9 Ways Men Use Porn Like Women Use Food

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Some people refer to porn use as an addiction, but I find that making a pathology of this behavior drives it more deeply underground and delays treatment. The more I work with men to address their porn use, the more I recognize how strongly it parallels emotional eating behaviors in women.


1. It hides in secret.

It takes a mammoth effort (in fact, it can take more than one flirtation with coaching or mental health care) for the client to admit that it’s become a problem. Recognizing the central role that it has come to play in the client’s life unleashes a flood of shame, and many of us will resist addressing it—whether it’s food or porn—for years.


2. It serves as an emotional buffer.

There’s a numbing effect to both food and porn. The reason most people develop these behaviors is that it’s a misguided attempt to avoid something that seems difficult (anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, and most other painful emotions).


3. Other people judge it harshly.

People often look at a woman who is overweight and think (or say out loud), “Don’t you see what you’re doing to your body? Just don’t eat as much.” The same is true of porn: “Don’t you see the damage this is doing to your marriage [or self-esteem or how our society treats women]? Just don’t do it anymore.” Cue the ensuing shame and even more secret behavior. Until the underlying reason for the behavior is addressed, it’s very difficult to go cold turkey.


4. It’s a compulsive behavior.

We could call it an entrenched habit or even an addiction. It’s really hard to stop, and many people make multiple attempts before they seek outside support. “Tomorrow—that’s the end of it” or “On Monday, I’ll go on a diet (from sugar or from porn)”—these are regular refrains that rarely sustain. There’s quite a bit lurking beneath the surface of the behavior (usually the emotional buffering referenced above).


5. There’s easy access.

Now that we live online and our phones are rarely out of our reach, it’s difficult to avoid porn in moments of weakness. The same is true of food. It’s so available, and in fact, we’re expected to eat socially. Similarly, someone who goes without a phone and an Internet connection is hindered personally and professionally.


6. It affects your body.

Excess food creates excess weight, and excessive porn use impairs sexual arousal when you’re in a sexual situation with a real person. There’s a tolerance that builds up for men with porn use (just as with alcohol), and it takes a stronger stimulant to bring them to a response.


7. There’s a ripple effect of the behavior into your entire world.

Relationships are damaged in both excessive food and porn consumption. People hide their true selves from the people closest to them, and when they’re already isolated, their isolation intensifies. When shame runs as a strong undercurrent through your life, it’s difficult to succeed in any arena, whether personal or professional.


8. It’s the unaddressed crisis of our time.

While there are medical discussions about obesity, these rarely explore the emotional side of unhealthy food behaviors. There are certainly political discussions about the porn industry and porn use, but there’s very little content available to encourage constructive discourse, even with intimate partners, about porn behavior and the underlying reasons men often turn to it.


9. There is a way to heal.

It’s entirely feasible to end unhealthy eating habits and unhealthy porn habits. Working with a coach or a therapist to address the underlying reasons that these habits developed is the start, and then creating new habits and behaviors results. It takes effort and time; there are struggles along the way, but freedom is in sight. These behaviors don’t have to rule people’s lives. TC mark

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