How Porn Addiction Is Harming Our Sexual Health

The online porn industry is worth around $15 billion, and is reaching more young people every year. In 2016, 64 million people visited Pornhub on a daily basis. In 2017, it leapt to 81 million people consuming over four billion hours of footage. And it is millennials who account for 60 percent of Pornhub’s visitors.

This rise in porn consumption is leading to what some are calling a new type of addiction, where an unhealthy dependence on explicit materials is leading sufferers to struggle to form relationships with other people.

Psychosexual therapist Dr Angela Gregory, from the men’s healthcare clinic International Andrology London. tells Newsweek that the accessibility of online porn means young people are encountering sexual imagery much earlier in life than they did in the past.

“You had a much slower awakening in terms of finding out more about sex and relationships and sexual practices because there wasn’t anything available," she said. "Now you don’t need to go to the living room and wait for the parents to go to bed or wait until you are on your own to access it. Today you have your smartphones and you can be anywhere."

‘Shame and pleasure’

Erica Garza, a former porn addict and author of the memoir Getting Off, was only 12 years old when she masturbated for the first time. “I found it thrilling but I was also very scared because I never heard anybody talking about masturbation, never heard anybody talking about sex. So it seemed to be this mystery that I stumbled upon but I knew I liked it,” she tells Newsweek.

From that point onwards, the now 35-year-old used sex as a way to find shelter from the pain of the real world, from being bullied at school to not receiving attention from her parents. “I didn’t want to feel the insecurity, I didn’t want to feel the loneliness, I didn’t want to feel the rejection that I felt everyday. So I just masturbated and watched porn and all I had to feel was the pleasure between my legs."

Garza was born into a middle-class Mexican family and attended a Catholic school in L.A., making it even more difficult to have any open discussions about such topics. “Nobody ever talked about sex, and the same thing was at school. They made very clear that sex was something that happened between two married people who loved each other, for one reason alone—procreation,” Garza said.

Erica Garza - First Communion Garza was born into a middle-class Mexican family and attended a Catholic school in L.A., making it even more difficult to have any open discussions about such topics. Erica Garza      Erica Garza The recent explosion in online porn means it is hard to know exactly what knock-on effect it will have on the sexual health of future generations. Erica Garza

“I stumbled across soft pornography on cable TV and I had the same sort of reaction, something that was thrilling and exciting. So early on, this feeling of pleasure and excitement was wrapped up with this feeling of shame and feeling I was doing something wrong. Shame and pleasure became an integral part of my sexuality."

At this time, the internet was becoming more and more sophisticated. “I would have new chat rooms to look at," Garza said. "I would have the ability to download pictures—and suddenly pictures would downloaded faster. Then I could have streaming clips. It all became more enticing and engaging and hard to pull away from."

‘No boundaries’

The anonymity, accessibility, and affordability of online porn is damaging men and women’s health more than ever before, causing them emotional and psychological problems. “What we see is an increase of women who are not happy with their genitalia, and men who are worried about penis size,” Gregory said. “Before pornography—in the way we know it today—when did you ever see another woman’s vulva? When, if you were an heterosexual, did you see another man's erection? You didn't have anything to compare yourself to. Now you can,” she adds.

Garza says she knew she had a dysfunctional relationship with sex and porn because her sexual habits were keeping her from being intimate with other people. “Sex was the most important thing and it started to feel like a mechanical movement like I wasn’t really driving much pleasure from it beyond just the attaining orgasm,” she explained.

And like any other addictions, frequent porn consumption tends to escalate. In fact, porn users usually need an ever-increasing dosage over time in order to feel the same level of enjoyment. “For some people, there can’t only be the compulsive element, they want to constantly be viewing and masturbating to what they are seeing online and I think there can also be an escalation in what they view,” Gregory notes.

Dr Angela Gregory The anonymity, accessibility, and affordability of online porn is damaging men and women’s health more than ever before, causing them emotional and psychological problems. Sho Murakoshi/Newsweek

“They need more and more exciting or different or novel material in order to get the same level of sexual arousal. Because once you’ve got no boundaries, where do you go? If there are no limits, how far do you go?” 

The recent explosion in online porn means it is hard to know exactly what knock-on effect it will have on the sexual health of future generations. By 2019, around 2.5 billion people worldwide will be using smartphones. As it becomes more and more difficult to control the access young people have to online porn, there is a real danger that a growing number of people will develop warped sexual expectations and an unhealthy relationship with porn.

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