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How porn is changing our sex lives
January 20th, 2011
08:12 AM ET

How porn is changing our sex lives

Ian Kerner is a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

Porn, schmorn.

I don’t care what anybody says, real sex with a real person is better than porn any day of the week.  At Good in Bed, we believe that porn is the equivalent of professional wrestling: phony and superficial. It’s like subsisting on a junk-food diet of Gummi bears and Gatorade when you could be having a gourmet meal.

But when you’re living la vida loca, there isn’t always time for a balanced meal, and for lots of guys, that’s where porn comes in. It’s easy, it’s lazy, it’s fun, and, oh yeah, it’s there. It’s always right there—even when we don’t want it to be.

By my estimate, men are masturbating 50 to 500% more than they would normally without Internet porn. So if a guy normally masturbated once a day, he might now be doing it two or three times a day. If he masturbated three times a week, he might now be getting graphic with his graphics 15 times a week.

Ian, Joy Behar, others talk online porn

If you’re 17 and single, this might not be a problem. But if you’re 40 and toting a gut, it’s an issue—a real issue. Some guys may still feel mentally like they’re 17 years old, but they can’t have sex that way. Their bodies have changed and so have their refractory periods, the natural interval between erections.

As a result, today’s woman faces more challenges to her sexual satisfaction than ever before. An increasing number of men are suffering from a syndrome I’ve dubbed Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder. Just as people with real ADD tend to be easily distracted, guys with SADD have become so accustomed to the high levels of visual novelty and stimulation that Internet porn provides that they’re unable to focus on real sex with a real woman. Men with SADD tend to find themselves getting bored or impatient during sex, and suffering from mechanical “male-functions”: They may be physiologically aroused and even have an erection, but they’re not at peak mental arousal. Guys with SADD may also simply lack the mojo for real sex because they’re depleted from masturbation. They’re not running on a full tank, physically, mentally, and certainly not sexually.

It’s a SADD state of affairs and this new world order of porn doesn’t show any signs of changing. My guess is that we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the myriad ways porn will alter the landscape of our love lives. Porn’s not just an issue, or a problem, or a quick release, it’s part of a major shift in our sexual mores. Just as the sexual revolution led to"The Joy of Sex," and "Sex and the City" led to the mainstreaming of the Rabbit vibrator, my prediction is that Internet porn will affect everything in our sex lives.  That’s for better or for worse—and it doesn’t have to be for worse.

After all, masturbation is a healthy activity. When couples are in good relationships, they actually tend to masturbate more than when they’re not. Masturbation is not something people do just because we’re “not getting any”—it’s something we do because it’s human and healthy. In fact, when people stop masturbating, it’s generally a bad sign: It can mean they’re depressed or have a health problem. Given this, in a healthy relationship, there’s nothing wrong with porn, either. And when couples share porn together, it can make them even more excited about sex with each other and be a strong bonding experience.

Porn can also be a healthy way of exploring forbidden taboos. Fantasies are fantasies for a reason—because they’re not real. Porn provides a venue to explore things that you normally don’t get to explore. People should not be judged on the porn they enjoy, and there isn’t always a direct relationship between the stuff we look at and the stuff we actually want to try.

Of course, that’s little comfort to a woman who’s concerned about her male partner’s use of porn. She may have a lot questions about her guy’s porn use: Is he into something really kinky, does he want me to look different, should I be performing, etc. In truth, a guy often isn’t thinking any of these things—he’s just enjoying some porn and that’s about it. But if these silent questions build over time they can really damage a relationship.

