“I don’t watch porn, that shit rots your brain.”
These words were casually said to me by a friend of mine. We were discussing different ways that we ‘Guard Our Mental State’. Basically talking about mental health and the things that we do to ensure that we stay in a stable place.
All of the usuals were mentioned: Exercise, good diet, avoiding drugs/alcohol, regularly attending psychologist appointments, and socialising often. From there, we started talking about the problems with social media use on our mental health.
I have talked about it here and here, you are exposed to their unfiltered thoughts, you are placed into an echo chamber by the algorithms and are shown self-confirming articles designed to create engagement (basically to cause you to feel outrage and then comment and share). Finally, and perhaps most significantly, you are exposed to far more social information than you evolved to consume.
The same is true for porn.
The sheer volume of available porn is mindboggling. Right now, on the device that you are reading this on, you could spend the next year watching porn continuously and still find new content to consume. Access is super quick, in under a minute you could literally be watching people have sex. Not just regular ‘normal’ sex either, but sex of every variation, theme, and kink imaginable (google rule 34 of the internet to see my point). Don’t get me wrong, I am all for sexual and personal liberation, exploration and acceptance – it is just the temptation and ease of consumption that is the issue.
Up until very recently in our history, humans had limited exposure to sex or sexual stimulus. The average person would only see a limited amount of naked bodies in their lifetime. Whilst they could of course pay for sex or sexual shows, this was limited to particular times, places and availability. They had to wait.
Now we carry a device with us everywhere that, at a moment’s notice, we can turn into a voyeurism machine. Like social media, we didn’t evolve to handle such a temptation. We now live in a universe in which, at a whim, we can satisfy our sexual urges. There is no longer a need for self-control. Sexual release is just a click away.
What Happened When I Stopped Watching Porn
Following the discussion with my friend, I decided to try a little experiment. I wondered what would happen if I stopped watching porn for an extended period of time. Full disclosure here, at the time I was watching porn a minimum of once per day.
So what happened when I stopped?
Within a week I became significantly more sensitive to the sexuality and beauty occurring around me. Through porn, I was able to see everything that I could possible want to see instantly, but that was in fact blinding me to what was occurring around me. Now I was noticing the beautiful and flirtatious smiles of women passing me by, the colour of their lipsticks, their shoes, the fit of their clothes and their perfumes. It was like my senses were more attuned. It felt like I could see more.
Even nature became more beautiful (or rather I started noticing its beauty). Flowers were catching my attention. Architecture was standing out. The subtlety found in art, music and food was more noticeable.
After a month, I noticed that my dreams became significantly more vivid and longer. Each night felt like a fantasy novel where I was the main character. Similarly, my imagination rose (great for my fiction writing) and my ability to visualise things increased.
My relationships improved, particularly with my wife. She never had an issue with me watching porn, thankfully she is not jealous at all and accepts me for who I am –flaws and all. Quitting porn has brought me closer to her, and not just sexually. We connected and communicated on a much deeper level. I felt able to express my feelings with her more (hint: women love this!).
I really started noticing how sexualised advertisements and billboards truly are. Perhaps I was blind to it in the past because of over exposure, but once I stopped watching porn the true nature of advertising was revealed to me. Everything is sold with sex. Everything. Now that I was no longer watching porn, I became hypersensitive to it. Advisements with sexually suggestive imagery grabbed my attention. I felt like a recovering alcoholic walking past a bar, fighting the temptation to relapse.
It was almost like I was eating overly sugary food, and then went on a diet. Over time, my taste buds became refined and I could taste more.
What Happened When I Watched Porn Again
Being the curious person that I am, after a three month break, I decided to try watching porn again. I wanted to see what would happen to my mental state.
Simply put, it wasn’t pleasant. The most surprising change I noticed was my aggression levels sky rocketed. I became quick to anger and was significantly more dissatisfied when things didn’t go my way. Importantly, I would become more of a control freak, both in the bedroom, and in life. Rather than just accepting and going with the flow, I would instead have expectations of what I thought should happen, and subsequently try to impose them on other people.
This is not a healthy way to live.
Very quickly I went back to my self-imposed porn ban, and the positive benefits have returned. Now I am six months in and not really planning on looking back. That being said, if a partner of mine wanted to watch it together I would be very much up for the experience. It would be a part of the experience with that person, as opposed to watching on my own. Kind of like sharing a bottle of wine versus drinking it alone in a dark room. One is far more social and enjoyable than the other!
Should You Quit Porn?
This is completely up to you, however I strongly suggest that you at least give it a try for a week or two – just to see what happens.
Don’t be surprised if this proposition seems difficult or perhaps impossible. Porn addiction is a real thing, and many people are addicted without even realising they are. Unlike other addictions, the negative impact of porn can’t easily be observed. You don’t get inebriated, it doesn’t cost you any money, and has no physical health consequences. However it does impact your mental state.
My choice to quit is completely personal, and has nothing to do with the questionable ethics of the porn industry (which is another issue altogether). It is simply a choice to guard my mental state. I invite you to do the same.
Perhaps you are not impacted by porn in the same way I am. Perhaps it isn’t impacting you at all. But unless you detox, how will you know?
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This blog post was inspired by the books: "The Ethical Slut"
~ A major focus of The Ethical Slut is getting you to question your assumptions about sex and then finding what works for you. Quitting porn works for me, and sharing it seems to fit with this book ethos. It is a must read for anyone who is sexually active, planning on being sexually active, or who wants to love ~