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Women Get Addicted To Porn Too – And It's Equally Damaging

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Young men are having trouble getting it up – and online porn is to blame, according to a leading psychosexual therapist.

Angela Gregory warned of a "surge" of men in their teens and early twenties reporting sexual health problems, particularly in the last five years, because of easy access to porn, she told the BBC.

Whereas once, erectile dysfunction was associated with older men and people suffering from diabetes, MS, and cardiovascular disease, today, healthy younger men are struggling to stay aroused without a little... help.

"One of the first assessment questions I'd always ask now is about pornography and masturbatory habit because that can be the cause of their issues about maintaining an erection with a partner," Gregory said.

It's an interesting observation, but, duh. Didn't we know this already?

Yes, there is still a taboo around porn addiction among men, but there is so little open discussion about the effects of porn addiction among women that we don't even have a vocabulary with which to discuss it. And it is an equally important topic.

Women become addicted to the dopamine rush associated with porn in the same way as men. They feel the shame and the isolation that addiction inevitably brings.


The conversation surrounding porn addiction and its impact on women's sex lives usually goes something like this: "Poor women, their boyfriends are thinking about porn and not them during sex!". It's always about how porn affects men's sexual behaviour, how it ruins women's lives via their male partners, and how women must be protected.

Not only is this an overwhelmingly heteronormative narrative, it ignores the harmful psychological effects on the many women who struggle to get their rocks off without porn, or, ahem, other "erotic material", too.

Women become addicted to the dopamine rush associated with porn in the same way as men. They feel the shame and the isolation that addiction inevitably brings. The same loss of interest in sex that doesn't live up to the extreme material they're watching. And the same breakdown of their romantic relationships while their minds are elsewhere.

It's hard to quantify the scale of porn addiction among either sex and there are no official figures, but even by talking to people off the record, the scale of the damage is palpable.

One 28-year-old woman, who didn't want to be named, said her use of porn and other "erotic material" has a "100% negative" on her relationship with her boyfriend. "The best way to describe my relationship with porn is 'like a teenage boy', because that is the only description available to me," she told Refinery29.

"I watch porn most evenings before bed unless I’m with my boyfriend, or exceptionally tired and it does 100% impact my sex life negatively – for a hundred different reasons – including not being able to orgasm during sex. However, as a woman, I have no idea who to talk to about this.”

There are no clichés available to her to describe her relationship with porn, which is not only a clear example of sexism, it also makes it harder to talk about her problems, exacerbating the shame she feels.

"There are a million articles talking about what porn for women should look like, and how great it can be when it is designed by women. But nothing about the equally damaging effects it can have on a woman's sexual wellbeing."

Lisa Etherson
, a psychosexual therapist, told Refinery29 that women are likely to feel an ever greater sense of shame about their porn addiction than men because of society's sexual double standard, meaning they are unlikely to come forward and seek help.

"Within our culture, we still tend to view male and female sexuality differently – man has lots of partners, he’s a hero, woman has lots of partners, she’s a slut – so if we include an addiction in the mix, the shame can increase dramatically," she said.

Porn addiction can have other devastating consequences, too. "Women who are addicted to porn may be putting themselves at risk financially if they are paying for certain sites, or if their porn use is escalating to meeting strangers for sex. It is also possible that the type of porn they are watching is becoming more extreme, as the addiction escalates."

Regardless of your sex, porn addiction can make both partners feel isolated and feel a sense of shame, Etherson said.

If you think you might be addicted to porn, or suffer any kind of sex addiction, seek help from a therapist who is experienced in working with sex addiction, Etherson advises. And if your sex life is suffering because of porn, it may also be worth seeing a sex therapist.
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