Is watching porn good or bad for your mental and sexual health?

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The word “porn,” short for pornography, generally carries with it a negative undertone.  With an indescribable amount of internet porn that is easily available to the public, many questions arise.

For instance, is watching porn bad for your mental or sexual health? Or, on the contrary, are there any sexual and mental benefits to watching porn? Does it negatively affect teenagers? Are adults who watch it depressed or sex addicts? These are all questions often surrounding the topic — and not always easily answered.

Is watching porn good or bad?

Internet porn is just a broad term for a variety of erotic images, books and movies online (Shutterstock photo)

Who is watching porn?

Despite the rumors, pornography is not just for the sexually depraved as some would  believe. Many healthy individuals and couples indulge in internet or video porn.

To understand who is watching porn, it is important to first understand what it is, as everyone has a slightly different opinion on the topic.

By definition, pornography is “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.”

That being said, many things can be classified as pornography, especially certain genres of books, movies, cartoons, and photographs. And just as there are many different forms of porn, it can affect men, women and young adults all differently.

Is watching porn bad for teenagers?

Teenagers are well versed in the online world, and growing concerns have been raised about teenagers watching pornography. According to a report from Computerworld, a study from Australian researchers links teenagers watching porn to an increased likelihood of real-life sexual behaviors. The study included many countries, but was focused primarily in the United States.

According to the research, teens who watched pornography “were more likely to have higher numbers of sexual partners, engage in a wider diversity of sexual practices, and use alcohol or drugs in association with sexual encounters.” These teenagers were also more likely to have a high occurrence of sexually transmitted infections.

Though the research indicated exposure to sexually explicit images may result in earlier sexual experiences, it did not prove that watching porn causes any harm to teens,  but rather only exposes them to the risks associated with being sexually active.

Psychology Today adds that watching porn does not result in higher rates of rape or sexual irresponsibility among teens as some social conservatives have stated.

Instead, the rates of such instances have actually decreased, and teenage condom usage is rising.

The report also notes a study involving Swedish teens found the participants were able to easily distinguish between fantasies online and real relationships.

What are the concerns for adults watching porn?

The first major issue when it comes to adults and pornography is that of addiction.

Like many feel-good activities and drugs, addiction to porn is entirely possible. The Sexual Recovery Institute states porn addicts behave in the same manner as people who have chemical addictions; they replace their meaningful relationships and activities with their addiction.

Porn addicts are usually isolated and can spend hours or even days locked away from social contact while they feed their addiction. Just like alcoholics or drug abusers, porn addicts often need professional assistance to overcome their issue.

Depression may also be a problem when it comes to frequent pornography viewing suggests Psychology Today; however, depression may be linked to relationship status, as single men tend to view more pornography than married men. Over all, the Psychology Today investigation revealed both married and single men experienced moderate to severe depression symptoms, though the findings were more prevalent in those who viewed porn frequently.

A separate article in Psychology Today addresses another important aspect about porn addiction; being addicted to watching porn does not necessarily equate to an addiction to sex.

Many porn addicts cannot be aroused by real-life women.

Many porn addicts cannot be aroused by real-life women. (Shutterstock photo)

Sex addiction involves real people, whereas porn addiction involves mostly images. Many porn addicts cannot be aroused by real-life women, even if they find them attractive. They also can see themselves with a single partner while sex addicts crave multiple partners.

People addicted to porn also tend to have issues with physical sexual dysfunctions, compared to sex addicts who rarely report such issues.

Men’s Health also noted how porn addiction can negatively affect sex drive.

“There are young guys who have grown up wired to high-speed Internet porn,” Marnia Robinson, co-authors of Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habits to Harmony in Sexual Relationships, told the publication. “Now this survey matches up with what we have been seeing for years—that that these guys are having addiction symptoms. The experts were telling them, ‘Take a Viagra’ and ‘You just have performance anxiety.’ Well you obviously don’t have performance anxiety with your own hand.”

Are there positive health benefits to watching porn?

Despite the studies which indicate there are negative effects of watching porn, an investigation conducted by Gert Martin Hald and Neil M. Malamuth found in their 2008 paper titled Self-Perceived Effects of Pornographic Consumption both men and women benefited from watching.

Not only did study participants state watching improved their sex lives, attitudes toward sex, perceptions of the opposite sex, and life in general, but the more hardcore porn viewed, the greater the perceived positive effect.

However, because men and woman can have very different views on the acceptability in a relationship, this should be a topic of discussion among couples who indulge in the experience.

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