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Dear Sexpert;

Over the past year, I have been watching porn more and more. How much porn is too much porn and how do I know if I have a problem?

Browser 

Hi Browser,

Thank you for your question! Over the years, as we have become more connected to the internet, our access to porn has grown and understandably, time spent watching porn has also increased. According to a 2017 study conducted by PornHub.com, its website receives 75 million unique daily visitors and has over one million hours of uploaded content. Increasingly, consumers are using their mobile phones to access such content, compared to magazines or computers. Watching porn is not a rare occurrence, but it may become a problem if it begins to interfere with your everyday tasks. 

You may want to start by asking yourself why your consumption of porn has increased. The answer to this question could indicate whether your use is situational (e.g., increased access, providing material for self-pleasure, getting ideas for acts with your partner(s), watching with partner(s) as foreplay, etc.), or potentially concerning.

Politics of porn aside, some research has indicated that watching porn has benefits. It has been shown to improve mental health by reducing stress. When you are stressed, your brain releases cortisol that blocks the ability to think clearly. According to a 2013 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, men who watched porn cut their cortisol levels by half and performed better on a math test. Porn can also bolster relationships by opening your minds to new sexual possibilities. On the flip side, porn can contribute to unrealistic expectations about our bodies (see recent question about penis size) and pleasure, and some depict demeaning or even violent acts that would be problematic if enacted in real life, without a partner’s consent. If you communicate effectively and mutually with your partner regarding your boundaries and expectations, porn can complement an intimate relationship. 

It’s important to take these reported benefits with a grain of salt, though. The impacts will range from person to person. While porn may be beneficial to one relationship it may also be harmful to another. Although porn can reduce stress for one individual, it may cause another person to withdraw socially and adversely affect their mental or physical state. Signs that your porn consumption may be too much could include skipping class or other responsibilities to watch porn or missing social functions because you are watching porn. If your porn consumption is adversely affecting your relationship(s), such as making it difficult to be aroused in person or creating tension with your partner(s), or more generally impacting your life in unwanted ways, it may be time to speak to a professional. Talking with a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services about your goals — whether it be around reducing your porn consumption or finding ways to use porn to benefit you — is a great place to start the conversation in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Appointments with CPS counselors are confidential and free, and can be made online through your MyUHS portal. 

In summary, how much porn is too much porn? The amount of porn consumed that constitutes too much varies from person to person but if your consumption of porn is affecting your everyday tasks or is adversely affecting your relationships, it might be time to speak to a professional. If your porn consumption is not adversely affecting your everyday life, stream away! 

Remember that the University’s networks allow you to stream, download, and torrent material freely, including porn.  However, downloading or torrenting any kind of copyrighted material without authorization or permission from the rights-holder is a violation of U. S. copyright law, and of the University’s own acceptable use policy.

Best Wishes, 

The Sexpert

Information retrieved from PornHub, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychosomatic Society.

The Sexpert is a biweekly column done in collaboration between the Prospect and the Peer Health Adviser (PHA program). For more information, you can visit the Sexpert’s website. If you are interested in submitting a question, you can email sexpert@princeton.edu. 

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