How internet porn is changing the way men and women are having sex

It's had an impact on both women and men.

Woman moves closer to a man for a kiss.
Photo credit: David McNew / Getty Images

Sexual satisfaction is important for pair bonding in a relationship, as well as for one's own psychological health. What's more, we're living in an age where personal fulfillment seems to be the ultimate goal. Despite this, men and women today may be having less fulfilling sex lives than in the past. One reason, the internet has altered human sexuality in a myriad of ways.


There have of course been positive impacts. The internet has helped normalize BDSM and kink, and revealed to the world different relationship configurations, which of course impact sex. These can include what New York Times sex columnist Dan Savage calls, “monogamish," swinging, and polyamory (or ethical non-monogamy). Rather than be trapped in the dichotomy of monogamy or dating, we now have other options. It's also allowed those with certain kinks and fetishes to feel acceptance and find fulfillment, as well as become a part of their own community.

Now for the bad news. There's been some talk that the internet may be causing a minority of men to experience porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Internet porn obsession coupled with chronic masturbation saps interest or capability, when it comes time to be with a partner. The urological community has gone back and forth on whether this is a legitimate condition. One particular research paper contends that instead of a physical problem, such men may be conditioning themselves to orgasm only with a certain kind of stimuli, be it tactile or visual, which may confound sex with a partner.

Men who are obsessed with online sexual stimuli may condition themselves out of a fulfilling encounter with a partner. Credit: Getty Images.

Now for the first time, a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, looks at how internet porn may have impacted female sexual functioning. These findings also tease out larger questions about how much sexuality is biological behavior, how much is psychological, and how much social. The female orgasm has been seen as the pinnacle of the sexual encounter. So has internet porn enhanced or inhibited the female climax?

Léa J. Séguin at the University of Quebec in Montreal, led the study. What Séguin and colleagues found was, it wasn't the age when masturbation started or a woman's dexterity in the pursuit. It wasn't the number of sex partners she had either. What determined whether or not she could orgasm during sex, was whether she was mindful during the experience and how connected she felt with her partner.

“Social representations, which appear in a variety of media, can influence the way sexual experiences are perceived and understood," researchers wrote. “While pornography is not the only medium in which orgasm is portrayed, it is the most explicit, and it is widespread and easily accessible." What they looked at was how male and female orgasm was portrayed in 50 of Pornhub's most viewed videos. Each was analyzed and coded for the “frequency of male and female orgasm." Researchers coded content by the orgasm-inducing sex act the onscreen couple engaged in. This included auditory and visual indicators.

Porn may send the signal that the female orgasm is less important. Credit: geralt, Pixababy.

This study found that while men orgasmed 78% of the time in these videos, women climaxed only 18.3% of the time. Among these, clitoral stimulation—how most women orgasm, only occurred 25% of the time. The message this sends, researchers say, is that the male orgasm is an imperative, while the female one—not so much. They also wrote that "mainstream pornography promotes and perpetuates many unrealistic expectations regarding women's orgasm."

Research shows there's a wide variety in when and how women climax. Though many start masturbation early, the average American woman loses her virginity at age 17, and most don't orgasm then. In fact, most women don't begin having regular orgasms until they're in their 20s or 30s. Greater comfort with sex and their bodies may be the reason.

Another issue is that some women just naturally have a hard time orgasming. They may not climax regularly as a result. Studies have shown that the ability to climax through intercourse and to a lesser extent masturbation, is at least partially genetic in nature. The rest is “physical processes or subjective responses to those processes."The results of this study fit into what is known as sexual script theory, which states that humans fall into certain sexual scripts which society deems acceptable.

A woman's outlook on sex, how comfortable she with it, and her connection to her partner, all play a critical role in her ability to derive sexual satisfaction. Credit: Getty Images.

So what about the female orgasm overall? A study published last year in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, had some interesting findings. Using statistics from nationwide surveys, they looked at the sexual experiences of over 8,000 Finnish women. The number who said they orgasm from sex always or nearly so, fell 10% between 1999 and 2015. Internet porn and unrealistic expectations may have played a role. But researchers identified other reasons as well.

Why Finnish women? “Finland is one of few countries with nationally representative surveys of sexual activities and values among the adult population." Such a survey was conducted in the years 1971, 1992, 1999, 2007, and 2015. People's sexuality liberalized over time, the data shows, following a similar trend in the rest of Western Europe.

According to this study, whether or not a woman orgasmed during sex depended on her sexual self-esteem, how good she and her partner are at sexual communication, how skillful she feels in the bedroom, and her own sexual limitations. Other factors included the ability to concentrate during sex and her partner's technique. The things that prevented women from climaxing most were fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and stress. While 50% of women in a relationship said they orgasmed during sex most of the time, only 40% of single women did.

So the takeaway is that couples who communicate well, especially about desires and fantasies, are mindful during sex, and do things to increase their connection, have the best sex lives, complete with oodles of orgasms for both partners. That's as long as they don't become obsessed with internet porn, take cues from reliable sources, and are mindful of how they conduct their sex lives. Should you have a female partner, the best way to make her climax when sex is on the menu is to relax her, relieve her stress, and connect with her on a deeper level.

To find out more about how internet porn obsession can affect your sex life, click here:

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The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

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