Once couples start discussing porn, it’s a stimulus to their relationship—to sharing fantasies, talking about likes and dislikes, and more. Also, it doesn’t hurt to remember that there was a time before porn, or at least when porn was not so easily accessible to the average person. Sure, guys turned to magazines or videos. But they also relied on their imaginations and their erotic memories. To me, that is one of the biggest downsides of porn. So consider taking a break from porn and letting your imagination be your guide—you might be surprised where it takes you. If you have a question about porn and how it’s affecting your relationship, please visit our expert forum at Good in Bed, where we will answer your individual questions.


soundoff (223 Responses)
  1. geeneyes

    LOL funny you say that. my hubby is 6' 3" and 150 lbs! i can't put weight on him and he's completely healthy. we are trying for a baby. yes we watch p0rn together. so maybe we do attract people we are like. i'm 5'5" and 115.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  2. Habitual Offender

    Jessica & JJ.....American men are fat because food is plentiful, readily available & CHEAP. I lived in Europe for 6 years. They eat less because food is expensive. But...fast food places aren't everywhere also. I have a lot of European immigrants in the city I live in and they are just as fat as everyone else after living here for a while.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      But you can't just say "American men." I don't have any overweight men in my family, my husband isn't overweight, most of my co-workers aren't overweight... they are, however, all Americans : )

      January 20, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  3. objecttothis

    If this guy uses one more pun in his article I think I might just vomit everywhere.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
  4. Heisenburg

    Hey girls better get in shape for spring break or guys wont want to do you. Just kidding, they'll bone you no matter what.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  5. Michael

    No one ever got a STD from masturbating. Also, unwanted pregnancies never occur as a result of masturbation. Think about it!

    January 20, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  6. Howie

    CNN Censors are morons! How can you set the censor to delete comments that include the word p o r n, when that is what the article is about? This author has no idea what he is talking about. Medical research has shown that men's health is positively impacted in many ways by every orgasm you have. I have never heard that there is an upper limit to this. Ever hear the phrase "use it or lose it"? My wife and I watch together often. She watches alone sometimes. My libido far far exceeds hers, so p o r n is a relationship saver as I am not constantly after her and wearing her out. Refraction period? Doesn't exist – I can go again (and again, and again, and. . . ) pretty much immediately. I finish with the wife, she has had enough, I have not – p o r n saves the day. 10 times a day? No problem. Author obviously has some dysfunction and is unable to perform.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  7. Kal

    Baby, 8 schnitzengruben is my limit! Hehehe.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
  8. BuzzerKiller

    I'm probably going to get grilled by people for this, so just bare with me on this one. The difference, that I find, in p()rnography than with real women are the multiples of situations and types of s3xual touches that occur in the scene far outweigh what your partner would most likely be willing to do in a bed if it was just you and her. With p()rnography, all of your fetishes are before you (from the violent monotone to the soft and gentle, to even the science fiction [which I personally don't venture into, but some do]). It's not as passionate as being with a real woman, but it's all about the feeling of power and control, and how the scenario broadcasts itself to the male mind (I hope this makes sense). Also, images and videos of women in p()rnographic situations do not whine or complain to you as a real woman would, nor would they charge you for possibly r@ping them the next day even though it's consensual.

    January 20, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
  9. keith

    great article...maybe now all the pervs will focus on actual people and have real relationships that go beyond their hand and imagination...

    January 20, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • BuzzerKiller

      For me, personally, I'm a picky man, but I'm also not a wealthy man, so my choices for a partner are extremely limited. I do not smoke, and I do not drink, and I'm not much of a party guy (so I don't go to bars), so that really takes the adult-style interaction away. Being 150 lbs and only 5'7" doesn't help alot either, as alot of women like taller men. I got rejected twice because I don't smoke or drink (and do not like inhaling cigarette smoke and do not really tolerate drunkenness). So my limited choices for a woman are, well... very limited. (Alot of nonwealthy or educated women are either too large, or do drugs, or drink exessively, or don't take care of themselves, or anything to actually BETTER themselves).

      January 20, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
    • BuzzerKiller

      This was not meant to be a reply to you Keith. I pushed the wrong button.

      January 20, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
  10. Tony from San Diego

    What a Bozo! Get a real job instead of trying to pass of your Victorian views on the public.!

    January 20, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
  11. Post Critic

    Loudest LOL!

