Valentine’s Day 2024 put a lot into perspective for me. As a Doctor, sometimes I become immune to the taboo and stigma that surrounds pleasure. I function in a world where pleasure and sexuality are promoted boldy and spoken of openly. I help my clients overcome a plethora of sexual challenges daily, all while promoting and developing deeper levels of emotional and physical intimacy. I adore my job, and most of the time it doesn’t even feel like work. The idea of, “life balance” is often obscured for me. (Even though I actively recommend it to all my clients!) In my “down time” I find myself engaging in intimate conversations about relationships, or creating and promoting therapeutic events. Let’s just say, I only became a Sex Therapist because it felt natural.
This Valentine’s Day feels different. I want to open up in a new way in this article, and do something I rarely if ever do: share some of my own recent experiences about the societal stigma and barriers I seem to be constantly fighting. I am proud of my clientele and the goals I help them achieve, yet I still find myself constantly correcting and fighting societal pushback born from the nasty stigma that surrounds physical intimacy.
If you can’t already tell, I’m a true extrovert. In my “down time” I love to go out. (I’m guessing that won’t shock most of you since I literally talk to people for a living) I am a proud part of a women’s organization that nurtures and gives back to the community. The women in this group are industry leaders, thinkers, and overall amazing people. As a contributing member, we are all expected to pitch in and offer our skills and strengths. Being a Doctor of Human Sexuality, I have a plethora of skills that can be shared in an effort to help women improve their intimate lives! I pitched the idea of a self-love and self-care workshop in honor of Valentine’s Day. Sadly, I was met with a brick wall of avoidance tactics and excuses about time constraints on the organization’s part. This roadblock came as an unexpected shock, as this organization places a heavy emphasis on mental health. In recent years, it has been made soberingly clear that sexual health is a primary factor in our overall health. My pitched “self-love” workshop seemed to me like an obvious fit. Perhaps they thought I would be too risqué. Perhaps they feared what others might think. In any case, it was an opportunity lost in terms of women learning how to better understand themselves and their sexual health.
In addition to this, I have been noticing an underlying commonality on this unfortunate theme. Recently, when speaking with a group of professional men over dinner, the conversation turned a bizarre corner. While discussing with the group a series of unrelated topics, I began talking about the “adult industry” and my professional affiliation/ sponsorship with a conglomerate of successful adult toy brands. Before properly exploring the details of my profession, one of the men plainly stated, “So you are a porn star?”.
So here is my take: I am very pro adult-performer, but wow what a naive comment. I am nothing close to an adult performer. Looking back on the situation, one thing became crystal clear: There is a strong correlation between sex and porn, and it is creating an unhealthy relationship with physical intimacy.
Putting together all my 2024 experiences, (which all happened to be in the first two weeks of January ), I realized exactly what the problem has been. In both experiences, there was an overt correlation between the mention of sex, and its automatic connection to porn. Taking this one step further, society seems to be conflating, in an unhealthy way, the sexual interaction in a porn scene, with sex in real life! I find myself needing to educate more and more people on the fact that porn is a cinema. It is entertainment, it is not sex at all! Sure have fun with it, but don’t learn from it, and don’t allow it to inform your expectations.
Sidenote: I also recently presented dating tips to a group of well-educated women in a seminar format. This organization took the awkward step of asking me for my visuals beforehand. When I questioned this request, I was met with a soundly placed, “We want to confirm that you are not going to show a porno”. I was asked to present on dating tips! Why would one assume I was going to exhibit pornography? It is illegal to show a surprise porn clip to a group of non-consenting people. This experience again highlights the strong negative correlation between porn and what we consider normal intimacy or sex.
This correlation is detrimental. Confusing sex in porn with sex in real life will undoubtedly ruin your sexual pleasure and connection with your partner. If sexual desires are based on porn, then you are doomed to never fully fulfill your fantasies. Porn, like any addictive substance, is designed to trigger unnaturally high levels of Dopamine secretion. It’s a fact. When you develop sexual expectations based on porn, you are rewiring your brain to need that same level, or more, of this kind of extreme erotica with a partner. This creates sexual dysfunctions because this kind of scripted, designed, planned, and rehearsed pornographic moment is not in-fact real sex. So many people have reported that they do not experience the same endorphin rush when engaging with a partner as they do while masturbating to porn. Of course they wont. Once you are accustomed to an extreme level of erotic stimulation, and the endorphin surge that accompanies this, you may even stop orgasming with a partner entirely.
