Dangers of Watching Pornography on Health: There are NO Dangers

Watching pornography has always been a subject of big debate. It often brings morality, health, well-being and bazillion other “concerns” into the picture. Pseudo-concerns. Which are as real as unicorns. Curiosity about sex and watching porn is absolutely normal. And there are no negative sexual outcomes derived from watching it.

Just type “porn” on Google search and some of the auto suggestions (porn is a public health crisis, porn addiction recovery, porn affects brain etc) will convince you that it is bringing humanity on the brink of extinction. And if you wish to further compromise your sanity for a few minutes trawl the Twitter handle or an interview/article or maybe a book written by one of few million godmen, godwomen, cult groups or so-called ‘experts’ of our country (or even the ones abroad). Chances are high that you’ll come across some piece of advice on how masturbation can cause acne, or how watching porn can corrupt you or affect your brain. This advice is straight from the WhatsApp school of thought – Not true!

You will also come across arguments which seem quite convincing and are made to look scientific. But, most of these arguments are theoretic and draw inferences using bits and pieces of other research findings or cherry picking a few observations and merging them to create a narrative to explain sexual behaviors. The best part is that they use such brilliant neuroscience lingo in their arguments that the entire thing appears easily believable and scientific. We have picked up some common fear-based arguments which are more fiction than reality.

Porn can rewire your brain

There are many alternate versions of this – Watching porn damages your brain. Or porn can shrink your brain. Or watching porn stimulates dopamine (a chemical released during pleasurable activities) spikes creating desensitization and numbing of the brain. The study which gave birth to these concerns was published by a German pair who scanned the brains of 64 healthy men in three ways. These men were also required to answer questions about their porn consumption.

After this, the researchers found that men who spent more time watching porn tended to have a smaller amount of grey matter in the right striatum (the part involved in the processing of reward) of their brain. That’s really not enough to come to the conclusion. In fact, it might also be possible that men with less grey matter in their striatum are more attracted to porn.

Also, the report did not measure the personality traits of the participants. And past researches have already shown that people of certain personality and brain structure respond differently to nudity or any pictures. Failure to measure or control for personality also renders the results meaningless.

So, no consuming porn in moderate amount won’t rewire, damage or shrink your brain.

Porn causes Erectile Dysfunction

There is a widespread belief that watching porn is killing erections. In fact, there are hundreds of people on the Internet who identify with porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). The common line of thought is that men masturbate while watching unrealistic porn and when they are faced with real-life sex, they are not able to ‘do it’. However, there are a couple of studies which do not support this claim.

A cross-sectional online study conducted in 2005 comprising of 3,948 Croatian, Norwegian and Portuguese men published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine noted that “contrary to raising public concerns, pornography does not seem to be a significant risk factor for younger men’s desire, erectile, or orgasmic difficulties.” Yet another 2015 study of 208 non-treatment seeking American men indicated that viewing porn was “unlikely to negatively impact sexual functioning, given that responses actually were stronger in those who viewed more [pornography]”.

The misconceptions were led on when Brisbane based sexologist Liz Walker observed that after the internet porn, erectile dysfunction in males under 40 has jumped to between 27 and 33 per cent whereas before internet it was reportedly 2-5 per cent. But Vice reported that her source was a paper, which in turn sourced numbers from two other papers – neither of which referenced porn as causative. Moreover, most common causes of erectile dysfunction do not mention pornography.

There is no firm scientific consensus on long-term effects of porn when it comes to male erection. So, you cannot really blame internet porn for making men impotent.

Porn is addictive and causes withdrawal symptoms

You’ll come across quite a few articles claiming that porn is “like cocaine” to the brain and people can get addicted to it like drugs. Unlike caffeine withdrawal symptoms or drug withdrawal symptoms, porn does not cause any withdrawal symptoms and is not addictive.

According to sex addiction theory, individuals who feel they have problems controlling their porn use would exhibit brain patterns similar to that of cocaine addicts i.e. specific electrical changes in the brain activity in response to drug-related cues. However, when Steele, Staley, Fong and Prause used EEG testing on 52 ‘sex addicts’ for their research, they did not see any such electrical changes. The individuals were monitored as they viewed erotic material and they showed no diminished electrical response.

In fact, the participants’ overall demonstrated increased electrical brain responses to the erotic imagery they were shown, just like the brains of “normal people” as has been shown in hundreds of studies.

There are other strong opinions and feelings about how pornography can affect individuals. In fact, the internet is filled with such articles. And being a taboo topic, confirmation bias plays an important role in propagating such emotions and negative opinions. The researchers at Middlesex University, England in one study found that over 40,000 papers and articles were submitted to the team for review and only 276 of them were considered. That’s 0.69%. The reason? Low quality of research in the field of pornography. So, there is really no concrete evidence suggesting that watching pornography harms people.

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