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Men's Health

Is Pornography Addictive?

Psychologists debate whether people can have an addiction to pornography.
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Why We Watch

Weston says she thinks there are three main reasons why people turn to pornography: to see their fantasies acted out, to avoid intimacy in a relationship, and simply to aid masturbation.

"Sometimes people are just going to it for things they wish they could do in real life," she says. "It fills in a gap in their own relationship. They have a partner who doesn't like to do oral sex and they love it themselves, and they're in this relationship and they want to stay, so they go and look at pictures of oral sex."

In this regard, porn can be part of a healthy relationship, she says, but in some circumstances it can hinder intimacy.

"Then there are the people who are too embarrassed to explain what it is that they really would like to participate in, so they go there secretively, never having revealed to their mate what they would like to try," Weston says.

If they were to reveal their fantasy, they might find their partner willing to go along with it, and they might end up with more fulfilling sexual relationships. For some, however, that would be unacceptable.

"Some people go there because the intimacy in the relationship is as high as the person can stand it. If they were to unveil the sexual interest which is sort of their closely held secret, the intimacy would be way too high for their own ability to tolerate it, so they save it for elsewhere," Weston says.

Independent of the role it plays in relationships, people also look at pornography just to arouse themselves before or while masturbating.

"I think of porn addiction as a label that's used to put down behavior that's disapproved of socially," Violet Blue, a sex educator and author of The Ultimate Guide to Adult Videos, tells WebMD. "A lot of it is shaming masturbation."

Men are thought to be more easily aroused by erotic imagery than women are, but many women masturbate to pornography, too, she says.

She moderates an online message board for female enthusiasts called the Smart Girls' Porn Club. "I occasionally receive emails from members of the group about different kinds of sexual problems," she says, but none so far have expressed concerns about stopping.

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Reviewed on April 30, 2007

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