Why Boys and Grown Men Surf Porn

If you’re honest with yourself and you’re a dude, you’ve surfed porn at some point in your life. I know I have.

Maybe it was a phase, maybe you’re still doing it. Do you pay for sites? Just browse the free ones and leave, deleting your cookies and any trace of your porn tracks so no one knows your little secret?

If you ever meet a man who denies surfing porn, I’d call BS on him right then and there. I’ve never met a man who hasn’t surfed porn at least once. What’s the problem with a guy who wants to surf a little porn now and again anyway? Initially, nothing.

In my opinion, nothing is fundamentally wrong with masturbation and your own sexuality, despite what strict religious organizations may tell you. The issue is not masturbation or even surfing porn, although many women might disagree.  And for good reason.  (The porn industry itself condones the abuse of power men have over women, many porn sites have  aggressive imagery, and what the industry teaches or trains us about our sexuality are all important issues that need to be addressed).

I write this post for four reasons:

1.  Few men talk honestly about it, so let’s go there. Bring on your comments.
2.  To help you understand why you hide your porn use and why you feel bad about it.
3.  To raise your awareness and help you understand what drives men to porn
4.  To take some action in relationship to your porn use

Before we go any further, let’s look at some important, but not surprising porn stats from Tech Crunch in 2007:

  • Every second, there are 28,258 people surfing porn
  • Every second, $89 is spent on porn
  • 266 new porn sites are put on the web daily
  • “Sex” is the most searched word on the web
  • $2.84 billion in revenue was generated from U.S. porn sites in 2006
  • 72% of porn viewers are men  (A 2001 Forrester Research Report had a slightly different number:  77% of online visitors to adult content sites are male. Their average age is 41 and they have an annual income of $60,000. 46% are married.)

To see other fascinating porn stats, click here: http://www.blazinggrace.org/cms/bg/pornstats

The numbers are clear. Even with the statistics, many men deny surfing porn. For the brave men that admit to surfing porn, there is little understanding and awareness around their use. So, why are the numbers so high?

According to a Kinsey Institute survey which asked “Why do you use porn?” respondents had this to say:

  • 72% said they used porn to masturbate/for physical release.
  • 69% – to sexually arouse themselves and/or others.
  • 54% – out of curiosity.
  • 43% – “because I can fantasize about things I would not necessarily want in real life.”
  • 38% – to distract myself.

From my perspective, we have to ask two important questions:

  1. Why does a man hide his porn use and then feel bad about it?
  2. Why is he surfing porn in the first place?

To answer the first question we have to look at our culture. With so many messages from religion and conservative groups telling us that sex is bad and wrong, many people in our culture end up repressing their sexual aliveness. At the same time, the media and pop culture oversexualize everything. Watch any beer commercial or MTV video. It’s no wonder we are so confused about sex and sexuality.

Repression + oversexualized imagery & messages = confused, disconnected shameful relationship to one’s own sexuality.

For example, in my work with men, at some point a man typically owns up to his porn use with me.  And, almost without fail, he feels shame and guilt about it. Often he’s married or has a girlfriend and surfs porn quite a bit without ever owning up to it with his partner. Understandably, this sets up a difficult dynamic with himself and with his partner.  Shame begets shame.

Think about it. What guy wants to admit that he doesn’t know how to manage the sexual life force raging through his body?  Men get mixed messages about sex, and with all the conflicting information, and nowhere to go to sort it out, it can end up coming out sideways in the form of strip clubs, constantly objectifying women, porn use, hookers and much more.

To answer question number 2, we have to investigate two of the responses in the Kinsey report: ”for physical release” and “to distract myself.” What is a man “distracting himself” from and what is it that he is “releasing” aside from the obvious?

In my professional opinion, this is the number 1 reason so many boys and men surf porn:

Guys surf porn to “check out” or to “distract themselves” from certain uncomfortable feelings they are experiencing, period. Said another way, surfing porn is a symptom of some underlying discomfort a man is experiencing. It’s this simple.

This comic points to a deeper reason men might surf porn….

Guys report feeling “off” inside and surfing porn becomes a way to “get rid of” (another way of saying “physical release”) the discomfort. It is very much like a quick high, a jolt of energy that feels great for a microsecond during orgasm. It works like a drug. It is a dopamine surge. If you have ever taken drugs or even use them in moderation, you know that getting high or having a drink can seem to “take the edge off” and for those fleeting moments, you feel better. Masturbation is no different.

