Many in the popular media have argued that the increased availability of online pornography is contributing to an earlier onset of erectile difficulties in men. However, scientific research has not produced evidence consistent with such claims. For instance, in a study published earlier this year in Sexual Medicine, researchers found that there was no association between the number of hours men spent watching porn per week and their erectile functioning. Another paper on this same topic just appeared in The Journal of Sexual Medicine and yielded similar conclusions.
This new paper reports the results of two online surveys looking at men's porn use habits and their sexual functioning. The first study included 947 Croatian men, 219 Norwegian men, and 1,571 Portuguese men. The second study consisted of 1,211 Croatian men. All men were heterosexual, sexually active, and between ages 18-40. Participants were asked how often they used porn in the last year and completed a measure of sexual difficulties (the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors in the first study, and the 5-item International Index of Erectile Function in the second study).
Across samples, frequent porn use was common, with 40-59% of participants across samples reporting usage between a few times per week and daily. Just 1.4-3.5% of participants reported never using pornography.
In the first study, there was no statistical link between pornography use and erectile difficulties for both the Norwegian and Portuguese samples. However, for the Croatian sample, a statistically significant association was observed, but it was very small.
That said, in the second study, which only focused on Croatian men, no link was found between porn use and erectile difficulties.
These results reveal that there is not a consistent link between pornography use and erectile dysfunction. The only correlation observed between these variables occurred in Study 1 for the Croatian sample; however, it was very small and the association disappeared in the second sample of Croatian men in which a more widely used and validated measure of erectile functioning was administered.
The authors of this study also make an excellent point that even in cases where an association is observed between pornography use and erectile functioning, it is important not to leap to conclusions about what is causing what. For instance, it could very well be that men who have difficulties with sexual functioning are more likely to turn to porn as a coping mechanism.
As I have said before, none of this is to suggest that porn use can never be problematic for some men. Rather, all this research tells us is simply that, at a general level, there does not seem to be a relationship between pornography use and erectile dysfunction.
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To learn more about this research, see: Landripet, I., & Štulhofer, A. (in press). Is pornography use associated with sexual difficulties and dysfunctions among younger heterosexual men? The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
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