• Jo Ryder

A guide to safe porn use for young people


Or how to have a healthy relationship with porn? Sexual imagery has been in use for thousands of years! I would first and foremost advocate that in order to have a healthy relationship with pornography, inform yourself more fully regarding the realities of modern-day porn usage.


Here are some of its risks:


- Porn depicts very little, if any foreplay, sensuality, healthy sexual empowerment or emotional intimacy.

- It’s a basic product. Seduction, invitation, build up and story seem to have disappeared from mainstream porn as it becomes primarily a consumer product designed solely to make money.

- It promotes strong content, some of which is quite aggressive (anal sex, gagging, ejaculation on face), that sets a very high arousal template for what sex is.

- It is devoid of, or distorts reality and reinforces stereotypes and sexual myth (it is a myth to think you are not influenced by widely believed myths!) In the real world, sex looks very different from the staged and formulaic variety you see through porn.

- Without a good sense of self-worth, prior references or experience, it may feel sexually distressing, as you unconsciously measure up to what you believe to be a current standard sexual script or sexual performance norm.

- Starting on porn too early (in early teens, when the brain is still developing) or over use (in any age group) can lead later in life to sexual problems, like porn induced erectile dysfunction or rapid ejaculation. These are the clients who later come into therapy with intimacy problems.

- Porn addiction alters the brain’s capacity to manage dopamine production effectively, following the same pathways, patterns and withdrawal problems as does substance abuse.

- When you learn about intimacy through a screen rather than through real relationships within your peer group, it can create difficulties in dealing with real life situations and real-life intimacy. You may want to avoid, distance yourself emotionally and only feel OK behind the “safety” of a screen rather than learning to be fully engaged with a real person.


And how then, would you use porn in a healthy manner, so that it doesn’t become a barrier to intimacy?


Put porn scaremongering into some perspective. Not all porn use leads to an addiction and a worst-case scenario. It is more prevalent today but neither is it a direct and straight line to escalation of porn use, to addiction and sexual offending.


Research helps to answer some questions as to what kind of porn usage actually happens in the main. It reveals that porn watchers can be divided into three types: recreational, highly distressed but not compulsive and compulsive users. Recreational users, which represent the vast majority of users at 75%, report using it to de-stress, with porn contributing in a positive way to their overall well-being. The remaining 25% is roughly divided equally between the two other types of unhealthy use, watching it in a way that leads either to avoidance, problems with relationships or addiction.

Here are some suggestions on how to minimise the risk relating to porn use for younger or vulnerable users, so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on their intimacy: - Keep it real, consume in moderation, get the proper facts, it’s a fantasy version of sex. - Learn to manage your stress and create a wide variety of ways to self soothe. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Get your dopamine boost in different ways, preferably from natural sources, without over-relying on one source, that could end up in control of you. - Learn the difference between your positive and negative coping mechanisms. Try and increase the positive ones to replace the unhelpful ones, as much as possible. Everyone is a work in progress! - Find a way to limit your technology time so it doesn’t control your life. Figure out for yourself how to take a porn break, reduce its influence on you and expand your world. - Have expressive, open and honest conversations about sex with your partner. Talking about sex is as healthy as having sex. Don’t be afraid to approach discussing sexuality with peers or elders. - Cultivate a healthy balance between expressing your risk taking, fun and adventurous side and using your own inbuilt, wise decision-making capability.

- Encourage and foster authentic relationships. Cultivate your own sexual worth, build your own sexual values. Don’t hand that over, it’s all yours. Make up your own mind.

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