4 Ways Porn Kills Great Sex in Marriage

Porn makes promises it can’t keep, especially when it comes to hot sex in marriage.

Porn won’t spice up your sex life, and it won’t make you a better lover. Science and psychology show that sharing porn with your spouse or having a secret affair with porn will mess up hot nights of passion, especially for the long haul.

What will make sex better can be summed up in one word: intimacy. And no, sex does not equal intimacy.

So here are four (brief) ways porn kills great sex. To learn four ways to take intimacy to the next level, check out our article “The Path to True Intimacy and Better Sex.

4 Ways Porn Kills Great Sex in Marriage

Killer No. 1: Porn Hijacks Your Focus

The producers of porn and portions of pop culture tout that pornography leads to more fun, more pleasure, exciting new moves, and mind-blowing orgasms. Instead, porn’s path is disappointing at best and debilitating at worst.

“Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it,” writes Dr. Norman Doidge in The Brain That Changes Itself.

Great sex means a husband and wife focus on each other. The Bible describes it as “one flesh.”

But porn teaches the brain to focus on multiple images, body types, partners and scenarios. The focus on one’s spouse is lost, and repeated use of pornography takes precedence. A habit or an addiction to porn is an obvious killer to marital and sexual oneness, because true focus is singular not plural.

Killer No. 2: Porn Creates Neural Pathways for More Porn

Doidge explains that “human beings exhibit an extraordinary degree of sexual plasticity compared with other creatures.” By “plasticity” he means that our brains and our sexuality are molded by our experiences, interactions, and other means of learning, which is why people vary in what they say is attractive or what turns them on. The brain actually creates neural pathways that label a specific type of person or activity as arousing.

Neurologists repeat a mantra: Neurons that fire together wire together. Simply put, repeating an activity makes it easier to do. But it also means that the human brain learns to associate specific activities with neurological rewards.

Unlike many other activities, porn and masturbation release such a firestorm of neurochemical and hormonal rewards that the brain can map out neural pathways for porn use quickly. That’s why porn use is so addictive.

Using porn to spice up marital sex is self-defeating. Instead of being more attracted to and engaged with one’s spouse, the porn user will actually become more engrossed with porn. Your Brain on Porn reviews a study showing that when men and women were exposed to porn, they were less likely to be pleased with their partner’s physical appearance, affection, and sexual performance. The researchers concluded that porn consumers eventually compare their spouse with images of porn models.

Another study appearing in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 2002 found similar results. When men and women were exposed to pictures of female centerfold models from Playboy and Penthouse, this significantly lowered their judgments about the attractiveness of “average” people.

Killer No. 3: Porn Creates a Neurochemical Imbalance

Brain chemistry plays a major role in creating neural pathways that establish patterns of behavior and triggers that spark a person to engage in specific behavior. Porn, sex, and masturbation release considerably more neural chemicals than most other activities (discussed in the e-book, The Porn Circuit).

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Download the entire book, The Porn Circuit, for free.

For example, here are two brain chemicals of note:

Dopamine

The brain releases dopamine in response to nearly all drugs of addiction. Dopamine is its own reward, but it also helps focus one’s attention, and it motivates one forward for an activity.

The brain releases dopamine when sexual cues are picked up. More dopamine is released when engaging in a sexual activity, and even more is released with orgasm (along with a cascade of other feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin).

With the repeated use of porn, the brain recognizes that too much dopamine is being released. In response, the production of dopamine and receptors for dopamine are reduced, but that produces a craving. To fulfill that craving the porn user often needs to increase the amount of pornography used or the intensity or the novelty of porn.

Dopamine loves novelty. A couple has many ways to create novelty physically, mentally, and spiritually, but porn and masturbation are genitally focused. The way to increase dopamine with porn is to up the dosage with more porn or more intense or more shocking porn. This often leads the porn-using spouse to request or introduce sexual activities that their partner may find degrading, uncomfortable, or inappropriate.

