How Much Porn Is Too Much? When Is It Porn Addiction?

How Much Porn Is Too Much? When Is It Porn Addiction?

Expert
Heartbreak, Sex

Focused on whether porn is right or wrong distracts from helping men who view it.

Men looking at pornography on the Internet usually ask how much porn is too much. And if I get really caught up in it, what should I do?

As a sex and relationship therapist, my job is to assess the relationship one has with porn, not the porn itself. Too often people argue whether or not pornography and those who create it are okay. Focused on whether porn is right or wrong distracts from helping men who view it make a decision about whether or not it is helpful for them.

The first thing people call someone compulsively—and even not compulsively!--looking at Internet porn these days is a “sex addict.” That may be true. But there are many other reasons for why men are drawn to looking at porn compulsively. There are healthy, non-pathological reasons men might be viewing porn compulsively.

Feeling ashamed for watching porn and the type of images enjoyed is one reason for excessive viewing. In our everyday American culture, we don’t talk openly about our sexual fantasies—especially ones that aren’t so common, and more kinky. As a result, both men and women are left to think if they enjoy porn, then something’s inherently wrong with them. Feelings of intense and toxic shame can make the “forbidden” seem more desirable.

The feeling of transgression is itself a thrill and can heighten one’s interest to the point of compulsion. Once the shame is reduced, the compulsion is eased as a result.

Being new to watching porn is another reason that can cause compulsive behaviors and obsessive fantasies. The sheer novelty could be what’s captured men’s interest and attention. A first exposure to pornography can cause obsessive-compulsive sexual behavior for up to one year.

In the 1990s, porn’s increasing availability on the Internet brought many men into therapy offices. Online pornography was eating up so much of their time that it interfered with their lives. Once the novelty of Internet porn wore off, most of these men’s obsessions subsided automatically.

Another reason why men get caught up in watching too much porn is that they’re broadening their sexual repertoire. Over time things men didn’t know they enjoyed now become part of their erotic fantasies and desires. For those who are addicted to porn, it is more of a progression to unhealthy erotic fantasies needing more and more unusual things to turn them on. I will discuss this later in this article.

Sometimes images in the media, porn or in advertising can trigger sexual fantasies and desires you never knew you had making you curious and eager to investigate. For most men and women, broadening sexual interests and fantasies is inherently healthy and a normal reaction and, once integrated, it doesn’t remain compulsive over time.

Another reason for obsessive-compulsive viewing of porn is the coming out process. In their first three years of coming out gay or bisexual, men tend to develop sexually promiscuous behaviors—which includes viewing pornography, naturally. This arises from what I call delayed adolescence.

During their teenage years, gay men and bisexuals don’t have any healthy outlets to experiment with sexual behavior and instead are shamed into stifling their feelings and sexual longings. So during the coming-out process, men make up for lost time, preoccupied with pornography just like male teenagers would be. Again, this is a healthy, normal stage of development that’s usually gone though over a three-year span of time or less.

Sex therapist Ian Kerner coined the term Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder (SADD) to describe how watching at too much porn can prompt erectile dysfunction and disinterest in a partner. As Kerner wrote, “easy access to internet porn and the sheer variety of novelty it contains have affected average guys who would not normally have a problem with pornography.”

In my office, I hear men tell me that they can’t focus on whomever they’re dating because their minds stray elsewhere—recalling choice moments from the porn they’ve watched. Their peak sexual experiences are driven by the porn or themselves, not their partners.

None of these are pathological reasons why men watch pornography compulsively. But certainly there can be dysfunctional reasons as well.
The three common problems with porn which I see most often are men who suffer from sexual addiction, childhood sexual abuse and trauma and intimacy and courtship disorders.

When worrying about whether sexual addiction applies, remember that research shows only 3 to 5% of people suffer from sex addiction. But if you are one of them, you’ll want to be on the right path for recovery.

Questions to explore are 1) Is it interfering with your life by eating into scheduled events, taking time away from social outlets and spending time with friends? 2) Do you experience failed attempts to quit, loss of control—in terms of not being able to control the amount of time you spend enjoying porn, and reducing the time you spend dating.

When boys or girls are sexually abused, the effects of their trauma often don’t surface until later when they are ready to form sexual intimacy in adolescence and young adulthood. Having been traumatized by childhood sexual abuse, they never develop the basic skills needed to form and maintain sexual relationships with others. Instead close sexual relationships make them experience fear, shame and anxiety. To avoid re-experiencing early feelings of powerlessness, they discover that “meaningless” sex is a highly effective technique for keeping intimacy at bay.

Compulsively looking at porn can be a way of avoiding emotional connectedness with a significant other and be an intimacy disorder. If you were raised in a home where love was rarely shown or was replaced by emotional, physical and verbal abuse, then you may have learned that close relationships feel scary. This can leave you with a courtship disorder, in which you seek to avoid most if not all dating and relationship skills. If so, then compulsive sexual behavior can seem like the ideal solution to the psyche to “fix” the problem, since it can’t ever reject you, abandon you, or hurt you.

Looking at pornography can be normal and healthy. Most men learn about their sexuality and sexual interests through porn beginning in their teenage years by stealing glances and magazines from their fathers and, these days, from the Internet. It can also become unhealthy and dangerous and ruin lives and relationships.

My hope from those who read this article is for a balanced assessment of porn viewing without a pre-judged decision about whether it is good or bad. Get to know the person who views it, not the porn itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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