“I’m resetting my dick and my brain,” said Greg Barris of his decision to give up porn, sex and masturbation. Barris is one of the men featured in New York magazine’s piece about the male anti-masturbation movement. According to the piece, a number of men are reflecting on their masturbation habits — even abstaining from “fapping” altogether in order to be able to perform better with women and to be better men in general.
Thirty-two-year-old Henry compared the feeling of not masturbating for a long period of time to being on antidepressants. He reported feeling more alert, younger and far more attracted to women, better able to communicate with them, better able to perform in bed.
In my personal sexual experience, I’ve found this introspection about porn, masturbation and sexual performance, to be a growing trend amongst the men I sleep with. More than three of my sexual partners have expressed the sentiment that “porn is screwing me up.”
When I questioned them about it, they weren’t so easily able to articulate. One ex-boyfriend, who works as a freelancer, told me, “It distracts me from my work. I don’t get anything done when I know I can watch porn.” Another guy I dated briefly said, “It makes sex with you jarring when I’m used to looking at video to get off. It’s like I have to use a different part of my brain.”
In fact, that’s true. According to TEDX series, “Your Brain On Porn,” Gary Wilson talks about how porn conditions men’s brains to need more and more images and stimuli to feel aroused. It’s like a drug.
When I began dating my current partner, I asked him about his porn habits, as I always do when I start dating someone. You can learn a lot about a man from his porn habits. If what he’s wanking off to and what you’re doing in bed align, I find that to be a good thing. I guess I think it means that his sexuality is in harmony — he’s not off masturbating to anal sex every night and then doing gentle missionary with me. There’s dissonance in sexual disconnection.
When I masturbate, it’s to the thought of a current or past partner. It’s always confounded me, this idea that men masturbate to women they’ll never meet in real life, women that they probably wouldn’t even be attracted to in real life. There lies another area of sexual disconnection. While my masturbation habits bring me closer to my partner, my partner’s ostensibly take him further away from me. I’m not threatened by it in the least. What the person I’m sleeping with does with his penis when I’m not around is his business. Until it follows us into the bedroom. And often, it does.
So back to my partner’s answer to my question about his porn habits. He wouldn’t answer me. He blushed. He looked ashamed.
“Is it something really dirty? I don’t care,” I encouraged him.
And that’s when he shut down. Both verbally and physically. He told me he couldn’t talk about it. All he said was: “I think I’m addicted to porn.”
Our sex life was stellar, I was coming multiple times, but he couldn’t have an orgasm from intercourse. He attributed this every time to “the porn thing.”
I decided not to push the topic any further and let him have his space about it. I jerked him off and gave him blow jobs to come. A couple of weeks later, he came to me to talk about it.
“I’ve stopped masturbating to porn,” he announced. “It’s fucking me up.”
“OK,” I replied, trying to be supportive. “What are you masturbating to?”
“You,” he said.
I was flattered, turned on, I was a million things. I felt more connected to him. His anti-porn crusade has continued for several months. I only know this because he has made it a habit to tell me whenever he masturbates and what he thinks about. I do the same in return. Our sex life has skyrocketed.
This is not to say that if he goes back to masturbating to porn, I will feel less connected to him sexually. I want him to have pleasure, however he wants it. But I think his decision to quit porn, or at least experiment with quitting it, was an admirable one. I am impressed by his desire to self-reflect about how to be a better man, how to be a better sexual partner to me.
Ultimately, at their core, I think men want nothing more than to please women. Men who are reflecting about their sex, porn and masturbation habits are the kind of men who make the best partners, sexual and otherwise.