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Porn and Performance Anxiety

2022-07-14
min read
Porn and Performance Anxiety

If you wonder if porn and performance anxiety are connected, you’re in good company. There are a lot of myths about porn — how it affects your brain, your relationships, and sexual intimacy. But a lot of these myths are anti-porn propaganda, not science.

Let’s get into it.

Porn and performance anxiety aren’t connected

No need to beat around the bush: porn and performance anxiety aren’t correlated. In fact, studies from seven different labs were not able to show a connection between porn and performance anxiety, low desire, or erectile dysfunction.

According to sexual physiologist Nicole Prause, PhD, many of the studies that correlated porn with performance anxiety or erectile dysfunction relied on self-reported data. Self-reported data is unreliable, especially in the realm of sex.

To recap one more time, “Pornography does not seem to be a significant risk factor for younger men’s desire, erectile, or orgasmic difficulties” according to a 2015 study (and several other studies).

 

So, what’s with the porn and sexual dysfunction myths?

Anti-porn critics continue to push the idea that porn is the cause of “newly” high rates of erectile dysfunction among young men. But most  studies on erectile dysfunction are done on older populations, so there’s not a lot of evidence that rates of erectile dysfunction are higher now than they used to be.

And erectile “dysfunction” itself is a loaded term.

Performance anxiety, difficulty getting and maintaining erections, and differences in desire are all quite common. We live in a culture that stigmatizes people with penises who don’t get hard and stay hard immediately on demand. But most people’s bodies don’t work that way.

And the irony of this is that the shame and stigma make it worse.

 

 

Shame and stigma are bad for sexual function

“Feelings and fears about one’s erection actually create erectile difficulties. Men who feel more shame about watching porn, are actually most likely to report difficulties with erection during partnered sex,” says clinical psychologist, David Ley, PhD.

It can take time to reach arousal. Lots of factors — from tiredness to medications to anxiety — affect how long it takes to get aroused. This is normal and true for people with all types of genitals.

“The incredible over-identification of normal erectile variability as erectile ‘dysfunction’ is staggering,” says Prause. “While sex therapists fought for years to help the public understand that erections are commonly variable, such as when someone is tired, it feels like PDE-5 inhibitors (like Viagra) undid all our education progress. We are back to everyone thinking being nervous with a new partner is unacceptable, and that certainly benefits the pockets of pharmaceutical companies.”

Moral of the story? If you don’t get and maintain erections on demand, there’s nothing wrong with you. And there’s nothing wrong with watching porn.

Masturbation and porn do go hand in hand (pun intended)

Another flaw in common anti-porn research?

Lots of anti-porn studies don’t account for the fact that most people masturbate when they watch porn.

When people masturbate frequently, they sometimes feel less desire for partnered sex because they’re already sexually satisfied. It’s important for studies to account for this, instead of just blaming porn.

Plus, according to Ley, “Many men grip their penis more tightly than can be achieved during intercourse” when they masturbate. This is known as the “death grip,” and it is correlated with sexual dysfunction or delayed ejaculation.

If it’s difficult for you to get or maintain an erection when you want to have one during partnered sex, try laying off the solo hand stuff for a minute and see if that helps. Or ditch the worries and masturbate with your partner.

Tips and tricks to help with sexual anxiety and erectile issues

One of the most major things that can help with sexual anxiety? Have an open conversation with your partner (and if you need help talking to your partner about sex, we’ve got a guide for that).

A conversation can help relieve stress on both ends. If your partner is blaming themselves, you can explain what’s happening with your body and that it’s not about them. Or if it is about them, you can talk to them about what you want. Then you both can focus on what matters most: pleasure.

As long as you’re having a good time together, you’re having sex the right way. Plus, taking the pressure off can make it easier to have an erection.

Of course, mutual trust and care can make that conversation easier, and your partner or partners play an important role in that. According to Prause, “​​The sexual partner also can have a major role between men’s health or dysfunction, by valuing non-penetrating types of sex and not blaming the guy or projecting their own insecurities on him.”

If your partner doesn’t have an erection, focus on the many fun ways to have sex without one. Try a guided cunnilingus exercise or go on a pleasure journey together. Explore sensual massage, watch a sexy film, or just get naked and have fun. You don’t need an erection to explore pleasure together. And pleasure is the point.

To recap, porn isn’t a problem. And neither is your body

You deserve to have fun and to enjoy sex and fantasy, regardless of what your body is doing.

Need some inspiration? We’ve got a whole library of erotic content waiting for you…


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