Can watching porn give men erectile dysfunction? A study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research suggests that pornography use does not predict problems in erectile functioning or sexual satisfaction.
Pornography use is a hotly contested issue in many relationships. Since the rise of the internet, porn is easily accessible, affordable, commonly used, and able to be consumed without anyone else knowing. Pornography usage has been linked to negative outcomes, such as impersonal sexual attitudes, negative body image, more acceptance of sexual aggression, and delayed ejaculation. It also has been shown to have positive effects, such as providing sexual education and aiding in sexual dysfunction. Previous research showing pornography causes erectile dysfunction have had many methodological flaws, and this study seeks to explore that question once again.
For their study, David L. Rowland and colleagues examined a sample of 3,586 men recruited online from English-speaking countries and Hungary. Respondents who were not having sex with their partner or who had never had a partner were eliminated. Participants completed a survey consisting of demographic questions, anxiety/depression, medical conditions, sexual orientation, number of current sexual partners, interest and importance of sex, relationship and sexual satisfaction, masturbation, partnered sex, and frequency of pornography usage. Participants completed measures on premature ejaculation, erectile functioning, and answered questions regarding delayed ejaculation.
Results showed that factors that increased likelihood of erectile dysfunction were advanced age, anxiety, depression, medical issues, less frequent sex, lower importance of sex, and decreased sexual and relationship satisfaction. Problems with erectile functioning was a predictor of decreased satisfaction in this sample.
Men with erectile dysfunction did not significantly differ in their pornography usage than men without erectile dysfunction. Despite this, there was a small effect of frequent masturbation being related to problems with erectile functioning. Pornography consumption was not linked to decreased relationship or sexual satisfaction when masturbation frequency was controlled for.
This study took important steps into addressing methodological issues in previous research on this topic. Despite this, this study also has limitations to note. One such limitation is that online and self-report studies are vulnerable to bias or to participants not paying attention. Additionally, this study utilized only Western participants; future research could include cultures who have more restrictive views of sex to see if the effects differ.
“Findings of this study reiterate the relevance of long-known risk factors such as age, anxiety, and relationship satisfaction for understanding impaired erectile functioning during partnered sex, but they do not support the notion that pornography use is widely associated with poorer erectile functioning or increased ED severity during partnered sex,” the researchers concluded.
“Masturbation frequency appears to have discernable though weak effects on erectile functioning during partnered sex. Although further study is needed for verification, heavy reliance on pornography use coupled with a high frequency of masturbation may nevertheless represent a risk factor for diminished sexual performance and/or poor relationship satisfaction in some men (e.g., in younger, less experienced men or where mitigating cultural factors likely play a role). From a clinical perspective, these factors deserve assessment and, if relevant, may be addressed as part of a remediation component of psychosexual therapy.”
The study, “Do pornography use and masturbation play a role in erectile dysfunction and relationship satisfaction in men?“, was authored by David L. Rowland, Joseph M. Castleman, Katelyn R. Bacys, Balazs Csonka, and Krisztina Hevesi.