• Jeremy Edge, LPC

Escaping Porn: Understanding Porn Use and Ways to Stop

Updated: Aug 16



Online pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry. Around 40 million Americans visit porn sites regularly and 35% of all online downloads are related to porn. Porn causes problems for couples and individuals. Here are a few reasons people use online pornography.



Power and Control


Pornography is enticing for several reasons. Sometimes porn helps couples spice up their love lives, however, most porn use is an isolating experience. Many use a computer, tablet, or phone to access specific images or videos. This individualized experience creates a sense of control and autonomy. If someone does not feel they are in control of an aspect of their lives, they may turn to porn, or another online activity, to feel powerful and in control.



Sexual Exploration


Another reason people use porn can be for sexual exploration. There are endless images, videos, and sexual content online. More research is needed, but around 20% of all mobile searches are related to “adult content” and 4% of all websites are pornographic. With around 1.7 billion websites in the world, that means there is around 68 million websites containing adult content.


People can explore any type of sexual fantasy and in the privacy of their own home on a device. People who feel unsafe exploring their sexuality for fear of rejection, shame, or judgement can “safely” explore their desires online with unconditional acceptance.



Stress Relief


Many people use a feel-good experience, like watching porn, to respond to stress. For an adult, if work was crappy or if a relationship is difficult, porn can feel like a momentary escape. Teens have it rough. They are simultaneously exploring who they are, navigating unforgiving peer dynamics, bombarded with academic pressures, and horny as hell. Teens can often find themselves seeking relief from the excitement and stimulation of porn. This relief is momentary but can reinforce the idea that porn can be a way to deal with stress. The more one relies on porn (or any substance or behavior) to always respond to stress, the higher likelihood that activity or substance can become a problem or an addiction.



Sexual Tension


Pornography can be a way to offset sexual challenges. With a couple, if one or both people are unsatisfied sexually, they might turn to porn. Online porn can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and for free. Rather than a couple working through sexual frustrations, many fall into porn use to increase sexual stimulation and pleasure. However, this process leaves couples more disconnected than before. When the couple does have sex, porn-induced erectile dysfunction could make matters worse for both of them.


Teenagers can also experience sexual tension. Once puberty hits, a teen’s interest in sex increases. They may feel they cannot control sexual urges, thoughts, or desires. They might not be having sex but they still could be experiencing sexual tension. Porn can offer an outlet for teens to focus their sexual energy. It’s an unhealthy outlet, but an outlet none the less.



Pleasure & Needs


Viewing arousing sexual content is pleasurable. The result of touching yourself sexually is pleasurable too, but even just searching for porn is arousing. Similar to foreplay, searching for sexual content is arousing and exciting. Porn can feel like our needs are being met. We can feel safe, attractive, wanted, and sexy. We can feel like 100% attention is given to satisfy our needs, wants, and desires. Porn can express the idea of, “Whatever you want, you get.” And when it comes to our sexual desires, that can be hard to resist.


 

Pornography can feel pleasurable, but it causes problems for relationships, families, and individuals. Here are ways to stop porn use if it’s a challenge for you.



1. Prevent Access


The first thing to do is get rid of all access to pornography. You can do this several ways.


- Use content blockers and accountability software if desired (Covinant Eyes, Bark, or Accountable2You)

- Use all devices around others or in a public space

- Replace phone with flip phone or phone with no internet access


This step is hard because our brains will seek out that excitement and pleasure that it’s missing from porn. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable, anxious, depressed, frustrated, or alone when removing access to porn. In order to be successful with stopping porn use, the next step needs to be done as you stop porn. That’s why it’s labeled 1.5.



1.5 Replace Porn Use With a Healthy Activity


While you are getting rid of porn use, replace time used for porn to exercise, hang out with friends or family, or start a new hobby. Use that extra time to do something productive and life-giving. If you normally use porn when you feel depressed or lonely, use music, art, or writing to express what you’re feeling. Writing or creating art is a healthy, fulfilling, and safe way to think about and express how you’re feeling. Rather than using porn to respond to stress and tension, go for a run, ride a bike, or lift weights to let out stress. If you are in a romantic relationship, use that extra time to talk with your partner and find solutions to any sexual issues.



2. Respond to Porn-Encouraging Thinking


If you have been looking at porn for more than a year, it can be difficult removing access to porn. When trying to stop using porn, it’s natural to have porn-encouraging thinking. We might say things like, “It’s not that bad.” Or “I’ll just look this one time.” Or “I’ve had a hard day, I need this.” We can start to justify our porn use the more we want it. Respond to that type of thinking by recognizing it and challenging those statements. Here are some examples:


  • It’s not that bad.

  • BS, it is pretty bad. Looking at porn hurts my relationship with my partner, it’s habit-forming, creates an unrealistic expectation of sex, and can contribute to ED.


  • I’ll just look this one time.

  • If I look this one time, it will be easier to look again in the future. I know myself, and it will probably not be just one more time but more than I want.


  • I’ve had a hard day, I need this.

  • There are many other things I can do to respond to this hard day. I can go for a run, read a good book, cook a delicious meal, play a fun game, or watch an entertaining show.


3. Create Protective Factors


Protective factors are things we put in place to keep us away from unwanted activities. If we don’t want to smoke anymore, a protective factor could be training for a race or joining a fun exercise class. Smoking will get in the way of your race and exercise goals and be a strong reason not to smoke. If you want to cut back on alcohol but pick up 6-pack every Friday, a protective factor can be to drive a different way home from work and tell your friends you want to cut back on drinking.


A protective factor for porn can be improving your relationships. If problematic relationships are motivating porn use, then improving those relationships will reduce the desire to use porn. Start working with a professional counselor to help you learn more about your porn use and how to respond to it specifically. Each person is different and a counselor can help with your specific situation. The act of seeing a counselor can provide support and accountability to protect you from using porn. A healthy family, work-life, and hobbies are also protective factors.



4. Respond to Triggers


A trigger is what happens right before you look at porn. As a teenager, a trigger could be when everyone goes to bed or when you see a sexual ad. As an adult, a trigger could be feeling out of control at work or feeling inferior. Once you know what your triggers are, respond to them differently. If you know you will want to look at porn at night then do another activity that’s fun and engaging like reading a good book, meditating, or working out. If you see something that triggers you to use porn, engage with another healthy activity or focus your mind on something else. Play a non-sexual game, listen to music, podcast or audio book, or go on a walk.


 

All these steps can help you with not using porn. It’s also very important to get support from those closest to you. If you’re in a relationship, be open about wanting to stop porn and see if they can help in any way. Your love life will most likely improve by transferring all your sexual energy towards your partner rather than porn. Ask for patience from your partner because stopping porn use can be a process of successes and failures.


If you would like to work through challenges around porn use, reach out to a professional therapist at Escapingthe.com.



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