The Problem With Porn

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 11, 2009 · 336 comments

in On Manhood

Porn is everywhere today. It’s impossible to pinpoint when it happened, but some time in the last couple of decades, porn went mainstream. Before you had to go to the seedy part of town to pick up a magazine or order a stag film that came in a non-suspicous brown package. Now, you can find porn pretty much anywhere you look. On TV, at your local bookstore, and especially on the internet.

This movement of porn into the mainstream is generally viewed as a healthy liberation from the suffocating sexual mores of older generations. While it’s fantastic that society has gotten past its Puritan prudishness, I do think the pendulum has swung too far when it comes to the ubiquity of pornography in our culture. Unfortunately, the ill effects that porn can have on men and women often go unnoticed by the media. Many men are left with the impression that  the proliferation of pornography is an entirely healthy phenomena.  But what effect is porn having on men? When I look around at guys today, I would say without equivocation that it’s sapping their manliness.

A Level-headed Approach

Pornography is such a polarizing issue, that it’s easy for people to take extreme sides when approaching it. Oftentimes, religious people, while very sincere in their beliefs, brand porn as vile filth that turns good men into sexual perverts and unclean lepers. I’ve sat through plenty of church sermons where porn is approached this way. However, such a approach hardly helps men rationally think through the issue. Rather it transforms porn into an even more desirable forbidden fruit, pushes porn consumption into a secretive underground fetish,  and prevents men from being honest in their need for help.

The other extreme sees porn as just a healthy expression of sexuality. Pornography is heartily encouraged in order to help people discover what pleases them sexually, no matter how graphic or violent the material is. The people in this camp will argue that as long as consenting adults are involved and no one gets hurt, then anything goes. However, this approach fails to recognize the detrimental effects porn can have on an individual, on women, and on society.

Neither extreme is helpful. What I want to have today is a frank, rational, discussion about porn and its effects on men. I’ll lay my cards out on the table from the get-go. I don’t think porn is good in any setting. I’ve just seen too many people hurt from it. But I understand that reasonable people can disagree on this issue.

Porn Can Ruin Your Life

Some people have argued that porn use can be as addictive as drugs. Personally, I don’t like the addiction label. It’s too easy to hide behind it as the reason you can’t help yourself. When I think of addiction, I think of people who suffer physical withdrawal symptoms when they finally quit. I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten the shakes when they go a week or two not looking at porn.

There is, however, no doubt that porn can be a full-blown compulsion. It’s more like food to a compulsive over-eater. Once you make those pleasure connections in your brain they can be very hard to break. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that porn can ruin your life. I know of a couple of marriages that broke up because of the guy’s insatiable addiction to porn. And I know of long-term boyfriends and girlfriends who have split up because of it. The stories out there are real and numerous. The man who gets out of bed at night and sneaks away from his wife to watch porn in his office. The man who keeps a secret stash of magazines in his car. The man who watches porn on the job and gets canned when he’s caught. I could go on.

I won’t deny that some men can consume porn and not suffer these kind of consequences. Just like I know men who have an occasional drink and aren’t alcoholics, I know men who dabble in porn and don’t become compulsive porn users.  But even if you’re one of those men who can consume porn without becoming dependent on it, I still think there’s a case to be made that porn should be avoided.  It simply won’t make you a better man in the least. And it can diminish your manliness for several reasons.

The Ways in Which Porn Saps Your Manliness

1. It objectifies women.

A real man sees a woman for who she is. He respects her and her individuality. He sees her as his equal and as a person that deserves respect. It takes a lot of work and effort to interact with women, but a real man has the cajones to do it.

Porn, on the other hand, objectifies women. It turns women into “things” that are only there to gratify a man’s sexual urge. Porn eliminates any need to connect with a woman emotionally or intellectually.

If you want an idea of how insiders in the porn industry feel about women, just ask Bill Margold, a long time performer. For Margold, his “whole reason for being this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don’t care much for women and want to see men in [the porn] industry get even with the women they couldn’t have.” One writer for porn movies (they have writers?) said that pornography creates the illusion “that women are really in their rightful place and that there is no serious challenge to authority.”

If you have to view porn so you can feel like a man, you’ve got some problems. Real men don’t have to turn women into things to feel like a man.

2. It supports a filthy industry

Almost no man I know would hire a prostitute for sex. The idea of paying a stranger for sex violates their sense of propriety. But porn is basically prostitution, just a few steps removed. No matter how you slice it or rationalize it, you are paying a stranger to have sex. It’s pretty gross when you take a step back: you’re paying people to have sex so you can watch them do it. No man would ever want his sister to be a porn star, so why is it okay for someone’s else’s sister to do it? The more porn that is consumed, the more porn that is made. Even if you’re sitting in your den in Omaha, you have a hand in making the industry grow.

3. It will mess with your expectations of sex

Porn creates unrealistic expectations in the minds of men about love and sex. In porn, the women are always hot and ready to go and have perfect airbrushed bodies. Best of all, the women don’t talk. Men don’t have to worry about nagging or having to interact with the women they view in magazines and videos. Men can just have their way them, and be done with it.

The reality is that women don’t want to have sex all the time, not all women have cantaloupe-sized tatas, and women like to talk. Sometimes a lot.

Porn-obsessed men thus have a hard time starting any type of meaningful relationship because the girls they meet don’t measure up to the women in their magazines and on their websites. And when a man does establish a loving sexual relationship, many sociologists have noted that men who have used porn view their partner through a “pornographic filter.” They’ll resort to impersonal fantasy of some porn scene when they’re having sex because the love for their partner isn’t enough to satisfy them.

The porn-brained man also pushes his woman into doing things she’s not very comfortable with, seeking to act out the exotic scenes he’s seen on film. And he’ll think women are all about it. On sites like Jezebel (the writers of which are far from prudish women) women complain that men of this generation will sometimes do things like ejaculate on their face the first time they have sex, thinking that every women thinks that’s really hot. What a sad commentary on today’s men.

If you want to have a good love life, avoid the porn.

4. It creates a cycle that diminishes your sexual pleasure

While society says that more is always key to happiness, the truth is that moderation is. The pleasure receptors of our mind are sensitive mechanisms. When you first try something new, be it travel, food, or porn, the stimuli easily activate these receptors. But after repeated exposure to the stimuli, your pleasure plateaus. At this point, people often reach for more-more food, more sex, more porn, etc. in order to recover the initial pleasure they once took in the experience. But this only begins a vicious cycle in which you must seek ever greater and more intense stimulation to return to your initial pleasure level. Eventually you overwhelm and numb your pleasure receptors.  Studies have shown that when looking at porn you get used to the level of graphics-ness that is portrayed and then need to ratchet up that level to get the same thrill from it. And where will that cycle end?

While society may sell you on the idea that the more sexual images you cram into your life, the happier you’ll be, the opposite is true. To quote Naomi Wolfe:

The reason to turn off the porn might become, to thoughtful people, not a moral one but, in a way, a physical- and emotional-health one; you might want to rethink your constant access to porn in the same way that, if you want to be an athlete, you rethink your smoking. The evidence is in: Greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity.

After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.

5. It saps your manly confidence

Porn saps a lot of confidence you have in yourself. Men usually turn to porn when they’re depressed and lonely. Instead of making the effort to get out and meet real women, many men take the easy way with porn. More often than not, after getting their fix, men feel even more depressed and lonely because the only intimacy they can get is with a magazine or a web video. It leaves them feeling empty inside. Even worse, pornography can become a crutch for a man, which in turn can sap even more of their confidence.

What do you all think? Is porn really a problem for men? Drop a line in the comment box. Again, this is a touchy issue, but I know we can have a frank discussion about this important topic with the civility and class  Art of Manliness readers are known for.

Also, stay tuned for a future post on how to quit porn.

