Straight Talk Advice

Jun 01, 2011

College-age panelists weigh in on pornography issue

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: My younger brother is 19, a healthy college student. We are close friends. He confided in me that he is reluctant to date because of recent problems with arousal. He said this didn’t used to happen to him. Personally, I think it’s from too much porn. I doubt a day goes by since he was 13 that he doesn’t masturbate to it. I told him to lay off it and find a real relationship. What do the college students on your panel suggest? I hope they’re not all porn addicts, too. It’s getting hard to find anyone who doesn’t watch it — and if you question it and you’re a guy, everyone thinks something is wrong with you. — Tyler

Brie 19, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

I’m not into porn but several close guy friends are. Porn has its place, but it’s no substitute for a real relationship. Like alcohol, it can become an addiction and the only thing that “works.” He should go without it and build a solid relationship. He needs to get back to reality.

Liz 19, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

There is no moderation here. Porn is taking over his life. He needs to cut back or get help for porn addiction.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles, Calif. Ask me a question

It’s true that porn is so common people think something is wrong with you if you don’t watch it. To me, it’s the lazy man’s way to sex. It’s best to stay off it. Worth noting: The top ‘man stud’ at my college doesn’t watch porn.

Charles 24, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

Speaking as one of those healthy guys who has masturbated to porn every day since age 13, I also had major arousal issues when I first became sexually active. Was it because I had blown my brains out on porn? No, I was just nervous! Porn doesn’t prepare you for actual sex. The ensuing shame and confusion (especially if comparing oneself to male porn stars), can ruin a young man’s confidence. What works is having an honest relationship with your partner where you can talk about sex.

Rachel 19, Petaluma, Calif. Ask me a question

I once attended a “passion party” and asked if too much exposure to sex toys would desensitize you. The facilitator said no, but that it could take time for the body to adjust to other things (especially if those other things aren’t hi-powered vibrators or porn stars). While watching porn regularly, your brother probably won’t be aroused by a partner, but once he steps back, he should be fine.

Mark 24, Laguna Niguel, Calif. Ask me a question

The arousing touch of another is replaced by self-touch. This is virtual life. It isn’t healthy, but it’s normal (i.e., common). But there are other reasons for loss of arousal: stress, guilt, trauma, nervousness. Stop harping and ask questions. What goes through his mind when he thinks about male-female interaction? What does he find appealing about porn? Is he insecure about his private areas? Was he molested? Therapy might be good for him.

DEAR TYLER: I also advise therapy for your brother. Pornography is definitely a suspect. Studies show that the first arousal cue for a male, especially if he ejaculates to it, can imprint the need for that stimulus. (With the multitudes of young men coming of age to porn, no wonder so many defend it with their lives) — (not to mention order Viagra in record numbers.) Compassion is key. Through no fault of your brother’s, he was part of a generation raised on pornography. He “fell in” when nobody was looking. Healing requires true human intimacy. It sounds cliché, but love really is the solution. Regardless of one’s sexual upbringing, within an honest intimate relationship, peace can be found. Encourage your brother to also look for love.

Editor’s Note: Most of today’s young men (at least in the U.S.) watch pornography — and masturbate to it — regularly. This doesn’t exactly give me a warm fuzzy feeling about our future. I consider masturbation normal and healthy but I’m biased toward real relationships as opposed to masturbating in front of a video (many of the popular ones showing dark, violent, or unnatural arousal cues). That said, we all have our way that we grew up, and for better or worse, it’s natural to defend one’s own childhood-originated preferences — even when they are unhealthy.

Pornography mostly attracts males, but about 25 percent of free Internet porn is requested from females. (However, regarding porn-for-pay, the number of female-registered computers drops to almost zero.) Sexual cues, especially for males, tend to become imprinted and though the human mind is flexible, these things can be challenging to change. For those who feel alone and unsatisfied, dropping into love and intimacy is the key to healing and/or emotional peace.

I hope that the lessons learned from this generation of children who “fell in when nobody was looking” will help parents become vigilant as computers become smaller and smaller. Keeping the family computer in the living room (a former deterrent) becomes moot as younger and younger children keep one in their pocket because it is also their phone. (And while I recommend porn blockers, they only do so much because you can just Google how to go around them or go to a friend’s house — or, heck, school.)

It really comes down to education and communication. Parents need to step up. Last week I likened it to the conversations about cigarettes. Kids need to be warned off pornography by their parents just like they are warned off cigarettes. As with cigarettes, these conversations need to start young. Children need to be repeatedly encouraged to have real relationships and repeatedly warned against the dangers of having them alone in front of a screen. —Lauren

  1. By Bob, age , from Lodi, CA on 06/03/2011

    My older brother masturbates to porn and it looks to me like it also keeps him from having a normal relationship with a girl.  We share a room and he does it with the door locked so that our mom won’t “catch” him but he does openly in front of me without even covering up.  Even though we’re brothers and share a room and have never been shy about being naked in front of each other, this still makes me sick so I do my best not to look.  I can’t say that I never masturbate, but I don’t do it to porn and I do it under the covers or in the bathroom with the door locked.  I fantasize about attractive girls I know which I think is normal, and I have a girlfriend and other normal relationships with girls.  But my brother has never had a girlfriend or shown any interest in having one, and I think that his obsession with porn is one of the reasons.  I looked at it a few times when he practically shoved it in my face and I found it sickening and it turned me off rather than on.  He says I’d better not tell our mom or I’ll be sorry, and I wouldn’t anyway since I figure it’s his business, but I really don’t think it’s healthy and really wonder how it will affect his future relationships with females.


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