal by the amount of porn and masturbation that are occurring in unison which is where the issues come from. And for you to say epidemiological studies are the only ones that count, well quite frankly that’s utterly senseless and demonstrates ignorance by saying no other studies matter beyond those, so apparently you could care less about the study unless it meets your own biased preferences. Now if you want to discuss the actual studies cited and what’s wrong with those then we can converse like actual educated people, but instead continue to use your slander and profanity to prove your senseless point about what you establish as science which has no relevance to this blog post. Yes porn has been supported to help erectile dysfunction, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be the cause of it when there are people constantly watching porn and masturbating to it. You are discussing two different people where one suffers from ED and uses porn as a therapy and the other is already watching porn and masturbating over 20 times a day to porn, which is different then say a 55 year old who rarely watches porn and is experiencing ED. Excuse me for seeing flaws in your logic of a double-blind epidemiological study being the only acceptable one in this situation. P.S. this isn’t getting a drug approved through the FDA, so you can’t design the study the same manner. But hey continue your tirade on what science is and is not.

            • Albert Cornelius Doyle

              Slow clap. My point exactly. The studies cited provide no proof that porn causes ED. They may suggest that if, as you say, you masturbate 20 times per day, then it’s hard to get it up the 21st time. Which is not at all the same thing. You can do that with a jar of Vaseline and a good imagination. Porn is irrelevant.
              Also thank you for citing the 55-year-old. You see, adjusting for confounding factors is what real studies do.
              If you want me to provide an audio of this post, since you’re probably going blind, ask away. I can also FedEx you a Schick to shave your palms. And I’m sorry your Mom caught you masturbating to a Playboy at age 12. But a little talk therapy should get you through it. It’s actually not Playboy’s fault that you’ve developed this pathological animosity toward erotica. It’s probably your Mom’s.

            • No need to be (no pun intended) such a dick, Albert.

            • Josh

              There we go, as you’re starting to discuss and make sense you have to go and ruin it with you ad hominem. I do agree that the blog did not focus on listing out all all the extraneous variables and potential confounds that should be looked at as well, but it did establish that there is the connection. So instead of calling it a “Church Lady in search of an Eek-a-Mouse cause,” simply stating that you would prefer articles supporting the more direct link should be sufficient. Maybe even request a second blog be posted addressing those issues? It was only a blog post, it’s not like this was a post of a Masters or Doctoral Thesis here, he didn’t dive into discussing every nook and cranny of the possibilities. I would advise trying to personally attack someone you know nothing about though. I mean we’re not running for president here we’re just discussing a blog post. It’s been interesting discussing with you, but unfortunately I’m done now. When individuals start using ad hominem on top of red herrings it just goes no where. Thanks for your time Albert.

    • …treatment for this issue is to reduce porn viewing, stop the excessive masturbating, and changing the daily routine and substituting positive habits for negative ones.

      Which positive habits should one adopt in lieu of masturbation? Bible study, perhaps?

      But seriously, though, what counts as excessive?

    • An Ardent Skeptic

      Just out of curiosity, is pornography recommended for people with serious sexual inhibitions?

      Catchy blogpost title, BTW. Have the hit rates for “Great Plains Skeptic” skyrocketed? 🙂

      • Not really. Just our usual 1 bazillion hits per day.