An Unintentional Detriment to Masculinity, Mental Health, and General Well-Being
(Note: This post is very long. By reading it, you are going to learn things you may not want to know about me. I’m writing it not to be an exhibitionist, but to hopefully help other men deal with, or avoid, the mistakes I have made. I am laying out quite a few embarrassing and shameful parts of my past. You have been warned.)Pornography is detrimental to men on many levels, but the primary one is the sum of their parts: It destroys their masculinity. Taken in small doses, watched with a spouse or girlfriend, pornography is fine, like caffeine. But pure caffeine ingested will kill you. Pornography has morphed into something on that level, something that can cause serious detrimental effects for men and relationship strife between men and women. In fact, I can lay most of my bad habits and choices made during my “beta” phases on the habit and dependence on internet pornography — because it drains your testosterone, self-worth, and motivation.
Some of this comes from my own experience. From my teenage years until college I had a serious problem with pornography. I don’t know anyone in my circle who had the strange, almost librarian-like obsession with the stuff. Fortunately, the circumstances surrounding my addition and the particular stuff I was interested in lent itself to me surviving this with little permanent damage.
The young men of today have no chance.
When I was younger I didn’t have broadband, I didn’t have 24-hour internet. There was no HD pornographic video. At best, we had low resolution stuff possibly transferred to a computer from a VHS, but it was mostly pictures and even then they weren’t taken with high megapixel cameras. There were no smart phones and that limited the availability. My preference tended more toward actual amateur stuff, and not the surgically clean perfect brew that is available everywhere today. That helped limit the damage but it was still a problem.
Now people have always-on internet and we’re always connected. The internet speeds are faster, the pictures are clearer, bigger, and more detailed. Everything is perfectly clean, bleached, waxed, and even surgically altered or airbrushed. Videos are high resolution. You can get a pure, weaponized grade of whatever your darkest fetish is. No flaws anywhere due to a hiccup in your connection, no uncoordinated movements, nothing unexpected happens, nobody is imperfect.
You no longer have to wait for a short, blurry, blocky Real Video to buffer a dimly lit scene filmed by people with no idea what they’re doing — with the camera or in bed!
That’s dangerous for a lot of reasons, the least of which is that none of that is realistic. I won’t say sex is dirty, but it’s certainly capable of being messy. It’s not just that men will get an unrealistic expectation for how women should look, but they get an unrealistic expectation for what they should look like and do. There is a very small market for male porn stars with average or small penises, or fat guts, or hairy asses. Everything is honed to perfection. And the branches of human sexuality that are given air-time, allowing the development of a dependence on a specific fetish — that’s a force multiplier on the addiction’s power.
The constant stimulation and easily available “reward” isn’t good for your brain either. Seeing tits is great, but seeing tits and then getting with the woman who they belong to is to seeing tits and then masturbating what shooting a gun is to lighting a bottle rocket. Yeah there’s a boom but it’s less satisfying. You also train your brain to the cycle: porn, masturbate. Having an orgasm does a lot of things in your brain on a chemical level, and training yourself to seek that out becomes something of a problem. There is no barrier of entry for it, either. It’s like having unlimited sugar on tap.
Then there’s the problem of looking at porn because you are bored. Any time you start doing anything constantly because you are bored you will run into trouble.When you are bored you need a positive outlet, and hunting up porn isn’t the answer. This is part of the trap I fell into as a teenager. I didn’t even watch the porn to get off — I got bored, and as a teenager thought, “I’d like to see some titties” or some variation. We do the same thing with games on our smartphones, social media, and checking for website updates. We just do something because, well, doing nothing over and over is easier than just being here in the moment. There’s literally no commitment involved in surfing porn, or reddit, or refreshing slashdot.
There is zero commitment — and your brain begins to see it as a treat.
We like treats. As a society, we like treats too much. We also do many things because we feel we deserve it. I deserve a snack, I deserve a cigarette, I deserve a two minute clip of lesbians. The problem there is when you can grant yourself your drug with an unlimited supply, it begins to lose its value and you start on something a little more taboo. That’s what is behind the rise of the fetish. Then you need that fetish to function. Then even it doesn’t work because the easy access, quick reward is just so tempting. And sometimes life is boring.
People have always had fetishes, but they are out of control now.
Also, and this is a risk for both men and women: If you get too used to getting off by masturbation, with your perfect porn and perfect stimulation, creating a perfect safe space and fantasy in your mind then that becomes all you can do. This may or may not be permanent. It probably isn’t even limited to the porn-masturbation cycle. If you only ever had a certain type of sex I’m sure breaking out of that mold would become difficult eventually.
