How Much Porn Is Too Much?

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How Much Porn Is Too Much?
Focused on whether porn is right or wrong distracts from helping men who view it.

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.

Article contributed by
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Dr. Joe Kort

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Joe Kort, PhD

Relationship and Clinical Sex Therapist

Location: Royal Oak, MI
Credentials: ACSW, LMSW, MA, MSW, PhD
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