If you’re honest with yourself and you’re a dude, you’ve surfed porn at some point in your life. I know I have.
Maybe it was a phase, maybe you’re still doing it. Do you pay for sites? Just browse the free ones and leave, deleting your cookies and any trace of your porn tracks so no one knows your little secret?
If you ever meet a man who denies surfing porn, I’d call BS on him right then and there. I’ve never met a man who hasn’t surfed porn at least once. What’s the problem with a guy who wants to surf a little porn now and again anyway? Initially, nothing.
In my opinion, nothing is fundamentally wrong with masturbation and your own sexuality, despite what strict religious organizations may tell you. The issue is not masturbation or even surfing porn, although many women might disagree. And for good reason. (The porn industry itself condones the abuse of power men have over women, many porn sites have aggressive imagery, and what the industry teaches or trains us about our sexuality are all important issues that need to be addressed).
I write this post for four reasons:
1. No one talks about it, so let’s go there. Bring on your comments.
2. To help you understand why you hide your porn use and why you feel bad about it.
3. To raise your awareness and help you understand what drives men to porn
4. To take some action in relationship to your porn use
Before we go any further, let’s look at some important, but not surprising porn stats from Tech Crunch in 2007:
- Every second, there are 28,258 people surfing porn
- Every second, $89 is spent on porn
- 266 new porn sites are put on the web daily
- “Sex” is the most searched word on the web
- $2.84 billion in revenue was generated from U.S. porn sites in 2006
- 72% of porn viewers are men (A 2001 Forrester Research Report had a slightly different number: 77% of online visitors to adult content sites are male. Their average age is 41 and they have an annual income of $60,000. 46% are married.)
The numbers are clear. Even with the statistics, many men deny surfing porn. For the brave men that admit to surfing porn, there is little understanding and awareness around their use. So, why are the numbers so high?
According to a Kinsey Institute survey which asked “Why do you use porn?” respondents had this to say:
- 72% said they used porn to masturbate/for physical release.
- 69% – to sexually arouse themselves and/or others.
- 54% – out of curiosity.
- 43% – “because I can fantasize about things I would not necessarily want in real life.”
- 38% – to distract myself.
From my perspective, we have to ask two important questions:
- Why does a man hide his porn use and then feel bad about it?
- Why is he surfing porn in the first place?
To answer the first question we have to look at our culture. With so many messages from religion and conservative groups telling us that sex is bad and wrong, many people in our culture end up repressing their sexual aliveness. At the same time, the media and pop culture oversexualize everything. Watch any beer commercial or MTV video. It’s no wonder we are so confused about sex and sexuality.
Repression + oversexualized imagery & messages = confused, disconnected shameful relationship to one’s own sexuality.
For example, in my work with men, at some point a man typically owns up to his porn use with me. And, almost without fail, he feels shame and guilt about it. Often he’s married or has a girlfriend and surfs porn quite a bit without ever owning up to it with his partner. Understandably, this sets up a difficult dynamic with himself and with his partner. Shame begets shame.
Think about it. What guy wants to admit that he doesn’t know how to manage the sexual life force raging through his body? Men get mixed messages about sex, and with all the conflicting information, and nowhere to go to sort it out, it can end up coming out sideways in the form of strip clubs, constantly objectifying women, porn use, hookers and much more.
To answer question number 2, we have to investigate two of the responses in the Kinsey report: “for physical release” and “to distract myself.” What is a man “distracting himself” from and what is it that he is “releasing” aside from the obvious?
In my professional opinion, this is the number 1 reason so many boys and men surf porn:
Guys surf porn to “check out” or to “distract themselves” from certain uncomfortable feelings they are experiencing, period. Said another way, surfing porn is a symptom of some underlying discomfort a man is experiencing . It’s this simple.
Guys report feeling “off” inside and surfing porn becomes a way to “get rid of” (another way of saying “physical release”) the discomfort. It is very much like a quick high, a jolt of energy that feels great for a microsecond during orgasm. It works like a drug. It is a dopamine surge. If you have ever taken drugs or even use them in moderation, you know that getting high or having a drink can seem to “take the edge off” and for those fleeting moments, you feel better. Masturbation is no different.
But much like getting high or even taking a nap, reality has a way of creeping back in and, almost without fail, seconds after ejaculation shame and guilt set in as a guy attempts to hide his tracks and close his computer’s browser.
One client recently told me when he feels anxious, he goes to porn, gets the job done and feels less anxious for a little while.
Since most guys surf porn between the 9-5 hours, one would think they are just “bored” at their desk job. However if you investigate further, it turns out most of these men are just not happy with themselves, their job, or their life. They have an uncomfortable feeling inside that they are unwilling to feel or relate to.
So, what should a guy do?
This is a hotly debated subject with men who are willing to have this conversation. One option is to come out of the closet with your porn behavior. You kept it a secret for a reason, now break the ice by telling a close, trusting male friend that won’t judge you. A good man will probably empathize.
Next, determine how your partner might react to your porn use if you told her/him. For some folks, it helps, others it hurts. For example, a client of mine recently got “busted” surfing porn by his partner. They had been struggling sexually for months. After fighting about it for several days, they worked through it and had the best sex they had had in a long time. There’s more to the story, but this was a major component clogging up their intimacy.
If you do share this with your partner, you have to be honest and let your partner have her reaction. Of course your lover will be upset. You have hidden something from them or “leaked” energy outside of your relationship. So don’t be surprised when your partner gets angry and/or sad.
Start paying attention to when you surf
If porn is a symptom of being “off” in your life, the “off” feeling is what you need to address. If you surf porn occasionally, start taking note of when these times occur. Did you just get in a fight with your wife recently? Do you have a lot of free time and this helps you pass the time? Why is it so hard to just be with yourself? What is going on in your life right now that feels so off? What time of day do you surf?
Next, try a porn fast. Take a break from porn altogether
No more porn. Commit to no porn for at least 3 months and then observe yourself and your behavior. Of course, if you’ve never done any self-inquiry, this is going to be challenging for you. What you may find is by removing porn from the equation, you start to notice that you used porn to deal with some discomfort in your life. What do you replace it with? How do you cope?
See if you can notice right now what’s going on. If you surf porn, what about this article resonates? What does not?
The main purpose of this post is to free up the shame. Enough shame already. So many guys carry around endless amounts of shame. What would it be like to not run from your shame? Or what would your life be like if you didn’t run from the discomfort below the surface that is causing you to surf porn? I’d like to challenge you to engage with this aspect of your life so as to learn something important about yourself and your porn behavior.
Remember, the more you do self-inquiry and understand yourself, the more mastery you will have in your life and in this case, the more deeply you can come to know your own sexuality.