How frequent sex can lead to loss of interest in your partner and more urges for porn, and how we can continue enjoying sex without this consequence.
In this video coaching newsletter I respond to a gentleman (Anon) who has already encountered a lot of success in his journey. He realized two years ago how harmful pornography had been to him, he has been completely pornfree for as long as 90 days at a time, and he has met the woman of his dreams and enjoys frequent and satisfying sex with her. However, recently Anon has found that his enjoyment of sex with his lover has waned and urges for porn and porn fantasy have returned. In fact, he just ended his 90-day streak with a relapse. In this video and article I explore how frequent orgasm–even during real sex–can lead to desensitization and escalation.
The full text of his message to me is below in italics. My comments are in bold.
So here’s my story: I was addicted to pornography pretty hardcore for years, from about age 14-20. When I was 20 I began realizing it was an issue and I felt a deep love for a girl at that age so I was able to give it up and life got a lot better.. for a little while. We had sex a few times before she had to move to another country and started seeing someone else which really put me into a bad mental state.
Finding love and a relationship can often cause guys to turn away from porn, even if they don’t yet know of it’s potential harm on sexuality. However, I have lost count of the number of guys who have returned to porn with a vengeance after a breakup. We cannot rely on any relationship to be the sole reason for living pornfree. We must find our “why” that will not buckle under any of the stresses life puts on us.
As much as I liked to believe that I was strong and didn’t need porn anymore, these feelings of loneliness and emptiness really got to me and I began to start watching again. This only lasted for a couple months before I realized I didn’t want that lifestyle anymore. I still relapsed every once in a while but I started to get a lot better about it and started to exercise and take other steps to improve my life.
Good. These sorts of self-care and self-development habits are crucial. They allow us to feel good about ourselves, to have goals to pour our energy into. When these habits start to slip is often when addicts become vulnerable and relapse, so be consistent and hear the alarm bells when these habits are neglected.
Fast forward about 8 months and I met a girl who I fell in love with and am still happily in a relationship with. I’m now 22. I have pretty much given up porn although I have messed up a couple times here and there. I just had my longest streak I’ve ever had without relapsing which was roughly 90 days but I unfortunately relapsed today. My girlfriend and I have sex a lot which is great, more often than I ever thought I would. 2 or 3 times a day usually.
That’s a really good recovery within 90 days. Most people see significant progress within that time, but you’re ahead of the curve. This is a good thing.
But here’s the problem.. sometimes while having sex with her, it takes longer than I’d like for me to reach orgasm and in order to make it happen faster, I sometimes start fantasizing about other things such has having a threesome, past girlfriends, or just people and things that I really wish my mind wouldn’t think about. I can’t figure out if this is a result of all the pornography I saw growing up or if maybe we’re just having sex a lot and my brain is craving more dopamine since we do it so often. Although I have gone 90 days, I haven’t been on hard mode, and I sometimes wonder if my brain hasn’t had the chance to fully rewire. Things have gotten a lot better, don’t get me wrong. I’ve almost completely gotten rid of PIED. I just really don’t want to have these intrusive thoughts forever. When I’m with her, I just want to be focused on her. I don’t know if this is normal or not. Do you think this will just take more time? Or do you think it has to do with the frequency of how much we are having sex? I have told her about my past issues with pornography and she is very supportive and proud of me for giving it up (sucks that I relapsed today but oh well).
Human sexuality is a fascinating conundrum. We are driven to orgasm with the promise of satisfaction, but the actual feeling of satisfaction doesn’t last for very long before we feel driven to pursue it again. Over time, if we achieve orgasm in the same ways (and/or with the same person) again and again, the rush we feel from it gets lesser and lesser, and we desire different types of stimulation. Pornography is very good at exhausting our desire for mere “vanilla” sexual desires and then offering up an endless array of new genres, actors, fantasies, etc. for us to escalate to, but the same thing happens all the time in relationships—even when porn is not a part of the equation. Exhausting one’s desire for a partner with lots of consistent orgasms leads to loss of interest in that partner, desire for other partners, seeking arousal in porn, and so on. Since Anon is having sex and orgasm 2-3 times per day, every day, I’m not surprised at all that his sensitivity is waning and he is tempted by porn-inspired fantasy and porn use.
The bottom line is that the purpose of the biological drive toward male orgasm is not to make us happy, but rather to get us to have sex enough to impregnate a woman, then compel us to move on and impregnate someone else. Orgasm-driven sexual expression never leads to lasting satisfaction, only more and more appetite for novel sexual experiences. Of course, I doubt that Anon is having sex right now in order to have a child, so his goals are probably to bond with his lover, experience pleasure, and create lasting memories. The way to do all of these things without losing interest in your relationship is to learn how to be physically and emotionally intimate without orgasm. There are two primary ways to do this.
The first way is simply to have sex as normal but be willing to end the encounter without orgasm when it doesn’t feel easy to climax. You’ll probably have to talk to your partner about this prior to doing it, as most women like to bring their partners to orgasm and take it as a personal failure when they can’t. If you explain that you feel drained by orgasm and want to try abstaining from it more often, however, then it doesn’t have to be a disappointment. This way you can continue to have physical intimacy, give your partner orgasms, and maintain your sexual excitement by limiting orgasm to only when it feels easy and compelling to have one.
The second path is called karezza (Italian for “caress”). Karezza is a style of lovemaking that is entirely without orgasm for both partners in the relationship. Karezza sex is slow, gentle, and very loving, with little movement and none of the frantic or forceful motions of more common sexual practice. Karezza is part lovemaking and part dual meditation. Instead of reaching near to orgasm and then pulling back from the ledge, in karezza the aim is to reach a plateau of pleasure. The focus is on closeness and gifting one another love. Afterwards, couples usually feel energetic, positive, and unable to get enough of the other’s touch. Some couples only orgasm when attempting to conceive a child, choosing to practice karezza otherwise as a way of maintaining a very strong and loving bond without allowing consistent orgasm to erode their desire for one another. Other couples use karezza to complement their other style of sex, using it to continue being intimate while yet limiting the frequency of orgasm.
To learn more about karezza and the impacts of orgasm on long-term relationships, I highly recommend reading Marnia Robinson’s Cupid’sPoisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. Also, here is one gentleman’s YouTube channel, where he has documented his experience with karezza within his relationship.
It’s up to Anon and his partner where they go with this information. I urge Anon to at least use my first suggestion, and I hope that he also learns about and experiments with karezza, though I wouldn’t fault anyone at all for only using karezza-style lovemaking part of the time.
Lastly, I can say that Anon may not yet have experienced full recovery from porn-induced desensitization. He definitely seem to be most of the way there, but I caution that once you have developed porn addiction, it takes only very occasional use to maintain that conditioning for porn. Remain completely pornfree for a year (and beyond) and Anon may indeed still see further benefit to his experience of real sex.