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Porn is Destroying My Job

How am I supposed to get these guys off?

Fighting Words is a column in which writers rub you the wrong way with their unpopular but well-argued opinions on fitness, health, nutrition, what have you. Got something to get off your chest? Send your pitch to tonic@vice.com.  

It used to just be the old guys. Either they couldn't get hard, or they couldn't stay hard, or they could only get hard, and stay hard, and, with any luck, have an orgasm, if I touched them in a super specific way—with my fingers gripped like this, or my wrist angled just so, or with the precise proportional alchemy of speed and strength, and torque and twist, stroking faster and harder, and faster and harder, until, finally, splurt.

Phew.

I should probably explain that I am Tantric healer, which means that I touch penises for a living. It's certainly not all I do, as an ordained priestess who supports men in cultivating sacred, conscious relationship with their authentic sexual expression, and the Divine Feminine herself. But, for our intents and purposes, all you really need to know is that I touch a lot of penises.

As for the geriatric dick issues: It made sense. These guys had been on the planet for a really long time, had gotten used to yanking themselves in a certain way, and were likely dealing with any number of degenerative issues that could easily take an erectile toll. But these days, it's the young ones who are struggling to get hard, and to stay hard, and to muscle their way to orgasm. It seems like it happened overnight, but in the past couple years, the number of twenty-something dudes I see afflicted with erectile dysfunction has skyrocketed.

"What's your relationship to web porn?" I ask, as tenderly as possible, while Millennial Client X goes about tucking in his shirt, post-session.

Millennials are the first generation of humans to grow up with the internet, and were thus the first wave of adolescents to forge puberty with 24-hour web porn access. And so whereas in the days of yore, curious tweens in search of whack-off fodder were wholly dependent upon sideways glimpses of their babysitter's cleavage, or whatever time they could eke out with their father's borrowed Playboys (where full bushes abounded, and spread-eagle crotch shots were unthinkable), kids these days are using high-speed connections to click through endless tabs on multiple browsers, featuring shaved, splayed, hi-def eye candy being penetrated in every crevice imaginable. 

As wonderful as this might seem, jerking it to web porn has its down sides.

"Watching" porn (i.e. masturbating to porn) floods our brain with dopamine, the feel-good addiction hormone that triggers feelings of pleasure. When we over-stimulate the brain's pleasure centers, we numb the very responses we are chasing. This means the more porn we watch, the less pleasure we actually derive from the experience, thus inspiring us to intensify our pleasure-seeking efforts, which has us hunting down more explicit stimuli, spending longer amounts of time with said stimuli, and stroking ourselves harder and faster for more prolonged periods of time which—you guessed it—only leads to more desensitization as we pursue what amounts to dandelion fluff, except that it's way more damaging.

A group of Cambridge University scientists used MRI scans to track areas of the brain stimulated by porn use in both "healthy volunteers" and self-identified addicts. According to lead researcher Valerie Voon, the scans showed that prolonged porn use alters the brain's pleasure centers—the very ones that secrete dopamine. Thus altered (or, as the study put it: "damaged"), said pleasure centers become more "tolerant" to explicit erotic stimuli, rendering the addicts dependent upon greater and more deviant stimulation to trigger the now distorted dopamine release (read: cum).  

So, what? asks YouPorn watcher X.  I can still get myself off. Plus, it makes for good cardio, right? 

Er, not really. The problem is that the whole point of masturbating is to stimulate the nerves that make us feel good. Except in overdoing it, we actually dial down those very nerves' responsiveness, thus rendering our bandwidth for any and all sexual pleasure narrower and narrower. And this is the travesty I'm seeing on my massage table – healthy, young men who should be rocking their sexual primes, but instead have such limited access to the thousands of comatose nerves in their semi-working dicks that they have to buck and clench and grind against my soft, intentional strokes to feel even the faintest tingle of arousal. 

