Is there a link between porn and erectile dysfunction?

One of the most common concerns I hear from patients is regarding the use of pornography and masturbation. There is a lot of buzz on the Internet these days about the idea of porn addiction and websites devoted to “Porn-induced erectile dysfunction.” The topic causes a lot of anxiety and concern. I hear parents worrying about the effect of porn on their kids (a concern I certainly can share), I hear partners worrying about the man’s porn habits, and I hear men themselves worry that they are somehow damaging themselves by watching porn.

This is a difficult conversation because there is an element of truth in it, but the truth is often elusive and difficult to talk about without getting into political and moral controversy.

My concern is that porn use is used as a weapon of shame in conversations. There is a lot of anxiety around the use of pornography and there seems to be a fear that viewing pornography will cause harm to relationships and sexual function.

The fact is that studies have shown that pornography use does not cause erectile dysfunction (ED). A group of social scientists have gotten together and created a site about research and science on the effects of pornography called Real Your Brain on Porn.  They do not claim to have all the answers, but they do strive to keep the conversation based on reliable information.

Here’s an excerpt:

Today, the panic is over pornography or, more neutral, sex films. Getting good information about sex films is very difficult. Many people claim expertise without possessing any. Groups make millions of dollars claiming to “fight” sex films based on “science,” yet work with no scientists. While there are dozens of anti-pornography organizations, there is no advocacy group for sex film’s positive health effects.
We are a group of experts trained in and/or researching the effects of sex films. We do not advocate for (or against) viewing sex films as any blanket recommendation. We are willing to connect with media and colleagues, to provide accurate, balanced, science-based information.

I tend to neither proscribe nor advocate porn. I certainly think pornography sets up some unrealistic rotations about body parts and bodily functions. And I am often frustrated that men see porn as an accurate depiction of sex. I do think that young men see too much porn too early and it provides a lot of misinformation about sex and sexuality.

However, the accusations that porn is causing ED or the reason a man watches porn is because he does not want to have sex with his partner are highly inaccurate. I often try to find the reason why a man would prefer sex with porn instead of with his partner. This can often open a difficult, but necessary, conversation. There is almost always a reason a man does not want to have sex with his partner if he is watching pornography instead of having sex. This is a conversation that very often should be taken up with a trained professional.

It may feel good to blame dysfunction on the porn because it is an easy target. Our culture has a very complicated relationship with pornography. But the fact is, it is usually not that simple of an answer. There are probably many reasons why a man is watching porn instead of interacting with a partner in real life. It takes time and patience to explore.

If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, or another form of sexual dysfunction, contact us to schedule an appointment.