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Effects of Pornography on Young Men's Expectations, Health, and Mindset

By Luis Caballero and Parker Whittenburg, Peer Educators 

December 16th, 2021 

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(Photo Credit) 

If you are currently a student in college, you probably grew up with a smart phone in hand by the time you entered your teenage years. This meant that all the answers to your curiosity could be found at your fingertips. As you enter adolescence, you really begin the journey of discovering yourself; curiosity is at its peak and our phones hold the answers to all the questions. Adolescence can oftentimes also be the point in our life where we begin to start thinking more about the sexual facet of life. This can oftentimes begin by allowing our sexual curiosity to take the driver's seat as we explore the internet.

Access to pornography is just a simple internet search away. It can be the vehicle we use to learn about our likes and dislikes in sex. However, this begs the question as to whether pornography is the best reference for us to learn about sex. For many young men, the effects of pornography can send them down a rabbit hole to the point where pornography may become an addiction rather than a tool. We are here today to look at how porn affects young men's expectations, health, and mindset.

Pornography's Effects on Expectations

While watching porn may be a normal part of your sexual awakening, it may not be the most effective medium for learning about sex. However, it is a reality that many of us, in the absence of proper sexual education, may look to porn as our main source of information. According to Australian Institute of Family Studies, “Pornography can influence a young person's expectations about sex, for example what young men expect their partners to do and vice versa. It can shape sexual practices, with studies finding that young people may try performing common sexual acts seen in pornography.” These acts include anal intercourse, facial ejaculation, sex with multiple partners, and deep fellatio. Watching porn frequently can have the potential to paint an unrealistic picture of what sex looks like and can therefore lead to what experts call "sexual uncertainty" about sexual beliefs and values. This may also be related to sexual dissatisfaction, anxiety, and fear.

Watching porn can be very influential and can shape your sex life significantly. Unfortunately, pornography does not often mirror real life sexual encounters. Young men who are constantly exposed to pornography may look to the actors for guidance. As mentioned by The Guardian, “sustained exposure to porn from a young age would give boys clear instructions on how they're expected to

“perform” as mythical “real men”. In a twisted way, male porn stars almost become role models, with impressionable young minds going away with the feeling that porn doesn't just portray a certain kind of sex (an option), but rather the only kind of sex worth having.” These sexual encounters cultivate a false sense of what sex is supposed to look like. At this stage in life, young men have a very malleable brain, and this inaccurate portrayal of sexual experiences adds fuel to the fire that is unrealistic sex.

It is perfectly normal to turn to porn for pleasure, but we should be mindful that the portrayal of sex in these films is anything but realistic. Instead, we should seek out credible resources to talk about sex openly! RISE is a great place to start; we are a judgement free zone, and we can talk you through any questions you may have about sex, consent, or different forms of protection.

Pornography's Effects on Physical Health

When it comes to a young man's health, pornography may not have any obvious impacts but can still affect the health of his body. A decline in physical health is most prominently seen in the potential erectile dysfunction that may evolve after a prolonged use of porn. This can be attributed to the desensitization of sex caused by excessive porn use. The 2016 Review of Clinical Reports noted that a drastic increase in erectile disfunction can be attributed to the development of pornographic websites. On the extreme end, a constant use of pornography can quickly lead a man to not become aroused by anything other than hardcore pornography.

Another notable effect of excessive porn use is that of sporadic arousal. Frequent self-gratification can lead young men to often become aroused at unconventional times. One way to understand why this may happen is by considering addiction and how it functions. If a man becomes addicted to pornography, similar to other addictions, it will constantly be on his mind. The longer he goes without it, the more difficult it may be to function.

One of the largest risks that pornography poses to the health of young men is the normalization of unprotected and promiscuous sex. This is a huge problem as STDs can be transmitted through unprotected and risky sex without proper protection and communication with potential partners.

Pornography's Effects on Mindset

Normalizing the “Hollywood” style of sex that pornography portrays is not just detrimental to men's physical health but can also be detrimental to their mindsets. We have already been warned that frequent pornography use can desensitize a young man to anything other than hardcore pornography and may lead him to develop an addiction… but what else can be affected regarding mental health?

Watching pornography can lead to addiction simply from the hormones that are released during self-gratification because the brain releases extraordinary amounts of dopamine when engaged in sexual stimulation. This release of dopamine while alone will positively reinforce that isolated behavior. This could explain the increase of depression seen in young men who watch porn more often than those who don't. If you would like to dive more into depth on this topic in particular, you can find more about it in the 2021 For Hims blog post, “Pornography and Depression: What's the Link?” .

Of course, these health risks will not apply to most men who have watched pornography, but it is important to be aware of the potential risks of excessive pornography use on the body and mind of viewers.

In Summary

One study published in the China National Knowledge Infrastructure noted that depression was highest in men who started viewing pornography at a young age. Depression may not be the only thing that can be influenced by heavy pornography use among men; men's perspective of women and other potential partners may also be influenced as well. Instead of viewing women or potential partners as peers, a man who has become desensitized to intimacy because of heavy porn use may begin to view women or potential partners solely as sex objects. Men who have a diagnosed pornography addiction also often become unsatisfied with their partner's sexual performances by setting unachievable expectations influenced by what they view.

One way to start to think about pornography in a healthier way is to remember that what you are seeing is done by professionally trained actors and that it isn't totally real. Talking more openly about sex in general can also begin to destigmatize the topic, allowing for men to talk to others and see what kind of expectations they hold and if those are realistic for real life.

Remember as far as resources, RISE is always here to help and chat about reducing your risk when it comes to sex. RISE also has free protective products outside of

our office- you can always stop by and take what you need! If you read through this blog and think that you'd like to talk to a mental health professional about some of your own beliefs or expectations on sex, the Student Counseling Center is always a great resource to start those discussions as well.

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Works Cited

Park, Brian Y et al. “Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports.” Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 6,3 17. 5 Aug. 2016, doi:10.3390/bs6030017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5039517/

Hall, Kristen. “Pornography and Depression: What's the Link?” For Hims: Blog / Mental Health, Oct. 2021, https://www.forhims.com/blog/pornography-and-depression

Min, Mo et al. “Current situation of pornography use in senior college male students and its correlation with their depression-anxiety-pressure." China National Knowledge Infrastructure, http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-DSDX201711022.htm

“Effects of Pornography.” Merripedia, http://marripedia.org/effects_of_pornography

Antonia Quadara, A. E.-M. and J. L. (2017, December 6). The effects of pornography on children and young people. Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://aifs.gov.au/publications/effects-pornography-children-and-young-people-snapshot

Ellen, B. (2018, October 21). Porn not only messes with young men's minds, but their bodies too | Barbara Ellen. The Guardian. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/21/porn-not-only-messes-with-young-mens-minds-but-their-bodies-too