Has your porn consumption gone from casual use to daily dependence?

Are you having a difficult time sexually engaging with your partner because you are used to masturbating to porn?

Do you need some help finding ways to scale back your use?

Before reading, please note: there is a spectrum of professional opinion on whether or not porn can be “addictive”. I use the word dependence as I believe it more accurately describes my clients’ reported experiences.  Theories on addiction are best left to those that specialize in addiction.  If you think that you have a porn or sex addiction and need help please search out a qualified specialist.

My personal opinion on porn is that it’s a great vehicle for pleasure when used in a way that promotes connection with yourself and your partner.  It can be an avenue of exploring eroticism when used to awaken the senses and become more sexually aware. It has the potential to increase libido, arousal and orgasm for those that enjoy visual media. And, it can be used between couples to keep things spicy in the bedroom. 

However, you may find that you’ve become dependent on porn and experience negative physical, emotional and psychological side effects from frequent, long-term use. 

Some of the reported side effects of porn dependency can be:

  • Engaging less in partner sex
  • Performance anxiety
  • Comparing oneself to porn actors
  • Early or delayed ejaculation
  • Difficulty orgasming with partner
  • Erectile variations (it works sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t)
  • Comparing your partner to porn actors
  • Setting up impossible expectations of yourself and/or your partner
  • Becoming dis-embodied
  • Not being able to stop viewing porn to take care of other responsibilities
  • Finding less and less pleasure from consuming porn but not being able to stop

If you are finding that your life has been negatively impacted by porn dependency, the good news is that there are some powerful steps to diminish dependency and achieve a satisfying sex life.  

5 Steps To Break The Habit:

1. Normalize and Reduce Shame

One of the important steps to breaking any dependency is to stop beating yourself up for your habit. The more you beat yourself up and feel badly about yourself the greater the chance that you will turn to the habit to self-soothe.  This goes for any habit that has become unhealthy and that you are trying to break.  Overeating, overconsumption of drugs and alcohol, too much shopping, gambling, etc.  You may be using substances including porn as a way to self-soothe painful events, stressors and emotions. Many times it becomes a cycle of use, then subsequent feelings of guilt and shame, and then more use to assuage those difficult emotions.

So how do you stop feeling shame and guilt?  The best solution for this is to normalize your behavior. Normalizing works because it helps you understand that you are not a horrible person with a horrible disorder.  In fact, this pubmed article cites a study that reports, “91.5% of men and 60.2% of women herein reported having consumed pornography in the past month”.

It may, in fact, be more normal to use porn than it isn’t. Now, normalizing use is not to excuse dependency it’s just a stepping stone to help alleviate shameful emotions. 

Tell yourself: “A lot of people use porn and it is normal to gravitate towards this media.  But, it’s gotten a little out of hand and I am going to do something about it”.  

2. From Porn to Embodied Pleasure 

The second and very crucial step to is begin to establish a real, embodied connection with your sexuality.

While porn may have its uses, for some, it has created a disconnection between their body and mind.  You are  watching something happen on a screen and may find that when it’s all over you have very little memory of what actually happened other than a disembodied orgasm. Alternately, when you are embodied and masturbating you are fully connected to all of your senses and each moment becomes full of amazing sensation.  

A wonderful exercise that helps you tap into embodied pleasure is the mindful masturbation technique: From Porn to Embodied Pleasure.

You start with watching porn then turn it off and focus on your body.  You can go back to it one or two more times (but only for a minute or so) and then return to just the awareness of your body  without the visual stimulation.

Over time this helps train you out of depending on porn to achieve orgasm.  

3. Use Mindful Masturbation without Porn at all

Once you have done the Porn to Embodied Pleasure a few times and are getting the hang of not needing as much visual stimulation try the Mindful Masturbation exercise where you don’t use porn at all.  This is an exercise that encourages you to really get to know your body on a sensory level without visual input.  A lot of people report discovering things about themselves they never knew was possible and, that this type of masturbation has helped them be more present with their partners.

4. Use a Fleshlight 

For many folks using a lot of porn over the years has created issues around early ejaculation, delayed ejaculation or erectile variations (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t). Using a Fleshlight for masturbation while doing the mindful masturbation approach (no porn) can help to diversify sensations and help train the body to work optimally during partner sex.  Your mileage will vary with the Fleshlight (and it’s designed for folks with penises) Give it a try and see how it goes.

5. Engage in Slow Sex with your partner.

Many people report that the type of masturbating they are doing to porn is quick, hurried and to the point and so, when they engage in partner sex they have a hard time being present with their partner’s needs. The solution to this is to learn how to have slow sex.  Slow sex is when you engage in foreplay with all of your senses present: smell, taste, touch, sound, etc.  When sex is done quickly very little attention is paid to what is going on moment to moment and this can further encourage the disconnect between your body/mind and your partner. Instead, slow way down, engage in foreplay, learn some new techniques and become present. Over time, this kind of sex will feel so amazing that the craving for porn will diminish.  You will find you prefer a more satisfying kind of sex. 

I have seen many people completely turn their dependency to porn around with these steps.  It may be something that you can do entirely on your own and, it may be helpful to work with a coach to custom craft exercises just for you and your specific needs.  It is always helpful to discuss your progress with someone and stay accountable with weekly sessions.

The main thing is to know that there is nothing wrong with you.  Many folks have unwittingly become a little too dependent on porn.  And while porn has its place as a form of enjoyable entertainment, if it is causing you distress you can turn that ship around. 

Please be gentle with yourself in this process, Rome was not build in a day. It can take time to create new neural pathways, unlearn habits and create new, lasting habits.

Patience and practice makes perfect! 

All the best,

Dr. Anya


Dr. Anya

Dr. Anya is a sexuality expert with over 25 years experience working with individuals, couples, and groups. Dr. Anya has a Doctor of Human Sexuality degree and is a certified sex educator and certified sexologist. Dr. Anya has a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area working with individuals and couples and invites straight and LGBTQ people into her practice.

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