Does Porn Desensitize You to Sex With Actual Real-Life People? Maybe, But There Are Ways to Change That

Oh, how cruel: Porn, the very thing you turn to during your sexual rut, may be the cause of your sexual rut. Porn can desensitize you, finds a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry. Participants who regularly watched significant amounts of porn had more trouble getting aroused during actual, human-to-human sex than participants who watched little to no porn. The findings prove what has long been suspected — that porn can numb you to stimulation from a partner.

The New York Post's report on the study quotes sexologist Yvonne Fulbright, who has found the phenomenon of people relying on porn increasingly widespread. "When men masturbate to a lot of porn, they’re basically training their bodies to rely on that kind of stimulation to get turned on in the future," she says. Actual sex, then, becomes wildly disappointing...less moaning, fewer absurd scenarios, more body insecurities, etc.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the sabotaging effects of porn, from reducing porn intake to re-imagining the kinds of porn you use.

I recently spoke with a male friend, age 26, about his relationship to porn, which he completely overhauled a few years ago. Now, he watches far less than he used to, and his libido has reaped the benefits.

"Starting in college, I watched porn every day. Sometimes more than once per day. But it kills the imagination. Really murders it. Do you know what it's like not to be turned on by the sight of a woman's figure in a pretty dress? Needing to see something naked and heaving instead? When your own daydreams can't even arouse you?" he said. "I've cut back now, nearly eliminated the porn. But when I do watch, I watch the tamest stuff. I save all my proclivities for real people with real bodies. Your libido comes back. Your desire just to be in the presence of women, that comes back tenfold."

While we rarely give much air-time to female watchers of porn (men are the porn-obsessed,  sexual beings!), women, too, can feel the negative effects of porn on their sexual imaginations. Yes, women have sexual imaginations.

A female friend, who I'll call Emma, age 24, found that watching a lot of porn made it much harder for her to get turned on by actual, human-to-human sex. Watching porn, she could focus so much more on the visual, while during most actual sex, she found her mind drifted towards other things besides the visual, such as body insecurities, getting out of her own head, and her partner's satisfaction. So, to invigorate her routine and get out of her sexual rut, she switched from video porn to erotic stories; her favorite site is Alt.Sex.Stories Text Repository.

"I much prefer the erotic stories. You have to use your imagination more. It flexes your sensual muscles more, in that sense, I think it actually helps me get into real sex, because I'm able to narrate in my head," she said. "During sex, I have a hard time focusing and not thinking about other things, which is why narrative can really help me."

A 2011 report in Psychology Today on the psychological impact of porn caused great alarm, leading many to declare that porn has ruined an entire generation's sex lives. The report suggests that porn-loving young people struggling with real-life sex should drastically reduce the amount of porn they watch. Yet maybe, we simply need to re-imagine the porn we watch, whether that means switching up the medium (as in Emma's case) or actually incorporating elements of porn into the sex we have.

In the Post, Annie Daly suggests that those struggling should "mimic porn’s novelty factor by varying it with new toys, sex positions, or role play."

Yes, novelty may be the key. Daly speaks with NYC sex therapist Ian Kerner who recommends getting a little weird in bed. "Doing anything new releases the pleasure hormone dopamine, which can help you feel more excited in the bedroom," he says.

May I suggest partner sex toys? Yes? Wonderful. I suggest partner sex toys.


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