ASK GLORIA: Porn-Induced ED — When Your Adult Child is Transgender

Welcome to “Ask Gloria,” an advice column for adults
coping with sex, gender or relationship issues.

 


 

Dear Gloria,

I know you’re an advocate of pornography and masturbation but I was curious what your thoughts are on porn induced erectile dysfunction. It’s a seemingly major growing problem, particularly in today’s youth.

I was a virgin till 27 yo because i was obese and chronically masturbated to porn. It’s left me battling ed issues for the past six years. Sucks even worse without insurance as medication is extremely expensive.

Just curious. Hope to hear back.

Porned-Out

 

Dear PO:

“Seemingly” is the word, alright.

If you came into my office, my first question would be whether you got an official diagnosis or if you googled it and diagnosed yourself. Self-diagnosing sexual dysfunction on the Internet is a treacherous enterprise since you are depending on conflicting evidence and ideas. And, sadly, you are highly likely to stumble into a whole lot of anti-sex propaganda from people who are inclined to see porn as a bad thing in the first place and who seek to establish a correlation between ED and porn to frighten men away from it. Especially if you google things like “is it wrong to watch porn” or “did porn give me ED” — terms you can be sure anti-sex people are all over. To me, the mere idea of scaring men away from their penises is a subtle form of man-bashing: blaming men for having great libidos.

Personally, I do not subscribe to this theory nor have I seen any compelling evidence from sexologists that there is a direct correlation between enjoying porn and losing sexual function. That is, in fact, counter-intuitive from a sexological POV because a vibrant, active schedule of orgasms is one measure of sexual health. If you spent all those years NOT masturbating, your emotional and physical well-being would have declined. You know the old expression “use it or lose it”? Applies to sex at ANY age, whether in your 20s or your 70s.

Meanwhile, when studied by scientists, porn has been found to be quite helpful for a number of reasons, both to singles and couples, in building their sexual repertoires, getting fresh creative ideas and relieving stress. A UCLA study of 280 men showed that men who watched 2+ hours of porn a week actually got more aroused and wanted MORE sex with partners.

The only people I am aware of who fully subscribe to the theory that porn causes ED are generally sex-negative, or already come to porn with the attitude that it is harmful by nature. So, for example, if you visited “sex addiction” sites with services to sell, they may use scare tactics about porn to convince people this is a growing problem. If you visit anti-masturbation sites they, similarly, will tell you that excessive masturbation leads to performance issues. Neither claim hold any scientific water. For the most part, these are beliefs, not facts, perpetuated by people who were not trained as sexologists. Sexologists take a dispassionate, non-judgmental view of what consenting adults need to get off. Sex-addiction shills judge you for not sticking to the kind of sex they think you should have.

According to Healthline, which took an up-close look at this alleged phenomenon, people who have scientifically studied the subject generally report increased arousal and more intimacy in couples who watch porn together. One researcher makes note that the people most likely to self-report ED related to porn were conservative or in relationships where they felt guilty about their porn consumption.

The first important question is whether you can get hard by your own hand. If you can achieve a full erection, your inability to get equally hard with a partner is likely psychological. (If you can’t have erections at all, you need to let a urologist check you out to be sure it isn’t an early warning sign of heart disease, a circulatory issue, or a testosterone or prostate problem.) Chronic ED almost always has an underlying medical reason, including psychiatric problems that can change your brain’s perception of sex. Situational ED (like failure to get it up with a partner or occasional softness even alone) is almost always because of a mental block.

 

Your native biology doesn’t care if you cum by hand, by intercourse with your wife,
or at a gay leather orgy.

 

The second important question is what your attitudes and beliefs are both about porn and masturbation, and whether you ever beat yourself up about indulging in either of them. If you harbor a fear that masturbation will make you unfit for partnered sex — as many men sadly do — you could be fulfilling your own prophecy by letting guilt or shame sabotage your sex drive. As best we know, our brains don’t really care HOW we get off (on a neurological level, I mean), they just want us to get off so we can benefit from the flush of sex chemistry coursing through our bloodstream. It’s your conscious mind that makes distinctions between cumming in one way v. another and judging one superior to another. Your native biology doesn’t care if it’s by hand, by intercourse with your wife, or at a gay leather orgy. Your body is wired to see all opportunities for orgasm as life-affirming. The rest is moral politics.