    January 20, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
  12. Filiberto

    This is a GREAT article!!

    January 20, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • Asian Chick

      If you're gay

      January 20, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
  13. Asian Chick

    Boom

    January 20, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  14. Poodle

    and the peanut butter!!!

    January 20, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    Lost a girlfriend because she wanted to watch it with me.
    Then afterwords she found it threatening even though we talked about it.
    My best advice:
    Hide it, do not talk about it. Admit you have it if asked but absolutely do not let her see it ever!
    There are some topics that you never discuss with someone and this is one of them.

    January 20, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
  16. BuzzerKiller

    For me, personally, I'm a picky man, but I'm also not a wealthy man, so my choices for a partner are extremely limited. I do not smoke, and I do not drink, and I'm not much of a party guy (so I don't go to bars), so that really takes the adult-style interaction away. Being 150 lbs and only 5'7" doesn't help alot either, as alot of women like taller men. I got rejected twice because I don't smoke or drink (and do not like inhaling cigarette smoke and do not really tolerate drunkenness). So my limited choices for a woman are, well... very limited. (Alot of nonwealthy or educated women are either too large, or do drugs, or drink exessively, or don't take care of themselves, or anything to actually BETTER themselves). Another thing about me is that I like modest women too... I don't like scantily dressed women nor women with large breasts. I do love a woman in just normal clothes, being themselves... without the DD breasts (anything over a C freaks me out) with no dragon tattoos on their backs or something insanely crazy like that. I guess I'm really just TOO picky.

    January 20, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • Howie

      You're not too picky, just incredibly boring.

      January 20, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • BuzzerKiller

      Yeah, probably. I guess the "go out for a walk, run, jog" or "go to a movie" or "let's take a stroll down the beach" approach doesn't cut it anymore, huh?

      January 20, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • BuzzerKiller

      Whatever floats your boat, Kat. It's not for me, but I'm sure you're a princess in someone else's eyes. =)

      January 20, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • BuzzerKiller

      Being in a skirt and a dress is okay, that's not what I was talking about. It's more like, just telling women to BE THEMSELVES. Don't be something just because a woman on TV or another woman you see across the way does it. A woman being in a dress or a skirt is beautiful, but you don't have to make it scantily or dress up like a barbie doll to impress. Morals kicking in again. I like a woman who has her own head on her shoulders, not a brainwashed woman with someone else's views on what is pretty and whatnot stuck in their heads.

      January 20, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
    • keith

      I can just picture Kat...she probably looks like Keith Richards and has the mental capacity of Ozzy....

      January 20, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      THANK YOU!!!! It's nice to see decency out there!

      January 20, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • AmericanWomenSuck

      Don't beat yourself up Buzz, Western women are bottom of the barrel. Travel internationally and you are bound to find someone a million times better and you'll also enjoy yourself much better by getting out and travelling. Don't be consumed by the media lies that American women are what you have to settle for. Women like Kat also post ads on escort sites without their SO even knowing. Why would any smart self-respecting man want that kind of trailer trash? DO the smart thing, swear off of low quality Amerisk@nks.

      January 20, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse |
  17. rovi

    Gosh! And don't forget masturbation makes you blind, lol! It seems someone's beamed you over from the 1960's. Poor you.

    January 20, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
  18. HikerMomma

    My husband works alone during the week and I know that's when he watches all his (p) o r n. He's messed up one computer so bad with CyberVDs that the computer had to be reformatted and he lost all data. He's also done in a laptop as well. I know he's addicted and finds it an easy fix during the week. If I'm lucky I'll maybe get it once during the weekend. My libido on the other hand would be happy with three times a day. As for all the naysayers on American women are fat and lazy well take a look in the mirror. I weigh less than when we married and I love to be outdoors hiking, camping and kayaking. When were first together he use to be more active but now he says that he's too fat and tired. That's a sad excuse because really all he has to do is lay there and I can take care of my business. LOL! Usually though he has a hard time lasting as well... sigh. I try to be kind about it all, not make him feel bad because the male ego is a fragile thing. He said I'm the naughtiest girl he's ever met and I think that overwhelms him so I've toned it down as well to help the lasting factor. I have never cheated and will never cheat on my husband. I do understand why there are so many cougars on the prowl though. Not sure what else to do. Sure giving oneself the big "O" is fun and all but it's way more fun with someone you love. *sigh*

