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Porn in Committed Relationships Revisited

Porn in Committed Relationships Revisited

Posted on May 30th, 2019 by Raffi Bilek

One of the most read posts on this blog is where I talk about Is It Okay for Married People to Watch Porn? Recently a commenter asked the following question:

What about marriage counselors that suggest a link between a woman’s lack of sexual desire and her lack of erotic imagination? The claim is that porn will enhance her imagination and likewise her desire.

I started writing a response and realized that really this deserves its own post, because I know there is a lot of controversy around this topic.  So here goes:

using porn in a marriage

First, if a woman has a lack of sexual desire, there are many reasons that are worth examining before jumping into sexual experimenting. Medical issues are important to check out, as is the quality of the relationship – women who are unhappy with their spouse are often not very excited to have sex with said spouse. (I am not suggesting that all people with low sexual desire have bad marriages; I am just noting that as an important cause to rule out.) It’s also important to check out general stress and fatigue levels in one’s life – stress can be a real libido killer. Trying to ramp up your sex life by bringing in new practices when one of these issues is at hand is obviously liable to make things worse rather than better.

Low Sexual Desire & Porn

Research shows that a lack of ideas is not the main cause of a lack of desire. But let us consider a woman who does feel like she’s short on sexual creativity. (A couple’s sex life is definitely prone to falling into routine and predictability over the long term, and this is definitely something to attend to as a couple.) Even if the woman in question is not particularly imaginative, is her partner totally out of ideas too? Or does one of them perhaps have ideas they would want to share but lacks the skills, language or confidence to communicate them? Often a lack of erotic imagination is actually more a lack of erotic communication. Talking about sex in this very intimate way is definitely not easy or natural for most people; working on this is a powerful way of improving your sex life.

is porn bad for your relationship?

Okay, so let’s imagine both of them really truly don’t know of much in the way of sexual variety and are at a loss for ideas. Surely there are safer ways to acquire such information than pornography! There is no lack of books on how to enhance your sex life, try new moves, improve sexual communication, etc. If someone is looking to pick up information and ideas, using a tool designed for just that is a good plan. Turning to pornography for ideas about improving one’s sex life is like turning to action movies for combat skills. It may be a thrill, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a better fighter and probably actually puts you at risk. (Many have been dismayed to discover that much of what they observe in X-rated videos tends to be highly impractical, uncomfortable, or even painful to try to reenact.)

Mind you, let’s not overlook the fact that the suggestion that porn might help a woman find creative sexual outlets presumes that the porn this couple is watching is “feminist” porn, or at least not the ubiquitous male-centric porn in which women are little more than a tool for the man’s sexual gratification. That is not a place I would suggest a woman look for sexual inspiration.

Imagine What?

Here’s another point to consider: what if it does “enhance her imagination” but not her desire? What if she is repulsed by what she sees? That might be a step backwards in her sexual relationship instead of forwards. Or, conversely, what if it does enhance her desire – for the young, virile men (or women) on screen, and not for her 40-something, balding, pudgy husband? I don’t know that it’s a comforting thought for a man to have a wife who is more sexually interested but is thinking of someone else while she’s in bed with him. And the reverse is also true if he is watching porn as well (independently or with er): does she feel confident and sexy knowing that he is getting turned on by women she will likely never look like?

I am not saying it’s impossible for a woman to find creative and exciting ideas by watching porn. Not all porn is degrading to women (just most of it); and, to be fair, some women (like some men) enjoy degradation, humiliation, and (mild) violence as part of their sexual menu. I’m not casting judgment on any of that. I do, however, think porn is not the best place to go looking if you want to spruce up your sex life.

Costs & Benefits

Importantly, however, even if you do think you or your partner can pick up some good ideas from a porn video, the costs simply outweigh the benefits: the poor body image porn foments, the potential for jealousy and self-doubt, the habituation, the risk of addiction – it’s just not worth it. There is a significant cost to your marriage when consume pornography, even when used as part of your intramarital efforts (see the original blog post for further discussion).

sexual creativity

Instead, I’d recommend considering better options for dealing with low libido. Educational books and courses are one option; individual and couples counseling are another (we can help with that!). A long-term sexual relationship is something that needs to be cultivated, not expected. Porn might seem like an easy boost, but the fallout will inevitably be a bigger liability than an asset.

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