Before the days of the internet, porn was actually pretty tough to find. You had to visit a shady adult toy shop or, if you had absolutely no shame, buy explicit magazines from a bookstore or news stand. Today, every type of fetish is no more than a few clicks away, and new research is drawing a troubling connection between young men with erectile dysfunction and the increasing prevalence of internet porn. 

A study of over 300 men between the ages of 20 and 40 who visited a San Diego urology clinic for treatment of impotence were surveyed about their sexual habits, including their consumption of internet porn. When the researchers crunch the numbers, they found a link between excessive porn watching and erectile dysfunction, suggesting that regular viewers of web porn are more likely to experience performance issues when having sex with an actual human partner.

“Tolerance could explain the sexual dysfunction, and can explain our finding that associated preferences for pornography over partnered sex with statistically significantly higher sexual dysfunction in men,” says Dr. Matthew Christman, urologist and lead researcher on the study.

The science behind why excessive porn watching can potentially cause impotence is very similar to other types of addiction. Essentially, the viewer builds up a “tolerance” to the mental stimulation in the same way a drug addict needs more and more of their vice to achieve the same feeling over time, men who binge on porn might find an actual sexual encounter to be far less exciting than they would normally.

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