Q: You’ve recommended not using porn so much, so as not to become desensitized to real sex and become unable to perform without it (“What women want,” June 13). But what do you recommend for someone who is not in a relationship and doesn’t expect to be in one for the foreseeable future? I’m not very confident, so my chances of picking someone up at a bar just for sex are slim to none. So that leaves me with normal sexual needs and no outlet.
A: My recommendation for using porn for masturbatory purposes is probably the same as your doctor’s recommendation on consuming sweets, booze and everyone’s favorite, decriminalized-in-18-states medicinal herb: Please enjoy in moderation.
I do have pretty strong feelings when it comes to mainstream porn as a daily habit. It’s been proven to desensitize both the male and female brain to normal sexual stimuli, often leading to dysfunction. Some people can’t reach orgasm unless they’re watching that hard-core imagery; the brain pumps out a constant stream of dopamine, rendering its dopamine receptors tired and unresponsive.
In general, porn’s improbable scenarios place unrealistic expectations on real couples trying to have real sex. Suddenly, a woman’s orgasm doesn’t count unless she’s been panting and howling obscenities while enduring a 10-minute vaginal pounding. Likewise, men become frustrated when a 5-foot stream of semen doesn’t just automatically erupt.
And, yes, most porn is detrimental to female self-image. We’ve gone from the good ol’ days of Glamour telling us to tone and tighten to straight-up self-objectification. I have girlfriends who spend hours a day applying airbrushed makeup and gluing on fake eyelashes before going to the salon to get their acrylic nails filled in and their extensions re-sewn. Why? Because they’ve become conditioned to think that it’s what men want, and meanwhile men have become conditioned to think that’s what they’re supposed to find attractive. Such hyper-sexualization may not be attributed directly to porn, but I think it can be attributed to the availability of porn. Hard-core clips have been available for free to anyone with an Internet connection since at least 2006, when YouPorn.com was launched. It’s everywhere now. I see people sitting alone in public, watching porn on their phones like it’s no big deal. Porn as a pastime is an unsettling notion.
OK, rant over. While I think a daily dose of mainstream porn is a bad idea, occasional use won’t do any permanent psychological damage. Can you manage on your own 50 percent of the time, without having to cue up a clip to finish yourself off? Of course you can. The goal is to not let your libido become lazy. I can’t give you an ideal number, but if you can use your imagination instead of your MacBook half of the time, that’s great. If not, then lay off the Me Time for a day or two without any sexual stimulation, and try again. You were born with an active, healthy imagination and functioning sex parts. The assist is fine now and again, but you certainly don’t need it every time.
Finally, resigning to a future devoid of sex and relationships is dangerous to your already damaged self-esteem. Make friends, meet new people, talk to women at bars (I can help here). Even if you get shot down, you’re still helping your self-image by getting out there. You won’t benefit from just being afraid to talk to women, shrugging your shoulders and going home to jerk off instead.