Further reading: The Number 1 Reason Why So Many Boys and Grown Men Surf Porn (and What to Do About It).

{ 336 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Scott Perry May 11, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I only really agree with #1. it doesn’t just objectify women, it also objectifies men, and that is what really saps manly confidence, if taken seriously. these people are actors.

2. It supports a filthy industry
porn is not, by necessity, a filthy industry. it is simply an industry. every industry is driven by money, and those that expect they can make money in porn are the ones that partake. in general (bad business aside) no one is in porn that doesn’t want to be.

3. It will mess with your expectations of sex
this is people taking their media too seriously. porn is in the same realm as fantasy for people. when you watch lord of the rings on television, do you expect to see halflings out on the street? why would you expect a doctor patient scene to materialize instead when getting your yearly physical?

4. It creates a cycle that diminishes your sexual pleasure
this is only true for people addicted to pornography. it is possible to consume it moderately. in a lot of cases, you can come across new ideas in porn that are realistic to try out in real life, and result in new experiences and pleasures.

5. It saps your manly confidence
I’m fairly convinced this is only true if you weren’t confident in yourself in the first place. these people are actors, chosen from a large pool because they are the best suited for their job. I don’t feel worse about myself because I am worse at construction than the rugged fellows laying masonry and building our future homes, we all have our specialties.

2 mr_ziy May 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I completely agree with this article, spot on!

3 NewWorldMan May 11, 2009 at 4:04 pm

For a less biased treatment of this subject go here.

http://www.dailycal.org/article/105668/sex_on_mondaythe_rise_of_porn_culture

4 Daniel May 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Did you write this, or did you copy and paste it from a meaningless tirade generator? This article has been written a thousand times across the Internet, each less thoughtful then the next. I really like this website, but I am disappointed to see you two take such a boring and common position.

I may be wrong, and next week you will run an article “The Great Things About Porn.” If so, I am sorry. If not, you are taking a terribly reductionist stance.

5 Andy Fossett May 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

“I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten the shakes when they go a week or two not looking at porn.”

That’s a great reminder for people who claim they are “powerless” to take control of their behaviors.

Good article.

6 ace May 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Count me as another in 100% agreement with this article. I believe porn is one of the most subtle, insidious, addictive, and diabolical hazards to mens’ lives and souls.

7 SteveC May 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Daniel, what is it about the article you disagree with?

8 A. Dickison May 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I agree that porn messes up your expectations of sex. If porn becomes your idea of what sex is like or should be like, you may begin to have unrealistic expectations of your partner in the bedroom. This could certainly be true if, as a young person, all of your sexual information comes from pornography. Once you finally become sexually active your ideas about how men and women interact in the bedroom could be quite warped.

I agree with point 4 as well and I think that there are many men out there who could attest to the reality of it. I can’t find a reference, but I recall Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet talking in an interview about how the more deviant/wild sex he watched or was involved in the less interesting it was. i.e. He eventually needed the acts to escalate for them to be arousing.

anyway, i’m sure many won’t appreciate this article. i applaud your honesty on an unpopular stance.

9 Brett May 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

@Daniel-

Is it a boring reductionist stance simply because you don’t agree with it? This is my stance, so that’s how I wrote it. I actually don’t come across this position that often-what I read frequently in men’s magazines is-”there is no problem with porn.” If someone wants to take this side and write “The Great Things About Porn,” they are welcome to in the comments. Perhaps you could take a stab at it and be more constructive in your criticism.

10 Chris May 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I totally agree with this article. Thanks.

11 bobm May 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

It was a sad day in my life when I was first introduced to porn. I did not know at the time the incredible hurt and pain it would bring into my life. How it would distort my view of women, pervert my innocence and cripple my ability to have a healthy relationship. A guy who spends hours of time in a glassy-eyed gaze and claims to come away unharmed, is fooling himself.

12 SteveC May 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm

As someone who discovered dumpster porn at the age of 12, I’ve been dealing with this all my life. It’s affected me and even relationships to this day and I’m trying my damnedest to get it out of me.

You may not care about that Daniel, but it’s something a lot of men have to deal with.

13 David C. May 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm

A lot of times people say they aren’t into looking at porn that much by themselves but defend it as a way to spice up your love life with your significant other. But this is harmful too. A friend of mine lost the love of his life because he kept pressuring his gf to watch porn with him. At the time he thought she liked it because she wanted to make him happy, but over time her resentment built up and she dumped him.

14 Chuck S. May 11, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Thanks for writing on such a touchy topic. I like you guys aren’t afraid to go to those sorts of places. This is why I keep coming back.

I’m in the camp that doesn’t think porn’s that bad as long as it’s used in moderation. I’ve seen a few of my friends’ lives ruin by porn, just as I have seen a few of my friends’ lives ruined by alcohol. In both instances, my friends took things to far and let themselves lose control. A man in always in control. Always.

15 Sean J. May 11, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I totally agree that the the vilification of porn by churches is actually doing more harm than good. A recent study put out showed that the most socially and religiously conservative states also have the highest rate of porn consumption. Something is not working.

16 Carson May 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I can’t say I completely agree with all of these theories. They’re valid and well stated, but the author commits one of Nietzsche’s Great Errors in seeing cause and effect relationships where they don’t exist. Men who expect women to be silent, obedient sex-slaves didn’t get that way by watching porn. Men like that have always existed and, to some extent, have shaped cultural expectations of what women should be for centuries in a hundred different societies. Sex, power, and violence are all part of the same complex for some people, and Porn is just giving those kinds of men what they want.

17 Wade May 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Unfortunately the psych research on pornography doesn’t really support the conclusions in this article. For example, studies of visual pornography show that men are more likely to have objectified, non-speaking roles in porn files than women are (and I don’t just mean the obvious lines). There is just a basic gender difference that men don’t really seem to mind being reduced to sex objects, while women do. Perhaps this is because there is no history of sexual discrimination against men and they are much less likely to become victims of sexual abuse, at least as adults.

18 Amanda May 11, 2009 at 5:23 pm

As a woman, I’d like to add #6: “It makes woman feel like crap.”

I just broke up with my boyfriend who I thought would be my husband. But he was getting off more with the porn than he was with me. And it’s not like I’m prude-I was down for having it a lot and doing different things and all that jazz. But it was just easier for him to get off with the porn-less work, no need to worry about pleasing me. And it made me feel like crap. I know it wasn’t his intention but the way it felt to me was “I prefer the woman in porn to you.” It made me think that maybe I wasn’t attractive enough or my body wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t good enough in bed. I couldn’t go on with that feeling. Porn totally ruined our relationship.

19 MasterRanger May 11, 2009 at 5:30 pm

And, in fact, there are women out there who do enjoy sex as it’s portrayed in the movies: guilt-free, fun, pleasurable, adventurous. These women have finally grown out of their prudish forebears’ and realized that trying different thing, repeating them when they feel good, and taking the confidence in themselves necessary to discover what those things are, is one of the ultimate acts of liberation. Everyone has the right to be satisfied sexually.

People who can’t put it down and think that the porn is affecting their relationships with women are addictive schmucks anyway. You boys need to watch out what else you try in life. You may actually start to live a little.

20 Stephen May 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm

One of the problems with porn is it seems it’s purpose has changed over the years. It used to be more titilating and seductive. Now it’s just violent and about degrading women. When 2 Girls 1 Cup is a viral video, we as a society have a problem.

21 asrai May 11, 2009 at 5:39 pm

There are good things about porn. Not all porn preformers have the same view as the ones quoted in the article.

#1.Paying for sex violates YOUR sense of what a real man is, which is a very subjective definition.

#2. Somewhat true. But there are many sex workers and preformers who LOVE thier jobs. They choose to work in the industry and they feel empowered by it.

