am i addicted to porn? Porn addiction isn't a thing, but here's help if you look at it too much (for you)

Am I Addicted To Porn?

Porn addiction isn’t a thing, but some people think they look at porn too much. Here’s some advice on how to deal with that and the problem with the idea of sex or porn addiction.

Too Much Porn?

People say to me that they watch porn too much. To help them work out what this means for them I ask a few questions:

  • are you often late for school/college/work because you’re wanking?
  • do you skip hanging out with your friends lots so you can stay in and watch porn?
  • have you stopped enjoying watching porn (but still watch)?
  • do you feel upset or down or angry about your use of porn?
  • when you aren’t watching porn are you thinking about it a lot?
  • do you feel tired or run down or low or a bit shit about yourself?

If people answer ‘yes’ to a couple of these then they might think that they have a problem with the amount of porn they watch. Some people think that porn is making them upset but actually it could be something else (or a combination of things). If this sounds like it might be you, you should know that you can find a professional to talk to in person.

Your local sexual health services would be a great first place to go. Find your local service here. You could also see your GP or a counsellor at school. If you are really distressed about it they could offer to refer you to a psychosexual counsellor. This sound scary but they’re lovely people who are used to people talking to them about sex and porn and wanking without being judgemental or embarrassed.

Not too much but a bit worried

Most of the young people I chat with about this are a little bit worried but not that worried. Sometimes when I go through the list of questions they breathe a sigh of relief and realise that they are okay. Here are some things things for you to think about and try out.

Why do people look at porn?

Think of all the reasons why people (or you) might watch porn. There are loads so have a think. Which of those can only be achieved from looking at porn? For instance, lots of people watch porn because they are bored: but are there other ways to relieve boredom?

If porn is the thing you often go to, you might find that porn gives you less and less the more you go to it. This means you enjoy porn less. See also my article about why do people have sex?

What else is going on in your life?

Also think about your life generally. Check these boxes which I got from this awesome book

squares

It doesn’t really matter what you call your boxes or how many you have, but the idea is that we have various bits of our lives that we put our energy and time into. If we spend too much of that time in one box we could neglect the other important stuff. So if watching porn is your contribution, hobby, leisure, alone time (or even work), then you might not be spending that much time doing other stuff you like too. When you are looking at porn, think about what you are not doing? Is that something you are avoiding for some reason?

How to deal with stress

Surf the urge

One practical thing that you can do is to try what is known as ‘urge surfing’. It’s a useful practice for when you feel compelled to do something that you want to do less of. All it involves is to try to catch that moment when you first want to look at porn.

Can you slow it down in your head and just notice what it feels like? Do you get a feeling in your body? What does that feel like? Have breathe out and try to describe to yourself what you are feeling in your body. It could be a throb in your pants, or a tightness in your chest, or a knot in your stomach. Perhaps it’s in your feet and you are moving away from something. Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? What’s happening to your stomach as you breathe in and out?

It doesn’t matter if you miss it, or go on to look at porn afterwards. All you need to do is to just to slow this process down. Like with most things, you’ll get better with practice. After a few days or weeks of this you’ll be more able to listen to your body and give it what it needs.

Sometimes a wank over some porn is just the thing you wanted. Maybe other times you just needed to cuddle a pillow. Or just lie on your back, put your phone on your belly, and watch it rise and fall as you breathe in and out. The point is that you are treating yourself more consensually and learning to tune into what you want. It’s not easy, and we all just go with our urges from time to time, but you can slow them down and notice them.

What does too much mean anyway?

I don’t set the rules about what is too much and I don’t think anyone else should either.One person could think that 5 minutes is too much, another could think that 5 hours is completely fine.

A lot of this has to do with what you have been taught about sex, porn or wanking. If you’ve been taught that masturbating is wrong or bad for you, then any time you spend wanking is bad.

If you’re a gamer, how long do you spend playing games over a weekend? Do you binge TV shows? How many hours did you spend watching those last week? Did you watch any of Bridgerton (cos that was a total waste of my time). How much time do you spend on your phone or texting your mates?

So put it into a bit of context. Not everyone is into porn, but those that are can find it very entertaining. There’s so much of it for free and so easily available, so it’s no wonder some people spend a lot of time watching it. If we saw porn as being like any other kind of media would we be as bothered?

Here are all the Bish articles about masturbation.

‘Addiction’

Lots of people use the word ‘addiction’ when we talk about porn and sex. I don’t talk about ‘porn or sex addiction’ because research shows that people watching porn too much isn’t like an actual addiction. There’s more on this in this blog and podcast, and this article from David Ley.

A better term for what you might be experiencing is compulsive sexual behaviours. There are several reasons why this is important. First of all, treatments for addiction don’t work for porn or sex ‘addiction’

However some people use the word addiction to their advantage to try to sell their treatment programmes to people who are really vulnerable and feel like they have no-one to talk to. This really pisses me off (as you might imagine).

Sex addiction and violence

The other thing that pisses me off about the term ‘sex addiction’ is that it lets men off the hook for violence. As you can see with the latest violent killing of sex workers in the US, the Police blamed it on the killer being addicted to porn and sex. It’s implied that the addicted person has no choice and no agency. So they just had to be violent and so it’s understandable. No. Sex addiction isn’t an excuse for violence and it’s also not a thing.

Another really shitty thing that us men do is to blame the violent urges of other men on the people who are ‘making’ them be addicted to porn or sex. This is just awful victim blaming, just like blaming a woman for what she was wearing or doing, instead of the person who attacked her.

More advice

All of this doesn’t mean that I’m dissing people who are really worried about their relationship to porn and sex. They can feel very upset and this kind of behaviour can be really troubling to them. Look at all the great advice I’ve already given! I’m not trying to make it sound less difficult, I’m just saying it’s different to an addiction.

If you are a No-Fap person then you might like my friendly advice for how to get through No Nut November. If you go to these Reddit threads you might also want to read this advice from me about Prone Masturbation (which is actually fine, knock yourself out). I also have some advice for you if you’ve been told that Masturbation and Porn are Against Your Religion.

© Justin Hancock, 2021.

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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. Find out more about Justin here

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