9 minute read

How Much Porn Is Too Much?

Last Updated: November 19, 2021

Moriah Bowman
Moriah Bowman

Moriah Bowman has been using Covenant Eyes since childhood. As a member of the Covenant Eyes team, she is passionate about writing and fighting pornography in the millennial generation. Moriah has a BA in political communications and plays an active role in fostering children of all ages who need a temporary safe home.

If you find yourself asking how much porn is too much, there is probably a reason why! Perhaps someone in your life has been negatively impacted by pornography, or maybe you have experienced the effects of porn in your own life. Regardless, you are likely wondering where the line is drawn when it comes to pornography.

Is a little bit of porn okay for some, but detrimental for others? Surely no two humans are the same, so how can we make a blanket statement that any amount of porn is bad? Most importantly, can you stop watching pornography for good, even if you are feeling overwhelmed and defeated?

Many people claim that a little bit of porn spread over a large amount of time is okay. They suggest that those interested in porn spend no more than 4 hours per week watching it. They also recommend dividing it up throughout the week, claiming that small amounts of porn will not cause lasting damage.

These claims insinuate that a little won’t hurt, as long as you’re not watching more than the recommendations suggest. However, compelling research indicates that any amount of porn is problematic.

Let’s dig into the reasons why no amount of porn is a good idea.

The Effects of Just a Little Porn

Popular opinion suggests that as long as your porn consumption feels under control and you’re relationships aren’t being negatively affected, you’re fine. However, research indicates that even small amounts of porn have a negative effect on both you and on others.

Effects on You

Even viewing porn for a short amount of time changes your perceptions of sex and relationships. Author and speaker Luke Gilkerson explains what studies have shown:

[A]fter being shown only 26 photos and one six-minute video of attractive nude females exhibiting sexual behavior, men routinely rate their partner’s attractiveness lower…

…Dr. Dolf Zillmann and Dr. Jennings Bryant have also observed how after watching only five hours of pornographic videos over six week period, both men and women experience a decrease in sexual satisfaction. Study participants said they felt less satisfied with their intimate partners’ physical appearance, affection, and sexual performance.

So then, even a little porn can have a negative effect on your current or future relationships. While you may not realize it, occasionally visiting porn sites might be decreasing your ability to enjoy a satisfying relationship. But this is only part of the problem.

Effects on Others

Porn doesn’t just affect the people who watch it and their relationships. It also perpetuates a destructive industry that’s marked by abuse, sexism, and violence.  The porn industry attracts vulnerable people. Porn recovery author and speaker Matt Fradd explains:

Dr. Sharon Mitchell co-founded the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, also called AIM. For about 20 years she was a porn actress and director herself, and after opening her clinic, saw well over 1000 porn stars every month for STD testing, so it’s probably safe to say she knows a thing or two about porn stars. Dr. Mitchell says there are three types of women drawn to pornography: those who are desperate for money, those who are desperate for fame, and those who are addicted to sex.

In other words, the porn industry attracts desperate and vulnerable people. The actresses who perform in porn should be helped, not exploited!

Porn also mainstreams sex trafficking and abuse, and many pornographers work directly with sex traffickers. While mainstream pornography is touted as consenting adults having fun, recent legal actions against major porn companies reveal this is not always the case. And even so-called “ethical porn” may have been created through extortion or manipulation. Jen Ferguson writes:

Unless you can research and find out who these people are and what led them into this life, you have no idea of knowing whether he or she got there purely by her own choice and without lies and false promises leading him or her there.

(For more detailed information, see The Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking)

Even apart from the questions of trafficking and consent, surveys of pornographic content reveal that porn normalizes sex abuse. Researchers have found that as many as 1 in 8 pornographic videos depict sexual violence.¹

The bottom line is, porn is an industry that preys on vulnerable people. It’s an industry that’s built on negative attitudes towards women.

A Little Bit of Porn Turns Into a Lot of Porn

Many suggest that you won’t become addicted to porn if you just limit yourself to a certain amount per week. But when we give in to our cravings, it only feeds a monster that wants more. And the monster of porn always wants more!