#3. Most people can view porn and not get a warped sense of how sex works. If my partner is not in the mood why shouldn’t I be able to masturbate? What’s the difference if I use my own imagination or some video that I find hot? I write BDSM erotica that I find hot, that I would not want to happen in real life. But I a little fantasy isn’t really hurtful.

The reason that porn is so addicting is becuase we HAVE NOT gotten past our puriturean prudish yet. SO many people have to hide what they find hot because their partners may not approve. No one is teaching what REAL SEX should be like. That is a far more interesting post I’d like to read.

What we should do with the sexual energy we are repressing? It is human nature to be attracted to people other than our mate. Things like this are an ongoing topic in my mind. I’d love to hear more thoughts.

There are two posts I’ve written with opposing arguements on this topic.
http://comingalive.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/what-is-it-about-sex-and-porn/
http://comingalive.wordpress.com/2008/08/25/abuse-porn-feminism/

22 Kayne Cummins May 11, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I absolutely agree with this article. Personally I believe that porn perverts what sex was meant to be. Sex was meant to have an emotional connection just as much as a physical connection. I believe pornography is a way that men can fulfill their desires while abandoning and abusing the women involved.

23 The Marry Blogger May 11, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Brett –

Thanks for writing about this touchy subject! I, like @SteveC, started with porn when I was just a pre-teen, so its interesting to read the quote from Naomi Wolfe talking about associating an orgasm with your wife. For someone who has had the struggle, it really does take discipline and right thinking to get back on track with my wife. And making her the object of my full on 100% desire.

I also believe that @Amanda from above is voicing what alot of women feel. I always told girlfriends to “deal with it”. Porn was just a part of who I was…but they all felt like they were competing with other women.

I’m looking forward to reading your follow up!

24 Hayden Tompkins May 11, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Well freaking done. This article is spectacular and on the money. Very apt comparison with food and overeating, by the way.

25 Bernie Franks May 11, 2009 at 6:09 pm

While I don’t feel too strongly one way or the other towards pornography, I am a little disappointed that the few comments disagreeing with this article seem to have been showered with enough negative votes making some of them disappear.

An easy alternative to arguing a point?

26 Dave May 11, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Completely disagree, sure some people can take it too far, but anything can be taken too far, I mean some people are train-obsessed to the point where it’s creepy and that’s all they talk about.

“1. It objectifies women.”

It also objectifies men, any interaction between two people where you don’t know their first name is basically objectification. How do you treat people at the gas station? at McDonalds? Society objectifies people, we can all try to do our part (or try to stand apart from the crowd) by appreciating those around us.

“2. It supports a filthy industry”

Porn stars are regularly screened for all sorts of STD’s. Truthfully it’d be safer to have a one night stand with a porn star than with a person you met at a bar! Whats so wrong about prostitution in the first place?? I don’t think that we as a society should be telling other individuals what they should be or shouldn’t be doing with they’re bodies, not in a free society.

“3. It will mess with your expectations of sex”

What DOESN’T??? Movies, friends, books, everything is a misrepresentation of sex. Although comedians probably present the most realistic view of sex!

“4. It creates a cycle that diminishes your sexual pleasure”

This makes no sense at all, does practicing sports or lifting weights diminish your performance? No, if masturbation and porn are used to increase your sexual stamina and control, it can greatly increase your sexual pleasure and your partner’s which will increase your feeling of prowess as a lover.

“5. It saps your manly confidence”

If a video or a magazine can take your manly confidence, maybe you didn’t have much in the first place??

27 James Franks May 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm

I think #4 is spot on and a very good point.

I think the rest of the article is complete BS. Sorry, but you asked.

It strikes me as helpful as a New Yorker’s critique of people who shop at Wal-Mart. They must all watch NASCAR, wear sweat pants, and go hunting every week. Right?

Well, not really. Those are just baseless stereotypes based on what they want to see. You’ve fallen into the same trap. Porn is about airbrushed perfect women with large breasts? Men who watch it can’t commit? They can’t talk to women or don’t want to? They watch it because they’re depressed?

It all sounds like “we found some examples of this so it must mean everyone is like this.” Is that helpful?

28 Jenn May 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Although I don’t think porn must disappear, I agree with your article.

I’m a young woman, and the first thing I try to know about my boyfriend, is if he look up for porn or used to do it. I simply can’t be with someone who enjoys it.

I don’t think it’s wrong to watch porn some times. The problem depends on the personality of the man. Not for just watching a “fantasy”, men will became pervert or will see women as “object”. As you said, the secret is moderation.

29 Douglas May 11, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Exactly. Pornography is damaging whether you have an obsessive problem with it or not. It’s a complete check out from reality and completely demeaning to both men and women. As men, too many of us are taking advantage of the fact that it has hit mainstream and are convincing our women it’s normal when it’s not. I’ve seen so many women make excuses for their man being into it, and even try to get into it themselves – but in almost every case they weren’t even fooling themselves.
Dignity and trust are incredibly important in our relationship with ourselves and with others, and those are two qualities seriously becoming more and more undermined. Pornography is a major player in this.

30 Darrell May 11, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Great article. I’m glad someone is speaking the truth about this.

31 Eric May 11, 2009 at 6:39 pm

@asrai-

I agree that it is human nature to be attracted to individuals other than our spouse. But, some of us believe that “human nature” is not always a good thing. Children do not have to be taught to lie, they do it naturally to avoid pain/punishment. It is human nature, but that doesn’t make it right.

@All-

Now, I am not saying that thinking a woman other than your wife is pretty is inherently wrong. If you find them MORE attractive than your wife, you may want to rethink your priorities. If you act on that attraction (a category into which I place viewing porn), you definitely have a problem on your hands.

I believe that sex is meant to be shared between one man and one woman, for a lifetime. I just cannot see how viewing pornography is less than an affair. If I find sexual fulfillment in a woman other than my wife, it would be disrespectful and unfaithful to her.

Brett, another spot-on article. You are two are doing a great job with AoM. I am really looking forward to the followup article.

32 Hitler May 11, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Are you a woman who reads romance novels? Is this really any different from porn? I don’t know, but it’s a serious question.

I think there is some truth to all of the points in the post.

33 Eric May 11, 2009 at 6:53 pm

@Hitler (really?)

That actually is a very good question. I really don’t see much of a difference between porn and romance novels, to be honest. Both promote sex to multiple people outside of marriage and can be addictive for the parties partaking of them.

Romance novels don’t have the visual stimulation that porn does (and men prefer), but porn doesn’t have the emotional stimulation that romance novels do (which women apparently are drawn to).

I think both are damaging to a relationship for the exact same reason. Sexual fulfillment outside of your spouse.

34 Lee May 11, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Hitler-

Word. Take the”Twilight” series for example. Not only is it atrocious as literature (seriously bad), but it’s basically relationship porn for girls. If girls think that guys are going to act like Edward the vampire they’re setting themselves up for some serious disappointment.

35 Thomas Williams May 11, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Great article Brett & Kate, it’s good to see a “frank, rational, discussion” on a sensitive subject.

36 Punditus Maximus May 11, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Porn is a vice — like any vice, if you overindulge, it will be bad, and if you occasionally indulge, it will be pleasant.

37 dmv May 11, 2009 at 7:23 pm

What a disappointment. The only thing lacking was saying that porn makes baby jesus cry. I could elaborate on this but would become just another buried comment, as Bernie Franks pointed out. But it would have been nice to at least provide some sources to back up the claims and points this article is trying to make. Without any sort of substantiation besides “intuitive truths” (claims and explanations that make sense at face value but do not necessarily have any counterparts in reality and often don’t hold against further objective scrutiny), It reads as just another moralistic tirade, that could have been given by any conservative politician or pastor. As Wade said, some points made in the article are not supported by current cognitive research. But it’s easier to downvote dissenting views instead. That’s the beauty of confirmation bias.