But much like getting high or even taking a nap, reality has a way of creeping back in and, almost without fail, seconds after ejaculation shame and guilt set in as a guy attempts to hide his tracks and close his computer’s browser.

One client recently told me when he feels anxious, he goes to porn, gets the job done and feels less anxious for a little while.

Since most guys surf porn between the 9-5 hours, one would think they are just “bored” at their desk job. However if you investigate further, it turns out most of these men are just not happy with themselves, their job, or their life. They have an uncomfortable feeling inside that they are unwilling to feel or relate to.

So, what should a guy do?

Tell someone

This is a hotly debated subject with men who are willing to have this conversation. One option is to come out of the closet with your porn behavior. You kept it a secret for a reason, now break the ice by telling a close, trusting male friend that won’t judge you. A good man will probably empathize.

Next, determine how your partner might react to your porn use if you told her/him. For some folks, it helps, others it hurts.

For example, a client of mine recently got “busted” surfing porn by his partner. They had been struggling sexually for months. After fighting about it for several days, they worked through it and had the best sex they had had in a long time. There’s more to the story, but this was a major component clogging up their intimacy.

If you do share this with your partner, you have to be honest and let your partner have her reaction. Of course your lover will be upset. You have hidden something from them or “leaked” energy outside of your relationship. So don’t be surprised when your partner gets angry and/or sad.

Start paying attention to when you surf

If porn is a symptom of being “off” in your life, the “off” feeling is what you need to address. If you surf porn occasionally, start taking note of when these times occur. Did you just get in a fight with your wife recently? Do you have a lot of free time and this helps you pass the time? Why is it so hard to just be with yourself? What is going on in your life right now that feels so off? What time of day do you surf?

Next, try a porn fast. Take a break from porn altogether

No more porn. Commit to no porn for at least 3 months and then observe yourself and your behavior. Of course, if you’ve never done any self-inquiry, this is going to be challenging for you.  What you may find is by removing porn from the equation, you start to notice that you used porn to deal with some discomfort in your life. What do you replace it with? How do you cope?

See if you can notice right now what’s going on. If you surf porn, what about this article resonates? What does not?

The main purpose of this post is to free up the shame. Enough shame already. So many guys carry around endless amounts of shame. What would it be like to not run from your shame? Or what would your life be like if you didn’t run from the discomfort below the surface that is causing you to surf porn? I’d like to challenge you to engage with this aspect of your life so as to learn something important about yourself and your porn behavior.

Remember, the more you do self-inquiry and understand yourself, the more mastery you will have in your life and in this case, the more deeply you can come to know your own sexuality.

Got comments? Leave them here. Consider forwarding this post to a friend.

Oh, and here’s another important discussion about men and porn. Click here.

And, check out these super helpful mp3′s if you want a different relationship to porn. 

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Comments

comments

86 Comments

  1. I enjoy it occasionally but I feel that I have to be careful and take at least 4 day breaks between views because otherwise it is easy to get addicted. There are plenty of practices to help manage your sexual energy out there without porn or even masturbation.

    Reply
  2. Depending on the survery – 30-40% of porn surfers are women.

    It's not a big deal, and the scare tactics of the new Puritans don't jibe with reality.

    Get over it.

    Reply
    • Girl here. I’ll watch porn 4 – 7 times a month. I’ve definitely noticed doing it for a distraction and mood change. I don’t think it’s healthy for my sexuality. I see things I know would hurt or humiliate me; things that disgust me; the lack of intimacy between the actors (responding to direction, faking enjoyment, wincing in pain but acting like it’s ok); editing that miseducates how to best arouse a real woman… but still get off on it. I don’t want to watch it any more – would rather put effort into finding someone I can talk about my feelings with – but it’s really difficult to shake the addiction.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for articulating some of the facets of this past time. I'm in the midst of a divorce and have been a porn addict for sometime. I need to understand this reflex and this is the first time I've read anything of practical use in assessing the condition; more therapy needs to address this.

    Reply
    • You could try http://www.yourbrainonporn.com which explains porn addiction from a neurological perspective, plus offers practical advice to free yourself from the habit.
      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  4. This is a great post and your work is so beautiful, so needed.

