The Cost of Porn on Men

Porn isn’t good or bad. It’s not the big bad wolf. It’s simply the shadow of a culture that is sexually repressed and over-sexualized simultaneously.

Because of this, I think it’s important to look at the cost of porn on boys and men.

Porn is slowly retraining the male brain further and further away from the authentic sexuality born in each of us. If porn were embodied, present, heart-felt, and sincere, it would have the potential to heal millions. Instead, it’s taking men out of their center, making billions of dollars off of their suffering, and rewriting what sexuality is and how to do it.

The pro-porn argument lacks any valid weight, “Hey man, nothing’s wrong with masturbating to hot women, what’s your problem?” Right.

I have nothing against sexuality, masturbation, or sexual aliveness. But porn has co-opted our sexuality and is now dictating the rules of how men and women are supposed to be with each other intimately. And, if I’m not paying attention, porn will teach my son an incredibly narrow form of sexuality.

In my own life, porn was a big distraction. A distraction away from my feelings, my body, and my experience. Along with other “checking out” behaviors, it served to relieve me temporarily from my suffering. Quickly, shame and guilt would settle in, as would more behaviors to hide it all. I was never an “addict.” I never paid for sites or spent hours online. I would get in, get out, then hide. Even still, it felt like shit.

It wasn’t until I was able to talk openly with my male friends about it, that I began to gain some power, control, and choice around the matter.  Through my connections to my male friends, the shame virtually went away and we discovered that nearly 100% of the time, we surfed to avoid something, typically discomfort, pain, or unwanted feelings.

The cost? It took me away from the very thing I wanted — intimacy with Self and other. And that’s what I’d argue it’s doing to the male psyche.

I see male clients who eventually get to their “porn issue” which they have often underestimated as having any impact on their life. Surfing porn in guy culture is very common which is its main justifying argument as to why a man can keep giving himself permission to use. “Hey honey, all guys do it, it’s biology, it’s normal.”

But sooner or later a man will begin to feel the internal or external cost of his porn behavior. It might start out with a lowered sex drive for his partner or wife. Some men will begin to experience some kind of sexual dysfunction such as premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, or erectile dysfunction. For other men, it furthers their sense of isolation and moves them further from what they claim they want—more love. For others still, it destroys their marriage and leaves them feeling even more alone. Porn use can have some women feeling pissed, alone and longing for a real man to show up.

One of my former clients shares that he has a really hard time connecting with his real girlfriend’s real body. Another man shares that sex feels dirty, wet, sweaty, and the parts don’t look the same as the videos. He reminds me that actors on a screen have trained him, over and over. So when the real thing comes along, he is challenged. Another guy struggles to get hard and stay hard. His partner is feeling the impact and wondering how to navigate it all. One man prefers the online stuff because the “real thing” is too complicated. Still another man hides his porn use from his wife because it might be a deal breaker.

What is your experience? Comment below please.

Outside my personal opinion and experience is growing research that suggests more porn = more men suffering.  Here are several examples:

*According to Psychology Today, it’s a growing problem for men and their rates of sexual dysfunction are increasing.

*According to this amazing site: http://yourbrainonporn.com/ there is significant impact on the brain and how men train their brain through porn (This site is AMAZING and full of solid resources).

*If you don’t want to spend a ton of time on the above site, the site’s author Gary Wilson wrote a good piece for The Good Men Project’s called: How Porn Can Ruin Your Sex Life and Your Marriage.

*Here’s a good one from Naomi Wolf summing up some of the research on how porn is impacting the male brain called Is Porn Driving Men Crazy?

*Here’s a scary one about the developing adolescent brain. So vulnerable to addiction and heavy porn use. The cost of porn on the adolescent brain.

*Then there’s an interesting project called the Social Cost of Pornography where a group collaborates to publish what looks like a solid book on the subject. http://www.socialcostsofpornography.org

*I found this great article in the Washington Post called The Cost of Growing Up on Porn. The author even finds “research” suggesting that contrary to popular belief, porn isn’t hurting men at all.  He debunks it and reminds us that porn is indeed hurting a lot of us.