And real men don’t learn what being a real man is by being told what real men are supposed to be like. That’s a lame rhetorical device and a cheap shot, preying on the insecurities of troubled men.

This website is getting less interesting by the day.

38 MikeB May 11, 2009 at 7:27 pm

I’m going to take a stance here that I don’t think has been mentioned yet.

To preface, I’m currently in a healthy relationship. We’re engaged and have a 10 month old son (some may argue that engaged with a child isn’t healthy…but, separate issue…).

I was a teenager during the .com boom, and I knew how to get lots of high quality porn for free. As you can imagine, I’ve consumed a lot of porn since then.

Now I’m older, and have an intimate relationship, and I still watch porn. I don’t see it as a replacement for my fiance, or better than her, or an escape, or any of that. I just use it if I’m rearing to go, and she’s not in the mood. I’m going to take care of it either way, and the visual stimulation is nice.

I will admit that my ability to imagine things in my head has declined over the years, and I regret that on some level.

In any case, I don’t believe it has conditioned me to objectify woman in my daily life. I do understand the reality of the videos I watch, and especially the ones I don’t watch. A lot it truly is filthy. But I can separate that from my reality, similar in some aspect to playing a really violent video game, or watching a violent movie.

Just to keep this from becoming more long winded… My use of porn is as a tool. I’m bored, or she’s not into it, and I want to get off, I’m going to look at an attractive woman for 15 minutes on my computer and be done with it. I mean I’m going to get off anyways, I might as well look at something nice while I do it.

I’ve painted a picture, but I suppose I haven’t really argued anything. Let me ask then, is my perspective immoral and wrong? Am I a best (or at least better) case user of porn? Where is the line drawn at what’s an acceptable use? Will it be different in 5 years? 10? Do you think the guys that let it break apart their lives are most likely suffering from deeper issues? Do you think the women that won’t be with a man who watch porn, even once in a blue moon, are just unwilling to understand what drives a man?

I apologize for the long post. Thank you for the opportunity for a good discussion.

39 JHill May 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I have not heard of anyone’s life being ruined by pornography. I have heard of men being ruined by gambling, adultery, drugs, or alcohol. To me, these are problems that can be defined as “ruinous”.

Lambasting pornography is just another culture wars non-issue to me. The only societies that spend time on this issue are either rich or theocratic.

40 EP May 11, 2009 at 7:33 pm

I know many will dismiss this outright due to its source, but
http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tb61.htm

41 Chase May 11, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I just wanted to thank you for having the courage to write and post this excellent article. I am a divorced single dad who is in the process of rebuilding my life.

In the short term porn can temporarily satisfy some of the base desires that we were all born with. In the long run I feel that porn has nearly all (and likely many more) of the negative aspects that you have correctly pointed out in your thoughtful article.

What do we really want for ourselves and our families?

As a man who wants to be a real man I think we should resolve to do a few things:

We should resolve to NEVER touch a woman in any negative way.

We should resolve to live our lives in such a way that we respect women for the special, unique and beautiful people that they are or can become. They deserve so much more that just being objects of our lust. Avoiding porn can help with this.

We do have the strength to make good choices. And being someone who “has been there” I can say that I think it is a good choice to avoid porn.

42 EP May 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm
43 Seth Q. May 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I agree with the post. I don’t really see the usefulness of porn. I’ve seen close friends of mine lose jobs and families over it.

@MikeB- I appreciate your thoughtful response and counter argument. It’s given me pause and made me think over a few things. While I don’t agree with you, I can always respect a man who disagrees without being disagreeable. Those other yahoos who are dissenting with the post should take a lesson from you. You’ve got class, sir!

44 Josh May 11, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Thank you for writing this. Men (and even me, at times in the past) are delusional and completely oblivious to the negative effects that porn can have on their lives. Those addicted or compulsively viewing porn are obviously greatly affected, but I strongly believe that any man that views porn is in some way negatively affected, even if only subtly. #3 is the strongest one, I think, that will affect every single man in some way. Perhaps there won’t be a visible or noticeable change in their actual sex life, but their opinions are colored by something that is negative and objectifying, and that definitely has an effect on all of their relationships throughout their entire life.

For me… I wish that porn never existed, and I definitely wished that I never knew about it or viewed it, I’m truly afraid that it has forever ruined some aspects of my life, and I’m definitely on your side. I want it gone.

45 Brett May 11, 2009 at 7:52 pm

@MikeB-

I just wanted to thank you for sharing a different and interesting perspective in a respectful and constructive way. I really do enjoy hearing other level-headed opinions. Here’s some thoughts on your questions:

“Am I a best (or at least better) case user of porn?”

As I said in the post, I won’t deny that many men can use porn without serious detrimental effects. But I’m not sure we can know if we’re going to be someone who has a problem with it until we try it. So I would argue it’s best not to get into it at all, as the positives (basically that’s it’s entertaining and a release) don’t outweigh the potential negatives.

“Where is the line drawn at what’s an acceptable use? Will it be different in 5 years? 10?”

This is an interesting question and could be a whole discussion. We did a post awhile back on old 1940′s pin-up girls and some people cried porn. Which they truly believed and I truly thought was crazy.

“Do you think the guys that let it break apart their lives are most likely suffering from deeper issues?”

A lot of them, yes. But I wouldn’t say all.

“Do you think the women that won’t be with a man who watch porn, even once in a blue moon, are just unwilling to understand what drives a man?”

I think a woman can understand what drives a man and yet still not like her man watching porn. We all have basic drives, hunger, anger, sadness, sex, ect. And these drives can be allowed to run amok with negative consequences or they can be harnessed and used for good. My wife understands that men have a strong sex drive, but she wants that drive to be channeled only in her direction. And she in turn is willing to meet my sexual needs.

I definitely understand your reason for using porn, and I guess my counter argument is that while it’s easy to use porn when your lady is not in the mood, that then takes away your impetus for seducing her and getting her in the mood and the impetus to improve your sex life so she’s in the mood more often. But I say this as a man who’s wife believes that sex is something a woman should be up for whether or not she’s “in the mood.” So perhaps I would feel differently if I had a wife who was more sparing with sex.

46 Eric May 11, 2009 at 8:04 pm

What do you have to say about amateur pornography in it’s relationship to the things you list about porn as sapping your manliness? It doesn’t objectify the woman any more than it objectifies the man, they are equal partners. It doesn’t support any industry since there is no money involved. It provides much more realistic expectations about sex since it’s regular people, not professionals involved. The last two points may still be valid though.

I ask because a remember having a similar conversation with an ex-girlfriend of mine. She’s a feminist and a huge supporter of the feminist movement, but also a fan of pornography. When I asked her how she found those ideas to be compatible, she explained that porn doesn’t inherently degrade women or any of that, it’s just a common feature of mainstream pornography.

47 oracle989 May 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I’m going to have to take the stance that porn is like most things. If you enjoy it in moderation and understand it’s just fantasy, you’ll mitigate or eliminate the ill effects. Overuse? Yeah, that one can get bad according to the research. I’m not saying viewing porn is a good habit for anyone to pick up, but if you don’t overuse it, it’s more or less harmless. Again, most research I’ve seen on the topic agrees with that.

48 zacwax May 11, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I shake something else when I haven’t looked at porn in 2 weeks. Hey oh!

49 alex May 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Thanks ArtOfManliness for talking about such a big issue.

[I'm not a native english speaker so... my english is not very good]

I’m a man and I must say the article is 110% right. I was watching porn and after a period I decided to STOP because I saw that porn was changing me :

#1. I BECAME ISOLATED
When you are watching porn you hide from friends, parents and so on, you isolate from people, even if you are not watching so often. Instead of spending more time with friends I was watching porn.