Perhaps the real root of the problem here could be the same issue that drove you to overeat. Maybe there is an underlying depression or trauma that makes you withdraw emotionally. Maybe intimate touches and nakedness in general are difficult for you. Perhaps your self-esteem was beaten up badly while obese and you are still in the process of rebuilding it. Maybe you still don’t feel good about your body, even if you hit your weight goal. Never underestimate the role of human emotion in sexual function.

One other possibility, though I’m not sure it applies here, is that porn consumption has been shown to change appetites for the TYPE of sex we have. Adults learn a lot about sex from porn. Sometimes they learn so much they realize that the stuff they used to do (such as plain fucking) no longer works for them. This is a common conundrum among adults who never really gave full life to their authentic sexual identity. They watch porn and think, “holy shit! I’ve never felt this excited!” It isn’t because the porn poisoned their brain. It’s because their real-life sexual situation just is not as exciting to them as the things they saw in porn.

Porn can change our sense of sexual entitlement (the pleasure we feel we are allowed to have). And that can cause restlessness and dissatisfaction, because humans are wired to crave great orgasms and intense intimacy. We instinctively resent people who seem to be getting it all, especially if we feel somehow locked out from the same joys. So in that sense, porn can harm your performance because if you see what you really want on screen but don’t get it in real life, it is hard to simulate that energy in bed. In effect, you bit the dangerous apple of knowledge: you now realize you should be having the kind of sex those other people are having and not the kind you are having.

Finally, a wide range of prescription meds can also impair sex function. The solution to that is getting your MD to take you off some medications or get you on a different cocktail to alleviate sex problems. If you are prescription-drug free and have a clean bill of health, then Occam’s Razor dictates that the real problem is emotional.

Bottom line: you can fix this. If it is situational, a sex therapist can nurture you out of it and bust through the shame. If it is medical, the cure could be one doctor’s visit away.

For the record btw: I advocate for masturbation because the science behind it says YES GOOD! But I only accept porn as normal because there’s never been a time in human history when people didn’t enjoy watching depictions of sex. I can’t advocate for it until they have better dialogue, lighting, and plot development 😉

HUGS,

Gloria

 

 


Dear Gloria,

I am wondering how to deal with an adult child going through transgender identity. Not for me the parent, that’s easy, but for the adult child. I need some help in identifying the extent of the need.

I’m writing about a 28 biological male, who started with cross dressing at a young teen. He has full freedom at the house to wear whatever he wants. Now there are also recently disclosed bisexual needs, but no experience as yet with another biological male. There’s also been an obsessive “hoarding” of women’s wear.

There’s got to be a way to help with a transition from being free inside the house to being comfortable outside the front door. What are you thoughts?

Supportive But Confused Parent

 

Dear SBCP,

You are a wonderful person for supporting your adult child through this insanely taxing, terrifying and fear-filled process. I wanted to say that up-front. I wish more parents could allow their kids, whether teen or adults, to explore their own identities without fear of rejection or exile from their parents’ love.

I am going to hit on a small red flag here that tells me, right away, that your adult child is in trouble. That is the hoarding issue. Hoarding itself is usually a stress behavior. You’ve probably watched the reality show about it, and maybe you’ve noted that everyone profiled is coping with emotional losses, early traumas, or fears of losing control which they try to remedy by hanging on to every last piece of everything and assigning those things emotional meanings or using them as crutches to get through life.

It is NOT unusual for transpeople and fetishists, overall, to hoard, especially when they don’t have any solid real-life outlets for their needs. Stuff is comforting. However it is worrisome if they build neurotic relationships with objects, particularly if they are not engaged in acting on their identity in the real world. In mild forms (having an amazing collection of toys or a closet full of clothes), it’s totally normal. But if by hoarding you mean your child has bags of stuff crammed everywhere, potentially creating a fire hazard or making it difficult to move around the room, that is a sign that your kid is extremely stressed out and is compensating with things rather than relationships. She (as a transwoman) is hiding her pain behind walls of clothes. Again, if it’s just a closet or a few boxes, no big deal. But if it’s serious hoarding, then your child may be coping with deep emotional pain. I have witnessed the cycle many times (sometimes it also comes with purges), where a person who is trapped by sex or gender-related anxiety shifts their entire attention to objects for emotional relief and further isolates themselves from real life.