In Your Brain on Porn, Luke Gilkerson shares five ways that pornography warps your brain, starting from that first second you view porn. Gilkerson says:

“Watching porn makes us want to watch more porn. It taps into the neurocircuitry of our brains, making us desire the rush of sexual energy from porn again and again.”

Why is that?

One reason for these cravings is something scientists call “The Coolidge Effect.”² This biological phenomenon was first seen in animals and refers to the rush of dopamine that is brought on by sexual novelty. This effect is present among humans as well.

A male rodent, when placed with a female rodent, quickly attempted to mate with her, but lost sexual interest soon after. However, as soon as a new female was introduced, his sexual craze returned. The male rat continues to experience dopamine rushes with each new female rat until he is so exhausted that he nearly dies.

This dopamine rush is consistent with what porn users experience when viewing pornography. When someone has sex or watches porn, their dopamine levels skyrocket. This causes a rush of emotions, and it trains the brain to want more. With the endless variety of porn readily available online, porn users are easily susceptible to the Coolidge Effect.

In a committed relationship, this rush of dopamine encourages two partners to continue having sex, which is a huge aspect of marital intimacy! But the dopamine rush from porn is a “supernormal stimulus”—it’s unnatural and gives the brain an unnatural high. Each time the user views porn, they are becoming more and more reliant on it for this dopamine rush, eventually leading to addiction.

Not only does watching porn make people crave more porn, but it can affect what kind of porn is craved. Many porn users find themselves turning to increasingly extreme types of pornography. Gilkerson explains:

“Continually watching pornography has been shown to produce an escalation effect… the habitual use of pornography [leads] to greater tolerance of sexually explicit material over time, requiring the viewer to consume more novel and bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal or interest.”

Our brains are wired to crave sexual intimacy on a regular basis, but pornography keeps dopamine levels surging endlessly, resulting in unnatural and unhealthy cravings for more. This is why any amount of porn is too much: even just one porn-viewing session can lead to destructive cravings and behaviors.

(If you’re interested in learning more about porn’s addictive nature and its impact on the brain, our blogpost “Why Is Porn So Addictive? 4 Reasons It’s Tough to Resist” digs into this extensively.)

What Happens When You View Lots of Porn

Watching porn in any amount is risky. It leads to cravings for LOTS of porn. And watching lots of porn can have the following side effects on your life.

Damaged Relationship Expectations

Porn replaces real sex with heavily edited, unrealistic, fake sex. This creates a false expectation of sex with your partner. In 2012, a study through the American Psychological Association found that those who viewed pornography had lower levels of commitment to their romantic partners than those who didn’t. It also confirmed that porn consumption was positively related to infidelity.³

Why is that? Sex in pornography is very different than sex in real life. Think about how many times you’ve watched a movie and thought “no way that is real.” Well, of course, it isn’t! I’d love to believe that the love stories in romantic movies can happen in real life, but when does that actually happen? These movies don’t portray how romance and relationships work in real life.

Porn is even more extreme in its unrealistic portrayal of sex and relationships. A 2020 longitudinal study found, “Compelling evidence shows that frequency of pornography exposure is associated with negatively perceived body image and sexual body image.” Dr. Dolf Zillmann and Dr. Jennings Bryant found that people who watched porn were desensitized to violent sex and rape. People who watched porn had a lower view of traditional institutions like marriage and family.4

Porn negatively affects your spouse and the way you view relationships in general.

Family Members Put at Risk

In a 2005 testimony before the United States Senate, Dr. Jill Manning said this of the impact pornography has on the parent/child dynamic:

When a child lives in a home where an adult is consuming pornography, he or she encounters the following four risks:

    1. Decreased parental time and attention
    2. Increased risk of encountering pornographic material
    3. Increased risk of parental separation and divorce and
    4. Increased risk of parental job loss and financial strain4

These risks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact porn has on your family and social life. In a culture where we are already so distracted by flashy new technology and other distractions, porn only takes up more time that can and should be spent doing more meaningful activities.

Erectile Dysfunction

Porn can actually decrease your ability to perform sexually.

