(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Porn

News flash:  men like porn.  Maybe it’s the way we’re wired, or maybe it’s the way we’re raised.  Women may have a preference for trashy romance novels; men usually go for visual images.  Probably 90 percent of all porn is created for men.

Heterosexual men are often very secretive about their interest in erotica.  Not gay men; we have coffee table photo books filled with beefcake, and it’s a rare gay man who doesn’t have at least a small collection or a list of links to favorite websites.

Maybe it has to do with being more comfortable acknowledging that we often experience sexual pleasure when we’re by ourselves.  Masturbation is still the punch line of lots of jokes for straight guys, but gay men almost universally acknowledge it as part of a healthy sex life.  Porn and playing with ourselves just naturally goes together.

Porn is also important to gay men because it’s where many of us first learned about sex or first suspected there were others like us out there.  What passes for sex education in schools never includes information on pleasuring a sex partner – and almost never mentions that some people are attracted to others of the same gender.  However imperfect, porn is the default source of much sex education for gay men.

Watching all that handsome flesh parade across the screen can have a few unintended consequences.  While there’s truly something out there for every taste and imagination, most of the mainstream images in gay erotica have a certain sameness:  young, very buff, white, hairless, very well hung.  Constant exposure to these images can restrict the range of male variety that we find attractive.  Guys who are thinner or beefier are rarely given much exposure, and African Americans, Hispanics or Asians are often restricted to videos that present ethnicity as a fetish.  Men inevitably compare themselves to the standard on the screen and often find themselves wanting.

Porn as a tool of sex education or shaper of sexual norms is a problem for several reasons.  Other than in videos from the early days of the HIV epidemic, it’s rare to see someone putting on a condom.  Anything smacking of foreplay is unlikely to be seen.  Penises are universally huge, get erect on command and stay that way for the duration.  This isn’t the way real life looks.  That’s not a criticism of sex flicks – there’s a reason these guys were chosen for their parts, after all, and videos have the luxury of editing out takes that don’t go well.  Just the same, too many men are prone to secretly imagine this is the way it’s supposed to go if you’re a real man.  And that’s how sexual dysfunction gets started.

At one time, access to sexy male images required a potentially embarrassing trip to an adult bookstore or a subscription to a magazine; now all it takes is an internet or wifi connection.  Broadband makes a virtually infinite supply of erotica available 24 hours a day.  Human beings have the capacity to turn almost anything into an obsession, and that’s especially true for porn on the web.  There may be something about the physical act of staring at a bright computer screen for long periods of time that makes web porn even more likely to become a compulsion.  Minutes turn into hours; monthly bills for video-on-demand can become really burdensome.

Online porn can become a way to escape from problems rather than face them, a way of filling time. And relying on the web for gratification can lead to social isolation.

Enjoying erotica isn’t a problem for most people, but if you feel your use of it has become compulsive you’ll be much happier in the long run if you acknowledge your compulsive behavior, set limits and seek help if your habit is out of control.  And if porn viewing has become really disruptive – you find yourself taking risks at work, for instance, or spending time alone rather than with friends, or cruising for sex when you’re bored rather than really feeling horny – it is time to take a more serious look at whether your use of porn has become so compulsive that it is really problematic.  Professional help may be needed.

Sex should be pleasurable and a way to connect with others, not a way of avoiding life.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.