Testosterone

In men, testosterone dramatically increases sexual arousal and desire. It is a hormone that is released in men throughout the day, but when sexual cues are picked up by the brain the testes increase production.

Pornography (and the mental fantasizing that it enables) crafts a brain that constantly generates testosterone and heightens sexual desire. Because testosterone is slow to dissipate, men who habitually view pornography cause their own chemical imbalance. This high testosterone level increases their sexual awareness far above normal. Sexual fantasies are sparked by everyday objects, and even modestly dressed women are seen as provocative.

These and other chemical imbalances created by porn use fail to bring greater intimacy between a husband and wife. Instead, it encourages personal sexual gratification, whether in the marriage bed or elsewhere.

Killer No. 4: Porn Gets People Stuck in a Rut

Because porn provides a state of arousal, the brain also creates pathways that make initial arousal easier. Suddenly, porn and sex with a partner aren’t the only experiences that are arousing. As the porn pathways deepen, people in everyday life become objects of sexualized fantasy, and inanimate objects, clothing, and situations not designed for sex become sexually charged.

To better understand the porn rut, it’s important to explore scenarios common to porn use and even addiction.

Sentization

A person who uses a pornographic image or story and masturbates for the first time begins a learning process of how to respond to porn in the future. With repetition the brain responds not only to the initial stimulus, but also to related stimuli. After a person becomes sensitized, very little is needed to trigger a response; a superhighway is connected to the rewards circuitry. This superhighway has many entrance ramps; sexual cues are seen everywhere and sexual fantasizing comes easy.

Triggers

Triggers are sensitization cues that can vary greatly from person to person depending on their gender, marital status, environment, and the types of porn and activities they use. Simply being home alone is enough to prompt many people to rush to their computer in search of porn. Some people lie awake at night, taunted with thoughts of getting up to view porn online and masturbate while the family sleeps. Why? Because they hold not only memories of using the computer for porn, but also of opportunities for secrecy, and even of getting up or staying up for a late night fix.

These compulsive feelings are engrained from repetitive and powerful experiences. Dopamine flows easily in response to the learned pornographic trigger driving a person to act out, and the sensitized neural pathway leads easily to the rewards circuitry where opiates fire.

Densensitization

Though not true for everyone, many porn users find they need a greater amount or more intense porn to activate a state of arousal. The brain has decided after multiple porn excursions that this amount of dopamine is excessive. So it has reduced the amount of dopamine in response to porn, and it has reduced the number of dopamine receptors for the neural circuits associated with porn use.

To escape this desensitization, people, and men especially, expand their pornographic tastes to more novel stimuli. What was once considered hardcore—a heterosexual couple engaged in intercourse—is now considered mundane, Dr. Doidge says. Varied forms of sex mixed with force, violence, and humiliation are now fused into today’s pornographic scripts.

Hypofrontality

Compulsiveness is a good descriptor of hypofrontality. Many porn users feel focused on getting to porn and masturbating even when a big part of them is saying, “Don’t do this.” Even when negative consequences seem imminent, impulse control is too weak to battle the cravings.

Porn Hurts a Good Love Life

Porn offers the promise of a quick fix. But really great sex requires an intimate investment, and the rewards of intimacy have built-in multipliers. That’s right, real intimacy has a plural impact on a marital relationship. Unfortunately, our instant gratification society encourages people to invest less and get it now, even if a little time and work would yield much greater rewards.

Most guys (and some gals) misspell intimacy as S-E-X, said Dr. Dan Erickson, an author, counselor, and speaker. Instead, intimacy should be seen as in-to-me-see.

The word intimacy is born out of the Latin word intima, which means “innermost, most secret.” Each person carries within them an intima, and when that deep and vulnerable core is shared with another, a profound connection can be built.

A couple can have sex without intimacy, and it often leads to dissatisfaction and less sex within a relationship, Erickson said. But when sex becomes a part of overall expressions of intimacy, then magic happens.