#2. I FELT GUILTY AND MY CONFIDENCE WAS WEAK
I was single, and after every time i watched porn I felt guilty and miserable about myself because of masturbating and not having a girlfriend. My CONFIDENCE was weak

#3. I SPENT PRECIOUS TIME for nothing [porn]
I spent many hours downloading and aranging my collection of porn instead of studying and spending my spare time with friends and family.

#4.NOT VERY GOOD SOCIAL INTERACTION
This sense of guilty and depression affected the way I was interacting with other people.

Now all these are gone. I deleted my hardrive and decided to live a PURE and HEALTY life. We don’t need porn in order to feel fullfiled.

A 100% REAL MAN SHOULD QUIT PORN.

50 Cory May 11, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Real men need only their wife or girlfriend……simple as that. You can come back with all the reasons you want but it doesn’t change that fact. I find it odd that supposed “manly” men are sitting here defending porn. Are they flipping back and forth from articles on “The Greatest Generation” to garbage porn sites?

The truth is: Real men shouldn’t have time to sit there and play with themselves. There are yards to clean, cars to maintain, garages to organize, houses to remodel, budgets to balance, and kids/pets to raise. Sitting there for hours on end with your hands in your pants should be a wake up call that there’s better things to do with one’s time.

51 MJ May 11, 2009 at 8:31 pm

How is porn like a romance novel, other than conceptually? Actual people are being exploited in porn.

52 Ami May 11, 2009 at 8:42 pm

I enjoyed your article and agreed with your points as an individual and as a marriage and family therapist. I would also like to add this point: I believe that sex is something that is meant to bring physical and emotional closeness. Porn creates problems because it is inherently selfish; there is no intimacy, there is no sharing, there is no contact, there is no interaction whatsoever. It is like going through the motions of lifting weights but using no weights. Sure, your body did the same thing, but there was no benefit, was there? And selfishness is what ruins relationships and your character.
I think the idea of having a wife who “believes that sex is something a woman should be up for whether or not she’s ‘in the mood’” warrants greater clarification. I think I got your point, but it could be construed poorly. Women would do well to have a better understanding of “a man’s needs” but men would do just as well to better understand a woman’s needs and differences: it takes more time and effort, we sometimes don’t even feel the desire until we’re already aroused, and sometimes it doesn’t even feel good. When it comes to being a good sexual partner, both sexes have their work cut out for them. But it is worth the work.

53 Andrew May 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I think it is possible to look at porn as long as you keep in mind that it is not the real thing. Personally, though, I don’t really look at porn all that much. But, I don’t buy into this “porn has ruined my life” thing. YOU ruined your life. It isn’t the porn that did it, its YOU looking at porn 12 hours of the day that did it. Pornography is fine (IMHO) as long as you don’t spend an obsessive amounts of time looking at it. Hope this makes sense, I kind of have mixed feelings on it.

54 Kate May 11, 2009 at 8:54 pm

@Ami-

To clarify what Brett said above, it’s not as if Brett forces sex on me if I’m not up for it. But what I have found it that a couple is rarely in the mood at the exact same time. One person is in the mood and the other person’s more neutral or vice versa. If Brett’s in the mood but I’m not, then I’ll let him seduce me to get me in the mood to have sex, or, if I’m really really just not in the mood for sex that I’ll, um, meet his needs in another way. And he does the same for me. I was just reading in Women’s Health magazine that the idea of “not being a mood” is wrong-headed. It said that you get in the mood by starting to go through the motions.

Basically what I think is that women often want men not to look at porn and not to cheat on them but then they’re stingy in the bedroom department or use sex as a bargaining chip to get their way. I know too many men who have to fall all over themselves with flowers and stuff to even get a little action. Women can’t simultaneously ask men not to look at porn while also not being willing to meet their partner’s needs.

Btw, sorry if this was a tmi for anyone.

55 rich May 11, 2009 at 8:55 pm

@ Cory-I find it reprehensible that you believe yourself to be in a position that gives you authority to tell every single man out there what they do or do not need.

And I have noticing a trend on this site that is rather disheartening. Although you still provide interesting articles on classically “manly” things (effective work out strategies, dressing appropriately, mixing well made, sophisticated drinks, etc.), you also seem to be posting much more judgmental articles as well. Articles that seem to state that any dissent from what this site and its contributors deem as manly therefore makes the poster unmanly. Perhaps this really has been an underlying theme the entire time. But isn’t it also manly to understand that one cultural beliefs of manliness are just as subjective and just as valid as others? that no one standard or society is inherently better than others? Often times tolerance is spoken of as manly, yet this is not reflected in the articles, nor in the comments. As previously stated, it is easier to click the “thumbs down” button and hide an opposing view then comment against it. And I will not get into my personal views of pornography because I disagree with your position and especially the position of the alarmist feminist you quoted.

i don’t know, maybe it’s just because I have been disagreeing with the more serious articles you have been posting lately, but this site has been seeming much less inviting than it once was.

56 Nathan May 11, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I agree with this article fully, and I just want to point out while people have given counter arguments for the points in this article, no one has given any reason why porn is good.

Morally, ethically, all those things ignored, porn takes up time and if you are hoping to be a real man then one of the things you should be doing is making good use of your time. So if someone can give me a good reason why I should spend my time looking at porn as opposed to doing something productive then maybe I’ll listen.

57 Douglas May 11, 2009 at 8:56 pm

@Eric
“What do you have to say about amateur pornography in it’s relationship to the things you list about porn as sapping your manliness? ….. It doesn’t support any industry since there is no money involved.”

That’s naiive. It keeps pornography thriving – which is a support to the industry. There’s a whole branch of porn sites making money off of amateur porn.
Even if there’s no money, it still supports the industry by propagating it.

“It provides much more realistic expectations about sex since it’s regular people, not professionals involved.”

Looking at porn (no mater what kind) is being removed from the situation that is arousing you. You are in fantasy. You then masturbate – bringing your physical being into that fantasy in a real way. That has never been, and never will be a formula for bring you closer to reality in your life. It is confusing to your heart, mind, and body at best.

58 Nt4thBook May 11, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Naked pictures… boobs… bush… p#ssy… twosome… threesome… hardcore… fetish… Porn is progressive! Every man can remember the first pictures he was aroused by… but few can remember what the girl on the last page looked like. We are not hardwired to handle viewing prolific photos of women. It deadens us to reality. It harms our ability to stay in or commit to a monogamous relationship. Our wives become less desirable, because they don’t shave down there, or because they won’t let us stick it there, or they have a mole or a c-section scar. What!?! What is the Art of Manliness when it comes to porn? Every other word of advice that comes through this blog, has to do with perseverance and nobility. Why not apply the same principle to porn? What is the high road?
This is a should be a deep discussion for Men, who are trying to better themselves. In truth, we all struggle with porn, in some degree, it is our nature. But, we certainly don’t have to do this alone, remember last week’s post on networking? “NO man is an island!” Apply the same statigey here, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
To those who are rolling their eyes at this post… remember when you first found a Playboy in your Dad’s closet, or a ticket to the Savoy on his dresser, or heard the grunting from the computer while he was locked in his office? Nobody told you it was wrong, but there was a sicking feeling in your stomach, because you knew he was supposed to be with your mom… Did you confront him? Or do you manifest his shame? Let’s talk about it…

59 aaron May 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I find this kind of interesting because a lot of these arguments aren’t necessarily against pornography, but against masturbation. I may be confused. I’d really like a clarification on whether or not pure masturbation is being deemed “unmanly” or just masturbation (or not, I suppose) while viewing pornography.

I also would like to agree with some of the earlier posts about amateur pornography. The first 2 arguments and possibly the 3rd, don’t necessarily apply when you take many forms of amateur pornography into account. The article seems to really only deal with the airbrushed, plastic surgeried mainstream pornographic industry. In many ways, a lot of the amateur pornography out there is pretty healthy, and content-wise, isn’t that different than the pornography being produced during the so-called ‘greatest generation’.