Did you know that gender transition is a 20th century misnomer? Your child is the same person you always knew and is not becoming someone else. That person always felt like their gender didn’t match their anatomy. So really you are affirming their authentic gender or they are going through a gender affirmation, a process in which they don’t “transition” and become someone else but come to terms with who they really were all along.

Have you yet discussed what she would like to be called, whether by name or by gender identity? You don’t refer to her as a her (no judgment, it is a common problem among parents who find it hard to switch their mindset from the sexual biology of the child to the gender they actually have). Does she see herself as a her? Or as agender or something else? I strongly feel that parents need to take the lead by accepting their trans child according to the child’s self-definition. Often that includes a different first name as well. Showing her that you fully accept her gender identity helps to re-enforce the idea that others will too.

It is normal for trans people to evolve and reorganize their sexual orientation (gay, straight, bi) for years. It isn’t hard to understand when you consider that their real gender never matched their genital equipment. Sex was probably always different for them than from people who never questioned their gender and grew up feeling comfortable in their bodies. Your kid may end up picking a side or, like most bisexuals, letting her lovelife be person-driven (who she falls in love with) rather than genital-driven (what equipment they have). Meanwhile, hormone treatments contribute to the ambivalence and alter their desires.

You cannot push your child out the door until your child is ready. So why isn’t your child ready, at age 28, to face real life? Usually the reasons are shame, the burdens of social judgment and economic disadvantage, and just the very real and common human fear that people won’t love them as much if they show their TRUE selves. And, given the transphobic world we live in, it’s hard to blame them. Still, they have to take a sober look at their lives and make a decision on whether they want to be in the closet or step into the light. You cannot do that for them. You can, however, encourage them to get into counseling or find a supportive peer group where they can freely talk about their issues.

It doesn’t hurt to offer a gentle nudge, though. Asking, for example, if they’d like to go out dressed as their true gender with you to the store or to a restaurant, with you there to protect them if ugly people make ugly comments. Or perhaps you could ask them if it would help if you eased the way by privately telling some relatives and sparing them as much of the awkwardness and stress of having to come out? Of course, get their consent first: do not involuntarily out them, because that puts even more stress on them. But you can help by being your kid’s best ally and demonstrating that not only do YOU accept them but you expect everyone who loves them to accept them as well. No bullshit tolerated.

Does your child plan to physically change as well? In order to get on hormones, she will have to live as a woman in real time and be able to prove it to an M.D. That is the medical treatment protocol. She will need a letter from a therapist who feels confident she is ready for the next step (i.e., hormones). Ethical doctors don’t write scrips until they have that professional assurance the person is psychologically prepared for real life. So this is an important conversation to have. If she wants hormones or breasts, she is going to have to step out of her comfort zone and into the world. The sooner she starts the journey, the happier she’ll be. So perhaps that might give her some incentive to screw up the courage to be herself outside your home.

(Important note: if she refuses to go out as a female or doesn’t want any physical change, it it could mean she is not a transwoman but possibly a transvestite who fetishizes female clothing. That is a different phenomenon).

I recommend you stay out of your adult child’s sex life. It’s great that she confides in you but she needs to figure that one out for herself through trial and error. Once she is really comfortable in her gender, her sexual identity will shape and mold according to what turns her on the most. It may evolve over time so be ready to accept the changes as they come. The process may seem odd to outsiders but it is neither abnormal nor a sign of instability. It’s all part of the gender normalizing process in her brain as she adapts to living fully in her gender.

Try to be patient. Give her opportunities to make change without suffocating her with your good intentions. Every trans person needs the support, space, and respect to make the right choices, in their own good time, on how they want to live their gender and their sexuality.

HUGS,

Gloria

 

 


 

Got questions about your sex life you’d like to ask? Leave a message on the contact page.