    January 20, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
  19. TDiddy

    Don't do it ... don't .....do ... it

    January 20, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
  20. Joe, San Diego

    I wanna sleep with the author he has nice lips!

    January 20, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
  21. RIP Greg Giraldo

    "Internet p o r n is ruining marriages. I don't know if it's ruined my marriage, but it's definitely destroyed my keyboard."

    –Greg Giraldo

    January 20, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
  22. autom

    The reason I'm SADD is because women don't want me. I don't have a bachelors degree. I don't live in the city. I don't have my own place. Whatever happened to women that would be with a guy with a bus pass, just because she loves him?

    January 20, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
  23. jimmy

    What if I really like gummy bears and Gatorade? Am I so bad?

    January 20, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
  24. Clearly

    Sarah Palin's fault.

    January 20, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
    • tommy thunder

      Sarah Palin is the first Vice Presidential candidate I would like to have seen nude.

      January 20, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  25. California

    love that movie!

    January 20, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  26. Hot & S E X Y

    LMAO! very creative pic!

    January 20, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  27. Chris

    Men are pigs – what can I say. The majority are shallow and focus on superficial aesthetics. They allow the media to dictate their idea of beautiful.

    January 20, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
    • rocboy

      Is it so wrong to want your woman to look good for you? Men are visual creatures after all.

      January 20, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
    • R Yu

      Females are cows – what can I say. The majority are shallow and focus on superficial aesthetics. They allow the media to dictate their idea of handsome.

      That works just as well as Chris' post since something like 96% of females, at least in the U.S., focus first on a man's height. Tell me, which is controllable by an adult, height or weight? The one focused on height is emphasizing an uncontrollable factor for an adult; therefore, she is more shallow.

      January 20, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      rocboy – no, I understand, but there's more to a relationship than just looks. Men that base everything on looks are shallow. I think there should be more to it. What about a woman that helps you in life, is loyal to you, and really cares about you and loves you?

      By the way, to everyone else out there, I'm attractive and thin. Just because I speak about other traits does not mean I'm automatically fat and ugly – (please do not make that assumption). I'm also intelligent and run my own business.

      January 20, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  28. Jay

    id ttry to saaay somithign but Iam wwacth o p r n rrrright nooow, annnd cccccan t ttype good with mmy oother hand

    January 20, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
  29. Franc

    It results in increased prostate health and fewer cases of prostate cancer on the upside 😛

    January 20, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
  30. GKSTA

    Feminism: the rise of male masturbation.

    cause i'd rather be alone that listen to that.

    January 20, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
  31. Ohio

    men are so weak-minded... women will out-evolve men soon enough anyways

    January 20, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse |
  32. FQWM

    Why u mad?

    January 20, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  33. weblover

    I TV has a lot to blame for how people think how other people should look and lots of false information about Women and men. If you watch tv its usually always perfect people or people withproblems. you'll never dee and average person. That is what most of us grew up looking viewing and listening to bullpoop!

    January 20, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
  34. Gimme a Break!!

    "Given this, in a healthy relationship, there’s nothing wrong with p o r n, either. And when couples share p o r n together, it can make them even more excited about s e x with each other and be a strong bonding experience".