With smart phones it seems this is much worse. You now have access to nearly any type of pornography for free anywhere you go. Your poison is now portable and much more dangerous. You can feed that demon at any time, and hey, you get bored a lot.
This doesn’t even address the testosterone imbalance that porn causes. Having sex actually increases your testosterone, which is a bit counter-intuitive. Masturbation doesn’t give you that boost — it has a net drain on your testosterone. Men today are tragically, drastically low due to a combination of factors but pornography, easily available and addictive, is one of them.
See Japan for a crystalized example of what weaponized fetishism can do to men.
Low testosterone does a lot of bad things to you.
When it comes to nutrition and general wellness, everyone is an expert and everyone has a completely contradictory idea about how to best be healthy. Eat X, don’t eat Y. Well, some other guy is saying eat Y, not X. In reality a lot of people have completely different reactions to different programs. There is no one size fits all model — I mean, weight loss is handled by a calorie deficit, period. That’s just basic physics. But our understanding of our bodies is still very basic.
We know some things for sure: Burn more calories than you consume, and you lose weight. Protein is necessary for muscles. Many body systems are a balance and your body will do harm to itself trying to keep it that way. One area where the body isn’t so good at regulating is testosterone. You have to take charge there. Lifting weights, not having excess fat, not being addicted to pornography. All good starts. Certain foods are bad for your testosterone level and a lack of certain things is bad for your testosterone level.
But I’m not here to tell you how to raise your testosterone level, this is just a footnote in the general idea I’m trying to present about the detrimental effect pornography is having on you as a man. The point is, porn addiction saps your testosterone and fast. Your body can’t really self regulate to the proper level — it will try, but diet, lack of exercise, and the porn-masturbate cycle will interfere with that.
One of the many bad things low testosterone can do for you is depression. A lot of people will talk about a runner’s high, or feeling stoked after lifting a lot of weights despite the fact it can wear them out. Some of that is the testosterone jump, but most is a few other chemicals. Raising testosterone doesn’t cause just a temporary mood boost. But having systematic, long term low testosterone can bring on debilitating depression. And here’s a real kick to the teeth: Depression lowers testosterone.
It is a vicious cycle that will chew you up and spit you out.
Depression manifests in different forms. It is akin to that feeling as a kid going through puberty where you’re just mad at the world and you don’t know why. But instead you start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated, and occasionally pissed off at the world, and you have no reason to. You can have a great life but you just have no will to go on.
When my knee got messed up I went through a phase where I was extremely depressed. I had just started to get a hold on my weight issues and exercise, I was walking my dog every single day. I was enjoying being active. Then I got hit with a years-long problem (exacerbated by depression and testosterone depletion). Now, I was off the porn poison train by this point, so at least I had that going for me. But I did fall into a vicious cycle.
If something like this is happening to you, your first instinct as a man is often to just push it down inside and ignore it. That is not the right thing to do. Many times we try to take on the weight of the world and we don’t want to admit to any faults. This is exacerbated by being stressed our and depressed — and having low self worth.
Pornography destroys your own self worth. Not your self esteem, not your unique snowflake feelings. You won’t even realize it, until you stop, but you do start to despise yourself. There are other, similar behaviors that cause the same self-loathing. It is insidious because you don’t realize it. But once you stop and the clouds clear you can really see how you were being self-destructive and how you almost wanted to punish yourself by only allowing yourself this stupid addiction.
I don’t like to start talking about the alpha/beta stuff, because I feel a lot of times it’s mostly used by men attempting to be status whores. That isn’t universal but there is a great deal of that going on, often by keyboard warriors who are making up their status. I don’t consider myself alpha or beta because I don’t spend time wondering about that. I try to spend my time improving myself or enjoying life (or both), working on my craft or working on myself. But there are some dangerous beta traits that also play into this poison I’m talking about.
One, being a beta orbiter. Those of us with those tendencies need to stamp them out because that is also a vicious cycle. Because you are beta orbiter, you don’t get anywhere with any women (and you are not entitled to), so you look at porn. But eroding your social skills by looking at porn increases your beta orbiter problems. That’s not healthy.
Also, there are other traps you will fall into. The biggest problem with being a beta orbiter type is when you start to clown on yourself and make a fool of yourself for the attention of others — not even solely women, but mostly women. A lot of men will find a cabal of attention addicts and try to be their jester. They think these people like them because of who they are but in reality they’re just a trained monkey wearing a little fez.
