On Pi Day, 2019, let’s talk about the growing issue of PIED. It’s not as delicious as it may sound, but it is mathematically interesting. PIED is an acronym for “porn-induced erectile dysfunction” — a hotly debated condition that many sex therapists and clinicians are claiming is responsible for alarmingly high rates of younger men who can’t get it up or keep it up.
In an article earlier this week, Mary Sharpe of the Reward Foundation, a long-standing porn-critical organization fin the UK, told the Guardian that, “according to the latest studies and surveys, between 14% and 35% of young men experience ED.” She didn’t cite which studies those were, but she claimed that the rate of young men with erection issues has been steadily rising since 2008, “when free-streaming, high-definition porn became so readily available.”
Sharpe also declared, “What we’re hearing from clinicians, sex therapists, doctors and people dealing with compulsive sexual behavior is that more than 80% of issues are porn-related,” and that doctors are finding that Viagra isn’t working for their patients because “it’s not dealing with the underlying problem.”
What the underlying problem actually is is under debate. Sharpe and company believe that it’s the “disembodied” experience of masturbating to porn from an early age and therefore “being fully in control of their sexual experience.” When faced with a real-life partner, that experience can be very different—boner-killingly so.
Others believe that pornography’s pervasiveness has convinced young men that if they’re not rock-hard at the drop of their trousers, they’re failing at sex. Raymond Francis, a psychotherapist in London, told the Guardian last year: “If you look at the rise of easily accessible pornography, people have an expectation that men are going to be great performers.”
Still others have argued that there’s no evidence behind the so-called rise of PIED, aside from the anecdotal type. Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who has studied the effects of porn on the brain for years, points out that there is no definitive research on the subject.
“There’s no reason to think that this is a permanent switch [from erectile function to dysfunction] or they’re unable to respond at all to any real-world stimulus,” Prause told Rolling Stone. “I think it’s a horrible thing to do to young men to capitalize on their fear and make them scared they’ve broken their bodies by natural sexual exploration.”
Whatever the case may be, let’s try to keep our fears about porn affecting young men’s erections in perspective. It’s not that porn itself is out to to steal your boner, after all. It’s more that anything used without moderation is bound to cause problems.
As sex therapist Vanessa Marin pointed out to Rolling Stone, as a culture, “We’re not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage [with] porn. So no one has a general sense of what’s healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn.”
Pumpkin Pi image by Aaron Woehler