*And lastly, since parents (specifically Dads) are or unable or unwilling to educate their sons, most teen boys are learning about sex through porn. The average age boys are exposed to hard core porn is 11. Many get exposed at 8. Once again, we can find the roots of this growing problem in the good ‘ol boy code and bro code. It’s no surprise then that when we don’t teach boys about sex, they’ll learn about it somewhere else.

So, could porn really be killing the male sex drive? For some men, yup. Does Porn have the potential to leave embodied women starving for men who can relate to their real bodies in real time? Probably. Is porn training men to be less and less available lovers? Most likely.

When men are in pain, disconnected from their bodies, and stressed out in their lives, porn offers instant, easy, ongoing relief. Porn is also one of the most accessible, seductive distractions to take a man out of his center. Men and adolescent boys who have rarely ‘worked on themselves’ hardly stand a chance against porn. With few effective tools to engage this fight, a man will often loose. What will he loose? His center, which is the core of his integrity. Shame will fill the void. He will be run by shame and instead of owning it, will posture over it like Beowulf until he chooses to face it.

What is the cost to women? To our children? What happens when we let a money making machine teach us about the most sacred and beautiful part of who we are?

Finally, now that we can begin to see the problem, how will we each address it in our own bodies, homes, and communities?

For men who struggle with porn and are willing to do something about it, I have three simple, but unconventional recommendations amid the hundreds of options out there. I understand this is a very complicated issue and healing this will be different for every man.

  1. To start off, Your Brain on Porn offers what appears to be an awesome “rebooting” program to help men wean themselves off porn and begin the journey. But this is only the start. A man must be willing and committed to getting his center back. Like Beowulf, he must choose to slay the dragon he co-created.
  2. Connection to Self. In order to get back in his integrity, he will have to occupy his body and learn the way of embodiment. When men are in their bodies and connected to themselves, their heart, and anchored in their center, porn doesn’t stand a chance. Stay tuned for a tele series with me and David Cates as we expand further upon this and offer practices to support.
  3. Relationship. When we prefer intimacy on a screen over real human touch, we have certainly gone astray, but given our tech culture and our conditioning, it’s understandable. I’m with Gabor Mate in seeing addiction as a relationship issue, not a biological one. The way out of porn use then, is through relationship. This can mean groups, therapy, attachment work, etc. Bottom line? Very intimate, sensory, real, raw relationships with other real human beings is the way out.
Be sure to watch this 16 minute video that summarizes why porn is so compelling for men. It also shares some of the cost:

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

No more fluff. No more shame. Join this community of men getting real

Cock talk

35 Comments

  • Tom Lietaert

    Reply Reply February 1, 2012

    I really appreciate your passion for helping us to become better men, Jayson!

  • Michael

    Reply Reply February 1, 2012

    Jayson, thanks for shining the light on a topic that keeps too many men in the dark. Men may rationalize and justify this behavior but ultimately it creates isolation, depression nd disconnection. The time has come for men to get real and have this dialog about porn if we are truly commited to experiencing deep levels of love and intimacy in our relationships.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 1, 2012

      Your welcome Michael! the time has come only for the ready and willing. 🙂

  • EJP

    Reply Reply February 1, 2012

    Jayson

    Thanks for this … the timing of this is spot on for me.
    Not long ago I would have been defensive when reading this, but not today.
    I recently made a commitment to quit porn entirely. Cold turkey, done.

    Over the years, I justified my use of porn as a means of compensating for the sex that was missing in my relationship.
    What I realized (just last week) was that porn may actually have had a significant (though indirect) negative impact on my relationship with my wife.
    I believe that porn, first in my early teen or pre-teen years, taught me to objectify women.

    I realize now, that I have a real problem in connecting with women, because I first objectify them … then only later become able to see past the object I created and able to see the person who is there.
    It disgusts me to say that, it is sad, but it is true.
    I am confident that this objectification caused my wife pain, prevented her from feeling safe and protected by me, prevented complete trust from forming, became a barrier to connecting during sex, drove my wife to create barriers to protect herself and got in the way of us deeply and lovingly connecting in our daily lives together.

    I have done a lot of damage and have much to repair. I admitted this to my wife and I hope we are on a path of healing.