60 Chris May 11, 2009 at 9:12 pm

you said moderation is the key to happiness. that should apply to everyting, including porn.

61 Xavier May 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

I honestly don’t understand when people complain about posts like this being judgmental or too strongly worded or whatever. I don’t agree with all the articles on this site and I definitely don’t agree with everything in this one, but maybe I have thick skin, but I like and admire a strong stance. Relativism is boring. I don’t want some article that’s all “some people like this,” “some people feel this way.” Zzzzzz. How can you possibly write about manliness in some wishy washy manner? It’s an issue you should have a strong opinion about! Obviously there’s going to be a million opinions (as many as there are men in the world) about how a man should act and behave-So this is one opinion and we’re free to share ours. Viva la AoM!

62 Tommy T. May 11, 2009 at 9:30 pm

@JHill
“I have not heard of anyone’s life being ruined by pornography.”

Because as a society, the acceptable party line is that there is “nothing wrong with porn.” There was also a time when medical doctors endorsed cigarettes. Now we know better as to the smoking, but it didn’t take studies for common sense to suggest that inhaling smoke continuously can’t possibly be good.

Excellent article and the point made is why this website is so superior to mainstream men’s publications.

Anecdote: Had this discussion with a friend a few years back. He gave the “nothing wrong with porn” statement in a conversation and I decided to play the contrarian and followed, “Yeah, there’s a little something wrong with it” and my friend pulled out all the boilerplate accusations of Puritanism, Theocratic, Prudish, despite the fact that I readily admit to using porn. ( I also still smoke, though I can still acknowledge it’s not good for me.)

A few months later, this friend is hosting a party and I’m checking out his collection of DVDs. I asked him why he didn’t have any good porn. Not yet recalling our previous conversation, he states, “yeah, but I’m not about to broadcast it to everyone that comes over!” I rather glibly went in for the kill asking, “are you ashamed of owning porn? Wouldn’t that mean that, um, there might be something wrong with porn?”

Now, to those who disagreed with this article, I will only say, “try giving it up for three months” If you honestly find that to be no problem, more power to you. You are a true casual user like one who is a casual drinker or smoker or gambler. All vices, but in moderation not disruptive or destructive. This article and my arguement is that excessive use does cause a type of addiction, or at least an unhealthy dependence.

But to completely bat down any arguement that takes a hard look at the consequences of porn just because you like it is ignorant. They will never ban porn, but much like telling people they may no longer smoke indoors because we now know how unhealthey it can be, it is time for our society to address this issue and consider the consequences of this billion-dollar industry.

63 Garacaius May 11, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I think we need to define just what pornography is… In my mind, it sounds like we’re talking about things like Hustler, Penthouse and the myriad of hardcore pornography out there. Do you necessarily mean things like SuicideGirls or Abby Winters? I think these latter two are a bit different than the first set…

Where does erotica end and pornography begin?

Moderation, definitely.

I think whomever said that it was a vice is correct — control is necessary.

No more dangerous than alcohol, I think.

Still, a good piece for stimulating thought…

Thanks!

64 Mitchel May 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm

To the commentor that is finding an increase on articles that could be considered “judgemental”, be thankful. In a culture in which everyone does that which is right in his own eyes it’s good to know that someone will draw a line and tell the world that something is wrong.

As far as pornography goes, I saw my first porn magazine when I was 7 years old at a nearby coffee shop and for all the pain pornography has brought to my life, I wish that day had never happened.

65 Alex May 11, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Porn can easily be an addiction. I am an addict, and I know lots of people who are as well. I never managed to go over 8 days without looking at porn. It’s not like alcohol, I would say it’s more like cigarettes. You won’t shake or go into serious withdrawal, but you are irritable, depressed and all the stuff.

Check this website:

http://www.reuniting.info

There’s a forum where porn addicts share their thoughts.

Porn certainly ruined my life. I started when I was 13 and was never able to connect with women in a healthful way.

66 John May 11, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I don’t understand how people can say moderation is the key for every aspect of life. Obviously it is good for most things in life, but there are certain things where you have to draw the line.

If moderation was the key to everything, then murdering would be alright, as long as you kept it in moderation. Since no one would agree with this statement, there must be some things that are right and some things that are wrong. Relativism is a joke.

67 Richard May 11, 2009 at 10:41 pm

This isn’t the first anti-porn tirade that has been published on AoM and it borders on being sanctimonious. I myself almost deleted the site from my feeds on the title alone because I just don’t agree with the points made in the article. I would love to write a long rant about why the article is so wrong but lots of others have also done so, and I doubt even I could match the level of eloquance in some of the comments. But what’s the point of rehashing the same arguments? Anyway, these are Brett’s views and Brett’s blog and to rant is not manly. So I’ll simply make this point:

To keep your prostate gland in rude health it’s recommended you ejaculate 3 times a week. Many people do not have a partner to assist in this task so porn would be a natural assistant in these circumstances. After all, looking after your health is manly, don’t you think?

68 Algernon May 11, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I enjoyed the article but am worried that this site is losing some of its objectivity. As previously mentioned, the claims in this article don’t seem to be backed by anything but anecdotal evidence. Perhaps such a hot topic would benefit from a point-counterpoint type of dialog.

69 Desi Quintans May 11, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I understand your bias and appreciate that you disclosed it to us in advance, but this article is anything but a “level-headed approach.” What I expected was less rhetoric and more facts. I particularly disagree with the idea that porn objectifies women and, judging by your tone, only women. When the man has only a few seconds of face time, it’s frowned on if he makes too much noise, and the only part of his body you can see is the ‘active’ part, isn’t that objectification too? I think you have been swayed by the very extreme reactions you are hoping to avoid: the vast majority of porn consumers are really rather normal.

In any case, the porn industry is staffed by two kinds of people: those who like it, and those who have no better alternatives, and I don’t think either group appreciates that this article calls their trade filthy and gross. Believe it or not, Mr Writer, but all people deserve respect. That’s right; even porn stars.

70 Predrag Stojadinovic May 11, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Quote: “The stories out there are real and numerous. The man who gets out of bed at night and sneaks away from his wife to watch porn in his office. The man who keeps a secret stash of magazines in his car. The man who watches porn on the job and gets canned when he’s caught. I could go on.”

And in EACH and EVERY case stated above the problem IS THE WOMAN! Those “girlfriends” and “wives” with so-called conservative (what I call BRAINWASHED) views are forcing those men to hide when doing something that is NOT wrong and even quite NORMAL!!!

You mention religious idiots as being extreme but every single argument against porn comes from religion!!!

And is therefore FALSE! Just like religion!

71 Sir Lancelot May 11, 2009 at 11:28 pm

I would go further and say sex saps your manliness, which is ironic of course, since it’s your animal manliness that makes you a man in the first place, but unchecked sex drive pulls you away from self-restrained, elevated Manliness with a capital M into purely animal territory, and, it you can’t keep it in check, it can really drag you down.

72 rich May 11, 2009 at 11:37 pm

@ Mitchel-I should be thankful that someone is telling me that my personal decisions are wrong while offering little to no evidence? Thank you, but no. I appreciate my agency and my ability to make those decisions for myself because I would then be the one to blame. Trust me, I am by no means the kind of person that says anything you do is ok as long as it feels good in that moment in time.

And I’m pretty sure all these people claiming relativism is a joke don’t realize how often then exercise it themselves. Ever find a way to explain away something you or your friend did while complaining about others doing it? That’s relativism! Did you enjoy the articles on here about scotch and the perfect martini while ignoring the damages that alcohol can cause because as long as you drink in moderation, you’re fine, only to complain that pornography is never ok? That’s relativism too! To the comment that murdering people cannot be ok, do you think killing people in a war is ok? How about if someone did something to a member of your family? Could you rationalize the thought of killing them? Suddenly, murder has a different meaning relative to the situation huh? Again, let’s look to previous articles on the Greatest Generation, storming beaches, killing Nazis, and being revered for it. I know that was long winded but my point is that relativism is something everyone does a lot more often than they think and there is no point in fighting/denying it.

