PIED (Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction): A New Study

By Dr. Barbara Winter

Too much porn can be a problem for young men. In fact, it can be a problem for men of all ages. Short and longer-term, users’ emotional sense of self and relationship engagement can suffer, as can their ability to perform sexually.

I often say that having an orgasm requires a perfect storm. And although it is not always or necessarily the end game in the physically intimate space of a relationship, it is always talked about.

That said, within the stages of the sexual response cycle, there are many places where ruptures can occur. There are many pieces of the sexual pie, including individual, relational, spiritual, and physiological/physical. Porn enters and impacts each one of these. The last of these – physiological/physical – is the focus of this article.

Men often present to a urologist or a men’s health clinic designed specifically to deal with erectile dysfunction. Asking about porn habits, at this point, should be commonplace. It’s not sufficient today to ask about nocturnal erections, medications, relational habits, and to run some tests. Not that men want to talk about porn use. They don’t. But these are dialogues that need to occur. First with physicians, then with mental-health professionals. Because porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is a very real issue.

A large sample study out of Antwerp was just released at the European Association of
Urology at their virtual conference. Its findings confirmed something we have known about for a while – that porn-induced erectile dysfunction is an increasingly common problem for male porn users.

This is not new information. In 2016, there was widespread coverage on the effect porn has on the sexual functioning of men, particularly young men. Time did a cover story that year. Your Brain on Porn is chock full of information and stories from both professionals and laypeople. The Antwerp study, however, confirms what we have long observed and believed.

In a piece I wrote for the Good Men Project in 2016, How Porn is Hijacking the Sex Lives of our Young Men, I argued that the highly addictive piece of porn is the ability to control and manipulate screens according to the arousal level, something with which we have a bit less control when we are engaging live. The Antwerp study confirms this belief, finding that 90% of men fast-forward to watch the most arousing pornographic scenes.

The authors of the study state, “There’s no doubt that porn conditions the way we view sex; in our survey, only 65% of men felt that sex with a partner was more exciting than watching porn. In addition, 20% felt that they needed to watch more extreme porn to get the same level of arousal as previously.” (One of the indicators of addiction is  requiring a greater amount or a stronger version of the substance in order to achieve the same effect.)

Another significant finding was that the more porn that users watched, the greater the symptoms they experienced, including erectile dysfunction. The study also found that heavy porn use is also associated with greater dissatisfaction with “normal” sex, with only 65% of respondents rating sex with a partner to be more stimulating than porn.

These results, taken together, indicate that using pornography can impact men in numerous ways, including physiologically in the form of erectile dysfunction.

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Learn more about getting help for infidelity and/or sex addiction with Dr. Barbara Winter.