To boil this down further, the failure to achieve these porn-based expectations in real life, results in decreased or unrealized sexual satisfaction overall. In my practice, I have found that when working with couples where one or both watch porn frequently, neither person is feeling sexually satisfied. The decrease in pleasure will eventually lead to couples not having sex at all. This only drives one further into porn since they are not getting the sexual satisfaction from their partner.
In the end, the abundance of sexual stimulation creates an absence of sexual connection which results in emotional distance.
I commonly work with couples who have gone years without having sex for whatever reason, they didn’t enjoy their sexy time together. Recently, I treated a couple who had a common interest in light BDSM. Sounds fun right? Over time, the husband started watching extreme BDSM porn. The sexual interactions in the videos began to telegraph his sexual expectations for his wife. His wife, not desiring the same level of aggressiveness in the play, began to pull away from their shared experiences. Over time, their conflicted levels of expectations caused the couple to become uninterested in playing, and ultimately dissatisfied with their sex life. In the end, something that should have been a healthy playful exploration of their intimate time, led them to stop having sex. They began growing emotionally apart. Each started looking outside the relationship to have their physical and emotional needs met. These levels of separation caused the husband to turn to pornography even more. My therapeutic process in treating them was no different than any other addiction. Therapy started with education on the impact of porn, and how to move away from it one day at a time.
To be clear, I am not against porn! I think people should enjoy it! My professional advice to everyone is to:
1. watch in moderation
2. remember that porn is for your entertainment!
Watching too much pornography will absolutely rewire your brain. Just like nicotine or alcohol. Too much porn will require you to need more extreme sexual stimulation. I call this phenomenon: Porn Tolerance.
“But Dr. Mindy, how much is too much?”
How do you know if you are watching too much porn? There are a few red flags to watch out for: Sexual dysfunction, low libido, or needing extreme erotica simply to orgasm. You may find more subtle indicators like your Insata feed has too many suggestions of sexually stimulating images, or your browser search history is littered with erotic topics. You have become a victim of very deliberate and calculating marketing tactics. Sex sells. This content is designed to get you hooked! There is big money in keeping you coming back for more. The main tactic is to present your eyes and brain with more and more extreme concepts, that are all designed to get you excited about what comes next. I have worked with many people who have reported the inability to maintain an erection, and by tracing it back we found that their brain was programmed to need extreme erotica. They needed the extreme stimulation viewed in porn or nothing was happening downstairs at all. As I said before, a partner may not be able to replicate that. These extreme erotic needs decrease the ability to maintain sexual interest, and so a full erection. Sexual dysfunction and unsatisfying sex will cause anyone’s desire to decrease. It is ultimately a desire for porn over your partner. If you are having trouble achieving an orgasm, your porn watching may be a factor. You may be suffering from Porn Tolerance.
“Ok, so what do I do?”
As a Doctor of Human Sexuality, my passion is to help people live their best sex lives. With the strengthening correlation between sex in porn, and sex in real life, people will naturally struggle to talk about sex, and this drives them to pornography and ultimately promotes unrealistic expectations. On this path, pleasure and sex will remain taboo, making it difficult for people to get help. Couples who struggle to discuss sexual desires are much more likely to experience sexual dissatisfaction, which in turn will lead to a decrease or no sex at all. My recommendation is to begin by talking. Trust your partner. Don’t be embarrassed. Talk to them about what you find erotic, and ask them what they find so. Get to know your partner’s desires. Put the energy back into the two of you and not into the cinema of porn. Build your erotic adventure together. Learn how to re-wire your brain one day at a time. Learn how to bring intimacy and romance back into your sexual fantasies. Make your partner an integral part of that fantasy.
As a leader in this field, I’m working to educate society about the impacts of porn, how to engage with porn in a healthy way, and normalize sex on a societal level! As I have said before, Sex is between the ears, not just the legs.
If you have sexy questions, write to me! I’d love to anonymously answer your questions on my Instagram (@miamisextherapist). Send me a DM.
Talk to you soon,