What is porn induced erectile dysfunction?

The inability to get or maintain an erection

during sexual activity because of a high exposure to pornography

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Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is commonly referred to as the inability to get or maintain an erection during sexual activity because of excessive exposure to pornography.

A debate exists about pornography’s availability and erectile dysfunction (ED). Certainly, masturbation, with or without pornography, diminishes a man’s capacity to have sex for some period after reaching orgasm. This is called a refractory period. If a man, through compulsive behavior, masturbates frequently to pornography, it does not seem unreasonable that he might have difficulty having sex with a partner soon thereafter. Exhausting one’s sexual capacity and drive, with or without the stimulation of pornography, will reduce a man’s desire to engage in the discourse needed to create the bond that could lead to sex.

Yet, that neither means that pornography was the cause of the diminished capacities described nor that the compulsive retreat to images of sexual activity falls into the category of an addiction. However, leaving aside the terms used to describe what some are calling an epidemic of porn-related ED, what evidence is there that pornography is the cause of the ED being identified in ever younger men?

The reality is that some men note that their diminished capacity to engage in sexual activity with a partner is problematic, even while getting an erection and reaching orgasm with masturbation with pornography is unaffected. They can abstain for days and still are unable to engage in sex with a partner.

However, some researchers cast doubt that such a relationship exists. An Italian study published in 2013 by researchers at University Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan noted that out of 439 men who had erectile dysfunction, 114 (26%) were under 40 (mean age 32). Worse, nearly half of them had severe ED. What is fascinating is that what distinguished these men from older individuals were lifestyle issues known to affect erections: smoking, illicit drug use, and alcohol consumption. The young men were less likely to have other illnesses, to have leaner body masses, and to have higher testosterone levels but the weight placed on them by poor lifestyle choices may be the reason for their ED, not the use of pornography.

Indeed, in a Swiss study from 2012, approximately 30% of young men experienced erectile Dysfunction (ED). They noted that “ED was directly linked with medication without a prescription, length of sexual life, and physical health.” They concluded, “Multiple health-compromising factors are associated with these dysfunctions (ED and PE–Premature Ejaculation). These should act as red flags for health professionals to encourage them to take any opportunity to talk about sexuality with their young male patients.”

In the ’90s, the release of Viagra gave men the opportunity to identify their problem, to seek medical care, and to be counted. It may be that the higher than expected rate of ED in young men is not a result of the increased availability of pornography but in the increased awareness of ED as a medical problem that could be treated.

Some men may have problems with compulsive/impulsive behavior. Others may be isolated and use masturbation with pornography to deal with loneliness, or to manage stress. The reasons range from positive and affirming to unhealthy and psychologically damaging.

For many people (men and women), masturbation is an exploration of the breadth of human sexuality that can be a very enriching process. The key is that it never becomes a substitute for the intimacy that can be so important a means of bonding, nor so consuming that it interferes with the normal activities that make us fully-integrated, societal beings.

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