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Does Porn Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

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In recent years, doctors have seen a sharp increase in the number of young men (under 40) suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Some people theorize that the increased rate of ED among young men is caused by “porn addiction” – a condition that they refer to as Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED).

While this seems like a reasonable belief, it does not appear to be supported by clinical research.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine1 concluded that “We found little evidence of the association between pornography use and male sexual health disturbances. Contrary to raising public concerns, pornography does not seem to be a significant risk factor for younger men’s desire, erectile, or orgasmic difficulties.”

A cross-sectional study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine2 found “no evidence of causal links between any pornography variables and ED.”

Some experts believe that men who are already suffering from erectile dysfunction watch more porn due to frustration after failed sexual encounters with their partners.  In other words, ED promotes porn viewing, rather than the other way around. There are several studies3 that support this idea.

A 2014 study4 found that “VSS [porn]use within the range of hours tested is unlikely to negatively impact sexual functioning, given that responses actually were stronger in those who viewed more VSS.”

Finally, a 2019 research review5 found that “there is little or no evidence on a causal relationship between erectile dysfunction and frequency of pornography use.”

Also note that many experts dispute the notion of porn addiction and sex addiction in general6. In fact, PIED and “porn addiction” are not recognized in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-V), nor by the International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM) – although it can fall under the general category of compulsive behaviors.

A 2017 study7 presented a nuanced view. They characterized the type of porn-viewing, and the personality traits of the viewers: recreational (76%); highly distressed non-compulsive (13%), and compulsive (11.8%). They found that recreational users were likely to report higher sexual satisfaction and lower incidence of ED, while the highly distressed non-compulsive, and compulsive viewers reported lower levels of satisfaction and higher incidence of ED.

A 2014 study, published in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, addressed the claims that porn is addictive by using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to examine the brains of self-declared “porn addicts” while viewing porn. They found that brain patterns were normal, and did not exhibit patterns associated with addictions.

Some studies8 9 show a correlation between watching porn and erectile dysfunction. But remember that correlation does not imply causation. Studies have been criticized for not “controlling” for other variables, such as mental health, employment status, social anxiety, relationship status, or other medical conditions.

Despite the skepticism of psychologists and therapists, belief in PIED persists, mostly due to Internet sites with a vested interest in promoting and selling “cures.”

Masturbation

There is also a persistent belief that masturbation causes erectile dysfunction. Scientist have also debunked this idea. In fact masturbation may have health benefits for men.

(See “What Guys Need to Know About Masturbation.”)

Summary

There is no evidence that porn causes ED. However, if regular use of porn has become compulsive, or interferes with your life or relationships, it is a good idea to reduce your use of porn.

Based on the overall research we have seen:

  1. Some studies have found that porn viewing is associated with higher incidence of erectile dysfunction, while others have found no correlation.
  2. There is no evidence that porn viewing is causative of erectile dysfunction. Rather, both are related to other social disorders which are likely the causative factors.
  3. There is no evidence that use of pornography is addictive in a clinical sense, and some evidence that it is not.

Men seeking to reduce their porn viewing or get help for sexual and social anxiety disorders should contact a counselor or coach specializing in sex and intimacy issues.


References

  1. Landripet, Ivan; Stulhofer, Aleksandar. “Is Pornography Use Associated with Sexual Difficulties and Dysfunctions among Younger Heterosexual Men?: Pornography Use and Male Sexual Health Disturbances.” Journal of Sexual Medicine. Apr 2015. <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274141270_Is_Pornography_Use_Associated_with_Sexual_Difficulties_and_Dysfunctions_among_Younger_Heterosexual_Men_Pornography_Use_and_Male_Sexual_Health_Disturbances>
  2. Grubbs, Joshua B; Gola, Mateusz. “Is Pornography Use Related to Erectile Functioning? Results From Cross-Sectional and Latent Growth Curve Analyses.” Journal of Sexual Medicine. January 2019
    <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30621919/>
  3. Ley, David ; Prause, Nicole; Finn, Peter. “The Emperor Has No Clothes: A Review of the ‘Pornography Addiction’ Model.” Current Sexual Health Reports. June 2014, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 94–105
    <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11930-014-0016-8>
  4. Prause, Nicole; Pfaus, James. “Viewing Sexual Stimuli Associated with Greater Sexual Responsiveness, Not Erectile Dysfunction.” Sexual Medicine. Apr 2014. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26185674>
  5. Dwulit, Aleksandra Diana; Rzymski, Piotr. “The Potential Associations of Pornography Use with Sexual Dysfunctions: An Integrative Literature Review of Observational Studies.” Journal of Clinical Medicine. Jul 2019
    <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6679165/>
  6. Ley, David J.  The Myth of Sex Addiction. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014.
  7. Vaillancourt-Morel, Marie-Pier; Blais-Lecours, Sarah; Labadie, Chloé; Bergeron, Sophie; Sabourin, Stéphane; Godbout, Natacha. “Profiles of Cyberpornography Use and Sexual Well-Being in Adults.” Journal of Sexual Medicine. Jan 2017; 14(1):78-85.
    <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28011208/>
  8. Park, Brian Y; Wilson, Gary; Berger, Jonathan; Christman, Matthew; Reina, Bryn; Bishop, Frank; Klam, Warren P; Doan, Andrew P; Lane, Scott D. “Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports.” Behavioral Science. Sep 2016; 6(3): 17.
    <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5039517>
  9. Berger, Jonathan; Doan, Andrew; Kehoe, John; Marshall, Michael; Klam, Warren; Crain, Donald; Christman, Matthew. “Survey of Sexual Function and Pornography.” The Journal of Urology, Vol. 197, Issue 4. April 2017.
    <https://www.jurology.com/article/S0022-5347(17)34619-0/fulltext>

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