Can Pornography Cause ED? Porn-Induced ED, Explained

October 1, 2020

Medically reviewed by
Anthony Puopolo, MD

While the data aren't conclusive that porn causes erectile dysfunction, it may affect your confidence and may even reduce your sexual appetite.

Erectile Dysfunction is the inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sex. It's often attributable to poor physical health, depression, anxiety, or other psychological causes. But another assumption has gained traction in recent years: that watching pornography excessively can also cause ED.

Porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is a splashy term that began to get more attention in the last decade as pornography became widely available for free on the internet and with easy access via smartphones.

ED and porn have been linked repeatedly, in research publications as well as in the media. Young men are increasingly attributing symptoms of ED to excess pornography viewing, and entire communities have emerged on the internet that encourage abstinence from masturbation. A 2020 paper in Urology that looked at ED in young men seeking help online concluded:

Social media platforms like Reddit empower young men to discuss ED concerns. Fewer than one-third reported seeing a doctor for ED, suggesting that men turn to peers on the internet first, despite risk of misinformation. A majority attributed symptoms to psychological etiologies and excess pornography/masturbation. Depression, self-harm, and suicide emerged as potent concerns.

Clearly guys are concerned, but is there actually causative link between ED and porn use?

The Link Between Porn and ED

Researchers at the well-known sexuality research organization The Kinsey Institute began to take note of the possible Porn-ED link around 2005, and since than more research has popped up around the topic.

"Traditional factors that once explained men's sexual difficulties appear insufficient to account for the sharp rise in erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, decreased sexual satisfaction, and diminished libido during partnered sex in men under 40," begins a 2016 research abstract about pornography and sexual dysfunction.

So, does porn cause ED? So far, the data aren't conclusive that there is a cause-effect relationship between internet porn and ED. A number of literature reviews suggest there's no definitive evidence.

An article from the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2019 concluded that there is "little or no evidence on a causal relationship between erectile dysfunction and frequency of pornography use." Complicating things, the researchers point out that most of the research so far is self-reported, and that subjects with erectile dysfunction may be more prone to using pornography more frequently.

Another 2019 paper looked at a series of samples of sexually active men who also used pornography. These researchers found that men who self-reported as "problematic pornography users" had a higher association with ED, but that there was no relationship between pornography and ED broadly.

What that could mean is that men who perceive they have a porn problem have trouble with ED, not necessarily that pornography use causes ED. The researchers concluded that "there is little or no evidence of an association between mere pornography use and ED, consistent evidence of an association between self-reported problematic use and ED cross-sectionally, and no evidence of causal links between any pornography variables and ED."

In the Journal of Sexual Medicine, another paper reads "We found little evidence of the association between pornography use and male sexual health disturbances. Contrary to raising public concerns, pornography does not seem to be a significant risk factor for younger men's desire, erectile, or orgasmic difficulties."

Porn May Affect Sexual Satisfaction

Here's the thing: this doesn't mean there aren't consequences to excess pornography use.

Pornography use is associated with lower sexual satisfaction. Men who use pornography more often tend to report lower satisfaction with their sex life, according to some of the research papers above. What we don't know completely is whether pornography induces a decrease in sexual satisfaction or whether low sexual satisfaction leads to more frequent pornography use.

Another study surveyed 433 heterosexual married couples and noted that a husband’s pornography use was negatively correlated with his wife’s sexual satisfaction. Pornography may contribute to unrealistic expectations about sex or about a sexual partner, and when those go unrealized it can be damaging to the relationship.

How to Cure Porn-Induced ED

Again, pornography does not appear to be causally linked to ED according to recent research, but if you're experiencing anxiety around this issue, it makes sense to take a hiatus. Whether real or imagined, taking a break from porn is a clean way to assess whether it's affecting your sex life, sexual performance, sexual satisfaction, relationships, and possibly even reverse the dissatisfaction you may be experiencing. A one or two-month period of abstinence may be a good reset button for your body and mind, and you may find that your sexual appetite – and even your partners' satisfaction – improves.

ED has a variety of originating factors, and a doctor's opinion can help in finding the right intervention or medication. At Rex MD, we connect guys with doctors through virtual visits so, if approved, they can order the ED medications they need. Our virtual visits are free and ordering is simple.


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Disclaimer : This article is for information only and should not be considered medical advice. Always speak with your doctor about your health and the benefits or risks of any treatment or intervention. This information should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice.