This is a guest blog post about sexual dysfunctions based on the work of our colleague Gabe Deem, the founder of Reboot Nation.

The rise and rise of ED

A growing number of urologists and psychiatrists are concerned about a drastic increase in young, otherwise healthy men, with sexual dysfunctions, including erectile dysfunction (ED) that stems from chronic internet porn consumption. In a paper published in Behavioral Sciences in 2016, several US Navy doctors documented a near 1,000% increase in youthful ED, pointing out that 17 years ago ED among men aged 18-40 was 2 to 5%, and all studies assessing youthful ED since 2010, shortly after the arrival of streaming porn videos, report ED rates in the same age group hovering around 30%.

The doctors include clinical reports on three servicemen whose porn use appears to have contributed to sexual dysfunctions and problematic low desire during partnered sex. Two showed improvement after giving up internet porn use. A third was unable to quit. These sailors aren’t the only ones whose real-world sex lives are sinking.

In a paper published online in Sexologies, psychiatrist Robert Porto, MD, President of the European Federation of Sexology, notes that masturbation is generally harmless. However, when excessive and accompanied by cyber-pornography use, it “has been seen to play a role in the etiology of certain types of erectile dysfunction or coital anejaculation.” The paper reports on 35 men with these dysfunctions, pointing out that 19 of them saw improvement after reconditioning their sexuality to real partners. According to Dr. Porto,

“The dysfunctions regressed and these patients were able to enjoy satisfactory sexual activity.”

DIY Test for ED

Now, you may be asking yourself, “How could you possibly know if porn is the cause?” Good news, the Navy docs provided a test that may help healthcare professionals rule out historical causes of ED. The test? Drumroll. See if you can masturbate without porn. That is, see if you can maintain an erection long enough to reach climax without being dependent on your  phone, laptop, or other device.

If a guy can’t sustain an erection all by his lonesome, that rules out “performance anxiety” as no one is nervous about his ability to please his own hand. On the other hand (or no hands at all), if a guy is able to get it up easily using porn, that rules out organic causes, because simply looking at a screen wouldn’t make those go away.

These recent medical warnings are in line with the claims of a growing number of doctors over the past couple years. Among those speaking up is urologist Tarek Pacha, who delivered a presentation to his fellow doctors at the 2016 annual American Urological Association’s conference in San Diego, CA, entitled “Pornography induced erectile dysfunction (PIED): Understanding the scope, science, and treatment.” Dr. Pacha is seeing an increase in young men screwing themselves over by, well, screwing themselves over and over again with porn.

As Dr. Porto (from above) points out when speaking about good ol’ masturbation:

“Harmless and even helpful in [its] usual form widely practiced, masturbation in its excessive and pre-eminent form, generally associated today to pornographic addiction, is too often overlooked in the clinical assessment of sexual dysfunction it can induce.”

The Navy doctors suggest it’s important to differentiate the two as well:

“It may be critical to distinguish pornography-free from pornography-assisted masturbation.”

Those who are skeptical that porn is behind the increased rates of youthful dysfunction have suggested the real reason rates have gone up is because, with the introduction of drugs like Viagra, there is less shame around admitting you have erectile dysfunction. In other words, they claim rates haven’t really gone up, but that more guys are willing to talk about it. However, these statistics are taken from anonymous surveys, not men willing to show their faces in a doctor’s office.

Incidentally, ED is only one of the problems increasingly being reported from porn viewers. A March, 2016 European study reported that problematic porn use is associated with lower erectile function, higher cravings for porn, and reduced overall sexual satisfaction. Half of those surveyed had escalated to internet porn material that was previously uninteresting or “disgusting.”

Taken together, these warnings and studies will hopefully lead to more awareness around porn’s potential influence on my sexuality. As a guy myself who blindly set sail into the vast ocean of internet porn as a 12-year old back in 1999, I eventually became dependent on porn to get an erection too.

Reward Foundation at SASH in Austin, Texas, 2016
Gabe Deem (centre) with Darryl Mead and Mary Sharpe at a Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health conference

Here’s Gabe’s own story   Here are his tips on recovery

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Here is an article about us and our workshops for professionals in the London Evening Standard.