    I am wondering if you've looked at the universal US male experience of circumcision. As a primal, attachment therapist, I know that circumcision is deep, deep wounding for the man and it is so embedded, so covered over with compensations that it is often not considered a source of any issues. I believe it is the main source of that inner feeling you speak of. Circumcision interferes with the mother-baby relationship in profound ways. The baby was powerless and often women were the ones to tie him down and now it is even women doctors who do the procedure to an non-consenting, uninformed baby. For the baby it is torture in the moment. It defines him. The foreskin was the nerve rich tissue meant to communicate with his brain about sex, pleasure, ecstasy. His brain knows this is possible but he can never achieve what his brain tells him … unless he addresses the circumcision trauma and the loss. In my experience as a woman, I can't not even image what it was like for the male boy, for the majority of adult men in our culture right now. I think it is reflected in the images of anger and bondage in porn. Many times the baby's penis is manipulated to be erect to facilitate the circumcision .. so this is his first sexual experience. Circumcised men have to have much more visual and physical stimulation .. often to the degree of “forgetting” about his partner. He has to be rougher and it is often too fast, too rough, to void of emotions for the female partner. I think porn is the way he can be in control to get what he needs without the disruption of a partner's needs and emotions … disappointment, failure, and the opposite of what they hoped their sexual encounter would bring.. connection.

    I used to do a radio show where we discussed circumcision indepth. Podcasts are available on the blog, http://www.thoughtcrimeradio.blogspot.com. I am doing a birth film that is about and for men. The site is http://www.TheOtherSideoftheGlass.blogspot.com.

    Sending you much love for your upcoming conference ….

    Reply
    • If that's true, then we should see better mother/son relationships and less use of porn/other addictions among uncircumcised males. Can you share any statistics to back up your assertion?

      Reply
      • Uncircumcised males and a healthier relationship with their mothers? What does your question even mean? Wow.

        Reply
    • This is fascinating! I'm continually
      moved by my deepening understanding of the mind~body relationship. I loved
      this. It made me wonder what unconscious cultural beliefs about men are behind
      the cultural obsession with circumcision. . .

      Reply
  5. I like your approach, that you deal with the underlying cause of why men are attracted to porn in the first place. Usually we hear about the damaging effects of pornography on women, society, the family, and so on– all of which are true, but they are simply *external* motivators not to be involved in porn. But unless you change the *inside* ,the heart, of a man, he will not be able to stop doing something he already knows is not quite right, not quite real. I hope many men read your article and begin the difficult but wonderful journey of facing oneself.

    Reply
  6. What about the guy who has a partner who has no sex drive other than monthly or quarterly? Is it fair to him to completely kill his to honor his partner? This is why many people cheat.

    Reply
    • great question. having no sex drive is probably a symptom of something else going on. no, to kill his sex drive to collude with hers would be to abandon oneself. but perhaps there is a deeper element missing in your relationship. my guess is that it's not just about the sex

      Reply
  7. I am so enlightened by your comments. I am very concerned about my boyfriend. I think he uses porn to “not deal” with his feelings, etc… I love him dearly and he does not even know that I know about it. I am not ugly. And we are both 50. Kids gone, lots of time for sex…. I could choose to be upset as many of these girls are young, but in some ways I do understand. Its not about that. We do have fabulous sex together 2-3 times a week. I know it could be better or more frequent, even but I do not want to upset him or make him feel ashamed, and I don't want to look at porn. I just have no need for this. He is certainly man enough for me. So what do I do – I know he gets easily stressed and I think he is using it to “check out”. My fondest wish would be just for him to get in touch with why he is doing this so much and so often and share his feelings with me or a friend like you said.

    Reply
    • time to tell the truth and get even more real in your relationship. sounds like you are withholding some, my guess he is too. things sound complacently good. you can choose that, or choose to risk more.

      Reply
  8. This is fascinating! I'm continually
    moved by my deepening understanding of the mind~body relationship. I loved
    this. It made me wonder what unconscious cultural beliefs about men are behind
    the cultural obsession with circumcision. . .

    Reply
  9. I always thought guys surfed porn bc they were confusing sex for intimacy & were looking for intimacy & of course, release.

    Reply
  10. I only hide my very minimal porn use because everytime i have been open about it my partner judges and demonises what for me is a curious exploration of my own sexuality. I find the damning attitude towards self responsible non addictive use of porn to be an expression of the female painbody – which would be fine if it was treated that way rather than an ignorant righteous crusade of judgements in which there is ZERO space for insight or genuine communication. Pure righteous rage parading as integrity. And yes i feel very frustrated.

    Reply
    • Guy, I hear your frustration for sure. Might be true that some of the damning attitude stuff is from the female painbody, but then the other half of the equation would be from the male pain-body. I also wonder if hiding is serving you or your partner. sounds like you might be scared to feel some discomfort in your own body/experience if you are more fully you. thanks for your honest expression here.

