In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sexiest questions — unjudged and unfiltered.

By Dr. Jenn Mann
Jan 02, 2019 @ 5:30 pm
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Eva Hill

DEAR DR. JENN,

I am in my early twenties and just started watching porn. I liked it more than I expected. Ok, I’m really into it. I watch it every day. Is that too much? Is it healthy to watch porn in general? How much is too much? — Me So Porny

DEAR PORNY,

There’s no shame in a little porn viewing. As it was said in the show Avenue Q, “the internet is for porn.” And, as it turns out, so is your phone, your iPad and your computer. Pornhub, which is considered to be the most popular site for free porn, reports that in 2018 it averaged 92 million visitors a day (33.5 billion visitors a year), who did 30.3 billion searches and uploaded a million hours of video (a.k.a. 115 years' worth!). To put this in perspective, Starbucks goes through 2.6 billion cups per year. So, porn is more popular than everyone’s favorite coffee — like, by far.

The top trending search for the site in 2017 was “porn for women” which increased by over 1,400 percent (in 2018, "Stormy Daniels" and "tattooed women" were the top searches, so make of that what you will). The point is, you aren't alone. In a recent study, over 30 percent of women reported that they watch porn once a week.

Porn can be a healthy part of a solo or partnered sex life. That said, it can also become compulsive, addictive, and hard on a relationship. To better understand what makes a good or bad outcome (i.e. if your habits are more like a porn addiction), it is helpful to look at a recent study that put people who watch porn into three different categories: recreational, highly distressed non-compulsive, and compulsive. If you’re worried about whether you have a pornography addiction, it has to do with more than just time spent.

RELATED: Is Sex Addiction Real, or Just an Excuse for Bad Behavior?

Recreational users, about 75 percent of the people looked at in the study, averaged 24 minutes of viewing per week. This group had a high number of women and people in relationships. They showed higher levels of sexual satisfaction and lower levels of sexual compulsivity, avoidance and dysfunction. In other words, their porn viewing was moderate, they were happy with their sex lives, they weren’t acting out in ways that made them feel bad sexually, they were having sex with their partners, and when they did, they were not having sexual problems.

The distressed non-compulsive group, a little over 12 percent of the sample, only watched 17 minutes a week. They were not compulsive about it but experienced a lot of emotional distress about their viewing, feeling uncomfortable and shameful about it.

RELATED: How Much Sex Is Normal?

The compulsive group, which was a little over 11 percent, represents people who will rearrange their schedule in order to watch porn, they feel powerless to stop viewing, are more likely to be isolated, are preoccupied by thoughts about porn and sex — and feel enormous shame about their viewing habits. Those with a compulsive profile reported lower rates of sexual satisfaction and dysfunction and higher rates of sexual compulsivity and avoidance. The highly distressed users were less sexually satisfied and reported less sexual compulsivity but experienced more sexual dysfunction and avoidance. In other words, those users were not enjoying sex, they felt out of control with their viewing habits, and were more likely to avoid sex with a partner and when they did have it, they were more likely to have sexual problems.

Reading these descriptions, you should be able to determine which sounds most like you. To be sure your porn use is “normal,” or safe for you and your life, you want to keep your use moderate and come to terms with it so you can avoid the shame spiral.

VIDEO: Is Porn Really Bad for Your Health? Experts Weigh In

Here are a few things to keep in mind to have a healthy relationship with porn.

Don't Overdo It

A study of porn watching and gray matter found a negative association between reported hours of porn viewing per week and gray matter volume. This has been linked to decreased motivation and reward processing. In other words, more porn viewing led to people being less motivated to do things in their life and less responsive to sexual stimulus, meaning it would require more graphic images for them to have a sexual response. People who watched more porn were less able to have sexual reactions when they were with a real life partner. This does not translate well to a healthy sex life.

Switch it Up

In order to avoid becoming porn dependent to get off, vary your repertoire. Don’t use it all the time. Use fantasy, read erotica, look at photos of hot people on Instagram. Do whatever it takes to get yourself turned on — including watching porn — but mix up your routine.

Share Your Porn

If you are in a relationship, watching porn together can be a fun way to spice things up. Try opening up to your partner about what you've been watching. Ask their porn preferences, and you've got even more to try out together — just be sure you don't judge what gets them off in private. If it's something you want no part of, politely decline and pivot to something else you can share.

RELATED: My Boyfriend Watches Gross Porn; Should I Be Concerned?

Don’t Judge Yourself, Either

The things that turn us on often have to do with power, control, and dominance, which can feel like murky waters to wade into. But rest assured it’s perfectly natural to fantasize about (or enjoy watching porn about) sexual scenarios you would never want to engage in in real life. Your porn preferences do not have to be politically correct. For example, one of PornHub's consistent high searches is for "step mom." Resist the urge to overanalyze yourself mid-orgasm

Look Out for Warning Signs and Symptoms

If you find that you are getting to the point you you need more and more graphic material to get off, this is a sign that you are becoming desensitized and need to back off. Also, if you are finding that you are neglecting your responsibilities in order to stay home and watch porn that is another red flag (and a sign of porn addiction). If these things occur, in addition to reducing your viewing, you may want to consult a professional who specializes in mental health disorders, or even sexual behavior.

Pick People Over Porn

If you find that you are avoiding IRL sex, this could be about intimacy issues and have nothing to do with porn. If you are avoiding connecting with people, not just sexually, that is a problem. Make sure you spend time developing your friendships, connecting with family, pursuing real life experiences over screen time with your favorite porn stars. If you are resistant to those real life connections, it is worth exploring in therapy.

RELATED: How to Deal When You and Your Partner Have Mismatched Libidos

The big question you ask is, how much porn is healthy? The answer is not a specific number. What is healthy is the amount that allows you to still be aroused and have fun without a need for more extreme images. Healthy porn viewing enhances your life, it does not prevent you from feeling turned on with a partner. Obsessing about it, shaming yourself over it, shirking your responsibilities to watch it or being dependent on it to orgasm are signs your use has gotten unhealthy.

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