About ten months ago, I decided to quit watching pornography.
I got the initial idea after watching this ted talk. It occurred to me that not once have I stopped to examine a practice that has been habitual since age thirteen. Suddenly, I was curious: How has this seemingly innocent behavior been affecting my life? How has it affected my attitude towards women? I decided the next day to quit cold turkey and found the results to be positive enough that I never plan to revert back to watching it regularly.
The neuroscientific data behind Internet pornography addiction is clear. Heavy pornography use causes dopamine levels in the brain’s reward center to spike dramatically. This results in a gradual desensitization and eventual physical addiction to porn. It is the same addiction process that hooks people on to drugs like cocaine; where a once exhilarating stimulus eventually becomes commonplace and soon the drug is needed more frequently and or in more extreme versions.
Although you may not be or feel addicted to porn, if you watch consistently chances are this cycle has already taken place. For example: if you think about when you first started jerking off, probably the image of a naked woman was all that you needed to get off. But as we grow older, more graphic and often obscene content is needed to produce that excitatory response.
One of the most fascinating and principal reasons that pornography is so addicting is due to the Coolidge Effect. The Coolidge Effect refers to males’ ability and interest in fertilizing as many new and willing females as possible. It has been observed in mammals such as rats, rams, bulls, and humans. It is why farmers can keep a single ram on the farm to satisfy all the sheep; as long as the female is varied, the male can go all day.
This preference for newness is heavily reinforced through endless novelty on porn sites. But unless you’re Dan Blizerian and encounter porn-like orgies daily, this addiction to novelty can cause trouble in the bedroom.
If you’re accustomed to watching a porn video and then switching to another tab when you tire of that video, that behavior can manifest itself in ugly ways. Of course, once you do find yourself in bed with a woman, you’re stuck with her. And that shouldn’t be a bad thing! Your grandpa probably had sex with one to three women in his life. Here you are unable to get aroused with a beautiful woman in front of you because you’ve trained your dick to respond only to Asians and anal as opposed to appreciating what’s right underneath your…nose. Yeah, that’s it, right under your nose.
I have guy friends who’ve told me that they typically blame the girl when they experience a lack of erection, either as a defensive mechanism or as a way to coerce them into giving head. But in reality, the problem isn’t the girl’s appearance and it isn’t below the belt. It’s a psychological problem that has been reinforced by countless hours of watching Internet porn.
Porn obviously teaches young men and women the wrong ideas about sex; such as foreplay being obsolete, everlasting boners, and all women are exhibitionists (many girls are not confident in their bodies well past adolescence). 1 Additionally, the porn industry plays an unquestionable role in illegal sex trafficking as well as normalizing violence against women. 2
Sadly, this information isn’t enough to deter most, if any men from consuming porn. And what if you have no problems getting a boner? Is there any compelling reason to quit porn then?
The renowned Reddit forum, “NoFap”, has attracted thousands of guys who support each other in their daunting efforts to quit pornography. Their testimonies are some of the best sources of data we have on the effects of Internet porn. Many guys (over 60% in one study) contest that since quitting porn, they have noticeably less anxiety, more confidence, more energy, and a renewed interest in meeting women.3
For many people, pornography heightens social anxiety and apathy towards meeting new partners. This could be because the women you meet in real life don’t look like the women you have slowly but surely become attracted to (your preference for film stars). Or perhaps you didn’t notice that you haven’t approached a woman or fantasized about approaching a woman in quite some time—exceptions being when you’re blackout drunk. This is because pornography contributes to social anxiety. It makes us less interested in the real world women that are around us and less equipped to deal with real-world scenarios of meeting women, as well as maintaining a healthy relationship with them.
When I originally decided to give up pornography, I told myself I would try it for three weeks and note the results. Those three weeks were by far most challenging and filled with some intense cravings. A few times I found myself opening up an incognito browser only to be saved by a shitty Wi-Fi connection that allowed me to reevaluate and close out the tab.
But what I found to be true after the first few weeks was that I could abstain longer. In fact, I wanted to. I felt more energized, attentive and eager to learn—that month I started taking piano lessons, began to lucid dream, and even attended some yoga classes. Thus, three weeks turned into one month, which became several months.
*I should add that as the months progressed, there were admittedly sometimes that I relapsed. Luckily, the goal isn’t perfection or sainthood it’s improvement.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen”. Whether you believe ‘the universe’ refers to a higher power or simply your own willpower, it is true we act to uphold our decisions. Interestingly, a way to strengthen this willpower is to tell your friends and family of your intentions. Telling my friends my plan unquestionably made it easier for me to quiet my nighttime urges and justify my abstinence.
Like many, I have struggled with intimacy and commitment in the past. I’ve found by far the greatest benefit I’ve conceded since quitting pornography is my issues with intimacy have improved remarkably. I am better at noticing things and paying attention. Commitment does not scare me nearly as much as it used to.
There are data that support watching porn can heighten one’s desires for what else is out there and can even lead to higher rates of divorce. Perhaps you work a stressful job and don’t always feel like talking when you get home. Instead of going through the routine of courtship, it may be easier to just get off to porn. Though taking time for yourself is healthy, if you’re getting your sexual satisfaction from porn, you’re eventually going to disinvest somewhat in the relationship.
For those who are interested in quitting or just self-experimentation, try to see if you can make it three weeks—a mere twenty-one days out of your life. Consider telling your close friends your plan so you feel even more motivated. After three weeks, note how did you feel? Did you have more energy? Did you finally make your intentions known with someone? Did you appreciate your girlfriend’s smile or her unique blemishes? Do you feel less like a douchebag and more like a compassionate human being?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, great! You can easily make it a month if you choose. Remember, they don’t want you to succeed. But you can do it. You is smart, you is important, you is beautiful.