Can Watching Too Much Porn Give You Erectile Dysfunction?

Can porn give you ED?
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We spoke to two experts about the scary possibility

Yesterday, Buzzfeed News published a story called This Is How Therapists Treat Young Men With “Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction.” The article shared the stories of two men who claim that their addiction to pornography rendered them unable to achieve an erection.

These anecdotes were paired with the quotes of the sexologists and therapists who supported their claim by citing “porn-inducted erectile dysfunction” as the culprit, or “the inability to get or maintain an erection during sexual activity because of a high exposure to pornography.”

Sounds pretty scary, right?

Most men watch porn, so the thought of missing out on a lifetime of potential sex because you watched too many X-rated movies would, understandably, be a pretty terrifying prospect.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of the “porn causes erectile dysfunction” claim. In fact, preliminary research presented at the American Urological Association’s most recent annual meeting presented that very idea—and as it turns out, that wasn’t as clearcut as some news outlets made it out to be, either.

We were a bit hesitant to pin the experiences of just two men on the entirety of guys who watch porn, so we talked to two sex researchers with Ph.D.s to get more details on whether your X-rated habit can cause serious problems with your sex life.

The verdict? There’s no scientific evidence that supports the idea of “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.”

“There are three laboratory studies that have shown sex film viewing is unrelated to erectile functioning,” said Nicole Prause, Ph.D., founder of Liberos, a sex research and biotechnology company in Los Angeles. (You can find those studies here, here, and here.)

“No study has ever linked the two. The therapists are literally manufacturing the idea that these are connected in their patients,” she says. (Here are 10 erectile dysfunction myths you need to stop believing.)

In fact, the problem may come down to the act of masturbation, rather than watching porn.

“In my clinical experience I do not find porn to be a direct cause of [erectile disorder, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation]” explains Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist and sexuality counselor. (Want to make sure your erection stays hard for life? Check out the Men’s Health Guide to Erectile Dysfunction.)

A more likely direct cause might be an idiosyncratic masturbatory style, meaning you masturbate with a type of pressure and friction that is not easy to replicate during sex, so you might have trouble getting hard or reaching orgasm with your partner. “This would be a masturbation issue, not a porn issue, and is somewhat easily resolved,” Kerner says.

So when you watch porn—and consistently reach orgasm through a specific type of masturbation—you might actually get conditioned to a specific type of stimulus, Tobias Kohler, M.D., recently told Men’s Health. That means when you go to get it on with your partner, you may not be recreating that specific type of stimulus, which can cause issues in bed. (More on that here.)

Granted, porn can give you unrealistic expectations about sex, which in turn leads to anxiety, says Kerner. Echoing Prause, he explains that “anxiety and boredom are the root issues, but porn often gets blamed.”

“I have not seen any good studies to show that porn somehow rewires the male brain to lead to sexual dysfunction,” he emphasizes.

#NSFW—Does This Only Happen in Porno? 

If you do feel like watching porn is interfering with your ability to perform in bed, and you’re truly bothered by that, check in with your urologist to make sure an underlying medical condition—like diabetes, heart problems, or even a specific type of medication—isn’t to blame. Talking to a sex therapist can also help. For some guys, especially those who feel porn interferes with their morals, porn can have negative effects.

Bottom line: Watching porn affects every guy differently—but more concrete research needs to be done before it can be linked to erectile dysfunction. Until then, take the time to read up on how porn actually affects your sex life.

Additional reporting by Alisa Hrustic.






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