Menu Relationship issues
Pornography: your questions answered

 We get lots of posts about pornography and masturbation. Many of you are worried about what it means if your partner uses pornography, or if masturbation might be reason you’re not getting as much sex as you might like.

We’ve had a look at the science behind pornography and the effects it can have on your relationship, and we’ve answered some of your questions below.

Is pornography bad for my relationship?


This depends on your opinion of it. If you have a problem with pornography in general, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be OK with your partner watching it. This can have a negative impact on your relationship [1].

One way pornography can affect your relationship quality is by diminishing your self-esteem. If you aren’t happy about the idea of your partner using pornography, it can make you feel like you don’t matter in the relationship, or that you aren’t good enough. If you don’t mind pornography, or if your self-esteem is very robust, then it’s less likely to have a negative impact on your relationship [2].

Can pornography reduce sexual desire?


Watching pornography doesn’t seem to reduce sexual desire. According to one study, pornography doesn’t take away your sexual urges, so it’s unlikely that this would be the reason a partner seems less interested in sex [3].

For more ideas on why sex might be off the table, check out our tips on being in a sexless relationship.

Can we watch pornography together?


Several studies have shown that couples who watch pornography together can experience improvements in their sex lives [3] [4].

As a shared activity, it can encourage you to talk about sex, creating a more open atmosphere for you to discuss your sexual desires and fantasies. While it’s important to remember that pornography doesn’t always present a realistic picture of sex, it can sometimes be a springboard for talking about what you like and don’t like [5].

How can we use pornography to talk about our relationship?


Be open and honest about pornography. If you like using it, talk to your partner about why. If you don’t like it, let your partner know where you stand.

These might not be the easiest conversations to start, but they can have a positive effect on your relationship by allowing you to learn more about each other. This can improve your sex life and may help make your general communication easier – couples who find a way to talk about their sexual desires in this way can even strengthen their relationship quality overall [6].

You may find that starting a dialogue around this helps you to be more open to experimentation, with a more varied and satisfying sex life. You can learn about each other’s likes and dislikes and talk about how happy you both are with the level of intimacy in your relationship [6].

Can’t I just use pornography alone?


Yes, you can. However, it’s worth being aware that using pornography alone can lead to a decrease in sexual communication between you and your partner [6]. When sexual activity becomes secretive, sexual communication can too.

Is there such a thing as ethical pornography?


This is a tricky one, and a good question to ask yourself. While looking at pornography can be a healthy activity within your relationship, it’s important to think about where it comes from. You may not have considered whether the performers were paid for their work or even whether they have consented to do everything you’re seeing.

It’s not always easy to find ethical material, or to know the background of the things you do find. One place to start might be the Toronto International Porn Festival, which has strict guidelines around its submission policy and encourages a diversity of sexual interests. It’s up to you and your partner to decide what you think is acceptable but, if you’re unsure about the ethics of a particular piece, the best advice is don’t watch it.

 

References


[1] Maas, M. K., et al. (2018). A Dyadic Approach to Pornography Use and Relationship Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Couples: The Role of Pornography Acceptance and Anxious Attachment. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(6). 772–782.

[2] Stewart, D., & Szymanski, N. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271.

[3] Brown, C., Carroll, C., Yorgason, J., Busby, S., Willoughby, J., & Larson, B. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 575-584.

[4] Maddox, A., Rhoades, M., & Markman, G. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448.

[5] Daneback, K., Træen, B., & Månsson, S. (2009). Use of Pornography in a Random Sample of Norwegian Heterosexual Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5), 746-753.

[6] Kohut, T., Balzarini, R., Fisher, W., Campbell, L., Impett, E., & Muise, A. (2018). Pornography’s associations with open sexual communication and relationship closeness vary as a function of dyadic patterns of pornography use within heterosexual relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(4), 655-676.

Comments 10