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Can watching too much porn give you erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by stress, anxiety about your performance, substance abuse, heart disease, and several other factors. It can also be caused, believe it or not, by watching too much porn.

In 2017, Buzzfeed News published a story about how porn therapists treat men with porn-induced erectile dysfunction, which is very much a real condition affecting more and more young people. The story features accounts from two men who claim their erectile dysfunction was caused by a little crippling addiction to pornography.

The anecdotes were accompanied by quotes from sexologists and therapists who supported their claim, defining porn-induced erectile dysfunction as “the inability to get or maintain an erection during sexual activity because of a high exposure to pornography.”

Most men watch porn, so the thought of missing out on actual sex because you watched too many X-rated videos is, understandably, a pretty terrifying prospect. We were a bit hesitant to use the experiences of just two men to generalize about a world full of men who watch porn, so we talked to a few sex researchers with Ph.D.s to get a few more details on whether your habit can cause serious problems with your sex life.

The verdict? There’s no scientific evidence that supports the idea of “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.”

“There are three laboratory studies that have shown sex film viewing is unrelated to erectile functioning,” said Nicole Prause, Ph.D., founder of Liberos, a sex research and biotechnology company in Los Angeles. (You can find those studies here, here, and here.)

“No study has ever linked the two,” she says. “The therapists are literally manufacturing the idea that these are connected in their patients.”

Though there may not be a direct connection between watching porn and erectile dysfunction, there is an indirect one in that in certain cases masturbation can lead to erection issues. “In my clinical experience I do not find porn to be a direct cause of [erectile disorder, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation]” explains Ian Kerner, Ph.D. and licensed psychotherapist and sexuality counselor.

More specifically, ED can be caused by using an idiosyncratic masturbatory style, or masturbating using a type of pressure and friction that is not easy to replicate during sex. According to Jennifer Vencill, Ph.D., a sex therapist at the Center for Sexual Health at the University of Minnesota, if you’re used to masturbating a certain way, you might require firmer stimulation than your partner’s mouth or vagina can provide. This can cause problems getting hard or reaching orgasm with your partner.

ALSO READ:What do men want most in romantic relationships? Respect vs Sex

“This would be a masturbation issue, not a porn issue, and is somewhat easily resolved,” Kerner says of the effect idiosyncratic masturbation can have on a man’s sex life.

So when you watch porn-and consistently reach orgasm through a specific type of masturbation-you might actually get conditioned to a specific type of stimulus, Tobias Kohler, M.D., recently told Men’s Health. That means when you go to get it on with your partner, you may not be recreating that specific type of stimulus, which can cause issues in bed.

Granted, porn can give you unrealistic expectations about sex, which in turn leads to anxiety, says Kerner. Echoing Prause, he explains that “anxiety and boredom are the root issues, but porn often gets blamed.”

“I have not seen any good studies to show that porn somehow rewires the male brain to lead to sexual dysfunction,” he adds.

If you do feel like watching porn is interfering with your ability to perform in bed, and you’re truly bothered by that, check in with your urologist to make sure an underlying medical condition-like diabetes, heart problems, or even a specific type of medication-isn’t to blame. Talking to a sex therapist can also help. For some guys, especially those who feel porn interferes with their morals, porn can have negative effects.

ALSO READ:4 Things that can make sex really boring for guys

If you feel like your ED may be caused by an idiosyncratic masturbation style, Dr. Vencill recommends refraining from masturbation and sex for a week. The time off will allow desire to build, so that when you’re back with your partner, you’re more easily stimulated.

Bottom line: Watching porn affects every guy differently-but more concrete research needs to be done before it can be linked to erectile dysfunction. Until then, take the time to read up on how porn actually affects your sex life.

 
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