The black and white of blue films: How porn addiction damages relationships. by Sandip Deshpande, MD (2016)

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The black and white of blue films: How porn addiction damages relationships

A couple struggles to consummate their marriage. A young man is unhappy with his partner’s lack of engagement in certain sexual activities. A young woman is unsatisfied with her partner’s knowledge of how to touch her in bed. All of it as a result of expecting reel over reality.

Pornography is the depiction of sexual activity, sexual organs or sexual experiences. Research has shown that while men are more prone to watch films, women are more likely to engage in an online sexual encounter, popularly known as cyber-sex.

The evolution of pornography has followed the same path as that of technology. Whenever a medium was invented, pornography became available in it. In the 1830s it was photographs; in the 1900s, blue films entered the cinemas; In the 1970s the VCR helped one watch a porno in the comfort of their homes.

It may have grown slightly when personal computers and CDs became items in every household but since the advent of the internet, there has been an unprecedented growth in the use of pornography.

A scientific paper by Al Cooper and his colleagues in 1998 describes this as a result of a Triple-A Engine effect which is the combination of accessibility, affordability and anonymity. With access to internet now available at our finger tips with high speed wifi and smart phones, people are now watching pornography a lot more easily. This is what makes internet pornography stand apart from its earlier mediums.

Is it okay to watch pornography?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with watching pornography as an adult. It can work as a great stimulus for self-pleasuring and can help individuals and couples explore different ways to pleasure themselves.

It is also completely alright not to enjoy pornography. Some like and some don’t. Contrary to popular belief, women also do watch pornography. It is not an activity that is restricted to one gender. However, it is imperative that children not be exposed to it as an early exposure to sex can have negative effects on them.

Watching pornography can be a pleasurable activity especially when combined with masturbation. But it is this characteristic of pornography that causes it to become an object of addiction. Much like drugs, alcohol or gambling, one can develop a dependency on watching pornography.

Drug addiction happens because the body begins to enjoy the chemical released in the brain during drug use. This has been tested on rats and confirmed. Although there is no way to really test porn addiction on rats, it has been observed that large amounts of dopamine are released in the brain when one watches pornography. It is this dopamine that one may crave when they fall into porn addiction.

Porn addiction

Much like other addictions, porn addiction tends to interfere with life. If you are watching pornography in a healthy way, it is not likely to have a negative impact on your life or relationships. But if you are experiencing any of the following due to your porn habits, it would be important to consider the role of pornography in your life.

  • Watching porn excessively until it interferes with daily life and responsibilities
  • Spending more time watching porn or looking for other types of porn that can stimulate you because arousal has become difficult
  • Feeling a sense of withdrawal when you are unable to watch porn
  • Continuing to use it even after it is negatively impacting your life
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Sexual dysfunctions like premature ejaculation or impotence
  • Inability to get aroused by a partner or decrease in sexual activity with partner
  • Watching porn as a way to change your mood (treating it like a high)

There are a number of ways in which porn addiction can affect individuals and those in relationships. Young men who have never had a real sexual encounter may begin to have really high expectations that are far from reality. When they do engage in sexual activity, this distortion of reality can cause a lack of arousal and performance.

In some cases one may get used to watching a very specific genre of pornography like bondage, cuckoldry (where the woman is dominating the male), swinging (group sex or swapping) or even a foot fetish. This can cause them to not be aroused unless these conditions are met.

Often, in relationships, spouses or partners may see the dependency on porn as a sense of betrayal. It could interfere with not just the sexual activity between the couple but also cause body image and self-esteem issues.

When it comes to families, there is a risk of children being exposed to the pornography and this could hamper not only the child but also the dynamics of the entire family.

Why pornography distorts reality

There are so many portals for pornography, even for different kinds of fetishes. It is a market much like any other with the intention of making as much revenue as possible. There are multiple camera angles in use and there is a lot of editing involved. Everything from the bodies of the porn-stars to the sexual activity shown in the film is designed as it is to play into the viewer’s mind-set.

It is heightened fantasy and much of the real sex in private bedrooms is nothing like it. For example, girl on girl pornography which is a very popular genre often shows women with long nails and women inserting stiletto heels into their vaginas. In reality, this is far from what happens between lesbians.

A lot of pornography has been made keeping a male audience as the target. This brings two issues to the table. One is that very little of the films focus on what pleasures the woman. Secondly, it normalises certain activities that aren’t as common as we think. For example, oral sex, anal sex and ejaculation on women are common in most pornographic films but may not be welcomed by a partner in real life.

Yes, there is BDSM and yes, there are people who indulge in oral sex, anal sex and may like being ejaculated on. Pornography can be a great way for couples to explore the world of sex and find new ways to pleasure themselves. But consent and communication always come first.

This is a part of the Sexual Health series bought to you by The News Minute in association with Happy Relationships. Happy Relationships is an enterprise that works in the field of sexual health and relationship wellness.