The Problems of Pornography: Sexual Dysfunction and Beyond

unhappy couple
iStock/Thinkstock (models for illustration purposes only)

Young married couples face a number of challenges in the bedroom, from navigating differing expectations about physical intimacy to dealing with the repercussions of premarital encounters and even the emotional aftermath of traumatic experiences. But a new problem has become more common with the rise of pornography — erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction (ED), is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. It's not a new problem — we've seen commercials for Viagra and Cialis for years. What is new is that ED is no longer occurring only in middle-aged and older men. Studies show that 25 to 30 percent of men diagnosed with ED are under the age of 40, including some in their teens and 20s, and the dysfunction is severe in about half those cases. Current research suggests this trend might be the result of pornography addiction.

ED can be traced to a number of physical problems, including restricted blood flow, diabetes and certain medications. However, pornography-induced ED (PIED) is caused by neurological alterations to the brain due to the habitual use of pornography.

There are many causes for ED, and not every man who deals with it is engaged in pornography. If your husband has ED, porn isn't necessarily the cause. But the effects of pornography use can include PIED, and sexual relations are definitely affected negatively.

The visual drug

Pornography stimulates the pleasure center of the brain and works on the brain in ways similar to addictive drugs, even producing tolerance in the same way as heroin. And in the same way that many addicts require increasing amounts of drugs to get the same high, pornography requires the viewer to watch material that is increasingly hardcore — more graphic, more debasing, more violent — to experience a sexual response. It's no wonder that porn is addictive.

It's important to note that we're talking specifically about male users of pornography. Images and sexual stimuli that might not be particularly interesting to most women release a burst of dopamine in a man's brain, triggering the same reward pathways that are activated by drug use and addiction. The effects of porn on sexual function and the brain appear to be different for women, in general, as female sexual interests tend to center more on interpersonal relationships. For men, sexual arousal can be completely impersonal, responding more to visual cues than emotional or relational ones.

Virtual sex

More than desensitizing the viewer to "tame" material, a pornography addiction practically ensures that a man will not be able to respond to his wife. After all, if a male brain requires more and more hardcore porn to achieve sexual arousal, how can conventional sex compare?

Porn viewers report that when it comes to sex with real women, they experience diminished sex drive, delayed orgasm (or the inability to achieve orgasm) and decreased satisfaction overall. Furthermore, porn trains the brain to be sexually excited in isolation. So when the user's wife is present, the porn-programmed brain learns to suppress sexual excitement.

The more addicted users become to the secret fantasy world of pornography, the less capable they are of receiving joy or pleasure from real sex. Tabloid claims that porn can spice up a marriage are complete lies: Pornography ultimately destroys a couple's sex life. What was used at first as a means to quick sexual pleasure ends up robbing couples of the ability to experience the God-created expression of love and intimacy between husband and wife.

The toll of porn on the wife

Pornography causes much more harm than creating sexual dysfunction or undermining a man's ability to have satisfying sex. It is soul-crushing to women.

Porn strikes at the heart of the user's wife. What happens in the man's mind and heart are as spiritually consequential as if he had an affair (Matthew 5:27-28). Pornography violates the marriage vow of fidelity and betrays trust.

It also commonly generates a sense of inferiority in the wife. No woman can compete against a digitally enhanced creature with no imperfections, who never has an opinion or asks her husband to help around the house.

Users come to believe that the corrupted caricature of sex presented in porn is what sex should really be like, and they may subtly coerce or overtly pressure their wives to take part in degrading porn-like sexual acts. This objectifies and dehumanizes the wife.

This doesn't take into account how the production of porn violates women. The demand for pornography is inseparable from trafficking and sexual exploitation. Simply put, pornography cannot be made without the manipulation and abuse of vulnerable women. Each person is created in the image of God. Is there really any gratification that can justify the debased and demeaning treatment of women inherent in porn?

What can you do?

One report indicates 64 percent of men watch porn at least once a month. Sadly, that percentage is true for Christians and the general population. If you're a man dealing with pornography, you're not alone. The good news is that help is available.

The most effective way of beating an addiction to pornography is professional counseling. For married men, the best course is to get counseling for yourself and with your wife. Successful recovery also typically includes talking with a trusted friend or a group of men who provide a safe relationship and accountability. And filtering and monitoring software can add a layer of prevention, though they're not a "cure" for porn addiction.

Counseling and emotionally vulnerable openness with others make most men extremely uncomfortable. Because of the shame surrounding pornography use, the urge to hide the problem is strong. But if you have a pornography addiction and you're honest with yourself, you know the problem is bigger than you can handle alone. Seek competent help.

Dr. Freda Bush is a retired OB-GYN in Jackson, Mississippi. She serves as president and CEO of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health and is also a member of the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.

A variety of issues can fuel habitual pornography use. Understanding the deeper needs of individuals affected by this common problem is important. Reach out to well-trained helpers, and if you are a married couple do so together. Change is possible! We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or
help@FocusOnTheFamily.com
www.FocusontheFamily.com/FindaCounselor

© 2018 Dr. Freda Bush. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

You Might Also Like: