The "P" Word
Porn. It’s a topic few are comfortable talking about, and one that has affected more lives than we would like to admit. It is estimated that nearly 40 million Americans regularly watch porn, and the number is steadily rising. Many people see this statistic as a signa of normalcy- “Well, if it’s so common, there must not be an issue with it.” However, something being common does not make it normal.
In recent years, the effects of porn have become increasingly observable. Historically, porn has been around for much longer than one might think. The exact time period that porn became widespread is disputed because of varying opinions of what it actually is. The earliest known materials were erotic novels created sometime in the 17th century. With the technology available to print resources appealing to a wider consumer base, the 18th century Enlightenment period brought about what we know today as “modern pornography” - words and images with the purpose of enacting sexual feelings.
I place quotation marks around the word “modern” as the introduction of the personal computer impacted this market in an unprecedented manner.
Websites, apps, streaming services… the first of which was not available until the mid-1990s, undoubtedly caused a boom within the adult entertainment industry. You could now access porn anytime, anywhere, and no one would have to know about it. It was the perfect scenario.
Then, the effects began to manifest.
Those who watch pornography often have difficulty being aroused by a partner and without the additional use of explicit content. Men frequently experience erectile dysfunction and women feel inadequate due to the unrealistic and harmful expectations of the porn industry. Relationships struggle, aggression increases, and the act of sex becomes a violent, disappointing experience for those involved.
Enter Generation Z- a group maturing in a world where the use of porn is not only accepted, but expected. Our youth are being told that watching explicit content is part of a healthy sexual experience. “If it feels good, it IS good.” As a society, we have bought into the idea that porn is just a part of life, whether it comes with negative consequences or not. This narrative is extremely harmful to the developing minds and relationships of our young people.
In the midst of a movement revolving around female empowerment, porn usage is more widespread than ever. Yet, we seemingly fail to see the juxtaposition. Pornography commonly depicts violent acts toward women and reinforces the notion that objectifying women is a socially acceptable concept- as long as it's in the bedroom. It is no surprise that men are exponentially more likely to view pornographic content than their female counterparts. It is said that, “Men are visual creatures.” This statement holds substantial weight when distinguishing the consequences of pornography use. Porn may not be normal, but imitating what is put before one’s eyes day in and day out certainly is. Sex, an act that is meant to bring 2 people closer together, is now tearing couples apart because of the lack of trust and satisfaction within the relationship. Men want to feel like they are in control, and women want to feel respected and cherished. Porn has rewired the brains of our young people to view a sexual partner as “a means to an end.”
Just because men are more likely to view porn than women, there is still a large percentage of women who regularly do. Their reasons differ from men in many ways, but they still often revolve around them. Many women watch porn to attempt to understand what their partner wants from them, developing a very unhealthy view of sex and themselves. Another reason women may watch porn is to fit into societal norms. We all want to fit in, and porn has become so widespread that abstaining would be deviating from the standard. There are still women who watch porn for the same reason as men, but that number is far lower than the aforementioned reasons.
If you do not watch pornography… you are on a good track to developing a healthy relationship with sex and your partner. If you do watch porn, it is not too late to quit. There are a multitude of website blockers available to help you quit, but there is nothing like real-life accountability. Find someone you trust and tell them that you want to stop viewing porn. Ask them to hold you accountable. It may not be easy, but breaking the habit will be rewarding for years to come.
At Alight, we have male and female counselors who are trained to help you through this process. We want to give you the tools necessary to develop sexual integrity and healthy boundaries. If you would like to meet with one of our trained staff, you can reach us at 518-822-9008. You are not alone.
Carroll, Jason. “Porn Gap: Difference in Men and Women Pornography Patterns.” Wheatley Institute, 18 Apr. 2023, wheatley.byu.edu/family/porn-gap-difference-in-men-and-women-pornography-patterns.
University, Utah State. “Effects of Pornography on Relationships.”
USU, 13 Apr. 2023, extension.usu.edu/relationships/research/effects-of-pornography-on-relationships.