This is something I fell into when I was depressed. I became a jester for people on social media and made a fool of myself. I hurt myself and others with those actions, and I’ll probably always carry that shame — and I do deserve to. It was foolish and stupid and I literally got nothing out of it. The attempt to be a jester, to get a reaction, became similar to the porn-masturbation cycle that I conditioned myself to fall into as a teenager, only now there was no nudity involved and nobody had an orgasm. That’s pretty sad, and I was a despicable loser at that time. I take full blame and shame there. My fault one hundred percent.
By recognizing that fault and learning from it, I have become better. It also opened my eyes to the sinister, insidious ways of internet attention addicts. Some of them don’t even know what they’re doing, but they will manipulate the beta jester guy by paying him in a reaction, and he will pay them back by further dancing for them. It’s a sad cycle, and it’s one that you can open yourself up to by ingraining something like a porn-masturbation cycle into your head.
You create your own addictive personality that way.
I sought help, because I had no idea how to do it on my own. I went to the doctor, I got treated for both depression and low testosterone — though once I started the latter, the former vanished, which is how I know what low testosterone can do. Low testosterone is one of the worst things for men on the whole. It can and will destroy your life.
I don’t want to be a hypocrite here, so I must make a full disclosure. It is very easy for me to avoid pornography as a want because I have a built-in woman to look at, and she hits all of the items on my wish-list for a naked woman body. Now that I’ve said that, this is my advice to any man who is a porn addict: Stop right now, and never look back. Go get tested for low testosterone. Maybe get checked for depression. Get treatment for whatever you have. Find a woman (or man if that’s your thing) who you are attracted to and is attracted to you. Have lots of sex.
Pornography is clearly addictive, but it is not the same sort of chemical addiction as heroin or cigarettes. It’s the same kind of gambling, or gaming, or the fear of missing out that causes you to constantly refresh websites. It’s a designed addiction that you do to yourself, and some of us may be more prone to that — we have a long way to go in understanding how our brains work, too.
The only way to stop is to stop dead in your tracks and never go back. I do not look at porn, and I’ve been clean for a very long time. I don’t have any truck with attention addicts, and I will not be their jester ever again. I’ve been clean of that for a while, too, but not nearly as long. I refuse to fall into the video game-reward, or news/conversation-reward cycles — and if I find myself wanting to refresh or check something, I stop. Lately I’ve let a bit of video game time drain my productivity, so I stopped. Those aren’t my big problems, though, so I can engage in them on occasion. The first two things, though? Not even once, and I refuse to put myself into a situation where that is even a remote possibility.
Delete your bookmarks. Delete your stash. Walk away from it. When you want to look at porn, do something else. Walk around. Don’t turn to chemical treats (food, booze), don’t turn to other behavioral addictions (social media, attention addicts). Find something positive to put that desire into.
I have a ridiculous number of yellow legal pad pages of writing ideas I’ve written since getting help for my problems. Any time I find myself wanting to fall into any sort of negative feedback loop habit — checking Drudge for the second time in five minutes is a big one now — I will instead take out my notebook. Even if I won the lottery tomorrow and all I had to do was write I would never live long enough to write every idea I have out. This is a good problem to have.
Needing a fix is a bad problem to have.
As far as I am aware, the damage is not permanent. You can get on testosterone replacement therapy, you can kill the habit, you can move on. Nothing that happened to me was a permanent problem. There are areas where I am not experienced, however, so it is entirely possible I’m not aware of other potential damages. I imagine for a chronic masturbation addict there is the possibility of physically damaging your ability to experience pleasure, but for me it was never even about that end of the cycle. It was all in my head.
It can and will wreck your life.
I cannot even imagine how much of a problem constant access to high-resolution porn of every shape, shade, and fetish is going to be for young men that are going to grow up on the stuff. I don’t want to ban it, because that’s ridiculous and unfeasible, but I do want young men to think about the negative effects this could have on them. The internet was so different and smaller when I was younger. It was safer in so many ways. This isn’t inter-generational grandstanding. Technologically speaking there was less porn, of lower quality, on the internet. The availability was less, the speed you could deliver it was less. When looking at digital cameras the other day I noticed that we’ve now passed a dozen megapixels.
In this country we have a strange flaw in the way we deal with our mental health. Many people who should be treated don’t get any treatment, and many people who don’t need any treatment are self-diagnosing and gaming the system to use their “mental illness” as part of a sick status whoring game. I think there are too many people diagnosed with too many things, some of which may not even exist and some of which we are misunderstanding.
I am not a doctor of any sort. But if problems are persisting, you should see someone who can set you on the right path. I would almost be willing to make a bet that if we addressed the low testosterone epidemic in this country, the male depression and suicide rate would enter a free-fall.
The first and easiest step there is to address the simple fact that pornography is poison.
Since you don’t have low testosterone, you’ll love reading The Boots Are Red.