    Oh my GOSH!! What bogus website did this dude order his "degree" from? What a load of pure, 100%, GradeA CRAP. What's next, are they going to tell us that it's "good" to live on a diet of Big Macs and Cheese Puffs? Smoking is "good" for your health? Drinking & Driving is absolutely "safe". Gimme a break. P o r n destroys healthy relationships, wrecks marriages, breaks up homes & families. There's nothing "good" about it. You wanna break up a good marriage or a healthy relationship, the quickest way to do it is with p o r n. It breeds jealousy, distrust, and whole host of other problems. Not to mention it poisons your mind. It's something to be avoided like the plauge. Whoever the idiot was that said p o r n shared between couples could strengthen the relationship was definately a man. And a very stupid man at that. Men who start viewing this junk send a message to their "significant others" that....hey, you're not pretty enough, s e x y enough, good enough. Basically, you're not enough. Yeah.....good bonding technique.....tell you're partner their not enough. Give em a good ol inferiority complex, and make em feel really insecure. Great advice Mr. Author.

    Hey, guess what. I've got some advice if you REALLY want to bond with your partner. Send her flowers, write her a love note, send her a card, take her to dinner, plan a weekend together. Who knows, maybe you'll get to have some s e x of your own instead of sitting around watching other people do degrading things on the TV.

    January 20, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      Truer words have not been spoken on this page.

      I agree with you 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 20, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I completely agree – you've said it the best!

      January 20, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • Bluemoondrop

      Give me a frickin' break. I'm glad I'm a straight woman so I don't have to deal with prudes like you; cards and flowers, ughhhhh talk about giving a break!

      January 20, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse |
  35. Busta

    This idiot must be a republican.

    January 20, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
  36. Benrick

    Dude, did your wife make you write this article?

    January 20, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
  37. Kiblets1991

    ...how did this artical get so many comments? i dont think the articals speaking on the korean conflict attracted this much attention and that was actually semi important >.0

    January 20, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
  38. JB!

    Or MAYBE you women could shut your dam word holes once in a while and open up your mouth! Or send us a dirty picture once in a while at work. Just stop pointing your finger and realize we need to be turned on! And it doesn't even take much, we are guys after all!

    January 20, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  39. Chris

    R Yu – I completely agree with you – women that do focus on height exclusively are also shallow. It does go both ways.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:11 | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      I agree HOWEVER, as a 5'11" woman, I have a RIGHT to want a TALL man! It's the shorties that want tall men that are shallow!

      Sorry, I am tall, you'd better be tall too!

      January 20, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
  40. Poorwife

    I can say that as a wife of someone that does this all the time behind my back and I don't like it, I have told him that, I feel betrayed. It has hurt my marriage because I get upset when I find out.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  41. Sam

    The author doesn't exactly look like a Don Juan...

    January 20, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  42. Ken

    This juvenile essay is simply a massive pile of crap from start to finish.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:21 | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Ding ding. You are correct, sir

      January 20, 2011 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
  43. a.

    Totally agree. P orn is responsible for very unrealistic expectations, lack of real intimacy and emotional passion, not to mention hair-trigger reactions from men. If they "practiced" on a real woman, they'd know it takes more than 5 minutes.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  44. Robert W.

    What you watch does not influence what you do right? That is why millions of dollars are spent every year on advertisments.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
  45. AbraCadabra

    Nisciuna virgogna. 😛

    January 20, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
  46. Mari

    Yeah, because only MEN use the internet for that. You men would be surprised at how many of us women enjoy it, too! Give me gay men snogging any night of the week.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
  47. BigBlue

    I like Gatorade and Gummi Bears!!

    January 20, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
  48. S

    The thing with this is it does end marriages cause the man gets addicted to it and doesnt want to be with his wife much. Then she does wonder what is wrong with her when she wants it but he doesnt. God didnt want this for a marriage. You should all watch Fireproof, it deals with this issue in marriages.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
  49. LOVE MY KEYBOARD

    My wife has become morbidly obese and frigid. Rather than divorce or infidelity, I'll punch the munchkin at the keyboard.

    January 20, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse |
  50. Chris

    BuzzerKiller – where were you 10 years ago? You definitely are not from the East Coast – you seem nice and have some morals.

    January 20, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.