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Lauren Dubinsky Headshot

What I Wish I'd Known Before Watching Porn

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Pornography is a charged subject, and it's a word that rarely crosses the lips of most women. Yes, there are now breeds of the modern woman who watch, talk and joke about it regularly, but most of us still stay farther away from speaking the word than we actually stay away from it.

Over the last couple of years, men have begun to enter the discussion, but women have remained primarily silent. For most of us, it's still the men's world, but statistics show that, at least in Australia, more than one-third of pornography viewers are women. Just last week, I received an email from a girl who leads a small women's group; they'd just discovered that every single one of them were watching porn.

When I was in high school, pornography was on the long list of "bad things" that I didn't know much about -- and unfortunately also on the list of things I had participated in. Nevermind why I was watching it, the how is the same for nearly all of us: We stumbled upon it because of someone else. And none of us knew what to expect, or how to handle it.

Later in life, I caught myself remembering how I used to watch it for a few minutes here or there, and wondered strictly out of boredom if it would fill the big, empty space of loneliness in my late nights. There were no parents around to hide from anymore, and no one checking my Internet history. Pornography was easy, and I never exactly knew why it was bad, particularly since I wasn't actually having sex. To me, it was just something dirty that you probably shouldn't have anything to do with. But "probably shouldn't" never stands up against loneliness and boredom.

I am not one with an addictive personality. Meaning, I binge and then drop things quickly. I knew this about myself, and so I used this as an excuse for watching pornography. (I also used it as an excuse for getting wasted at other times in my life, but that's besides the point.) I'd watch porn every night for a couple weeks, then not at all for a few weeks. Always off and on. Clearly I wasn't addicted. Just like I smoked and never became addicted to nicotine and drank, but never became an alcoholic. I was just watching it, and could stop anytime I wanted. No damage done, because I was still in control. Right?

Not really. Nicotine still seared my lungs, and alcohol still did some decent damage to my liver and personal life. Just because we aren't addicted doesn't mean it does no harm. Even while I wasn't "addicted" to watching pornography, I always wanted more. It existed as a guaranteed time-filler and pleasure-bringer, and when you get an hour to yourself, that's an easy default. An easy default activity that establishes a heavy precedence in what you do with your next bad night.

I wish that 10 years ago someone had educated me on pornography. What it is, what it does and what it reaches in and destroys in the hearts, minds and bodies of men and women.

I wish that someone would have told me that researchers have suggested it sabotages your sex life.

I wish someone would have explained how dopamine, the chemical that is released every time you experience pleasure, drives you to return to what provided that feeling before.

I wish someone would have told me that the kind of pornography you're most turned on by is usually linked to a corresponding hurtful event in your life, further injuring your brokenness.

I wish someone would have told me pornography would normalize things I wasn't emotionally or physically ready to handle in my relationships with men, making me feel like I had no options or control over my sex life, filling me with much regret and physical pain.

I wish someone would have told me I would begin to objectify men, build up images in my mind and think of sex day in and day out, to the point where I couldn't remain focused on anything else.

I wish someone would have told me it would make me feel less valuable to men and bring up insecurities for years in the bedroom.

I wish someone would have pointed out pornography can establish your sexuality completely apart from real-life relationships, causing huge problems in your intimacy with real significant others.

I wish someone would have explained what "sexual anorexia" was and that countless young men are unable to get erections because they've been watching porn since they were around 14 years old.

I wish someone would have told all the men I've dated that the porn they are watching is keeping them from being turned on by me, ultimately destroying our relationship.

I wish someone would have told me that the dopamine and oxytocin being released from my watching certain types of pornography would cause me to question my sexual orientation, which in turn cost me relationships with friends.

I wish someone would have told me it would subtly create a "victim" mentality in my mind, causing me to be even more sensitive than I already was to catcalls, whistles, and even sincere compliments.

I wish someone had talked about how women watch it too, so I wouldn't have had to spend years living under the shame that comes with being "the only one" and thinking there was something wrong with me.

My "I wish" list is nowhere near complete, either. In the end, I simply wish someone would have told me why it was so harmful, instead of simply putting it on a list of things we don't talk about. We all know our rights and wrongs, but seldom do we know what makes them so. Had I known how much it would have harmed me, I would have left it alone.

If you're a woman who has watched pornography, or is watching pornography, studies are now showing that we make up more than one-third of pornography viewers. It's no longer a taboo topic, and I would personally like to give you permission to speak openly about it. I guarantee you that you have friends who watch it, and are desperate to talk. Even in your church. Especially in your church.

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