The internet is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it has revolutionized our world, allowing man to communicate, gain knowledge, save time, and entertain himself in ways our grandparents could only imagine in their wildest fantasies.
On the other hand, it has become a conduit for some of the most primal desires and emotions we have as humans. Technology has also led many—especially the millennial generation—to become absolutely dependent on it to fulfill these emotions.
Of all the desires that the internet fuels, the desire for sex is, seemingly, by far the most lucrative, sought after, and abused desire of all.
Pornography is the king of the internet.
The porn industry is a leader in revenue, marketing (pioneering, setting the pace and writing the rules of digital marketing), and product innovation (any sexual desire that a human being can have, the porn industry can and will fulfill).
One of the most unfortunate byproducts of internet pornography is its debilitating effects on men. I spent 13 years of my young adult life addicted to pornography. While I didn’t watch it every day, I estimate that I spent over 20 hours a week on it. These days, as an addiction recovery professional, I spend triple that amount of time each week, working with men who are hooked on porn.
Some are as young as 16, while others are in their sixties and still unable to get off pornography.
Make no assumptions, this is not a small sub-section of men. There are literally thousands of men who struggle with quitting porn once it takes over their lives.
While they are from different generations, all of them agree on one thing: a habit of consuming pornography online, once developed, is almost impossible to quit.
In my practice, I’ve noticed that the young men aged 16-35 who were full blown porn addicts (for simplicity’s sake, those spending more than 12 hours a week on pornography), had no concept of what masculinity was.
When probed for an answer, their role as men in society was nonexistent. At best, their main measure of manhood was how many women they could hook up with or the most attractive woman they could get into bed. They had a rough idea of what masculinity entailed, but pornography and the habits associated with it had essentially erased the basic foundation of manhood from them.
More alarmingly, porn was actually changing their brains and bodies for the worse.
Our fathers never had to deal with high-speed internet and the easy access to porn. Today, most children are exposed to pornography by the age of eight, and many of them are hooked on it by the time they are 12 years old.
I’m going to break down a few of the ways in which pornography erodes our masculinity:
1) Porn encourages Self-Gratification:
Delayed gratification is an essential skill to learn if one is to maintain control and direction in their life. Repeatedly giving in to the urge to watch pornography leads to a lack of ability to delay gratification. Your brain becomes more and more focused on the things you find pleasurable and the discipline of delayed gratification falls to the wayside.
It is no coincidence that men who are hooked on porn are usually underachieving in other areas of their lives.
Solution: Developing delayed gratification is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. There is a certain sense of superiority and confidence that comes with the realization that you have more control over your primal desires than the average man. Mastery of any worthwhile skill or habit leads to increased confidence. The ability to delay gratification is no different.
2) Porn destroys our values:
Video is powerful. We live in a world where we need to see something to believe it and in our fast paced, information driven world, video is the preferred means of communication and information dissemination.
The thing is, video has the power to influence and even replace behaviors in your mind without you being consciously aware of what you are seeing.
As you watch video, your subconscious mind is rapidly dissecting, translating and making sense of what it is being fed. I have found that the subconscious mind translates and subsequently changes our behavior in one disturbing way:
Pornography programs us to lower our standards sexually. It encourages us to seek sex and, in some cases, build intimate and unhealthy relationships with women who are willing to have sex without any boundaries. As exciting as that sounds, having sex with any woman who is available is a sign of man without without much discipline.
A man at some point in his life, must have control over his sexuality. You should not be a slave to your sexual desire- instead you should master and control it.
In addition to that, hundreds of hours of porn creates certain expectations of what sex looks like. I’ll keep it simple—putting your penis in a woman’s mouth right after it has exited her anus is not healthy in the real world. The average 16 year old watching pornography is literally getting his sex education from the videos he watches.
Solution: You are what you eat. Eat processed, sugary, or junk food and you’ll feel bad physically and eventually look like crap. Make a decision today to feed your mind only with material which makes you a better man. Here’s the barometer for that: If you feel guilt or shame for watching certain material, consider that indigestion for your mind and stop doing it.
