Healthy Living | Natural Remedies

Watching Porn in Moderation Can Be Good For Your Health

It's not necessarily the case that porn is bad for you. In moderation (and this appears to be key when talking about this topic), watching porn may be actually good for you.

In the age of the Internet, pornography is everywhere, and it seems like you get an eyeful once in a while, like it or not. The experience might be shocking, alluring, or perhaps laughable, but when it comes to your health, is watching porn good or bad for you?

To shed some light on the subject, we dove into the topic of the health effects of watching pornography with the help of several experts including: Dr. Adi Jaffe, executive director of Alternatives Behavioral Health; New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder MD; and Joanne Bagshaw, PhD, a psychology and women’s studies professor at Montgomery College.

The Mental Health Effects of Watching PornographyPornography Good or Bad for Your Mental and Sexual Health?-Photo2

When it comes to whether or not watching pornography is bad for you, many people want to look at the mental health aspect of the debate. Surely, because some of society views watching pornographic content as a negative thing, it must negatively affect us on all levels…right?

Well, that’s not necessarily the case. In moderation (and this appears to be key when talking about this topic), watching porn may be actually good for you.

“Yes, there are benefits to watching porn,” explains Joanne Bagshaw, PhD.

“For example, a 2008 study surveyed Danish women and men between the ages of 18 and 30 on the effects that watching porn had on their personality.”

Both men and women, Bagshaw says, reported that watching pornography had positive effects on some aspects of their lives, including:

  • attitudes about sex
  • sexual knowledge
  • sex life
  • quality of life in general

“Even when in a relationship, there are benefits to watching porn, either alone or together, which is why I often recommend it for couples who would like to rev up their sex life, or who have mismatched desire – one partner wants sex more often, for example – to integrate pornography into their sex lives.”

Bagshaw also notes that couples who communicate honestly with each other about their pornography-watching habits tend to have higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of distress, and couples that watch porn together tend to have lower levels of distress in their relationships. 

In these ways, Bagshaw states, watching porn is good for your health.

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Is Watching Porn Good or Bad for Your Physical and Sexual Health?

Watching porn may also cause changes in your life, especially in relationships, and these then tie into some of the mental reasons watching porn may be bad for you.

The American Psychological Association (APA) notes watching porn frequently can lead to:

  • Lower sex qualityfor couples
  • Decreased intimacy with your partner
  • Emotional withdrawal from the relationship (particularly for men)
  • Addictive behaviors such as not being able to resist the desire of watching porn at work

“When we see our clients with porn problems, we see very similar behavior patterns to those of substance-using clients and they often go together,” says Dr. Jaffe. “The accessibility of porn can make it even more problematic because it requires little money and is incredibly convenient to acquire. That means it can be considered a very cheap and effective drug. “

Snyder adds, “Most of the negative effects of porn occur when you’re doing it a lot. When I talk to a couple and the man is masturbating to porn twice a week, that’s a lot different from if he’s doing it twice a day. In the latter case, the number of orgasms he’s having by himself is going to far outnumber the ones he’s having with his partner.”

According to Snyder, the situation becomes like Pavlov’s dog: When the man’s partner falls asleep, that’s going to register as a positive sex signal–“time to turn on the porn”–and when the partner wakes up, it’s going to feel like “no more porn for now.”

The man is essentially conditioning himself to turn off to his partner.

This is definitely on the list of why watching pornography might be bad for some people.

“I’ve seen hundreds of couples where that’s happened,” he says. “Once it’s explained to them, he can correct the situation–by making sure he brings more orgasms to bed with his partner than he brings to porn.”

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Why Do People Want to Watch Pornography?

Even if you’ve personally never watched porn, there’s no denying that millions of people in the world do.

In fact, according to research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, 66% of all men and 41% of all women view pornography at least once a month. Approximately 50% of Internet activity is sex- related.

So what’s the big draw? Is it something hardwired into our genetic code that leads us to feel watching pornography is good for us?

