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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).

Their thinking goes like this: men who watch a lot of porn become conditioned to it. By comparison, sexual connections with a real partner seem much less arousing.

While this seems like a reasonable belief, it’s not clear if it’s true. Clinical research does not give a strong answer. Many studies1 2 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.

A cross-sectional study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine3 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 studies4 5 that support this idea.

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.

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.”

Summary

There is no conclusive 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, we would draw two conclusions:

  1. Porn viewing seems to be associated with higher incidence of erectile dysfunction.
  2. Porn view is not causative of erectile dysfunction. Rather, both are related to other social disorders which are likely the causative factors.

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. 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>
  2. 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>
  3. 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/>
  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. 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>
  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/>

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