embarrassed man

I’ve read your article, “Does Pornography Cause Erectile Dysfunction?” and understand that studies show no compelling link between porn and ED. Quick facts about me: I’m single and have not had partner sex in 5 years. I am most likely addicted to porn. I get nocturnal erections. In the recent past (the last 5 years up to a month ago) I had no problem getting/maintaining erections to orgasm with porn. My porn viewing started to increase to up to 3-4 times/day over the past few weeks and now for the last few days I just can’t get it up. I’ve read that refractory periods for 40-year-olds are longer but this is new. Now the questions: 1. Is there such a thing as sustained refractoriness due to chronic masturbation? 2. Can high levels of masturbation to porn cause problems with real women due simply to the brain perception of the difference between the two (not “porn-induced ED”, just a psychological issue). 3. Lastly, is masturbation to porn, esp. high levels of it, just not good for guys’ sexual health?

Responses

  • Michael Castleman says:

    I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling with porn viewing and ED. I hope this reply helps.

    The best research shows no causal link between porn and ED. But here you are, masturbating a good deal to porn and now suffering what feels like ED—which certainly suggests that stroking to porn is the cause of your erection difficulties, and your assertion that you’re “most likely addicted” to porn.

    I would frame your situation differently. You’re 40. You may still feel 25—I did at 40—but you’re actually middle-aged now. You’re by no means old, but during middle age, erections begin to change. Most men your age lose the ability to get hard from fantasy alone. They require hands-on penis fondling. Erections begin to lose some firmness. And they may subside from minor distractions—an ambulance siren on the street—or for no discernible reason at all. Unfortunately, many men in their 40s don’t appreciate the fact that these changes are totally natural and normal. They think something must be wrong with them and wonder: Is it ED? Is it all the porn I’ve watched—and am still watching? Am I a porn addict? Those questions are quite likely to cause stress/worry/anxiety.

    Starting around 40, emotional stress makes erections increasingly susceptible to wilting. Here’s why: Erection depends on the amount of blood circulating through the organ. The more blood, the firmer the erection. Anxiety triggers the fight-or-flight reflex and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Among its many effects, cortisol constricts the arteries in the central body, including in the penis, which sends more blood to the limbs for self-defense or escape. But constricted penile arteries mean less blood in Mr. Happy and softer erections, if they rise at all.

    You don’t have to feel extreme stress (a gun to your head) to suffer the erection ravages of anxiety. After 40, chronic worry about erections, no partner sex, and porn “addiction” are often sufficient to reduce penile blood flow and cause softening and what feels like ED.

    So what do middle-aged men do when they feel worried about their erections and porn “addiction”? Many self-soothe by masturbating more often to porn, which causes a vicious cycle: age-related erection changes … fear that stroking to porn is the cause … stress … stress relief by more stroking to porn … and on and on until you feel “addicted.”

    Over the past 40 years, the term “sex/porn addiction” has become firmly rooted in the public imagination. But you may be interested to know that the vast majority of mental health professionals reject the whole idea. Sex and porn are NOT addictive. It’s stressing over these issues, not sex or porn, per se, that causes the problems.

    Now to answer your questions:
    Sustained refractory period from chronic masturbation? No. After you come, you enter the refractory period, and can’t raise another erection for a while. In men under 30, the refractory period may be only minutes to an hour. But after 40, it lengthens. The time depends on the individual man, but it might last up to several hours. Then it ends and new erections/orgasms become possible again. There’s no such thing as a permanent refractory period. It’s always temporary. Now by the time you reach 70, it may last 12 to 24 hours, but again, once that time is up, absent real ED, erection and orgasm become possible again.

    Can frequent masturbation cause problems with real women? Possibly. If you stroke a few hours before having partner sex, you might still be in your refractory period when you get into bed with a lover and, therefore, may be unable to raise erections or have orgasms. I suggest you stroke and come and then try to stroke again at intervals of an hour or two to see how long your personal refractory period is. Once you know, don’t stroke for at least that long before attempting partner sex. But again, it’s NOT masturbating—with out without porn—that’s the issue. It’s simply your refractory period.

    Is frequent masturbation bad for men’s sexual health? Actually, regular stroking is GOOD for men’s sexual health. As ejaculations increase, risk of prostate cancer declines. Masturbation is relaxing, which is good for you. It also releases endorphins, the body’s own mood-elevating and pain-relieving compounds. Self-sexing also reduces blood pressure, definitely good for health, and helps men sleep better, also good for health. And in a famous study, as men’s frequency of ejaculation increased (solo or partnered), they lived longer.

    You’re not a porn addict. You’re a normal guy who feels stressed and who deals with it the way many if not most men do, by stroking. Please try to relax about your sexuality. You’re normal, not “addicted.”

    If you want more help with these issues, I urge you to consult a sex therapist credentialed by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.

    I wish you great sex—solo or partnered, with or with out porn.

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