8 Harmful Effects of Pornography on Individuals

8 Harmful Effects of Pornography on Individuals

By Caron C. Andrews

Think viewing pornography is simply a harmless, enjoyable diversion? Think again. The enormous increase in the availability and variety of porn since the introduction of the internet has led to a staggering array of social, interpersonal, and physical problems among porn users. Here is a list of eight harmful effects porn has on individuals:

Porn actually changes the brain. The brain is made up of neurons, or brain cells, that are activated by different types of stimuli, such as a smell or sound or sight. Once they’re activated, they release chemicals that reinforce the connections between the neurons. A chemical that is released during porn use is dopamine, which is also released when using addictive substances. With frequent exposure to porn, dopamine overwhelms the brain, and the brain’s response to cope with the onslaught is to remove some of the dopamine receptors, which in turn removes the porn user’s ability to feel the effects as strongly as he had before. Consequently, it trains the brain to require more and more dopamine to feel the initial effect. When porn usage is frequent, the dopamine level required to feel excitement is so heightened that the person can no longer feel pleasure at only things that used to make him happy [1].

Porn can affect behavior. Because of the need for increased levels of dopamine to experience the high that porn first gave them, people tend to look for harder and more explicit or deviant images to feel that initial excitement. The brain connects the images to the sense of pleasure and excitement. This is how people can easily progress to viewing porn that used to shock or disgust them. Seeing these kinds of images over and over normalizes them to the user, making them seem acceptable and even common. Research also shows that porn users exhibit more dominating and harassing behavior toward women, have less compassion for rape victims, and have more violent attitudes toward women, even leading to actual violence against women [2].

Porn can lead to sexual dysfunction. Common physical problems that porn users experience with real-life partners are trouble getting and maintaining an erection, needing pornographic images to ejaculate, and difficulty even having an orgasm [3]. During real-life sex, a man may feel disconnected to his partner and take a long time to reach orgasm. He may need to rely on remembered pornographic images to reach orgasm. But he is able to get an erection and have an orgasm when using porn [4].

Porn can harm your sense of healthy sexuality. Regular use of porn can lead to feeling less aroused by a real-life partner. When a person is putting a lot of time and energy into porn, the result is a turning away from a close human relationship and a turning toward the source of the stimulation on the screen or page. Porn can change sexual tastes and preferences toward things that are more deviant, dangerous, or illicit than what used to be arousing [5].

Porn stunts the ability to have meaningful and satisfying real-life relationships. Spending a lot of time using porn can be isolating as the user turns more and more to the porn and away from actual people. Since most people try to hide their usage, they become adept at “tucking away” their porn habit into a separate compartment of their mind, many times feeling that it is something that is not a part of their “real” life. They now have secrets from the people in their lives, making it impossible to be truly honest [6]. When a person is constantly bombarded with images of explicit and anonymous sex aimed at gratifying the user without any consideration of the other person’s feelings, it’s not a far stretch to become overly self-involved and insensitive to others.

Porn teaches that women are sexual objects. Women are portrayed as a collection of orifices, ready at any time for anything sexual the man may want, and with no human or sexual needs of her own. She is neither given nor worthy of basic human dignity and respect; rather, she is objectified and used for men’s gratification. She is never referred to as a woman, but an array of derogatory names such as slut, whore, bitch, and much worse. These are some ways that porn kills empathy and desensitizes the user to women’s humanity.

Porn can make you feel bad about yourself. Porn usage can very easily and very quickly spiral out of control and hijack a person’s self-image and self-esteem. The incongruity between his values and beliefs, and his actions can cause intense stress. He can simultaneously believe that what he’s doing is wrong and feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of addiction. Even when caught using porn, he can be torn between justifying it or minimizing its significance, and feeling powerless over it. He can question what kind of person he is that he is able to view and get excited by the scenes and images he sees. He can feel hypocritical and demoralized [7].

Porn can make noticeable changes in your everyday mood. Many porn users find themselves becoming easily annoyed at things that didn’t used to irritate them and feeling depressed or angry. This can come from the conflicting feelings the person has about using porn—he knows that society in general, and likely the people in his life, look at porn users as deviants or perverts, and he spends an enormous amount of energy keeping it secret, fantasizing about it when he’s not using it, and simultaneously be ashamed of his need for and lack of control over it [8].

Clearly, porn usage is not a harmless pastime. The good news is that people can recover from porn usage and porn addiction and relearn healthy sexual and relational behaviors. Once a person becomes aware of the effect porn has on his life, he can face it and overcome it. Click here to read about ways to become porn-free. (place links to where to get help)

For more information on this subject, check out our book How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. It is also available in Spanish.

Citations:
[1] http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts#brain/porn-changes-the-brain
[2] http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts#brain/porn-affects-your-behavior
[3] http://www.sexualrecovery.com/blog/porn-addiction-erectile-dysfunction.php
[4] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-and-sex-in-the-digital-age/201401/is-male-porn-use-ruining-sex
[5] http://www.healthysex.com/page/recognizing-problems-caused-by-porn
[6] Maltz, Wendy and Maltz, Larry, The Porn Trap (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 74-75.
[7] Maltz, Wendy and Maltz, Larry, The Porn Trap (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 86-88.
[8] Maltz, Wendy and Maltz, Larry, The Porn Trap (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 72-74.