6 minute read

The Link Between Porn and Sexual Dysfunction

Last Updated: June 9, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. During that time, he also served as a worship leader, Bible teacher, and pastoral assistant. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Rexford, Montana with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

In our culture, which places so much value on sex and sexuality, we find rising rates of sexual dysfunction. We know that sexual dysfunction commonly afflicts men and women alike. According to one study, “Sexual dysfunctions are highly prevalent, affecting about 43% of women and 31% of men.”1

The tragic irony is that one of the great symbols of sexual freedom is linked to paralyzing sexual dysfunction. We’re talking about pornography, and each year, experts uncover more evidence that porn devastates healthy sexuality.

What Is Sexual Dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction can be defined as “Sexual dysfunction is difficulty experienced by an individual or partners during any stage of normal sexual activity, including physical pleasure, desire, preference, arousal, or orgasm.”2

This can cover a wide range of ailments with an even wider range of causes. For our purposes, however, we’re concerned with sexual dysfunctions that result from watching porn.

Can Porn Really Cause Sexual Dysfunction?

The big question for us concerns pornography: does it cause problems with sex? In an important 2016 paper, the late Gary Wilson partnered with a group of psychologists and medical doctors. They reviewed the relevant studies and concluded:

“Our review of the literature finds a number of studies that have correlated pornography use with arousal, attraction, and sexual performance problems including difficulty orgasming, diminished libido or erectile function negative effects on partnered sex, decreased enjoyment of sexual intimacy, less sexual and relationship satisfaction, a preference for using Internet pornography to achieve and maintain arousal over having sex with a partner, and greater brain activation in response to pornography in those reporting less desire for sex with partners.”3

Note the findings correlated to watching porn: problems with arousal, attraction, and sexual performance, difficulty orgasming, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and more. These are serious problems!

 But, did porn really cause these problems? While skeptics remain unconvinced, the mountain of evidence that indicates porn causes sexual dysfunctions for both men and women continues to grow!

Porn Can Lead to Sexual Dysfunction in Men

We’ve seen that sexual dysfunctions are unfortunately common. However, researchers examining the problem began to notice a sharp increase in erectile dysfunction after the development of high-speed internet, smartphones, and easily accessible video porn. After carefully exploring the correlation between porn and erectile dysfunction, it’s apparent that many men suffer from sexual problems because they watch too much porn.

We have already written extensively about the way porn causes sexual dysfunctions in men. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) afflicts thousands of men, including young men who should be in their sexual prime. 

Because of these widespread problems, Covenant Eyes created a free, 10-day email challenge, RecoverED: 10 Days on the Road to Healing from Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction.

Porn Contributes to Sexual Dysfunction in Women

We know that many women suffer from sexual dysfunction apart from exposure to porn. And certainly, porn-induced sexual dysfunction is not as well researched or documented for women as it is for men.

Nonetheless, we can find good evidence indicating porn may be a significant factor for women who struggle with these issues as well. We have lots of data on how porn affects men’s brains, leading to sexual dysfunction, and we now know that porn also affects the female brain in similar ways.4

Logically, then, we can surmise that women can likewise suffer porn-induced sexual dysfunction. And research is bearing this out. A 2019 study in Women’s Health found that porn directly and indirectly affects women’s sexual experiences—often in deeply negative ways.5

Let’s look in more detail at some of the ways that porn can cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women.

Porn Stresses Relationships (Inhibiting Healthy Sexuality)

One of the most commonly cited reasons for sexual dysfunction among women is relationship dissatisfaction.6 We also know that porn frequently plays a role in unhappy relationships. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to assume that porn factors into sexual dysfunction for women.

Relationship challenges likewise can also inhibit sexual functioning for men. Studies show a strong connection between female sexual dysfunction and dysfunction among their male counterparts.7

Porn Causes Body Image Issues

Body image issues often lead to sexual problems. And, the research is clear that porn can lead both men and women to be dissatisfied with their bodies. Men who view pornography tend to view real-life women as less attractive. This can in turn affect how women feel about themselves.

But it’s not just women who experience body image issues related to porn. One study of both men and women concluded, “Participants who used pornography more frequently reported higher levels of sexual insecurity.”8

To make it even more explicit, new research out of the UK finds that, “There is a direct correlation between porn consumption and the desire for a bigger penis among British men and women.”9

Is There a Cure for Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction?

If your sexual health has suffered because of porn, you may feel discouraged or even angry. But, there is hope! Thousands of people have successfully recovered from porn-induced sexual dysfunction, and you can too. Check out this post, How Long Does It Take to Recover From Porn Addiction? for a realistic recovery timeline.

Making the decision to quit porn can put you on the path to sexual health. To help you find success on your journey, we’ve created the new Victory app.


1J.C. Rosen, “Prevalence and risk factors of sexual dysfunction in men and women,” Current Psychiatry Reports 2 (2000):189-95. doi: 10.1007/s11920-996-0006-2. PMID: 11122954.

2 Wikipedia, “Sexual Dysfunction,” accessed May 18 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_dysfunction.

3 Brian Y. Park, Gary Wilson, Jonathan Berger, Matthew Christman, Bryn Reina, Frank Bishop, Warren P. Klam, and Andrew P. Doan, Park, Brian Y et al. “Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports.” Behavioral sciences 6 (2016). doi:10.3390/bs6030017)

4 Bob Yirka, “Study shows female brain responds to porn the same as male brain,” Medical Xpress (2017). Accessed May 18, 2022 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-07-female-brain-porn-male.html#:~:text=Study%20shows%20female%20brain%20responds%20to%20porn%20the%20same%20as%20male%20brain,-by%20Bob%20Yirka&text=A%20small%20team%20of%20researchers,ways%20as%20the%20male%20brain.

5 Jennifer A. Johnson, Matthew B. Ezzell, Ana J. Bridges, and Chyng F. Sun, “Pornography and Heterosexual Women’s Intimate Experiences with a Partner,” Journal of Women’s Health 28 (2019:1254-1265. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2018.7006. Epub 2019 Apr 18. PMID: 30998084.

6 Megan McCool-Myers, Melissa Theurich, Andrea Zuelke, Helge Knuettel, and Christian Apfelbacher. “Predictors of female sexual dysfunction: a systematic review and qualitative analysis through gender inequality paradigms. BMC Women’s Health 18 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-018-0602-4

7 Poh Yih Chew, Chia Lip Choy, Hatta Bin Sidi, Natasya Abdullah, Nur Aishah Che Roos, Hajar Mohd Salleh Sahimi, Farah Deena Abdul Samad, and Arun Ravindran, “The Association Between Female Sexual Dysfunction and Sexual Dysfunction in the Male Partner: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Sexual Medicine 18 (2021):99-112. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.10.001.

8 Paul J. Wright, Robert S. Tokunaga, Debby Herbenick, and Bryant Paul, “Pornography, Sexual Insecurity, and Orgasm Difficulty,” Health Communication (2021). doi: 10.1080/10410236.2021.1958985

9International Andrology London, “The Porn Hypothesis – Findings Prove Porn Consumption Fuels the Desire For Penis Enlargement Surgery in the UK,” accessed May 18, 2022 at https://london-andrology.co.uk/news/the-porn-hypothesis-findings-prove-porn-consumption-fuels-the-desire-for-penis-enlargement-surgery-in-the-uk/.