    In support of your recommendations … I came to this realization through embodiment and relationship.

    Thank you for the great work you do Jayson!
    Thank you!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 1, 2012

      Thanks for your personal and vulnerable share here. Awesome. I felt inspired reading it.

  • JBardo

    Reply Reply February 1, 2012

    Hmm. I think this view can be logged into the category of “mainly true, but a bit too totalizing/generalizing and not quite reaching the goal” – like a lot of psychological jargonized maps of human consciousness.

    Looking at porn does not necessarily equate with objectifying women. It CAN and, for many (even most), it probably DOES contribute to objectification, but this perspective is just another variation on the old theme “the thing is the problem” – not recognizing that the thing is not “real” in the first place, is not the problem, but one’s relationship/attachment/identification to the thing is (if we broadly define “problem” as being something that causes suffering in a sustained and non-cathartic manner).

    To put it another way, your perspective here is a strong statement of psychological health and healing, but it doesn’t speak to or from the perspective of egolessness, or the inherent freedom of beingness that we are all privileged to, right now. Now certainly the vast majority of us have a difficult time tasting this freedom, but we must be careful in solidifying our sinfulness so as not to re-edify the ego and simply replace a “sinful” ego with a “spiritual” one.

    Now one could critique my perspective here with another jargonized term, that of “spiritual bypassing.” If anything I am advocating not spiritually bypassing, not dis-identifying with the sinful ego (shadow) and identifying with the spiritual ego (the superego in drag). I am talking about being present right now, in the fullness of being right now–because not only is that all that is and all that is actually going on, but everything that arises–whether it is fucking-and-humping or sublime mystical poetry–is a valid expression of potentiality in form. Where we get lost, where we suffer a “cost,” is when we identifying with this or that arising, when we lose ourselves in it and think that our completion occurs from it.

    Porn represents and expresses a very narrow brand of human sexuality, but it isn’t in and of itself “bad.” It is fucking and the more spiritually minded view believes that we should always make love, that we are not carnal beasts in rut; but here’s an interesting question: what if we remove the barrier between fucking and making love? What if we see them as not two separate or antithetical activities, but two variations of Shiva and Shakti getting it on? Then, of course, “fucking” wouldn’t just be “fucking” – but is it, anyways?

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 1, 2012

      Hey bro, good one. I’m all about the non-dual. Agreed that it’s all God, all of it. But I’m also about the dual. I like the fight between dark and light. And, I like to relate to what is going on in the streets and to feel it fully.

      Your meta view gets challenging for me as a parent. There is indeed a lot of potential for bypass in your comment, but not necessarily a spiritual one. Instead, a human feeling one. What is the relative reality cost? If i know someone who has been raped I’m inspired to relate directly to what occurred. I’m inspired to feel the victim and the perpetrator. if I “dis-identify” from either and go into my Meta place, I miss an opportunity to relate, to know, to feel, to be with another.

      • Mato

        Reply Reply February 24, 2012

        If you go to your “Meta place” you will for the first time be able to know, to feel and to relate, this time to both: “the victim and the perpetrator”

  • Lesley

    Reply Reply February 1, 2012

    Jayson,
    Thank you, thank You for this. This is the first time I have heard this perspective owned by a man/ men. I felt something in myself thaw-out as I read this post. I personally have been hurt by men whom I’ve been in relationship with viewing porn, but I have been more hurt by the lack of responsibility taken with regard to this issue. I have contended that watching porn is a contact boundary disturbance of sorts. Hearing you own this issue I can feel my own willingness to own my side as a female; the ways I have used my man’s watching porn as an excuse to not show up myself, play the victim, live from ego, shadow, etc. As I said this post let something thaw, my heart opened a bit. Thanks for sharing and being a Warrior.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 1, 2012

      Your welcome Lesley. Wow, reading your words feels so good. Yes, the thaw between men and women can continue when we both own up to our part. And thank you for being a sister on this journey with me, willing to go into the fire.

  • James

    Reply Reply February 1, 2012

    Hi Jayson

    Very accurate description of my dance with porn over the years

    I have a 3year old son and certainly want to steer him well clear of this for as long as possible

    Thanks for your contribution in this area

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 1, 2012

      Your welcome James. Thanks for stepping up for you and your son.