      Reply
  11. My feeling is that porn use is so rife because we are going through a shift in the way that men relate to women, and women to men. Men and women have both grown up with judgement about their sex drives (and desire for intimacy), judgement that separates us from it as much as porn does.

    Accepting the desire for porn within us is an important step of accepting what is, rather than bullshitting. On my journey I have met a lot of judgemental men and women who are shameful of their own sex drives, so finding people who are real about their shame and on the quest for healing is refreshing.

    I have found it useful to connect with the type of porn and to connect with that within myself. What I found is that by looking at the archetypes at work in the imbalance of intimacy, I became more aware of the part within me that I was subconsciously trying to be more intimate with, but felt fearful of.

    The fear of connecting to that part was how I was programmed by both my mother and my father, as well as by society, and it is in my experience a very broadly held program, which is now coming to light so we can choose more authentic intimacy with ourselves and others. Judging as ‘perverse’ the childlike exploration of our shamed selves is the same abusive relationship as that propounded in porn.

    Thanks for bringing this to the table

    Reply
  12. Hi Jason,

    I appreciate your work. Can you please include non-heterosexual people in your examples?

    Reply
    • yes. in this post or in general?

      Reply
  13. After 6 years of being married, my wife just found out that I have been watching porn… I dont spend money on it and I told her that I’d quit “and really meant it”. She still felt hurt and cheated. So she left me. And the bad thing is I really dont need porn, like the reasonings above I was just killing time. She always told me if I was gonna watch it then she didnt want to know about it, And without thinking about it I got up from the computer and forgot to clear the history. I never felt guilty about porn, in-fact alot of it is really funny… But in the end porn and my forgetfulness ruined my marrige.

    Reply
  14. Here’s one for you, my fiance and I have argued about the sex/ porn topic. we were in a long distance relationship for almost 2 years, he used to watch porn everyday for a number of reasons, wake up, get tired, when he was bored, or he just really enjoyed it. now that we live together, the only way he can get in the mood is if he watches porn first or if i take the initiative and physically touch his member. he said he only gets in the mood without help every 3 or so days. is that true, or do you think there is something deeper. he doesn’t ask me to “help” him out, he always wants me to start it…its not fair and very frustrating. he’s not your “typical” guy and i don’t know what to do anymore.

    Reply
    • Depends what “in the mood” means. I like sex, a lot. I’m horny, a lot. I’m rarely “in the mood” for sex with my wife anymore. I rarely initiate it with her.

      In our marriage, I’ve felt like my advances and suggestions have been rejected for a long time. I’m left with little faith in her with respect to her sexuality. I don’t expect it to be particularly satisfying for me. Especially if I get the sense that she’s humoring my needs or just going along with it or wants me to hurry up so she can get to sleep.

      So, if I’m horny enough to not think about her, I can have sex. If she’s horny enough to initiate and seem really into it, that works too. Otherwise, at this point, porn is preferable. If she’s not going to be present and really involved in it, I’d prefer not to be either.

      I don’t know what your situation is. In mine, porn and my problem go together in a sense, but I don’t see it as a cause and effect thing.

      Reply
  15. Hello there! Quick question that’s totally off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?

    My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to correct this issue.

    If you have any recommendations, please share.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  16. When Janel mentioned in her post that “Many times the baby’s penis is manipulated to be erect to facilitate the circumcision .. so this is his first sexual experience..” and so followed right after by the act of circumcision, that’s got to be an unconscious traumatic experience, that men may carry around with them, not even realizing? Might this affect one’s (often times, unconscious) fear of intimacy, sex? Who knows, I might be way off here but this does make me wonder, though?

    Reply
  17. Women seem to have a universal intuition about the danger of pornography. Of course, for some women, shame about sex is why they’re judgemental about pornography, but a lot of us know that it’s a dangerous drug (like alcohol or tablets or smoking). We know that you guys can so easily become addicted to the lie at the core of porn and we know we’ll loose you if you do. You’d be fine with the woman who found her husband’s cocaine at home and freaked-out – pornography is no different. We know that the delicate, special connection we have with you is smothered to death by porn and that we’ll probably loose you forever. Please see the danger and resist it. You are at danger too; I’ve met guys who, because pornography is ‘sex-performed’, came to see sex as a performance and developed performance anxiety as a result. This is crazy! Sex is natural, like eating; you don’t worry about your stomach’s capacity to digest food and your penis is just great and will look after your needs just fine, Pornography promises power and happiness if you perform in a very particular way – the stakes are high and so is the anxiety. If you really cared about your penis and your mental health you’d avoid porn like the plague!

    Reply

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