Trends in pornography and it’s effect on mental health
Pornography is closely linked to mental health. Overuse of internet pornography is fast emerging as a compulsive sexual behaviour disorder. This corresponds to the greater use of smartphones and easy access to streaming video in the past 10 years. A wide range of mental and physical health issues has ensued. For instance, a staggering increase in erectile dysfunction in younger men, widespread evidence of lower sexual satisfaction in men and women, and more social anxiety and body dysmorphia in adolescents all appear to be related to this cultural phenomenon.
40 million Americans visit Internet porn sites at least once a month. Some porn users visit sites for only a few minutes at a time. Others, visit porn sites daily, spending more than 15 hours per week. One-third of all downloads each month and one-quarter of all online searches each day are for porn. And, according to a 2008 Nielsen Online survey, a record-breaking 25 percent of employees in the United States are accessing porn at work, despite the risks involved.
So, what are the latest statistics on the trends in pornography?
But the current cultural atmosphere brings new complexity and intensity to the long-standing debate about erotica’s evils. Some proponents of the #MeToo movement have recently adopted an anti-porn position, suggesting the medium inherently objectifies women. Others insist ethical porn is possible, so long as it empowers the participants and their audience. These concerns are magnified by the ease with which America’s youth can access explicit material online. How is porn shaping our children’s expectations of intimacy?
BodylogicMD surveyed 1200 men and women about the ages at which they first viewed porn, which types of adult content they found most extreme, and how their preferences have shifted over time. We then asked them to describe their sex lives in the present to gauge whether porn may aid or obstruct satisfaction later in life. To understand porn’s influence through hard data rather than hysteria, keep reading.
Much of the public’s concern about porn consumption revolves around its effects on the impressionable minds of young viewers. Some recent studies, for example, suggest early exposure among young boys may instill negative attitudes about women. Our findings indicate that male minors typically encountered porn sooner than their female counterparts, with nearly 4 in 10 men stating they first viewed porn between the ages of 11 and 15. Among women, the introduction of pornography was more evenly distributed across the teen years, with about 15 percent viewing porn for the first time between the ages of 11 and 15 and 14 percent between 16 and 20.
Of course, not all pornography elicits equal degrees of suspicion: Some forms of erotica barely include nudity, whereas others depict violent or degrading sex acts. And while researchers suggest there might be a negative correlation between porn and happy relationships, our survey revealed that might not entirely be the case under the right circumstances. Our respondents assessed which kinds of porn they found most extreme, as well as the genres they viewed as relatively harmless.
For men of all ages, amateur porn was the most popular genre. Women shared this preference between the ages of 18 and 34, suggesting that authenticity can be the key to erotica’s appeal to either gender. Yet among women older than 35, a different top preference emerged: threesome content. Older women were hardly alone in this regard, however. Threesome porn was among the top five categories for every age and gender demographic we studied. In these instances of overlapping interests, some couples might even consider watching porn together if they’re comfortable with the idea. Making an evening out of their viewing experience could even create deeper intimacy between partners.
Other findings seemed to indicate alignment between audience and subject in some cases. MILF porn, for example, was the second-most popular category among men aged 55 to 64, suggesting a possible interest in female performers closer to their own age range. Interestingly, lesbian porn ranked higher among female respondents than men, at least between the ages of 18 and 44. This finding offers an interesting counterpoint to the suggestion that most lesbian porn is made with a straight male audience in mind.
Porn appeals to those already in relationships, not just those lacking real romance. In fact, our data suggest that 60 percent of people in relationships watched porn with their partners, presumably as a precursor to their own intimacy. That doesn’t mean porn is an uncomplicated aphrodisiac: A fair percentage of respondents cited porn as an issue in their relationship, and women were three times more likely to experience relationship challenges related to their partner’s viewing habits. Studies suggest that men are more inclined to have their expectations and desires warped in a damaging way by consuming pornography.
Perhaps that’s because porn seems to penetrate male fantasies differently. A quarter of men said they’d rather have sex with the individuals in the porn they viewed than their real-life partners. That experience could then negatively affect arousal: Men who watched porn more often were less likely to feel aroused by their partners. Interestingly, women experienced precisely the opposite phenomenon. The more frequently female participants watched porn, the more likely they were to feel passion for their partners.
The problem of addiction to pornography
Pornography seems to have a drug-like effect on the body and mind. Despite being ingested through the eyes and ears instead of the mouth or bloodstream, porn stimulates the reward and pleasure centers in the brain, instantly and dramatically, increasing the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with both sexual arousal and drug highs. In addition, using porn for sexual stimulation has been shown to increase production of other “feel-good” chemicals, such as adrenaline, endorphins, testosterone, and serotonin; with sexual climax, it releases powerful hormones related to falling in love and bonding, such as oxytocin and vasopressin.
Ultimately, pornography can be safe for those who have balanced and healthy expectations of what their sex life should be. Watching pornography can threaten the stability of a relationship when someone has unrealistic expectation of sex. Everything in moderation is always good advice. If you feel you may be addicted to pornography or have an unhealthy relationship with porn, you could always see a counsellor who could help you to restore balance. If pornography is affecting your sex life negatively with your long term partner or causing general issues in your relationship, it may be time to seek help.
I would recommend The Sexual Reboot if you feel you have a porn addiction. Several clients have used this book/course and have found it extremely helpful.
Interesting reading: “Your brain on porn”, Internet pornography and the emerging science of addiction http://commonwealth-publishing.com/shop/brain-porn/
Photo by Skley