  • Brent

    Reply Reply February 3, 2012

    This is perfect! You know, I decided to take a year off from drinking (started January 1st). It’s been great, but now it’s time to add porn to that. I’ve been addicted to porn for like 10 years or so. I started having sexual problems (ED) with my girlfriend back then (in my 20’s) and that has continued with subsequent girlfriends. It has really bothered me, and I used to avoid facing things like this with alcohol (often a booze-porn cocktail!) I just feel like I’m peeling back layer after layer, and for some reason the time is now. I don’t know if the correlation completely explains the causation, but about three weeks before I (astoundingly easily) gave up drinking, I started meditating every day. Yeah, I know the meditation is a huge part of it. Thank you for speaking out about this Jayson, it is exactly what I needed to hear right now.

  • Hey, thanks for the great article. I really agree with points that you make. I don’t really have a problem with porn, but I always figured “what’s the point, when you can go out and meet a real woman.” I’ve focused more on trying to figure out how to attract women that gratify me by confronting my limiting beliefs– rather than avoiding the problem with porn.

  • EC

    Reply Reply February 12, 2012

    Thanks for the article: It has helped me. There is too much inner silence about this issue. To start talking openly about it heals. Thanks

  • Hatch

    Reply Reply February 12, 2012

    Weird. I’ve never actually used porn for any of the above reasons, ie: escapism, addiction, objectification, ect. I simply enjoy masterbating (not more than sex) now and then. I’ve also noticed the quality of erotic and amateur porn has gone way up since the Internet has exploded (pun intended). And I’ve pleasently found that my appreciation for those that like to show off their stuff (willingly and for free) has actually contributed to my own evolving appreciation for all types and kinds of beauty in a woman’s body. I think women physically, in general, are much sexier than guys which of which i dont feel very guilty about (since its not objectifying) and as a matter of personal opinion I’ve found most of them much easier to talk to than you types of men’s meeting gents. Listening to you all express your fear of what porn has done to you makes me wonder if you’re just not meeting and dating quality girls that have potential for occupying your dirty little minds. Good luck abstaining 😉

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 20, 2012

      thanks for your experience Hatch. I do feel a quality of patronizing/shaming and passive aggressive commenting in your tone which for me diminishes your message.

  • please do not use my name

    Reply Reply February 13, 2012

    I think a lot of women buy into the idea that men engage in porn from time to time and it’s a guy thing. This was true for me until I fully came to understand what an addiction it had become for so many men and why so many women feel isolated, unwanted, even blamed for the lack of intimacy with their partner. At the beginning I was angry about my man going online, then was awakened with dreams that showed me he was online late at night while I slept, hoping we’d get closer and it never happened. When I confronted him he was in total denial and lied to cover himself; actions that did not synch with the man I knew he was inside.

    Later I found compassion for him, as I witnessed how ashamed and shattered he was every time the addiction took him down. I trod very carefully around him , his ego needing a lift and stifled my feelings until I became very sick physically. After that I determined I would not die for anyone and spoke up as quietly as I could, because I loved the guy. I kept asking myself if this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I couldn’t feel complete trust with him and wondered what all this meant about me.

    It wasn’t until I discovered by sheer accident (if there are such things as accidents) that he’d been online, when I was under the misapprehension that a lock had been placed on his computers. I went home to wait for him, feeling so present and clear about my next step. When he arrived I hauled off and whacked his face with all I had. This woke him up.

    Since then he has been in SA, working his program and on his recovery. Never before have we shared more intimacy, he is more present and takes responsibility for his actions. I now trust the man I knew was in there all the time and there is love that is real in our relationship. I have no regrets for what I did, as I recognized then that there was nothing more to lose and I was unwilling to continue with the status quo. The chips fell where they may and he made different choices.

    There is more energy in him now for all he chooses to do, rather than using that energy to keep the addiction at bay, fooling himself that he was in control. There is trust, truth and a lot more laughter in our life. I am so grateful for Sexaholics Anonymous

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 20, 2012

      wow. thanks for your vulnerable experience here. i think what you did was right on. I think that kind of tough love is what it takes to cut through. what courage you had! damn! i’m certain folks will benefit from your share here. gratitude

  • gwalter

    Reply Reply February 16, 2012

    This is right on in so many ways.