A 2019 study linked early porn exposure (adolescence) and daily porn consumption to erectile dysfunction in adulthood.5 The data showed that regular porn usage quickly escalates into relying on extreme forms of pornography for sexual satisfaction. This, in turn, prevents the user from achieving sexual climax when with their partner.

In 2006, before smartphones and in the early days of high-speed internet, five studies reported ED rates of only two percent in men under the age of 40.6 Just a few years later, multiple studies reported that this percentage had jumped tremendously and ranged from 14-37% in men under 40.

Researchers could only attribute this increase to the new accessibility of free pornography since all other factors that would impact ED numbers had either decreased or remained steady.

(If you want to learn more about porn-induced erectile dysfunction, check out the science and stats of PIED.)

Emotional and Mental Health Issues

Porn can have powerful psychological effects on viewers. Many adults who look at porn regularly were exposed to porn early on in their emotionally formative years. This exposure can be deeply unsettling.

There is also research that suggests a link between watching porn and anxiety and depression.7 Even many experts who discount this connection acknowledge that porn can affect relationships, which in turn can result in depression or anxiety. 

At Covenant Eyes we speak with people every day who are emotionally shattered by the effects of porn on their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Valuable Time Wasted

Porn takes time away from important parts of your life: marriage, family, friends, faith, and career, just to name a few.

If you’re watching porn, you’re taking time away from other aspects of your life. Instead of watching porn, you could be attending game night with your friends, making dinner for your spouse, or playing outside with your kids. There are countless things you could be doing instead of watching pornography.

How Has Porn Affected You?

No matter how little porn you watch, it can still have a major impact on your life. And, to make matters worse, it can SO quickly spiral into an addiction. I have yet to talk to anyone who actively watches porn with no negative effects on their life. Porn is addicting, and it’s designed to be so.

If you aren’t convinced that any amount of porn is too much, ask yourself: “How has porn shaped my thinking?” “What happens if I try going a week or a month without porn?”

If you find yourself among the many negatively impacted by porn who can’t quit, do not be discouraged! Keep reading…

The Point of No Return Doesn’t Exist With Porn

“I’m just too addicted to find freedom.”

“I watch too much porn to ever be able to quit.”

“God won’t forgive me for all the porn I have watched.”

I have heard many comments like the ones above. Perhaps you’ve said something like this yourself. You’re overwhelmed by porn and wondering if you’ve reached the point of no return.

I made my point clear in the paragraphs above: any amount of porn is “too much.”

However, no amount of porn is too much to prevent you from finding victory over it. The woman who has been watching porn for decades? She can be free. The husband who only watches porn when his wife is asleep? He can be free. The teen feeling peer pressured to watch porn at school? Victory is possible for him, too. I say this in confidence because at Covenant Eyes, we hear daily from people who found freedom from porn after years of addiction.

So, while I will never encourage anyone to watch porn in the first place, I do firmly believe that the “point of no return” doesn’t exist when it comes to watching porn. At Covenant Eyes, we talk to men and women daily who call us in desperation. They truly believe there is no hope that they can ever find victory over porn. It is our complete joy to be able to tell them that there is hope! The road to victory is long and treacherous, but the end result is worth it. Quitting porn improves so many aspects of your life.

So, what are you waiting for? There are so many incredible tools and resources for you to use in this journey to victory. Get started today; it’s never too late!


¹ https://academic.oup.com/bjc/article/61/5/1243/6208896)

² https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/ybop-articles-on-porn-addiction-porn-induced-problems/you-evolved-to-be-hooked-on-porn/porn-novelty-and-the-coolidge-effect-2011/

³ https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2012.31.4.410

4 https://www.heritage.org/testimony/pornographys-impact-marriage-and-the-family

5 https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/relevant-research-and-articles-about-the-studies/porn-use-sex-addiction-studies/studies-linking-porn-use-or-porn-sex-addiction-to-sexual-dysfunctions-and-poorer-sexual-and-relationship-satisfaction/

6 https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol4/iss1/5/

7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7835260/

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