“Humans are drawn to rewards, both natural and manufactured,” explains Dr. Adi Jaffe. “Pornography occupies an interesting middle ground, as it presents a natural reward – sex- in a manufactured setting  – display devices – and in high concentration.”

He notes this reaction is not all that different than that of a drug like cocaine; something drawn from a natural resource – coca leaves – and altered to a more concentrated form for consumption.

For men, this reward system may stem back to an evolutionary process.

Some experts believe men are hardwired to watch pornography.

In times gone by, survival of mankind hinged on procreation, and that often meant having sex with multiple women, as much as possible. What’s more, men tend to be more easily aroused than women (another initial way of ensuring survival of the species) so visual stimuli can be very gratifying for men.

“We’re basically designed to enjoy watching other people have sex,” adds sex therapist Stephen Snyder, MD.  “For most of human evolution there were no bedroom doors, so sex would have been more or less a public spectacle. There’s a theory that the sounds many female mammals, including us, make during sex are meant to attract other males to come join in the fun.”

According to Snyder, the desire to watch pornography is completely natural.

However, human societies don’t live according to the natural order, making us wonder if watching this graphic content is bad altogether.

“We alter it in the pursuit of cultural goals like strict monogamy–which is highly unnatural, but good for ensuring paternity, making sure mortgages get paid on time, putting kids through college, and so on.”

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Addiction: When Watching Pornography Is Bad for You

There is a flipside to pro-porn coin, however. Watching pornography is bad for you mentally when it becomes an addiction, and research shows us that excessive viewing of pornographic content has been linked to:

  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Anxiety

And this isn’t just a side effect of the pornographic content; it’s also a result of feeling as if the habit of watching pornography is becoming uncontrollable.

“Certainly, if you’re watching so much porn that you can’t leave the house, or prefer masturbating to porn than having actual sex with your partner, those are serious problems in your life and relationship that need to be addressed,” says Bagshaw.

“But I’m more likely to consider compulsive porn watching as a symptom of a bigger or more complex problem than the cause of the problem.”

Bagshaw adds, “What science tells us is that some kinds of porn is negative for certain people.  For instance, the correlation between violence and porn is most closely linked to men who watch violent porn and had already held attitudes that supported violence against women.”

Pornography and ‘Erotic Energy’

Ultimately, pornographic content is out there, and it’s easily accessible–just look at all those spam ads on your internet browsers! That doesn’t mean pornography is innately bad, though.

“Most couples try to balance the need for strict sexual monogamy with the wish not to close themselves off to the erotic energies of the universe,” explains Snyder. “There’s eroticism all around us, which most couples enjoy. They flirt at work, for example, and enjoy ‘celebrity crushes’. Then they bring this erotic energy home to their spouses. As the saying goes, ‘It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, as long as you come home to eat.’”

For some people, he concludes, watching porn in moderation is just one more way to engage the erotic energies of the universe while staying monogamous.

Why Do so Many People Think Pornography Is Bad?

“Our culture is very shaming about sexuality in general and pornography in particular,” notes Bagshaw. “Most of what is written about porn is designed to scare us by using unscientifically based terms like ‘porn addiction’ which leads the general public into thinking that all pornography watching is bad and harmful.”

Watching porn has become a threatening topic because it’s thought of as a moral issue in society, she explains, and our culture’s discussions on porn are rarely grounded in science.

“We begin to lose balance and perspective when we can only look at an issue in one way. For example, how many people have heard of feminist porn? I’ll bet not as many people are aware that there is pornography available that shows real couples in real relationships having sex with real orgasms as there are people who have heard of porn addiction.”

In fact, only a very small fraction of porn viewers are at the level of addiction. The APA notes approximately 9% of porn users have tried to stop their habit but couldn’t.

“I do believe that the instinct to seek pleasure is a natural one and, while some individuals do develop problems with rewards – drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. – it is a relative minority,” concludes Dr. Jaffe.

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