Dear Sexpert,

I recently started watching porn while masturbating and have found that I really enjoy it. But I’ve also heard about studies that suggest that porn can be addictive and don’t know if I should regulate how much I watch. I’m also nervous about the lack of discussion around women’s enjoyment of porn — is it a bad thing if I like it?

~ Troubled Viewer

Dear Troubled Viewer,

There are many tools that people use to enjoy masturbation and watching pornography is one of them. Not only do some people like to view it on their own, but couples may also find it arousing to watch together as a form of foreplay. Moreover, pornography is available in a number of different genres, which makes it possible for people to explore and find what works best for them.

As you mentioned, there is a gendered aspect to pornography. Not only is mainstream porn usually produced for heterosexual men, but it is also typically written and directed by the same demographic. Pornography has also received backlash for objectifying women and sexual acts. That being said, there are many alternatives to mainstream porn, including content that is produced by and for women. According to a survey by the Ladies Home Journal, 47 percent of women use erotica or pornography during masturbation and/or sex. Another study suggests that although men report having higher levels of arousal, a measure of men’s and women’s physical responses shows that porn can equally arouse both sexes. Consequently, it is natural to enjoy pornography.

Also, as you’ve brought up, critics have raised concerns about whether there are potential health risks to watching porn, especially in regard to possible addiction. While there are ongoing debates as to whether “addiction” is the appropriate term to use in this case, studies have shown that heavy consumption of pornography can have neurological effects. Signs include compulsive behavior and debilitating distress. It is also important to note that too much of anything can be bad for one’s health and that not all viewers experience addiction to pornography.

If you find that you are still concerned about watching too much porn, know that what’s considered “too much” is subjective and that different personal values and individual factors determine each individual’s comfort level. If you wish to talk to a health professional about the matter, you can make an appointment through University Health Services at McCosh Health Center.

~ The Sexpert

Information regarding pornography, pornography addiction, and compulsive sexual behavior provided by Ask Alice, Sex & Psychology, and The Mayo Clinic

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