73 Adam May 12, 2009 at 12:22 am

Since everyone’s experience with porn will be very different from the next guy/gal’s, it seems like it would be most helpful for the discussion to not pass judgment, but to instead share your personal experience with porn. There have been a good number of these posts already; thank you for sharing.

In my experience, porn has been a source of confidence. Not in a misogynistic way, rather in an instructional way. I watched A LOT of porn in high school. I definitely experienced some downsides to porn (watching porn when I should have been doing homework. Sorry, GPA), but nothing ever too serious. Mostly, I enjoyed watching porn because it felt good physically.

Later on, I fell madly in love with a young woman. We had a great relationship that lasted nearly a year and ended because of a very large geographic distance between us. When we were first getting sexually intimate, it was pretty useful to have seen so much porn. Yes, porn is an impossible version of sex, but the basics are all there: where the clitoris is, what a female orgasm sounds like (that’s a good one to know), approximately how long you can expect it to last, etc. It was good to be familiar with these things before trying to satisfy my girlfriend’s wants and needs.

I also found porn to be a great source of creativity, not because I wanted to directly mimic what I had seen on the internet, but because porn really emphasizes the pleasure in stepping outside of your comfort zone. This is often the source of some really raunchy and degrading porn, but it demonstrates that there are other positions than missionary and some of them might be an exciting time for you and your parter.

My girlfriend regularly told me how good I made her feel, emotionally and physically. I gave her all the respect in the world, and treated her with immeasurable kindness. When words just weren’t the right way to express our feelings for each other, we rolled around in the sheets and it was great. I felt like I owed a huge part of my sexual confidence to porn.

74 Dan May 12, 2009 at 12:28 am

I have been beating off since i had my first woody. I remember the first time I ejaculated. I remember watching porn for the first time. I have done this every single day for two decades. sometimes as many as 5 times a day. I am single.. I wonder why… hmm maybe I am a pervert. Porn is bad and alters your mind. Im depressed, I do not want to watch porn anymore but I cant stop… I must have boobies

75 Dan May 12, 2009 at 12:59 am

Brilliant article! Couldn’t agree more! Thankyou.

76 Tim Wright May 12, 2009 at 2:26 am

Hi,

First for ladies who think Porn is OK? When you are having sex with your boyfriend do you want to be in his head or some porn chick. Do you want to be his ride or his lover? Do you want him to see you as way to fulfill his desire or to use you? Or do you want him to cherish you and will do everything in his power to esteem and elevate you in every possible way? Do you want a soul mate or penis?

We become what be behold? People are to be treated with value! The porn industry uses people. Every person who watches porn has a great desire to be loved and cherished. Sex is not a function, it is an expression of something deeper in our lives.

Tim

77 John vG May 12, 2009 at 2:28 am

Brett when you reach around 50 years of age you will probably ‘soften’ your position on this, no pun intended. There comes a time in every man’s life when all of the sudden the instant erection phenomenon is over. When what you could once turn on with the flip of a mental switch now requires some priming and thought and planning. It’s a helluva thing to discover and has left many a man confused and angry and doubtful of his manhood. Yes Viagra has alleviated the problem almost entirely, but visual stimulation like pron still has a really important place in the process of loving. If it means you can approach your wife full of confidence and excitement at her touch then it’s a good thing… much better than the silence and self loathing that can accompany the chill that so many couples face when they don’t take control of their love life in a mature and practical fashion. Take it from a Greybeard, you will recall this and understand a few years from now. Cheers, John

78 Man With Men May 12, 2009 at 3:00 am

I found this article simplistic. I like this site because I consider it a good way to commune with other men on the subject of being men. However, I do not appreciate an article telling me how to behave in my private life and implying that I am less of a man if I don’t behave that way.

Then there is the immediate self-contradiction:

“Personally, I don’t like the addiction label. It’s too easy to hide behind it as the reason you can’t help yourself. When I think of addiction, I think of people who suffer physical withdrawal symptoms when they finally quit. I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten the shakes when they go a week or two not looking at porn.”

Then, a few sentences later:

“I know of a couple of marriages that broke up because of the guy’s insatiable addiction to porn. ”

While we’re on the subject, how do you know that porn is the reason those marriages broke up? In my discussions with friends whose marriages have deteriorated, it has always been a host of things and not one thing like porn. Your statement belongs more in gossip around a sewing circle.

Finally, I believe that part of being a man is about self control and all men are prone to lapses in self control whether it is alcohol, laziness or porn. The question is: so what? We, as men, are not perfect.

I will continue to read this site but please refrain from trying to tell me how to live my private life.

For the record: I am not a fan of porn but I have many friends who are. They are also caring family men and great guys.

Get off your high horse.

79 Rodney Hampton May 12, 2009 at 3:01 am

I’d just like to thank Brett for another great article. You can’t have a site on manliness without confronting this issue. It’s the elephant in the room that so few people will write about.

Like another commenter said, if you’re spending hours with your hands in your pants, you’ve got to wonder if you couldn’t make better use of your time elsewhere. Porn distracts men from getting manly things done. It’s the ultimate time waster. Is it harmless? If it takes time away from you achieving your full potential then I say yes.

And regarding Naomi Wolf…she shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as some “alarmist feminist.” She does a lot of great work promoting civil liberties too. And I personally find her to be quite hot. Google her and see for yourself.

80 Trish Lewis May 12, 2009 at 3:32 am

Please, please, PLEASE don’t us euphemisms for body parts – say breasts, not ‘tatas’…*sigh*

81 Trish Lewis May 12, 2009 at 3:37 am

I also agree with Rodney – this article is WAAAAY too simplistic. I love many types (not all – everyone has their likes and dislikes, it’s very personal) porn and realize it is nothing to do with reality. That’s why I like it – it’s called fantasy. Fantasy is healthy in my book.

82 the Viking May 12, 2009 at 3:40 am

Reading this article enlightened me to the sobering fact that I am in fact addicted to porn, and it is in fact the main reason why my marriage is failing quickly.

Thank you very much for this cool-headed very good presentation of what porn really does to men.

Now for the hard part. Deleting every tid-bit of my massive collection I’ve been accumulating for 10 years.

83 William Trzcinski May 12, 2009 at 3:58 am

I think the article is dead on. How can men have real respect for their wives, daughters, or other significant women in their lives when they are willing to participate in a degredation of other women by viewing porn in its many available venues?
But I truly think the abundance of porn in our society is an indication of a loss of morals and values in general.

84 Duncan Rainey Hoopes Junior May 12, 2009 at 3:59 am

A very good post, overall.

But please, try and respect our Puritan ancestors (“society has gotten past its Puritan prudishness”). The guys were not the old, dressed-in-black, squelchers of love that this country has come to imagine them to be after the revisionist works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Just because the guys stuck with one gal and loved God doesn’t mean that they were priggish stuck-ups! They were extremely young, vibrant intellectuals (every single one of the colonists was at least a college graduate, and ninety percent were under the age of thirty) who mainly had problems back home in England because they were regarded as too young and hot-headed to be in government. The Puritans were not too young, but innovators looking to revolutionize their society and introduce religious TOLERANCE – hardly “Puritanical”! They were, in their time, well known for their fancy hats, huge feathers, and elaborate, colorful dress. In greatest defense of their views on women and sex, there are multiple instances of a man being kicked out of church (and therefore society) for NOT HAVING ENOUGH SEX WITH HIS WIFE!

