Pornography and loneliness

Technological advances have made media a dominant cultural development — an achievement that changes attitudes toward sexual relationship and behavior. While there has been much excitement about how the technology is improve the quality of sex (or, more specifically, how we meet people for sex) — in the academia, we begin to study how digital world affects our sex lives, in negative ways.

In the last year’s news coverage, we learned a bit about the eccentric sex culture of Japan — or a lack of thereof. Japan is the place where the first advanced sex dolls were made; a place where BDSM culture used to flourish; the only place where there are yearly parades praising the penis. Yet all of the technology that fueled these sex developments coincidentally decimated the quantity of sex that the Japanese people have on average, per person.

What we can learn from the Japanese experience of sexuality is that technology is addictive. By extension, being addicted to someone carries possibly unpleasant consequences. The association between addiction to porn and being lonely illustrates it really well. A recent study performed at Brigham Young University looked at how watching porn makes people lonely. Those who viewed pornography were more likely to experience loneliness, and those who were experiencing loneliness were more likely to view pornography (Butler et al., “Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bidirectional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation,” published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy).

People who watch pornography might do so because they experience loneliness due to relationship distress, not going on dates, or over idealizing sex through the lens of porn acting.

In committed relationships, men who feel emotionally distant from their female partner might watch porn as substitute for sex with their loved one. The seemingly ridiculous problem with being in a committed relationship is that it offers both partners a secure attachment — a kind of bond that, over time, might wade into the path of everyday sameness; this might eventually cause one or both partners to feel lonelily and unengaged. Watching porn becomes an escape mechanism, offering a solution to boredom. After all, each porn movie has the kind of sexual script that consists of objectification, promiscuity, sexual eroticism, and even perversion; these factors make on-the-screen-sex seem perfect, uninhibited, and desirable.

Getting addicted to watching porn widens the gap of differentiating reality sex from porn sex — the former is your usual 2 minute copulation, while the latter is the fantasy world of experiencing unlimited ejaculations.

In the long term, excessive consumption of porn distorts healthy bonding relationship. This problem is even more significantly negative for single women, or men, who got accustomed to loving to watch porn on a daily basis; they might develop unrealistic expectations of their prospective sex partners, seeking them to be someone they cannot be.

Porn is entertaining and has helped sexologists understand sexuality. There are numerous studies that use porn to understand what excites people, what they pay attention to when choosing sex partners, what attracts them the most in a sex partner, or whether the environment influences sexual preferences. From a medical perspective, porn is helpful in relieving sexual tension, and offers a visual overview of how sex works, especially for teenagers who are looking for visual cues on what sex is all about.

In the end, porn is a form of entertainment that we should enjoy in moderation. You should’t expect to build a healthy and fun sexual relationship with someone once you develop a preconceived notion about what sex could be, instead of what it really is.

About the author

Dr. Damian Jacob Sendler is a Harvard educated sexologist, based in New York City. He is the principal research investigator at the Felnett Health Research Foundation, where his studies examine the relationship between technology use and safe sex practices, sexual perversions, consent in sex, the LGBTQ health, and health promotion. You may visit his lab’s website, at, for more information.