What's wrong with bucking and clenching and grinding? they ask. Well, these are the actions that speak to Voon's findings, which state that the porn addicted subjects "had greater impairments of sexual arousal and erectile difficulties" than those "healthy volunteers" we referenced earlier. The bucking and the clenching and the grinding are all indicative of desensitization, and of my clients' desperate attempts to generate some real-life arousal, because—as we've already determined—they have become tolerant to subtle sensations, and now require gross and exaggerated stimulation to feel themselves at all, let alone to achieve orgasm. 

Take your average dude who isn't addicted to web porn: He's lying on my table, eyes closed, blissing out as I massage him into deeper and deeper states of relaxation and receptivity. I drag my fingers along the sides of his hips; cue goosebumps. I rest my palm against his sacrum, gently drumming my fingers atop his butt crack: cue hip undulation. I caress his upper, inner thigh: cue scrotum contraction. All systems go, I think, noting that everything is working as it should be. As the sensations intensify, average dude doesn't clench, doesn't buck, doesn't grind. He relaxes, and allows the turn-on to overtake him of its own accord, thus riding a wave of ecstasy that can't be chased, forced or faked. The porn addicted client, however, will have little to no response to any of the tests I employ to suss out his responsiveness. He doesn't experience goosebumps, or scrotal contraction, because he can't feel sensation that isn't gross and exaggerated, and likely paired with some pretty X-rated visuals, so numb is his all-of-it to anything but over-the-top, performance-based wanking-action. And so it is that he contracts his perineum around his stimulation, and bucks his hips against my every caress, attempting to muscle his arousal into his nether regions, to no avail. 

"Can you take off your clothes?" semi-soft, porn-addicted client Z inevitably asks.

Rampant porn-watching teaches the brain to link explicit visual imagery with sexual stimulation, such that addicts actually require erotic visuals to register turn-on. Except the broken boner fix isn't ever going to be found in getting yet another woman to strip and splay. The fix isn't more porn, isn't more objectification, isn't a flash of labia to cue the brain to bring on the tingles. Granted, men are visual creatures. Still, a healthy sexual bandwidth allows one to access their turn-on by way of a diverse range of stimuli, and isn't reliant on any one ancillary sensory experience to maintain one's arousal. What this means is that, sure, it's nice to have something wet and pink in one's sightline while riding a wave of sexual stimulation, but if we can't get off without the visuals, if we can't connect to our internal feeling experience while we are being stimulated, then we need to examine our sexual behavior, and switch it up accordingly.

"Why don't you close your eyes," I inevitably counter, "and focus on the sensations in your body."

It's one thing to be numb and unreachable on your Tantrika's massage table. It's quite another when you are entwined in your lover's arms, and she wants to share a connected, mutually-satisfying, erotic experience, but all you can do is pummel and pound while clenching your eyes and your nether regions, calling up any number of online scenarios in your imagination to trick yourself into a semblance of turn-on. Because this is yet another downside of porn addiction: It makes your partner's needs and wants and humanity kind of irrelevant, if not downright annoying, because the porn addict is used to pixelated, 2D "women," who are so much easier to (not have to) deal with than the real life-version, what with their emotions, and their periods, and their clits.

"I prefer seeing you, because honestly, I feel sort of resentful when I have to give my partner foreplay," admitted a twenty-seven year-old client.

"You might want to ease up on the porn," I suggested, because as much as I appreciated the compliment, I feel kind of icky enabling a generation of intimacy-phobes who find the idea of pleasuring their girlfriends annoying.

My apologies if I sound a bit harsh, but I'm on the front lines, and kind of at my wit's end. Porn is a billion dollar industry that isn't going away any time soon, or ever. And, as much as I prod my clients to get off the porn, and to masturbate with their non-dominant hands, and to learn to love pleasuring their partners, I fear my efforts are in vain. And so it is that I am outing myself here, while doing my best to paint an honest picture of the dismal reality that is stealing our men's boners, as well as their pleasure, and their ability to connect, while I implore you to please, please, please get off of PornHub and figure out a new autoerotic practice that has absolutely nothing to do with the internet, or overstimulation, or with flashbacks of pummeling your partner like a jackhammer, only to cum on her face, and collapse in a crumpled heap, while congratulating yourself on a job in no way, shape or form well done.