The Puritans were amazingly manly, convicted, and yes, Godly men whose work and governing systems are THE FOUNDATIONS of our country today. Respect.

85 Bruce May 12, 2009 at 4:03 am

“Count me as another in 100% agreement with this article. I believe porn is one of the most subtle, insidious, addictive, and diabolical hazards to mens’ lives and souls.”
-DITTO!

86 Susan Walsh May 12, 2009 at 4:04 am

Wow, great post! I find that The Art of Manliness is a great vehicle for learning what men think, both in the posts and the comments. As a blogger whose readers are primarily young women, I can tell you that women are increasingly encountering guys who have sexual expectations of them that come directly from porn. The most insidious one is that young men often wish to go straight to anal sex. There’s a whole host of other behaviors emerging that are objectionable to women, from the “dialog” they are importing from porn, to the lack of kissing, to the face ejaculation. I’ve written two related posts you may find interesting:

Is Porn Changing the Way We Kiss?
http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2009/01/14/hookinguprealities/is-porn-changing-the-way-we-kiss/

What Straight Men Can Learn From Gay Porn
http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2009/05/01/hookinguprealities/what-straight-men-can-learn-from-gay-porn/

This is a very real issue for women. I applaud you for acknowledging that it is also a real issue for men.

http://www.HookingUpSmart.com

87 Mike May 12, 2009 at 4:08 am

Anyone remember Ted Bundy? Go to and view this youtube post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAHgJFPcOvY and follow the links to view his final interview before his execution.

Don’t tell me there isn’t a direct link between pornography and deeply troubled and disturbing behavior that is NOT conducive to being a man!

88 Christine May 12, 2009 at 4:21 am

But porn wasn’t always mainstream. And I’m not going to defend mainstream American, white, skinny, hairless, assless, implant-y drug-fueled porn.

Yet– Porno movies used to be funny and sweet and messy and kind of adorable, ridiculous music and all. Gay porn still sometimes is (unless it’s made FOR straight men, eg girl-on-girl).

And I know you manly men love your cheesecake pinups and burlesque films.

89 Brian May 12, 2009 at 4:23 am

My biggest concern about porn is how accessible it is to kids. Other than that, I am in healthy marriage and have a healthy sex life and I watch porn. Sometimes with my wife. It’s never affected my confidence or made we want to act violently toward women.
I like the association between porn and alcohol in this article. If people with emotional problems indulge too much in porn or alcohol, it probably accentuates their issues. However, I hardly doubt that it causes them.
As a country, America still has a few repression issues. We have strong Puritan roots. Sex is much more out in the open in some European countries. Is that good or bad? Who knows. But it’s hardly turned those countries to a culture of sexual deviance.

90 P May 12, 2009 at 4:24 am

This op ed crap on this site is killing me. Support your arguments with some factual data and maybe I will listen. The problem is you cannot. There is no research that will support this article. This article and a string of them lately has sapped my manliness.

91 Edin May 12, 2009 at 4:25 am

Good article. I’ve started to struggle with porn and masturbation addiction a couple of months ago. I finally made my decision. No more this bull shit in my life. It is destroying me physically and mentally. I didn’t know so many people have the same problem and want to quit but they just can’t and don’t know how. They became porn and masturbation addicts. For all those of you guys who want to get rid of this shit addiction please visit newlifehabits.com They have tremendous articles about how to stop. And it’s free. Or find some similar pay sites like candeocan.com or innergold.com.

92 byrne smith May 12, 2009 at 4:27 am

I’m dissappointed with this article because of its benal, general point. Maybe I expect too much from this site, but I really disapprove of articles whose strongest references are “I have friends who” or I know people that”. This is a weak excuse for an objective piece, and something beneath what normally comes up at this site. I guess the difference is when you speak of smart dress, or better shaving techniques there are little expectation for real proof. If you choose to write on weighty topics like this, please do some work – you have created a classy site, and this article is not representative of the class I’ve come to expect.
As a social worker whose main focus is the treatment of male sexual offenders’ I think you missed an opportunity to discuss pros and cons, or to at least reference existing research that supports your opinion beyond “I know lots of guys who”…

93 Mike May 12, 2009 at 4:31 am

Yes it can be a big problem. Some people don’t have the self control of viewing moderation and start to prefer it over real sex and that is a big issue. Putting the moral aspect aside I think it’s very similar to the alchohol analogy minus the physical addiction. Some guys can have a few drinks. Some can’t without consequences. Great post! Keep it up.

94 Eric May 12, 2009 at 4:32 am

It’s amazing the mental pictures from many years ago that still seem to have perfect recall because of porn images. Women are beautiful on the outside but the true beauty is when you know just one truly, deeply, to her heart. A never ending quest for sure, but worth it when you find that beautiful one. How shallow does a guy have to be with himself to find satisfaction in porn?

Thank you for making this very ‘manly’ post today. Our world needs to hear it. Porn is certainly not manly. Keep up the good work.

95 Eric May 12, 2009 at 4:38 am

For you guys who know you need to quit porn to save your marriage, family, selves from an awful addiction. Hope you find this link helpful.

http://everymansbattle.ning.com/main/authorization/signIn?target=http%3A%2F%2Feverymansbattle.ning.com%2Fgroup%2Fembgroupleaders

96 Michael H May 12, 2009 at 4:48 am

Great article. Period.

97 Michael Smalley May 12, 2009 at 4:52 am

Great post Brett and Kate! Thanks for spreading the word about the negative effects of porn on a man (and marriage)! I’m am shocked by some of the comments that try and dismiss porn as not big deal =[

I wrote a recent post that provides some incredible research on the negative effects of pornography: http://www.gosmalley.com/an-excellent-paper-on-the-negative-effects-of-pornography/2009/05/09/

I’d encourage any doubters out there to take a look at some well done and legitimate research before you dismiss the problem of porn.

98 Edin May 12, 2009 at 4:52 am

I forgot to mention: Get yourself book: “Pornography: The Drug of the New Millennium” – The Science of How Internet Pornography Radically Alters the Human Brain and Body. Author: Mark B. Kastleman. It explains every detail of how pornography addiction is created in a person.

99 Chris May 12, 2009 at 4:58 am

Other than that a little over a year ago, my church brought in these guys from XXX Church to talk about pornography. It was just for men, and was very poorly attended. This issue seems to strongly divisive in all realms – including the church (NOTE: I am a Christian, and I do not believe pornography is healthy in any way, and I do agree wholeheartedly with this article).

The entire goal of the event was to raise awareness of the issues from a Biblical perspective and not keep it concealed and not talked about… Any which way, I had written some notes down on my blog (notes on the pornography forum)…

100 Nicholas F May 12, 2009 at 4:59 am

A very good, balanced, solid post on a controversial issue. Thanks once again to Art of Manliness for being “man” enough to tackle the issue head-on! It really is the number one issue that “separates the men from the boys.”

Want proof of that? A real man is in control of himself; if you’re really in control, then you should be able to say, I won’t watch porn for a week, a month, three months, and then not falter in my decision. I wonder if those who have read and commented on this article would be able to do that? I know I can, but it’s not easy… it means developing a whole host of other “manly” traits, such as willpower, determination, a true sense of beauty, moderation, generosity, true love (in the sense of wanting the best for the other person), and others.

I value a real life built on these virtues and qualities, far more than a life of virtual reality. Sure, it’s a far cry from the instant gratification that our society constantly tries to shove down our throats, but when we die, will people praise us for the hours we spent watching made up acts on a screen and pleasing ourselves, or the hours we spent out there helping others, our family and bringing pleasure to the lives of our children and to those around us?

So to these who are fighting to combat porn in your lives, keep it up. For those who are unsure if it’s something worth fighting for, think it over a little more. There are more worthwhile things in life than a little pleasure a few times a day. I sincerely hope you can find these deeper joys.

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