    Thanks to our mutual friend Angie for posting this – it is something I battled for years, and have done much reading on. You have summarized the issues well. Thanks!

  • Evan Flory-Barnes

    Reply Reply February 20, 2012

    Note: This is a response from to a fb post and it holds true for me still: Jayson, Right now, I feel like a Plastic Man, Mr.Fantastic bridge. People on the leading edge of all these fronts in different realms embracing porn and talking about what porn compromises and I agree with pieces of everyone.Yet, I still sense elements of morality, polarity and duality. It is slight, but I am a sensitive cat, I feel we have really,really,really, Really, REALLY dive into what porn reflects on the Soul and Biological levels.

    My assertion is a such, Our closest ape family is the Bonobo(biological) and on the soul level we are pure erotic energy interacting with each other as we choose freely through space and time. Enter the human mind dissociated from both the primacy of the animal body and the limitlessness of the soul. Enter the mind with all of it condemnations, judgements, morals, etc. and the natural way we express our flow love and connection is suppressed, repressed and oppressed. Erotic energy whether you oppress or not will express itself. And porn is one of those expressions. One of the manifestations of our Innate and Intrinsic Erotic Fluidity through the filter of condemnation and repression.

    My dear gentlemen, there are billions dollars spent on the Porn Industry. And I at the end of the day I want my brothers on this leading to know before they go into the battlefield within and without that people are aiming to connect to themselves, love and intimacy through this it is just that the tools they have been given are limited. The rise all the ways our sexuality is showing up is powerful EVERYTHING is rearing up to the surface to be loved. EVERYTHING.

    I guess the perspective I am bringing is arm yourself with the connection to porn as a call to intimacy obstructed not the obstruction to intimacy. Make sense? I watched porn and experienced a golden age/golden rule intimacy at an early age from 14-22. She is still a very dear woman is my life as are the majority of my intimate partners. I am willing to accept that I am a rarity in this life and yet what is within me is within ALL OF MY FAMILY. And I will take this with me into non-physicality.

    This could be a round about way of saying I don’t want to give up my porn. LMAO!!! And yet I know that in facing this issue within our hearts as human beings becoming bigger and I truly feel that the points I raise above must be considered as we unfold in this together. Love and Deep Thanks.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply February 21, 2012

      Evan, i love you bringing it in the way you do! THanks for bringing us back to acceptance and love. I’m with you AND, when I have kids i feel more challenged around porn and how to face the “monster.” Yes, if take the perspective that the “monster” is doing its best to express love and pleasure, then I do relax a bit and there’s less need to “fight” the “bad guy.” I know this intellectually and much harder to practice loving my demons and the demons I perceive “out there.”

      All this said, I get to set boundaries even in the non-dual realm where it is all sacred. I get to choose what I say yes to and where I put my energy.

      Yes, it is a call to intimacy obstructed, i can get behind that. Let’s consider that porn and all that use it and sell it are worthy of love and acceptance as well. It certainly ain’t their fault, b/c I imagine no one taught them the utter profundity or sacredness of sexuality and their body parts. Once again, when we don’t teach folks, what more can we expect but a more narrow, limited version of sexuality?

  • Kara

    Reply Reply March 5, 2012

    Wow, I can’t tell you how much I respect you for this post. As a woman, I have been told I am “overreacting” to porn, and how having my partner looking at alot of it has made me feel about myself. I’m not so concerned about this aspect anymore as my long-time partner and myself have discussed it alot, and have reached comfort levels with each other about the role porn plays in each of our lives.

    My biggest concern these days is as a parent. I have no problem with porn in itself, but more with the roles and as you mention the incredibly narrow view of sex and sex roles it portrays and most alarming of all, how easy it is for children to access it, with no explanation of it and no contextualism. It is so sad, that with more sexual freedom that ever, porn is confining us to tiny slices of what sex can be. I worry that if kids are viewing it at earlier ages it will warp their view of healthy sexual relationships. I’m afraid that the concept of romance with sex, might die out all together.

