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How Porn Can Affect Relationships

We hear the argument that watching porn is a great way to improve your relationship or heat up your sex life. But did you know a lot of research actually shows the opposite?

By February 1, 2022No Comments

We sometimes hear the argument that watching porn is a great way to improve your relationship or heat up your sex life. But did you know that a lot of research actually shows the opposite? Let’s take a look.

While some people may assume that porn can improve your sex life, research actually consistently shows that frequent porn consumption is associated with sexual dissatisfaction.Wright, P. J., Bridges, A. J., Sun, C., Ezzell, M. B., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Personal pornography viewing and sexual satisfaction: A quadratic analysis. J.Sex Marital Ther., 44(3), 308-315. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2017.1377131Copy Brown, C. C., Carroll, J. S., Yorgason, J. B., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Larson, J. H. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 575–584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0732-4Copy Muusses, L. D., Kerkhof, P., & Finkenauer, C. (2015). Internet pornography and relationship quality: A longitudinal study of within and between partner effects of adjustment, sexual satisfaction and sexually explicit internet material among newly-weds. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 77-84. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.077Copy 

There is some research to show that some couples may experience an initial spark when watching porn together,Frederick, D. A., Lever, J., Gillespie, B. J., & Garcia, J. R. (2017). What Keeps Passion Alive? Sexual Satisfaction Is Associated With Sexual Communication, Mood Setting, Sexual Variety, Oral Sex, Orgasm, and Sex Frequency in a National U.S. Study. Journal of sex research, 54(2), 186–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2015.1137854Copy  but longitudinal research shows that any initial benefits tend to break down over time. In fact, according to longitudinal research, porn consumption was the 2nd strongest predictor of poor relationship quality.Perry S. L. (2017). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence from Longitudinal Data. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 549–559. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0770-yCopy 

Related: 50 Good Reasons To Stop Watching Porn Forever

Porn can also negatively impact consumers’ commitment levels in their relationships. Research shows that porn is linked to decreased couple commitment and increased acceptance of infidelity.Rasmussen, K. (2016). A historical and empirical review of pornography and romantic relationships: Implications for family researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141Copy Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A love that doesn't last: Pornography consumption and weakened commitment to one's romantic partner. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410-438. doi:10.1521/jscp.2012.31.4.410Copy 

BHW - The Heart

Additionally, research consistently shows that porn consumers are 2X as likely to later report experiencing a divorce or breakup, even after controlling for marital happiness, sexual satisfaction and other relevant factors.Perry, S. L. (2018). Pornography use and marital separation: Evidence from two-wave panel data. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(6), 1869-1880. doi:10.1007/s10508-017-1080-8Copy Perry, S. L., & Davis, J. T. (2017). Are pornography users more likely to experience a romantic breakup? Evidence from longitudinal data. Sexuality & Culture, 21(4), 1157-1176. doi:10.1007/s12119-017-9444-8Copy Perry, S. L., & Schleifer, C. (2018). Till porn do us part? A longitudinal examination of pornography use and divorce. 55(3), 284-296. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1317709Copy 

Consuming porn can also result in poorer body image—both for the consumers and for their partners.Tylka, T. L. (2015). No harm in looking, right? Men’s pornography consumption, body image, and well-being. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035774Copy Kor, A., Zilcha-Mano, S., Fogel, Y. A., Mikulincer, M., Reid, R. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Psychometric development of the Problematic Pornography Use Scale. Addictive behaviors, 39(5), 861–868. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.027Copy Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M. (2015). You Looking at Her “Hot” Body May Not be “Cool” for Me: Integrating Male Partners’ Pornography Use into Objectification Theory for Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314521784Copy 

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding Of Healthy Sex

Additionally, dozens of studies show that porn is associated with:

    • Decreased relationship qualityStewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (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. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0Copy Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7Copy 
    • Increased couple conflictCarroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Brown, C. C. (2017). The porn gap: Differences in men's and women's pornography patterns in couple relationships. 16(2), 146-163. doi:10.1080/15332691.2016.1238796Copy Szymanski, D. M., & Stewart-Richardson, D. N. (2014). Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Correlates of Pornography Use on Young Adult Heterosexual Men in Romantic Relationships. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 22(1), 64–82. https://doi.org/10.3149/jms.2201.64Copy 
    • Decreased relationship satisfactionRasmussen, K. (2016). A historical and empirical review of pornography and romantic relationships: Implications for family researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141Copy Muusses, L. D., Kerkhof, P., & Finkenauer, C. (2015). Internet pornography and relationship quality: A longitudinal study of within and between partner effects of adjustment, sexual satisfaction and sexually explicit internet material among newly-weds. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 77-84. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.077Copy Perry, S. L. (2016). From bad to worse? pornography consumption, spousal religiosity, gender, and marital quality. Sociological Forum, 31(2), 441-464. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12252Copy Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., & Brown, C. C. (2016). Differences in Pornography Use Among Couples: Associations with Satisfaction, Stability, and Relationship Processes. Archives of sexual behavior, 45(1), 145–158. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0562-9Copy 
    • Poorer romantic attachmentTylka, T. L. (2015). No harm in looking, right? Men’s pornography consumption, body image, and well-being. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 16(1), 97–107. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035774Copy Kor, A., Zilcha-Mano, S., Fogel, Y. A., Mikulincer, M., Reid, R. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Psychometric development of the Problematic Pornography Use Scale. Addictive behaviors, 39(5), 861–868. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.027Copy Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108Copy Rasmussen, K. (2016). A historical and empirical review of pornography and romantic relationships: Implications for family researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141Copy 

Related: This Husband And Wife Both Struggled With Porn, Here’s How They Finally Quit For Good

And finally, research shows that those who never view pornography report higher relationship quality—on every measure—than those who view pornography alone.Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing sexually-explicit materials alone or together: associations with relationship quality. Archives of sexual behavior, 40(2), 441–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4Copy 

So, what does all of this mean? It means that watching porn isn’t worth the reported negative effects—not for you, and not for your present or future relationships. You and your partner deserve better.

 

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