3) Erectile Dysfunction:
Virility is important for almost every man I know. The rise in porn-induced erectile dysfunction is something to be alarmed about. Frequent porn use leads to frequent masturbation and erections which can increasingly only be induced by hardcore pornography.
Porn viewing then becomes a sort of psychological conditioning which creates performance anxiety.
Solution: Need I say more? No man wants to kill their boner. If you love your penis and your erections, avoid frequent masturbation and watching porn. One of the simplest and most effective exercises for your penile strength and health are Kegels. There are plenty of resources online that train on how to perform these exercises.
4) Social Isolation:
Pornography and masturbation demand isolation. Anything which you do in secrecy usually leads to shame. One of the first effects of frequent porn use on men, especially young men, is social awkwardness in public, which ironically , leads to more shame.
Isolation and shame make it difficult for us as men to share true intimacy with others.
Solution: Many men are already afflicted by shame, which is induced mainly by our society and religions. If you find that your pornography use has dulled your desire to be social, I know how difficult it can be to jump start your social life. Thankfully, the internet can help. Social sites like Meetup.com, and dating sites are a great way for the former “porn-hermit” to begin meeting people again. The long term goal would be transitioning to building healthy relationships and bonds with other men, as well.
5) Goal Setting and Rewards:
In my practice, I have never met a man hooked on porn who was good at goal setting. As I stated earlier, most men who abuse pornography usually struggle in their finances, relationships and careers. It’s no coincidence.
The aforementioned “self gratification” is a habit which cannot coexist with achieving worthy goals.
Men don’t “schedule” pornography viewing the way they schedule time to work on their business or complete projects. It’s usually, “I’m going to watch porn from now till… my body shuts down sexually.” Part of this is biological.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical released by nerve cells to transmit signals to other nerve cells.) It’s a key player in the part of our brain responsible for reward motivated behavior.
Sex, eating tasty food, getting approval (“likes” on social media) all trigger the release of dopamine.
The more often we watch porn and masturbate, the more often our brains are flooded with dopamine. You slowly become desensitized to its effects and need more stimulation to “feel the rush” or “get a fix.”
This means that your reward circuitry is broken.
This reward circuitry is crucial in achievements that are truly worthy in a man’s life, such as, contributing in a meaningful way to society, developing a highly sought after skill, building a family, building a business, competing in sports or in your career.
Porn destroys our ability to set, achieve, and enjoy our goals.
Solution: The simplest solution to this is to become a master of the “to-do” list and rewarding yourself. Every night, before bed, write out a list of everything you need to accomplish the next day in order of importance. The next day, proceed to knock everything out on the list. Whatever is left over goes on the list for the next day. The key is rewarding yourself for accomplishing tasks on your lists. Of course, the reward can’t be porn, but it should be something you enjoy doing leisurely. Use the activities that usually get in the way of your goals as rewards.
6) Testosterone levels:
Testosterone is absolutely essential to our health, sexual functioning and general well-being.
Here’s the important thing to remember: regular sex stimulates the release of testosterone while masturbation does not. You feel happier, energized, and content with life after regular sex. On the other hand, masturbation combined with porn torpedoes your testosterone levels, leaving you drained, unmotivated, and filled with the negative emotions of shame and guilt.
Solution: It is my belief that if more men truly knew how essential testosterone was to them, they would quit masturbation and pornography for good. I hope the following benefits of testosterone will motivate you.
Testosterone gives you: increased energy levels, increased self esteem and self control, strength and physical stamina, healthy metabolism, increases bone density and strength by aiding in the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow, and the formation of blood. Testosterone is also essential to prostrate health, liver function, memory and concentration.
If you’ve been struggling with a bad pornography habit and trying to quit to no avail, it may be time to take an honest look at your relationship with pornography. There are many more ways that pornography erodes your masculinity, leaving you weak, confused and unsure about your direction in life. It is my mission to educate, guide and if necessary, help you as a man to repair any damage that pornography has inflicted on you.
Bonus: 5 Mindful Things to do each Morning.
Author: J.K Emezi
Image: Flickr/Iwao Arawatari
Editor: Travis May