Recently, we talked about porn and how it affects our well-being. Here, we talk about what to do when porn habits are problematic and when porn addiction becomes an issue.

It’s no secret that Americans were raised on porn. Viewing it for the first time in our teenage years, many of us continued to consume as we embarked upon our journeys of development. The LGBTQ community, in particular, is likely to use porn as a resource in exploring sexuality and finding one’s place in the larger community.

While porn can help many people explore their identities, a minority of consumers find this isn’t the case. They may compulsively watch, unable to stop even when it jeopardizes their jobs or relationships. Others find their porn consumption distressing, even when their lives are unaffected. Should they consider themselves porn addicts?

This article explains what you need to know about porn addiction in the LGBTQ community.

Porn Addiction is Often Mislabeled

The relationship between porn and sexuality is very different for LGBTQ people than for straight individuals. Unfortunately, scientific and medical communities frequently conflate heterosexual behaviors as “normal” behaviors, resulting in false labels and misinformation.

Lighthouse contributor and sex addiction therapist Joe Kort writes about how gay men who seek sex addiction treatment refuse to acknowledge being gay as an authentic identity due to religion, culture, or personal experience. These individuals reframe their homosexuality as deviant sexual behavior and desires. As a result, therapeutic communities often treat gay or bisexual desires as an addiction. “Sex addiction treatment began to reveal itself to me as simplistic, moralistic and judgmental rather than truly diagnostic,“ says Kort. What is labeled porn addiction in the queer community is actually healthy sexual exploration. Internalized homophobia gave rise to the addiction label, not the behavior itself.

gay man masturbating

On that note, it’s important to know the difference between porn addiction and using porn to help satiate your libido. As Kort explains, “in the context of the gay culture, when a gay man first comes out he often experiences a period of hypersexuality—a delayed gay adolescence, which is completely normal.” Having a high sex drive does not equate addiction.

If you’re an avid porn watcher and concerned about “addiction,” take a moment to self-check. Did you just come out of the closet, or are you in it still? Is it possible that your worries about addiction are tied to your sexual shame? Are you worried that your sex drive is too high, and thus feel judged by cultural standards? Or, after serious self-examination, do you find that your porn consumption is actually interfering with your well-being?

When is Porn Harmful?

Everyone’s entitled to a shame-free and healthy relationship to their sexual identities, and that includes porn viewership. However, some people may find that their habits do more harm than good. The American Psychological Association highlights these behaviors that can act as guidelines for situations when a person should consider seeking treatment for porn addiction. Keep in mind that these pointers are not meant to determine or diagnose.

  • You replace sex with porn: Many people enjoy pornography as a part of their intimate solo experience. However, if you strongly prefer watching pornography to having sex — to the degree that it replaces sex — your habits may need a deeper examination.
  • You “act out” your porn fantasies in extreme ways: Porn is a virtual treasure trove of sex fantasy material. Hence, it’s completely normal to want to incorporate something seen on screen into your sex life.  However, some people go to abnormal lengths to recreate these fantasies. Examples include driving out of town to engage with anonymous sex workers, or taking extreme risks in order to achieve the same high as one feels when viewing pornography. Preferences for kink aside, do your porn-inspired behaviors pose damage to you and/or the people around you?
  • You can’t control how much porn you watch: It’s the weekend. What starts as Netflix and video chat with a cute stranger turns into a 12-hour marathon of porn consumption, where you lose track of time and find yourself unable to stop. This type of behavior isn’t porn addiction, per se. But what about when the weekend’s over, you’re at work, and you find yourself looking at porn even though you know it could get fired? This type of behavior, while not strictly diagnostic, is symptomatic of a need to take a deeper look at your wellbeing.
  • Your relationships or finances are strained by your habits: For many, porn can be a healthy component of quality alone time. But if porn becomes your partner to the degree that you’re losing friendships or your money, you might want to take a second look at the role it plays in your life. To that measure, some use porn to isolate themselves and avoid building fulfilling relationships to the larger world. If that sounds like you, it could be time for you to turn off the screen and talk to a gay-friendly therapist who understands your situation can help you work towards building more tangible realities.

hands on keyboard searching for porn

Where to Turn if You’re Addicted to Porn

Addiction is not a diagnosis that should be leapt to easily or readily. However, resources do exist for people struggling with porn addiction. Sexual Compulsives Anonymous is a support group for individuals with sex addictions, including porn addiction. It follows a 12-step structure similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous and is vetted by Joe Kort as a premiere resource. Sex Addicts Anonymous also offers an LGBT-friendly 12 step program, complete with support groups. Avoid Sexaholics Anonymous, which doesn’t acknowledge LGBTQ as an authentic identity.

Lighthouse also offers a host of LGBTQ affirming therapists who can help if you’re struggling. You don’t have to be an addict in order to seek therapy. Nor should you wait to receive help if you’re feeling troubled by some aspect of your identity or well-being. Feeling good, and having the support it takes to arrive at that point, is a human right, one that Lighthouse strives to affirm. Connect to an LGBTQ affirming therapist near you and start feeling better today.

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