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Porn: Is it good or bad for you? Psychology and relationships

Pornography does not support a particular sexual ethic or method, and as such it can not be either good or bad.

Pornography involves a wide variety of products — from amateur portraits of happy lovers to mass-produced porn films intended to make a major profit.

An individual needs to judge whether porn is good or bad based on its principles, empirical studies into porn-related topics that matter most to them, and the effects pornography has on their lives.

Continue reading to learn more about the pornography’s psychological and social effects, and how porn can affect relationships.

What is porn?

A man watching porn
Porn consumption is more common among men than women.

A 2019 review by an international panel concluded that it is complex to define the relation between pornography and its audience. For decades, even the Supreme Court has been grappling with that issue.

People generally define something as pornographic when it involves ‘sexually explicit’ videos or images. Under this definition, a detailed medical examination would not be pornographic but would be a sexualized medical scene marketed to a fetish community.

Pornography on the Internet has made that genre more accessible. For this reason, most experts believe that, over the last few decades, porn consumption has increased slightly.

For many reasons, though, researchers find it hard to access reliable data. People may lie about-or lack of-their porn consumption due to their desire to conform to gender, sexual, and moral standards.

Is porn bad?

A study of 2018 suggests that around 85 percent of 1,036 participants reported using porn on the Internet during the previous six months. More men (80 per cent) reported consuming porn online at least once a week than women (26 per cent).

Researchers, advocates, political and moral leaders and media experts have spent decades debating porn. Political and religious ideology thus colors much of the subject ‘s research.

Experts in mental health can’t agree on whether addiction to pornography is real or how common it might be.

There is another study disputing that benefit for each study which aims to show a benefit of pornography. Many studies rely on self-reports or assumptions which have not been proved.

Others have serious procedural flaws. Because of that, relying on any single study is hard, and people should be skeptical of the evidence and claims.

Psychological benefits of porn 

Many porn users claim their use improves their relationships and their wellbeing in some cases. Some older research is backing this claim. Some psychological benefits possibly include:

Increased access to sexual diversity

People who eat porn can learn about new sexual positions, see destigmatizing material about their kinks and learn more about the human body.

The media tends to portray sex and sexuality as heterosexual, and presents a narrow range of options, while porn offers an opportunity for a person to look for more inclusive options.

Destigmatizing sex

Watching pornography can make sex feel less intimidating, especially for people who have little sexual and sexual exposure.

Sexual empowerment

Some people find sexual empowerment in porn. For example , females might find that certain porn genres validate a wide variety of sexual expressions. A paper from 2012 argues that female sexuality is demedicalised by pornography.

Stress relief and leisure

A 2017 study found that many people use pornography as a recreational activity to ease stress and distract them from adverse emotions.

Psychological risks and side effects of porn

Some psychological effects of pornography include:

Body image, and the myth of beauty

By portraying very ‘slim’ and very ‘young’ people, many pornographic films promote an unrealistic image of “beauty.” Some advocates are worried that this can contribute to low self-esteem, particularly among women, or cause unrealistic expectations of their sexual partners.

Addiction

One potentially highly contested risk is that of addiction to pornography. One study observing problematic use of pornography (PPU) found that brain activation was accompanied by increased behavioral motivation to view erotic images in people with PPU. In other words, those with PPU subjects had a higher ‘want’ for viewing erotic picture-related references.

Cues also increased for signaling erotic pictures based on the amount of pornography a person used per week and the frequency of masturbation.

On the other hand, numerous studies claim the opposite and quote that up to now there is a flawed research around pornographic addiction.

Physical effects of porn

Any of porn’s physical effects may include:

Arousal

Porn can help to physically arouse a human. This may make it easier to have sex with a partner or to enjoy solo sex.

Health

Study on porn and health effects is usually either badly planned or provides inconclusive findings.

Research does, however, demonstrate that healthy sexuality can in many ways improve health, including reducing blood pressure and strengthening the immune system. Porn may be a part of a balanced sex life according to the Center for Women’s Health.

Sexual expectations

Porn can help promote false perceptions of the physical dimensions of women.

An individual can assume that only vaginal penetration and no other vaginal stimulation contributes to rapid orgasm, and that uncommon erectile dysfunction (ED) or lubricants are used.

Sexual risk-taking

An initial Sexuality & Culture research paper indicates that porn can increase sexual risk-taking, such as not using a condom or another obstacle to contraception.

Interest in non-normative sex

Producing pornography will increase interest in sexual relationships with “friends with benefits” according to the 2015 report. If a person has multiple friends with benefits, then exposure to sexually transmitted infections ( STIs) can increase. That said, having multiple sexual partners is no bad thing. People should always take precautions to ensure safe and pleasurable intercourse, thus reducing the chance of STI.

Porn and relationships

Porn can gain a friendship and cause harm:

Quality of sex life

58.8 percent of people who used porn said in an earlier survey-based analysis that it had a positive effect on their sex lives. The research focused on self-reporting methods rather than quantitative ones, so the findings are inconclusive.

Sexual desensitization

By comparison, some researchers claim that persistent or heavy use of porn can make a person less receptive to a sex partner.

A 2016 study highlights evidence on the sexual dysfunction associated with porn. Few scholars have been skeptical of these findings, however, and one of the authors is a proponent of the idea that porn addiction is widespread.

Relationship Changes

A survey of 430 people in heterosexual relationships showed that porn improved communication, increased sexual pleasure and facilitated experimenting.

Some issues, though, included increased vulnerability, lower interest in their relationship and unreasonable sexual standards.

Porn in society

Many advocates argue that the personal effects of pornography may extend to society. Some drawbacks include:

  • increased misogyny
  • unrealistic expectations
  • unreasonable sexual expectations that may change what people expect from “typical” sex

There may also be some benefits, including:

  • less stigma associated with sex
  • increased acceptance of nontraditional sexual practices
  • improved sexual communication

There are also questions about the production of pornography and how it impacts people in the industry. Some supporters argue that because they have a history of abuse, individuals are more likely to pursue porn but a 2012 report contradicts this notion. Such key concerns include:

  • exploitation and abuse of porn actors
  • STIs among porn actors
  • use of underaged actors

Alternative ways to get aroused 

An individual doesn’t need to use pornography to feel excited, even though they struggle with enthusiasm.

Some alternatives include:

  • reading erotic stories, which incorporate many of the same fantasies but which lack real people and visual images, potentially easing some people’s concerns about porn
  • exchanging explicit texts or emails with a partner to share fantasies and build interest
  • planning out sex sessions to incorporate more elements of each partner’s fantasies
  • participating in more extensive foreplay, so that each partner has time to get aroused

Summary

Pornography may be neutral, negative or good. It depends on how a person does it, the type of porn that the person watches, and how their use impacts their relationships and their lives.

Present research is divided about the use of pornography with the positive and negative. A lot of research use approaches like self-surveys that bring the reliability problem to light. Further studies into the broader psychological and physical effects of porn needs to continue.

However, as it is, porn can be a part of stable marriages and have many advantages, but certain possible dangers may be identified to people.

Couples should be dreaming about pornography and people with pornography issues should consider talking to a sex-positive psychologist.