Is It Okay for Married People to Watch Porn?

Blog on 30 Jan , 2018 by Raffi Bilek

No.

Okay, that was a little harsh.  But hear me out.  This is not a moral discourse on the propriety of pornography in general but rather a consideration of what it does to your marriage (or other committed relationship). While some writers have waxed enthusiastic about the benefits of porn watching, common sense – to say nothing of my clinical experience – tells me that the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits.  This is true of both the folks watching it solo and those watching as a couple.  Let’s take it one at a time. (Warning: this post doesn’t pull any punches – be prepared for frank language.)

Individual Porn Consumption

women and pornLet us assume that your partner says she doesn’t mind your viewing porn. (Yes, I am addressing men primarily here – despite advances in male-female equality in many areas, research still shows that men watch porn more than women.  This is meant to be an empirical statement, not a political one.)  If she does mind then this really oughtn’t be a question to begin with – watching porn against the wishes of your partner is nothing but destructive to the relationship.

But let’s say she’s okay with it, which some people are.  I contend that it’s still a bad idea.  Here’s why:

You can’t help but compare

You don’t see many porn stars with cellulite or even slightly protruding stomachs.  They have perfectly toned and often surgically altered bodies specifically designed to meet the current cultural definition of attractiveness. Your wife most likely does not – and even if she does, it ain’t going to be the same body ten years from now.  How are you going to remain attracted to your wife if you are continually turning to these picture-perfect bodies to turn you on?

What about your own self-image?  How are you going to feel about yourself in the long run (obviously in the moment you feel fine and dandy) when you see the male porn star with his body parts, his perfect ability to please women, his seemingly endless stamina?  Even when people know that the scenes they witness are unrealistic, they often can’t help but start to believe that their own performance is lacking. (This is actually even more pronounced with women, who in our culture are barraged with messages about how they should look and act – comparing one’s own body to the lead porn actress’s is a recipe for body image problems.)

You Develop Unrealistic Expectations

Here are some of the messages you will absorb from watching pornography, none of which translate to real sex in real life:

  • Women don’t need foreplay to become aroused or achieve orgasm. A sexual relationship that is satisfying for both partners takes work. Porn movies usually skip the dinner by candlelight, the sensual snuggling, along with all the other components that precede good sex – not the least of which is also who took out the trash this morning and whether you spent more time talking to your spouse or your iPhone today.
  • Women will always achieve orgasm. Quickly.  Sure, some women may be like that.  But for many women, orgasms are not a guarantee every time you have intercourse.  Again, a sexual relationship takes work.
  • Orgasms are loud and frenzied. Many men are surprised to learn in their first sexual experiences that real-life women look, sound, and act nothing like unreal porn stars do when climaxing.  Those who are waiting for the Big Bang tend not to notice when, or whether, their wife is satisfied or not.
  • Men can get an erection whenever they want. If you’re old enough to be married, you are old enough that it is normal to not be able to achieve or maintain an erection 100% of the time.  Yes, really. That is the experience of many otherwise healthy men – but it sure isn’t what you see in the dirty movies.
  • Men can get two erections whenever they want. Again, the older you get, the longer the refractory period between erections.  It’s normal. If you think you are supposed to be able to have sex multiple times a night and you can’t, you are likely to feel bad low about yourself – but you shouldn’t. Bodies just don’t work the way they do in the movies. (Again, it’s worth noting that even if you know this in your head, repeated exposure to such messages can absolutely affect the way you feel.)
  • Most women enjoy violent sex. No.
  • Most women enjoy anal sex. Although research indicates that this practice is on the rise, it also seems to show that most women are doing it because they or their partners saw it in a porn video and not because it particularly enjoy it.

Watching porn inculcates you with these ideas, even if you consciously know them to be untrue. Bringing these expectations to your marriage is virtually guaranteed to lead to disappointment, sexual frustration, and conflict over time.

You teach yourself poor habits

Men who masturbate with (or without) the visual stimulus of pornography are generally not engaged in a long, romantic process with themselves. Instead, they’re aiming for a quick fix of sexual gratification.  This is not a habit that trains one well for a satisfying sexual experience with a woman. As suggested above, and can be attested to by many, women tend to seek sexual experiences that are slower, longer, and more involved than men.  (I know we are generalizing here again, and it is not true for everyone, but the generalization is backed up by research. I am also not making a case here for whether this is biological or cultural or both.)  Habituating oneself to start and finish your sexual encounter in minutes (or less?) is unlikely to result in a satisfied partner.

Watching together

Okay, so watching porn as a side deal to your marital sex life is problematic.  But what about when you watch together as a way of spicing things up, inspiring new ideas, or just sharing a pleasurable experience? Is that so bad?

Yes.

Again, I’m not denying that shared viewing time can be fun and pleasurable.  But in the long run, I strongly believe that it does more harm than good, for the reasons I’ll describe below – and all this not to the exclusion of what I’ve already said above necessarily.  Even when watching with one’s spouse for fun, it is not uncommon for folks to wish their partner had a body like the one they are seeing, or to wonder why their bodies and their partner’s bodies don’t seem to work like the ones on the screen. But even if a couple could realistically separate what they see from what they experience in real life, there are consequences to consider.

It’s Hard to Erase a Mental Image

Most people don’t like the idea of their partner imagining someone else while they are in the marital act.  But getting those images of pristine, nude physiques out of your head is easier said than done.  If sex is meant to be about deep emotional connection in addition to (or more than?) simple physical gratification, that goal will be seriously stymied by fantasies of other people in your mind and your spouse’s.

The Harsh Reality

There will forever be new porn stars gracing the screen, and they will always be young and attractive – whereas you and your partner are, without a shadow of a doubt, going to get older, fatter, and uglier. That’s just the way nature works, folks.  How long can a person realistically be attracted to an aging partner’s body when they gorge their eyes on eternally youthful flesh?  If you are using young, pert actors to stimulate your sexual desires, will you really be able to achieve the same effect by seeing a body that is 40 years old?  Or 60? Or 80?  Most people are hoping their marital sex life extends past twenty-something, after all.  Indeed, a sexual relationship can last well into one’s senior years – but if partners are using porn to get turned on, that is a rather improbable outcome.

The Danger of Novelty

Likewise, if you are aiming to cultivate a lifelong sexual relationship with your spouse, you will need to put in the work to develop a sexual relationship that goes beyond “getting turned on” and grows into an interplay of physical, mental, and emotional factors.  Seeking new images, new videos, new stimuli to keep a sexual spark alive is precisely the opposite direction of the path towards this lifelong endeavor.  Sure, you will hopefully try new things in the bedroom from time to time, but if you need novelty to keep it up you will almost certainly find yourself looking for a novel person to get excited about as well.

In Conclusion…

long-term sexual relationshipLook, I know that pornography can be a lot of fun and even has its benefits.  It’s exciting, it’s arousing, it feels good to watch. But I nonetheless contend that overall it is not a good thing for your marriage, especially if we are looking at the long-term picture (which, let’s face it, is ideally what we ought to be doing when it comes to the success of a marriage).  I am not trying to throw cold water on anyone’s sex life here – I am trying to help make it happier, deeper, more satisfying, and longer lasting.  And I maintain that porn will hamper all of that.

Do you think otherwise? I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments below.  And, as always, if you are struggling with pornography in your marriage (or on your own), or need any other help with marital issues, be in touch to find out how we can help!

Learn more about our couples counseling services here.

 

PhoneEmailText

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *