Does Watching Adult Content Impact Libido?

Watching adult content is a highly individual act, and many factors can impact a person's libido, including age, gender, sexual orientation, and personal values and beliefs. For many people watching this kind of content increases their sexual desire and arousal, but for others, it can decrease their libido. Adult content isn't inherently bad, and when consumed ethically, it can aid in sexual exploration and pleasure.

Key takeaways:

Legal disclaimer: Any reference to pornography within this article refers to legal sexual acts performed by consenting adults.

Having a normal sex drive is healthy. However, there's a biological aspect and a psychological side that work together to affect your well-being and physical relationships. So how does watching adult content impact libido? Keep reading to learn more.

Does watching adult content affect sexual desire?

Watching pornography is a highly individual act, and many factors can impact a person's sexual desire, including age, gender, sexual orientation, and personal values and beliefs.

For many people, watching this kind of content increases sexual desire and arousal. As such, people are motivated to use it as an outlet to indulge in fantasy, a tool to assist in pleasure and achieving orgasm, as well as an educational tool to learn how to give and receive pleasure. However, for others, pornography use has been found to decrease arousal and desire over time as they become desensitized.

Furthermore, other people may not gain any sexual arousal from watching porn, while others may get aroused from watching but also feel a sense of guilt and shame.

Do men and women watch porn for the same reasons?

A 2018 study examined the pornography use of 1036 people between the ages of 18 to 35 and found that 98% of men and 73% of women had viewed pornography in the last month. Additional research found that women watch pornography for many of the same reasons that men do, with many women stating that they use pornography as a tool to assist in pleasure. However, unlike men, women are more likely to view porn as simultaneously pleasurable and risky. In addition, studies have found that many women who watch pornography unexpectedly encounter content that they find disturbing, which can affect their sexual desire and arousal in the short term.

Research has found that many women dislike unrealistic depictions of female sexuality and misrepresentation of bodies and prefer to watch authentic representations of pleasure. Therefore, many women employ several strategies to help them navigate risky content that could be found on many websites, such as searching for women or queer-friendly adult content.

Benefits of watching adult content:

There is nothing inherently wrong with pornography, and when consumed ethically, there can be many benefits gained from watching.

Explore the sexual self

People use adult content as a way to explore their sexual identity, particularly people exploring sexuality outside of heterosexuality. This is common as adult content provides depictions of queer sex and relationships that are often lacking in other forms of media. These queer depictions of sex help to normalize and validate queerness, even outside of the bedroom.

Many people also use pornography to explore particular fantasies that they have no desire to replicate in real life. At the same time, others used pornography to decide if their fantasies were something they'd like to replicate in their personal lives. Seeing the logistics of certain sexual acts has allowed people to make a more informed decision about whether or not they'd like to enact their fantasies.

Teach people pleasure

While it is important not to use pornography as the only form of sex education, it can help with teaching how to give and receive pleasure. Many people who have watched pornography have learned new techniques they could perform on themselves or others that have enhanced their sexual pleasure. In a solo context, pornography has allowed people to discover their sexuality and access the many benefits of sexual self-care and orgasms.

Risks of watching adult content:

While most people who watch pornography can do so without any negative consequences, there can be some risks associated with watching pornography, particularly for young people.

Unrealistic depictions of sex

As pornography often displays unrealistic depictions of sex, there is a risk that people will believe that this is what sex is like and what people's bodies should look like. Mainstream pornography portrays unrealistic depictions of sex and bodies and often focuses on white, cisgender, heteronormative sex. Bodies that exist outside of this narrow box are often fetishized, further perpetuating the marginalization of these communities.

Pornography is some people's sex education

Adult content can teach people about the benefits of sex and pleasure but should not act as a stand-alone form of sex education. As stated above, much mainstream pornography doesn't depict realistic sex, and the people who are performing in these videos are simply performers. This is a problem for young people whose only form of sex education is pornography, as they may believe that this is what sex should look like and try to replicate this with their partners. Many sexuality researchers and teachers have called for porn literacy to be introduced into sex education, as it gives young people the skills to critically analyze and navigate pornography and distinguish between healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviors.

Watching adult content is not inherently wrong or taboo — it can even increase sexual desire and boost arousal. However, people who watch porn must understand that much of what they see is fantasy. Therefore, watching too much pornography can elevate real-life expectations to unrealistic heights. Nevertheless, watching porn can bring partners closer together when used appropriately.



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