Cathy: So someone had said that they have trouble getting turned on without porn. And the porn has to involved men even though they’re a lesbian. And they’d like to have more power over their turn-on and is there anything wrong with them that they really like to watch men fuck when they’re loving?

So I really appreciate you writing in. I’m here with Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych.

Liz: I’m here with Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo. So porn is a really controversial topic right now. ASECT just recently released their statement on porn addiction.

Cathy: That it does not exist.

Liz: Right. That porn addiction is not a valid – there’s no research to support fact conceptualization of the way that people interact with porn and that the diagnoses and the treatments currently applied, the research that we have, shows that they are harmful more so than helpful.

Porn is like a cheat code to your turn-on. If you could walk into a party full of the hottest people that you have ever known having the hottest sex possible and you can pick exactly who is in that party and exactly what they are doing, of course, you will get super turn on there.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: And I think that when people’s early experiences with turn-on are largely related to that. It kind of blows out their receptors so that it’s harder to find the lower area.

Cathy: It’s like if you eat a lot of sugar and then like you’re eating on this candy and then you eat like a strawberry, even though it might be sweet, it tastes sour.

Liz: Right. And I think that the way the human brain works is that we habituate to the stimuli put in front of us. So we use the things – we get used to feeling that like when you put your clothes on, when you first put them on, you feel them everywhere on your body. But after you’ve been wearing them for a bit, you don’t really feel them except when they’re like creasing or they’re creating new sensation.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Right. So, I think the same is true with these kinds of stimuli, with porn. If what you’re used to is a really high degree of stimuli, it’s going to be much harder for you to notice your turn-on or to respond as well to stimuli that are lower down that scale.

And this is – I was in the Army for 5 years as a psychologist. When we have folks coming back from deployment, it’s really common that they start doing super risky stuff.

Cathy: Because they’re so used to the threat around them.

Liz: Right. They’re used to – like if you ask them, OK, on a scale from 0 to 10, how much adrenaline do you get from playing call of duty? They’re like 4 or 5. How much adrenaline would you get from skydiving? And they’d be like 9 or 10. How much adrenaline do you get from deployment? They’ll say 11.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Right? So it’s blowing out their scale.

Cathy: And our bodies get used to that chemical response and we kind of want that.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: Even if it didn’t feel particularly good, we want to repeat that.

Liz: Yeah. And so, the thing that I would say is that number one, there’s nothing wrong with watching porn. As generalization, porn can be great especially if you’re paying for your porn which is the best way to ensure that it’s ethical porn from the people who want to be filming it especially if you’re watching porn that is like feminist porn or Art House porn, porn that is designed around themes of empowering people, of showing their genuine turn-on rather than – there’s kinky porn which is disempowerment and that in agreed upon setting …

Cathy: Confidential.

Liz: Right. Versus like objectification that seems less consensual. If however you’re finding that porn is necessary for you and you don’t want it to be that way, there are things that you can do.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Step one I would say is in order to find your turn-on, you’re going to have to probably take a break from porn. The same way that if you’ve been eating a ton of sugar, strawberries are going to keep tasting sour if you’re keep eating the sugar.

Cathy: If you wait a day or two, it starts to – your taste buds start reacting.

Liz: With porn especially if you’ve been watching porn for a really long time or it has been your favorite way of getting turn on for a really long time, it might take you a bit of time before you can rediscover your turn-on away from porn.

Cathy: The neural pathways are there.

Liz: The neural pathways are there. They’ve been really strongly reinforced. And so, it’s going to take time to rediscover it. That maybe a week, that maybe a month, it’s hard to say how long. But taking a break from porn might be a really good idea for you. Not that you have to give it up forever and for always but giving yourself a bit of palette cleanser so that you can taste the sweetness of the strawberries again.

The other thing I would say is when you’re masturbating, it’s really easy to get goal-directed in your masturbation.

Cathy: Going to orgasm.

Liz: Right. And like look, I’ve been there. There are nights where I’m like, “I just want to get off and then sleep.”

Cathy: Yup. And a nice, good orgasm helps you to sleep.

Liz: I want my before men orgasm. I’m pulling out my rechargeable Hitachi like let’s go. But if you’re always doing it the same way, what’s going to happen is your body will learn that that’s the only way that it can come. So take some time to explore your genitals in a less goal-directed way.

Cathy: And just your whole body, your skin, everywhere.

Liz: Yeah. Explore your skin. See if you have like a silky scarf for something that might feel interesting on your skin. Get back in touch with your sensation. Get back in touch with taking time.

Vulva-havers often struggle a lot more with orgasm than penis-havers do because our bodies are much more sensitive to stimuli outside of the sensual stimuli that we’re receiving. So like if your house is dirty or you have other stresses going on.

Part of what porn can do is override the mechanisms in your body that would otherwise put the brakes on because of those stressors.

Cathy: I also like to turn to the actual porn that I’ve been attracted to, to look for what’s a turn-on.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: So if you’re very – like if porn – notice what you’re experiencing with porn. If porn feels naughty, maybe that’s erotic for you.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: Or if you’re turn – if notice a certain kind of porn is very hot for you, there might be some fantasies to explore in your head. Maybe it could be erotic production would be something you want to experience sensually. But using that to watch it necessarily if you’re taking a break from it but notice, “Oh yeah, this is – this scene I was always getting really hot.” What about it? Or what about the people in it that was turning me on a lot?

And I also when I’m working with clients, I always ask – I ask them to explore like is porn safe because I’m not actually connecting with someone? Is there a fear of intimacy, a fear of being close to people that might be good to work through so that – and some of these fears are being close to yourself.

Liz: Well, there’s nothing more vulnerable than the moment of orgasm, right? It’s a moment where in order to achieve orgasm, you have to be able to let go of your walls and your shields especially if you want to have a powerful orgasm or a really strong orgasm.

Cathy: Yeah. You can’t be holding back.

Liz: Right. And it’s so much easier to do that when you’re masturbating with porn than it is when you’re with another person and having to let them see that authentic piece of you.

Cathy: There’s cognitive distraction knowing going on. You’re out there rather than here in your body with that person.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: So yeah, just asking yourself the question, does it feel safe for me to be that open with another human or even with myself?

Liz: Yeah. And the last thing I would say, your question asked about like I need to have men in my porn but I’m a lesbian.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: The porn that you like to watch doesn’t necessarily correlate to the things you like to do, right? Just because you like watching it, that doesn’t mean that it means anything about your sexuality. Sometimes there’s a lot hotter stuff happening in porn that has a man in it than a lesbian porn especially a lot of mainstream lesbian porn, it’s women with like super long fingernails.

Cathy: Yes. Like no, stay away.

Liz: And it doesn’t look like they actually know how to operate a vulva. So that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But if you notice that you’re still wanting to like see a dick, you could always experiment with that.

Cathy: Yeah. And there’s a difference also between what’s erotic, what we find sexy up here versus what we want to explore.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And realized that there’s nothing wrong if you identify as a lesbian. That doesn’t mean you can’t have sex with men.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: If that’s what you want to explore.

Liz: If that’s what works for you. Yeah.

Cathy: Yeah. So we hope this helped.

Liz: Yeah, we hope this helped.

Cathy: We hope you’re sharing the ideas and what’s work for you. And we’d love to hear crowd-sourcing.

Liz: Absolutely, yeah.