    Anyways, thanks for bringing this up especially with your men friends, and being so aware as a parent. Men like you make the world a better place!! Keep on spreading the word.

    Kara

  • Michael Australia

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    Are you with the Westbro Church? The article is well argued but I detect an undercurrent of wanting to interfere in others’ lives and tell us what to do. You cannot ban porn.

  • eric

    Reply Reply June 8, 2012

    hey j-
    i just found your website today and have subsequently read this article. i think what you’re doing here is very, very important so please, please keep it up! thanks!

  • Porn Is Patriarchy

    Reply Reply June 14, 2012

    I highly recommend this well-written series of articles by Nine Deuce:

    http://rageagainstthemanchine.com/2008/04/12/why-porn-isnt-cool-part-1/
    That is part one. The rest are linked on the sidebar.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply June 17, 2012

      Thanks for the valuable links. I’ll check them out!

  • Porn Is Patriarchy

    Reply Reply June 25, 2012

    Please read this as well. Men need to be aware of how much the sex industry harms women and girls. And that when you are looking at it, that is ALL women and girls being degraded, turned into something subhuman, as if ANYONE enjoys this? http://rmott62.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/why-be-anti-porn/
    http://rmott62.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/

    I wonder how men would feel if it were them being raped, traumatized, their humanity completely stripped from them…everyday, while 1000s of people derived pleasure from their agony. I’m quite sickened, too, at how selfish and ignorant men are, even here, a place for “good men.” “I don’t want to give up my porn! LOL” — I am sorry, but please consider the human beings you are jerking off to and realize you are not as progressive as you think if you cannot see these women as equal human beings with souls, minds, and hearts. If you watch it and see them as just some fuckable object, I’m sorry, you are not progressive, spiritual, or ethical in any sense of the word. 100% of those women were sexually abused or raped before and during their “careers.” They may not remember it, and many have been so indoctrinated into patriarchy as to believe they have no other worth and that they enjoy their degradation. These women are destroyed, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So, MEN, stop using women and start loving them as real humans. Thank you.

  • JMG

    Reply Reply July 19, 2012

    Just found your website today. Thanks for linking to so many other great resources on this subject. And sharing your perspective on authenticity, love, honesty, etc… Realized that my porn use has been inhibiting me from connecting with both myself and women in the way I want to.

    I first learned of the power of sexual energy from Napoleon Hill’s “Think And Grow Rich.” He dedicates and entire chapter to transmuting physical energy into other higher energies. For some reason though, most self-help or business coaching gurus won’t touch this with a ten foot pole. Like many people, I’d treated Hill’s teachings like a buffet – only taking the parts I like. Since this seemed a bit “woo-woo,” I largely ignored it. But after a few shoddy relationships lately, I now see how powerful that 15-30 minutes each day impacts just about everything else.

    Thanks for being a lighthouse, Jayson.

  • Siddharth

    Reply Reply October 4, 2015

    Thank you for the effort you have put into this. Really, thank you Jayson!
    It’s commendable! 🙂

  • tony

    Reply Reply April 4, 2016

    Everyone has a different background and is affected differently, but everyone who uses porn has the same issue which has to be confronted. I believe that, thanks to amazing help and understanding I am regaining my self respect and self love. This is for me far too big an issue to go into in detail here, but I wanted to say how valuable I have found this post and how grateful I am to you, Jayson, for starting the discussion and for the participants for their bravery and honesty. I hope this experience has been cathartic to the contributors. I will contribute as and when I can.

  • cob

    Reply Reply September 6, 2016

    Good write/read.

    It’s absolutely amazing what porn does in the brain, and then in the body, and in sexual and intimate relationships.

    And going deeper, I think this part of the concluding paragraph: “When we prefer intimacy on a screen over real human touch…” is about more than just porn. Hiding behind screens, texting and voxing, and all that, and the current widespread addiction to the handhelds has absconded so much of true human intimacy, from casual to intimate. Addressing porn is like triage, but the distancing and objectification that results from online vs human connection can be a social illness at all levels of relating.

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