Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

anonymous on August 26, 2011

Does my husband’s habit of masturbating to porn affect his ability to stay hard during sex?

My husband is 37-years-old and he’s been having problems staying hard during sex for the last four years. I recently found out that he’s been masturbating using pornographic magazines for most of our eight-year marriage. Could his impotence be linked to this behavior?

answered by David Sobel, MD, JD on August 26, 2011

Thank you for your question.

First, you’re not alone…many people share your concern about porn and erectile dysfunction (ED). That said, there’s no definite answer to your question, but there are ways to get a better idea of what’s truly contributing toward your husband’s ED.

Generally-speaking, causes of ED fall into two main categories: sometimes there’s a physical cause, and sometimes there’s more of a psychological or emotional (psychogenic) reason that can keep a man from getting or staying hard. It’s also possible that both physical and psychogenic factors are getting in the way of your husband’s erections.

To figure out whether there’s a physical problem, doctors often start by asking men if they can get an erection at night, when they wake up in the morning or with masturbation. If the answer to any of these options is yes, the doctor may be more interested in focusing on a psychogenic cause for the ED rather than a physical cause.  

Since your husband is able to masturbate to porn, the cause of his ED may be more situational or emotional…and counseling may be an effective treatment option. But because ED can also be related to many other health conditions – like diabetes or heart disease – it’s also a good idea for him to see a doctor to make sure there isn’t anything else going on.

Whether masturbating to porn plays a role in ED is a more challenging question. While it’s unlikely that masturbating to porn would cause a man to eventually lose all ability to get an erection any other way, researchers continue to look at heavy or “excessive” porn use, including its affect on the brain and sex with partners.

A large survey of 28,000 men done by the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine points to a possible link between porn and ED, and the possibility that porn may affect the brain’s so-called “reward” circuitry. As well, some men claim to have success inregaining their erections with their partners after weaning themselves off of porn.

Thanks again for sharing your question. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to also share your concern with your husband and to have an open conversation about getting to the root cause of his ED…and about ways to improve your sex life.

Related info:

David Sobel, MD, JD

Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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